Elininating Parent Stress (Part 3-4 ) Simplify Your Daily Shedule

One way to make a lot more time in your day is to simplify your daily schedule. Sounds easier than it is right? Not necessarily. Here are some easy ways that you can free up some time in your schedule every day. Make technology your friend – Does that meeting really have to be in person? Don’t add a 45 minute commute to a meeting to your day. Use Netmeeting or another Internet conferencing service to hold the meeting on the Internet, or on the phone, perhaps even using streaming video. Cutting out that commute time and all the time that is wasted waiting for everyone to show up and waiting for a meeting to begin, parking, and all the other hassles that go with in person meetings can give you hours day. If you can’t avoid going to a meeting then use the computer to plan out a traffic free route to get there, find nearby parking with an online search, and pay for your parking online before you even get there. These days, nearly everything can be done online. Use the Internet to help you conduct your business more efficiently. Take the train – You may not be able to avoid a commute to the office but if public transportation is available, take it instead of driving. Use your commute time to take care of personal business, or even get started on things like reading your business emails to cut down on the amount of work you will need to do when you get to the office. Combine activities – Instead of trying to schedule time at the gym and family time on the same night, take a walk or a bike ride as a family after dinner and combine those things. The more activities you can combine the more time you will have to spend on other things. Focus on the task at hand – If you are trying to think ahead to the next task on your list you will rush through the one you are doing without paying attention to it. If you do this task poorly, you may need to redo it and end up with less time. Don’t worry about the next item on your schedule; focus on the one that you are working on at the moment and really concentrate on getting it done. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can accomplish a task if you are really concentrating on it and giving it all of your attention. When that task or meeting is done go on to the next but still concentrate on just one thing at a time. Working efficiently is a great way to get the most free time possible.

Sometimes it seems like you should have more time working at home than someone who doesn’t work from home, but, in fact, you may find that you have less. That’s because there are so many distractions at home and so many ways to get sidetracked from your work, which makes you go off schedule and eats up your time. If you work from home, here are some ways to minimize your at home disruptions so that you can get your work done as quickly and efficiently as possible. De-clutter your workspace – It’s amazing how fast clutter can clog up your workspace, especially in a home office that may end up crowded with kids toys, pets, or other distractions. But it’s important to keep your office, a place of business where things are orderly and tidy and you can find everything you need easily without digging through files or stacks of paper. It’s easy to get off track when you have to go digging for an item that you really need. The time that gets wasted digging for a particular paper or CD or other item can really add up through the course of a day so make your home office a clutter free zone!

Only check your email at scheduled times – One of the biggest time wasters for work at home parents is email. Make sure you have separate business and personal emails and don’t check your personal email at all while you’re working. Check your business email twice a day, maybe when you start work and just before you are ready to quit for the day. Don’t become a slave to email and sit there reading and answering emails all day long. The same rule applies for web surfing. You might only intend to look up one thing or check that eBay auction you want to bid on but, before you know it you’ve spent an hour surfing online. Remember that the faster you get the work done the faster you can spend time with your family so when you are in your office really focus on getting that work done.

Get the kids out of the house- It’s really difficult to work when your kids are interrupting every few minutes needing something, wanting something, or doing things they shouldn’t be doing. If your kids are still so young that they can’t be left unsupervised then either hire a babysitter to come in and watch them during your work hours or get them out of the house. Send them on play dates, send them to a neighbor’s, schedule lessons or sports activities during your work hours or wait to do your work while they are in school or at after school activities. You will be able to work much faster and more efficiently if there is no one around interrupting you every five minutes.Schedule time for errands -Instead of running to the store, the post office, the dry cleaner, or other errands every day, pick one or two days a week that are your errand days and only do errands on those days. Gas up the car, pick up the groceries, mail out the bills, do any and all errands that need to be done for the week ahead on those specified days. It will take some planning at first to get in the habit of getting all of your weekly errands done on those specified days, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed at how much time you can save. Set scheduled work hours – It’s really nice to be able to work from home and keep a flexible schedule, but parents who are trying to balance a family and a business should set regular business hours and stick to them. Having regular business hours will make it easier to manage stress and give you more time for your family. It doesn’t matter what hours you decide to work but set a regular work time period and stick to it. Turn off the business phone at night – Work hard and focus on your work during your normal work hours but once those hours are up for the day turn off the business computer and the business phone and don’t think about business. Once work hours are up then it’s time for family and time to focus on being a parent. If you let yourself get distracted late at night or early in the morning by work phone messages or work emails, that’s taking time away from your family

Using flex time If you don’t work from home, and your job isn’t willing to let you work from home all the time, you should consider asking for Flex Time. Flex Time allows you to work at home for a pre-set number of hours per week. Usually employers will allow Flex Time for up to 20 hours of a 40 hour work week. Flex Time can be a great way to get a little more flexibility in your daily schedule but still keep your boss happy and get all your tasks done at the office. When you are working at home using Flex Time, though, you need to make sure that you don’t end up wasting the time you are supposed to be working. Here are a few ways you can make sure that you can work just as well at home as you can at the office. Make copies of everything – If you work with files or reports or any kind of paperwork, make two copies of every single piece and keep one at the office and one at home. That way you don’t have to stop working if you leave a file or a paper at the place where you are not. No matter how organized you are, eventually you will leave an important file in the office or on your desk at home and you won’t have it when you really need it. Plan ahead and make copies so that there is always a copy of whatever paperwork you need wherever you are working. Use a laptop – Instead of having one computer in your office and one at home, invest in one high quality laptop computer that you can use in the office or at home. If you have a laptop then you won’t have to worry about files you need being on your computer, or work or an email you need to answer being on the computer at home. Keep everything organized on a laptop and save yourself the hassle of constantly hunting for the information you need to do your job. Use your time wisely – If you can work at home on Flex Time two days a week then get up at the same time that you would if you were going into the office and use the time you would have spent commuting to exercise, read, plan your to do lists, return phone calls, pick up the dry cleaning, or do other errands that you didn’t have time for during the rest of the week. If you have a half hour or longer commute like most people do, then using that time productively for other things on your Flex days can give you a lot more free time to spend with your family.

If you really want to make more time to spend with your family but still need some kind of extra income, you should consider starting your own home business. There are lots of ways that you can work at home and earn money. Parents with small children love home based businesses because they have the flexibility to work around their children’s schedules, save money on daycare, and still bring in some income. It’s easy to find resources on the Internet that will help you start your own home based business, but what type of business should you start? Here are some home based businesses that are really popular with parents.

Administrative work – If you have a background in office clerical work you can easily start to do administrative work for businesses as a freelance business. There are lots of resources online to help you find clients and beef up your resume to help attract clients. You can spend a few hours a day doing basic administrative work while the kids are at school or at night after the kids are in bed.
Online support – If you are comfortable on the computer and have a background in customer service, you can find work as an online
support specialist. Many businesses these days have live help available for their customers through chat applications and email.
These companies need trained customer service reps to help their online customers. Since online businesses run all over the world, it’s
easy to pick a shift that fits into your schedule.
Virtual assistant – Do you have extensive corporate training? Then you can work as a virtual assistant for a busy business executive.
There are executives all over the world who don’t work out of an office but need someone to answer their phone through the Internet, screen their email, and make travel arrangements.
Accounting – Many businesses need reliable people to do their books. If you have experience in accounts payable and accounts receivable, you could start a freelance business doing accounting for businesses.

Child Care – Opening your own child care business can be a great way to stay at home with your kids and earn money, especially if you have small kids who still need a lot of supervision and may not attend school yet. Be sure to check out the local and state licensing regulations for child care businesses where you live and make sure that you fulfill all the regulations before you officially open for business though.

Online Tutoring – If you have a high degree of education in one area, like a college degree in English or Math or a fluency in another language, then you can become on online tutor. The trend of parents hiring online tutors to help their kids with school work through chat applications and instant messaging is growing since many parents don’t have the time or money to take their kids to a highly specialized tutoring center.

Personal Shopper – You can make some extra income while you run your errands as a personal shopper. Busy professionals will pay good money for reliable people to handle errands like going to the post office, picking up groceries, picking up the dry cleaning, and other errands.

Catering -If you love to cook and entertain then consider starting your own catering business. Pick an area you really enjoy or have a lot of experience in to specialize. For example, you could specialize in catering kids’ birthday parties or holiday dinners or even seasonal items like holiday cookies and cakes. Many stay at home moms make extra income baking holiday cookies for people who love homemade cookies but are too busy to bake. Any time you want to open a business dealing with food be sure to check out the regulations about selling food where you live. You may need a permit or you may need to get your kitchen certified.

Pet sitting/Walking – Pet care is one of the hottest growing fields and it’s the perfect job for parents who want to stay at home. If you are used to being around pets, there are many professionals who pay people to walk their dogs or spend time with their pets during the day. Before beginning a business like this, check to see if there are any regulations about starting a pet business in your area. You should also consider getting bonded, since you will be given access to people’s homes and many times people prefer to hire people who are bonded when the job involves being in their homes when they aren’t there. Our series will cover all the above aspects with ideas and solutions so please don’t forget to look out for the next part of this series If you would like to purchase the book this article is from go to http://quickinfoebooks.com/pregnancy-baby/eliminate-stress/#ordernow

Cash Management – How to Prepare Daily Cash Position Report – Part 2

If your company maintained 2 or 3 banks for payment processing, we have to modify a little bit of the technique so that we can control effectively all the bank’s accounts and at the same time manage to earn extra income by carefully invest surplus fund in short term investment. Lets assume that your company has 3 bank accounts and we name it as Bank A, Bank B and Bank C. We should choose one bank as your major bank where you pool all your cash in that bank. Let’s assume that our major bank is Bank B. That means all your major collections must be deposited into this bank account. Your major payment which comprise big amount such as subcontractors and salary payment must also from this cash pool account.

Any payment prepared which is small in amount but the rate of recurrence is high such as utilities bills payment, petty cash reimbursement, staff claim and other payment should be prepared by using Bank A. We will deposited the incoming cheques into Bank A with more or less the same amount of cheques prepared so that the account balance in Bank A is always in ideal balance.

If we have specific payment pattern for the month, for example we only pay for our suppliers and workshop every 25th of the month, then we use Bank C for our cheque payment. Here we use ZBA technique which means Zero Balance Accounts technique where we will only transfer fund from our cash pool account which is Bank B to Bank C only once a month. That means there is no extra cash in Bank C, which means we have pool all extra cash in Bank B for our short term investment purposes. I will explain further the topic of short term investment when we reach to that topic soon.

All the suggested techniques above looks complicated but the reason behind that is we manage to prepare daily cash position more faster and accurate without spending your time to figure out the serial number for every categories if we use one bank only. From our example above, you will notice that bank A is for bills payment, staff claims and other payment. That means you only have to identify 3 series of serial cheque numbers for the payment using Bank A. Bank B only has 2 payments which is subcontractors and salary while Bank C meant for suppliers and workshop payment. The second reason of doing that is to avoid idle balance in Bank A and Bank C which do not earn any interest income. All our income has been pooled in Bank B where we can place short term investment placement from tenor of overnight to one week.

To reach our bank balance for that day, we just calculate by simply using simple arithmetic which is Opening Balance + Incoming Cheques – Payment made = Closing Balance. When place all the bank column side by side, we manage to get the total closing balance when we total up Bank A,Bank B and Bank C closing balance. This is what I call the cash dashboard where we can see all our bank balance with only one glance. Of course it is not complete yet because we still have not taken into consideration the available balance and cash & cash equivalent figure. I will explain in depth all this terminology later.

So, You Want to Know About the Salem Witch Trials – Part Four – Individual Lives Affected

Giles and Martha Cory– Martha, was the first bystander who drew the attention of the afflicted. She had a checkered past because she had once given birth to an illegitimate biracial child. Martha didn’t want anything to do with the whole affair, so she hid her husband’s saddle to prevent him from going to the examination of Tituba and the two Sarah’s. Within the week, Ann Putnam Jr. accused Martha of being a witch.

Her arrest warrant was written on a Saturday, and because no business could be conducted until Monday, Martha remained free for the weekend. She stubbornly showed up for the Sunday meeting, drawing attention to herself and causing the girls to go into a rousting fit. Giles, wondering if his wife might just be a witch, offered his opinion and testimony. His chief complaint was that she spent too much time muttering to herself in prayer, but she could be a witch, for all he knew, she certainly was grumpy enough for the role. Later, when Giles was accused of witchcraft, he apologized, saying he “had ‘broken charity’ with Martha in believing the word of a pack of lying girls against her.” Giles knew that all of the other people accused of witchcraft so far had been found guilty and hanged, so he decided it would do him no good to stand trial. A convicted witch had no right to property, and Giles owned a sizeable amount of property. While in jail he deeded his estate to the two sons in law who stood by him and Martha during the trials, and refused to speak. According to the diary of Samuel Sewall, “September 19: About noon, at Salem, Giles Corey was press’d to death for standing Mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance: but all in vain.” A common tale is that Giles said nothing during his torture except “more weight,” but there is no evidence to support the story. Either way, Giles had his wish, “So it was that though the sheriff slowly crushed the last breath out of the massive body, he could not make a condemned wizard out of old Giles.” Because Giles was not convicted of witchcraft, the sheriff could not seize his property and it stayed in the family. Giles Cory has the unfortunate standing in history for being the one and only death by pressing ever in New England. The pressing took place in an open field, and people were rattled to see the 80 year old slowly dying under a heap of large stones.

The sheriff, unaware of the growing sentiment, made matters worse by rudely using the end of his cane to shove Giles’ bulging tongue back into his mouth. The method was straight out of the Old English playbook, but most of these people were born in America. Thomas Putnam caught wind of the growing discord and quickly penned a letter claiming Ann had a vision of “a man in a Winding Sheet; who told her that Giles Cory had Murdered him, by Pressing him to Death with his Feet; but that the Devil there appeared unto him, and Covenanted with him, and promised him, He should not be Hanged.” According to Thomas Putnam, not only was Ann a witch finder, but an angel of fate, and if it wasn’t for her diligence, Old Giles would have gotten away with pressing that poor servant boy to death. Martha was hanged three days later, on September 22. The change of attitude was beginning to show, however, and the vote to excommunicate her from the Salem Village congregation was not unanimous.

Rebecca Nurse was accused directly after Martha. Rebecca was a respected member of the community, but her mother had been accused of witchcraft in the past. Rebecca was a nearly deaf elderly woman with a large, loving family. She was one of the unfortunate Towne sisters who were all arrested for witchcraft. The three proved themselves ladies of true class and honor. After hearing the evidence, the jury came back that Rebecca was innocent, and the judge ordered them to go back and think about it again. This time they came back with a guilty verdict. Rebecca was taken back to her beloved meetinghouse one last time so that she could be publicly excommunicated by Nicholas Noyes from Salem Town church, and then she was hanged.

John and Elizabeth Procter-He was the voice of reason in a sea of confusion. He thought all the afflicted girls deserved a good spanking, and the wench who was living in his home, Mary Warren, was getting cured right and fine with his firm hand. He didn’t want Mary to have any part of the examinations, but he was forced to let her participate. His obstruction smelled suspicious and his pregnant wife was soon accused. He was more than angry now. What in God’s name was the town thinking by putting the weight of a criminal investigation in the hands of young, disturbed children? Surely, someone besides him could see the insanity in this situation. He was sentenced to hang. His wife, being pregnant, got a stay of execution, and the voice of reason stepped in before her death sentence was carried out. She delivered a son after John’s death.

Sarah Cloyce was so darn angry she walked out of church and slammed the door. Her sister, Rebecca had just been taken for witchcraft, and Samuel Parris was giving an explanatory sermon about the betrayer in Jesus’ midst, and how close the devil had gotten to the heart of the church. Of course the devil wouldn’t waste time trying to tempt the slouches of society like Sarah Good, he was going to go right for the jugular and turn the hearts of God’s most loyal followers. Because of her outburst, Sarah was accused, but her trial was to come after the panic subsided and the charges against her were dropped. She was only Towne sister to avoid hanging, and died in 1703 at the age of 62.

Bridget Bishop had a bad reputation over in Salem Town, and the girls were able to identify her, though they had never seen her before. A number of people testified against Bridget; she had once paid a man with money that disappeared, and a few men even claimed her specter haunted them in the night while they were in bed. A man named Samuel Gray testified she had killed his son, though he admitted to lying about the matter when he was on his deathbed. The decision-makers still hadn’t quite figured out what to do about spectral evidence, so they tried Bridget first because she had the most evidence against her besides just the afflicted girls. Bridget was the first person to be executed on June 10.

Abigail Hobbs was the black sheep of her family, quick with her foul mouth, choosing to spend most nights in the forest. She immediately confessed to anything and everything she was accused of, sometimes following the afflicted’s storyline, sometimes making up new information on her own.

Sarah and Edward Bishop owned an unlicensed tavern, much to the chagrin of their neighbors. Sarah was accused of witchcraft because a woman become so angry at the shuffleboard games going on late into the night at the tavern and thrown the game into the fire. Later, this woman was found dead, her throat slashed (now thought to be a suicide). Edward was already under suspicion just being the family member of an accused witch, but he made matters worse when he hit John Indian with a stick during one of his fits, and announced he thought all of the afflicted could be cured in the same manner.

Mary and Philip English-Her mother was granted license for a tavern, which was highly unusual in those days. At first, the girls named Mary’s mother, not realizing she was dead. Mary was married to a wealthy Salem merchant who was the first of his kind to trade internationally. He was also elected to the board of selectman, against Putnam. He was able to avoid arrest for a time, but he and his wife were eventually caught and held prisoner until they escaped. After the trials were over, Mr. English repeatedly petitioned for monetary compensation for all he had lost, but he died before any was ever made. His sworn enemy was Sheriff Corwin and Mr. English made it clear he only wished he could take it out of Corwin’s dead body.

Deliverance Hobbs was the embarrassed mother of Abigail. She began the examination by claiming innocence, but was led into admitting she had signed the book. She proved a valuable witch to the accusers, making a detailed statement about witches meetings in Parris’ field, and embellishing about the devil and other witches. She claimed the “minister,” of these meetings in the field was none other than George Burroughs.

The two Mary’s, Easty and Herrick– Mary Easty was one of the Towne girls, as sisters Rebecca, Sarah, and Mary were called. She made such an impression on the jailors, they brought her straight back to the magistrates and offered the opinion she could not possibly be a witch. Even Hathorne had to question the legitimacy of her accusation, but was answered by such a fit from the afflicted, he changed his mind. Before her death, Mary wrote a heartfelt note on the behalf of the others who were accused. In her letter, she suggested the afflicted girls be kept apart for a little while. The spirit of Mary Easty helped to put an end to the whole debacle. Seventeen year old Mary Herrick, a girl of genuine spirit, told of a visit she had from the “Shape” of the dead Mary Easty and the wife of Jonathan Hale, minister of Beverly. Mary Easty watched on while Mrs. Hale pinched and poked the girl. Mary Easty had appeared to Herrick once before on September 22, when she informed the terrified girl she was going to be hanged today, but she was innocent, and the girl would know it for sure before another year passed. Mary Herrick was frightened, but she didn’t want to get involved and didn’t mention it. Now, Mary had come back after death, and told Mary Herrick to “reveal this to Mr. Hale and Mr. Gerrish and then she would rise no more, nor should Mrs. Hale afflict her.” Mary Herrick did as instructed and, true to her word, Mary Easty left her alone.

George Burroughs and his family lived with the Putnam’s for a while when he was minister of Salem Village. The Putnam’s claimed he mistreated his wife and forbid her to talk about family matters, or contact her family. Ann Putnam claimed to have a vision in which he tried to get her to sign the book, and if that weren’t enough, he was charged with killing not only his first two wives, but the wife and child of Deodat Lawson, another minister, as well. Before his hanging, in front of the audience, he said a meaningful prayer, and then proceeded to give an enlightening rendition of “Our Father.” The crowd began to openly question Burroughs’s guilt. Didn’t they hear somewhere that a witch could not recite the Lord’s Prayer like that? Cotton Mather, resident self-proclaimed expert on the subject, sensing the growing doubt, told the crowd the devil, at times, can appear like the glint of Heaven. Cotton was to later feel as if all the blame fell on him because of that moment, and wished he’d never heard the name of Burroughs’s.

Susannah Martin-She also appeared in the bedrooms of frustrated men and had been suspected of witchcraft for some time. She is notable because during her examination she brought up the fact that in the Bible, Saul goes to visit a witch to consult the ghost of Samuel. The witch produced a vision of Samuel, but it was really the devil. This got people to thinking, couldn’t the devil take the shape of the innocent, and if he could, how reliable was spectral evidence? Susannah also said outright she believed the girls were not afflicted. Susannah was one of those who were accused after many of the others, but went to trial early because of all of the non-afflicted people willing to testify against her. She was hanged on July 19.

Lydia Dustin– at 65 years old, also had a long history of being thought a witch. Though she was to eventually be acquitted, she had to remain in jail until her fines were paid. They never were, and she died in jail an innocent woman.

George and Margaret Jacobs-Margaret Jacobs had lived in Maine and seen her parents murdered by Indians before going to live with her 70 year old grandfather, George. During his examination, George argued the devil could take the shape of any person, but Hathorne retorted that the person would have to give the devil permission. George maintained his innocence, but in the isolation of jail, Margaret, somewhere between the age of 10 and 16, was urged to make a confession under threat of hanging. She admitted to being a witch and accused her grandfather and George Burroughs. Eventually, she tried to recant her confession, in her words, “choosing rather death and a quiet conscience, than to live in such horror, which I could not suffer.” The magistrates did not believe her and sent her back to prison to change her mind. She never did, even though she felt for certain she would be hanged. She talked with George Burroughs, who forgave her for using his name in her confession and prayed with her. She was saved from hanging because she fell ill when she was supposed to go to trial, but she was to remain in jail for more than a year because she didn’t have the money to pay her jail expense. A caring stranger came forward to pay her fees. Her grandfather was so proud of her for recanting her confession, he had his will changed to provide for her, though the property and wish of a convicted witch was worth less than the paper it was written on. After his hanging, George’s family recovered his body, burying him on their property in an unmarked grave to avoid vandals. His remains were discovered years later, and Salem gave him a proper burial. His words, “Well! Burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ,” are engraved on his headstone.

Elizabeth and Nathaniel Cary– Her name had been coming out for a while, and her husband, a wealthy man, decided to bring her in to declare her innocence, wrongly assuming that because he was a man of some power, his opinion would be heard. He kept good records of the whole affair regarding his wife, and much valuable information has been gleaned from it. He described the “touch test,” and also accounts of a meeting with John Indian (who showed Cary the scars from previous “witch attacks”), and gave future generations a vivid picture of the times. Once he realized he could not keep his wife from being accused, “Cary then tried to save her life by every means within the law.” Nathaniel is the first person who used the law against itself, and obtained a writ, to have her moved to a jail near their home. During her examination in Salem, he realized his wife would not win, so he tried to have the trial moved to his district, to no avail. He then decided to do a jail break, and he and his wife took off to New York and stayed with the governor. In time, after the ruckus of the trials died down, Nathaniel would serve as a justice in the General Court.

John Alden– His parents came on the Mayflower. Now, at 70, a pillar of the community, a war hero, a practical legend, he is accused. He later referred to the fits as “juggling tricks.” One of the girls identified him even though she had never seen him because, “the man told her so.” The magistrate wasn’t convinced, and had the whole crew go outside so they could see him more clearly to make sure it was him. The afflicted made a ring around him and taunted him for being a bold man who sold arms to the Indians and made babies with squaws. This is when it becomes obvious an adult was feeding the girls information. Most people think it was Thomas Putnam. Alden also escaped, but was eventually caught and brought back to jail. He was cleared when no one showed up to say anything against him. He wrote an account of the trials a few years later.

Elizabeth Howe was another on the long list of Putnam land dispute/resentment/ list. Some submitted reports against her, but just as many petitioned on her side. Elizabeth took one of the girls who was having a fit by the hand and in a rare moment, the girl changed her story and admitted Elizabeth had never hurt her. This had no effect, and she was hanged on July 19.

Martha Carrier, the first of the Andover witches; Martha had a bad reputation. She was not the demure type, and angry for being accused. Her eight year old daughter testified to having been a witch since the age of six, converted by her mother, who could take the form of a cat. Evidence against her, besides the “fits” was the testimony of confessed witches, who claimed the devil had promised to make her “queen of Hell.” Neighbors came to testify that Martha had somehow haunted them; a young girl heard Martha’s disembodied voice in the woods; an old man had an argument with Martha and got sick. During her trial, as the girls were writhing around on the floor, shrieking and wailing, they saw thirteen ghosts of the people she killed floating about the room, Martha looked to the judge and said, “It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.” She hanged on August 19.

Samuel Wardwell was one of the most imaginative of the confessed witches, going into detail about being baptized by the devil in the river. He said he joined the devil because he was promised that all men would be treated equal. It is almost as if Samuel took the whole thing as a joke, at first. He recanted his confession and was hanged on September 22.

Susannah Post-Like so many confessing witches before her, Susannah added fuel to the fire by broadening the fear. She claimed she had been to a meeting in Parris’ field where she personally saw 200 witches.

Ann Foster– An accused witch who died in jail. Her son had to pay for her body in order to have her buried.

Friends in high places- People began to turn away from the trials when they witnessed the heartfelt last words of those being hanged, but the real ending was when important people began to be accused. Some of them were… Mrs. Thatcher was the Mother in Law of Magistrate Corwin, who presided over the examinations from the very first. Governor Bradstreet’s sons- Both of the sons of the ex-governor were accused. The wife of Jonathan Hale (popular minister of Beverly). Lady Phipps- Wife of the new governor

Confessing Witches-Once accused of being a witch, the best option seemed to be confession. Some people confessed, hoping to spare their lives and others confessed because they genuinely thought they might have done something to invite the Devil to use their form. Accused witches thought as hard as they could, remembering long ago arguments. Once a witch confessed, she was expected to name her accomplices, and there was no use saying there was no accomplice. Though there was some talk of hanging the confessing witches after they were no longer needed to testify against witches claiming innocence, all people who confessed escaped the melee with their lives.

The families of the accused– Different families had different reactions. Some washed their hands of their kin, believing them witches. Others, like that of Rebecca Nurse and her sisters, always stood by their family, maintaining their innocence, but powerless to do anything to stop the madness. Other families begged their loved ones to confess, whether they were witches, or not. Family members had to be careful, because if they protested too much they could be charged as witches.

Death Toll Bridget Bishop-Died June 10 by hanging. Sarah Good-Died July 19 by hanging. Elizabeth Howe-Died July 19 by hanging. Susannah Martin-Died July 19 by hanging. Rebecca Nurse-Died July 19 by hanging. Sarah Wildes-Died July 19 by hanging. George Burroughs-Died August 19 by hanging. Martha Carrier-Died August 19 by hanging. George Jacobs-Died August 19 by hanging. John Proctor-Died August 19 by hanging. John Willard-Died August 19 by hanging. Giles Corey-Died September 19 by pressing. Martha Corey-Died September 22 by hanging. Mary Easty-Died September 22 by hanging. Alice Parker-Died September 22 by hanging. Mary Parker-Died September 22 by hanging. Ann Prudeator-Died September 22 by hanging. Margaret Scott-Died September 22 by hanging. Wilmot Redd-Died September 22 by hanging. Samuel Wardrell-Died September 22 by hanging. Baby Good-Died some time before July 19 in prison. Sarah Osburn-Died while in prison on May 10. Roger Toothaker-Died in prison on June 16. Ann Foster-Died in prison on December 3. Lydia Dustin-Died in prison on March 10, 1963.


John Hathorne– The magistrate over the examinations. He comes through history as unyielding and caught up in the hysteria. He assumed all of the charged were guilty, and completely believed the afflicted girls, even when they were caught in a lie. Hathorne never offered an apology for his part in the death of 19 people, and his descendant, Nathaniel Hathorne, struggled with his relation to the man, even changing the spelling of his name to distance himself.

William Stoughton– Another political figure who allowed the trials to grow out of control. William Phipps, the new governor, was so dismayed by the events he wrote a letter back to the king claiming he was far away on business when the trials were going on and didn’t know what Stoughton was doing. There is clear evidence Phipps was in the area at the time and knew exactly what was going on. Stoughton never apologized or admitted he made a mistake.

George Corwin– The despicable sheriff who took all he could from the accused. Corwin wasted no time confiscating property, and though it was supposed to go to the state, Corwin split it up between himself and his friends.

Nicholas Noyes– He was the hard-hearted minister of Salem Town. He had Rebecca Nurse taken to his meetinghouse so he could publicly excommunicate her. At the hanging of Sarah Good he told her to repent and admit her sins. Sarah angrily informed him if he took away her life God would give him “blood to drink.” Noyes died while choking on his own blood. During the examination and trials, Noyes was merciless and unforgiving. Even long after the hysteria was over and the rest of the colony began to realize they made a mistake, Noyes still refused to show any sign of remorse. In 1712, Samuel Nurse was finally able to convince Noyes to “erase,” the excommunication of Rebecca Nurse.

Deodat Lawson was a past minster of Salem Village who came back during the trials to investigate claims that George Burroughs murdered his wife and daughter through witchcraft. Lawson tried to minster during the crisis, but his sermons were repeatedly interrupted by the afflicted and he seemed unsure of how to handle the situation. He kept notes on events that occurred during his stay.

William Procter– The son of John Procter and stepson to Elizabeth. He wasn’t one of the unlucky accused, but he was tortured in prison to get a confession. His father wrote a letter describing William’s torture, claiming the boy was tied neck to heels until blood “gushed from his nose.” He could have been held that way for 24 hours, but a jailor went to bat and untied him.

Mary Veren Putnam was mother to Thomas’s youngest brother, and ultimate rival, Joseph. When Thomas’ father died, he left everything to Mary and Joseph. Thomas fought the will in court and lost. Mary does not play a role in the story, but bore a resemblance to Rebecca Nurse.

Joseph Putnam never got along with his older half brother When the Putnam woman became afflicted, Joseph stormed to his brother’s house and warned that the nonsense better not touch his home or there would be Hell to pay.

Cotton Mather, famous and distinguished son of the President of Harvard, and somehow, during the time, the only American with any real title. The English Puritans were not so far removed from the “crown” that they did not, practice monarchy, and a son was just as good as a father in the days when a person could only do one thing at a time. Cotton’s father was away in London negotiating the new charter. Cotton was considered an expert on witchcraft, having dealt with it swiftly and securely with the hanging of one admitted witch, Goodwife Clover (a near rendition of Sarah Good). Not only was the evil witch stopped, but Cotton took the oldest child of the afflicted Goodwin family into his home, where she was promptly healed.

Increase Mather– The President of Harvard, and Cotton’s father. On October 3, Increase, sensing the growing doubt, began to speak out that it was better for 10 guilty witches to live than 1 innocent person die. Though his public words seemed to go against the opinion of his son, Increase denied a rift. According to Increase on October 3, “To take away the life of anyone, merely because a specter or Devil, in a bewitched or possessed person does accuse them, will bring the guilt of innocent blood upon the land.” Later, Increase noted he felt the magistrates and other people in power during the witch trials should be treated with “pity and prayer,” because, “they have acted with all fidelity according to their light.” Increase, ever the politician, tried to make everyone happy while still making himself look as if he was on the side of right.

Thomas Brattle– On October 8, Brattle wrote an eloquent, heartfelt opinion on the matter of the trials. He questioned spectral evidence, like everyone else, but also brought up the fact that Corwin’s mother in law wasn’t charged, and that certain people were allowed to escape while others weren’t. Brattle also spoke out against going by the testimony of confessed witches. In his words, “The devil’s information is the fundamental testimony that is gone upon.” Brattle’s letter made people begin to see what was really going on in black and white. He called the confessors, “distracted and crazed,” and he called the method to extract a confession, “dragooning.”

Calef– He wrote More Wonders of the Invisible World, a jab at Cotton, in 1697. Calef accused Cotton of being too affectionate to an afflicted girl before the witch trials (assumedly the Goodwin girl). Cotton responded by having Calef arrested for libel, but he never followed through.

Thomas Fisk– The foreperson of the jury for Rebecca Nurse’s trail. He felt so terribly for convicting Rebecca, he later signed a formal apology, saying the jury was, “for want of knowledge in ourselves, and better information from others.” In fact, after the trials, it seemed to be those who were least responsible who felt the worst about their part.

Joseph Green– Served Salem Village as minister after the hysteria. He was a great man who helped to heal a broken community. In 1703, Green personally had the excommunication of Martha Cory reversed. He also read Ann Putnam’s written apology out to the congregation.

Nearby Areas

The good people of Salem Village – There were a number of people in Salem who felt as if the girls just needed a good spanking, but to say so would be near suicide. It got to be any person who spoke up in defense of the accused would soon find themselves accused. People did stand up, though. Many families signed petitions on the behalf of some of the accused.

The Town of Andover got to thinking and decided they might have a witch infestation, too. Andover wasn’t lucky enough to have a “seeress” living in their town, so got official town money to pay for two of the girls to come and ferret out their witches. They would be brought into the room of an ailing person, and usually, they claimed to see a spirit at the victim’s head, and another at the foot of the bed. Since the girls had never seen any of these people and could not recognize any of the “shapes”, the “touch test,” was employed. Nearly 40 warrants were signed out in Andover that day, until the sheriff out and out refused to sign any more. The Town of Andover began to rethink its position, and wished it never invited those afflicted girls along, in the first place. From the very beginning the town’s minster questioned the accusations and did his best to quash the whole mess.

The town of Gloucester did not learn from Andover’s mistake, and called the afflicted girls in more than once, even after the hunt was beginning to fade.

The town of Ipswich wanted nothing to do with the afflicted girls. On the way to Gloucester, the girls saw an elderly lady walking across a bridge and began to go into a fit, claiming the lady was torturing them. The people of Ipswich let the girls know in no uncertain terms they weren’t welcome and best be on their way.

Krista Delle Femine-2009

Project Outsourcing: Why ALL Businesses Should Consider Outsourcing An Integral Part of Business


Businesses of all kinds can and do benefit from the tool of outsourcing every day. Businesses large and small have been outsourcing every day projects for many years. The businesses that use outsourcing as a tool to enhance and grow their business already know the value that outsourcing brings to their organization. Outsourcing is a business process term for what has literally become known as hiring a consultant, independent contractor, or freelancer to do a specific task or tasks for an organization in which the organization either does not have the time or the expertise to do on their own. The organizations that have used outsourcing for many years know that with the positives it brings to the organization that it is also important to have a well managed plan of action for hiring a consultant or contractor for a business task. This includes deciding which projects or tasks to outsource, whom to hire for these tasks, how to manage the project, how to agree on payment terms, and how to achieve the desired results. There are many forms of outsourcing ranging from outsourcing payroll to outsourcing package handling, to everything in between. Small businesses hiring a self-employed accountant to handle the corporate tax returns are in essence hiring a tax consultant. Large corporations that hire outside customer service firms to handle their customer support are outsourcing that function of their business to focus more on their core business functions. It is entirely possible to outsource practically every business process within an organization.


There are a wealth of tools available for the organization looking to outsource business processes. Companies such as SmartyLance.com, enable a business to post a project to a project marketplace and receive bids from experts in the field. These type of freelance sites match companies with freelance professionals, consultants, and independent contractors. There are many advantages for a business to use services such as SmartyLance. First, the marketplace enables businesses to use a centralized location to post their project, receive bids on that project, communicate with potential providers, choose a winning bid (either based on lowest cost or based on the credentials, expertise, or prior feedback of a particular provider), manage the project specifications, receive the delivered project and make final payment based on the terms of the auction. This centralized marketplace provided by SmartyLance greatly streamlines the entire outsourcing process and enables the business owner or manager to have greater control over the entire outsourcing process.


Competition is a complicated subject for many people. Ultimately, competition is good for the consumer, whether the consumer is an individual or a business, competition enables products and services to maintain high quality and low cost. Although many people dislike competition because it forces action to improve quality, the benefits to the overall economy even result in improved products and services for the very people that dismiss competition and the headaches it sometimes brings. Freelance marketplaces such as SmartyLance are no exception in that competition improves the overall quality and value for the project buyer and causes the freelance provider to adjust to market conditions in a practical, intelligent manner to win new business. The benefits to the company looking to hire freelancers are obvious. For example, Company A can compile a list of consultants to work on the design of their new company logo. This list may include a multitude of design firms from the same geographical area. Company A would be required to submit an RFP by contacting each design firm individually, stating the requirements of their project and requesting a quote based on the requirements. Many factors come into play in deciding which design firm Company A will choose. Chances are, that using this approach, Company A will end up paying too much for the project and will only have a handful of providers to choose from. Company B also must outsource the design of their new company logo. Rather than compile lists of design firms, which can result in overpriced quotes, Company B decides to post their logo design project to the SmartyLance marketplace. Doing so enables Company B to get competitive bids that help ensure that Company B gets the most competitive price for their project. By posting the logo design project to SmartyLance, Company B not only reduced costs associated with the project, they had access to specialists and skilled professional designers from around the world that were competing to give Company B the best cost and highest quality design for their money. The entire process was managed easily through Company B’s SmartyLance account enabling them to keep in contact, manage project specifications, manage competing bids, and send payment easily and securely through one of several different payment methods. An escrow account enabled Company B to ensure that payment wasn’t released to the provider until all project requirements were met. Company B successfully outsourced the logo design project and was able to save several hundred dollars. They also received the project several days quicker than Company A. In this example of Company A and Company B, we see that Company A had limited its ability to find a skilled professional and limited its ability to save money on the project. Company B took full advantage of all the resources and benefits of the SmartyLance marketplace and was able to save time and money. By outsourcing critical business functions that are not core business functions, the organization greatly benefits through a savings of time and money which in turn benefits us all through decreasing costs that are passed down to the consumer.


That is the question many small business owners and large corporations alike are asking themselves each and every day. Risks are inherent in any new business strategy or thought process. However, like any business decision, risk can be managed. By intelligently choosing a provider that matches your intended skill requirements, carefully detailing and outlining your project requirements, and ensuring that you maintain the requirements within budget, the benefits can far outweigh the risks.
One of the more common fears among some larger organizations that may be reluctant to outsource projects is a fear of the unknown. This fear stems from the inherent inability to oversee each and every aspect of the project from start to finish and to evaluate each step along the way. Internal employees devoted to a project are more easily evaluated and can be guided through performance and work appraisals. Managers may feel that outsourced projects are more difficult to oversee and manage with an eagle eye. The fact of the matter is that so long as there are well-defined contractual obligations and project reporting requirements, an outsourced project can in fact result in a more manageable outcome than actually thought. Also, the talent pool and skills obtained that may be completely unavailable to the organization allow the organization to reach milestones and achieve success that may never have been possible with their current employees.


The outsourcing controversy that is making headlines today is the public opinion of outsourcing jobs to other countries. This includes manufacturing of products, such as those that are “Made In China” as well as service outsourcing such as computer programming that is outsourced to skilled workers in India. One can argue that outsourcing projects overseas is taking opportunity away from workers in their native country. Others may contend that outsourcing projects, whether it’s overseas or in the same country is a great opportunity that will improve business processes, improve productivity, reduce costs and have an overall positive effect on the economy, thus creating more new jobs and specialized jobs in specific skill areas. All businesses are consistently looking for ways to increase productivity and lower costs. From an economic standpoint, increasing productivity and lowering costs are essential elements for business success. Business success, in turn leads to more growth, which leads to new job creation, be it in a more specialized skill area or through the development in new types of jobs in new specialized areas.


As mentioned previously, practically any business process not related to the core business activity can be outsourced. Some examples of commonly outsourced business processes include:

Accounting and Finance

Graphic Design & Multimedia

Sales and Telemarketing

Web Design and Development

Administrative Support and Data Entry

Business Strategy, Advertising, Business Plans, Consulting

Legal, Contracts, Copyright, Corporate, Incorporation

Software and Technology, Database Development

Writing and Translation, Copy Writing, Creative Writing

Press Releases


Having a specialty or skill in a particular business area can enable you to begin a career as a consultant or freelancer. Freelancing enables you to have the flexibility to work on your own and on your own schedule. You can choose which projects match your skill set and decide which types of freelance projects that you would be interested in working on. There are numerous sources available to find freelance work. Some sources include browsing freelance directories, job boards, and registering with talent auction sites such as SmartyLance. All of these resources are filled with potential jobs. In comparison, it seems that talent auctions are the most comprehensive resources offering the most flexibility to both the freelancer and the company hiring a freelancer. They offer the breadth and depth of listings and the simplicity to bid on numerous projects as well as services enabling the handling of the entire payment process through a service provider account with the talent auction site. Bidding on projects requires much discipline and planning. Before placing a bid or giving a quote on a project, the freelancer must take into account many factors including the length of time required for the project completion, the budget the service buyer can afford, and whether or not they can actually meet the requirements to complete the project. It is also important to keep in mind that developing relationships with service buyers can lead to more work in the future. Developing a relationship with service buyers and meeting or exceeding their project expectations will enable you to develop a client base that allows you to practically always have new projects to work on.


There will always be competition in all forms of business. Competition for freelance projects is fierce. One of the major ways to compete and win is to make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd. You can start by fine tuning your resume. This will force you to think about your accomplishments as well as your exact skills and abilities. There are numerous services that can help you with your resume, including ResumeEdge. Using a service to help you with your resume will enable you to better explain your accomplishments and present them in a manner that will captivate and impress the reader. Especially if you are an independent freelancer, having your resume retooled by ResumeEdge will allow you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Many freelance service buyers will wish to see a list of your accomplishments and your skills. If you register as a service provider with a freelance marketplace such as SmartyLance, they offer several different options that enable you to stand out above the crowd. First, there are different subscription levels when registering. There is a Limited subscription, a Novice subscription or a Professional subscription. Each higher level subscription offers more options to the service provider. Every service provider does have the ability to post a profile, detailing various information about their abilities. Limited subscriptions limit the cost range in which a service provider can bid. For example, a Limited service provider can only bid on projects with a price range less than one thousand dollars. Novice subscription service providers can bid on projects less than five thousand dollars, and Professional subscription service providers can bid on any service level project. Several added bonuses with the Novice and Professional subscription levels include the ability to purchase credential verification services as well as the ability to post “Buy Now” projects. Credential verification services enable you to post information related to your references, certifications, licenses, education and previous employment. Simply adding these options to your account gives you a special designation stating that your information has been checked and verified as being true and accurate by the freelance marketplace. This designation gives you an added level of credibility making you stand out from the rest of the service providers and enabling you to showcase your achievements and abilities, giving a service buyer confidence in choosing you to complete their project. This will undoubtedly lead to more work and more projects coming your way. In addition to verifying your credentials, you have the ability to showcase a portfolio of your previous work. This allows you to show the service buyers your achievements and your successes with previous clients. Showcasing your portfolio is another important aspect that gives the service buyer confidence in your ability. Finally, the higher level subscriptions enable you as a service provider to offer “Buy Now” solutions. Similar to purchasing products immediately without bidding as on major product auctions such as Ebay, “Buy Now” solutions enable freelance service providers and consultants to make a solution available to all service buyers for a specific set price. For example, a freelance graphic design firm may create a “Corporate Identity Package”, enabling a service buyer to purchase this package that may include the graphic design of a logo, along with designs for letterhead, business cards, and banner ads. Another example could be from a lawyer or legal consultant who creates an incorporation package that includes corporate setup and incorporation services for all fifty states, creation of shareholder agreements, employment agreements, and registered agent services all for a set price. These simple examples of “Buy Now” services enable freelance consultants and independent contractors to create easy options for service buyers who are looking for simple solutions and quick turnaround time. Service providers also enjoy creating these type of services because it enables them to focus on their core interests and abilities. Only higher level subscriptions such as the Novice or Limited subscriptions enable freelance service providers to post “Buy Now” projects. The beauty of these additional options as a freelance service provider is that you can focus on one specific aspect of your business. If you are a consultant for a graphic design firm and you simply enjoy creating and designing corporate logos and identities, then you can find work specifically in this area by posting your own “Buy Now” solution. If you are a lawyer working for your own legal firm and your passion is new business setups and incorporation services, then you can steer projects your way with a “Buy Now” solution posted on a freelance marketplace like SmartyLance.


These are only a few examples of the many opportunities that exist as a freelancer. Whether you are a small business, an individual, or a large corporation, this article simply serves as a guide to help you in your quest to use outsourcing to your advantage to help your business grow and flourish. Outsourcing, when done correctly, can benefit your business in so many different ways. The two most obvious benefits are a savings of time and money. From the freelancer’s standpoint, this article has been developed to help educate and guide you with the many options available to find work as well as to delve into the minds of freelance service buyers. Knowing their concerns and understanding the reasons for choosing one service provider over another will greatly benefit you by enabling you to increase your odds for getting new business. Understanding the concerns and needs of service buyers will lead to your gains as a service provider. If you are able to provide enough people with services that they wish to have, then you will always be in demand.

2011 Economic Forecast – Part 2: The United States (US)

2010 is finally history. The economic recovery, which officially began in 2009, was scarcely evident as the US economy muddled through 2010. It seemed that for every piece of good news, like the strong end to the 2010 Christmas shopping season, was countered by news of a setback, such as unemployment rates that unexpectedly returned to nearly 10% during the same period.

The government’s stimulus efforts have run their course. The TARP program is officially over and tax credits for new home buyers have all expired. The economy now has to perform on its own without all that artificial stimulation.

The fed has reduced interest rates to historic lows to internally stimulate the economy. If interest rates were the cause of The Great Recession this action should have revved up the economy and put us back on track. With federal reserve interest rates at 0% the economy should be white-hot. However, high interest rates are not the problem, so lowering them did not spark an economic rebound. Here’s why with my forecast for 2011:

Unemployment Will Probably Stay Stuck Near 10%

The dirty little secret behind this statistic is that the 10% figure represents only those who currently have no earned income. Those who are working one or more part-time jobs because they can’t find a full-time work, are underemployed in their field, or who are laboring out-of-bounds of their education or training are considered by the government to be employed. When this expanded population is taken into account, the actual unemployment/underemployment statistic is most likely double the official figure.

Unfortunately, there are now multiple barriers to lowering our now chronically high unemployment level. Some of the most important are:

  1. The huge oversupply of foreclosed and unsold homes – The reasoning here is straightforward: there is no need for new construction in a saturated market, which means no construction jobs. Jobs in support industries that supply new home construction goods and services will obviously also be affected. More on this topic below.
  2. Continued restraint in consumer spending – more on this topic below.
  3. Major (and many smaller) corporations continue to outsource overseas everything from manufacturing to admin support – much is made of sending low skill or semi-skilled manufacturing jobs overseas, while the US supposedly maintains its edge through high tech startups at home. The government likes to point to numerous high tech startup companies as proof this strategy is working.
    Some entrepreneurs do successfully start corporations that may eventually employ 50 white collar workers. However, the product they create is outsourced to manufacturing overseas in a factory that employs perhaps 5000 workers to produce it. Granted, it may cost less per unit to manufacture there, but those 5000 low skilled or semi-skilled workers employed there are exactly the type of person most likely to be unemployed in the US.
    So, manufacturing, the great economic engine that for over 100 years was the promise of the high school graduate being able to enter the middle class, is essentially gone, which in great measure explains the growing class rift in our nation.
    Note that when manufacturing is sent overseas, the outsourcing company essentially has to teach the foreign corporation how to create the new product, which is new knowledge that a foreign power can use to its own benefit. China is the best example of this. We have successfully trained and paid the Chinese (and others) to beat us at our own game, as evidenced by China’s growing economic might and a political presence that now must be reckoned with.
  4. Hiring temporary workers, rather than in-house employees – temporary or contract workers are far cheaper to hire than in-house employees who qualify for benefits like health insurance and the retirement program. The company owes no loyalty to temps or contractors, and they can be hired and fired at will.
  5. Corporations no longer hire employees with “potential” or experience in parallel or complementary industries – major corporations have ceased to think long-term in many areas, shifting their focus nearly exclusively to near term actions that produce short-term results. Examples of this myopic view range from focusing on the next quarter’s stock earnings per share to viewing employees as a short-term commodity rather than long-term assets.
    Viewing employees as a commodity results in corporate behavior of hiring what’s needed for the moment and discharging them when the immediate need disappears, which in turn results in a goal of only searching for and hiring employees “who can make an immediate contribution to the bottom line.”
  6. The exponential increase in education, credential, and experience criteria for candidate employees over and above actual position requirements – new hire employees are now expected to “hit the ground running” and be able to “make an immediate contribution to the bottom line.” Like a new electronic gadget, a new employee should be able to “work right out of the box.”
    This new expectation was unheard of only a few years ago during the era when employees were a valuable asset to be invested in over the long term. Then, new hires weren’t expected to be able to make meaningful contributions until they had been with a corporation long enough to learned the ropes.
    Now, most hiring authorities don’t even make the effort to understand what skill set is actually required to perform the job they’re hiring for. So, advanced degrees, myriad commercial certificates, and recent experience in everything are specified in the hope that the overkill will result in a person eventually hired that can do the job.
    These excessive requirements are then passed to the human resources (HR) department, which dutifully uses them as an inflexible tool to screen the applicant database. The popularity of online employment applications has exacerbated this problem, where the HR person can enter “MBA” as a search term and never see the many capable, well qualified people who are discarded because they don’t have this degree.
    As an example, you may not need an engineer with an MBA to be the head of a maintenance department. The better candidate may well be a military veteran non-commissioned officer (NCO) who successfully ran a repair depot. Hiring the former NCO would bring superb talent and a broad background into the organization, could probably be hired at a substantial savings for the company, and may stay with the company longer than the highly credentialed engineer who is intent on furthering his career climbing the corporate ladder.
    Further, most large corporations have returned to profitability during the Great Recession through extreme cost cutting, mostly through layoffs in their labor force. Employees who survived the purges were told to take on the extra responsibilities of their former colleagues, so technically the same amount of work is being performed by fewer people (which is responsible for the great gains in national productivity figures compiled by the government and widely reported in the media). This approach obviously places all the necessary skill set eggs into fewer baskets, which creates entirely predictable problems when the new multi-taskers eventually leave and corporations try to replace them with another single person who can do the newly defined mega-job, rather than spreading skills (and risk) over several employees.
  7. The well documented bias against hiring the unemployed – On the surface this bias may seem counterintuitive, after all, someone who’s unemployed is readily available and could probably start Monday, right?
    However, the corporate thought process generally follows this logic path; “most corporations layoff their least productive workers during a downsizing, therefore if you’re unemployed you were among the least desirable or productive workers or you wouldn’t have been laid off. It follows then that there must be something wrong with you that we don’t know about, otherwise you would be employed” regardless of your skill set, recent experience, or personal references.
    It’s unfortunate that this twisted and nonsensical logic that is frequently imposed on situational “outsiders”, from marital status to any of society’s other membership groupings, has now found its way into corporate hiring mentality.

I recommend Louis Uchitelle’s book, The Disposable American, for more on this topic. (I have no financial interest in this recommendation.)

The unemployment bottom line – The unemployment/underemployment rate will little change in 2011, with those fitting the categories above most affected.

Real Estate Foreclosures Will Continue at a Record Pace and Housing Prices Will Remain Depressed in Most Areas of the Country

The government statistics here are shocking, with estimates that nearly half (HALF!) of all homeowners with mortgages have homes that currently appraise for less than the mortgage value; they’re “upside down”. Further, nearly 20% of all mortgages nationwide were in some stage of foreclosure at the end of 2010, with rates much higher in the hardest hit states of Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and California.

The efforts of the banking industry to work through this massive backlog lead to the “robo-signing” fiasco, where foreclosure paperwork was being routinely approved under oath en mass without verifying what was being attested to in the court documents. Faced with active investigations by attorneys-general in all 50 states, banks temporarily suspended foreclosure proceedings during the 4th quarter of 2010 to straighten out the mess they created, which the news media widely (and inaccurately) reported as a sign the economy is improving. However, the backlog must be worked through to get the bad debt off the banks’ books, so foreclosures will resume at perhaps even a greater pace when the paperwork is straightened out, probably by the second quarter of 2011.

The huge inventory of foreclosed and otherwise unsold homes will keep housing prices depressed. As long as there are so many unsold homes on the market (with more to arrive when the banks resume foreclosure processing), the oversupply will keep prices down and may drive them ever lower in 2011. Even after the foreclosure backlog is reduced, many new home sale listings will appear on the market when prices start to rise from the concealed backlog of those who want or need to sell, but didn’t list when prices were low, which will depress prices again. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took until 2015 to work through this immediate and hidden backlog.

The real estate bottom line – in most markets, residential real estate values will remain depressed or will decline further in the high impact states. Now is the time to buy if you have income security, the necessary available cash, an astronomical credit rating to qualify for a mortgage, and can find a bank willing to lend.

Energy Prices Should be Stable

Recent articles in authoritative publications have reported that on-shore crude oil storage is full to capacity and that mothballed tankers functioning simply as floating storage tanks are anchored off the coasts of Great Britain and Iran. A recent inventory showed that 50+ tankers were anchored off of the coast of England alone.

Most oil producing countries derive the majority of their national income from crude oil sales, so their incentive is to keep pumping, regardless of market price, in order to maintain their revenue stream, which will keep supplies abundant. So, the world is awash in crude oil, with inventory stores in excess of demand, putting downward pressure on gasoline prices. Overall, gas prices should remain relatively stable during the first half of the year, absent an unplanned disruption like a major refinery fire or a hurricane that destroys oil platforms. That’s good news for every household and corporate budget in our petroleum-based economy.

The wild card is China, again. Prior to the recession, China became a net importer of crude oil and was starting to compete on the world market for the limited supply of crude available (remember $150 per barrel spot market crude?). If other world economies improve and start consuming more oil, then everyone will return to competing for limited energy supplies on the world market. And China will most certainly win any contest here, because their trade surplus has given them an unlimited supply of dollars to buy oil with.

The energy bottom line – energy prices will most likely slowly increase throughout the year as the fragile recovery continues and the economies of the world pick up steam.

An alternative scenario is that energy prices remain stable when China’s real estate bubble collapses (see 2011 Economic Forecast – Part 1: The World View from a US Perspective for elaboration on this possibility), causing a large loss of personal wealth for the average Chinese citizen, dramatically driving down internal consumption, and leading to China’s own internal economic recession.

Crude prices will not decline because OPEC will adjust production to maintain oil in the $90-$100 price range.

Consumer Spending Will Remain Flat

People out of work spend only what they have to on the barest necessities. People who are afraid they will be next out of work, cut back on spending in order to save for what might come to pass, and also focus on buying only the practical, needed, and necessary. People who are secure in their jobs, but don’t want to be seen conspicuously consuming during hard times, will curtail their luxury purchases. Need I say more?

Further, it’s underreported that the historically low interest rates have meant a sharp drop in savings interest income for retirees. Retirees dependent on interest income have had to sharply reduce their spending in order to avoid further encroachment on their principal. Typically, the budget cuts include things like the lawn service contract, the beauty shop, dry cleaning, and eating out, all of which impacts local businesses.

The modest economic improvement widely reported during the last half of 2010 is probably the result of businesses simply restocking depleted inventories to low levels, which is good news but not great news. However, the buying surge that turned the 2010 Christmas shopping season into a last minute success means that retailers will start 2011 on better financial footing because they won’t have to start the year having to liquidate seasonal inventory (and profits) at 50%-70% off to generate cash flow.

Additional reasons that I think consumer spending will continue to be restrained in 2011 include the increased personal savings rate (an eventual benefit, but lowers consumer spending in the short term), a focus on reducing credit card debt, unplanned new car payments in the household budget resulting from the federal Cash for Clunkers program, and credit that’s either not available at any price or only at unfavorable interest rates and terms when it is.

The consumer spending bottom line – consumer spending on non-essential purchases will continue to be restrained in 2011. When consumers do make purchases, they will focus on the needed, necessary, and practical, and avoid luxury items even if they can afford them. Family vacations will be to local or regional destinations, rather than the exotic venues.

The Credit-Starved Economy

It’s widely reported that large corporations are currently hoarding large amounts of cash. This stockpile gives them the ability to hire, expand production, and grow organically if they wanted to, but they are refusing to do so in light of what I’ve shared above. Even a White House meeting with the president in 2010 wasn’t enough to persuade them to resume hiring if they can meet market demand with staff on hand.

However, large corporations continue to have aspirations to grow and, rather than slowly growing organically, the method they’re often choosing is rapid growth through acquiring their competition. When companies combine, the result may possibly be good for the new, larger corporation (the marriages generally have a 50-50 chance of commercial success), but the result always has two negative economic impacts:

  1. The cash and loans required to buy the competitor removes large amounts of capital from the market that would otherwise be available for mortgages and loans to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), and
  2. Mergers always result in layoffs as the new corporation works to eliminate duplicate functions to help pay for the merger. After all, you don’t need two payroll departments, two HR departments, two training departments, etc.

So, large corporate mergers have a break even chance of internal benefit, but nearly always have a negative impact on the economy.

Credit will most likely continue to be tight for SMBs in 2011. Banks say they have money to lend in this area, but the reality is the qualifying bar is set so high that very few will be able to meet it. It’s noteworthy that this economic barrier persists despite the availability of government Small Business Administration loan guarantees and the president repeatedly summoning banking CEO’s to the White House to urge them to begin lending again.

Finally, a common source of loan collateral for SMBs is no longer available in most cases. In areas hard hit by the collapse of the real estate market, the business owner’s home equity line of credit has been completely erased if the property value is now less that the outstanding mortgage balance. Even if there is some equity technically available, few business owners have the stratospheric credit scores necessary to qualify for the loans.

If longer term loans remain unavailable, SMB’s will turn to the only recourse they have left, which is financing their need for operating cash with personal credit card debt. Unfortunately, this option is fraught with danger because lending institutions issuing credit cards are rapidly changing card terms, raising interest rates to usurious levels, requiring most new cards to have variable interest rates (a practice which helped get us into this mess in the first place), and lowering credit limits in response to the new federal laws enacted in February 2010. These moves effectively sidestep the legislation intended to curb these abuses.

At a time when banks can borrow at 0% from the fed, it’s not uncommon for the credit cards they issue to charge 15% or more on outstanding balances. Further, the new laws do not apply to corporate credit cards, exposing the company to even greater financial risk if the owner is forced to finance via this route.

The credit bottom line – expect little or no improvement in credit availability in 2011.

The Impending Commercial Real Estate Tsunami

Commercial real estate values and investment income will probably take a drubbing as vacant store fronts drive down rents renegotiated in 2011. Failing businesses have created a glut of vacant commercial space in many areas and vacant commercial space doesn’t generate income. Surviving business owners will have several alternative locations to choose from and will use the oversupply as leverage to negotiate lower lease rates for the space they do occupy for as far into the future as possible.

And devalued properties of all types will have an adverse effect on local tax digests, forcing local governments to either raise property tax rates or trim operating and school budgets. Which of these choices do you think your local government will make?

Deficit Spending and the Growing Threat of the National Debt

Fiscally, the United States is in a mess and is rapidly approaching the financial meltdown so many European countries are currently experiencing.

The annual budget deficit – the federal government currently spends $3 for every $2 of revenue it receives and the annual spending gap is now over a trillion dollars (a TRILLION dollars) a year. Proposals to close this gap through either increased tax revenue, such as eliminating the homeowners mortgage deduction, or by cutting spending, such as cutting back on Medicare entitlements, meet with howls of constituent protests and go nowhere in a hurry. Note that Medicare alone accounts for 12% of all federal spending and that figure is certain to increase as baby boomers begin to retire in large numbers from the workforce.

The federal government currently spends $1,000,000,000 more every 8 hours than it brings in. It’s ridiculously obvious that this can’t continue for long, yet collectively Congress keeps kicking the can down the road to tomorrow (figuratively speaking) instead of dealing with the issue.

The US government borrows money to support this deficit spending through the sale of US treasury bonds. During World War II the debt was largely financed internally with American citizens buying “war bonds” at rallies that featured real-life war heroes on display.

Today we sell our bonds to foreign powers finance the deficit. Who’s buying them? The largest single buyer, by far, is China, followed by Japan, Germany, and the Arab OPEC nations. So, we are effectively (and quietly) being held hostage to those who buy large amounts of our bonds, because if they don’t buy them, then we can’t operate the federal government. It follows, then, that the nations buying our bonds use this leverage to exercise considerable influence in our behavior behind the scenes. We are no longer a totally independent nation.

Larry Burkett’s book, The Illuminati, is a fictional work about a foreign country that brings down the United States using exactly this leverage. For those who say that can’t happen, the book makes an interesting read of a plausible scenario. (I have no financial interest in this recommendation.)

The national debt – The accumulated national debt has reached an unimaginable size. The previous administration added more to the national debt than all previous presidents combined, including Ronald Reagan’s, and the current administration is on track to exceed this sorry milestone in just its first 4 years in office. We continue to add to this debt, which must be paid back at some point, almost without thought. For example, the president’s much heralded tax deal forged at the end of 2010 added $900 billion dollars to the national debt in extended income tax cuts, additional jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and a temporary cut in social security taxes without corresponding cuts in social security spending, at the stroke of a pen.

Predictions are, depending on interest rates, for interest payments alone to equal all non-defense spending of the federal budget by perhaps 2015.

There are only 4 ways out of this mess and they will become increasingly painful the longer we, as a nation, avoid changing our spendthrift ways:

  1. Massively cut spending – this will be very difficult, since the federal budget would have to be immediately cut by 1/3 to be able to simply stop borrowing. It would have to be cut even further to begin paying back principal on the debt.
    This step will further impact the national unemployment rate as large numbers of government employees are laid off in the downsizing, as we have seen happen in the European Union bailouts. Most popular government programs would have to be axed or pushed off on the states to fund, such as Medicare, which currently consumes 12% of the annual federal budget alone.
  2. Enacting huge tax increases – this move will generate howls of protest because no one wants to pay more of their hard-earned money for fewer services. As an example, how easy do you think it would be to eliminate the cherished homeowner’s mortgage interest deduction?
  3. Defaulting on the debit payments – this is an admission of bankruptcy, pure and simple. If we take this route the government’s access to credit on the world market would immediately dry up. After all, if we stop paying on our current bond obligations, how many more bonds do you think we could sell to foreign governments the next time we needed to borrow money?
  4. Printing dollar bills – this is the route to hyperinflation, because as the money supply increases the value of each dollar falls. The most often cited example of the folly of taking this route is the Republic of Germany following World War I, as it struggled to meet the surrender terms imposed by the Allies and make payments to the victorious nations for the cost of the war. Germany was forced to print money to meet its financial obligations, sparking the hyperinflation recorded in the pictures of German citizens in the 1920’s hauling wheelbarrows of money to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread.

The national debt bottom line – At the present rate of deficit spending, interest payments on the national debt will overwhelm the national budget by 2015. At that point we will be left with 4 stark choices to deal with the mess we’ve created: massively cut federal spending, enact huge tax increases, default on the debit, print money, or do some combination of these choices. The outlook is stark.

The US National Forecast Bottom Line

What does all this mean? Well, in the near term a realistic forecast is to be cautiously optimistic that the fragile recovery will continue, absent any further shocks to our financial system. However, the economy will be dragging a ball-and-chain along with it in the form of high unemployment, depressed commercial and residential real estate markets, the lack of available credit, the corporate preference to acquire the competition rather than hire new employees, and the looming national debt crisis.

If the scenarios above make sense to you then my suggestion is for small and medium-sized businesses, like professional practices that depend on elective procedures and service industry businesses, to be prepared for clients and patients to continue to defer discretionary spending until at least the second half of 2011. If you’re a retailer, you should keep inventories lean for the first half of the year.

And my personal recommendation is for everyone to reduce their personal debt to as close to zero as possible by 2015.

Will this all come to pass? It’s hard to tell because we haven’t been here before, but I’ve shared my best guess. Do you think I nailed it or do you have a different opinion? I look forward to your comments.

Sacred Love – Healing a Broken Heart; Part 1

Live with an open heart. Move to love. Accept the diversity of love. Don’t run away, have the courage to change your consciousness around love. Hold your love for life supreme, devote your life to it. Nothing external can have any power over you unless you permit it. Your love is too precious to be sacrificed defending menial emotions like hate, jealously, and envy. Your life is fragile, stay open in love, guard it carefully. With an open heart we learn not to punish people for who they are. Other people can’t belong to us, no matter how much we love them; our only right is to appreciate them. Don’t allow support or challenge to distract you from doing what you love, being with who you love, and giving what you love. Give respect to people by honoring their choices even if you don’t agree with them. Love is not attachment. Do not react to negativity, ignore it, let it pass you; don’t even hit the ball back. Never accept criticism you didn’t ask for. Opinions are the cheapest commodity on earth. Their stress is not your stress, their fears and doubts are not your doubts. Only the universe of Nature can create the magnificence of a flower, but any foolish mind can pull it to pieces. So openhearted living is inspired living. You can be inspired simply by knowing that everything you feel was inside you, already. Someone just bought it out. And at least that makes you honest with yourself.

Beauty is Spirituality in Reality

During hardship, don’t let faith in your spiritual world die. Know that you are always being guided, and sometimes, that guidance takes us into places we never would have chosen. But can you see that this is integrity because you devote something to your existence, and have the willingness to deal with where you are taken? You asked for leadership and you are getting it. Work with the laws of nature and you can find beauty in the darkness, healing. Sometimes we get a flood or drought, a bush fire, and all manner of things come to us even though we never overtly asked for them, the key is to learn from our life, not resent it.

Without knowing you, I can only surmise the cause of your current circumstances. Nature’s laws reveal the guidance you are being given.

When a person is deeply challenged at a personal level, and beginning to feel angry and hopeless, it is because they have lost their real dream. Sometimes in these circumstances we try to live someone else’s. It is a sort of suicide of the spirit. Emotional challenge asks a person, “What is your dream?” If you have defined your life as what you own, how you feel, or who you are with, you have built a very problematic existence and your spiritual path may be blocked.

When the wind has blown hard against the tree, is there still a tree? When the flood has stripped the earth, is there still an earth? We are continually being stripped of our ego, to find all that is lovable, our guided path, so no matter what you do, you are wonderful, guided and worthy.

I can help you answer the question, “What is my dream?” It is very easy. You take some spare time and go into the forest and find stillness. Then, unravel the knot that has become tangled. Let the stories unfold so that your heart can be open again. Learn from experiences, rather than fight them. There is no use in anger, or even analysis, there is simply growth. Heal by finding the beauty in others.

To heal, we must see beauty without reason, and to achieve that, simply diversify your outlook. See what is beautiful in something bad, and you will have crossed the line. Your life force, which is what people feel when they are near you, will be released from its judgment. We cannot do anything productive while we are suffering disappointment from the past, or false hope for the future. We must learn to see the beauty in every circumstance. No victims.

You are a wonderful person, who has a lot of love to give the world. Whatever job or relationship you have can bring out your best, happiest, and most spiritual self – if you can heal the hurt, and step forward with an inspired attitude. Find the beauty in everything.

The word for the heart in Arabic is “qalb” and literally means “that which fluctuates”;

the heart expands and contracts, and even in its purified condition passes through many states. The subtle faculties of the heart are our deepest knowing. That knowing is frequently veiled, or confused by more superficial levels of the mind – by opinions, desires, social conditioning and especially by our fears. The veils of conditional thought may obscure the mirror of the heart by the soot of emotions, by the corrosion of negative attitudes. In fact ,we easily confuse the ego’s emotions with the feelings of the heart.

Overcoming the need to react

You already know your love

You already know your love

And all the judgments are just the dance around it.

Blaming him, blaming her, these are just lies.

Even if you find a guru to agree with you

They are lying too

Blame is a lie, it feeds the ego, and the ego can only lie.

Ego cannot be authentic, it can only copy, react, duplicate, replicate.

Love is the spark that makes a fire.

The flames are the ego.

Never let that spark go out.

Without it, there is no fire.

During challenge, try to be in the moment, quietly, and do not talk too much. Fast response to challenge is not likely to result in anything thoughtful. The best thing is to be as quiet as possible, and to think about the matter for while before expressing your reaction. If somebody says they want to know right away, you can say, “Well, I don’t know right this second, but I’ll tell you tomorrow”. Avoid answers that come in that moment.

Reaction to another person is like throwing petrol on a fire. It serves only to create tension. It should become obvious in life that reacting to people places them far from their own true nature, far from their own true spirit, and is a great cause of broken harmony. To this end, harmony should be akin to stability. Stability however can only come from inner stillness.

The greatest reactions are those made by people to some form of insult or accusation. The more accurate the accusation, the greater the reaction. It serves neither person to react. Every reaction creates another action. The sign of a wise manager of a business is one who does not react – one who holds the calm until all the facts are gathered.

Remember, you always have choice as to how you respond to any situation. There is a wise way and an unwise way. Wise is to see the balance, the two sides of it and then choose the action, unwise is to see one side of a thing and then react, one is powerful and truth, the other is illusion, it is a choice.

The best way to know God is to love many things. -Vincent Van Gogh

Love goes deeper and deeper when you learn to be in the moment, quiet, and not talk too much. Then you will experience a deeper awareness of life. Fast response to challenge is not likely to result in anything thoughtful, so the best thing to do is to be as quiet as possible, and to think about matters. To cultivate this true love, we need to get away from our conventional environment from time to time, and create the spaciousness for clarity. We need to create seclusion for ourselves, to sit peacefully in the clarity of solitude, illuminated by emptiness.

If the mind is happy, the heart will be true, and then the body will be relaxed. We must find out how to become happy within, without achieving anything. Wanting to celebrate a loving relationship without discovering some level of self contentment is like trying to cover the whole world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns It is of course, much simpler to wear shoes.


Emotion causes arguments. You react, then they react, and then you react; the pressure builds until there is a screaming match. Emotion is like a pressure cooker, the heat under it is lopsided thinking, and the frustration is building inside. Eventually you can’t take the lid off because there is so much pressure in there.

That’s why pressure cookers have that little pressure relief valve on the top. And so do you. You must create a pressure relief valve for yourself, not so you can stop feeding the emotion, but so you can stop bursting with steam, and try to see the two sides of something.

Two people can only argue if both of them are emotional. If you see the other person’s point of view and they are still emotional, then they must surely be arguing with themselves.

I use this response when people give me their worst insult. For example, guys who are insecure and want to compete. They to do the “I’m better than you thing”, they say in an aggressive tone, “You are a ………” Of course they are hoping I will turn around and say “You are too” which is grounds for a street fight. But I just turn around, look at them and say, “Yeah, I know” and keep walking. The is mahatma Gandhi’s way, he said “accept every insult without resistance and it’s like handing the issue right back to the giver”

All our emotional arguments, all the tears, anger and stress are created out of imbalanced thinking. Stupid isn’t it? It is such a denial of what is blatantly obvious in nature. Religions are the lifeblood of lopsided thinking. That is how they separate you from God and give themselves a job.

The Lower people move down the consciousness tree, the more violent they become. At the bottom of that consciousness cone, people are very righteous, fundamental, “I am right you are wrong” and this is a very violent argument. As your rise up the cone, the level of emotion is exactly the same, arguments can be quite passionate but there is not all or nothing mind space. There is the ability to take it easy, to see the other persons viewpoint, and therefore there is more arbitration.

At the top we see both sides. The argument is the same as at the bottom, same topic different process. At the bottom people argue one side or the other. At the top people argue in order to see both sides. Balanced information always exists to every debate.

At the top of the cone it is a search for balance. At the bottom, where it is violent and rejecting, there is an attempt to find imbalance, one side or the other.

You are the breeze

Gentle soul, you are the breeze that kisses my skin

Beneath the pines

And I hear you whisper into my heart

I see your sunlight

Your tenderness

It brushes my lips

And we are together

The world is gone

We are in love, forever.

Beyond Arguments dealing with Emotional Challenge

There are always options as to how you react. Say you find it out your car was stolen just before you are going to the airport. One solution is to fly into a rage, swearing and cursing, spinning with anger at those thieves, and completely cutting years off your life. That’s the emotional reaction. The other reaction is, “Well I see the bad side and man that makes me angry, I feel really angry, but there must be an upside to this. Now I won’t have to store the car while I am gone, maybe it means someone is feeding their family tonight (selling it), maybe the insurance will cover it. Maybe we can think of buying a different car when we get back.”

Love More

The key to healing a broken heart is to love more. The pain of a broken heart is emotional blockage, which stops love. But there is no need to stop loving someone, just because they are not with you. If they hurt you, lied to you, or cheated on you, then you can be really truthful and admit, “No more than I did to myself”. All that aside, just because somebody doesn’t do what you thought they were going to do, it is not a signal to stop loving them. Just a signal to love them more.

The more you love something, or someone, the less you are attached to them. If you emotionalise, then you are attached and can’t survive without them. Or you can be so angry that you can’t feel how much you love them. However, if this happens you go back out into the world bitter, and people smell your bitterness. Then, the only relationships you can have are bitter ones. So it is better to love the past, admire their gifts and their beauty, and simply say, “That past relationship failed because I wasn’t ready to love that person enough. I drew the line at something”.

Beware of forgiveness. This is a really bad place to get stuck in moving forward. There is an implied notion in forgiveness that you are the victim and they are the criminal. This is not really going to heal anything, although it’s far better than hate. The healed place of the past, is admiration. If you speak of your ex, then speak in admiration, if they were good enough to meet, they are still good enough to give thank you to.

Wish them happiness. That means you aren’t responsible for their happiness. You wish them love and happiness. Then you are not in the loop anymore. You simply do all you can, as a citizen of the earth, to make another human beings life good. You don’t take credit and don’t take blame. Just love. Simply love them more and know that you have every trait you are condemning in them. So if you can admire them, you are admiring you, this is especially healthy.

If you react to the past and don’t come to love the past, then you drag the past into the future. Your love will again be conditional, hell, because you’ll end up living in a box, alone, surrounded by your baggage, and pretending you are happy without the love and affection of a lover.

Sacred Love requires work. It is easy to love a flower, it just sits in a pot and smiles. It is easy to love a dog, you are just stern with it, or give it a bone, and it is obedient. It’s easy to love a person you hardly ever meet, because you can “tolerate” them for short stints. It’s even easier to love a religion or spiritual philosophy because that icon sits there and never disagrees, never reveals your shame and anger. It fixes all those problems by patting you on the head and telling you that you did well by doing worship. It’s easy to love kids. You just get them to do what you want and the world is happy, they can even live out some of your own missed hopes. Just load them up with your expectations to be what you failed to be. But relationship?

Now we are dealing with love. Love that is not easy. Don’t you think its amazing that we can look up in the universe and admire all of creation, we can admire imaginary Gods and spirits that we never saw, in our whole life, but when our partner contradicts us, we blame them and say, that is not God, that is not lovable. Then we climb on our high horse (the ego), and tell that lover they are unworthy of love and better change tomorrow.

There is nothing that can happen on earth that the creator didn’t create. It all got created, then people wrote books. The whole of creation is made from love, then people wrote books trying to explain it. But their explanations are flawed because they are human, they are fear driven. All of life and all of creation is explained in love. People didn’t write books and then create a world. You fall in love, in harmony with your creator, a love moment when your ego is asleep, and then it wakes up and individualises you, separates you from creation. This is where all our suffering comes from. Some people believe they can defy nature, but life is very long in this regard, 20 years is nothing. Debts are accrued – you can watch it.

The only thing in the entire universe that you can change, is your mind. Funny isn’t it. It is the only thing you can change, and always the last.

Beyond Blame

Nobody can break your heart. Your heart can’t break. Your mind can break, but your heart can’t break. It feels like your heart is broken but it is not. Your mind got offended. So you tried to stop loving somebody, your mind stopped loving somebody. That is what “breaks your heart”. Your mind got a challenge, your mind expected them to do one thing, and they did another. Then, you hated them, so you had to stop letting the love flow. But you can’t stop loving. You must need to know how to love without having them. To love someone is not possessing them. To love someone you don’t even have to like them. Liking someone is not loving.

When you stop letting the love for somebody out, you hurt yourself. If you stop admitting that you love somebody, then you “break your own heart.” Because your heart only knows one thing, it knows how to love. It doesn’t know how not to love. So, when you block your love for somebody, you block it to yourself, your next partner, your next partner, and your next partner. You block it for your whole life. Especially if it is a parent that you block your love to.

Beyond Blame

In Nature,

unity comes from diversity.

The person who will love most,

will love with open palms.

A closed fist of control

is like a the hardened crust of the earth,

waiting for an earth quake

to force a tsunami.

Soften the ego,

then you will learn to flex.

In relationship, it is easy to love when you first “fall in love”, because your mind was out of the way and your heart was free to love. Then the mind remembers the past, and that unhealed love relationship starts to bring memories back in. Inch by inch your heart gets blocked by all the unfinished business from the past. I went out with a lady who, many years before, had a teenage love affair. She was so badly affected by the loss of it, that her chest collapsed. From then on, all her partners were older men because she thought they would not “dump her” like that boy in her teens. She found she could love for the first weeks of a new affair, but after that, she was crazy in fear, hyper sensitive to all her issues. You could say she was very messed up, but really, it was a blockage in her heart to that one boy, so long ago, and it had never been fixed.

Really when we talk of a broken heart we mean broken ego. That ego in the west is our identity, so when someone breaks our expectations, we say we have a broken heart. This is why so many eastern teachings try to get you past the ego, because that ego can raise you up in excitement and dump you down in a broken heart feeling. Western teachers of eastern philosophy confuse the whole issue. They try to use eastern teaching to elate you, to raise you up, thinking, in a white Anglo Saxon way, that there can be a life without sin. This is how the great eastern teachings about nature got polluted. Even eastern gurus who go to the west mix the whole teaching up because if they are honest, they will have no students. They are afraid of the truth, that there is a balance in nature.

The Donkey Steam Engine, Part Two – The Loggers Best Friend

The logging industry was pushed to the limit in 1881 by the exploding demand for lumber. The forests in Maine were logged out and had been abandoned. As timber in the Great Lakes region was becoming depleted, and as the logging companies moved west, the guys in the forest were pushed harder and harder for more, more, and more; the industry struggled to keep up.

As so often happens throughout history, about the time a machine is greatly needed it, someone invents it. When the logging industry was desperately trying to dramatically increase production, along came an invention that revolutionized that industry. That invention was the Donkey Steam Engine – a steam-powered mechanical winch developed by John Dolbeer in 1881. That year was generally declared as the beginning of technological change in the industry. This machine was both the loggers best friend and his deadly enemy if he wasn’t constantly on guard. As one logger said, “There’s lots of hard work out there but if you don’t look out it’ll kill ya.”

John was a founding partner of the Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company in Eureka, California. Eureka is a town in Humboldt County about 100 miles from the California-Oregon border and is a huge logging and lumbering area.

Dolbeer received patent number 256553 for the Donkey Steam Engine on April 18, 1882. By comparison, to date 7.5 million patents have been issued in the United States. As a point of interest, the current patent numbering system began with a patent #1 issued on July 13, 1836. No information is available about that patent but prior to that date, about 10,000 patents had been issued.

The Steam Donkeys actually acquired their name from their origin in sailing ships, where the “donkey” engine was typically a small secondary engine used to load and unload cargo, raise the larger sails with small crews, or to power pumps. Dolbeer had been a naval engineer before turning to logging which undoubtedly led to his choice of the name for his invention. It is also said that loggers gave it that humble name because the original model looked too puny to be rated in horsepower. Donkey power doesn’t have quite the image of a powerful engine, but as you will see, a Donkey Steam Engine could readily snatch a giant log out of the forest.

This wonderful engine was essentially a collection of mechanical components starting with a wood-fired steam boiler. The boiler supplied steam at anywhere from 100 to 200 PSI to a one cylinder engine that transmitted power through a connecting rod to a crank shaft on which was mounted a flywheel with some sort of brake mechanism. A lever operated clutch configuration controlled a complex of reduction gears and drive wheels that drove a winch. The winch could be either a large pulley with a horizontal shaft or a drum, or a capstan, mounted on a vertical shaft.

The Donkey Engines came in an endless variety of configurations of steam, gas, diesel, or electric power plants plus drums to hold wire rope. They had one thing in common; all were used to haul logs from the woods, load them at landings, move equipment, rig up trees, and to lower or raise wagons up and down inclines. But, the vast majority were steam-powered and most were built in the Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, area. Hard to imagine now but a hundred and fifty years ago Seattle was basically a logging town, as was Vancouver, British Columbia.

In the simplest setup, a “line horse” would drag a cable out to a log in the woods. The cable would be attached, and, on a signal from the whistle on the engine, the Donkey’s operator would open the steam valve on the boiler and engage the clutch, allowing the transmission mechanism to rotate the drum. As the cable was wound around the drum, the log was dragged to the Donkey. The log was then taken either to a mill or to a “landing” where it would be transferred for onward shipment by rail, road or river; either loaded onto boats or floated downstream directly in the water. The layout of a logging operation was no small task as terrain and river characteristics had to be carefully considered and were crucial to the successful movement of these giant logs.

The Donkey operation had a lingo all its own. There are hundreds of terms that are unique to this activity and are much too numerous to mention all of them here. The significant titles are described here.

Operating an early Donkey required the services of a minimum of three men, a boy and a horse. One man, the Choker-Setter, attached the line to a log; an engineer or Donkey Puncher, tended the steam engine; and a Spool Tender guided the whirring line over the spool with a short stick. An occasional neophyte tried using his foot instead of a stick. When he was back from the hospital, he would use his new wooden leg instead. The boy, called a Whistle Punk, manned a communicating wire running from the Choker Setter’s position out among the logs back to the steam whistle on the engine. It was said that one could tell a Whistle Punk by his style of blowing the whistles.

When the Choker Setter had secured the line running from the spool, the Whistle Punk tugged his whistle wire as a signal to the engineer that the log was ready to be hauled in. As soon as one log was in, or “yarded,” it was detached from the line. The horse then hauled the line from the Donkey Engine back to the waiting Choker Setter and the next log. Later a “haulback” drum was added, where a smaller cable could be routed around the “setting” and connected to the end of the heavier “mainline” to replace the line horse.

A more typical Donkey crew consisted of nine or ten men: a Water Tender (the water tank had to be replenished as the steam was fed to and exhausted from the engine), the Donkey Puncher, one or two Spool Tenders, two Choker Setters, two Timber Fallers (they were never called “Fellers”), a Haulback Horseman, and of course the Whistle Punk. There could be more than one Donkey Engine and crew deployed in a large timber tract so you can imagine the furious activity to get those logs to the mill. One engine might haul the logs down to the next engine, depending on the terrain and so on. These were not jobs for the faint of heart. No wimps allowed.

One might ask how could these big, heavy devices be transported around the forest over very rough and uneven terrain? They were actually kind of self-propelled. Since the engine and associated equipment were mounted on heavy skids, and since it was used for pulling, the free end of the cable was tied to a distant tree, the other end was wrapped around the winch on the engine, the gears engaged, and the whole assembly pulled itself into position over hill and dale.

When in the final position, the Donkey was lashed to the nearby trees to secure the apparatus and keep it from being pulled to the logs. That would be just the reverse of the desired effect. After all, the Donkey was mounted on skids so that it would easily slide around in the forest. As Sir Isaac Newton once said, probably more than once, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction!” That reaction had to be constrained, in this case by cables.

Once an area was logged out, the Donkey had to be moved to the next grove of trees to be cut. The hold-down cables would be removed, the pull cable attached to a distant tree, stump or other strong anchor and the machine would drag itself overland to the next location. This was very much like the winch on the front end of a jeep pulling itself out of creek or canyon or up a mountain.

Twenty-six different types of Steam Donkeys were built in the Pacific Northwest by one firm alone. In 1913, one company built 51 donkeys in a 49-day period, all sold before they left the plant to fill rush orders.

Donkey Engines kept getting bigger and bigger. There were two drum and three drum Donkeys able to haul in logs from the woods over high wires, Donkeys that loaded logs on railroad cars, and landing Donkeys that pulled logs to river or lake landings. This was big business back in those days in support of the great logging industry. In the later years of the Donkey era, some were of enormous size. For example, one was so large it had to be mounted on two railroad cars. I doubt this one was dragged around much in the forest.

In The Loggers, Chapter 3, Taming The Virgin Forest, a turn-of-the-century author, Ralph D. Paine, happened upon a logging operation in the Western Cascades and was filled with both admiration and terror at what he witnessed. He described the scene: “Stout guy ropes ran to nearby trees, mooring the Donkey as if it were an unruly kind of beast. In front of the engine was a series of drums, wound round with wire cable, which trailed off into the forest and vanished. The area was littered with windfalls, tall butts, sawed-off tops and branches, upturned roots, 15 feet in the air. Huge logs loomed amid this woodland wreckage like the backs of a school of whales in the sea.”

Paine noticed a long signal wire that led away from the engine’s whistle off into the woods. When an unseen person yanked this wire the Donkey screamed a series of intelligent blasts that could only be some sort of code. The engine clattered, the drums began to revolve and the wire cable grew taut. The Donkey surged against its mooring; its massive body began to rear and pitch as if striving to bury its nose in the earth.

He was then startled by an uproar out in the forest sounding as if trees were being pulled up by the roots. In a moment a log came hurtling out of the underbrush nearly 1,000 feet away. It burst into sight as if it had wings, smashing and tearing its own path… so fast that when it came to a stump, it pitched over it as if it were taking a hurdle. Then it became entangled with another giant a log. The two, as one, did not even hesitate, and both came lunging toward the engine.

He said it is an awesome sight to see a log six feet through and 40 feet long bounding toward you as if the devil were in it, breaking off trees as if they were twigs, leaping over obstacles, gouging a way for itself.

When the gigantic log was within 20 feet of the loading platform where he stood, Paine panicked and ran, but then he said, “the huge missile halted in its flight and the masterful Donkey had a breathing spell.”

Old timers love these old engines and enjoy restoring and demonstrating their capability in museums and parks. Just the mention of a Donkey Steam Engine will cause an old logger, or a young history buff, to stare off into the woods and remember, perhaps with a tear in their eye, the sight and sound of one of these great steam-powered engines dragging giant logs out of the forest to be transformed into lumber for building the West. San Francisco had to be rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, which represented a huge increase in the demand for lumber.

The sounds they made as they performed their duty — chug, clang, bang, whirr, hiss, tweet – were music to the ears of mechanical engineers and mechanics alike. There is nothing like the clickety, clickety, clickety of a big spur gear pinion driving a giant bull gear round and round and round as the pull cable hauls in a log.

As a mechanical engineer, I have been enthralled by watching these great old machines perform, kind of like a musician standing in front of a symphony orchestra and listening to a great composition.

The Donkey was unique in so many ways, even in terms of its own sounds. How many know what a Steam Donkey sounds like? Even among steam railroad fans, few are familiar with the powerful sound of hot, dry steam powering a 12 x 14 yarder pulling at high-speed. It is unlike any other. The power, the speed, the vibration, and the smell were all a part of it. Memories of those days are of a time of glamour, accomplishment, humor and hard work, in spite of men facing danger, pain, and sometimes death.

Now, you might ask, “How could a guy get all choked up about a dilapidated and rusty old contraption?” Well, to an old logger, mechanic, or mountain man, that several ton pile of wonderful stuff evokes memories of a bygone era, the heyday of logging in the West. I would describe them as “Steam Junkies” or “Gear Heads.” It is definitely a “guy” thing. Donkeys are, in fact, a link to the “glory days of logging.” Those who worked the “big woods” around the steamers speak of a time, now gone forever, with reverent nostalgia. There is a certain romance, if you can call it that, associated with Donkey Steam Engines.

In his book, In Search Of Steam Donkeys, Merv Johnson reminisces about his father, Lee Johnson, “warming toast over the firebox extension. I remember Lee steam cleaning his overalls with his home-made washing machine connected to a Donkey. I remember riding in a ’41 Chevy pickup between the shoulders of two loggers who were reminiscing about the old days. Both of them had spent most of their lives on and around Donkeys. Their vivid descriptions of how yarders sounded with 225 lb. of steam in a hard pull, how the firebox door used to puff after a turn of logs came in, brought tears to my eyes that day.”

Just standing next to a wonderfully restored Donkey Steam Engine listening to the signal whistle, the steam rushing in and out of the piston, the connecting rod moving up and down, the flywheel spinning, big old gears meshing and the pulleys rotating is an emotional experience – especially to those who have lovingly restored the beast.

There is the well-known saying about boys and their toys; well this is about dudes and their Donkeys.

Unfortunately, of the thousands that were built during the age of steam, only a handful remain and few are anywhere near operating condition. How could these machines have disappeared so fast? Why have the traces been almost totally erased? These steamers were central to the character of mechanized logging of the time. Each machine had its own personality, its own idiosyncrasies, unlike today. Today, the machine operator climbs into an enclosed cab, pushes an electric starter button and controls the apparatus effortlessly with a joystick, not unlike that found on a video game.

Though a few Donkeys have been preserved in museums, very few are in operating condition today. The Petry Donkey Steam Engine at the Central Sierra Historical Society Museum at Shaver Lake, California is an exception. It was discovered in 1993 Southeast of Shaver Lake on the side of a mountain by Patrick Emmert, nephew of the owner of Pine Logging Company in Dinkey Creek. Pine Logging was in operation from 1937 to 1979 and was the last lumber mill operating in the Sierra National Forest

Patrick had studied the history of sawmills in the area and followed up on a rumor that it was out there at the old Petry Sawmill site where it had rested since being abandoned in 1912. It was just a rusty pile of metal when Patrick found it – a mill fire in 1947 incinerated all the wood parts of the support structure and many of the small mechanical components were gone. Mill fires were quite common in those days and many mills had to be rebuilt several times. But, Patrick recognized that this was a treasure after all.

OK, he found it – now what? How do you remove a rusty old pile of steel (treasure) covered with many years of forest growth that weighs several tons from its hiding spot deep in the woods? As luck would have it, a helicopter company was operating on a salvage timber sale in the area and agreed to airlift the Donkey to a flat piece of land that Patrick owned nearby. It took only 5 minutes to fly it out. Imagine how long it took originally to drag that engine out to the forest work site. From there it was hauled by flatbed truck down the mountain to a shop in Tollhouse, California for the extensive restoration. Missing parts had to be replaced which were acquired from many sources in the old logging areas of California and from current catalogs for steam equipment. There are numerous steam engine enthusiasts out there.

Rebuilding this engine took a lot of TLC and five years of hard work, but when completed in 1998 the gang held a “steam up” party to celebrate. The engine was mounted on a lowbed trailer and was transported to various logging jamborees. When the Central Sierra Historical Society Museum at Shaver Lake was completed in 2007, this labor of love was donated to the museum where it is now on prominent and permanent display – with its own protective roof. The finished product weighs approximately 3 tons, including the heavy-duty timber skids.

Patrick also discovered a Donkey Engine boiler from a Sierra sawmill in 1994 in the front yard of a home in Clovis, California. The missing parts were acquired from various sources all over the West and it was also restored at the same shop in Tollhouse. It is now mounted on a trailer to be hauled to functions that desire a Donkey demo. These engines have been lovingly and painstakingly restored to near perfect operating condition by a crew of dedicated Donkey docents.

Six times a year, Memorial Day, Labor Day and for other celebrations, they (the Donkeys and the docents) are put through their paces at the museum for the enjoyment of young and old alike, to demonstrate the technique of hauling a log out of the woods. And, you can blow the steam whistles to your heart’s content. If you are musically inclined, you can even play a tune on the whistles. People come from far and wide to participate in these nostalgic events.

So, if you are inclined to take part in the fun-filled “Steam Up” festivities with the Donkey dudes, come on up.

Farm Safety – National Government Resources Part 2

The federal government in the United States has a special place in being able to provide both federal and local advice and help with specific focus on the agricultural industry. This applies both to advice and guidance in a theoretical sense about all business activities, and in a specific sense to dedicated areas of the agricultural and farming industry.

Agricultural safety and health centres, come under the brief of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Health and safety on farms is a major issue, and this government agency focuses on research and policies regarding the prevention of all workplace injuries on a national level, including agriculture.

Agricultural safety and health centers take this work one stage further, providing help at a more local level, albeit still in a very wide geographical area. Some of the centres based in Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, New York and Ohio.

There are a few other centres as well and their work may even be subcontracted further down the line if necessary. The intent is to be able to provide more localised information and help on a geographical basis, and each center may decide on specific ways of doing this.

Their main role is to provide safety education programs, that take into account the broad locality of where they are based, and can thereby focus on specific issues that have a local bearing.

They are an excellent resource because they can combine both federal and local experience and policies, targeted much more specifically around the locality of an area.

The National Children’s Centre for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety is a dedicated centre, which as its name implies focuses on providing farm safety in relation to children.

Unlike a lot of other industries, the use of children and young people in agricultural work is still seen as a really good thing, providing valuable experience for young people in a safe environment, providing holiday jobs, and often lifestyle and community experience.

Many young people who work on farms also live there, either as part of the family who own the farm, or as part of a family who work there.

In any event, it is acknowledged there needs to be a special focus on how best to protect children and young people in terms of workplace safety, in ways that do not necessarily apply to other businesses.

This agency oversees that, and try to develop a framework that allows children and young people to grow up and be involved in the nature of the work in a safe and appropriate manner.

The United States Consumer Production Safety Commission is a regulatory agency whose focus is on setting standards for consumers to have confidence in, in terms of the safety of all products within the industry.

This agency tries to work closely with farmers and producers of agricultural products in order to achieve this. It is in everyone’s interests that consumers feel safe in the products they are buying, and this can be an ongoing challenge for the farming and agricultural industry.

The other main government agency worth mentioning is the Environmental Protection Agency. This agency has a broad remit to protect all areas of the environment, most notably the air, water and natural resources of the United States.

This agency has responsibility for overseeing and implementing laws and regulations that apply to pesticides and air and water pollution.

There can be heavy financial penalties if these regulations are not adhered to, and it can be a major challenge for many farms and agricultural businesses to make sure that all their business practices conform to current legislation.

The EPA should not be thought of as purely being a policeman enforcing government law.

It can also be a very effective resource for providing help and advice on what laws and regulations apply particular environment or area, and advising farmers on how best to meet their responsibilities.

Dealing with all types of pollution, either airborne or waterborne it is a responsibility that everyone working in the industry has, and in an ideal world would want to adhere to.

Business pressures can often lead to people taking shortcuts in the hope of getting away with it. This sadly does happen, although hopefully infrequently. It is important that all these government agencies work in a collective and collaborative manner in order to both support and regulate all farms and agricultural practices throughout the country.

A Journey to Remember, a Short Story, Part 1

Vacations always get over sooner than one realizes.

Our vacation is over and has come to an end. But the point of fact is, even to this day Strong, Arindya and Sati couldn’t take this in their stride even as it has driven them furlong into the realm of mortifying nostalgia. Nothing can now bring them back to the real world, or so it seems.

Naturally, to be able to get away from the grime and tussle of life in the city is a jubilant feeling like no other, thought Arindya, himself forlorn in deep nostalgia. Alas, another vacation wasn’t anything nearer to happening anytime soon, so therefore learning to live with it, not surprisingly, is hard enough. But that’s another story though, for another time.

Not satisfied with a nice full week’s fabulous expedition, they were still craving for more. Such was the torrent of their newfound addiction. Arindya’s college buddies Strong and Sati corroborated having come across the same alluring feeling that never let go of them even after the precious trip taken all those years ago – a little more than a decade ago – is now far behind them, lodged in the labyrinths of their collective memory. I guess good friends all think alike.

Our journey, The-Three-Musketeers’ journey, had turned out to be the most special mention of our lives. The journey that we undertook more than a decade ago, at the start of the new millennium: 2001, has always been a high-point of our collective remembrances. We often find ourselves chatting away over cups of hot tea and pakoras, and sitting lazily in the wicker chairs on the sultry terrace bathed in dusky evening moonlight cascading down upon us, and tenderly recalling those wonderful, younger days of our lives.

Burning Driftwood

All the highs and lows of my life’s first friends-only vacation came into my nightly dreams like burning driftwood that always remained aglow. The glowing embers of memories kept on burning in my heart as the early morning sky began to rescue its warm, sweet, hopeful Sun from the mystery pools of the dark night. A new dawn of life then shines upon the horizon ending its nightly escape from the clutches of unrepentant darkness. Golden memories are like warm glowing embers that settle inside the spaces of your heart.

If not for the endless days and nights of consternation that went into planning our first outing – a chance at as they say ‘getting away from it all… ‘ – to get away from the daily grind or routinely boring sort of sclerotic lives we were living, than we would have found ourselves slowly seeped out of life and hung up to dry like washed linen on a wiry receptacle of juvenile delinquency. Thank God we saved ourselves from turning into lazybones and just do nothing. Getting to be peripatetic is such fun.

For Strong, Sati (our very own Kumbhakaran!) and Arindya things were not looking up bright nor were they really leading ship-shape lives. But at long last, when things began falling into their rightful places, they struck wanderlust and simply packed and moved. We sung together in our throaty voices, emulating the mellifluous voice of Kishore Kumar, our made-for-the-occasion friendship song while travelling all the way towards finding freedom and abandon:

To be one with the world…

We are in heaven…

In the lap of Mother Nature…

We are in heaven,

O sweet feeling…

(Arindya wasn’t aware of what was to come upon him when after he returned home from a life altering journey to Nashik. The three wanderlusts have travelled to Aurangabad, Ellora, Nashik, Tryambakeshwar and Shirdi.)

In my heart of hearts, I knew this is it. The beginning of one of those things that maketh a friendship last long, for life long. The vacation was probably meant to do that. We were known to be best of friends and we wanted to give it a touch of emotional appeal: a fine companionship fetching its own little permanent space in our hearts, for memory keepsakes. And that’s what exactly has happened besides Arindya’s falling in love with an elegant stranger.

Speaking of myself, I would say it was our one great outing, more of a pilgrimage to be sure, that had washed up ashore something of a philosophical musing which, oddly, to this day, is still quaking in my unaccustomed heart. In fact, it never let go of me ever. It still quakes inside me. Like a chronically emotional guy I would constantly have myself believe that ‘things’ have ‘changed’ and that there’s no way to find out whether it was for the better or for worse; even as it went on to carve a secret alcove in my private life. Why worse? Because I knew for a reason that my journey, especially from Shirdi to Hyderabad, would turn out to be extraordinarily heart-wrenching for me and I’ll have to live my life heart-broken. So here goes the tale.

All love stories have one thing in common; you have to go against odds to get there. For me the temple town of Tryambakeshwar was the greatest allure of all my life’s worth could hope to get honoured with. So great was the sweet atrocity of the lost love that Arindya thought a tell-all memoir was all that was left to do and relive those moments all over again. His sense of loss, his seemingly decadent life was waiting to be relieved for the purposes of getting it written and ultimately retold in a manner that would bring him some kind of relief. To unburden. You know, the worst feeling in the world is when you know that you both love each other but still you just can’t be together.

That Thing Called Love

Yes, you said it right. Indeed, it was love at first sight! Or was it a false alarm? Or was I being a darnedest fool? Didn’t I have ever had a proper handle on the two thinly-veiled, albeit different, paroxysms: Infatuation or Love? Turns out, I never did. I never knew it clearly enough though, not then, but surely, now I do know. An idea can change your life. But ‘change’, a brooding change at that, (if not the real Love itself) can make a hostile bid on your way of life! A thing of beauty is a joy forever and I have lost ‘something’ on my return trip back home and I am left undone. I know not what to do, how to do in order to be able to get it all back into my life. This is a mystery (I simply call as ‘change’) which failed to warm up to me with any evidentiary feeling of what it has ‘changed’ after all. I am unable to place that thing properly amongst the bare necessities of my life, but am feeling it all right in the empty center of my being with a great sense of remorse.

Is it a kind of passion that strangely afflicts lovesick puppies all the time? Or is it something to get serious about and needs a little personal scrutiny? Was it love? Or was it supposed to be a plain human reaction after all that rushes up your psychic mind some kind of hormonal hara-kiri when you see a beautiful face, a thing of beauty? Whatever it was, it surely came by slowly and beautifully, that old sweet feeling of – I dare say – love? Oh! Is it all about that good old culprit that goes by the sweetest name in the world called Love? If it is so then it will kill me on a regular basis!

It indeed does weird and wonderful things to your heart, I strongly believe that. The ‘change’ that I was so proudly kept repeating over and over again in my mind is known by nothing else but Love. Pure and untouched. Warm and Cozy. Humble and Secure. That thing called Love slowly spread within me like wind-rippled sand in a forlorn, forsaken desert, and little by little the deeper meaning of the word got me totally baffled and confused. Afterwards, I grew very restless on account of such emotional stirrings and I knew not what to do except accept my Destiny as a one-time readymade parcel service from the heavenly counters of The God Almighty. Oh yes! I am eternally thankful for that service!

Call it thrill or the regular drill, the other side of falling-in-love coin is an unchartered territory of emotional warfare. You can deal with it if you think you really can, or else you lose your love and go home in several pieces. Your heart is felled first, always a ready victim of ‘unrequited love’ and longing, considering the circumstances.

After having lingered on such a thought-process in my mind that began materializing like a zany commotion of deep-seated melancholia, I came to realize that it was indeed the mysterious workings of the persuasive power of ‘Love’ that suggested itself by, both subconsciously and feelingly. Furthermore, the matter of such a delicate nature was so tellingly mystifying that I was finding myself shy and uncertain in equal measure to be able to get a comprehending grasp on its unmistakable magical power. I felt I have been given this evident opportunity to figure it all out, and so I will I thought.

Somewhere in my heart Love was being bucolic.

It slowly came to light in Arindya’s minds’ eye that he has been touched by an Angel; that lovely species whom one unstoppably falls in love with. And there was never a name for her, for name didn’t really matter I suppose. As if transfixed I stood there with unblinking eyes looking her way. Realizing my eyes on her, she turned towards me for a fairly long moment and looked up at me. Her eyes, lips, cheeks twinkled a bit; then knowing that I had still devoted my attention on her, her face broke into a saucy smile. After a moment or two, with a calming poise she fervently put her hands together in front of the deity praying.

The clear light of day of the afternoon Sun and the serene October air appeared to be blending together to bathe her beauty with divine loveliness. Heavens opened up their doors and windows and Gods and Goddesses assembled together to have a precious look at their loving creation; even a grant of a tiny glimpse at her would no doubt continue to reassure and comfort them of their blissful eternity and immortality. They were being jealous, apparently! And I merely an Earth-dwelling mortal dared to romanticize the lovely sight I was likewise being treated to, and standing right there transfixed I fell into a trance I never seemed to have got out of. A serious bout of daydreaming crept up my soul that completely stirred my living being! I was being as if zealously ‘guarding’ her from something I could never know of what. Gods and Goddesses? Possibly. They too were looking at her, remember?

Holy Moly! No… ! I remember Adam and Eve’s satanic mistake in the Garden of Eden before they were necked out of unceremoniously!

Indeed, I opened my heart at the main entrance of the temple to yield a precious place for her to step right in. No doubt, I treasured up her memory (including her divine angelic smile) in the deepest vaults of my unbidden heart ever since.

A Journey to Remember

A journey to a holy place can sometimes make you feel profoundly rejuvenated and transformed; especially when you find that the journey you had has rendered a new dimension of poignancy to the basic perception of your own life.

One doesn’t just go and fall in love in a temple. It doesn’t happen that way. But you can’t help it when it happens, can you? Love can subtly suggest itself anytime anywhere, whether in a temple or in a park, or in a train or in a bus. I thought to myself, in my limited understanding, that for me Love will always be something that cannot be ‘set up’ to ‘gain’ something from it, but which is ultimately intensely natural and a thing that can only be felt deep within and treasured for a lifetime. Love makes life live. Love makes you feel enormously optimistic at heart. It makes you smile secretly and satisfyingly in the assuring fact that she is the one made in heaven for you, Then again, when others see you smile without obvious reason, they think you are kind of… ‘myyaaad’. So what is Love after all?

“Love doesn’t mean to win someone,

But it means to lose yourself for someone.

It is not done by the excellence of mind.

But it is done by the purity of heart.”

The great novelist Eric Segal’s immortal lines “love means never having to say you’re sorry” conveys as much of what lovers practically feel all the time but hardly ever can utter in those very words. That’s one way of looking at it. Yet Love manages to get conveyed; if not in words then the eyes do the trick.

All this were personal definitions that Arindya gave to his newfound feelings that were compelling enough for him to freely believe in love at first sight. And this hell of a feeling was met with approval by the Angel he met at the Tryambakeshwar temple in the picturesque district of Nashik.

As apposed to Strong’s suggestion of “infatuation” that I might possibly have been a case of, I had nothing short of The Bard William Shakespeare’s lines to counter his (Strong’s) sly riposte with:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove… “

I have believed that this piece of sonnet explains everything what Love has been, what Love is, and what Love will always be.

When does such a thing affect you? Does it affect you especially when you find yourself atop a precipice of your life and you have nothing better of your own but to claim that it was NOT infatuation? No doubt, she was an exalted species of pure feminine beauty, and I had to hanker after the girl only because of a so-called ‘exterior’ quality on her – her eye-catching beauty? No, I don’t believe so. And that’s exactly what didn’t happen to Arindya at all. People might say different things, for they are, well, people; they are meant to say things: uncharitable or appeasing. But in the end you are the only one to know for sure whether or not you were in love and what really happened to you. For me it was Love all right: Love at first sight, Love for ever and Love forever after.

He knew it was far from anything what some people never really get to acknowledge when someone happens to fall in love. Arindya was not travelling alone but he sure was feeling very lonely for the first time among his friends. He had Strong and Sati for good company, yet why does he have to want for something that was not at all his in the first place? Strong and Sati were great friends, but Arindya’s dilemma was nobody’s business but his own heart’s catch-22 situation to get around and deal with it. Does he have to draw a line somewhere considering that this complicated question, which is writ large on his face like a dark shadow, is showing no sign of leaving him alone? What does Arindya, the chief progenitor of all things immaterial, think about this entire quandary of his own making? Pushing oneself off the precipice, and end of the matter? Flat on the rocks below?

Or finding something to latch on to, setting adrift on a grand new boat of hope, against the time and tide of luckless foreboding, even tackling the normal wages of one’s daily life should become the normal course of action for him? Which one? Which goddamn one? Where is Arindya’s once-glorified “enormously optimistic” dramatic feeling gone? Cut its way off to a better soul, which was better than Arindya’s? Oh well O well, probably, it is here; it is here, somewhere, trampled. Arindya will find it. He will have to.

En Route to Tryambakeshwar via Nashik

Booking a room for us three lads at a local hotel was, thankfully, not a tricky business to deal with. During the tourist season, naturally, getting even a single room is a big trouble, but we eventually found one in a nice hotel not very far from the Maharashtra Tourism office-cum-hotel plaza on the main road. To tell you the truth, we enthusiastic bunch of all-guys travellers did get lily-livered sometimes when faced with indigenous, maddening signboards hung on hotel front offices such as “Sorry! Rooms Not Available”, “No Rooms”, “All Full”, “Houseful” or even “No Vacancy”, as if we were looking for jobs! We have been pretty much up to facing whatever challenge was popping in front of us. But we sure disliked these ‘unwelcome’ signboards where ever we spotted one.

No wonder Sati (our very own Kumbhakaran!) was the one who went to the bathroom first to bathe and spill over some cologne fragrance under his tropical rainforest-like armpits, and I and Strong smiled sheepishly at each other to resolve who would go next up! Sati’s childlike enthusiasm to always be the first one to use our hotel’s bathroom was no less legendary than Strong’s preference for window seat whether in bus or in train! I was more like a confused mute, a concerned spectator sandwiched between their ever-amusing comedy of errors (always-use-first bathroom and window-seat preferences included). Must say I hardly ever made any attempt to get out of my reverie, for watching them do their own thing in the pocket-sized, beige-toned hotel room was hilarious!

And yes, not to forget Sati’s insatiable penchant for rounding off his meal with a huge bowl of curd-rice was laughed out loud over Strong’s all-weather-always-better garam garam idly, sambar, rasam and rice preference, never mind curd-rice. I didn’t exactly dream of McDonald’s or Domino’s platters, but my mouth did remember to flood at this unexpected suggestion of a well-tasted hemlock that I have drunk not very long ago! Umm.

Before we embarked upon this journey, Strong let out a secret of his to me that if he doesn’t eat rice in the dinner, he doesn’t get sound sleep at night! I nodded: possibly! Of course, all three went out to dinner and sat in a vegetarian-only restaurant to eat a belly full of sona masoori rice.

Our first leg of journey was a long one to complete. We travelled from Aurangabad to Ellora caves and back. After a night’s intervention, we alighted from long-dead King Aurangzeb’s kingdom Aurangabad and traveled in a MSRTC (state-owned local bus service) bus to Nashik’s central bus station via several unmanned railway crossings, roadside shacks, and quiet villagers, who faithfully lived with their precious cows, hens, cocks, goats, and buffaloes and bulls, even an occasional donkey or two. I spotted several cows grazing and mooing blissfully in the grassy meadows; the hens playing with their tiny chicks in the open yards and goats braying in the vicinity of their human caretakers. The bus ride was bumpy but we enjoyed the bumps with shoulders colliding with the passengers seated next to us; we slammed, banged, crashed all at once into the front seats knocking our breaths out of our lungs, and bounced several inches off our scruffy seats before our heads bashed on the overhead bunkers pounding on our senses.

Apart from all that bumpy encounters we experienced, our bus ride to Nashik was pleasant enough. In fact, in Aurangabad, though a nice little place to visit, we hardly found any other option in the name of good inter-city bus travel apart from the one we decided upon for our journey. That was the year 2001; things might have changed a lot now. These days, when we find each and every city of our country taking a turn for good economically, old things being replaced with the new and how: city squares, shopping centers, fine dining restaurants and all coming up like crazy. I am sure Aurangabad city too had transformed itself now into a fine tourist destination that it was always bound to be.

Strong and Sati (our very own Kumbhakaran!) were jousting with each other to look at the seat occupied next to a hulking woman travelling with her fair and fine-looking daughter. They (Strong and Sati, that is) craned their heads, flashing their gazes at the object of their attention, tried several tricks up their sleeves to get her attracted to them, but all their actions came to a naught. She was far ahead in her own dream world but apart from looking at their general direction, she was, apparently, way out of their league. And Arindya, he had already gazed at her for a moment longer than necessary, tried to be really interesting and all that, but it seemed that he was met with a rebuff.

The bus ride through the countryside had us totally rattled and disheveled, but we took no notice of that. We were on a mission here and totally up and about to accomplish it, so who has the time, you know, for things that don’t matter much.

After reaching the central bus station of Nashik, we took a bus to the great Tryambakeshwar Temple. Tryambakeshwar (Tryambake�vara) is located around 28 kilometers from the urban center of Nashik, tucked away into the pacific greenery of the wonderful countryside of Nashik. The ancient Hindu temple is situated at the bottom of the Bramhagiri mountains, where the river Godavari is said to have originated from.

The first day of the October month was agog with beautiful indulgences of the blushing cottony clouds ambling across the blue expanse of the Gods above…

I still remember the shimmering countryside meadows sparkling under the veil of moon-struck light illuminating everything from the sky above. I recollect the face of a serene-faced girl with lotus-like eyes I had never seen before or ogled at. Dressed in a soft yellow salwar with tiny ashen-grey polka-dot like flowers spread all over her lovely attire that greatly embellished her graceful countenance; she looked a million bucks. Without hesitation I resolved that she might be the very embodiment of a dream-like, unheard-of Angel that hardly often do we ever get to see in other normal circumstances. It tugged and pulled at my heart when she found my eager, will-you-be-mine eyes and winked impishly. She winked her huge eye-lashes at me. At that moment my heart forgot to beat. I saw her at the Tryambakeshwar Temple offering prayers and trying to hand over her casket of coconut, red kumkum, agarbatti and yellow Marigold flowers to the Sanskrit-chanting purohit, entreating him to break the coconut and flowers be put at the jyotirlinga of the presiding deity Lord Shiva.

Leaving Tryambakeshwar was hard enough for Arindya. He realized that he has fallen in love, really hopelessly and leaving the pilgrimage town of Trymbakeshwar meant bidding goodbye, farewell, and adieu to her, perhaps forever.

While journeying back on a bus to Nashik, my plain lunatic heart began to thump furiously at the thought of not having to see her ever again, perhaps, never in this lifetime. No wonder my days of being an eternal optimist were gone. What am I to do now without even an ounce of it? What a life I have!

The chimera of optimism anyway doesn’t work in such a circumstance, does it? I had no way of knowing her, and finding her again at the same spot is a foregone conclusion even if I come back looking for her. Life doesn’t treat us that way. It isn’t that easy to get excited about. It has its own exigencies to care about first. Besides there are so many other unknowable factors that come into play, whether you like it or not almost all of them will be pitted against your wish and will. Mankind is always left in the lurch to enthuse themselves by indulging in the mucky discourses of defunct challenges and useless competition. No wonder, in a dog-eat-dog world such is the twisted fury of God’s own creation!

I can’t even expect a ‘co-incidence’ thing to take place and then somehow I come rushing back to find her. Life, it seems, has its own book of destiny to keep. The thing is a brave man makes his own destiny, but the question is: Was I brave enough to be undertaking a task of going back to Tryambakeshwar and find her – all by myself? Perhaps, I might as well just do it. There is after all a wee bit chance, an opening, for anyone who knows where to look and how to look. But Arindya could not possibly have fathomed that secret, for he was not in Destiny’s good books. If passion is what it appears to be in Arindya, then the desire to find her, to see her, to touch her, to embrace her, will always remain a desire, no matter how vaguely life leaks away thinking about her. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling for her. I was dying inside to touch her, hold her. Never will come that moment when I can get close to fulfilling it. I am not in a position, Oh! Dear Lotus-Eyed Angel, to fulfill that passionate desire of mine… It will stay that way.

Eternal passion!

Eternal pain!

Not in this lifetime, my love. Not in this Hell that I am being bludgeoned through and still managing to survive with my besieged chest full of memories. As far as Arindya’s future prospect is concerned, howsoever well-deserved or even if there was one in the first place, it had dead-ended, stopped dead in its path, prematurely. That has come to be known as his portion of sad destiny ever since!

If there is any hope to know what she thinks about our little, private rendezvous at that old Shiva Temple, I would drop everything and go rush in her general direction. On second thoughts, that won’t be necessary because I understand for the same sacrosanct reason that she understands: we have been destined and decreed to be together only in our next life, not in this one. Compromise appears to be the darker side of man’s Destiny, full of twists and turns and blind corners. Such is God’s will. Take it or leave it.

Love Is a Sad Song

I remember how the silvery white moon had shone from high above wandering somberly in the largely cloudless, inky October sky like a loving soliloquist soul, peeping at us lovingly through the tinted windows of the bus we were travelling in, wishing us a silent goodbye after we reluctantly bid adieu to the temple town of His Holiness Shirdi Sai Baba.

“I swear to you

I will always be there for you.

There’s nothing I won’t do.

I promise you,

All my life I will live for you;

We will make it through… “

Then out of nowhere a forgotten strain of an old Hindi song decanted into my mind. I was instinctively humming it aloud in my heaving chest thinking about the lotus-eyed girl I saw in the sanctum sanctorum of the great temple:

“Dil ke aasman pe gam ki ghata chayee

Ayee ayee ayee teri yaad ayee…

Teri yaad main sari duniya bhulayee

Ayee ayee ayee teri yaad aye… “

The tail-end of the journey was a heart-pounding experience for all three of us. Strong, Sati and Arindya were still awake and far away from any sign of wanting to get some sleep. All that trekking, hiking, climbing mountains and forts and circling historic temples in faraway places like Aurangabad, Ajanta-Ellora Caves, then visiting Panchavati and walking on the streets of Nashik did not bog us down. We were fatigued no doubt, but kept up our tempo in full gear. Strong and Sati were still afresh with keen energy and so was Arindya.

“Oh figure about those younger years

There was only you and me

We were young and wild and free

Now nothing can take you away from me

Even down that road before”

End of Part 1

My Days in Kolkata, A Memoir, Part 2

Of the several visits to Victoria Memorial, a couple of visits remain strongly etched in my mind. My first visit in the early 1980s with my parents has bequeathed in me a treasure trove of love and longing: firstly, a secret idea of belonging to the then undiscovered city via the grand Memorial lawns and the Alipore Chiriya Khana(Zoological Park); and secondly, a mysterious manifestation of providential love which was to stay with me for a long long time to come and which is still throbbing in my heart with its innate feeling of love and joy properly intact. But my second chance for a visit to the white Memorial came by only after more than 10 years, and that’s another story to write about. The pristine gray lakes, the manicured green lawns, the perfectly oval pebbles strewn on the walkways and the wrought iron park benches surrounding the entire park still emanate those wonderful memories of the days long gone. The place, according to me, is like a Gospel of love; an eternal book of love, in which are there unending stories about virgin love, also a sneak-peek into one’s own opportune destiny, dazzling glimpses of one’s future and to be able to profess one’s undying love for each other by putting one’s hand firmly in hers – all of it is written in gold lettering from the crack of dawn till the evening twilight, every day, and day after day. Those were the best days of my life. A flowery pink dress fluttering there in the cool summer breeze reminds me of my days past. I remember Vanessa Williams’s beautiful song: “sometimes the snow comes down in June / sometimes the sun goes round the moon / just when a chance had passed / you got to save the best for last”; I was set free there…

On a pleasantly cold winter day, I found myself sitting in the Elliot Park. It is not very far from the dazzling streets of Park Street and its much-visited bookstores and restaurants. In fact, when I climbed up the stairs of the underground Maidan metro station, Elliot Park lay sprawled on the right and I instantly knew that the park sure is one of the best maintained parks I have ever hoped to see in Kolkata. A brand new meeting point for most love-birds of the city looking to snatch up some cocooned private moments on the velvety grass. What was I doing there? Well, to admire nature’s bounty; to spot a smile or two; to catch a few breaths really and to be far away from the madding crowd. Across the park on the other side is the sprawling expanse of the historic Maidan grounds. Just yonder, the stately Eden Gardens Stadium towers over the eastern horizon and further up can be seen the breathtaking second Hoogly Bridge called Vidyasagar Setu.

I am sure the Citizen’s Park with its musical fountain just down the road towards the Birla Planetarium and the Victoria also comes in the same bracket of well-earned reputation just like the Elliot Park. I feasted my eyes on everything decorated there. From the steady march of people buying tickets to enter the park to the playful birds (including crows and sparrows) and insects (honeybees, beetles, and other revelers), the flamboyant trees, the lavish arrangement of ornate flowers and even an occasional shift in the wind trudging in a discarded plastic bag or two whirling about on the elegant grassy pastures, all serve up to ones’ pleasant senses and general well-being.

Maidan is a famous hotspot for sports, especially football. Although one doesn’t see a Bhaichung Bhutia playing football on the spacious grounds of the Maidan every day, but one finds scores of people kicking, jostling and generally reveling in the beautiful game. Hundreds of footballs are passed around. The football clubs of Bengal like the East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have come to be revered by all. These Bengal clubs have many domestic achievements under their belt. Except achieving success in one or two Olympic Games or in the yesteryear’s FIFA World Cup, the clubs have yet to conquer the world on the lines of, say, Manchester United or Chelsea clubs. That’s a long shot even before football lovers can dream about it. Cricket has IPL, but what does Indian football have? If Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England, Paraguay and others have an immense fan-following in Kolkata, then the fans’ love emanating from this part of the world sure is requited oftentimes by some internationally treasured footballers. Diego Maradona was here in Kolkata on a goodwill visit and so did Pele. They played soccer in Kolkata; inside packed stadiums. Yes, there is football in every Bengali’s blood and I am no different from my fellow brethren. Thanks to Sourav Ganguly, since the 1990s era, Cricket too managed to climb up the sport popularity charts.

I boarded an early morning underground train from Shyambazar to reach Park Street via Rabindra Sadon. Well, travelling in an underground metro is a noisy business, but no worries: The gleaming carriages snake in so smoothly into the station and glide out so effortlessly carrying the passengers. (Back in the late 1980s, riding in an underground Calcutta Metro train was very extraordinary for me an experience and it still is. The first time when I got to ride in it I was stunned, and felt instantly inadequate as a Southerner. The experience of it all was fantastic). I love the sound of the automatic doors close shut and open, and the train starts to glide. They told me that taking the Metro is an intelligent way for faster commuting in Kolkata, and so I always did.

That day after reaching Park Street station, I was headed for my Meshomoshai’s (uncle’s) office at the Plaza. Of all things, as I had readily determined, my uncle – Mr. Bhattacharjee – is going to say or rumble about by means of a free advice or two thrown in, I just knew that a couple of yum egg rolls, chow chow (probably, a moghlai dish or kati rolls were also in tow) and most certainly a couple of ice cream softies will be at his express disposal to be presented to a first-time guest like me; but that too the dishes were laid only after he made sure that he had emptied his oratory barrel, stuffed with resounding firings of his advice-quotas, on this poor uninitiated soul!

Nevertheless, I was stealthily prepared to take on the battle without getting visibly shifty in my seat and, therefore, weathered it all for the impending hope of a feast: soon to be spread out in his private dining space. Throughout his stylish advice-cum-suggestions admonitory express train, which had been already running late for over an hour inside my head, I could rather manage to shake my head up and down in mock devotion to all of that he had to say. Finally afterwards, egg rolls, ice creams and other heavenly-looking coco-pastries and misti doi were brought in on a couple of silver platters. And here I was suddenly glad to be alive and kicking and have my gourmet prospects gratefully uplifted as I binged on to my heart’s content like a hungry soul.

I never miss Oxford Book Store on Park Street to buy books. When in Kolkata, I make it a point to go there and buy loads of books from them. Their Cha Bar bistro is pretty impressive. I am greatly nostalgic about Park Street area. I spent a lot of time hanging around there; browsing through the music CDs at the Music World. I remember the front glass panes of the iconic Flury’s bistro. A little away from the 5-Star hotel The Park, the Trinca’s and the Moulin Rouge restaurants make good sense for restaurant hoppers to dine in. On my way to the huge New Market boulevard – a little far away from Park Street – where I once bought my office essentials, I once tried a very special eatery located just on the inside lane leading to the actual market place. It was a mobile restaurant serving out of an open white Trailer Van. I bought special paneer tikka and red chilly chicken kebabs spread on a plate of hot noodles. That evening, I really had freaked out eating…

One last snippet that I don’t want to miss writing about is the Salt Lake’s spanking City Centre Mall. This was one trendy address in this part of the town for everyone to be seen in; even the technology professionals who worked in the nearby Sector V area visited it and in style. I had first come to see City Centre along with my cousin Joy. With him, I explored Kolkata’s never-to-be-missed places. I remember our first visit to theDalhousie, a business district in Central Kolkata. I was simply awestruck by what I saw there: grand old palaces with high arches and stately domes, the modern multi-storied buildings reaching up to the sky above with their majestic facades in front and the not-so-spacious footpaths below. The place humbled me into an instant submission. I bought a long black and white portrait of the poet Rabindranath Tagore there from a shop’s front window. I remember the man: he was tall and sporting a long flowy beard like Tagore, selling his posters with welcoming smiles playing on his weather-beaten face. This part of the city is meant to be well-maintained, but it wasn’t. Several buildings were rather ill-maintained and others managed to be spanking new. It was amazing to see that the area was absolutely bursting with energy: with people, cars and trams all seemingly hobnobbing with each other and going wherever they wanted to go. I never knew this vibrant side of Kolkata before; I mean, I had regularly explored quite a bit elsewhere in the city, but these parts were really a pleasant surprise that I reveled myself in. The reason why Kolkata is called the City of Palaces, as I can see here, is very well justified.

We went to the iNox multiplex theatre and watched 15, Park Avenue. We knew Aparna Sen would deliver a great package again after her last movie Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, but this time the movie disappointed us and tested our patience for a bit too long; and so we left it half way and proceeded straight to dig some ice cream desserts. City Centre was special indeed. Fortunately, I remembered to buy a few souvenirs for myself. So apart from a pair of Denims and a stretchable-cotton polka dotted white shirt, I bought a fashionable Submarine jetter pen.

Back in the month of January, when a Hindi film called Rang De Basanti was released; some of our office folks – we still were very high on the new IT experience in Salt Lake’s Sector V – went to the iNox at the Mall to see the film. I couldn’t join them; a couple of others too could not go. In fact, since I had to get back travelling a great distance to reach my home and Kolkata was yet a new city for me, in terms of commuting by means of buses and trams, I had to sadly excuse myself. But I still weep a lot thinking about that missed opportunity; I knew I could have had some real fun going out with them, stretch my legs and sip on some nice Cola; and it would have turned out to be a memorable event to rejoice.

I finally went to see the film, after many months, with my cousin, not at the City Centre iNox but at the 89 Cinemas – a new multiplex nearby. I remember, we both wept like kids in the hall; in fact, it was a film we realized that we couldn’t really have afforded to miss by any chance. I’ll never forget the movie; for me, it signifies the memorable days I had spent in Wipro: a quiet affirmation of my memories and of my love and longing in Kolkata. Thank God we spent 150 bucks each to see it. Now, after so many years, when I nostalgically think about my precious Wipro experience, my heart reaches out to those days; to those fine people; to those special moments that have all deeply affected me and remained with me to this day. I wish I could travel back in time and relive that piece of my life again. Alas.

An epistle to a lost friend

Never would I have made up my mind to take that other project offer even if I had stayed back there because that would only mean that I would have to forego the chance of working sitting alongside my friends who have come to know me and cherish our friendship as I have come to cherish theirs. (Stuffs like one-upmanship, internal tug-of-wars, office politics and such like experienced in a profession never come to be of my liking.) Parallel to the Healthcare project, there was another project which was being set-up for me by my manager when I was asked to relate more on my additional skills. When I was invited to have a tête-à-tête with one of perfectly behaved senior managers, I went ahead and spoke with him in a nice interview. After we discussed about my valid need for a separation, he respectfully agreed. Had I stayed back, I would have taken up that project, but since it clearly meant that I have to be away from my colleagues and a separate place of work was to be located for me, I had to quietly decline the persuasive offer.

I just would have gladly continued working with Andy and all other colleagues, but sadly that never was to happen even after I have worked on back to back, for quite a while. I’d already made up my mind to go away. Wipro, Kolkata was truly a wonderful company to work in. I really adored their way of doing things. The managers there are very well-behaved and respectful to everyone and that is just only one of the strong points of their manpower pool. They never leave you. Their subtle acts of persuasion oblige you to reconsider your decision back from the scratch. God! I miss those moments and oh so much. Nonetheless, I had known from somewhere that… hope floats. Let’s see what does it ‘float’ for me. It seemed as if I hungered for emotional security and kept going for more. And today as I write this to you, I can’t help but feel depressed that gone are those days and gone are those moments of unending joys of working together with the ones I adored, cared and loved: remarkable people like you, Andy and a lot of others. I lost the treasure of a lifetime that would have, as I had once hoped, to last forever. Kolkata beckoned me; I went that far to be able to drape around me its warm quilt of love; around the shattered ruins of my broken heart; but only if I could hold on to its warmth… just that once… just for that while… just for that very moment, then I would have gravitated towards the warm cockles of its heart for all time to come, and never let go.

Later I met Andy. I found myself saying to him: “I am sorry… am leaving Andy”. Perhaps, he knew it that something like this would come someday, may be even faster. He could say nothing to me at that moment and his eyes betrayed him to say anything at all. Finding a little space within him, he spoke: “O don’t be sorry Albert, if you have to leave then maybe you will one day and one has to take such hard decisions in life that are sad enough to deal with in the first place, but… “ He couldn’t complete his sentence and my heart choked and I asked myself: what am I doing? His parting words were premonitory… (He gave me an alias name Albert at the workplace and calls me by that name ever since.)

It was always reassuring to see Andy every day while in office; he was such a nice person and a true friend one can infinitely be proud of. We talked and talked so much, shared jokes, or simply hung around the lush Wipro campus. He liked smoking, so I once gifted him a pack of Gold Flake cigarettes during the Bengali New Year’s Day. I bought it from a local shop in the suburbs where I stayed at my Mashi’s. That was the first time in my life I bought a pack of cigarettes for a friend from a tiny paan shop! Never have I gifted anyone with a cigarette packet before on a new year’s day, but, you know, I let myself do it this time, for I knew Andy loved the joyous taste of smoking and I guessed he would really like a swig-pack from me. But of course, I thought of other gifts such as a book or a special Watermark pen or a Zippo lighter, but I chose a Cigarette packet instead, for that was meaningful enough a gift for a smoker who smoked like a gentleman hailing from the far away hills, up in the beautiful north-east. I just presented him that and he looked at it; his face brimmed up with such delightful pleasure that even as he was so freaking out with joyous laughter his round face flushed in a pinkish white complexion. And I thought that was an awesome heart-melting reaction I ever saw.

Never was I a party to encourage smoking in my friends’ circle, but all that changed for Andy. What I saw and felt in the corridors of my office was a sort of deepening understanding of the people who’d like to smoke and revel in it and never get to worry about its deadly effects. After what I saw not just Andy but some other well-learned friends smoke and feel good about themselves, I moderated my belief system about the ills of smoking and the actual idea behind smoking. I never smoked myself; and perhaps will never be able to do that, but I do claim to know that familiar sort of castle-in-the-air feeling because since I love my hot cups of tea or coffee and can’t do without it, so I happen to agree with them who like smoking for the same kind of subtle comfort and tasteful pleasure all the way. (Yes, I jolly well know that smoking is cancerous and much more, and is different from drinking Tea or Coffee which is at best therapeutic.) The case is closed.

An honest confession: at one sweet time when Andy and I were together chatting in the balcony, I almost considered letting myself off the hook and have a smoke with him that day, but somehow I could not do it for some reason I never could come to know of. I hovered around to have a closer look at all the people who enjoyed smoking; it seemed to me – perhaps a little foolishly as one might think – that the art of smoking is obviously about a personal expression that involves style, fashion, elegance, technique, panache, élan, flamboyance and more. So, a smoker smokes his/her cigarette not because he is addicted to it (may be, a part of it) but because of his/her intense desire and to help themselves stay healthy in mind and confident by several degrees higher. Truly, I am fascinated by it but never gave in to it.

That day I came very close to having a swig. So many people gave in to it. Why didn’t I do it? I don’t know; I never held a cigarette stick in my hand before, so I didn’t want to hold it even then. Perhaps, I was inadvertently conscious of negative repercussions from such a thing; that came dangerously hither to roost in my own family backyard and things weren’t the same again for some of my own people.

It was a breather from training; Andy smoked on and I kept watching him do so by being on the ‘passive side’ of smoking. God forbid: it is so fashionable, luxurious, sophisticated, and superb! Many a times I have accompanied Andy to the smoke stalls outside the campus, and during those snatching moments I have discovered fine things about friendship and passive-smoking. No, the poor smoke stalls outside of our office don’t have any inkling as to what happens inside our educated heads concerning the dreaded ills of smoking. So please spare them. Why blame paanwallas for their spartan enterprises? If at all, then abolish smoking only when you can stop producing Tobacco at the first place! Can you (the government that is) do that? Why do you need to produce Tobacco at all if you think it is directly going to be used to make cigarettes and beedis and gutkhas? If not for smoking or chewing then what else is it used for: drugs? Does it not fuel your ISRO rockets into space? It apparently does. After all, you guys don’t forget to exploit their taxes to fund your rocket science, do you? If Tobacco is an instant evil, which it surely is (who’s saying it isn’t?) then why produce it all? Stop its production and get the results!

I know smoking kills; it’s a one-way ticket to the stinking bowels of hell and all that jazz. It is far more injurious to one’s health than one can hope to imagine; yet the way of life for many includes ‘white smoking sticks with brown ends’ with a possible addition of some other homespun beedis on the side. Somehow, I found myself telling Andy to cut his passion smoking by half or more; he really did agree with me. I realized friends and acquaintances can make a feasible difference; only just need to resort to a kind of emotional blackmail to awaken a smoker to quit smoking, and viola! He or she quits it; governments with their callow warnings don’t. Andy promised me that he would forego the pleasure of smoking just because I told him to do so!

I used to be with him like a passive-smoker whenever we took a breather from our project training. And talking about training, I’ll never forget those moments, I swear. What a good time we all had there… a blast really… those Bangla jokes, those poky situational affronts that needn’t upset anyone were delivered over many of those endless coffee sessions we had at the balcony. Coffee, tea, cardamom tea, lemon tea or whatever… gulped down during break time: I’ll never exchange them for anything else.

Andy was almost beyond words that day when he received that packet of cigarettes from me. He laughed his easy laughter. It was just a small gift, but his whole being seemed like he blushed with thousand thankyous for me and he again laughed heartily and smiled a mile wide with his brilliant white smile that he has across his axiomatic face. I felt so humbled that moment and felt overjoyed musing over the fact that one possibly could never be able to weigh his friendship in any way for anything else in life. I know we are friends forever but alas! I lost a true friend of mine in Kolkata when I came away from there. Wish we all worked and stayed that way for all time to come. Yeah if only wishes were horses! I also miss the way of life in Kolkata. I miss Wipro too much as I miss you, Andy and others. My life will never be the same again from heretofore, that I now have come to painfully understand. God bless him and everyone. And I so terribly miss you and Andy for all my words could speak…

I can’t possibly come anyway near to explaining how much I miss Wipro and Kolkata. Now in the delicate bargain of my sad feelings, I keep missing you, Andy and other friends like Tom (He is Tomaghno, you remember? short guy with long hair from our batch. Later he cut them short… at the time when I resigned in the rainy month of June. His short crop made him look rather decent) and the amiable, eternally-decent Rajorshi (He was from your batch. We became good friends later; I could not contact him after I came away to the South). I will never forget Tomoghno, Rajorshi, Andy, Mandira, Ayantika, and a couple of other beautiful folks like Bhagwati, Susmita, Ruru, and others; their voices still ring in my ears. I really am not hopeful to meet any of them except may be – by a stroke of luck – I might run into Rajorshi (because I know his place) and Andy (because we kept in touch). There were other friends too but I am no longer able to recollect their names now. There’s one name, however, that stuck with me the first time I saw her: Amrita. Tom with whom I always sat in the training knew about it. He used to roll his big eyes and stick his elbow into my ribs every time when she came in the training room for a special inputs session before I flushed a deep shade of pink in my face. Andy too would turn his neck towards me and pout his lips envyingly; he’d once said: she’s perfect for you Albert… seriously. Later, when I’d left my job on one summer night of May/June and came away to the glassy cafeteria to recoup from the pain of getting away, sitting alone, eyes liquid with hot tears, looking blankly at my plate of Paneer Sushlik in front of me, I did realize to a great degree of sadness and helplessness that the feeling was far more deeper than I had previously thought it was. What could I possibly have done to turn a new leaf in my life? Poor me! I never knew that leaving Kolkata would have me leave her as well apart from all other things I have come to care for. Alas!We all did well in the project. We had passed out of the training session one by one and hoped well for each other to stay put. It was so much fun.

I particularly remember a short guy who had a slight paunch on him; my memory fails me to recollect his name.He lived in Nagerbazar; just a couple of blocks off the Nagerbazar-Dum Dum main road. Once when we were discussing our educational pursuits, he told me that he had a master’s degree in economics and wanted to run a business house. In January ’06, we went to the Kolkata’s Boi Mela (Book Fair) at the Maidan and bought some books. In fact, I had long nurtured a dream to go to the book fair and when the opportunity struck, I never winked. I remember his amiable personality and his sincere smile, but sadly I am unable to remember his name, how much ever hard I try now.

You remember Mrinal? The guy with whom we sat together during the training, Andy was there too in the bay area as we sat among the empty cubicles. We laughed like hell that day on his brilliantly funny jokes and his way of cracking them up hilariously!!! The jokes that gave us many a tummy-aches! Mrinal spoke immaculate Bengali. Must say I have picked up a little bit of pure Bengali from him; he was too fast for me though. Guess dabbling in Politics could have been his natural calling than the grime of I.T. occupation. He seemed to play with the language just like a well-learned professional speaker or a magnificent orator. I dare say his English comes a close second to his lovely Bengali.

I remember I once felt that he turned himself into a conspicuously sophisticated person. I thought, may be, his earlier spiritedness has taken on a new colour of life which seemed to have changed quite a bit of his personality. His charming down-to-earth and easy-going temperament was gone. He had a sort of high-air about himself, which seemed slightly misplaced. Nothing wrong with that but nice guy though; but we hardly met each other after he graduated and went about handling Healthcare project work before we did. Afterwards, when our batch started the work on the same project, I hardly could see him at all. I remember his electric way of cracking up jokes and making it seem all so easy and enthusiastic. His general persona seemed really so full of spontaneity. A nerve of electric verve seemed to run through his mind and soul and every time anyone can get to feel it when talking with him. I mean, it’s very rare to have such individuals like him in our midst. The crackle of his spontaneous jokes will be sorely missed and they would be missed forever though. I never felt that good old familiar feeling ever after. They say all good things must come to an end, and this time, alas! It came to such an abrupt end. I’ll never forget Mrinal and his crackling way of speaking. It was simply too much for me to catch up with him while he spoke. I think he told me he lives in Nagerbazar, north of Dum Dum or somewhere beyond near Chiria More.

Things change so blindingly these days that I hardly like it that way, and I have little choice if it is meant to be that way, lest loving it! Saddest part of it all is: That’s life.

End of Part 2

Exit mobile version