Man’s best friend.

It’s been an exceptionally challenging time and continues to be. But it’s important, for me, not to forget how difficult it is for Lucie. It’s been turmoil. She’s lost one of her closest friends, who like a mother would care for and support her. One of the distinctive smells and presence, in so many ways, is no longer with us. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for her. Lots of action then her world is turned upside down and then having to rely on that unpredictable man.

“Where’s my routines and familiar friends. she cries!”

She was and continues to be sad. We’re adjusting in what turns out to be a long long road.

There’s a posting here in recognition of our supportive friends.

Maybe we share a broken heart

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Games people play.

Annoying things in India

I often explain on a cycle tour how much I love India, at something like eighty percent. I have after all chosen to adopt India as my home and married a beautiful Indian woman. However there is fifteen percent I can take or leave and maybe five percent that’s ugly that, I hate. That last bit includes the violence and aggression but also milder forms of behaviour. Examples of this might be Babu’s giving you the run-a-round or businesses not understanding customer care.

In my view this results from the extreme hierarchy and the deference expected of people. It’s reinforced in the home, at school or college and at work. Do what you’re told and don’t question things. Know your place and don’t challenge the way things are, seems to relate to caste.

Even in the simplest of situations it feels like your treated like a child.

Today was a case in point. It might seem a simple thing, and insignificant but I think its part of that overall problem. I’ve investigated this and now realise all the mobile phone companies are the same.

I’m at the Airtel shop, I’ve gone as my phone is not working, I’m told that the SIM card was faulty and needed replacing. For them to issue me with a replacement I need ID. I have a copy of my passport on the iPhone and after some kerfuffle get a print out. Sorry sir we need to see the original hard copy.

I’ve been a customer for maybe over 7 years. It was the number used by Manjula so is very significant and sentimental. I’ve provided my ID to set up my account, it’s on their system THEY KNOW WHO I AM but still they require an established customer to prove who they are but it MUST be the actual document. Just to get a replacement SIM card for the faulty one. This will be my fourth trip to the Airtel shop. Inconvenience sir, no problem.

I object to the employees but they treat us as children because that’s how they’re treated by their managers. Who can blame them? Employees are expected do as they’re told and not question things. Treat people like children, they’ll behave like children and not take responsibility.

For years I’ve delivered workshops in London and a roadshow for TATA that’s about empowering employees to make decisions to be able to innovate, be creative and focus on creating a quality customer experience.

That’s not valued here and is nigh on impossible to create in a system that prioritises deference, doing as you’re told and not in any way thinking for yourself.

Sad.

My tolerance levels are diminished since Manjula died. She’d just laugh at me.

 

UPDATE

I went back to the Airtel shop with my ID card, fully annoyed but relatively calm. The new SIM was issued and installed by me later that day. Just don’t ask about the need to install it in a simple-smart phone before finally installing it in a smart-smart phone. BUT it still didn’t work so on my 5th trip back to the Airtel shop they’ve admitted that the SIM card and the rigmarole in visits 3 and 4 we’re unnecessary. I’m told it will be working by tonight. What lessons I can take from all this, I’ve no idea and I’ve lost the will to live.

Manjula’s Meals

For Manjula, an important part of her life here at Mysore Bed and Breakfast was her cooking. Here’s a video of her at work.

Her sumptuous meals – were all from memory and experience over many years of serving others. The new additions and innovations she which she’d excitedly reveal, came from watching her favourite cooking programmes.

It was part of her constant giving, her love, her care and connecting to others.

Tonight was very special.

It was the first time since Manjula died that we’d had a dinner here. Partly in her memory and partly to continue her tradition.

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Thank you Manjula.

The No 1 cooks were Tanuja and SB (aka Sowbhagya) who works for us now, ably juggling cleaning, cooking and tolerating me. Keerthi, Tanu’s husband was called in for technical support. Our guests wolfed down the lovely food and helped finish off the washing up.

We will continue to invite our friends to share their cooking skills with future guests.

Manjula, once again, bringing people together.

 

 

The PHoenix Coup: Part Two

Maisie a journalist living near London but originally from the US has already begun to investigate an astonishing announcement and payments unexpectedly being made into people’s bank accounts. It’s part of a universal basic income for everybody in the UK and increasingly it seems, for people around the world.

 Part Two : Groundhog Day

As I thought, Simon would have quite a different perspective:

“I can’t quite understand. How can it be organised without Government. I can’t see how this coordination on  a global scale works.   It’s bound to unravel as quickly as it appeared. It’s an interesting idea; I can seriously see the benefits but it’s just not going to happen. It’ll be a ‘flash in the pan’.”

We met as students at a university in northern England or the north of in what, the dark and distant past, was jokingly called the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. Mine was a very general degree. A bit of this, a bit of that. It was called social studies and included a mix of sociology, politics, social policy, even a dip in the waters of social psychology. It was a lot about people and understanding them. It suited me down to the ground. I went on to do a postgraduate degree in journalism after a few years on the journalistic coalface, on a local paper, the Star and Morning Telegraph, still in the steel city of Sheffield.

I was originally from the US and moved to London as a child  as my father had work there and we never left. We lived and around London and holidayed in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. I wasn’t to discover the north of England, quite a different place, until I went to University. I think my view of the world from both a US and UK perspective was invaluable in helping me see how the power games of dominant societies and the increasing power of the corporates played out across the world.

Simon, my husband, who I met in Sheffield, was studying law. A world apart from my easy going mish mash of a course. He had to show real commitment. He knew where the library was. But rather like the student doctors (did they ever grow out of it?) both worked and played hard. He often has a different take on things to me. Now he is a banker.

We married after my masters degree in our late twenties and had our kids by the early 30s. I’d managed to squeeze in some reporting for newspapers and a little TV in crises around the world: Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia but having the kids meant a refocus on more investigative journalism than on the spot reporting. A recent project was finding out about how international corporations and the very rich avoided taxation. Often I’ll work at home on the computer but the kids and Simon, and Simon’s mother are incredibly helpful and supportive, enabling me to shoot off, following a lead, sometimes at a moment’s notice. 

Admittedly I fly too much. Our footprint of consumption is too great for the world to cope.

If I’m truthful. It’s not nearly enough. Maybe, trying our hardest isn’t good enough.

It’s now day two.

I checked with Simon, who was back at work at the bank. Yes the payments had been coming in to everyone and the source was really difficult to identify as it was from some crypto currency or at least a source that was untraceable. Was this real? legitimate money? Was it legal?

I spoke to friends, family, neighbours, here and back in the US.

Whoever was behind this had very sophisticated technical knowledge and systems. so obviously not the Government. I jest but it’s actually true. Neither the British Government, nor for that matter any government or european or global organisation had accepted responsibility. 

That made me wonder… if it wasn’t a government, who could it be? We know that many global corporations mine our data. It’s their business model and they use this knowledge to sell to others, to influence our actions. We’re bombarded daily with ads tailored to our interests, gleaned from our online activity. This also became even more sinister when it helped the campaigners win the Brexit vote and Donald Trump get elected twice.

I wonder if what we’re experiencing now is connected in some way.

First things first. The kids, their friends and I cycled to school and I was returning home.

“Good morning” shouted Jacqueline from down the road.

“How are you guys?” She’s a bundle of energy and one of our best neighbours.

“All good. How are you and John?” I sometimes feel that I’m a bit too distant but Jacqueline is bound to have an opinion on what happened. I ask, “Did you hear the announcement yesterday?” 

“I did. It’s about time that the government did something like this. There’s been too many cuts, services are nothing like they used to be and people hung out to dry. I do worry though, where will the money come from?”

That pretty much sums up what most of my neighbours would think but I think many others will feel something quite different. We’re on the edge of London but it is a rich mix of the original villagers, the poorer working classes that had been shifted out to council house estates through slum clearances and then the professional classes that commuted into work in the city. 

Back home I felt like pinching myself. I was beginning to imagine all sorts of things. It was too good to be true.

How was this possible? It went against everything we had experienced for years.

There was likely to be a lot of negative response. I checked some of the US channels. Fox came up trumps. As I expected, there was a news anchor with strong opinions. He was ranting about something for nothing and felt people need an incentive to find work and make a contribution. It’s working against our values of rewarding those who work hard. We rely on merit, on inventiveness, innovation. The push comes from needing to support your family. This will demotivate people, it’s a catastrophe…… blah blah blah.

Yes you heard that right. They are reporting that absolutely everyone is affected. From the European aristocracy, to the village dwellers in the remotest African savannah, up the Himalayas to the isolated communities, to the cut off tribes in almost deserted islands left behind by the modern age. One way or another, as of today, every man, woman and child would benefit from this change.

But that couldn’t be true. How had they managed to plan and implement this on such a scale, to reach out to every nook and cranny of our complex diverse world? and who are they?

You might think of reporters as cynical. I think you might be right. For my part, I prefer questioning. I’m not easily impressed. I’ve seen a lot and generally I’m angered by people’s attitudes to one another, which is often selfish, violent, aggressive, intolerant, prejudiced.

We seem to follow a predetermined path. To be superficially nice (sometimes) but ultimately fighting for me and mine. Be selfish. Focused on our needs. That might manifest itself in competition in the economy, arguments in the street, online trolling, or more extremely violence, aggression and war.

I’ve always felt that it needn’t be this way.

Was this generosity? Was this amazing action of a benefactor a new chapter in our history? A break away from the predetermined patterns of our previous generations.Wouldn’t that be cool? But, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I am a journalist What’s the catch? How is this possible?

I  switched on the TV and tuned into Prime Minister’s Question Time. The leader of the opposition was challenging the Government to explain how they had done this without the approval of Parliament. The PM is waffling. It’s obvious that they don’t know, they have absolutely no idea how or why this has happened. 

 I needed to look at this as an investigative project and start to work on an in-depth piece. My usual approach is to just cascade ideas on even the most improbable hypothesis.

Maybe we’re all on an acid trip; the powers-that-be having seen the light; maybe it’s a manifestation of the Buffet/Gates super-rich who’ve decided to pay every living human being a basic weekly income. There are, however, no statements from the usual suspects. Even the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are denying any involvement or even knowledge. But they did deny involvement in previous scandals, so we can’t take things at face value.

So it felt as if we had been squashed and pummelled through the wringer of change but there ultimately seemed to be no downside. This is astonishing. It has had the most positive effect. I’m embarrassed to say, that with all my experience as a journalist I was still no closer to understanding how this had happened and who was behind it.  

There was a further announcement.

All debts are removed. What? So what does that actually mean? 

There’s information coming up on the BBC World News programme. They’re reporting from Australia and South East Asia, where it’s already later in the day, on celebrations in the street. News cameras and journalists are out interviewing people.

There’s information about activists meeting people in the street handing out leaflets; little clusters are gathering on street corners;  public meetings were being convened.

I felt like I needed a drink.

 

Chips off the old block

I’m often asked about my sons and what they do.

Ben, my eldest made a dramatic change about ten years ago and switched from working on computers to become a chef. A big and very successful step change. I like to think that my flexible approach to careers and work helped encourage that. 🙃 He now lives in London with Alice his lovely wife and his teenage daughter, age six.

Ol, my youngest, lives in Vancouver. He does a bit of this and a bit of that. His latest role in addition to events management is, wait for it…… drums roll,…

a …..

cycle tour guide 🙂

 

The Phoenix Coup: Part One

‘Same shit, different day’ I saw written on a badge attached to another passenger’s bag.  I was joining a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Chennai.

 Just five days later I was back home in London.

Little was I to know how life would become so incredibly different, not at all the ‘same shit.’

I’m Maisie, a freelance reporter covering just about anything and everything. I’d just been in South India and Sri Lanka for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, researching for travel articles.

My antennae were twitching, something was happening, I could feel it in the air.

It was an astonishing day that no one could have predicted. It would take some time to sink in but it would set us all reeling.

As a reporter my approach is to search things out, get under the skin,  help give people a voice I love to challenge the established order, so here’s my take on it.

Over the last few years we’ve become more familiar with the idea of constant change and unpredictability with one crisis after another. Today’s change was a different order of magnitude and was, in my view, positive. Not what we’d come to expect at all. It all began with something that seemed quite simple. The impact would be profound.

 It was an ordinary workday morning. The kids were up, rushing around as usual, then off to cycle to school on an organised cycle ‘train’. Simon, my husband, had already left for work at the bank.

I was due to do desk work, search the net and cover a slowly evolving story about corrupt politicians. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

That afternoon there was an announcement via the net, on the radio and on TV. For some time now politicians in Finland and other countries have been toying with the idea of providing every citizen with a minimum weekly payment regardless of their personal situation or work. It’s called all sorts of things but usually Universal Basic Income / UBI or Guaranteed Basic Income. Many countries had experimented, but not implemented it on any scale.

The announcement pointed out that we in the UK, in the fourth biggest economy in the world, was to introduce this very idea with immediate effect.

Fascinating. We’d had no prior knowledge that this was actually planned. No discussions or  announcements from the Government, nothing. 

I checked with my contacts. They didn’t believe this was coming from the UK Government. How was this possible? Maybe it was a hoax. 

The online communities, the cyber street corners, the dialogue of the ether, woke up. It was startling. It was almost as if all the lights in a major metropolis had been switched on. But it also, instantly, reached out to the suburbs, the villages, the farms.

Pretty quickly it was apparent that it had spread throughout the net. We often could see and track videos, memes, chat going viral with the latest news but this was different. It seemed to permeate every cyber street corner and the scale was enormous. 

It wasn’t just in the UK.

The very same policy of a flat income regardless of need, employment, whatever, was available to everyone throughout Europe and north America. It was incredibly consistent.

Hang on a minute, there’s more coming in via the net.

It was also the hot topic throughout South East Asia, Japan, and South Korea. This was astonishing.

I just might be going out on a limb here but I reckon politicians are renowned the world over for their selfishness and short term thinking. They represent acute levels of disorganisation and seem to be completely unable to create effective sustainable partnerships. They just can’t keep secrets.

So what is this and how could it happen? Coordinated action, at the same instant, through half the economies in the world. This is incredible, I’d never experienced anything like it.

I wanted to know more. I was on the hunt. 

I checked with my most trusted colleagues from around the world. I delved deeper into my own very informal, alternative online community networks that I built, slowly and carefully over the years to help me put stories together and to ensure they stood up. 

Exactly the same announcement was made in Russia, China, and North Korea. The same everywhere. A direct payment in the local currency.

Astounding. How? Who? What would this mean? Could it be true. I checked my bank account.There was a payment into my account exactly as announced.

I hadn’t noticed the time passing in all the excitement. The kids were back after a day at school. Simon would be early tonight and would be back home an hour later.

We’re quite a liberal family. We work from home whenever we can. We get great support from Simon’s mother whenever I had to go away on an investigation. We were trying to achieve a decent work life balance.  

So it might be earth shattering news but boundaries are boundaries. It was time for me to leave the work alone, put away the computer and switch on quality time for the kids.

“Hi, guys, how was today?”

“The usual stuff, but science was the best, really cool looking at our bodies. Did you know that we have more than one brain?” Rowan had a clear leaning to the technical side of things.

“Really?”

“Three in fact, obviously not exactly the same but they help us control our body in completely different ways. We spent ages on the gut, it affects absolutely everything and some scientists say it’s just as important as the brain in our head. How cool is that?” Rowan was clearly enthusiastic.

“Does that affect  what we should eat?” I was concerned, this might lead to more lectures at meal times.

“More than that, what we eat, how we live, the stress we feel.”

“Thanks Rowan…”

“We’re putting together a show of dance, music and skits.” Joe was altogether different and very artistic.

“When will the show be? we’d love to the there. What are you doing?” 

“I’ll know next week”

“Cool”

That is so good. Too many schools have let that sort of activity go and focussed too much on academic subjects. I’m so pleased that we’ve found a school that keeps it up and of course manages to keep both of you very interested. and enthusiastic.

“Do you have much homework this evening? OK to fit it in after dinner? I’ve prepared that cheesy rice, cauliflower thing.”

“Yep”, suspiciously in unison.

“Great, lets grab a snack and take Sally for a walk.” 

We live in the suburbs. Way back it was a village but it had now been taken over by the big smoke of London. We have a great park nearby and the canal and its wonderful tow path. Sally expects a walk after school, in fact she’ll peacefully growl and stare if we don’t, at exactly 4.00.

As we walk there is something in the air. I must be imagining it, but people do seem to have a skip in their step, a smile on their face, Oh my God they’re even greeting each other.

Surely it’s not down to that announcement?

It would have a dramatic impact for millions of people, not least those families experiencing real poverty.

Later, after dinner, the kids had said goodnight and retreated to their rooms. Simon and I got a little time together to discuss the strange events of the day. He’s a banker and so will have solid insights into what’s happened today.

“So what’s your take on all this?” 

 

Note: revised on 28th August 2019

Falling in love again…..

It’s time.

This might sound like self imposed torture, (our initials were S&M!):

-reading through the transcripts created by Vidya from Manjula’s Kannada audio recordings, or

-watching her talking to video camera in English,

-having conversations about my love with Tanu, Satish and Ina with the help of Faizan and Sumukh who are researching and recording.

I miss and don’t want to lose any memories, of course she’s with me and to you my friends it might seem a hard thing to do, even masochistic, it’s very difficult, but it’s also wonderful in the sense that I discover even more about Manjula and fall in love all over again.

Out walking with Lucie I was bushwhacked attacked with sad feelings and tears, as if from nowhere.

Only to arrive back home to be greeted by this….

Hello Stephen, This appeared in my mind when I thought of you and Manjula: “Beautifully she lived and lives in your heart and soul, She sings through the world around you, “Express your love for me by living a kaleidoscopic life” It is written as it appeared to my mind and I felt I wanted to share it with you. Love, Kali