Monday, June 28, 2010

Malus domestica...

     I hope the title is not misleading enough to describe this post as a testimonial to the wonderful clan of people situated in Southern India (pun intended). So let's get this straight, "The Apple" is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family (Rosaceae) and is a perennial. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans.
     Our long standing relationship with this passionate fruit supposedly starts from the advent of the human race, providing us with a one-way ticket from the garden of Eden to the bowels of Earth. As a result, in the story of Adam and Eve, the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man into sin, and sin itself.
     If that wasn't bad enough, Sir Isaac Newton decided to blame the forces of gravitation explicably as the reason we couldn't lift off the surface of the earth. And the poor apple was made the scapegoat. The end-result three more laws added to the curriculum. The only thought that ran through my mind in science class was the alternative sources of discovering the effects of gravity. What if the apple hadn't fallen on Sir Isaac? Would he have spoken about the imaginary magnet that keeps tugging at my bottom every single time I jump in the air?
      The other Apple (Apple Inc.) that's recently making the news is the one owned by a certain Steve Jobs. For a brief period of time over the last one month, it even toppled Microsoft as the leading software company in the world. The Apple story, or more significantly the Steve Jobs story has to be the most inspiring stories of our times.
     But, my most recent and perhaps the most delineating rendezvous with the "forbidden fruit" was during my visit to the US. I was out to buy fruits from a famous retail chain, and I was totally dumbstruck by the variety of apples on display. It was pretty evident during my trip that the consumers in the US of A are spoilt for choice. My friend wasn't sure either and since we had spent the best quarter of an hour on judicious decision making, the task didn't get any easier when a salesman came up to us (I have always had this perception that its hard to describe the taste of eatables).
     Anyways, the next 30 minutes were the most amazing as the salesman took us through a well-informed tour of apples. He would pick up an apple, polish it with a piece of cloth and feel the texture of the skin pressing them slightly. It was accompanied by a narration, starting with the flavour of apples, their texture, region of production, and even to the extent to surveys regarding consumer preferences. We were given a slice of each type of apple and asked to analyse the differences. 
     The whole event had a profound impact on my perception of America and the marketing strategies employed. The man had ensured that he would have a regular costumer for the long run, and I had learned my lesson on how to sell effectively. Its sad that my lessons aren't helping me in buying apples in India, for every single time I decide to employ it at the local fruit vendor, it doesn't go really well with the storekeeper. I also came to know that US is the second largest producer of apples in the world after China. India's at seventh.
     "And there never was an apple, in Adam's opinion, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it. " - Neil Gaiman

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One fall in my life...

"Autumn wins you best by this, its mute Appeal to sympathy for its decay."
    The word fall is now mostly a North American English word for the season, Autumn. It traces its origins to old Germanic languages. The exact derivation is unclear, the Old English fiƦll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. However, these words all have the meaning "to fall from a height" and are clearly derived either from a common root or from each other. The term came to denote the season in 16th century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year".
    The two countries that I have lived in never managed to define this one season. Oman was located in the middle of the desert, and India had its share of summer and heavy monsoon rains. So as a kid, the only choice left was to define my imagination of Autumn from vivid descriptions in the works of Enid Blyton and Oscar Wilde.
    September 2009. I was sent onsite from my company and after a couple of weeks in CA, I moved to WA. My first impression of WA was that it rained all the time, gloomy and depressing (for all the fans of Rock, Nirvana lead singer, Kurt Cobain had committed suicide in Seattle, WA). Readers, please note: It had nothing to do with my presence :|.

    One of the best parts of my travel included a trip to the Puyallup fair. It was on certain accounts similar to the fairs we have in India (sans the Barbequed pork ribs and hotdog stands :D) But the biggest attraction included the pumpkins on display. Halloween was right round the corner and the beautifully carved pumpkins were a lovely sight. Halloween also included a costume party, and kids dressed up with the "trick-or-treating." My good old friend, Dawn took me on a couple of drives to the Sammamish/Issaquah are especially around Lake Washington where the trees were in the peak of their shedding season.
     My daily trip to the office inluded a walk past the same bunch of trees and during my tenure I got to see the leaves changing colour from green to yelloe to red and finally brown before they were floored. It amazed me that Autumn could be so beautiful, although it represented the end of the complete cycle of the trees that bore fruit.
    Through the season, I lived a childhood dream, a dream that had matured from the countless books that I read as a kid. And perhaps the Autumn of 2009 also depicted my first and last fall in a long long time to come.
    "Yellow, mellow, ripened days, Sheltered in a golden coating; O'er the dreamy, listless haze, White and dainty cloudlets floating; Winking at the blushing trees, And the sombre, furrowed fallow; Smiling at the airy ease, Of the southward flying swallow Sweet and smiling are thy ways, Beauteous, golden Autumn days."

Back to Square 1....

     "There is a legend about a bird that sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. Dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of the great pain. … Or so says the legend." ~ Colleen McCullough.
     I've always looked up to this quote for inspiration, to ensure that my efforts are never wasted and to maximise the fruits it bears. Whenever I decide to write, the first thought that surges through the back of my head is whether i would be interested in reading something like this. Contrary to common belief that we write for ourselves, the fact is that our actions are always diverted towards gaining attention from our audience. I remember a scene from Ridley Scott's Gladiator, wherein the central protagonist is advised that it isn't about being the best in what we do that matters, rather winning the crowd when we do it. As an end to my first blog (revamped edition, in an era where just about everything gets remixed), here's another quote from the movie that has forever remained on the top of my list.
     "Ultimately, we're all dead men. Sadly, we cannot choose how, but … we can decide how we meet that end in order that we are remembered … as men."