In Collateral we Trust

It’s been years.

I asked a wise man once, what collateral meant. Patiently, and in his own inimitable style he explained the meaning of that word. I had some follow-up, what-if questions, which were more to confirm what I understood, than pure questions themselves. His answers confirmed that I had understood collateral correctly. Apparently, learning Computer Science is useless if you do not learn where to use it; we had to, therefore learn something called “Commercial Applications” – Banking, Accounting, Finance, Ratios, and related boring (but money-making) stuff. That’s about college; I usually tend to remember other, interesting, college stuff.

A Stapled Five Pound note

A Stapled Five Pound note

In the following years, I heard the word trust many times. In different contexts: love, family, friends, organisational structures (See Business & Legal), and of course as simple day-to-day use of trusty-phrases. Much later, (as a young, ambitious — and obviously foolish — man) I went to a bank and asked for a loan to start a business. I have to admit, I loved the attention when they knew I had come for a loan, though that delight was short-lived. I had no collateral to give and therefore they had no money to give. But that’s how banks operate, and without any grudge, I found other (legal) means to start my business. And it was good for a while, which is another story.

But it is not just about banks (and their business model is to trust only in lieu of collateral) – this transactional trust tradition has become a part of our everyday lives. The forms have changed; the nature has not. The presentation has become sweeter, the legal document has not. But, there’s more to trust, than that. Trust is not a street-kid that you adopt out of sympathy; but sense it, acknowledge it, and embrace it.

In the times we live in, your future is the new collateral. One might say, that’s fine. Hedge, I think is the word. (But I may be completely wrong, because “Commercial Applications” wasn’t my favourite subject.) And I may even agree, if it was just that; just the unknown future; a random bastard value, legitimised by sheets and sheets of non-native numbers and foreign formulas. But I don’t agree, because, essentially, it is not just the future which is in lien; a slice of your present, is also to be surrendered: for that possible future. [Fun activity: look for the etymological roots of the word lien and ligament.]

Here and now, she said, here and now. You are slashing your supreme sword at empty shadows that have long been sent skywards in the pyres of the past. At the same time you are nitpicking on details that you know not how will unfold; entitling it grandiose: opportunity and strategy. Be with me? In these war games that are long dead and the chess games that haven’t begun, I see you nowhere. You are behind me or ahead; but not with me. [Dramatical abstraction of an otherwise simple, straightforward conversation]

 

Commitment considers not cost, neither collateral. Nor does Passion. Experience is the evolved cousin of commitment and passion; perhaps the most arrogant of the three — but is rooted in certainty and reality. And all the wealth that Kubera hoards; cannot stand collateral for these three cousins. All three cousins are here and now. They have no sense of the future. But they are faceless intangibles seeking a presence within noxious numbers and random ratios.

You and I, distant cousins of these three; once removed, perhaps twice removed, know them very well. They are almost us. And so we say, No! No, sir. We have nothing tangible to deposit in those vaults of yours, what we have, cannot be stored or locked behind those steel doors. For they are formless and beyond being bound.

But, if it is to be a market, in spite of all, we walk with swords ready to be unsheathed, that have value inscribed across the blade.

To Build or To Disrupt

There’s nothing good about disruption, essentially.

Unfortunately, most kids today are out to disrupt something. The problem I have is not with the word itself, for it has three meanings. All three meanings are inherently negative and violent. I take exception with the start; “we will disrupt education”, for example. The Internet, when it came along did not have a grand design to disrupt anything. It was just another way to display information and manage communication. Over time, entrepreneurs found a new way to do business using this medium. In my opinion, they worked at improving the status quo. They did not intend to break the backbone of how things were. They were just trying out something new.

To start from disruption is a narrow approach, seeking to break something. If an existing system bothers you, or if you have a better idea for the system, change; and the value of change is important. We tend to look at success stories, but the better lessons for us come from those who wrangled with existing systems, and failed.

Most lessons of success come from those who have been successful; not from those who have failed. But if we are to learn, we should be looking at how and why things failed. There is, almost, an infinite scope to change things — if we understand how those things behave. Stout hearts will, perhaps, understand what I say. Building anew is better than breaking (and rebuilding).

But words, and their changing meanings.

We are slaves to a market that’s selling us camouflaged goods.

Arth: A Conversation

When we smile, do we hide a lot? Are our smiles honest? It begets the question, what is honesty, really? When we express ourselves the way we want to — it is honesty. When we express ourselves without intention, that is honesty, too. Is the smile a manner of how we “are,” or how we want to “be,” or how we want to be “seen.”

Honest to whom? To ourselves, of course, I presume. Then, what we project is immaterial, isn’t it? Or is it? I don’t know. What we feel, what we think, what we want to happen, what we want others to think about how we “really” feel is all about being “happy”, with our being, in essence, it seems. So, whether we really feel a certain way of being “happy”, or we expect others to reinforce our own “projected happiness”, to be really happy with our own existence… well, I still don’t know what begets what. “Aankhon mein namee, haseen labon par” [Translation: Moist eyes; yet a smile on my lips]— we all need someone to see that moist eye, somewhere hiding behind the smiling face, I guess?

Are our tears a call for action, from the other, in that sense? When we cry, alone, are we really hoping that someone sees our tears? Not true, always, in my experience. Crying alone has its value; its virtue. Cathartic, some might say. We are to be responsible for ourselves. I am not talking of the social diktat. We have to dwell, twirl, and spiral within all that we feel. Poets, the good ones, have done injustice, for we borrow from them, the meaning and structure of what we feel. I utterly dislike poets. I have perhaps, said this to you before. As much as I love them. The sense of my feelings never seem to be my own.

We borrow, where we fail to express well. However, in essence, the point is that there’s a form and meaning to the emotions that we all feel that these poets provide, so to speak. A vehicle, in a way. But that’s besides the point, no? Are our tears, shown or not shown, a call to action for the other? Well, we want to hide the best we can what we don’t want others, including our loved ones, to judge us on, at any point of time. Point remains – any emotion , when unexpressed, is what we appreciate much more when felt by the ‘other’. As for the expression of these emotions, through those vicarious, or through some ways external to us – like these songs from Arth, are just a channel. In some sense, I feel, it’s useless in way. Because, such oral and obvious expressions are not what we’re looking, for when we expect latent emotions to be really “felt” without specific ventilation on our part. When you lose your primary audience (you know who I mean) and that medium of conversation (with those channels cut off), these songs become your emotional anthems.

So, these songs are our crutches, in some form? They are, perhaps. But, given that these songs are so beautiful, I’d rather not attribute ‘crutch’ to them. But that that’s just me. So, when the lover asks, how could I ever burn those wonderful handwritten letters of yours, he speaks of the dilemma of the beginning and the end at the same time. But the sense of burning never leaves him, for even when he submits her love letters to the Holy Ganges, he speaks of lighting a pyre in that pure water. Purity of fire, meets purity of the Ganges.

“Him”; I think of ‘me’ every single time these words pass through me. Beauty of these words, somewhere, lies in the fact that it’s so close to the feeling of a sense of loss, that you feel, is not warranted. The connection, the emotion, the whole ventilation that goes through you, is what makes these songs immortal, at least as far as I’m concerned. Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us. A letter, handwritten, garnished, conceived from start to the end, in the heart of someone that values us for “just existing,” for God’s sake, is something that cannot be burnt. That age-old paper, with that ink, lost in past, with those emotions buried within those strokes of ink, lends you, your life — today. And, that’s a big deal.

“Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us.” — well said. I once said, that our lives are just a count of incidents. It’s the same, when you refer to them as “moments.” And, as most corny and cheesy memes on Facebook and Twitter will tell you, it’s these moments that determine our life. I disagree. Moments are so personal, they can never be generalised to a population. When, in “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” – he asks her to count the heartbeats of her young heart and asks for comparison with his own, that’s not his real question — he is seeking a sense of oneness; a sense of a shared, common existence. I go back to my question of the smile. In the song, in the last stanza, he displays braggadocio – but it’s not; he is as much scared in his expression of love as much as she is scared to admit it.

“He is seeking a sense of oneness”. Hoping. That’s what a lover ends up hoping for, and hopes for it to be the truth. I sense; a sense of optimism mixed with romanticism, with a purport of really knowing what the other person feels. You only know if it’s what ‘you hope for’, or ‘is the truth that’s being hidden behind all these facial expressions of casualness’; if you’ve really gone through it with a person yourself. Depending on where you are in any relationship, you could be anywhere in the continuum of possibilities — hope to reality. And, when things in reality don’t really converge with hope, then, you end up blurting out – “vo jo apna tha vohi aur kisi ka kyun hai, yahi duniya hai to phir eisi ye duniya kyun hai, yehi hota hai to aakhir yehi hota kyun hai…”. [Translation: That which was mine, why is it someone else’s; if this is how the world is, why is the world like this] Sometimes, it’s all about hope. Even in despair, poets find a way to find hope. Even if that knock on your door is in your imagination, you seek to open it. Oughta learn?

Are you in love?

A lover is always in.

Haha. Good one, mate. I expected another word to end that sentence of yours. But, by the stroke of slashing that word, you have described a true lover. Love is not about being loved. It is about being “in” love.

Aah, there’s my clue! Did you notice that we have two words – “Lover” and “beloved”. Loving is the action, and that’s the only one that you’re responsible for. Being a beloved is not in your hands. So, yeah, Love is about loving. As for being loved, well, keep hoping. Being loved is not in your hands. So, all you can do is love. And, being beloved? Well….

I like that. Being in love, i.e. It was Voltaire, if I remember well, who said, “it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all.” And I reiterate — I like being in love. The sheer essence of the feeling makes my world go round (or around, whatever the word is). May there be more who seek love, in the true sense of what it means (and that needs to be discovered, for who knows, what love really means.)

You said it – “Who knows what love really means”. ‘Koi ye kaise bateye ke vo tanhaan kyun hai,..’ [Translation: How does one know if another is lonely]. Who knows whatever ‘whatever’ means. In the end, like Jagjit Singh says… ‘Aas jo toot gayi, phir se bandhata kyun hai…’ [Translation: Why do you try and bind the hope that is broken] – It’s all about hope, mate. Whenever I listen to these songs of “Arth”, I get a sense of melancholy and hope — in love, combined, if it makes sense; that’s what matters, immaterial of the possession of that ‘you’.

I see you, and this thought comes to my mind…

~o~

PS: The above post was a “live conversation” that occurred on a shared Google Doc that I had with Ashish Bhagwat. We were together, facing each other, as this post developed. Before we started this “experiment,” we talked of much, and as a blogging experiment, we had a ‘digital’ conversation. The conversation was centred around the songs of the movie — Arth. No edits were made. This post was linear; one paragraph by him and the next by me. His conversations are in italics; mine are regular. My blogging experiments continue. If you have an idea, let me know: we should experiment more.

Ashish Bhagwat - Co-blogging

Ashish Bhagwat – Co-blogging

No Bucket; No List

It’s a good thing I believe in rebirth.

Partly, because I have been brought up believing in these tenets. More-so, because I find there’s value in it. We spent all of yesterday visiting historical places; we, is a couple of friends and I. The original idea was to visit one fort, slightly binge on the wonderful seafood available at this town that hosts the coastal fort. We ended up visiting three forts in the vicinity.

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I saw The Bucket List, a while ago. Given the actors, I loved the movie. I could not relate to the movie, much. I didn’t quite get the bucket list. I know what it means, I didn’t get the why.

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Very few of us have the privilege of doing what we want, when we want to. Most of us have to work for a living (which is a conspiracy theory, in itself), and we are offered slices of time to do what we want to do (as against what we need to do). That slice occupies most of our attention. What we would otherwise take five week-days to do, we cram in a weekend. It’s like a game of tag. Or GTD. Needless to say, the weekend list is longer than the other five days. And we play a game of touch and go. It becomes a challenge of checkboxes that we can strike-out.

Smart people (and I am getting there) become curators. There’s an acknowledgement about how much can be achieved, given the constraints. It seems, the trick is not to speed up, but to slow down. Resignation is not necessarily a negative word. It is positive in your own personal sense of acceptance. The remainders, I leave for my next life. There are experiences that fill our hearts so much, that we would explode. But if we never gave them time to fill our hearts, we’d never know.

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

Lists also tend to deny us experiences that we would otherwise have. For we focus on the list and our blinders take us where the list takes us. We tend to see nothing else, when we focus on the list. Climbing up to a fort, climbing down a fort, we ignore our heart beat; we focus on completion; we never sense the lives that made that fort; which is why we climbed, in the first place. We are losing much as we strike off an item in a check-list; we are losing even when we seek an experience.

Some of us may have specific ambitions. For the rest of us, there are no rules.

We have to be just out there and allow life to do what it does best. Allow a life.

Light & Darkness: Remainders

It’s been a long time. I’ve been blogging for over a decade. And I have forgotten all that I have planned for this blog. Mostly, I’ve confused the summary posts. Those that have been called many things. Summary posts, pot-pourri, schizophrenic, remainders, and other such names. The Schizophrenia label was my doing. I used it in the sense of disconnectedness. Most of these posts have found refuge in abstraction. A person, who once was a friend, might find some closure in this statement.

If there were a machine that could extract every emotion of me – and classify it; my being would fill every compartment that was defined, and then, some would be dropped in a big basket called “Miscellaneous.” I know not this for a fact, but it might be the same for you too.

Light Leaks - As Nature Imagined It

Light Leaks – As Nature Imagined It

There’s pride and there’s humility. There’s fear and anger. There’s desperation and there’s conviction. And more of these opposites. A friend today referred a popular theme; I thought of darkness. We never tend to darkness; there’s no pull: it is within; We fight it, if at all, towards our way to light. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Or, that’s what we think. For how are we to know if we have succeeded or failed? What’s light, and what’s darkness? Is it the same as brightness and shadow?

Abstraction is good for expression; not for experience.

What do we ask for, when we ask the power-that-be to lead us from darkness to light? If we have never experienced light and never recognised darkness, how will we ever know, even if we are led? We know light only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. We know darkness only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. Our meanings cannot be slave to inherited meanings. We have to discover them all over again. And in that, if we fall to the so-called depths or have to rise to the so-called peaks, so be it. Our inherited meanings are shared – so we bond and become social. There’s comfort in those shared meanings, even if they do not mean anything.

Our experience is our only guide. The experience of others is, but, a perspective. It can never be ours.

One day, we will walk out in the sun.

Borrowed Words

It all started because of the simple questions. I am just a boy, asking a girl… (maybe, it was the other way round) or something like that. While Notting Hill is not a word, it does come to mind, when we think of love. The movie is all mush, but we do have to think of love. Perhaps, it’s one of the few words that’s different in so many languages. Pyaar in Hindi, Ishq in Urdu, Love in English, Prem in most Indian languages, and other variety of words in other languages. Very unlike the word for Mother. The A sound and/or the M sound are common when it comes to the word for mother. Love sounds very different however. In that sense, languages are random. Sorry, for what might seem like an asinine rant.

I had to seek the foundation for this post from others; not because I am intransigent about what gets published on this blog, but I had to break the walls of my castle: that which allowed me to procrastinate posting and publishing. Because unless I’d allow myself something of a pull, to where I belong — I’d soon succumb to the dark side — like Vader. That’s some food for thought.

But we strive. And with the tiniest of a success – there’s a sense of WOW! The post becomes real. There are real words that are the nodes for real thoughts — and Kaboom! — there is that ballet, the dance of an expression. That tiny box that our world otherwise is, has now become a universe of determination.

PS: I sought words from my friends and challenged myself to weave them within 30 minutes. Feel free to tell me that I should not attempt such experiments in the future.

The Shady Bar; The Sidey Bar

In my opinion, a shady bar is not the same as a sidey bar.

There is something sinister about a shady bar. Illegal and unethical acts abound, in a shady bar.

A sidey bar, is where the other people drink. The glasses are lightly rinsed, your rum glass stinks of whiskey, the waiters wait, not on you, but, for when the bar will close. Their degree of dreariness is always requesting that you need to go home. Most patrons of the sidey bar sit alone. (And since they do, four lonely folks often share a table). There’s nothing sinister going there, in a sidey bar. Unless, you think of the frustration, anger, dreams, thoughts, questions, that hang precariously along the low-hanging roofs of such places. But all that *shit* eventually is gulped down by these limit drinkers. In such a place, no one is looking to meet someone, no one is looking for human accompaniment, no hitching, no hookup. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke, a rare phenomenon these days. [Statutory Warning: Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to health]. There’s a stench of alcoholic blends that competes with the dense humidity of this city of dreams. No conversation is private, given the arrangement of the tables. But, when everyone is engrossed in their own troubles, privacy is tossed on the street; for no one cares.

In such a bar, I stepped in. Honestly, I do not remember the name of that bar. That’s the nature of these places. We remember them by location (so that we may find them again, if we are in the vicinity); not by their identity. They have none, really — an identity  — they have service, and that is all that matters. I had my own crossroads to think of. In such a haven, I stepped, where no one would care.

I shared a table with a man who was engrossed, for most part in the cricket match. My back was to the TV screen; I cared less. I pinged my friend in Africa. I pinged my fried in Florida. I pinged my friend in Jaipur. I was looking for answers that I would reject. Some conversations began, but at their birth, I sensed, they were unsustainable. I started a conversation with my own life. It’s not fair, I thought, that every step is a crossroad. I thought of my friend in Delhi. He wishes that design should be decision. Design should be such. Not having to take decisions. Design should dictate all. I thought of my design guru. I have learnt a lot from him. Of how things are, how they should be, and how they shouldn’t be.

The cricket match is over.

MS, The Entrepreneur

MS, The Entrepreneur

My table-mate gives me an acknowledging smile. It’s good to know I exist. I return it exactly as I received it. He says hello, I return the hello. And a long conversation ensues. He never drinks more than a quarter (~three large pegs), but today because of this conversation withe me, he decides to have, an additional, one small peg. He is an entrepreneur. No, not the one we celebrate; the one we ignore. For 25 years he has run a garment factory. Employs 50 people. For 25 years, without fail, he has paid salaries on the 1st of every month, for all his employees. I am sceptical. I say, it can’t have been easy in the early years? He confirms. I have had cash-flow problems, in the first few years. I sold my gold. But I have never delayed salaries. It took me 5 more years, but I have recovered my gold. Education? I failed 12th class, he says. No one would celebrate you, I say, almost. Shirts? Skirts? PPHH! You are not changing the world.

He keeps referring to me as as Sir, I tell him my name, please address me as Atul, I ask. He refuses; I know you are well-educated than me. I wonder, is there a relation between education and success? I wonder where this sense of respect comes from. If earnings are a metric, he is more successful than I am. I met, in a shady bar, an entrepreneur who wasn’t buttressed by venture capitalists and who has never been the focus of an Internet article. I know the brand of clothing he manufactures (he told me), but I will tell you not. [It might hurt your sentiments and assumptions.] I know the cost of his assembly line, and how he looks at reams of cloth as Rs/metre.

His additional peg, in my respect is over; he leaves.

I am alone at the table. I return to think of the crossroads of my own life, when three men descend on this table. Needless to say, conversation ensues. They are visitors to this city of dreams. Very soon, we are talking of caste constructs. All three of them are Dalits, and without prologue, we are discussing the philosophy of Dr. BR Ambedkar. The conversation carries on, I ask of the Grammar of Anarchy, and Dr. Ambedkar’s constitutional beliefs. We talk of how every political party has appropriated him. Without understanding the essence of his beliefs and philosophy. My caste, as you may already wondered, comes into play. I proudly declare it. One of the three is surprised in the manner with which I declare it. We speak of politics. How caste, is no more (which once was) a system of social segregation, but (is now) a system of political segregation. In the end we all agree. We eat Tandoori Chicken together. We exchanged phone numbers. I have been invited to my favourite place – Konkan (Dapoli) – as a guest of honour. Just then, a friend called me and said we could meet, so, with prolific excuses, I made my way out.

Shady bars are different. Sidey bars are different. In shady bars, alcohol is cheap. The patronage is ugly and uncouth (that depends on your perspective, BTW). Engagement is optional. Learning, even more so. For all the entrepreneurial stories of digital tech, there are ten entrepreneurial case studies of people who failed 12th and have provided sustainable income to 50 employees without “cash burn”, who come to such sidey bars for exactly one quarter. For the thousands of stories of caste strife that you see in in India, there are tens of thousands of stories of humans, devoid of caste identities enjoying, enriching each others company. Mass media, by it’s compulsions may pick and choose, and even distort the truth, but they can never alter the truth.

When, we sit in a sidey bar, we experience it.