To Fail or Not to Fail

It’s only the 9th day of the month, and I can tell you now, it’s not at all easy writing everyday  It helps however, that a few fellow bloggers have encouraged me through their likes, shares, comments, and tweets. (Even when I know that some of the posts are not as good or complete as I’d like them to be)

When I think hard about it, it doesn’t really matter if I miss a day or two; this challenge has little significance in the scheme of things. It’s not related to money, work, or health. So, to fail in this challenge would mean little. But I intend to succeed. As I had written previously  we have to explore for ourselves the nature of our commitments. We have to define success on a standard that is acceptable to us – it may be the same as what is generally accepted, it may be higher or it may be lower. But it has to be ours. And failure – if it becomes ours, has to be measured by our standard.

There’s too much being made of failure. I recently tweeted:

While giving encouragement – the kind I receive on this blog – is important, when people close to you have embarked on an adventure, the encouragement has to be (for want of a better word) rational. There’s too much mollycoddling around failures. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it’s a good thing to fail.

We learn from our mistakes. Yes.

Failure is the first step to success. Yes

[Insert a similar over-positive-sounding idiom]. Yes

Isolation - 1

That’s all true, but there has to be some limit on failing. You cannot be failing all the while, thinking, “There, I’m that much closer to success.” If you do not learn why you have failed in the first place, it will take you farther from success. If I find myself failing over and over – I have to review the standard I set for myself, or the manner in which I have set out to achieve that standard, or both. There’s also too much talk about passion; passion that will see us through the difficult times.

To an extent. Yes.

Passion is an attitude, not a tool that will see me through. I will need to invest time, gain knowledge, and apply skill to what I do. There’s nothing romantic about failure.

Failure is not an option.

Our Doubts are Traitors

I would never have thought I’d find a quote like this in LinkedIn, but I did, and it seems quite common for inspirational messages to posted to LinkedIn. (This quote was a shared by a friend of of mine, who, I suspect reads my posts once in a while — so my dear friend, this post is not about you, but about the quote, and more so how I see the quote)

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.

Right.

0653: Ghost of ManFirst, whoever said this in the first place was being unfair. The way it is said, it is clear that the author (is quoter a word?) feels that walking away is easy (as against trying harder). In almost all social contexts, “working hard” is a virtue that we all learn from childhood. Some have substituted smart in place of hard, yet, the value of working hard has never diminished. When I read the quote through that lens, it seems to suggest that walking away is easy. It’s not. At all. In fact, trying harder is easier; walking away can be harder than trying harder. That’s one of the reasons many people feel stuck, where they are in life.

Second, the quote has no context of what we are walking away from or what it is that we need to try harder. Different situations, circumstances, and considerations will need different responses. You’d probably walk away from a dead-end job but try harder if you are working towards excellence. You’d walk away from an abusive relationship, but try harder when your loved ones need help. The instances may seem silly as you read them now, however, each situation is unique and has its on context and variables.

Finally, in my very personal opinion: to choose to try harder is not a decision (in the way it is used in the quote). Trying hard is a natural social and cultural response for the most of us. Seldom is it a conscious choice.

Here’s another quote, while we are at it:

“Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them.” ― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

When are we certain? When can we be certain? How long should we continue with that possible future to get to the point where we can categorically say that we are certain? No one can answer this for us, but us. It is an extremely personal experience, and whether people around you agree with you or not, you are the only person who can be certain. You are the only person who has to be certain.

And finally, one last quote. One that I feel has been constructed so well, it works even if you want to walk away or if you try harder. Is it the decision that’s hard, or the act? Perhaps you will see a glimpse of the real culprit, in what is the hardest decision.

Our doubts are traitors,
And makes us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4

*

Related Post: Nothing so Certain as your Anchors

Exit The Circle

The problem is never excitement. Excitement needs to be sustained to enable forward-movement. Excitement costs energy and reenergising consistently is difficult. The sources of energy are dispersed and access to them can be a challenge. Access to distributed sources requires continuous movement from one place to another. Prolonged movement cause fatigue. Yet we continue to prod along because we are motivated, and the engine of this motivation is excitement.

The problem is never excitement.

Go

I’m ready, I’m set.

The last few days, I’ve been rehearsing what I want to do today. This is the first day of my challenge. This is what we call all-reals. (If you ever played cricket in school, and had trial balls, you would know what I am saying.)

I vividly remember the call: “ALL REALS!”

The mood, tenor and the intensity across the teams changed in an instant. You could see it in our expressions and our body language. Good friends otherwise, in opposite teams, became fierce rivals, in an instant. I now wonder what changed; how we saw beyond the person to the wickets that we were supposed to demolish. It is now time to be the fast bowler that I once was. My eyes on that spot for the perfect yorker. It is impossible for a bowler to bowl six yorkers in an over. But it is definitely possible for a bowler to bowl six attempted yorkers in an over.

Enough games.

No games. How do I get that in? She’s running. It’s early, it’s quiet. Just the sound of her feet on the asphalt. She likes to run alone. No pressure, no stress. This is the one place she can be herself. Look any way she wants, dress, think any way she wants. No game playing, no rules. Games, sports, rules. Games, sports, rules. Playing by the rules. Playing games versus playing – Playing by the rules. Playing games versus playing. ~ What Women Want (2000)

Play the sport; be the sport.

Go!

Commitments are Personal

Most of the self-help kind of sites will tell you one thing: when you make a commitment, tell the world about it. The idea is that if you start failing in that commitment, the world will be keeping a watch and you will be motivated not to fail. Because the world is watching. I think that’s wrong. You should ever be doing things for yourself than for the world.

This world is really the set of people that you call family and friends. And that lot has to be studied well. While you call them family and friends, what do they really mean to you? When you make that public commitment — I am going to quit smoking — for example, what do you want them to do? When you sneak out for the a drag 16 hours after you have quit do you want them to stop you or do you want them to support you? Are you ready to continue to like them if they stop you and are you ready to hate them if they allow you? It starts becoming less about them and more about you.

Different people in this set will respond differently to your public commitment. And they aren’t wrong in the way they respond. The logic of a public declaration is not so much about the public to whom you have declared the commitment, it is more about how you want that public to respond. To me, that dilutes the essence of the commitment.

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But commitments are personal. You make them for your own reasons. You follow through for a personal gain. There’s little that people can do anything about it. If we think that words and phrases of encouragement will help us build the statement that we seek to make, it’s absurd. We are playing to an audience and we become deeply dependent on the applause; performance should be guided less by the applause and more by the excellence of the act. And the act belongs to us. Only your will to make that change can guide you. Unless, of course you need professional help, in which case you should seek it. Even there, the public cannot help you there.

A commitment is made up of two things: the intent and the manner. And both of them are personal. What you want to do and how you want to do it. Notice that both of them are about you?

I’ve recently made a commitment. The purpose of that commitment is very personal and important to me. The manner is simple; I just have to act on it. I may stumble or falter. I may not show up, at times.

But that stage is mine forever, and I care less about the applause and care much about (improving) the quality of the performance.

Raise the curtains.

Inside the House of Cards

I read an article today, where an actor expressed his desire to act in an Indian remake of House of Cards. I thought it would be interesting if a remake was made, in the Indian context. No better time, even, given the politically charged atmosphere here in the country.

Bus Hoarding of Jack Bauer's 24

24 was recently adapted in India and I was pleased with production quality. So to speak. The performances were less than lacklustre. I’ve been an Anil Kapoor fan from his debut, and I was upset, to say the least, with his performance. Everybody in the cast failed miserably to capture the tension and urgency that was Jack Bauer’s 24.

I have always believed that when you remake a successful series, you should adapt the context, not the concept.

And that’s what I’d expect from a remake of House of Cards (HoC). It’s a political drama, but there’s a lot to learn, or at least evoke curiosity, about the nature of the structure and mechanics of  how governments function. Funding, majority, PAC, rules and exceptions of the senate and congress, roles of the politicians and leaders and such things.

This is something that we need in India desperately. There’s a famine of civic knowledge, and a general laid-back ignorance of how our government functions. During the last few weeks I asked many of my friends, some of them passionate card-carrying members of various political parties, how members of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) are elected. Of the 30-odd people I asked, only one knew. While the new government in India has a clear majority, why will it not be a cakewalk for them to pass legislation? And in spite of that seeming difficulty, why does it have an amazing opportunity to bring about necessary change? These are the some of the questions we should understand than bitch about politicians and personalities.

Rhetoric in politics is a global phenomenon; so is mud-slinging. But the electorate has to understand and be aware of the parts of the machine and the nature of its operation, not just ideologies and leanings. The Indian news media, which I believe should shoulder this responsibility, completely ignores this in favour of sensationalism. It therefore falls upon the Indian entertainment media to take this up. Storify governing, lyric the constitution, cast the politicians, dramatise government, without compromising on — what we in the curriculum-making-business call — accuracy and sufficiency.

Every critical civics lesson is a potential for drama and a plot twist, if only writers would take the time to study the government. It will require decent research, which is rare; however the newer crop of entertainment content producers show a lot of promise and are quite talented.

Elections, government, and this country should be less about taking sides. It should be more about knowing what’s inside.

Blessedness

It was a Monday. Morose, melancholic and mournful as they have been made out to be. Monday’s by themselves have no character, apart from the one that we have imposed upon them.

On a taxi-ride south to north in my beloved city, amongst other things that I thought of and experienced, there came a word to my mind that excited me – as a writer; fair enough, I stand corrected – as a blogger. My consciousness split in half, one with a focus on the conversation that I was having, the other tracing and romancing the word that the rain had just teasingly poured through the half open window of the taxi.

It isn’t a word, I assured myself (and to no avail; I learned later) – I have just felt it.

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Blessedness.

Imagine my dismay when I discover that it is a word that has (for a while) found its way in the dictionary.

But I am unwilling to shed the romance that I experienced when I discovered this word for myself. I am not blessed – as such – but, I am in a state of blessedness. The renaissance I mentioned in my previous post contributes to that blessedness.

Friends.

My friends move my life. I have never planned to have a friend, and all friends I have, have contributed immensely to my life, without transacting. We are allowed to believe anything about ourselves, even convince ourselves who we are, but our true friends become mirrors and help us see ourselves, better. It’s a closed room and you are the only audience of yourself on stage; only friends can do that. Like I chose to employ the word ‘hate’ with some respect, I am now learning to use the word ‘friend’ with the same reverence. Notwithstanding Facebook’s use of that word.

Conversations.

I have a newfound respect for taxi (and rickshaw) drivers. (In fact, with anyone who is willing to have a conversation.) I believe that a taxi driver’s conviction in your short-term memory allows them to share far more than we are capable of. More often than not, the passenger becomes a listener and the driver a sharer; which is not really a conversation. The anonymity that the driver feels, should equally work for the passenger. The driver ends up sharing strong identifiable information (license plate of the vehicle, etc) – the passenger shares much less, when he should be sharing more. These guys are so easy to talk to. They bare all. One long drive in a taxi with an ongoing conversation is therapeutic. And since you are (eventually) paying, you can often decide the direction and tone of the conversation. We have made some unfortunate decisions about who we can talk to.

Knowledge.

What do we know? Many things. We read books, we read articles, we hear from people, we study. That helps us know more. But there comes a moment in our lives when we get to know something which stumps us. It may not be a tweet-able thing, but something that makes us wonder. That is a wonderful moment, because we aren’t “angry” that in spite of our planned laborious knowledge acquisition, we didn’t know it, but we are exhilarated of the discovery; wherever it may come from. 

Family.

We will always have a love-hate relationship with folks that are “tied” to us (You love some; you hate some). You cannot ignore that. But, we will have to look within and discover that, actually, we do things for the family not because we are supposed to or want to – but because we want to. This is difficult to discern. We make different kinds of investments in our family. Some are of pure love, some borrowed and some lent, some are transactional, some opportunistic – but they all are investments of sorts. Sometimes we make bad investments. But, the metrics that apply for traditional investments, do not apply here. Love, is the indicator and the index of our investment. Soon enough, the transaction becomes void.

Beauty.

That’s for us to decide, isn’t it? You could say there’s more to it or less, but blessedness is beautiful.

 

It’s Not About Photographs – II

One of the things that an iPhone does not do well, amongst other things, is alerts. The context of the ambient sound in which the alert sounds were supposed to alert the owner of the phone is definitely not a road-facing flat in a busy suburb in Mumbai. That is why I saw Sagar’s Facebook message only when I picked up the phone to calculate the required run-rate at the India-Sri Lanka semi-final at Cardiff.

“Please give me your phone number, it has been a while, I want to catch up,” it said.

I wondered what it could be about – well, whatever it is, it will be my first call with someone in Seoul. With the flood of positive-thinking picture-messages that one sees on Facebook, it is difficult to be negative; you tend to find the good in everything. Of course, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with Sagar, but an international call is not the best for a conversation; it is good for a quick chat, but a conversation?

He called about ten minutes after I had sent my phone number. The rain was lashing hard and the game was paused for the call.

We lost a few minutes in the ‘how are you doing’ phase. I usually am at a loss when people ask me what’s going on. More often than not, there isn’t much going on, though we are so busy doing things. Doing things to move ahead, running fast, yet remaining in the same place. Those, are not the things worth ‘reporting’.

It would be impossible to have a chat with Sagar and not talk about photography. After a few “updates”, needless to say, we spoke about photography. There’s an interesting experimental project he had undertaken on the Photography MOOC that we are on. The experiment wasn’t moving forward as much as he had expected it to. I was disappointed too, but not surprised. An international experiment which involved sending paper-based photographs around, using traditional mail, would have challenges in these digital decades.

The first camera I ever used was a Hanimex 110 Tele TF. It belonged to my father, and he allowed me to use it on occasion. Later, seeing that I used the camera so often, he got me a second-hand Agfa Click III. Photographs taken by that camera could not be distributed, they had to be shared, if at all. Each share meant a trip to the studio and buying a print. As you can imagine, it was a little more difficult than clicking on the share button and auto-post it to all your networks. Also, given that you had only 24 exposures in a 110 film roll, you were very judicious about every photograph you took. Feet, food and foolish faces were not photographed. The film roll, developing and printing was charged to your pocket-money and your patience.

“It’s possible that people have not clearly understood your experiment,” I said, “it is difficult for people to think of photographs as print products, perhaps that’s the reason?”

“Well, I have received only one response,” Sagar said, with a hint of sorrow. It was going to be difficult to get this experiment in place and into a gallery, we both sensed that.

“I read your post,” he said, changing the subject.

I winced.

I had written, quite casually, in a recent post that I had stopped taking photographs. He was the first one to comment, and had said that he had seen it coming. Many of my friends were aghast, some were amused, and the rest confused. I had smartly titled the post as “It’s Not About Photographs” – but it didn’t seem to give an indication of what I really meant. To be fair, I had not made my thought abundantly clear in what another friend referred to as a potpourri post. On a music player, the stop and pause button actually serve the same purpose, but they have very different connotations. But starting the post with a sentence like, ‘I have paused taking photographs,’ would not make sense.

“Yes, I have stopped,” I said. I knew however, that I’d have to qualify this simple yet apparently mysterious statement, “I am just taking time off, you know, like a gap year, or something like that. There was a time when I took photographs of everything that I thought was worth a photograph. I suddenly had many photographs of many things. And though they were nice and were appreciated, there was something missing.”

“I think I know what you mean,” he said, resonating his comment on my post, urging me to continue.

“I found certain themes in my work and started to work on those for a while. It was quite exciting, even though I was retrofitting some photos into themes, it helped clarify my own thinking about the photographs. Once again, I seemed to be using the Hanimex or the Agfa. I didn’t feel the need to take a few hundred photographs to get one fabulous photograph. It was going good for a while, and again, I feel  that earlier sense of emptiness. This is very difficult to explain; one would call it the artist’s dilemma – when the artist questions his or her own work. I have refrained calling myself an artist for long, but I’ll use that word because I cannot think of a better one, now. I don’t know if it makes sense, but my photographs don’t seem to move forward. Or in any other direction, for that matter. They are stuck.”

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“So, you are saying you are bored?”

“I am not sure if bored would qualify as the right feeling. I still like to look at things, feel them – but I do not feel like picking up the camera and capturing that moment. Sometimes, I wonder if the word capture has got something to do with it,” I added as a joke, but wondering if I meant it.

“It is a block,” he said, but it seemed like a question.

“I think I need to know something more about the photograph than what I know. Maybe I need to think see things that relate to what I feel. Or perhaps – and this seems more likely – maybe I need to feel about what I take photographs about. That is some gap, and the camera is slipping deeper in that gap, away from my reach.”

There was a long pause in the conversation. That’s one of the reasons you should not have one on an international line.

“Well, I’ll take photographs, you know,” I said, more defensively than I would have liked, the silence from Sagar was awkward, “maybe I am just making a very big deal out of it, and I just need more opportunities to get out and take photos. I haven’t travelled in a while. Maybe it is as simple as that.”

“Yes, that could be a reason,” he agreed from three and a half hours away.

“Well, when you are here next month, maybe we should go out for a shoot, a good 24 hrs. Just us, find out,” I offered.

“I agree, let’s do that,” he said.

*

A fictional version of a conversation that I had with Sagar Kolte  fellow blogger and photographer, a dear friend and a philosopher-mathematician. The conversation happened more-or-less in the same manner as you have read, with small changes, adapted for this post. The photograph in the post is taken, aptly, from one of my portfolio series – “Keep the Faith.”

Up in the Air

There’s too much of more. There’s a new fanatic in town, and her exposed argot has more words that end with -er.

Faster, smaller, thinner, longer. Sharper. And the sorts.

In Victor Hugo’s apt words, however, argot is the language of the dark; a language of misery.

Here’s a blurred photo.

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It’s blurred. You cannot see much detail. There is hardly any specificity in the image. What does this mean for the image? Not for the photographer (that’s me, and I do not care much about what you think of me). Does it become a bad image because, alas, we cannot see the twist and the weave of the fibre that makes the thread that have revolted out of the binding Rexine?

A friend would take up this argument and talk of test cricket and the T20 format.

I’ll digress. If you don’t want to, skip the marked section.

<Start Digress>

I quit Flickr Pro and moved to 500px because it was a suggestion by a well known photographer. I hated it as soon as I saw the “top” photos. They just do not seem real to me. 500px is a muscle show of post-processing. Not that post-processing is bad. I use it all the time. I was looking for a word when I was discussing 500px with a friend. I didn’t find it then, I have it now.

Synthetic.

Over the years, the 500px platform went through a number of revisions and changes, growing together with technology and photographers, and keeping focus on the highest quality photos. Via 500px  (emphasis, mine)

500px offered a way to sell photographs, but I was not (and am not) interested in it, anyway. I’ve (mostly) quit 500px.

</End Digress> 

There is no doubt that our tastes are changing, our attention spans diminishing. We have lesser time for our friends and no time for ourselves. Enough research floating around to prove that. 2831215 is the phone number of the travel agent of my first company. This was when mobile phones didn’t exist. Now, I don’t even remember my fourth travel agent’s name. Hell, I don’t even remember if I use a travel agent anymore. I have to remind myself to add keywords to her address card. My choice of keywords defines what I will forget about her and what I might use to search for her. It’s exhausting, in a way. Her’e a worthwhile exercise – how many mobile numbers (of close friends or family) do you know by-heart?

I need to travel a bit. But I digress. (I should have warned you)

Adobe recently announced that the Creative Suite will now be cloud-based. To make the news worthwhile they included some super sharpening tools to the CS. (Now you know what triggered this post)

Apart from the irritating plugin that I *have* to use with browsers, I do not use any Adobe products because of their bloated sizes and prices. But this post is not about Adobe, at all. Software is a tool; it makes sense in a way that you use it. I find arguments about tools pointless. As long as you do your work well, the tool doesn’t matter. Hammer vs. Pestle. Mac vs. Win or Can vs. Nik. Same difference. 

This post is about simple questions.

How much sharper do we need our images to be? How slimmer should our phones be? How faster should our computers be? How much thinner should our laptops become?

And while the inanimates around us become more ‘-er’ and ‘-er’, what about us?

What ‘-er’ should we be striving for?

The Secret’s up in Smoke

I know something.

It’s a secret. So, obviously, I cannot tell you what I know. But it does bring me to the thought about how we deal about secrets, and, perhaps (and therefore) what makes us vulnerable.

I know folks who will take secrets to their grave; I know a few others who will blurt out what they know at first possible context that they can think of. One (of the many) classifications, in which we think about people, is how they manage secrets. I use the word ‘manage’ with some purpose. I could have easily said, ‘keep’ secrets.

I am not the person you want to confide, if you do not want anyone to know what you are up to. Especially, if what you confide in me is happy news. I am, perhaps, melancholic in a way. If I know something about you that is not worth sharing, I’ll take it to my grave. But we do have to deal with the aspect of “what is worth sharing” – is it how you see it or is it how I see it. There is a difference you know.

*-*

Flashback, circ. 1989.

A young healthy body is shivering. Guts are in short supply. I gather them as much as I can. I proceed. I gingerly walk up and inform my father that I smoke. The response is factually receptive (if that phrase means anything). He accepts my confession (my perspective) as a statement (his perspective).

“Good, you told me.”

“Well, I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else.”

“Anything else?”

I hover around and he has sensed that my bigger problem was not the confession (my perspective) but, something else.

“Please don’t tell Mom.”

“I won’t, for the sake of it, but if it come down to a conversation, I will tell her.”

I don’t know if you have ever experienced a feeling that the world is made of paper and it starts crumpling around you, but it was a similar experience. He didn’t say, “I have to tell her,” he said, ” I will tell her.”

I left the room; he did not look up from the paper that he was reading.

*-*

Of the things that people confide in us – there are things that are good, and there are things that are not so good. I am given to hold, protect and preserve secrets that don’t show folks in good light. I will, also hold, protect and preserve secrets that have not yet become the well-known truth. However, I have to find someone to share good news. If you want to suppress good news about you – I am not the person you should be speaking with. Never trust me with “good” secrets. I am, usually, unable to hold tight, the secrets that show the wonder of great people. Overall, that makes me a person who cannot keep secrets half the time.

There’s one more thing about how I deal with secrets. If it looks like someone is about to confide, I ask them to wait a moment. I tell them that by the fact that you (may) confide in me, my wife will know it. By choice or chance, but she will know it. Unless you agree to that, do not confide; I am better off not knowing. It’s my rule; it’s not my wife’s rule, so, perhaps you are better off confiding to her.

But it does all come back to the nature of secrets and their purpose. To tell someone something that they aren’t supposed to know in the first place, is the first violation of a “secret.” However, to tell something to someone, means that you want to be heard. Which, to my mind, violates the essence of a “secret.” Yet, secrets are exclusive bonds between people. Some secrets bind people for life. Even if none of them ever want to or need to “out” a secret. Whatever the relationship, secret-management defines a relationship. Venn diagrams, Sub-sets and Super-sets, is the one concept that I am very glad to have learned in school.  Are we vulnerable because we know something or because we do not know something? Do we seek secrets? Do we avoid them?

And, therefore, if more than one person knows that one thing, it is already not a secret, no?

PS: Here’s a secret for you; my Mom knew I smoked, long before I knew that she knew, that I smoked. That other secret, I am trying to hold back and ‘manage’ it for as long as I can. It’s a good secret. If I do hold back till the right time, perhaps I will be better at secret management.

iDoctor

I love my eye doctor.

Ophthalmologist.

He is seeking his seventies. Or at least his late-sixties; I wouldn’t know. He has that demeanour where he can camouflage his 60-70 age-range. At least, I have the range right. He has a worthwhile theory of small, fashionable spectacle frames. He wears the ones that dent your cheeks.

Generally, you wouldn’t trust a dentist with bad teeth; I somehow trust my ophthalmologist, even though he is myopic. He is old school. Prescribes medicines, eye-drops and the sort only as a last resort. That is what I think. But, really, he prescribes only when there is a need. A mild hypochondriac like me can take a plethora of symptoms to him – explain them in a way that would never have occurred in his text-book; I have the power of Wikipedia and WebMD with me; to use his language.

I love my eye doctor. He does not relent.

He easily acknowledges my understanding of motility, myodesopsia, vitreous humour, and other retinal phrases. Gives me a patient hearing; makes me feel important and validates what I have to say. Then, he suddenly stops being a doctor; becomes a teacher; uses analogies from daily life and  brings down my guard. Optics 101. Reflection; refraction; angle of incidence and such. He does not compromise on the tests that he does and then tells me reassuringly that there may be something wrong with my eyes, but not to the extent that I have allowed my imagination to cover. He accommodates my fears.

A wise man once indicated to me, the use of experts. “It has got nothing to do with expertise, actually. Yes, the expertise may exist; but unless you can trust the expert, it is no use hiring the expert.”

“It is obvious you have hypermetropia; but there is no need for you to invest in reading glasses. You’ve crossed 40 now; it’s natural. Just remove your myopic lens and read. No need for reading glasses.”

Sometimes I see your face
As if through reading glasses
And your smile seems softer than it was.

Paul Simon ~ Proof

Sigh. The romance of reading glasses will not be experienced, after all.

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He has to do more tests; a few eye drops and minutes later; my pupils are dilated to the size of a saucer. Calls me back in. Sharp lights behind lenses are layered. The light seems to penetrate.

Eyes are the windows to the soul. What’s he looking at; does he know all that I seek and all that yearn and all that I fear?

All’s fine, apparently. And, remember, he is old school? There is no way he will let a mild hypochondriac without a prescription. He gives me one. I suspect it is a placebo. I can always Google it when I get back home. A doctor who can have a conversation and drill-down the most complex conditions of the human body to the least-common-multiple analogies is a good doctor, as far as I am concerned. (I’ll still Google the prescription) But I am already sure he is smarter than me.

He advises me that I should not be driving with my pupils dilated so much. I wait for a while and then, take off.

Romance is in the air. The streetlights are all star-bursts, everything is in soft focus. I think of Gautam Rajadhakshya. The world just seems like a brighter place. Ghostly, yet romantic halos surround every light. I know when I get home I won’t be able to read or work on the computer or watch TV. The world becomes empty, except for her. I think of her; my guiding light.

Back home now.

I haven’t yet Googled the prescription. Now I wonder, if I should. I don’t think I will. This doctor has ensured that we see things right since I was in school. From prescribing spectacles to performing cataract operations; he has been our lighthouse. In good times and bad. Many years ago, while prescribing for me, he pulled out his prescription pad and wrote, “Carrots,” and handed it over to my father.

Just because some people aren’t your friends or family, doesn’t mean that they do not care about you. You have to decide *and* understand what some people mean, in your life.

Needless to say; I hate carrots.

The House Must Mean Something – II

I owe an apology to my readers for the previous post. Of course, I’ve already apologised, at the end of the previous post. So, this apology is for those who gave up before they could reach the end of that post. It was a post full of possibility that was, unfortunately never converted.

But this post is not about the apology. It’s about the last post. So, it’s a post about a post. Or a non-post, if that’s what you would call the previous post. (which is potentially a non-post).

A long-lost-and-now-found blogger friend offered an insight into what the actual content of the previous post could have been. Well, she didn’t actually suggest that it could have been the content, I made up that part for myself. It was about Going Home. There is envy when you see such beautifully written posts, but there’s happiness in equal measure, because you were able to experience it.

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The House, for me has always been the predecessor to a Home. A home is an existent experience of many a splendour and wondrous things. A house, not so. The only thing it can mean anything is a possibility — of being a home. You know what I mean – the oft-quoted cliché: “four walls make a house and four people make a home” and the various permutations of that idiomatic expressions. And while I still cannot put a finger on the genesis of the title of the previous post, the house does mean something. Just one thing, actually – a possibility. And in that, there is much we can do; much we can achieve.

And, of all the things that we can do with it – is that we can make it our own; make it our home. That is what a house means. But we will have to be open to that possibility, give it due consideration – walk around in it and see where we can hang our dreams, how we will fix our hopes, and with what hues we will paint our joy. Some houses are easier to consider than the others. They are stencils that provide a sneak preview of how our home could be. Some other are blank canvasses. They are a little difficult, yet full of opportunity.

And when the house is your home, it can mean much more; much, much more.

Possible Outrage

I am lost.

I am unable to get outraged. Or be outraged. As the phrase may be. Basically, I am not outraged – at most of the things happening around me. Neither do I get angry or upset about the things that happen around me. Perhaps it’s a symptom of some psychological disorder.

Most of the times I do not see what the problem is, I think. I have it in me to get angry and be upset, but I am unable to identify what I should be angry or upset about. I am not devoid of emotion. People say what they want to say, people do what they want to do. I do it too. Experience and expression are two very different things. Experience can be expressed (in a way that you feel is appropriate), an expression cannot, however, necessarily be the voice of an experience. It’s possibly a sense of numbness; a feeling of non-feeling.

A second-hand expression has less meaning, against a possible first-hand action to change what does not make sense. Original anger, situated, adjusted and managed, in a context works better that diatribe.

Wax Has to Melt

We all have dreams.

Well, most of us do. I am not talking of those abstract blobs of irrationality that we usually cannot control when we are asleep. I am talking of those that we live when we are wide awake. The kind, when they are the most lucid when we are in a classroom where the lecturer wishes to be elsewhere as much as we do; or in a meeting where everyone except the person who has convened the meeting, knows that it’s a waste of time. What goes in our head during such events is a mash-up of dreams, thoughts, ideas, plans – and they seem to effortlessly slide on a plane which defines what we really want. And as tangible that plane is when we dream – soon after – it becomes an abstraction of nothingness as we are sucked into our deigned zombie-like activities.

Today is a special day – and my love-hate relationship with milestones notwithstanding, I am happy.

A year has passed after a certain event – and I am able to discriminate where I stand vis-à-vis where I thought I stood, once upon a time. This GPS-kind of activity has not been easy. Enough shock, hurt, pain has been encountered and endured before finding the absolute location of where I am. There has been much difficulty in letting go and even more difficulty in denying the questioning brightness of the truth that has harshly scalded my eyes. The asking heat, without malicious intent, asked me if I would confess that I was living in the wax-world a-la Indraprastha; I said I was not. I fought it for a year.

It’s slow, but I see the wax melting.

Candle in the Wind

And those grandiose images of false comfort burned down to their bare element. The bright light smiled, I think, as if saying – I was always on your side, but I had to sit on the other side of the table – because you were gone for far too long, and lost to me. I would have preferred to sit with you and look together – but we were looking in different directions. Therefore, I had to confront you, said the wise light.

“I am glad, we can now look in the same direction.”

As I stand where I am bereft of the wax palace, I wonder. It must have been the light that, with its heat – melted the opaque walls so that I could see beyond.

It’s late now, and what I see is an even darkness. I stand where an impressive palace once stood. I see nothing of the grandeur that once made me believe I was king. I find myself on the top of a hill here, though. Alone. But I feel the breeze that the faraway sea brings and finds its way through the valleys to where I stand. It has a gentle sting. It does not matter that the wax structure is no more, because, soon, it will be morning. I know one thing: I will see more than I ever did.

And, I will see clearly.

Futility on Facebook

Many of my connections on Facebook recently shared a photo of a girl, called Arwa, who had gone missing in Mumbai. It demonstrated their concern about this missing child. I found out today that thousands of folks re-shared this link and the photo. This is not a new phenomenon, such requests have been featuring on Facebook for far too long.

I also found out today that the missing girl was found by the police on the same day that she went missing. There is now a photo of a newspaper article doing the rounds, reporting that the girl has been found. Folks on Facebook are still sharing the link asking people to help find the missing girl.

I find this exercise futile. Somewhere, deep in our psyche, we feel we have contributed to helping find the girl by letting more and more people know that the girl is missing. Apart from that we don’t do much. Maybe some people actually do something about it – go in search of the girl or something to that effect – but most of us let go of the girl after we have re-shared the shared link.

The link that tells you that the girl is found, is not shared as much. Is it that we have an obsession with sensationalism, that we are quick to share the news of the girl going missing but ignore sharing the news that the girl was found? Is it that, it’s all good that girl has been found, and it doesn’t matter whether we tell our friends of the good news? Would we share thoughtfully if Facebook charged us a few rupees for every share? If every share cost you something, would you share as much? For that matter, if you were charged for every like, would you like so many things?

I think a couple of years ago, there was more original content on Facebook. Now, it has become a browser.

The World in our Hands

I’ll say it before it goes away.

I love conspiracy theories – and I watched closely – those that were associated with the world cup. SMS messages are the bane of junk conspiracy theories. Call me an old sentimental fool – but the tears weren’t a product of any match fixing. To engage in a conspiracy theory is one thing (I do that); to blankly believe in them is another (it is a symptom of a pathological cynic). I believe we won fair and square – and that is enough. If you have any concocted proof that we did not not – keep it to yourself.

I will not deny that I went through major depression during the match. So much so that I did not cheer at any of the boundaries. I am sentimental and superstitious like that.

But it served me well, in the end. Because I did not allow any esoteric (conspiracy, spiritual, religious, or statistical) belief to rule my sense of belief.

That is why I won – and you lost.

Making Myself

An SMS (text message for the rest of you) made its way to my phone, today morning.

There is no such thing as a 'self-made man'
v r made up of 1000s of others
Evry1 who has evr done a kind deed for us
Or spoken 1 word of encouragement to us
Has entered in2 the make-up of our character and of our thots
Gud Mrng Dost ;)

It was a scary message at first sight.

I usually disregard the feel-good messages that pour in every morning. For one, I hate txtspk. Secondly, I doubt if most people really read and pay attention to the message before forwarding it to their address books – not friends – the address book. There is a difference. Where and when possible I often politely request to strike me off these motivational messages. There are a few exceptions, and therefore, this slightly frightening thought, landed in my phone’s inbox.

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Men (and women) are self-made, no matter what. They may – slightly or hugely – be influenced by a few others or a thousand others, yet, they make of themselves by their own choice and by their own doing. No one makes anyone. The thought in the SMS above may resonate well for those who are self-less or self-denying, or even those who have a self-sacrificing, altruistic worldview. It does not, for me.

There is another side to this message that seems to be conveniently missing. It talks of the positive influence — what of the negatives? That should count in equal measure, shouldn’t it? So if a successful person is a product of the influence of a thousand others, what of the utter failure? Do we take ownership of failure but attribute our success to others? The very thought seems incongruous and just-crossing-the-border-of-ridiculous to me. We are influenced equally by the devil and divine that resides in the people who exert influence(s) in our lives. While the SMS itself doesn’t talk of the devil’s play, it is perhaps implied (attributing the common notion of success with the phrase, “self-made man”).

It is almost an inversion of a beautiful story from our childhood: The Brahmin and the Cow

I do not deny that we are influenced by others, that we learn from others, and that we are motivated by the encouraging feedback we get from them – which strengthens our resolve and therefore our character too, but to deny a human any credit (“there is no such thing”) in the developing his or her character is an extreme state.

When life takes a turn to the side of darkness, we are usually called upon to take responsibility for our actions and act to repair. When things brighten up, we should ask the same and take full responsibility for it.

To deny me my hand in my making is to deny my be-ing.

A Non-Post

This one post is difficult to write: The only way I can write it is — to deny content, in the post.

This peasant of a post has only context to offer.

The emotions that wrap around you at a time when you are most vulnerable are the very emotions that cannot be expressed. If you bring your rational head above the water, you could find a few words, scourge the thesaurus, and express in words what that emotion really makes you feel.

This one, isn’t one of that.

Perhaps because it is the confluence of a million smiles and tears. And every intersection of a smile and a tear has a unique meaning, a unique context. It is almost a complete life.

Therefore I confine this one to the only higher abstraction that it is capable of.

With numerical markers like dates, numbers, counts, measurements, and time that unfortunately marks such moments. Unfortunate, because these moments within them hold a cauldron of boiling emotions that cannot be numerically expressed. Our education, comprehension and understanding however has been reduced to a numbskull slave of demanding science and unforgiving mathematics, rather than an a forgiving and an encompassing art.

I agree with you; this is yet another incomplete post!

Slow Down

We are more likely to exclaim how half the year is already past us, than to take time to articulate a few wonderful events that may have come to us in those six months. We are governed by speed. Impatience as one recent advertisement says, is the new virtue. It is extolled. The days continue to have the same twenty-four hours, but we are unable to squeeze in as much as we used to, once.

At a wee hour in the morning, we see the clock and realise, it isn’t late night.

Our actions are dictated by instant gratification, now that we have the most powerful tool at our disposal. Friends are instant, of all things, that you can acquire quickly. Some of these are of course are lost as quickly. Knowledge is acquired at the speed of a click. The hyperlink is the new currency.

That’s how we have remoulded our lives. Because we put it in the fast lane. We seem to live our lives as if we know how much time we have, and there is very little of it left. It is the proverbial fast running to be in the same place. The larger world around us hasn’t changed as much we make it out to be; it’s just that we stand more exposed than before, to those changes. Those changes are influencing us, rapidly.

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And in that early morning hour, when we see the clock, we wonder who we have become and where we are; if, i.e., we are able to recall what we set out for, in the first place.

It’s time to slow down.