Day #0

Today I start my mini blog series where I commit to writing, for the next 365 days. I have always noticed in me, yet less often have put into practice, a tendency to meet external expectations. What better motivation then than a public commitment.

The main reason I have started this is to bring some more discipline and focus into the personal aspect of my life. Like a child wavering between candies, I have wavered too long with my hobbies, granting each a cursory glance now and then – I am involved in a weekend band, I read non-work items occasionally, I write haikus every now and then, I scribble my thoughts down when I feel like it. While it is perfectly fun and fine to be that way and indulge all, I somehow feel like I want to be more serious about one of them at least and, for my own satisfaction, want to have some sort of finish line with a ribbon I can break through. 

Writing being the most convenient by far (not the ideal way to choose, but hey, there is none) I decided to say “You’re it”. I plan on writing almost anything – mostly it would be mundane thoughts, inane comparisons connecting random events, poems, and even articles I feel are worth sharing along with my views/notes, and who knows what else. 

Hope you enjoy the ride as much!

Good is Bad. Bad is Comfy

I had a panic attack recently. And it got me thinking. Though, I think the above was in reverse.

I feel there is a dichotomy in what I am and what I want to be. Not in the sense of status, money, job description, but rather as a person. I want to be more straightforward, I want to be more spontaneous, I want to be more alive, I want to dive off an airplane, I want to learn exactly what I want, I want to be able to take failure in my stride, I want to dare to feel the most I can, I want to dare to push myself and know where my boundaries lie, I want to be comfortable in my skin, I want to not be some phoney that doesn’t fit in, and mostly. Mostly. I just want to, nay, need to, not be afraid.

I am the star of my show standing behind the podium mike, I am my audience, and the audience derides and mocks me and I feel, for a moment, comfortable with that ridicule. It feels familiar, it feels… right. Happiness feels like an allergy; it comes every now and then, it affects, and it passes away.

While I am not a total dreamer chasing happiness, I feel rudderless. My lows bring out thoughts in me which perceive my life to be a privilege, undeserved. Rationally, I know that life is a poker game, and the hand you are played is hardly something you choose or get to decide, be it a bad one or a good one; what you make of it, is what sets you apart. But how do I convince my irrational human conscience of this truism? What’s to stop it from hurling insults my way?

I need to act out. Have others listen and step in. Realize what my current thoughts are. It’s too lonely and sad, like a monochromatic movie in sepia.

Part 2 :

Some of my characteristics I do not fancy. I think they are not very becoming of a smart and ‘good’ individual. But to be honest, if I could have lived with these flaws, I think I wouldn’t have been writing this. I’d have been out, living, being envious of others’ achievements, making overt efforts to make the world revolve around myself, lying and cheating my way into getting fleeting moments of twisted self-serving happiness, and probably a few other vices. Trying to get rid of the green shade of my eyes has proven especially difficult. I just can’t do it consistently. My envy often puts me down as my ignorance propels others upwards, at least in my mind. The battle I wage against it has been raging for a decade now.
If only I could be ok with these flaws and live remorselessly. But, alas. Something about being a human being that won’t harm, if he can’t help.

I have seen shrinks, I have sought help and it has worked to some extent. I wonder why it takes me so much time. So much time. To understand and accept and move on with things that the world around doesn’t seem to need to stop and consider, either because they think too quick or they think too less. Why do I feel I am not doing either?
There are these thoughts originating from a place of pain. It hurts to access its core, so these are just the scraps I find lying on the surface – for me to pick them up and to allow them to help me grapple with this and that.

It’s like I’m waiting for a disaster. Like there is something big that is going to come my way, and which will finally. Finally. Finally. Let me have an excuse for being a failure. So that I could project my shortcomings on to that. So that I don’t have responsibility. So that I don’t have control. So that I have pity flung upon me like cheap praise – “Its ok. Its ok. It happens. You’re so smart, you’ll get through it, I know!!” So that I no longer feel obligated to do anything that will make me succeed. That will make a failure out of me, complete in every sense. Only then will I be sad. Only then will my penance be complete. Only then will I feel a clean slate. Only then I will be happy. Only then would my wax wings be burnt, would my doubts be proven right – “No. But I’m not smart, right?” To rise up from these figurative ashes, now wouldn’t that be a spectacle? Wouldn’t that be a show to look at and gasp in awe? What a turnaround! What glory! What a whiz kid!!

What romantic ambitions the mind concocts. Now I wonder why I’m such a masochist. But I like others’ pain every now and then too. It feels perverse and grotesque and sickening. It feels so… delicious. A pain junkie. Like I finally have something to talk about with this person and that. Yes. Be sad. Tell me what ails you. Tell me what has brought you down. Let me relate to you, let me revel in a shared sadness, let me walk in your shoes, let me be the one who hurts, let me be the one who gets stoned for your sins. All I want is this pleasure, please. Please, won’t you grant me some more.

I want to help you get out of this hole you are in. I want to help you rise, so that I see that it can be done too, that I shouldn’t be afraid to follow you since it isn’t something unknown anymore. Even though I don’t dare to start down a new path, I can always hope to pave a way for you to go through, can’t I? And who knows. You might like the place, it might be the answer we both are looking for.

And who knows, you might even help me up.

A lesson

Something normal happened yesterday.

Was stepping away from a long day at work, coming home to delicious mom-cooked food. Crossing an over-bridge at the railway station, headphones plugged in, walking at a leisurely pace. I saw my train arriving at the platform, and my “Dadar”ly instincts kicked in; (sorry, can’t translate that pun) for a second the unhurried pace turned into a trot. My right step a tad larger than its predecessor, my body bent forward a bit, bracing to make a run for it; My pose, I daresay with blatant vanity, was of a track runner who has just heard the gun go off. Such excitement! On a weekday! But with a mental shrug, my buzzkill head went (in alphabetical order).. “Naah. Too far, too pointless, too slow, too tedious, too tired, … Next one.” and my jog lost its steam.

I wondered, ‘Was the shrug “Instinctive”? or “Acquired”?’ My gut was betting on the latter. I decided to test my theory and gave the wind a run for its money. I ran and I ran; pushed aside a couple of guys, knocked into an older dude, almost (Almost!) crashed into an older lady, all the while profusely apologizing to the people I was leaving behind in the wake of this blitzkrieg. Finally, rushing through peak crowd and amidst a lot of curses-muttered-under-breath, I was in! And lo, the train started to move. I thought myself the destiny child, the star atop The Christmas tree, the very embodiment of the antithesis to Murphy’s law! I was a gambler who has just hit the jackpot; mistaking the win as one affected by me and me alone. The last thought, of course, arrived at the gradual pace of hindsight, occupying a void left by the receding adrenaline. All said and done – damn, that felt good!

I hadn’t done this in a long time. By “this”, I mean following my natural instincts, getting them suppressed by my acquired ones, and then trumping them with “acquired 2.0″s. At least in a big fashion; not that this was a big event by any practical measure, but it somehow felt like one. Why did I do this? This act that pretty much everyone sensible living in Mumbai summarizes with a “doosri mil jaayegi” (We’ll catch the next one)? I did it because I could. That’s the simple one-liner. And why did I think so much about it? Not so one-liner.

Because, I think I have been actively trying to suppress and forget certain things, behaviours, habits and attitudes that I acquired during my ‘growth’ phase through the environs around me, particularly the ones I am not a big fan of. During this un-learning phase that is still a work-in-progress, I believe I have successfully eliminated a few bad traits, but there has been collateral damage. I need to learn back some things now. For instance, I need to re-learn that competition & rank aren’t merely buzzwords on a candidate’s CV. I need to re-learn that happiness isn’t bad because of its ephemeral nature; that it is good precisely because of that. I need to re-learn what it feels to want something & to strive for it, not despite but because, you could fail. I need to re-learn what it feels like to make tiny mistakes, so that I will know better when I am about to make a bigger one. I need to re-learn. I need to learn.. 

So, yes. That 100m dash was but a step for me. A race against my (as of now) older self.

Something normal had happened yesterday. Just that it wasn’t normal anymore.

A Saturday night in Barcelona (‘s airport)

(Based on true events. Hour 00:00 represents the Start of the ordeal, not the actual time)

Hour 00:00

Arrive at airport to leave for Mumbai. Spent past few hours vasooling some really fast prepaid 3G data pack with rihana videos, sound engineering tutorials and whatsapp calls. Battery ~9%, but shan’t be a problem. Have a priority-pass-obeying-lounge coming. Free wifi, free food, free electricity dischargers. Life’s good.

Hour 00:30 –

Realized that check-in with luggage won’t be possible till 3 hours before flight. Have to wait for ~7 hours outside. And no lounge till check-in… Try the information centre regarding the good-life facilities, but it is fruitless.

Hour 00:45 –

Thought strikes that we can check-in with all bags classified as handbags. Sadly, doesn’t work out due to *cough* liquid contents. The solution for the objective function is not pretty. We weigh the risk-rewards. Decision taken. We stay the outsiders’ course.

Hour 01:15 –

Battery at 5% A search for charging points doesn’t yield much results. We are advised by locals to scan the bottom of all the airport walls to find them. 20 creepy minutes follow, no results yielded. Barcelona airport officially has less charging points in its huge departures lobby than it has terminals as a whole. The search leads to a fourth and final (albeit futile) attempt at the informació centre to extract some help, where the cute girl behind the counter surely suspects by now flirtatious intentions on our side. We move on to other places being decent people, looking for far off lands with modern-day electric dischargers.

Hour 02:00 –

Time is not flying. Nor are we. After another 20 minutes (in the arrivals lobby this time) my phone is trying its best to break-even. Still no clues, still no help; still no power. We keep going around in circles, having lost our compass, as the creatures on the airport sense our presence. Eyes dart towards us time and again, scanning the two brown guys walking with suspicious looking wires in our hands. Meanwhile, we have found our solution.

Hour 02:15 –

The toilet. More charging points in one tiny room than the number of f**ks the airport’s designers gave about them. Anywho, the undignified place has become a mini-inn (funny how that sounds like minion) for the moment as my battery inches upwards and I type away furiously lest I forget the tidbits and taint history with the curse of hindsight. The smell isn’t something to take back home as a souvenir, but it will have to do for now.

Hour 02:30 –

We have encamped ourselves outside this place. Arnav (my companion) lounges leisurely on the hard cold floor whiling away time as much as possible. Being a little more paranoid, I stand inside, as a permanent piece of furniture in the (lavish) washroom, as I notice people come, stare and go. Fun.

As I venture out for some fresh air, I realize something I had overlooked. Arnav, in his leisure, by mere accident or calculated brilliance, has found a vantage point. I look into the array of mirrors from outside, a relatively respectable distance as compared to a few moments ago, and after a few trials-and-error, find myself staring at my pale-colored lifeline. And Now, His Watch Begins.

Hour 03:00 –

Have spent the last half hour trying to not look suspicious as I stare into a mirror in the male washroom from far off. Not an easy task, mind you. Parked squarely outside the general washroom area for all genders, it’s quite a balancing act between not looking like a creep and not looking homeless.

Deciding that trying to tiptoe around, maintaining a clear line-of-sight can’t work for too long. Need to switch things up a bit, need to decrease my paranoia. With that in mind, I start profiling the male crowd entering to better gauge whether I should keep an eye. Male, age 45-55 (yeah, first time profiling, not too good with differentiating among that age group), in a hurry, ring on finger. He’s good. Male, unknown descent, age 16-18, messy sports jacket, tattoo on neck, a Messi hairdo. All systems on high alert.

Yes, this could work.

Hour 03:15 –

Battery in green finally. Phone has finally achieved terminal velocity.

Hour 05:00 –

Long, fun, insightful chat with travel companion. Great many thoughts laid bare. Meanwhile, we got lucky. A couple unplugged their charger a few shops away and my ears shot up. They were quickly replaced and the resulting space well utilized. Status update on the battery – 92%

Tummies partially full, bodies aching from all the travails, semi sleepy, we sit at a table in another sleepy 24×7 airport café with another apple pie and sandwich consumed.

Signing off for now. It’s been a long day.

The Autumn Leaves

‘All say, “How hard it is that we have to die” — a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live’

~Mark Twain

 

As we stepped out of the airport at night, tiny rain drops hit upon us; a gloomy backdrop to go with a dreary mood. A relative came along to pick us up. Not a word was spoken for a few minutes, everyone a little uneasy, some sad, some teary, some awkwardly unaware of the etiquette that the situation warranted. Something hung in the air, something spread the sadness around. Finally, the topic was broached…

On arriving at the home of my deceased uncle, we were met with a small gathering of men, related and distant, sitting quietly, discussing in hushed tones the funeral arrangements and guest lists. Their manner elicited a tense calm that betrayed the pain emanating from my aunt’s intermittent wails in the background. In another room, the women waited, crying and sitting around the makeshift casket that… held….

They invited me in, sitting me down next to his younger son, my elder cousin. I dared not to look anyone in their teary eyes, even though none of those pairs were strangers to me. My elder sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law were quietly discussing in between the infrequent bouts of cries, the why’s, the how’s, the he-was-in-pain’s. The atmosphere was one that I had had the fortune of avoiding till date. What seemed, quite contrastingly, calm, was the body next to me, lying in a peaceful slumber not to be awakened from, voluntarily or otherwise. Covered in a white sheet, it held what used to be my uncle, my mother’s senior-most living brother; a man with a once-lively demeanor reduced to mere skin and bones devoid of life, health, energy, personality, voice, hearing, and all the little things that make us who we are. I looked and I looked at the calm dead in the room, trying as hard to avoid the looks and the sounds from the living…

I stepped out for a few moments, to catch my breath. Something suffocated me inside, if not the death, then the way the living reacted to it. Death seemed fine; what it left in its wake, quite the opposite. The sights and the sounds and the vibes left me grappling; mildly aware of the happenings around me, unsure how to react, uneasy about how I felt.

The night outside provided a quiet refuge from the goings-on inside. On my way out, I noticed a change. I realized how nothing inside the home spelled anything other than the gloominess it was rightly supposed to – the quiet tones, the wailing, the awkward, nonchalant ignoring of the cries to discuss the funeral arrangements, the photos of the deceased plus family, the low-hanging faces, the dim lighting, the slow revolutions of the fan and its quiet, mournful, repetitive symphony. Nothing spoke of any light or ray of hope. The night on the other hand, woefully unaware of the happenstances within, quietly went on. The moon shone, the cool winds blew, the silence reigned. Passers-by smoked to dispel the cold, people shut shop to go home and take a well-deserved rest for the day. Cars went about lazily, no one stopping (why would they?) to pay their respects to the man who lay dead inside; just another house on just another street; on just another night…

Yet, as if reading a thought, to pay its homage to the dead, on this silent and otherwise normal night, it began again, to silently pour…

Overpowering Voice, Love

Here’s to your voice, love

Overpowering every sense
Blinding,
But your presence;

Missing that voice, love

A voice, gentle
A voice, calm
A voice, melodious
Blinding,
But your charm;

Speak your voice, love
& Let it overcome

The Feelings despised
The Worries harboured
The Nightmares, dreaded
Blind me,
& Guide me
Through the dark

Thaw

I liked the feelings you evoked
In a heart kept cold
Lest it warmed up enough
To be sliced in two.

But the warmth was worth it
The thawing was bliss
The magic of love flowed
To a place where it was sorely missed

And the feelings you let me
Gather up in my treasure chest
Those memories of happiness
Those memories of love

Shall stay forever
And forever, shall stay
Buried in my heart
For someone to unearth.