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.

//Inset

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.

Reclaiming Pleasure

I completed reading a book the other day.

(No, not this book.)

Normally, this would not have been news. Definitely not bloggable. I used to read a lot and often. Like writing, something broke, and I didn’t read a book for a long time. I didn’t stop reading; articles, documents and such were still being consumed voraciously; but a book didn’t figure in the list.

Clearly there is a loss of patience to go through the book. From deep within, there is a constant nagging that seeks finishing the book. The remainder of the pages on the right hand is a daunting task. Desperately waiting to increase the pages in the left hand.

It doesn’t help that others are reading so many books and so frequently. What should work as motivation creepily transforms into competition.

What should be pleasure, becomes a chore.

#NotesToSelf

Being Bloggable

The lockdown experience has been different for different people. Some have made most of it investing their time in learning new skills, in reading, painting, singing, and various other things. For some it has been difficult managing time between work, children loss of usual domestic help and such. Positive and not-so-positive experiences across the spectrum. There are a few who have just come to a standstill. Waiting for it to get over. There is no ‘one way’ to ride through the crisis, rules, circumstances, people, plans, responsibilities: all will alter our response to the crisis in some form or the other.

For me, personally, it has been the lack of experiences, because of the limitation of travel. And while a commute is not exactly travel, even the loss of the commute, means the loss of much of visual and other stimuli that may trigger a memory, a thought, an experience. And if that stays with you for a while, it becomes something bloggable. I haven’t used the word bloggable in a long time. Perhaps nothing has felt bloggable in a long time.

And this post is about that!

The Silent Shout

The Bum and I spoke recently. On phone. Neither of us feel the compulsion to use video, when we speak. Never felt it.

In these times, when almost everything seems to go sideways, most people are changing the mode and frequency of their communication. Not us. I’ll admit, the frequency is better – and we are both happy about it. But a call is good for us. I think our collective imaginations more than make up for bad streaming video. We speak for about 15 or 20 minutes, at best. Either he has something to say or I do. And we dispense with the topic. If we did a video call, we would end up spending 15 or 20 minutes about how we look. That’s such a waste of time!

He called me a few days ago to tell me he attended a travel writing workshop online. I half-cringed (Another reason, why not to use video.) The first word on the tagline of this blog is travel. And I hardly write about travel anymore. Actually, I hardly write, anyway.

In conversation, I discovered that the workshop was less about travel writing and more about online branding. At least, that is my take-away; if he did learn any tips on travel writing, he did not share any.

This conversation, like any other, had a mind of its own – and we steered to the topic of the serious lack of content on our respective blogs, in the recent past. We surgically analysed the deficit and were satisfied with the analysis. We put off the solution for some other day.

And today, The Bum put out a lovely post about The Loud Silence. The date of the content of his post is close to my heart – that was the day we met, before we all locked down.

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Writing has been difficult for a long time now. Forget travel writing; any writing has been difficult. Not for want of topics to write, mind you. There is a numbing sense out of sheer fatigue; an overload of thoughts, and a break down in belief.

It is not unconquerable, this fatigue. It requires you to reposition yourself at a point of your own strength, even if it seems weak and lonely. And this position is not necessarily the position where most are standing. Our side. Their side. There is only one side.

And stand strong, even if you stand alone.

Umbilical Cut

When do we cut the umbilical?

You might ask; which? And I’d say; good question.

The obvious answer: when we are born. That’s the physical cut. I suspect, there is more to it, than the physical cut. The physical, does not necessarily undo the spiritual.

There are other umbilicals, though. The unseen – some spiritual, some emotional. Umbilical connections are liquid. Blood, sweat, and tears. When we connect, how we connect, we never know. But, we do.

We move away from home. We may stop thinking of home. Yet, we never leave home. There will always be a connection. It may or may not pull us back. But you cannot deny the connection. Accept it or ignore it. At your cost.

The umbilical is a sense of belonging.

And one day the physical is cut. And it is all over. It is not sad, necessarily. But, in a moment, it just does not exist. Did you have a choice? Did you choose? Did someone make the choice for you? In a slice of a moment; it is two.

It’s a memory now, a static set of audio-visuals, so to speak. Like watching a life of someone else.

I have been cut.
do not belong.
am free.

Gone Too Soon; Too Soon

Time, and the human brain are co-conspirators.
*
I want to close the windows, draw the curtains. I want to paint black, the walls of my room. Shut tight, all doors. I want to pump up the volume. I want to listen to Pink Floyd. I want to drink affordable rum, as it is available, without a care, sitting right where I can hear the blare of all the speakers. The perfect position. I don’t want to move. I want to Run Like Hell.

I know you are smiling at me from heaven. Don’t give them a tough time.

He would have recalled it, if i reminded him of it.

I have no doubt about that.

I would have reminded him of the “Pachu cha Bet” (Isles of Emeralds). And Ennui and Rebel. And so many more things; he would have remembered and restarted the conversation, just where we left it off, sometime in 1991.

I have no doubt about that.

Recite the Leon Uris poem in The Haj for me, he would have said. He is the only one who knows that I froze, the first time I was on stage for the recitation. I often suspect, he lived the poem more than me.

I have no doubt about that.

But, I’ll never get a chance to show that to you.

Minya died, yesterday.

This is the only surviving photo I have of him, before mobile cameras. And thank God, we didn’t have mobile cameras then. We treasured memories.

I was not close to him, we were not intimate, we didn’t see each other for decades, In fact, I met him only once, after college. And then we did not meet for over a decade. In that one meeting, nothing changed. We were as we were.

I have no doubt about that.

But there is this hole, deep, gaping, widening, questioning hole, that needs filling. And I could have asked Minya, but he is dead.

Only for you, Minya – I am having the Party of my Life. Because that is the only way, I know you.

The King is Dead; Long Live the King. Only, in my heart. Forever, forever, forever.

Seventeen-Five

True art is in the doing of it.

~ Jean Renoir

The above quote is from the chapter about showing up, the subject of my previous post. Some may agree with the quote, same may not. I have always found an immense pleasure in the doing; and in that sense, I agree wholeheartedly with the quote. It’s immensely satisfying to sit back, look at your work and admire it, whatever its form.

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The quote however begets the question: is it enough?

I think the context and setting will always dictate if the doing is enough. You may dance in your home, alone, for yourself, that is pleasure in itself. But if you want to make a career in dancing, someone will have to see it, appreciate it, award you. Where commerce rules, doing is not enough. The done has to be exhibited.

And that’s when showing up is not enough, you will have to show-off

Sixteen-Four

Show up.

Way back, I was reading a book, primarily written for artists, but I went ahead and read it anyways. It was well-written, in the sense that it never made me feel that I wasn’t an artist, even though I am not one.

In the book, the author expounded several principles to help struggling artists, in very well-crafted essays. One of those principles was: Show up.

As would have been expected, the intended audience was the artist, but when you took in the essence of the essay, it applies to all of us, irrespective of what we do. Showing up is half the work done. With your presence, there is at least a chance of further value; your absence ensures that you will not gain anything at all.

If you come up on the stage, people may like your work, if you don’t they won’t even know your existence.

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Showing up is easier said than done, because the sheer act of showing up, means fighting and conquering many demons — real and imagined.

I have lost my audience – due to my long absence here. And the last few posts have hardly had any views. It’s easy for me to say that – well, I have lost my audience here, why bother writing anything at all. I am late on my plan of writing every day

But I will catch up. And I will write better in the days to come.

In the meanwhile I am doing the least I should be doing.

Show up.