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!

Inland Schizophrenia

We have a WhatsApp group.

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Classmates. Living a peripatetic life. Non-linear overlaps across the length and breadth of India, in varying time slices. Born early seventies, all of us. Gen X. Gen X is a fancy name for a generation that didn’t have access to technology. Obvious. This Gen was supposed to build the technology. So, in our early days we were dependent on the technology that the Baby Boomers used.

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Letters. Post. Mail. (not email). In India specifically we had Inland letters and Postcards. 25p and 15p respectively. If you had to write a really long letter, you had to shell out 50p for a postal envelope. But, we had to be careful, there was a weight limit. That’s when we discovered onion sheets – extremely thin paper. We could now stuff more sheets in the 50p envelope than before. We weren’t quite smart then, we used to pay a fortune for the onion paper pad, to save on postage. Go figure.

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Times have changed. Classmates grew up, and are doing well in their lives. If we feel like meeting out friends, we just hop on to a flight in the morning, spend a day with them, and return in the evening. We have WhatsApp, we have video calls, and such (which our generation built, mind you). We now live in a world of hyper-connectivity. Just the other day, mates from Goa, Dubai, Mumbai, Pune, and Surat met one evening. Easy-peasy.

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Indian Inland Letter India Post Rs. 2.50

The 25p Inland letter is now Rs. 2.50. I have taken it up upon myself to write letters to my friends. Notwithstanding the WhatsApp group. It’s not easy. But writing letters is muscle memory. It’s all coming back, no thanks to the changed format of the new expensive inland letter. All my letters start by asking my friend – what do I write in this letter, given that we already know everything that is going on in our lives. What should be the purpose and content of the letter? And as my out-of-practice trembling hands ask this question, an answer emerges. Purpose and content in this context don’t matter much. It is the intent, and the sense of sending you something tangible – is what matters. WhatsApp messages get deleted every night – to save space. Their nature is transient. A paper and scrawled ink is forever. When we are no more (like the deleted WhatsApp messages) these letters are an ounce of us that will be with you forever.

I should know, I have letters from dead people. And they are a part of me. And a part of them is with me.

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I have an old briefcase full of letters from all of my friends, from the early 80s. It is one of my most prized possessions. May the briefcase become a suitcase. May there be many more letters. May there be many more fragments of our lives in each other’s lives.

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Some gratitude is due. To my teachers and friends. I may not be the best letter-writer, but I understand something of structure and format and choice of words. Here’s a big thank you to all my teachers for helping us learn how to write letters and follow know the rules. To break a rule, you first have to know the rule. Here’s a big thank you to all my friends for helping me to learn how to break those rules.

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PS: I really, really wanted to use “peripatetic” – Happy now.

Better, For You

Four years ago around this time, I wrote a post about an apology from a Leograph. I had to follow up, the next day with another apology for saying Leograph instead of Leogryph, which is the correct word, which I intended. The apology was due, because a post blitzkrieg was upon my readers. And the quality of the writing was in doubt. It would be prudent to apologise in advance. So, I did.

More, later.

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Since that day, I haven’t picked up a challenge that would require me to work hard. Life’s been good, so to speak. Life is usually shovelling challenges our way — why create new challenges? Nice, peaceful mantra. June 2014 was the last time I created a challenge for myself. This month is an anniversary of sorts. It just so happens that in June last year, we had a school re-union, and most of us met after over three decades. Details here.

We decided to meet again to celebrate the anniversary of our first re-union after 30-odd years. Go figure. It just so happened that the exact dates were a weekend. So it would be perfect. Weekend of 9th June. God is gracious with the calendar. But God’s grace stopped, at giving us a weekend on the same date. In school, we attended classes together, spent time together. We had a time-table. To be clear, we all had the same time-table. Now, no more. We all, now, have our own time-tables. Ah! The scheduling conflicts we go through. A nightmare.

Then, Magic!

Last-minute confirmations, and we swelled twice the size that we imagined. Forty-somethings being teenage-somethings. Husbands, wives, kids in tow; I can say that there was utter confusion. Mostly, the actual kids were confused, seeing their parents being teenagers. In a way, I am happy that kids saw their parents in a different light. I won’t bore you with the details. [Wink-wink]

Us @ Uttorda, Goa

The conversations are unlimited. Tea is flowing like beer; same as beer which flows as water. The beverage doesn’t matter – and the conversations invade the deep night. No more names, no more roles. Friends, husbands, wives, kids – – it becomes one big family.

I usually talk too much. But there are times, when I watch from the sidelines. While I rarely go to the sidelines, it’s a moment of epiphany. Their love, their respect. Leaning on the railing watching them, I say to myself: I have to be better. I am not bad, mind you. But I want to be better. Not because I have something to prove or I seek acceptance. Just that being with you all wants me to be better, for you. I have nothing to prove to you all – because you have accepted me the way I am. Yet, a part of me, is asking questions: how can I be better for you? Not in relative terms, but in absolute.

One year ago – I was happy that I found you all. One year later, the emotions are different. Yes, today the floodgates have opened. Late-lateef. All my friends from school are as crazy, or more, than I am. But without ever declaring it, we have genuine interest in each other’s life.

We push each other to be better. No, we never said it in that much detail.

There’s value in the unsaid; which we derive from the said

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After four years, I am taking up the challenge of publishing at least one post everyday, this July. I cannot guarantee the quality of the July posts. But I will write. One, everyday, next month.

I will be better, for you.

Gaizabonts is Dead; Long Live Gaizabonts

Is patheticity a word?

Derived from the root, “to be pathetic”?

Frankly, I don’t care. It matters not also, if any of you agree or disagree. My earlier post crossed the limit of patheticity. I asked if it was a word, because i could not find it in any of the traditional dictionaries. But, thank God for Urban Dictionaries: “Patheticity: The pure and utter state of being pathetic.

That’s the state, if you haven’t already guessed, of this blog. See how pathetic it is—I am transferring my state to the blog. That inert, complying, obedient medium which has served for over a decade. Uncharacteristic but expressive. It took anything that I threw at it and let the world know what I was thinking, feeling. It served me well for a dozen years. I am calling it pathetic.

There surely must be some limits to the depths of patheticity. I have crossed them. I am ashamed to admit that I am the one who is pathetic. I have driven words away, mauled sentences, and mocked paragraphs. I have abused these devices of expression in wild stupor; living in the sense of what once was. Every sentence I write here is a string of disconnected words that have been banished. Their absence highlights the hollowness of each letter I type.

Enough, enough now.

Expression is not the prime purpose of our life. Not that we know what the prime purpose of our life is. And when you cannot find expression (given that it is not the prime purpose of our life) – you might as well not express.

2685: Convergence

This is the last post on Gaizabonts.

It wasn’t always like this. I wrote well, once upon a time. Many people liked it, related to what I wrote. Many is relative; in my case, it means: handful. Of those handful, hardly any of the many drive around here. That is why, I am not going to delete this blog. I will just leave.

Lest you think that I am bitter—let me tell you I am not bitter. At all. I am sad, yes. So long an association is not easy to walk away from. I walk away with my feet as heavy as lead. But I have to. I cannot linger for hope in place engulfed by darkness; where light comes to me in lightening-time, and leaves me in lightening-time.

It has been a good ride. Thank you all for joining.

Maybe, we will meet, some other way. Good bye.

Gaizabonts is dead. Long live Gaizabonts.

12 Years

12 years.

IMG_20151227_163445

Not enough posts perhaps, to account for the time.

But (more than) enough friends and well-wishers.

Many thoughts.

So many changes.

After twelve years, it’s no more the same person, though.

Crossroads.

Returning to give up; returning to take back. Willing to call-out.

Leaving. Taking charge.

Learning love; unlearning love.

My love for blogging has not changed. I am glad about that. I have learnt to love the other; and I have learnt, what love is and is not. In that small space of what is and what is not, I discovered myself. It’s a revelation.

Notwithstanding, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Yes, I Said

There’s this joke.

Smith is in his club and he’s alone, except for one other person. Trying to be sociable, Smith asks the person, “Can I buy you a drink?” “No,” says the person. “I tried it once and didn’t like it.” “Oh,” says Smith. “Well, would you like to shoot some pool with me?” “No,” says the man. “I tried it once and didn’t like it. “Well, how about a game of bridge?” “No,” says the man, again. “I tried it once and didn’t like it. Besides, my son is coming soon.”

“Ah,” says Smith, “your only son, I presume?”

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I’ve been blogging for eleven years now, and have never attended a bloggers’ meet. For the life of me, I cannot recall why. It’s not that I have not been invited. There’s enough email from various organisations to keep you busy for life, if you choose to attend these events. I think, I just didn’t bother. Finally, last week, I said yes. It was an event sponsored by Renault India for their new MPV – Lodgy, and was organised by Blogadda. God knows I had much to do last weekend, yet, I couldn’t get myself to say no. Here’s why.

Driving
Photography
Blogging

In Goa, in the rains.

All the things I love, in the place that I love.

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And planning for the event began. I noticed stalwart bloggers who were attending. Largely a young lot, writing for specific audiences, created niches for themselves, and successfully making careers by blogging. Famous people, award-winning folks (and not just peer-awarded awards; serious ones). Very unlike me. In spite of the obvious trepidation, I prepared to go. Flight leaves Friday afternoon.

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It’s Thursday night. I am meeting a friend after many years. She is in town to attend a wedding, on Friday. We crunch time and find a late dinner slot to catch up. It’s raining heavily, traffic is disrupted. We catch up on lost times, further crunching five years in a little over five minutes. Done and dusted. Back to the present. I tell her about the event. She is all smiles. We talk of the yes philosophy. I’ve changed my default, I tell her, but I don’t tell her about the dread gnawing at my decision. We talk of inherent trust. We are talking about books, but it makes sense to me in a unique way. A great conversation. A wonderful evening. We stay as long as the restaurant allowed us.

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Friday morning. The city is at a standstill. Mumbai has hit the monsoon jackpot. Traffic isn’t moving, flights are delayed. A few; cancelled. Instead of worrying, I am smiling to myself. My worst case is I’ll miss my flight. The gnawing dread is laughing out loud. Enjoy, I tell it. I leave early. Very early. Road’s empty. It’s an automatic holiday because everyone is off the roads. I reach the airport two hours before the flight. Everything goes well. Flight is delayed for a bit. Soon, I am in Goa. Memories gush, just like the rain.

First love. First bicycle. First camera.

Most of the other bloggers know each other. I am the only one, I discover, who is attending such an event for the first time. My conversations with them are insipidly introductory. It will change, I tell myself. We are here for a couple of days. If I had attended earlier events, I’d know some of them. It’s never too late. A good event is only as good as it is organised. As we register ourselves, I feel this one is going to be good.

48 hours have gone by. [This part needs more posts; cannot do justice in a single post] We are on our way back home.

I’ve made some very good friends. Interesting people. Lovely conversations. Far from insipid and bland, in fact, quite spicy. Do you know the origin of the word spice? [The culprit in all this is the Latin noun species. From it the English language derives a whole family of words — ‘special’, ‘specification’, ‘species’, ‘especially’ and so on — as well as ‘spice’. […] In Roman usage species quite often implied value and in time it acquired an even more ‘specific’ meaning. ~ The Spice Route: A History, by John Keay]

Wonderfully organised and executed event. I’ve enjoyed the weekend completely. Especially the drive. [But, that’s another post, for another day, elsewhere].

On our way back, I can’t but thank myself for saying yes. For more than one reasons. First, the experience. Second, because I know I don’t belong here. It’s like Edison, I think, said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Third, and perhaps the most important, it has refined my belief about blogging.

Not to say that I’ll never attend an event ever again — I will — but I’ll, perhaps, have a better sense of curation.

What was once an assumption, is now a fact. It’s better that way.

 

A Thousand Links

Ceremonial and milestone posts are like templates. We end up saying the same things over and over. There are small differences when the ceremonies and the milestones differ; the essence however, remains the same. There’s gratitude, there’s a description of a journey, there’s some description of a meaning, and such things. There’s, always pressure to make an impact.

These are the things that have occupied my mind and heart for the last few weeks. I was getting closer and closer to the 1000-posts mark. Each post, that was the 996th, 997th, 998th, 999th in number wanted to betray this post. The 998th post almost did! That was the excitement of the writer, and the posts, shared the excitement, if not more. All of them — the ones in the 99x series — didn’t mind that they weren’t the 1,000th. They knew their place was critical for this post to exist, to be published. Without them, this one was still far away.

100 Links

In my earlier post, I talked how “It All Comes Together.” Well, given the image above you can see that it doesn’t always come together. Sometimes there’s a zero missing; or a number is 10-times less than it should ideally be. I should have said: almost!

I’ve blogged for 4,125 days on this blog. That’s one post every four days, on an average. And while it may not mean much in relative terms, I am, and have been happy, satisfied, and proud of the last 11 years, 3 months, 18 days. What started as casual dabbling has become an integral part of my life. And succumbing to the template, I must say, I am grateful for that part of me that thought I should not stop.

Needless to say, I spent a few days going through my blog. Some of what I written is quite bad, and friends have told me that, through comments. Some of it is very good. Most, of it however, is somewhere, between. As I re-lived my life for the past eleven years, I am most proud, that I have been honest. Even if the honesty was wrapped in a thick woolly garment of abstraction. What the wool did was to protect my privacy, and that of my friends and family. The thoughts and feelings themselves were uncloaked.

If had to go back to that day in December 2003 and restart this, I would not do it any other way. Such a fulfilling experience is this one that I would dare not disturb or tweak. Many bloggers have come and gone (mostly, to Twitter) and while I have lamented their exit, my experience with my blog has been complete; has been most fulfilling; has been most adventurous.

As I write this, I realise, when you are overwhelmed, you should make a statement and exit. There will be times, later, for you to expand on your feelings, when they don’t crowd you. (This was never going to be an easy post.)

I’ll write soon.

As soon as my emotional paparazzi have dispersed.

Goodbye July; I’m in August Company

I wrote yesterday that today’s post might not be easy, because I wrote yesterday what I should be writing today. I don’t know how easy this post is going to be, however, I find that this day is throwing up emotions with amazing contradictions. They aren’t easy to resolve. At once I feel relieved that the challenge is concluded, at the same time, there is sadness that it is. There is no compulsion to write now, and I wonder if I will reward myself too much by taking a long break.

The chair that we build of our laurels is deceptively comfortable.

As I go through the posts of the month, it is a roller coaster of a ride. I did thoroughly enjoy this challenge I set for myself. Of course I went through some of my earlier posts too, but I do not want to talk about them, lest I start writing something that seems like a farewell speech, delivered, reclining on a chair of the past.

I feel I am in a stateless state. I don’t feel the compulsion to write about something. I don’t feel the compulsion to write anything at all. At this time, this post seems like a formality. It just needs to exist. There’s soothing Hindi film music from the 60’s playing in the background. Before I started writing this post, I removed all the clutter from my desk. I completed all tasks and marked them as done. My mind, surprisingly, is equally free of any tinsel. Space, emptiness, and clarity are dancing a graceful ballet. The acquired compulsion has crumpled to dust, blown away. This post has become a mere ritual that has gained importance, sheerly by virtue of the position in which it will exist: the bookend on the right end of the shelf. The finishing touch of the aesthetic.

In the last decade, such a moment was never experienced: I’ve experienced immense pride after a post that I thought was well-written. Or the gleeful delight after a humorous post; the laid-back satisfaction of experiencing a meaningful blur after an abstract. But, this? No, this is a new feeling. It feels like the dead-centre of all the extreme emotions that we experience when we click “Publish.”

For the many experiences that aren’t ours as yet, and with determined irreverence to the milestones, publish, we must.

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I thank you all for encouraging me to complete this challenge. I’ll let you in on a secret. I took up two more challenges the same day, I started this one. I haven’t done justice to the other two. Perhaps, I shall tend to them now. I shall hold your encouragement close to my heart, as I face them.