Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Dreamers

I should really hit some tennis to  get the adrenalin rush as that usually helps to rid of the feeling of the blues . It is not easy to stay optimistic in light of uncertainties and the conflicts that  I deal with in my line of work and all that awareness of limitations and mortality looming  over me as another birthday is fast approaching. Can one dream and be grounded at the same time? I believe they are not mutually exclusive. One must work hard towards achieving one's dreams and stay hopeful no matter what happens.

The month of January literally flew by. It feels like the earth is rotating faster as the sun rises sooner, the hours flash by and it is noon and then the night falls and it is midnight . Last month my hairdresser held an art exhibition and  gave away all the paintings that he had spent the last two and half years created. Altogether there were one hundred and eight paintings.When  I go for my hair appointment, I see him working on his canvas and I will try to make out what he is drawing and he  says,  ‘I’ll see where this leads to, slowly, bits by bits…’ I ask him about the work that has been completed if I see them sitting around in his living room. He set out to draw hearts in all colours and sizes as he wanted to spread the message that we must open our hearts for only the hearts can see clearly. It reminds me of Le Petit Prince where the fox tells the Prince : On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. You can only see things clearly with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye. Charles has invited his family, his friends and  clients to the  exhibition at Botanica Mansion where afternoon tea was also served in conjunction with the event. Everyone was happy to take home a piece of his work of 'hearts'. It is very generous of him to give all his paintings  away and it was a joyous tea party. 

A Hologram for the King written by  Dave Eggers has taken me longer than what I intended to. Eggers’ writing is direct and unadorned, reminds me a little of Hemingway. Reading the novel is like drinking Burgundy wine that is light, fresh and uncomplicated. But the contents of the fiction are far from light and straightforward, the  novel  deals with uncertainties  in the commercial world.

Alan Clay is a consultant who  has been sent to Jeddah by Reliant, a huge conglomerate to pitch for the IT infrastructure contract for King Abdullah Economic City ( “KAEC’). It is going to be a massive new development somewhere in Saudi Arabia. Alan and his team hope to impress the king by showing him a cutting –edge holographic teleconferencing system which can make a colleague in London appear in 3D in a tent in Saudi Arabia. Alan  started as a door- to–door salesman and his recent venture in manufacturing bikes failed miserably when he tried to outsource the whole process to Asia in order to get away from the unions in America. He cannot afford his daughter’s college fee unless he can pull off the one big job he has been engaged by Reliant. Alan is no longer optimistic like before. As he and his colleagues wait for King Abdullah to show up, it is like waiting for Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play.  When he is waiting for King Abdullah to show up, he starts writing to his daughter to persuade her to forgive her mother , Ruby. Alan and Ruby are divorced.
‘Dear Kit, You say that your mother has always been “ emotionally unreliable,” and still is that way. That is true to a certain extent, but who among us is the same in all seasons? I’ve personally been a moving target for years, wouldn’t you agree?’

No , he needed to be more constructive.
‘Kit, your mother is made of different stuff than you or me. More volatile and flammable materials.’

He crossed that out. The greatest tragedy about Ruby was that talking about her made him sound like a bastard. She had done  him great harm, repeatedly ------she’d torn him open, thrown all kinds of terrible ruinous stuff inside him, and then had sewn him back up --- but Kit couldn’t know that . He took another sip. A numbness overtook his face. He took another pull. My God, he thought. He’d had the equivalent of two shots and already he was feeling weightless.

 Like Alan in the story, I have this habit of looking through photographs that are stored on my laptop and I try not to let nostalgia take over me.

 He was already in the photo program, the vast grid of his life in thumbnails, so he scanned backward. Everything was there, and it terrified him. For Alan’s last birthday, Kit had taken a few dozen photo albums from his garage and sent them away to a service that scanned all the pictures within and put them in a disc. He’d dumped them all onto his laptop and now they were all there, photos from his own childhood, from his life with Ruby, for the birth and growth of Kit. Someone, Kit or the digitizens, had arranged them all more or less chronologically, and now he could, and too often did, scan through the thousand pictures , a record of his life, in minutes. All he had to do was keep his finger on the leftward arrow. It was too easy. It was not good. It kept him in a dangerous stasis of nostalgia and regret and horror.
The author cleverly describes a character that is jaded and very much a fragile human being in a world that is going virtual. The story was set in 2010 and it  is about the expatriate life in the Gulf states and how globalization has brought about outsourcing of manufacturing process to anywhere that can do it cheap and Asia is  where these cost conscious manufacturers go to for their productions.

On the plane from America to Jeddah, he has to put up with his seatmate’s malaise.
People were done manufacturing on American soil. How could he or anyone argue for spending five to ten times what it cost in Asia? And when Asian wages rose to untenable levels --$5 an hour, say –there was Africa. The Chinese were already making sneakers in Nigeria. Jack Welch said manufacturing should be on a perpetual barge, circling the globe for the cheapest conditions possible, and it seemed the world had taken at him at his word. The man on the plane wailed in protest : It should matter where something was made !
But Alan did not want to despair, and did not want to be dragged down with his seatmate’s malaise. Alan was optimistic  wasn’t he ? He said he was. Malaise. That was the word the man used again and again.

Dave Eggers’ subdued style of writing conveys emptiness in a deliberate way. The overall feeling is bleak and transitory about our planetary
Venice Sept 2014

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