All’s Well; Halfway There

Those who have been following this blog for while know what this post is about. Having said that, the ‘halfway there‘ is somewhat a misrepresentation, since we never know the measure of the full way. Unless you know the full, you’ll never know the half. Such are some mysteries of life.

All those decisions (and indecisions); the risks and the safeties; the hiding and the showing up, the declining and accepting has lead me here, and the only way these choices can inform me, is how I use it all for the days to come. Each day now seeks to be measured, each moment desires calculation, every ounce of energy is demanding; so much seems to have gone to waste. But, no – nothing goes to waste, really. It all just smiles back at us, philosophically.  It asks no questions, it demands no answers. Even that which has been wasted has contributed in getting us here. Been there; Done that; but there’s more to do.

All’s well.

I’ll Retire

Oh yes, I’ll retire. By itself, to retire is quite obvious. Typically, this implies a government-mandated age at which you stop having/doing a job. I do choose my words carefully: I didn’t say – you stop working; I said – stop having/doing a job. And that is what, often, retirement implies. No more a place to work, no more meeting colleagues five days a week, no more a commute.  Work and job are entirely two different things. A job is a work-bond. And while work may mean a job, it is not necessarily a bond. And it goes on…

Make a two column list: Job/Work, and you will discover the many differences between these two. No, I am not going to help you make that list.

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Whether you choose to have a job or to work, the one thing common is: purpose. Whatever the purpose may be. The purpose of a job may be at a cross-purpose of why you work, but it’s still a purpose. Perhaps temporary. Perhaps circumstantial. Work, however is governed not by these worldly concerns. Work’s purpose emanates from your self; blessed are those few, when the work’s purpose aligns with the purpose of their job. For the rest, it is about doing one thing to gather all that we can to do the other; and therein lies the trap (for a few).  The means rule and the end is lost, making it an endless journey of means without an end. There is no universal number which is a stop sign, so we just plod along.

Perhaps the marker of that endless journey is not a number, it is a date, irrespective of the number. And because I have mastered the art of stating the obvious, I can tell you – there is no way to know, if we have reached the number or the date.

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Working Hands

Who is to say that someone should retire at 38, 48, 58 or 68? There is no basis for it (apart from a generalised average), apart from casting aspersions on an age group. These numbers, depending on where you live, are just assumptions that you can no more do your job. They are not indicators of, if you can work.

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Jobs have limits; work does not.

Don’t Kill the Conversation

Pay It Forward (2000) was it. That was the movie we were going to see that evening. We didn’t choose that movie. That was the movie that conveniently playing near a theatre where we were. We wanted to experience cinema-going in Singapore. Twenty-one years ago, we thought of Kevin Spacey only as a good actor. We did not know anything else.

Movie-going rules and etiquettes differ by country, and that is what we were experiencing. We were early, and ended up being in the theatre long before the movie started. A conversation about the genres of Rock music ensued. Acid, Metal, Classic, Grunge, and such. My friend patiently explained to me the nuances of rock music. On his behest, I had heard a few songs of the different genres, So I asked him a few questions. I wasn’t impressed by what little I had heard of Acid. I heard him attentively. Tried and understand the nuances. The origin; the emotion. The technical aspects; the theory. At the end of the 15 minutes, I still did not like Acid. Or Grunge.

The movie started.

One thing, I clearly remember – at the end of the conversation and for a long time after that. I have never been angry with Acid Rock or Grunge Rock. I have never hated that genre. I was indifferent. I just did not listen to it. This friend of mine exposed me to quite a few things that would have otherwise never entered my realm of acknowledgement. I am grateful for that. Some of those things have become an integral part of my life; some have been considered and ignored, and forgotten.

We’ve never necessarily agreed on everything. Yet, we have never ceased to expose each other about our learning and discoveries. We’ve had serious differences in opinion over the years. And every difference has resulted in just more conversation.

All this preamble, only to set stage for two things.

One: I quite miss intelligent conversations and intelligent arguments from many of my friends. There is no dearth of intelligent people, for sure. They have just become difficult to access.

Two: there is too much hatred governing any discourse these days. Hatred is essentially blinding. As humans we are apt to judge, and judge we must, else we will consume anything and everything that is served to us. It is a facility available to us that allows us to discern, discriminate; it’s a survival instinct. Hatred is when we focus on that which does not make sense to us. Hatred is when we are consumed less by what we like, and more by what what we dislike.

I have (tried to and with some success) stopped using the word “hate” in written and oral language for a long time now. It helps me direct my dislike or my indifference.

Everyone is angry. But, not for the same reason. Anger, you would think is a primary emotion (I don’t know this for a fact) – but even anger has become subservient to hatred.

“I will be angry only of those things that I hate. Even if there are other things, that I should truly be angry about, but because I do not hate them, I will not be angry about them. Let me focus my anger on things that I hate”

That’s where the conversation dies.

We need time to have fruitful conversations, time to seriously consider other PoVs. Time to churn our thoughts. A mind filled with hatred is a blind mind; it refuses to see.

I am an Adult Blog

I am 18 today.

Depending on where you are in the world I can/cannot: join the armed forces, marry, drink, vote, and such. But that’s for you humans – I am just a blog that has been around for eighteen years. I’d love to tell you the story of my life; getting to this stage. But then, if you have been following me for a while, you already know. And if not, there’s too much of a story, and this post is about my birthday; my 18th birthday.

The last few years, I haven’t said much. My author has had good excuses for the last couple of years, but for the few years before, the excuses are quite lame. Wasteful consumption is so much easier than creation. In this year alone, I have posted just about a decimal more than a post per month. There I go talking of stats. Doesn’t matter. Does the granularity of consistency matter? Or does the granularity also need to have a consistency? While I have been not consistent for a while – I have not given up hope. My author’s fatigue is artificial, borrowed, and somewhat imposed. I am young, in my teens, (an adult, sort of) – but when my author’s fatigue is natural, owned, and accepted, I guess, that will be the death of me. The fact that my birthday was almost forgotten, yet, here we are celebrating it, gives me hope that I can look forward to life.

As an adult, life ahead may look very different, and as long as we publish, it will be a life.

I look forward to it! Happy 18th to me!

Right/Wrong

In our mind, we have a version of right and wrong. People around us, who know us, have their version. The world has its own understanding. And then, you have the universe — that’s a different version altogether. Us, them, and the universe. These are the three layers. Looking at events in our lives, each layer throws up a different answer; a different suggestion.

I use the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ broadly and loosely; it could well mean should/shouldn’t or deserved/undeserved or fair/unfair, and such pairs. Mostly, its about “fair/unfair.”

The universe doesn’t give you any more than what you deserve, and no earlier than you deserve it.

Adages, like the above, keep us grounded, and temper our sense of right and wrong. Whether the adages are “right or wrong” we will never know, because our sense of “right/wrong” is very personal; very contextual — it’s not universal.

The laws of man are difficult to follow (but we must, for they are the only tangibles) but they contradict with our personal sense of right and wrong. The laws of the universe are difficult to comprehend; even if they seem pacifying and are philosophically sane.

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Back at my blog after a long time. Happy to be here [HUGS]

A Post for All Ages

How do you write a post about age without giving away your age? Let this post be an example. Of success or failure. (I have a feeling, it will fail — and give away my age. Not that I am trying to hide it; but you will know soon, after you finish reading it.)

Age is a number, age is an attitude, age is such and such. We have read enough about age. The good, the bad, the ugly; some we have happily ignored, some we took to heart. For me, age is all about what the person in front of you sees. Irrespective of your age on the calendar – we live multiple “ages” in a day or a week. We all are literally all ages. At the same time. It is all about participation.

To be clear – I am not calling out anybody – whatever your age may be. As long as you are happy participating the way you are – all is well; e.g. 40s being 30s; 50s being 20s, 30s being 50s – whatever works for you, as long as you are happy. All our circumstances, all our choices are the reason where we are. Some circumstances were imposed, some choices weren’t even choices. And we are where we are. This combination of circumstance and choice: some we grudgingly accepted, some we ignored, some we resisted, some were thrusted, some we surrendered. We don’t always win. But win or lose – we’ve dragged the residue, all our life.

And in this surrender and resistance, we’ve found a life. An ageless life.

So, while the calendar can give us a number, our age is a summation of our experience with circumstance and choice. What will never be clear is the number that our age sums up to. Oh, he is just like he was when he was sixteen or She is proper fifty is just our way of responding to our circumstances and choices.

But circumstances and choices are personal; they are unique. And a calendar age as benchmark of behaviour is an incorrect benchmark. You get to a common calendar age, when you don’t have 3AM friends, of the same calendar age, and you get to an age where those who are awake at 3AM aren’t interested in being your 3AM friends. Sweet sixteen doesn’t always mean sweet sixty. In any case it is not about 3AM  – it is about 3PM, 6PM, 10AM, or whatever AM or PM you choose. Availability matters.

Age does not matter. The closest combination of circumstance, choice, and context matters. Being in school for two or ten years doesn’t matter, meeting someone for the first time does not matter, working together for ten years does not matter. Just one evening of respect matters. Just one evening of love matters. Just one evening of conversation matters.

We may look at the calendar and call ourselves and others young or old; but our true age will always be a factor of our response to circumstance and choice. And that’s how “old” we will always be.

The Terrain Should Change

Heard the writer’s block mentioned a while ago, after a long time. I am not stranger to the block having faced it many times before. I don’t have a writer’s block anymore. I don’t write anymore. No writing, no block.

Ironically, I have written quite a lot about the writer’s block. Go figure.

So I sent a few pictures along to a friend, which would serve as inspiration (a trigger, actually) that would get the thought-mill churning. I don’t know if it has worked; we’ll get to know in good time.

For me, a writer’s block is when you feel like writing something, but nothing spills on the paper (or screen, as the case may be). When you don’t feel like writing there isn’t a block. It’s just that — no will to write. It is a peaceful and a clean state of mind. You aren’t agitated about not writing, and you are not dishing out a senseless combination of half-baked thoughts and ideas — just to fill the pages or the bytes.

All this while that I have not been writing, I have become a voracious consumer of the written word. No, not books, but the social, shared word; the truncated thought that is almost our birthright. In recent times, however, I cannot make sense of the social word. Satire, sarcasm, facts, opinions, curses, and conflict have become the mainstay of the social word, indistinguishable from each other.

I still do read books, but just like my writing, I don’t really feel like it. (There are exceptions, of course). The hobby, had transformed from reading books, to accumulating books. Paper books, i.e. I took my mother’s advice (which, in retrospect sounded like a veiled threat; but was sage advice) that unless I complete reading three paper books, I wasn’t to buy a new one. I live in Mumbai. And in a city where people don’t have space to live, a thousand books should not take up space, any more than they should.

I continue to buy ebooks. (They have tendency not to occupy physical space and reveal themselves, to my Mom). And these ebooks are being read, of course, at a snail’s pace. And just like writing, I do not feel the need to complete them. I will of course. Someday.

At this stage a question may be creepily inching up – where is he going with this?

Well, nowhere, actually. Just like my reading or writing. Nowhere. While I didn’t plan it – I am enjoying the old adage – the journey is the destination. Enjoying the adage, not necessarily enjoying the journey; it feels thorny, barren, monotonous, and tiring. It’s been a while now, the terrain should be changing soon.

Perhaps, if I’d write more, read more…

If You Have Nothing Nice To Say…

This is a typical life-governance policy that some of us have inherited from our parents:

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.

Some may refer to this as a part of the middle-class value commandments. Time passes. Parents who instilled these values are no more, or can no more force us to practice these values, and our general frustration and anger — starts finding a voice. Seeing those around us freely and easily voicing their opinions as they see fit; without any consideration of being nice; makes us question (and slowly discard) those values.

It may start with what looks like a timid response of disagreement, and slowly and surely – transforms into a not-so-nice response from us.

Closed Windows, Punjab, India

What happens when someone says something that is wrong, incorrect? Do you still keep quiet? Because often, to correct someone is usually considered impolite. What if it is feedback? How someone receives criticism is unpredictable. And how they respond to criticism or feedback, may make you question yourself.

The next question that arises is, whether everything that is said in this world needs correction and feedback? Especially, if unsolicited. The struggle is real! From lame WhatsApp forwards to serious articles by well-known think-tanks, the struggle is real.

At different times in my life, I have “pendulumed” to both extremes; neither extreme has provided me the answer to whether I should stick to my inherited values or to discard them.

And I have decided, the the answer lies in understanding the hierarchy of value that you inherit or adopt. In this case, the governing value for “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything” is “Pick your battles.”

Because if you do not “pick your battles,” then “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything” is just a blunt and ineffective strategy of response.

Pick your battles. Respond only to those that you choose.

Enough, Enough Now: Part 2

Happiness is a choice.

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That sentence is easy to state. Easily stated by the person who thought of that. It is definitely a choice, but you should need to make the choice to be happy. Else, that sentence is just a collection of sequenced words. For some, the meaning of that sentence is obvious; we can relate to to it; and we can make it our own. For others, it’s a process: of discovery.

For some it may be a straight road; for others it is a convoluted journey over mountains, through rivers, and across valleys, discovering what choices we have. Choices are seldom evident. Choices don’t always present themselves as choices. They often take the garb of experiences, and then it is not just a job of choosing. You have to live through the experiences. Only then we realise what that camouflaged choice means. We run the risk of romancing the experience – and then, it is no more a choice.

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Deeper and deeper in the experience we go. We become the experience and the experience becomes us. And somewhere, in this, the top stops spinning. (Shout out to Inception (2010)). Whether you exit, depends on whether you see it stop, or not.

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I have seen the top stop and tumble on the table. And I am ready to exit. I have been happy before. And I wasn’t for a while. Because I was exploring choices. And therein I tumbled into experiences. Specific experiences. Was excited at those experiences, lived a life around them, but I wasn’t happy. I was angry. I was upset. And it took me a while to realise that there was no matter to the anger. It was empty. Anger is as good an energy as any other emotion. That energy kept me going. But, I said: Enough, enough now. Whatever be the nature of the experiences, I am choosing to be happy. I know now, I do not want to dwell there.

I have just started on this journey, so, I have no evidence of how it works and where it ends. I can tell you for sure, though, that those angry experiences have been left behind.

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Happiness is a choice. All those angry experiences have helped me choose better. And I have chosen happiness.

Don’t Hate

A few years ago, I chose to remove the word “hate” from my usable vocabulary. Which instantly raised the question – how I would express that extreme emotion. So I invented phrases that were equivalent, while not using the h-word. Well, not invented – they were always up for grabs and in vogue.

Sort of. Intense dislike; utter disgust; absolute abhorrence, and such. Using these phrases allowed me, or so I imagined, to qualify my degree of disagreement. That is what “hate” is actually. It is a degree of disagreement — the extreme degree of disagreement.

Hate is blinding. And, while quantifying adjectives may just seem to be an exercise in creative writing, I prefer that. Because there is no adjective that ever qualifies hate. It’s extreme, it is absolute. Hate is point of no return.

Hate is like standing at the edge of a cliff and refusing to turn back. Refusing to look at anything other than the drop. Qualified adjectives may give you a chance to turn around, look for options. Hate does not. It may seem like an exercise in word-smithery, but it is not.

I hate the way hate consumes us (OK, yes, for effect, I am using the h-word). It shuts our mind to possibilities. To options. To Truth, that we may not have experienced before; to Truth that was no available to us. Hate extends. From one thing to one person, to one concept, to a thought. Hate is a dark, sticky envelope. Ever-ready to engulf.

Love is not hate’s ‘necessary’ or ‘automatic’ antonym or antidote. Love/hate are not obvious antonyms — if you take the time to think about it. Proper, relevant, and topical adjectives, paired with appropriate synonyms of disagreement is what will bring us back from the abyss (or cliff; #YouPrefer)

Disagree till the cows come home; be disgusted vehemently.

But don’t hate.

A Social-Media Experiment Unravels

This post is premature. By a day. But, I’ll allow it. The advantage of having your own blog! Rules assume the garb of guidelines, when you want them to.

I have ranted often of what I am now writing about, today. The topic is not new, the emotion has been experienced often. The content, perhaps has a fresh flavour or a tantalising twist.

As of tomorrow, I have been away from three social networks that I used to indulge in, regularly — for a working month. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I was mostly a consumer on all three, while creating some content on Facebook and Twitter. YT was pure consumption.

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Little over a month ago, I finished reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport — I was amused by the directness of a Chapter Title — “Quit Social Media” — but I read it nevertheless. This post is not a review of the book, nor do I want it to be. After a while you pick and choose your battles — like writing a review of a book. A star rating is enough to describe where you stand.

Of the many reasons mentioned in “Quit Social Media” – the one that intrigued me the most was the question: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you, if you do not post. YT didn’t fall in that category, because I never created any content on YT.

Twitter also did not matter much, because a decent percentage of my followers started following me, because of a random tweet in a timeline of years, which appealed to them. They stayed followed, but never ever interacted after that one tweet. Most Twitter connections (other than my actual friends) are connections of convenience.

Facebook was the one I really wanted to put to the test of: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you.do actually know all (ah, ok, most!) of my connections on FB. In recent years, I was never a prolific poster – but I was irregularly regular. What would happen if I stop? Armed with a commandment from Cal Newport’s book, I took the step. Changed my profile picture — showing my back, looking away, to all my FB friends. Changed my cover photo to a metaphorical chain (smart, eh?). And just stopped posting.

For ten days since that day, I religiously did not open any of the three sites, web or mobile. But, what if Cal was wrong? What if in the ten days gone by, people were missing me? So, I did some soft cheating; I did not post anything still, but went and checked who was missing me.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

//INSET

The mobile phone innovation came to us in the late 90s. Even before that – basic telephony was costly and cumbersome. It was cheaper to meet-in-person according to convenience. 50p and 1Re coins jingled in our pockets. In 2021 coins have almost gone out of circulation, and 1Re coins cant get you anything worthwhile. We used to make 3-min calls, without any niceties, conforming time, place, and Plan B’s.

For me a phone has always been about name, place, and time. Most of friends and relatives do not understand; I have a low tolerance for conversation on a phone. The real engagement happened when I met the named person at a time in a place that we we had planned for. Face to Face.

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So, some people had liked my profile picture, with my back turned to them. No comments, no questions. Cal Newport was winning. On Twitter there was one mention, purely circumstantial; work-related. I didn’t even bother about YT.

I developed a 10-day-itch, so I continued to soft-cheat every ten days.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

(One day, I liked a photo that a cousin had posted; sheer muscle memory. #FAIL) #Sigh! I totally OUCHed myself!

In just a month long social-media rehab, I feel cured; or at least on the way to a cure.

For sure, however, not a cure from friends. For Sure. It’s a cure from the network. It’s like mistaking the map for the territory; or forest for the trees. Something like that. Specifically, it is a cure from the compulsions of the network. A networked connection does not automatically mean friendship. Not every network enables conversations (if they would, they would have greater opportunities of data mining and targeted advertising!)

[Damn! I should not have given them that idea. But, chances are, they have already exploited it.]

I have not lost touch with my friends because of my absence on social networks. In fact, I am speaking with them more often. On a mobile phone that does not weigh as much as a construction brick. Pandemic and all, that is the best we can do today. I no longer feel the need to post my crappy humour, unoriginal ideas, ill-formed opinions, and angry rants on these social networks anymore. I have not lost the feeling; I just do not feel a need to post it. (WhatsApp/Other IMs are an exception, because they are more intimate; but I think I shall conquer that, in good time)

Finally, this post; about social networks and social media – is not a rant. It’s a happy experience of not experiencing everything that is fed to you.

#JOMO.

As an early-70s kid, it has brought back a happiness that I knew and related to.

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Life’s better when it is small and full; rather than being big and empty.

A Musical Schizophrenia

There’s always one song — a crass, inelegant one. The genre doesn’t matter, the period does. Almost always this will be a song from when you were young. Perhaps in your early college days; a little more than three decades ago. (Needless to say, if you are still in college, or if you are just out; this won’t make sense to you.)

It is your favourite song. Still.

30 years ago, people around you, agreed with you. It was the best, they echoed. 30 years later, you dare not say it loud: I love this song. Most of us mature in our taste of music; some of us do not. It’s not something to apologise for. It is however, something not worth advertising.

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I may have said this before. I lost my iPod Classic during travel, a few years ago; it’s been a while. Since then, the music experience has never been the same. Music, movies, books, have to be possessed – the cloud does not cut it. Imagine painstakingly tagging over seven thousand songs in your own way, and not being able to access your music in the way that you want to.

Discontinuing the iPod Classic is the worst thing that Apple did. Not that they care, but I will never forgive them for that.

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I’ve lost my religion. I have to get back to Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel. True salvation lies in their words and their strings. For me. I do not know about you.

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Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them.
Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.
I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.
The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love.
My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.

~ Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

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My life’s so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears

 

Of Tools and Skills

Advertisers are really smart people.

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Calligraphy pens, circular saws, digital pencils, 4-wheel drive vehicles, to-do apps, are a few examples I can think of. All of these tools and widgets are easily available to most of us today. One or four clicks on a website and they are available to us. We see the advertisement for it, and we want it. Because the advertisement shows how easy it is to use any of these tools. Of course, the advertisers don’t say that you will need some sort of a skill before you can use this tool.

Possessing a tool does not a craftsman make.

The tool doesn’t assure skill. It enables a skill. It will help you hone a skill; you have to have the basic skill, however.

Calligraphy pens don’t enable good handwriting. If you have the patience, focus, and ability to write well, a calligraphy pen will help your handwriting look artistic — perhaps even elevate your handwriting. If you do not have an understanding of brush-strokes, colour — using a digital pencil in a digital drawing app isn’t going to enable you to create a masterpiece. What use is a 4WD vehicle for you, if you do not know how and when to engage the front or the back wheels (Transmission?)  (Pardon me on the vehicle example, I really have no idea how a 4WD vehicle works.) But indulge me for a moment – isn’t it glorious to imagine taking a vehicle off-road, over rocky and rough places and feeling the rush of an adventure of driving on a surface that isn’t a road?

That’s why advertisers are smart people. They know what you feel; they zero in on that. They have 30 seconds to tell you the story, so, they have to edit – and tell you the most important things. About the tool. Advertisers are in the business of selling ‘tools’. The skill: you have to acquire yourself. They do not get the time to tell you, that if you do not know basic carpentry – there’s nothing worthwhile you can do with a circular saw.

Let it be known, I do not bemoan advertisers, at all. For those of us who have the skill to use these tools, advertisers do us a service of letting us know of the ways and means of honing our skill. It takes months, if not years to even acquire a skill, forget mastering it. It is up to us to decide which tool serves us the best, at what time, and for what purpose.

“The tool can do only as much as the skill allows. The skill can be honed, only as much as the mind can train. The mind can train only as much as the heart believes.” 

From an Old Post

Acquisition of a tool is not acquisition of a skill.

All’s Well: The Intersection

Something that I had once said, came true today. I am happy, because I was/am right. I am sad, because I did not want it to be right.

Not all intersections are indicators of long and shared journeys. Intersections are opportunities; but some are just that: intersections. We may believe that an intersection may make me change my direction and walk with you, or an intersection may make you change your direction and walk with me. It may happen even; but not always, and not at every intersection. Sometimes intersections are only intersections. Enjoy them, and move along your path. An intersection is only a milestone of what was lost or what we let go.

Your opportunity may be waiting at the next intersection. Or not.

BWSL Mumbai

And intersections are lively. They are fun, they are entertaining. But we have to be on and away on our journey. An intersection is a stop; the opposite of a journey. Every intersection prolongs your journey; so be wary of intersections.

As long as you keep walking, all’s well.

A Sense of a Presence: #Anthem 20

My uncle, father’s brother, once accidentally called our landline, a few days after my father’s death. My uncle heard a recorded message — in my father’s voice on the answering machine. Needless to say it was a jarring experience for him, and I heard it from him years later.

What do you remember? Is it the voice; a name, or a face?

Almost twenty years have passed since my father passed. Frankly, I remember not his face or his voice. I often try and feel his physical presence. If I try, I could construct memories; but that’s inorganic. When family get’s together, there is a sense — a shared one — and memories play tricks on us; tease us almost.

Over two decades I have had friends who have lost a parent or parents. And my unqualified message to them is just this: It may take whatever time; but you will forget. You will forget the face, the voice. The presence will dilute. It does become easier, with difficulty. After twenty years, how you remember will change: tears will be smiles. How we remember, changes.

Each fragment of a memory; and there will only be fragments; will bring a smile to your face instead of tear in your eyes. The pain will never ever go away; but eventually you will learn to manage it. Some random Thursday afternoon it will sting you suddenly like the end of the world. And suddenly enough you will smile. God has given us equal strength to remember; and an equal strength to forget. (This theory of the power to remember/forget is not mine – I got it from another Uncle of mine)

Here is what the opening lines of this song are:

My name will be lost
My face will change
My voice is my only identity
If, you would recognise it

This song is for people who are alive. For me, this is the 20th song in the series. And it is a non-Anthem. In any case #Anthem has outlived its time, since the originator of this Tag is long gone. Am not doing any more #Anthems. I may embed music videos for other reasons

Photographs help. Stories from spouses and siblings help. Friends can tell vivid stories. But the absence of the person stings — in various degrees at various times. Twenty years later, it hurts but the pain isn’t there.

Twenty years later there is a remainder; a sense of a presence. And that is enough; even as memories dilute.

All the forgotten moments, all the conversations, all the arguments, all the fights, all the affection, all the advice: It is all enough to be together.

Forever.

#Mumbai: And I Love You So…

There is a romance of the idyllic village.

Not a constant; a fragmented romance. In between the moments of a busy life, we feel it, want it, yearn it. Is it ever real? Or do we just want to get away from it all? An escape. Some of us can make the escape true too – even if, for a weekend. But that is the largest real fragment that is ever offered to us city folks.

Even the largest fragment, the weekend, is often fragmented. It is never a continuous experience. The shards are large enough for us to imagine it romantic; that is all that the weekend offers.

And I wonder.

Do places — the cities vs. the country, make a difference? Do cities consume us differently than the countryside. Is boredom about wanting to do different things or having more time than we can spend? And forget romance; what about love? Does one trump the other?

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There is a love for this city that I cannot let go. If and when we sit and argue — we will list the shortcomings of every place. But that would be such an academic exercise of worthlessness. An exchange of ugly facts; so bereft of emotion! And while facts have their own rightful place, they whither when confronted by love: unconditional love.

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I was recently asked to consider moving away from Mumbai. #WorkFromHome is the new norm – would it be so bad moving to a quiet place?

No, it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d like it for a few days, but, again, I wonder — would it be good forever? For that which has not come to pass, I can only dread. I could romance it even, but, I wonder — would it be true love?

But I have loved; it is within me. Perhaps a chance for the idyllic romance is due.

My love isn’t going anywhere. I am.

A Hashtag Retires

I single-handedly trended the hashtag — #ThisDayThatYear in 2020. Needless to say, I have no data to backup my claim, so I am going ahead and claiming it. In any case, I don’t see any others claiming it.

One of the recurring themes of 2020 was rehashing memories. Good times spent with friends and family, traveling, or the sheer fun that was consumed in the past years when life was normal. Because what was otherwise considered as normal, was not possible most of 2020, almost everyone became nostalgic with what was; a hark back and an intention, simultaneously.

Most social networks now have a “Memories” section, which remind of what you did on the same day the previous year or even years, and because we didn’t have anything new to post — old posts were regurgitated with consistent frequency. In terms of posting photographs, 2020 was the year of (a) recycled photographs, and (b) indoor photography.

Of the first category, I noticed that a majority of recycled memories were of people being with people, with callbacks that all sounded like “Oh, what a great time we had!” Even if the photos were of empty roads or lonesome mountains — they reminded of travels with people. Whether or not the photos had people in them, they were of people.

Of the second category, most photographs were of what we could see, standing at a boundary; looking out. Doors, windows, streets, garden flowers, and such. If you looked closely, these images described the border that a photographer did not cross, during this time. They were really selfies, taken with the back-camera. Whether or not the photos had people in them, they were of people.

Cameras, cars, trains, roads, places, and conversations were perhaps as despondent as we were, as our myriad intersections transformed to an isolation.

I am now looking to trend the hashtag — #ThisDayThisMoment

The Story of Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago, when I wrote my first post, without any idea what I was getting into and how how far I wanted to take it – I gave a very short advisory about carrying cash, if you travel to Konkan. The next post came much much later. And then slowly, but surely I found my writing rhythm, which has continued to this day, with all the highs and lows one would expect in any seventeen-year relationship. In a high, there is not much to think of – you go with the adrenaline-fuelled flow. It’s the lows that get you thinking.

You tend to seek the past highs as they were – and try and replicate them. But no high is like the other. The construct, the motivation, the experience, the quantity and concentration of the adrenaline – is all different. It is impossible to make the same concoction again. The lows become lower.

Needless to say, a high, with a different cocktail soon comes over, and you are good to go, once again.

That has pretty much been the story of my seventeen years of blogging. Quite a bit of the writing has been about my thoughts and ideas, but a large part has been about my experiences – translated, protected, or reflected upon. And each experience was a result of an adventure. Those adventures are responsible for most content here, on the blog. And, those adventures happened because I said – YES!

As I look back at the lows of my blogging rhythm, I discover that almost all those times were when I said no to an adventure. For a few, I had good reason, but not for all. But I don’t think the reasons matter – irrespective of the reason (unless it’s about your safety) it’s usually a good idea to say yes. I recently went through such a time when I was called upon to do something that I wasn’t particularly interested in, but I did it anyway – in spite of an utter discomfort. I imagined it would be one off, so I thought, I’d just get it out of the way and be done with it. And I did. Without warning, however, it has set me on a path that I am now very curious about, and I believe I will enjoy it. It has a faded scent of a concoction I have had a long time ago; yet is absolutely fresh (and frightening) and exciting. Where it will lead me, I do not know – and that is the best part of it!

From the “Keep the Faith” Series, Atul Sabnis

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In the last few years, I have done a disservice to my readers, I feel. The frequency is down, the mood is depressing, and the tone is dark. Like the long-high of 2013-15, the time between 2017-20 has been a long low. Yet, many of you have always been here, often silently waiting, perhaps – for the high, that I have been waiting for.

Thank you all for all the love and generosity for all these years!

End of Things

All good things come to an end. All bad things do, too, apparently. In short, all things come to an end.

And that’s the nature of things. But how do they?

#I

Some things end abruptly. Without warning – like sudden death. One fine Tuesday morning – while everything is as normal as it seems; in less than a few minutes, things end. A world that you always assume is there, is no more. It changes. There is nothing you can do; you live with the change.

# II

Some things end with an alert. I am ending; I am going away; I will be no more. There is denial and acceptance, at the same time. This worse than #I, in a sense. The wait is the worst. The rubber-band of of hope and dread; but the alert is clear and confident. And it dies.

#III

Some things just end. No warning. No alert. While there is a way we can deal with #I or #II, there is no way to deal with #III. Because you do not know! It just dies a death. It’s in your face – it is obvious and not. It’s like participating in a slow death; only you do not know.

#III is the worst.

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#I and #II have ashes. #III is vapour.

It’s never about death; it is always about the pain. Pain is personal. There isn’t a pain that is better than an another.

Death is temporary; pain is permanent.

To Be Alive

Often, I have wished to be young and alive in the 70’s. Those of you have read my posts for a while will know. Recently, I have been thinking, maybe, it was the 60s when I should have been young and alive. I would have lived a life which otherwise, no one had noticed. But what if I would have the chance to work with Anant Mane or Guru Dutt?

Imagine seeing everything in colour but making everything in black and white. The contrast of mossy green or blood red. The brightness of a lemon yellow vs. yellow ochre. The limitation of not seeing the effect of colours in black and white. The absence of digital; and therefore that ability to correct in real-time.

The limitation required imagination. Inherent in that imagination – it required belief – of what is beautiful. I have a few friends who are well-versed in the art of cinema. My on going question is this: How much of a scene is a director’s choice, and how much of it is fluke. How much of the scene is happenstance, and how much ‘extra’ are we reading in? Was the ‘extra’ the intention, or are we, as fans, fanning it?

There is only one way to know. I should have been young in the 60s.

Plus the assumption, that I would be involved with the film industry. Too much to ask? Ah, well, we are imagining here; why limit it?

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But here we are in 2020s. Technology is much superior than that was available in the 60s. Or, the 70s. I can create a criss-cross of a bamboo wall or a library of books, adjust contrast, and manage exposure, and make a few other 100 adjustments. That’s easy. With the right software.

Software will never, however, substitute imagination. To think contrast. To think colour in black and white. To know how light plays.

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To be alive, is not to wish you were alive in a decade. To be alive, is to create the decade, when you are alive.