Friends As Homing Devices

A peeking rose

 

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this,
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

I read this poem a couple of days ago. Only because I stumbled upon it, while I was reading a book. A book, which I had no idea existed, and discovered it only because I saw a movie, which was recommended to me by a dear friend, which, I would have never watched, if it was left to me. How and why this poem found its way to me, intrigues me. In an amusing way, i.e., not in a way that makes me weave the wool of conspiracy with needles of reason. Ironically, this book had itself alerted me to this phenomenon that I was to soon experience. I had smiled, when I read it; it was cute, but to have experienced the exact phenomenon couple of score pages later, was a revelation, it said:

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

Importantly, the above line ended with, “How delightful if that were true.”

Ah, well, dear author, here is a perfect example of why I believe that books have homing instincts. My time to tell you the story.

*

Time-travel is my favourite movie/series genre. It fascinates me, much. The actual time travel not so much, but the implications of it all. The scientific and the philosophical. Needless to say, all time-travel themed movies and series have been binge-consumed and there is nothing left. I move to the War genre.

Out of the blue, a friend asks, if I have watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I tell her, it has been nagging me on Netflix, but it seems (because of the poster) too mushy for my taste. She urges me to watch it. A few days pass. I do watch it. I love it. I tweet about it. Amit thinks I am talking of the book. I say, no, I watched the film. As gently as he can, he curses my wretchedness, that I haven’t read the book, and Amit being Amit, he explains why. Point well taken. I buy the book. I flip through it. I know, what Amit meant. I start reading the book. It’s enjoyable. Then I stumble upon the homing device statement. I smile. Cute, I say to myself. Then I stumble upon the opening line of a poem, that the character in the book writes of; he doesn’t recall the author. Well, I have Google.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

These are the opening lines of Malcolm Arnold’s “Hymn to Empedocles,” part of Empedocles on Etna. I’ve never heard of Malcolm Arnold the poet before. More Googling ensues. I am reminded of something else, in the book”

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

And suddenly, late as it is, I am reading “Dover Beach. for sheer enjoyment.”

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I feel blessed. I thank my friend who suggested the movie. I thank Amit for making me read the book.

I am grateful to the homing devices, that are my friends.

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Thriving in the Traffic

Traffic jams are frustrating, to say the least. That place, with all the rear red lights, as if lasering with personal malice, directed at your eyes only. The incessant honking, and you honking back just to relive a bit of frustration, just in case that works. Perhaps, the evening traffic jams are the worst ones – when you just want to reach your destination — usually home. Relax, and be with your family. Traffic jams just add to the fatigue of the day gone by.

There cannot be anyone, obviously, who can say that they enjoy traffic jams. In any sense of the word.

Except for these guys.

They’re selling roasted peanuts in tightly packed spires, inverted white cones, ready to temporarily satisfy the hunger of the traffic-jammed, or perhaps the traffic-damned! Rolled up for Rs. 10 or for Rs. 20, dodging the adventurous drivers who are busy changing lanes, for no discernible advantage, but perhaps, for a sense of gratification. Their business model has been fine tuned now, it has been over a year since the Metro construction began.

They know which day of the week, which hour of the evening, at which point, the traffic is at a standstill. They have been smart enough to price these welcome cones of delight that requires minimum exchange. They have the exact change available and are able to dish out the cones and the currency, before you shift from neutral to first. They even have their inventory stocked along the divider, for Mondays and Fridays, when the snail-pace is especially pronounced.

There are, as you may have now realised, people who like traffic jams. Come to think of it, they must be praying for the jams and the continued slow pace of the Metro construction. Four hours of navigating dead slow cars on this damned and cursed highway, is a boon for them. The unfinished Metro pillars are their altars, now.

That’s the industrious face of grit, determination, and opportunity.

Salaam Bombay!

Not in Vain

The first (and the only) time I used the F-word on my blog, was after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. I was pissed, to say the least. I love my country, and I love my city.

My anger had no direction. I did not understand my anger. Was it because these attacks happened? Or was it because I felt helpless sitting in front of the TV, watching it for days. For a long time, I had no way to answer the question. But, I found an answer, eventually.

September 2001, I had the same feeling when the Twin Towers in NY were attacked (my other favourite city). July 2005, London – and I was there in London (my other favourite city). For us, in India, ghastly attacks have become a regular feature. There’s a bigger problem about the frequency.

It is something worse than the attacks, themselves. The frequency causes numbness. Our emotional responses are automated and proportionate to the number of dead people. It’s just numbers, now, not lives. One dead soldier receives less emotional response than forty dead soldiers. Our emotional responses are directly proportional to a number. It is disgusting. Value of a life is competitive. Media houses report it as “biggest since”, as if one attack is more newsworthy than another.

I got stuck in this web of artificial outrage for a while. But my helplessness was out of control. With each cowardly attack, I ended up feeling even more helpless.

I had to do something.

And while it may not make sense to everyone, it did dawn upon me. We have been thinking wrong about what our defence forces do. It seems that they protect the territory, but that is a visible symptom because of their position. These brave men and women are not protecting and safeguarding borders; that — is only their position.

They are safeguarding our way of life.

I am helpless in making the life of my soldiers better, but I am not helpless in making better, what these men and women are protecting. I will:

Keep my city clean
Obey traffic rules
Be an aware citizen
Use my skills to make this country better
Respect all the people around me
Share my knowledge
Offer my time to help

And more.

My soldiers are doing so much for me, this is the least I can do. I will build a better world for them; for they offer me a safe place to build a better world. WhatsApp forwards, Facebook shares, and Twitter outrage is not the way to salute the sacrifices of my soldiers. I will bring it in my discipline to make better, what our soldiers are protecting. Remember, after the aura of being a soldier, they are our family, friends, and neighbours.

Don’t ask others to do the simple things. You do it! Let us start by being an island of one. We’ll join hands, and become a continent.

#Respect for all my brothers and sisters out there in uniform. I don’t know about the others, but I will make better what you protect. Soon enough you will have an army. And you will be proud of us, the way we are proud of you.

#SALUTE. I will become better for you. I hope that you will be as proud of me, as I am proud of you.

May your sacrifice never be in vain.

Say, I Love You

It doesn’t matter who you say it to. If you feel it, you should say it. And that is it. Leave.

Love never dies, except when it is waiting in line. Waiting in line to receive something, anything. A response, mostly. It’s a slow, painful death. But it can be avoided. Just say, I love you, and leave. Love lives and flourishes, when it leaves after saying what it wants to say. And just goes on about its business of loving. There is no taking the high road, there is no ego in love. There is no proving, there is no transaction.

It’s only a feeling
feel it in your spirit
let love be love
name it not anything.

[My very basic attempt at a translation] Which shouldn’t matter. What should matter – is saying, I Love You!

Say it, and be on your way.

All’s Well: Places and Spaces

In this instant; right now; as you are reading this – could you tell me who you are?

Don’t fret, I cannot either. I’d imagine no one can. For if we were put in a spot with question like this – we’d only select a convenient label that is handy, shove it in your face, and say: this! Go away, don’t ask me any more questions. And then, many months later comes that Tuesday. It’s late in the morning, you are home. No one around you; you are cooking eggs in a way that you would never Instagram. It’s almost like it is in the movies, but it is definitely not. The eggs? Oh, they are as un-Instagramable as ever; that is perfect. But you aren’t in a wood cabin overlooking a lake or a river and by yourself, while birds are chirping and the movie-like artificial ambience is of peace.

Mostly, you are on the 12th floor of a road-facing noisy flat or in room No. 7 of chawl that intentionally denies private space.

In a city.

That happy, lonesome Tuesday late morning.

There is incessant honking by those who want to use a feature of their vehicle or the never-ending cackle of gossip and argument. The city offers no respite. Therefore we seek, the mountains of Ladakh or the beaches of Goa. Or an equivalent place.

I wonder, then, if it is places that offer the answers that we seek, or spaces?

Arches

The effort that we make to know ourselves on a beach in Goa is fungible. It is equivalent of an evening in local train in Mumbai going back home. The evening is the same. Are we mistaking places for spaces?

A wood cabin overlooking a lake in the middle of the forest is the same as a dilapidated concrete building overlooking a traffic jam.

If you take a moment to think about it, it is just material.

Of Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

That’s how long I have been blogging. Last year this day, I said, given that I have blogged for so many years, I don’t have much to show for it. I was referring to the number of posts. A year has passed since, and if are to go by numbers, the numbers are worse.

While I have not been writing much, I have read a lot; my blog, i.e. And I am very happy about what I have written. It’s not extraordinary, but it is good. It makes me feel good to read what I have written. That, I suppose is the value of a personal blog.

My relationship with words amuses me the most. I am most curious of how the most abstract emotion, event, or a thought actually transforms to something so discrete as a post. When I read a post, I enjoy how the original abstraction presents itself. In my head, at least. I hope, most of the readers get it too. This blog has helped me elevate how I think, and I am grateful for that.

I can’t promise regular updates, I do not want to promise regular updates.

All I want to say is thank you – to everyone who has helped this blog become what it is. Thank you for the love, appreciation, and acknowledgement.

In Between Imagination and Reality

The last post was almost two months ago.

Interestingly, in these last two months, I have had the most to say. To write, I mean. But, as you have observed, [or have not] – I haven’t written here at all. We often imagine certain dreadful moments; I do, at least – and then, some times, those events actually occur. They are nothing like you imagine. And in between dealing with how those events occur and how you feel cheated, the event passes by. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.

But good things happen too. And we would have imagined them too. And just like the dreadful things, they are nothing that you imagined. Reality is the better cousin of imagination. There’s some healthy rivalry and teasing going on. Reality and imagination. Reality, mostly, winning. We are mere spectators to their act.

You find solace, where you wouldn’t expect to. Not what you imagined, BTW. Reality wins again. Not by a huge margin, though. What you had imagined about friends is true, too. We’ll call this a tie. Life’s surprises never cease. If only we would keep the door open. I am glad, I kept the door open.

These are things that no one can teach you. And while I have been hungry for a teacher, I have had to make do with makeshift teachers. Students are also teachers. Someone who is wading through the muck of life can hardly help you get across. But, they can do one thing: they can hold your hand, and help you move forward together – sharing the uncertainty; living the same fear.

SS, JR, PM, MD, GKMR, NP, and MB.

LearningMate Founders

Thank you for being with me in between the ever narrowing and broadening spaces of the gap of imagination and reality. While we lamented the lack of mentors, I think we did good for each other. We are better because of the shared scrapes on our knees and elbows; and sprained ankles. But our shoulders are strong – and that is what matters; that is what mattered. We sought mentors, but little did we know, we had each other – always – unqualified mentors. And we are better because of that. My reality is trumping my imagination, now. Only because of you all.

May we all shorten the space between imagination and reality!