Coming Of Age

When does one come of age? What age, i.e. I believe that questions does not have a definitive answer.

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I consider myself fortunate that I grew up surrounded by books. But the books I grew up with were not mine. They belonged to my father. My sister and I were allowed spaces in that library to keep our books. I do not know if he intended it, but that was our education of books; not their content, but their upkeep. We were, if you are wondering, allowed access to his library. And there was a theme to the books he read.

Eventually, I grew up. I chose books that were very different from the books in his library. Our library, now. I was grown up enough to buy my books. I was never a rebel. It was the influence of a combination of the books I could afford and the influence I was under. My books were welcomed in his library. I was flirting with atheism, and a book by Dawkins found a place nearby his Upanishadic texts. On weekends we had good conversations of the books that I was stuffing in his thematic library. Lovely conversations.

It’s been 17 years, and now they are only ghosts of conversations. Now, my sister and I are the sole heirs of his library. That’s the best thing he bequeathed to us.

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In Bullet Time

I just finished reading a book called Nationalism by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Gurudev was an articulate person. He had a power over words, which he used, not with dominance, but with love, care, and sense. Gurudev’s ideas about nationalism are incongruent with my own acquired beliefs. But, it matters less. It was, to say the lest, an enjoyable read. What he believed in, he has expressed so well, with so much conviction; as you read the book, you cannot feel anything but respect. I have an ideological difference from his POV.

This post is not about that.

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Having read that book, I discovered that there is a point of view that is discordant with mine. Then came the question. Do I accept it or reject it? This problem of binary will be the death of us all. David Weinberg, in his book “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room” — I know a really long title, talks of the nature of debate, among other things:

“A conversation like this is possible when each of us has freedom of expression and no one is required to change.”

While I study Nationalism, Gurudev’s perspectives have informed me. I respect his views. I do not entirely agree with them. And, as I study more, I am willing that my perspective may change.

May I read more books!

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Bank That Time

Online Banking. #WarningRantPost #NotMyBest

That’s not the topic of this post (we’ll know in a bit, I hope, if I don’t spread all over), but I guess it has to start there. In some public forum, a while ago, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked institutions to trust the citizens of this country. I do not recall his exact words, but this is the residue of that message: trust the citizen of this country. Self-attestation of an identity document, was to be accepted without prejudice. Verification could follow in good time. If I say who I am, accept it. Innocent until proven guilty.

I don’t know how other institutions are taking and implementing the message. I know of a Bank that just does not believe it. Make it two Banks, at least.

Oh, let’s get it out. I am facing a few bank-related issues. One bank is where my father used to work the other, ah well, let’s just call it Shitty Bank. Actually, I do not want to talk about how bad these banks are. I want to talk about how these two banks have given me a new lease of life. In spite of them being the most inefficient.

Looking Through the Glass...

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I have struggled with my reading. There’s too much of distraction. Except Facebook. Facebook decided to show me the most useless posts on my timeline; it even completely hid all posts from my friends. So, no. Not blaming Facebook. But yes, other distractions, and I have not read a book for a while. Banks to the rescue. To submit two documents to prove that I was the real me (who had not changed anything in the last seventeen years) I got to sit in an air-conditioned lounge and finished two chapters ( 68 pages, on a Kindle) while I was waiting for my token number to be called out, so that I could submit my papers only to be told, not good enough — all account holders have to submit KYC. Needless to say they did not tell me this, when they asked me to go to the branch. I had two choices: I could go ballistic, shout and scream about how inefficient they were.

Then, it struck me!

I should do this more often. I should feign allegiance to the Bank’s inefficiency and comply. I should go to the branch and sit in the lounge. It works to my advantage. Of seven counters, manned by three people, it gives me the perfect opportunity to read! This is the story of Shitty Bank.

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I do care about money. Do not get me wrong. But money is not everything. Even for banks. The reason I finished reading a couple of chapters, is because I wanted to give money to the bank. Branch. Visit. Read two chapters. New Mantra.

That’s where Online Banking comes in. It doesn’t work. It’s ok to do a couple of transactions, send money from here to there. Except if you are big player. Guy with 5K in his account has to finish two chapters, waiting for his turn. Guy with 50 million can do whatever.

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Banks were to be the custodians of our wealth. Help it grow and prosper. And therefore, our partners in our life. All their advertisement notwithstanding, they now control our wealth. And with a simple, “that guy is not available today” can deny us our right. I live with a trust deficit with banks. But, I have understood your game. And I will play along.

And as I play along, I’ll read, a lot. Beware.

Write Side

One thing’s for sure. This blog is not what it used to be.

I have yet to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing. But I am sure, that it is a different thing. My audience has changed. That is a very good indicator of the change. Those that used to read this blog do not read this blog anymore. Different people seem to find meaning in this blog and the posts. And that is a good thing, do not get me wrong; I am not complaining.

I wonder, if it is ever a good idea to lose readership. Most authors will disagree with me. I would also disagree with me. Loss is never good. Yet, when I think of losing an audience, I cannot help but wonder, who I am losing. I was once a writer of some style. [Bear with me, while I shower my own accolades on myself.] I am no more a writer of that style. I am a writer of this style. If you can call it a style, i.e.

The advantage of not being a published popular author is working for me.

Maybe.

Conversations with Ghosts of Past

“You aren’t online as much these days,” he said. I detected a note of regret in his voice. Wishful thinking on my part, I thought — there’s so much online these days, no one’s going to regret my absence. He’s just making an observation.

I nodded my head in agreement; smiled just enough so that it could qualify as a smile.

“It’s a bit boring, you know, to keep reading your old stuff.”

“I know the feeling, I have done a lot of reading — all my old posts. There’s not a lot, but there’s enough.”

“You are not just re-reading the posts. What are you searching for?”

“Who,” I said, looking away from him to street. There were so many people on that street. I wondered what they were doing, moving about, talking, walking. Some standing. All of them going about their lives. It seemed so strange, suddenly. Strange strangers. I’ll use that in one of my post.

“And did you find him,” he asked, stirring his coffee. He did that a lot; stirred his coffee, before every sip; I was almost sure of that. It could be irritating, if not distracting.

“I recognise shades of that person. He seems somewhat alien. It’s like … I was perhaps infected with that alien DNA a while ago, and as I read the posts, some sort of recognition causes green and blue neon-like pulses to emit through the screen and connect with a part of me. Just a part of me. It’s there, but it does not bind.”

“Why”

“I don’t know. Maybe I am a million galaxies away from that DNA. Or some million light-years away or something like that, there’s a connection, but it’s weak.”

“Too much of Netflix-binging?”

“Yes, mostly time-travel,” I said. A real smile, that would have almost qualified as a laugh.

“I know you don’t travel as much. I mean in this time/space construct; needless to say. Not time travel. You aren’t even capturing time, so to speak; you have stopped taking photos. Right? And you have stopped writing. In short, there is no movement, there is no new experience. Is that why there is no new documentation? Are you falling short experiences to describe? It’s perhaps not as simple as that, but I have to ask you – is it as simple as that?”

“Not having “experiences”; is that also an experience?”

“Doesn’t the mind hold a million times more possibilities than the real world,” he asked, not really meaning what he asked. He was perhaps interested in my mind. The possibilities in my head. I heard him but I wasn’t there.

Voices, with amazing clarity whooshed in that empty coffee shop.

You deserve more than this.
I’d rather be talking with you.
I like being with you, but…
I love you.
This is a great evening, I’ll cherish it forever.
I wish it were different.
Why didn’t you say something then.
If only…
I hope we can meet again

“My mind is full of regrets,” I said, “not necessarily mine. Not my regrets. And I may have a few. But my regrets are overwhelmed by the regrets I hear from them. Every regret was a possibility, come to think of it – it does not matter whether it was mine or theirs.”

*

“Write about them, then, those possibilities,” she pleaded.

She was grace. Unlike him who constantly stirred his coffee. She was a possibility. Looking in her eyes, then, I was reminded. Everything is possible. I don’t recall the new-age music that was playing in the cafe; but I heard:

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it’s own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.

~ Sting – Windmills Of Your Mind

I looked deep in her eyes. I did not blink. I was afraid, if I looked away, she would be gone, just like him. And I wasn’t prepared for who would be sitting with me next. I continued to stare in her eyes. I did not look away, but I knew that the strange strangers were looking at me. There’s something about a gaze.

“What a lovely pattern on your coffee,” she said, with so much of love and affection.

Patterns. Repetitive. Predictable. I am living those patterns. I look up, she isn’t around. I want to say something.

*

There is no Barista in the cafè.

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No people on the street.

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I walk out.

*

This world is empty of humans.

***

PS: Above post is all imaginary. It never happened. It’s a ghost story. None of my friends were involved in this story.

A Useless Post of Dance, Love, and Hate

I always utterly dislike having a title before the post. I utterly dislike how it forces me to channel a narrative.

Nope. Not doing that. Breaking free.

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All that “utterly dislike” showmanship is my struggle to not use the word hate. Those of you who follow this blog, know that I have chosen to not use the word “hate” in my vocabulary. When I chose to not use that extreme emotion – hate, I perhaps chose not to use any extreme emotion.

Love.

I have allowed myself one extreme and funnily enough allowed myself the other extreme. I can love, but I cannot hate. Love is not the opposite of hate. Necessarily. I do love with all the extreme emotions I can. The question is, how do I hate?

I dance and jump and wonder at the meaning of hate, wondering if it is this or that. But I never ever think of what love means. Thinking of love is useless. We are in love or not. I love you or I do not. My dreams are of you, or not. I am alive when my dreams are of you; else I am nothing.

The True Letter

“Bhai!” (Brother; no blood-relation, but what we feel about people is stronger than a blood-call)

I always love hearing his voice.

Hey, how are you, I asked.

“All good man. I am sorry.”

Huh? Why?

“I haven’t replied to your letter” [A physical letter, written on paper, paid for with postage, to be delivered by a postman]

That’s alright. I have received one from you.

“I know, but I never replied to your reply to that. I want to reply. I want you to know that.”

She had written a letter to me once. On an unruled Inland Letter. There was a lot of space in between the lines she wrote. Maybe she was helping me read in-between the lines. I wasn’t as smart then, also, I thought I was in love. I just saw the empty space between the actual lines, beautiful handwriting, and well, you know what. She also wrote of how she had good intentions to write to me, but, she reminded me that, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I thought I’d re-quote this to my brother. Thought better of it.

That’s fine. I know you will reply. Soon.

“I don’t understand why I don’t write. I have the stationery. I have the will.”

You are, perhaps too focused on writing a proper letter.

“Meaning?”

You don’t need to write a full letter, you know. Just write a big ‘HI’ on the letter and post it?

“Meaning?”

*

Rest of the conversation was of various other things. And while I did give him an answer for his last question, I wondered, what was the “Meaning?” What does a letter mean? To me?

Doing an about-turn and looking within yourself is a difficult thing to do. We rarely do it. It follows, that we have lost (or are losing) the art of looking within. That evening, I turned.

It’s just so nice to receive a personal letter. A small little envelope, with your name inscribed on it in, fat, thin, curvy, thick, elegant, scribbly handwriting. It’s your name. Then follows your address. Whoever sent you the letter knows exactly where you are. The letter comes home. We aren’t having a conversation while I am commuting or when I am down on the street for a late afternoon for a chai and a cigarette. [Statutory Warning: Smoking is injurious to health].

A letter comes to where you are. Home. And then you open the letter. It may be a single page, or pages and pages stuffed in that reluctant envelope, ready to burst at the seams. It’s never the same as having the letter-writer in front of you, but it is the closest. I know, many folks think voice is the closest, but I think otherwise. Written words are. See, letter writing (pen and paper) is not the same as typing on a keyboard. Our thoughts are racing, our pen-in-our-hand cannot keep up. So, we often slow down out thoughts. If you have ever received a multi-page letter, you will know what I am talking of.

The first paragraph is exquisite. Your friend has sat down to write the letter, slowed down the thought process, and the best of her handwriting shows up. One page down. Now the excitement of I-have-so-many-things-to-share-with-you, takes over. Scribbly text takes over. Spelling mistakes. Scratches. She sees her own handwriting. Slows down. It repeats. Somewhere, the weight of the paper comes into consideration. No more pages! But I have so much more to say. A-ha! Margins! Let’s flout that one rule we learnt in school.

There’s more character to a letter than any other form of communication. Except of course, when we are having coffee together, at the same table.

To write a good letter, we need to be in denial, however; in these times. We have to deny ourselves an instant response. We have to let go, of a response, if that is what it takes. There is sheer pleasure in writing a letter. We have to move away form the instant gratification of the double-blue-tick-mark of WhatsApp and learn to yearn for a postal delivery. For something tangible. For something that’s forever.

*

Take your time, Bhai. Send me that letter when you can. What matters not is that it’s a postcard or an overstuffed envelope for which I have to pay extra postage. What matters is that I get it. You know it, there’s a joy in receiving letters. You have experienced it.

Spread the joy.

A Delayed Schizophrenia

Oh it’s been a long time.

The above sentence was all that I had prepared for this post. Rest of it, whatever follows, I did not plan for.

[Insert long pause while staring at the WordPress editor, wondering what I am doing here, given that I have nothing to say. Actually, nothing to write. I do have a lot to say]

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Being good. Let’s talk of that. Being good is so easy, these days. Especially in these days and times. We all are so “aware” of everything that is going on in the world (well, “world” is a sort of exaggeration). World means neighbourhood, actually. We just imagine that the neighbourhood is the world, and are satisfied by that definition. We have quick responses. Most of them witty, topical, and always instant. Not very long ago, it took a lot of effort to dissent. It was, what I would call, a long struggle. These days, not so much. To be angry required effort. Today, all it requires is that you share it on Facebook, forward it to all your WhatsApp group, or create  Twitter thread that has life-span of minutes. In the collective outrage of all the issues in this world, your outrage doesn’t count for much. Outrage today is worth only tonight’s sleep. I tweeted, I shared, I forwarded.

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20 years of anything, has to count for something. Its quality notwithstanding, the quantity itself is worth celebrating. Happy 20 years, yo!

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Given that I had nothing to say when I started this post, I should self-congratulate.

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Best friends seldom ask questions. They just intuit it. Sort of a divination, so to speak. It is actually a Q&A session between them, but nothing is asked, nothing spoken. The evening is spent in songs, beer, and tier-3 jokes. But there’s a parallel conversation. I don’t know how girls do it; boys don’t speak. They just, well, intuit.

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Leave notes. Write letters. Scribble somewhere. Keep the notes safe from natural elements. When you are gone, someone will cherish them. I cherished them. Notes from someone who is long gone. I hope that it will be the same for me. I can hope. I miss you, dear friend.

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Our lives are our own. There is no race. There is no life in a race. There is no race in life.