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.

IMG 6518

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.”

IMG 8569  Version 2

“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.

1787

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.

8560405734_0382b2d6b1_z

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.

370827883_1a8e041a35_b

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.

Untangle.jpg

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.

Energy Express, Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Lonavala, MH, India.jpg

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.

An Aggressive Assertion

The earliest definition that I ever knew of assertiveness was a dictionary extract in a book:

– to assert is to state positively with great confidence but with no objective proof.

This meaning was taken from the Websters dictionary, I have been searching online to find this meaning on Websters Online, but haven’t. The meaning has been edited. They have probably revised it (the book in which I read this, is a ’75 edition)

This meaning has bothered me for a while; especially as I came to discover, that in this world there is little difference between being assertive and being aggressive. In most of the searches in dictionaries and thesauri, I found that aggressive is a synonym for assertive. Yet, for some reason assertiveness has a positive quality, while aggression is usually the darker disliked cousin.

So is there a difference between the two? Even if subtle? And are they twins, really separated only by the positive and negative connotations that have come to be associated with them over time? Or are they inherently different by lineage? Assert’s origins lie in Latin, meaning a claim, whereas aggression’s lineage (also in Latin) is a derivative of attack. Assertion has always got the good press and has come to mean something that most people understand as something to emulate, imbibe and reflect. Aggression and hostility, therefore became intimate.

Neptune and Triton - 10

I have however, yet to experience assertiveness as defined in a textbook. It does not exist, perhaps, because it is probably a guideline that cannot be productised. The equation that defines assertion also changes with context; Gender Mathematics, for example. Most “assertive” people are usually trying to please most people. (See note below). One interpretation of assertion is: firm, but polite (implying that aggression is necessarily impolite or hostile; I’d agree). When you start looking at the degree in which a person asserts, the gradient usually darkens towards aggression, unless of course the person is willing to let go of the firmness. This isn’t a case against assertion or a case for aggression. It’s just that it seems that beyond dictionary definitions and human interpretations, assertion has little meaning.

Assertion, then, is possibly a defence against aggression. And when assertion does not work, aggression, possibly its only escape

Note: I have stricken out that line, since it was out of context. That’s my mistake in presentation. It was  in reference to aggression, where the aggressor does not care about the person facing the aggression.

Gender Mathematics

A woman has to work twice as hard to prove she is half as good.

This (or something to that effect) is a soft-board pin-up I saw first on desk of a colleague, many years ago. I was amused at first on the mathematical play on the words of a socio-philosophical statement. I didn’t pay much attention to it after that for a long time. I think she removed that poster-let from her soft-board a few days later. I used to admire her work then, I still do, but unfortunately we don’t work together anymore.

I once thought of it when a friend and I were digging up old memories. I mentioned to him about that pin-up. I wondered if she was as good at her work because she actually tried doubly hard. If she did, the effort didn’t show. We didn’t know about that for sure; we were sure however that most of us who had the good fortune of working with her, respected her.

A few weeks ago, I heard this maxim again from yet another colleague whose work I have come to admire and respect. This time, it didn’t amuse me and I said that this quote was written by someone who was against women. There were back-and-forth defensive arguments from a couple of other female colleagues who had joined the ‘conversation’. It’s true, I was told, and I wouldn’t understand, because I was a man. Maybe its just me, but I felt a hint of accusation in that statement.

And that’s a premise in an argument that you can never beat, or at least, I haven’t found a counter argument for being a man.

Very recently I ended up working with three very smart and intelligent women. It was sheer pleasure working with them and be in the company of intelligence for a whole day. It was nothing short of inspiration. This misleading mathematical premise against women in the workplace has been doing the rounds in my head, since then.

Intelligence, creativity and knowledge is gender-agnostic. A workplace may not be, but environments should not affect the very basis of who you are.

Piccadilly Gold Statue - 2

And I can only feel anger and disgust at the person who coined that maxim. It may have been true for her situation and circumstance (and of course I am making the assumption that it was constructed by a woman, possibly in the inequality days). I do not know when this was written and under what circumstances. But this statement has done more damage, than it has helped women. To those who it applied to, it offered the sanctuary of covering oneself in a victim complex, but most of all it infected those who didn’t deserve this dogmatic aphorism. I know a few who escaped the clutches of this dragging thought; some did not.

And it’s to those I address this post.

Don’t. You don’t have to prove anything.

The Burden of Faith

Paul Simon to the rescue again.

I had a conversation very recently (perhaps my previous post was heard by someone up there). It was not the casual conversation that one has over a beer or a coffee. It wasn’t even meant to be a conversation. It was meant to be a discussion.

I don’t remember who said it, but there’s someone in this world who doesn’t like the word discussion. He said, the word discussion has an element of friction to it. It rhymes, even, with concussion. I don’t like the word – discussion – either. But when you aren’t having a conversation, you have a discussion. I digress.

The discussion did turn out to be a conversation.

About faith.

I saw faith in a very different light. I saw it negatively.

Keep the Faith - 5

It’s one thing to have faith in someone. That is a good sign of your being human; a good human. And I speak not of the blind faith that fogs our society and our vision, but simple faith. Faith for the sake of faith – non-transactional.

But isn’t there a flavour of faith that’s necessarily transactional? Why else, would we lose faith? We often hear ourselves telling ourselves how we do not have faith in things and people anymore.

We are careless and quick to make Gods and Demons of humans. We are quicker to make Demons of Gods, and Gods of Demons, when we discover that our faith has been betrayed — whether intentionally or not. Carrying such delicate faith is a burden. It becomes an imposition when it sprouts weeds of expectations. They are dense. They make it heavier. All movement now is bridled to protect this delicate burden. When someone has faith in you, it is useful to find out if you are carrying the weight of it or the value of it. Value is worth it. If it is weight, I’d drop it.

Proof
Some people gonna call you up
Tell you something that you already know
Proof
Sane people go crazy on you
Say ”No man, that was not
The deal we made
I got to go, I got to go”
Faith
Faith is an island in the setting sun
But proof, yes
Proof is the bottom line for everyone

Very few people in this world would ride a horse without reins. To have faith requires from us a lot more than having faith. It means riding a horse without reins, with faith.

Faith can move mountains, if bridled, however, it can also become a mountain.

PS: Blockquoted text in italics, from Proof, by Paul Simon

My Line about Myelin

Exercise.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, that is one word that chases you to the far reaches where you choose to hide. On my blogs, that’s one thing that I am not doing. If my blogs could sing, right now they’d be singing “Sparrow in the Storm”, by Labi Siffre.

In the beginning lives the end
Can the foe become your friend?
Easy answers there are none, though
Frightened grown-ups search for one
In these broken bloody times
We need more than TV smiles
Behind the eyes the door is tight shut
Behind the makeup, just more makeup

It seems, often, what might be important to me may not be of much importance to those who read. Or, I make such a mess of a simple idea, that I complicate it beyond comprehension. Or, it is so important that it cannot be trivialised by putting it up on the blog.

It could be about travel – and that is what this blog was really supposed to be about – physical travel, but it has turned out, I am a really bad travel writer. I think it’s about writing about How to get there and what to do there, but there is enough of pedia-kind-of-sites out there for those sort of things. In some ways, however, this blog is about travel: a different kind.

I wrote about issues. Things that affect us at large, but then, it was vitriolic and spewing rancour at best. It didn’t quite help since I usually felt even more helpless after those posts. It’s not that I am not concerned, but I seem to be less bothered writing about them.

I have written a lot about friends and conversations. Those are the things that I enjoy the most. And it is funny that I haven’t written about meeting two new people in recent times. Each of them deserves a post (at least), so I shall refrain from writing more about that here. But it is quite impossible to write about friends and conversations, because in these days, friends are far and conversations are few.

Perhaps I could write about that.

This time the words aren’t as treacherous as the thoughts that refuse to slide down my hand and make the creative dance with my fingers on the keyboard.

As the birthdays come and go
The more I understand, the less I know
As the birthdays come and go
Only one thing I know

That, write I must, I realise now. Especially after I read this note from Robert Genn.

I should be writing my lines, if I want to build myelin.

There’s Hope!

There are times when things seem so futile.

It is one thing for us to find inspiration, motivation and their other cunning absconding cousins. It is yet another to identify where we stand and what we are getting away from.

For the life of me, I do not remember when I checked my position. My standing was always amniotic-ally swimming between now and later. Where I could go vs. Where I am. What I could do vs. What I am doing. Somewhere between these time-lapse-questions, lie our standards.

Come, visit the imaginative visual gymnasium with me.

At the nadir, you have all that you are, all that you have achieved. All that is a static quality, as Robert Prisig determined. At the zenith is all that you strive for. All you ever wanted.

In the middle, is where you are.

Recently, an allocated and unsupervised work landed on my desk. I once said, “Discrete entities in my environment that practice and promote (and often celebrate) mediocrity are examples that cause disillusionment; de-motivation, and a sense of being stranded.”

No more.

There is reason to believe that there are speckles of genius out there. They may come in small packages or in the most unassuming sort of ways. Yet, one submission from them makes you think that all that you fought for is worth it. I would visualise it this way:

The Mark of PerfectionThe lonely warrior, standing tall in an expansive field of low yellow grass, with his striving sword drawn dripping the blood of all the mediocrity, losing the battle against the vast purposeless armies of pedestrians. Bleeding at his arms and tired at his limbs that hold him erect only because he has purpose and they do not.

Then, as this warrior is about to fall, far from the fading horizon she gallops in to the frame of reference. She has a sword that strives for much more. The sword is capable and sharp. Sharper, longer and with more metal, she wields the sword. The armies watch in horror of the massacre that is to follow, more so because he escapes the weariness.

His sword finds further purpose and conviction.

As much as I dislike the word, there is hope.

I once made a block-quote that not many noticed.

Time Travel

And I continue to look for words. (Scroll, to see the length of the post – long one!)

A quest that will forever be unfulfilled, not because I don’t have words, but because I have no idea which one makes sense, when it is most demanded.

owe |əʊ|verb [ trans. ] have an obligation to pay or repay (something, esp. money) in return for something received : they have denied they owe money to the company | [with two objs. ] I owe you 25 cents.

• owe something, esp. money, to (someone) : I owe you for the taxi.

• be under a moral obligation to give someone (gratitude, respect, etc.) : I owe it to him to explain what’s happened | [with two objs. ] I owe you an apology.

• ( owe something to) have something because of (someone or something) : he owed his success not to chance but to insight.

• be indebted to someone or something for (something) : I owe my life to you.

And I have Jack Johnson singing Belle/Banana Pancakes on my left. And a while ago I just finished watching Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho (SAG, hereafter). The first thing that pierced my head was that children, students, should not watch this film. This should have an A certificate. This is one Adult film, if I have seen one. Mahesh Manjrekar has a great capacity to touch you where it matters with most of his movies. The one thing that, I feel, he cannot control, is the Dus Kahaniayan syndrome. Somehow he feels compelled to tell a detailed story of every peripheral factor in the movie. Except for this fetish of his, I think he makes good movies. SAG, is one of them. I will not be reviewing that movie here, but will be talking about it. Obviously, I will talk about it, so risk the rest of the post at the cost of spoilers. But, be also aware, this post isn’t about the movie as such. Yet it will talk of SAG.

indebted |ɪnˈdɛtɪd|
adjective
owing money : heavily indebted countries.

• owing gratitude for a service or favor : I am indebted to her for her help in indexing my book.

I was looking for words. Before I saw the movie. After, I was exasperatedly looking for words. Because, as much as less you have them, they are the only ones capable of saying what you exactly want to say. I am a slave of words in that sense – because I prefer expressing as close as I can get to what I mean, think, and feel. I had no words. They refused to join my party. I offered them an Indian wine that’s winning awards, to no avail. I wondered why. Then I realised, I can be a slave to words, but words are slave to no one. They are open, free and available, but you have to deserve them; unless you deserve them, they don’t come to you.

debt |dɛt|noun
something, typically money, that is owed or due : I paid off my debts | a way to reduce Third World debt.

• the state of owing money : the firm is heavily in debt.

• [usu. in sing. ] a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor : we owe them a debt of thanks.
PHRASES
be in someone’s debt owe gratitude to someone for a service or favor.

SAG is a good film – that could have been 30mins shorter than the editor imagined it to be worth. What’s it about? Good Q. I can’t really say. It comes across as a criticism of the (apparently harsh) education system that prevails in India. That (apparently) shouldn’t have been in parentheses. It does prevail; the education system. Yes, we have problems. Yes students commit suicides because they are under immense pressures. There must be however, something good about this education system. There must be some reason that the IITians and the IIMians (are they called that?) are successful in a walk of life that you can put a finger on. Three years ago I talked of a dance that wasn’t hugely entertaining. In my personal opinion, we have an education system that is unparalleled; the only thing we are missing is acknowledgement of aptitude.There are careers apart from engineering, medical and accounting & finance. And people can excel in fields other than these three contrived ones. Sports – Sachin Tendulkar. Social Services – Medha Patkar. Fashion – Manish Malhotra. Politics (Pick your name, or leave it blank, who cares?). Point is, if we choose to be successful, we can be.

gratitude |ˈgratɪtjuːd| noun

the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness : she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French, or from medieval Latin gratitudo, from Latin gratus ‘pleasing, thankful.’

But coming back to SAG, to my mind, it has got nothing to do with the problems of education system that is prevalent in this country. We aren’t missing the content – we are missing the context. There is a repetitive dialogue in the movie about the multiplication of 17×7. It’s 119, by the way. Why is 17×7 important or not? What’s the context of the date of the first fort that C. Shivaji captured? Nothing really, if you are anyways going to leave the country and work for an Enron-like-company in the US. You would be better off knowing facts about the Civil War, if at all.

Why?

appreciation |əpriːʃɪˈeɪʃ(ə)n| |-sɪ-|
noun
1 the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something : I smiled in appreciation | she shows a fine appreciation of obscure thinkers.

• gratitude for something : they would be the first to show their appreciation.

• a piece of writing in which the qualities of a person or the person’s work are discussed and assessed.

• sensitive understanding of the aesthetic value of something : courses in music appreciation.

2 a full understanding of a situation : they have an appreciation of the needs of users | the bank’s lack of appreciation of their problems.

3 increase in monetary value : the appreciation of the franc against the dollar.

It’s always about context. Content, you see, is a eunuch, if not in context. Context gives content balls. So what’s the problem of knowing the ATP cycle by heart? I didn’t know why. Let us say I had a choice in choosing what I learnt. Here’s what I would choose: Process of making an FIR at a police station and the fact that an FIR is made in the local language, always; that when my car is dead and people are pushing it, I need to move it in the second gear; co-operative society laws; how to apply for a passport; content law, so that I wouldn’t buy a PS3 that discriminates against Indian buyers; and a million more things that make sense.

acknowledgment |əkˈnɒlɪdʒm(ə)nt| (also acknowledgement)
noun

1 acceptance of the truth or existence of something : there was no acknowledgment of the family’s trauma.

2 the action of expressing or displaying gratitude or appreciation for something : he received an award in acknowledgment of his work.

• the action of showing that one has noticed someone or something : he touched his hat in acknowledgment of the salute.

• a letter confirming receipt of something : I received an acknowledgment of my application.

3 (usu. acknowledgments) an author’s or publisher’s statement of indebtedness to others, typically one printed at the beginning of a book.

But, really, lets come back to SAG. Mahesh Manjrekar wanted this to be a movie bout the ills of the education system that permeate and allegedly threaten our future. While he may have wanted to to also talk of the implications that these have on our society; he probably succeeded with an audience like me.

As people who learn – whatever – we have only one [insert the word that I am yet to find; which is close to but not "obligation"] to the system.

To the parent.

Not to teachers or to the system; but to the parent; if you haven’t realised it as yet; the tallest pillar of the education system in India, at least, is the parent. It doesn’t matter if you have become what your parent(s) wished you to be.

What matters is that they thought that you were the one who would change the world. It doesn’t quite matter if you aren’t the Einstein that they imagined. What matters is the height of their belief. What matters is that we have to achieve only a few inches of the height that they imagined. You see, I have come to believe that they only thought of the ultimate success that we could achieve. Unfortunately they could only think in the limited context that was available to them. It was our problem – that we were pulled into that narrow context. We may not be the doctor or the engineer or the IFS officer that they saw in us. But the day we forget and become blind to the star that they saw in us; we have committed injustice to the purest of dreams and sacrifices.

Have you reached here (in the post)? I commend you. This is the kind of post that never is read. Just like the dream of a parent. Never mind the profession your parent wanted to be in; deep down; only because your parent did not know better, all he (or she) wanted you to be is happy an successful.

respect |rɪˈspɛkt|
noun

1 a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements : the director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor.

• the state of being admired in such a way : his first chance in over fifteen years to regain respect in the business.

• due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others : respect for human rights.

• ( respects) a person’s polite greetings : give my respects to your parents.

2 a particular aspect, point, or detail : the government’s record in this respect is a mixed one.

Talk to them if they are alive or pay homage, if they aren’t. Tell them, that their dreams and yours have become one, and they are on their way. Tell them that their dreams and yours – have understood each other. The content of the dream isn’t important, the context is – and given that they were a generation before you; they will understand.

Some messages travel at the speed of light; and they traverse universes. Say it, today.