Friday, 12 February 2010

A Word of Advice

"If you follow fun, misery follows you. If you follow knowledge, fun follows you."

Pause for a minute one and all. Think about that sentence and contemplate on it. Mull it over, swish it around in your head. Massage it into your consciousness and string it up in the répertoire of wisdom that you have accumulated. After some time pick it out from the library that is your brain and ponder on how it has impacted your life.

And we have McDonald's to thank for this tid-bit of advice. To be more precise it was the on the television in the McDonald's restaurant (I use the term loosely) near Thane station.

There's a lot of advice on offer around here. Every station in the city has little boards with gems along the lines of that demonstrated above. Some are well know, such as 'a stitch in time saves the nine', the one I come across most frequently as it graces platform 1 of Borivali station. They all seem to be funded by the Majithia Trust Foundation. I couldn't find them on a Google search just now and so they shall have remain but a mysterious and benevolent organisation that dispenses charitable advice free of charge. What a wonderful thing to do. Of course it could all transpire that they are, rather than a benevolent company, actually a malevolent company trying to influence gullible people and take over the world through a nefarious scheme that we will all be unaware of until we awake one day and realise it's 1984, but I doubt it somehow.

I think, rather, that it fits with the general culture of helpfulness that you find. Sometimes it can be a tad overbearing but it is certainly cheering to find people willing to help with things such as directions and train etiquette. I must admit that since seeing that original notice in McDonald's I have gleaned much enjoyment from additional education. I bought some of the works of Plato from a bookshop in a spur of enthusiasm and was enthralled by its content. I confess with some shame that despite studying ancient history for three years at university I had still not read anything from Plato's corpus of work.

What a revelation it was. Did you know for example that the popular remedies for curing hiccups such as holding your breath and gargling water are first espoused in the Symposium? And in relation to my previous post, in Plato's Republic Socrates talks of how if someone is unhappy with the laws of the state that they live in then they can just get up and move to another city. Alas, if only it were still the case today. The clamping down of national borders within the last century or so has hampered such notions. I may add a slight complaint, if I may though, I bought what was title as 'The Republic and Other Dialogues', with the cover claiming that the content was 'Complete and Unabridged'. The opening few sentences of the introduction then said that the 'selected passages from the Republic were chosen' - hang on. You mean to say that not only is this book incomplete, it is also abridged. Trade descriptions I ask you.

The dialogue was a little hard going as well. There were some sentences that I read multiple times and still hadn't the foggiest idea of what was being discussed. I guess that's the trouble with reading ancient Greek philosophy. I have since passed on what knowledge I gained, however. After all in this spirit of sharing advice I thought it only fair to grant the request of one of my students who had asked to borrow the book. We met at the Blue Edge project that Oasis India runs in Dnyaneshwar Nagar, a slum of about 50,000 people between Bandra and Kurla. It's financed by a courier company called Blue Dart (who are partnered with DHL) and provides a course that includes English, computer training and life skills (such as interview techniques). The age range of the students broadly falls between 18 and 21 and upon successful completion of the six month course they get a certificate and help in obtaining a job. Indeed one of the students from the previous batch, which finished in December, has recently become employed with Blue Dart itself.

It's quite an exciting project for me to be involved in as it means that I have direct contact with people who don't work for Oasis. Indeed the student I mentioned (who also admitted having trouble understanding Plato) has become quite a good friend and I have learnt a lot about Islam and Indian culture from him. He may have struggled with Plato but he's a sharp guy, only the other day he was explaining to me that the purchasing power of the pound is stronger than the rupee and how this affected buying consumables such as bicycles and cars. I merely nodded in agreement and later went to look up what purchasing power meant.

Maybe I'll explain it sometime - after I've actually understood it.

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