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.

*

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.

Inland Schizophrenia

We have a WhatsApp group.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

Coming Of Age

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

*

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.

*

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.

*

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!

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.

*

No people on the street.

*

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.

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 Oh-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.

The New Year Threat

So, The Bum has threatened to write a post. The Fine Balancer has threatened to write x times a week. Or something like that. Shiver me timbers! Not sure who exactly threatened, what. But threats have been made. To no one in particular. Needless to say, I use the word threat dramatically. I learnt that in the writing school that I did not attend. Can a threat be a threat if it is not directed towards someone? Let me explain: If I say, “Watch out!” or “Don’t you dare!” – is it a threat? Oh, it could be. Apparently, there’s something called an empty threat. That amuses me to no extent.

Oh, Happy New Year to all of you. Am a week late, but, it is the thought that matters, no? Never mind; I met someone today.

We got introduced, online, due to an unfortunate circumstance. Which involves another person, who, was with us when we met, today. The unfortunate circumstance is another story; I am not ready to talk about it, yet; haven’t properly dealt with it. What I am ready to talk about , is that we finally met. In flesh, i.e.

I have missed people, like those I met today. Yet another friend, who is one of the smartest people I know, once told me, that I was doomed, because I was cursed to live in mediocrity. I asked him, why? He told me, that I do not belong with the people I spend my time with. Being the smart person he said that I was, I asked him, not even you? He fell silent. That’s the problem with smart people. The really smart people are modest. [Read the second last paragraph, of the post that has been linked, before you read further.]

In meeting with an old friend and a new friend, who challenged me to think about a few things before I could finish a coffee, I discovered myself. While you may see me very comfortable and confident in a place where I am in control and am a director; I prefer a situation when I am challenged. It is definitely not comfortable. Twitching in my seat. In my head.

We are not ourselves when we know who we are, we are our own true selves when we do not know who we are. And we know that.

Nah! I didn’t say that aloud. Mad or what? Then, we left the coffee shop.

Rest of it is all humour. Nerdy, perhaps. SK, sorry for being such a snob, but you gotta agree, the event was a bloody damp squib, and I did make some interesting points. CB, loved meeting you, hope we find many more reasons to get together. It was a lovely evening.

*

In the end, our final challenge as humans, is how we challenge other humans as an intelligence. We shall not allow the nature of a medium to decide our response. We shall not allow an ideology to define a friendship.

We will, hopefully, replace an argument with a conversation. Thank you SK & CB for today.

We will listen.

Sunday Schizophrenia

Ah, the Pink City, I said. It’s peach actually, she replied. We all know that girls see more shades than boys. I wanted to say, “it’s sandstone-ish brick red, that looks pink in the summer sky,” but I did not. An argument on colours with a girl is a foregone defeat for a boy. I agreed with her, and let it lie. It’s sandstone red, that looks pink in the summer sky, I confirmed with myself, and lived in a blissful state. It just so happens, that she is so sweet, it is difficult to argue with her. She can hold her own, mind you, it was just that we were in the pink city having fun; a shady argument was just not worth it.

*

Facebook has an option, when you choose a relationship. One of the option is: “It’s Complicated.” I think Facebook should do away with that option. Relationships are never complicated. The number of ways we look at a relationship, are. People take so much of effort to enter a relationship. When it comes to exiting, it becomes complicated. Not because it is complicated.  There are words and methods to say I love you. No greeting card in this world has the right way to say, I need out. I learnt this, listening to someone for three hours. I am reminded of Abhimanyu. I know how to get in, no idea how to get out.

*

How old were you when… is a good question as far as perspective is concerned. Never judge a person’s knowledge based on the year that person was born. I was stupefied tonight with a young man’s conversation. Reality was hovering around me, and towards the end of the evening it kicked me you-know-where.

*

I am not modest. In some way, I am vain, in fact. I know how far I can reach. I do not compare my work with the work of others. I think, however, I know enough to say, if my work is good. Others may like my work and they will say as much. I have to be my critic. Because only I know what I have set to achieve, and if I have achieved it. When you compliment me, and I shrug that compliment off; it’s not a statement about you. It is a statement about me. When I shrug off your compliment, I do not intend to demean your sense of appreciation. I just mean to say, I could have done better.

*

Love is timeless. It knows no boundaries or limits. I am happy, I am in love.

The Persistent Witness

I refused to even look at him. Those piercing eyes. That gaze that could see through, and within me. I’ve known him for a long time. He has been a constant companion. An intimate companion, I may add. More than anyone else. As I say this, I feel, I may be misrepresenting. He is not “out” there. Not outside of me. He is within. I do not know when, but I stopped listening to him. Stopped talking to him.

Towards the Sky

He is my witness. But, I don’t want him to see. I have become so good at hiding it from others. How do I make him not see? I’ll drop thick drapes between us. I’ll hide in rooms, behind locked doors. Big locks. Magnetic. Electronic. Yet, he is here, right in front of me.

I see my reflection in the mirror and I wonder if it is mine. I am me, he is reflection. Then, there is no escaping. When I dine alone, when I drive alone, there’s that presence. His. Chatterbox. Talks of all that I do not care to listen, or even hear.

Yackity yackity yack. Yada yada yada. And for good measure; blah, blah, blah!

But, welcome back old friend, even if I have no use for you anymore. I will not turn you away.

Just stay out of my mind and away from my mirror.

Writing Rigour

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

That’s the headline of a blog that I have followed for a while. For a few years now, the blog has been defunct; not the blogger. I met the blogger today; very much alive. Said blogger stopped blogging a few years ago. What’s the point, she said. When she stopped blogging, she did not explicitly ask this question. I know another blogger who did the same. She perhaps was asking different questions. I actually know of a third blogger. He stopped blogging too. His question — I have no idea. He went to the extent of deleting his blog. It must have been serious.

I have, I will confess, considered not blogging. But for the life of me, I could never consider deleting my blog. Good or bad, I cannot deny that this has been an integral part of my life. That, some of the followers of my blog bring up posts from several years ago in a conversation, is reason enough. (I tried doing an April Fool gag; fell flat on my face). There was a time when I wrote words that everyone most people liked. That’s not the case, now.

Not that words are foreign. They are still mine. I recognise them just like before. Just that the way they want to be together is unlike how they’d gather like obedient children; earlier. Perhaps, I am not a shepherd of words. Perhaps words shepherd me. Perhaps, that is why some of my recent posts are shite. Or, I have lost the ability to shepherd. The shepherding, notwithstanding — the words are mine and I am of words.

We have just lost the rhythm.

All I need, is to go to the dance floor that isn’t patronized by any one any more and do my silly dance. Where no one will see me. Where neither my words, nor I will care.  Salsa with adjectives and Samba with verbs. The apocalyptic dance. One writer in the world; no reader left. Is a writer made of readers or is a writer made of writing? Will a writer write if there is no one left to read? What defines a writer? The writing, or the readers?

*

I told her today, my writing, in recent times, has achieved heights of mediocrity, not knowing, if that is a sense of achievement. But I have to write. Not because you will read. Not because you will like it. I have to write, because I have to write. Scribble.

125659: Wall Grunge

*

No writer, if she can, should give up writing. Because every writer knows one thing (even if she cannot sense it) – she and the words are one. She may walk away from words. (Words are kinda stupid; they have no emotion – they will sit where they were last sat; where words should be – is a writer’s prerogative.) But there is no leaving. Even if she never writes them – she cannot escape them.

If you can help it – do not become a writer. There is no escape. If you become a writer; welcome to the club!

Crucial Curation

Those who have followed this blog for a while, know of my love-hate relationship with social media. I have been on and off social networks — as if I was punishing the networks — when I got upset with the nature of conversation and interaction that people on the network were having.

The network is inert.

Lately, without wanting to do so, I have been away from the networks. [To be clear, I do not consider WordPress as one of them]. It’s almost impossible to be on a network without taking sides. And if you do not take a side, variants of history’s accusations are hurled at you from all sides. Taking sides is worse; the enslavement is unbearable.

While this phenomenon is obvious and in-your-face on digital social networks, it is not limited to them. Shoot first and ask questions later is becoming the norm. Everyone wants to be the quickest draw in the West. And the East. And the North and the South. Amit referred to it as a left-right mud-slinging contest in a recent Twitter thread. It’s not. It’s fact-slinging. Apparently different types of facts. Alternative facts. Your facts. My facts. True facts. Baseless facts. Useless facts. (Yes, I have read people use these pairs).

We are fast losing the ability to discern between opinions, suggestions, ideas, rhetoric, humour even. All these, and more are being abstracted as statements, open for the rest of us to vilify, mock, abuse, and in general – demean. We do not have the time to pause and refer to context. And even if we had the time, where is the context? In less than three minutes we send eight tweets on seven different themes. How does a reader get the context? When does the reader get context?

There is also the question of the platform. Take Twitter, because I have mentioned it a couple of times now. Most of us readily blame the platform for this phenomenon.

The platform is inert.

It has no means or the capacity or the intelligence to expose us any more than what we publish to the platform. The one thing that it has enabled — is give voice to everyone. In these times when voice is free, there’s a dash to be heard. Me, me, me! But no one listens, because everyone is busy talking. And one thing is clear: mostly, people are angry. And it seems like old anger, one which was voiceless so far. And it has become ugly and rotten.

Unlike the different types of facts, that we believe in, we don’t believe that there are multiple truths. We do not have the patience for any truth to reveal itself. Fleeting gratification appeals to our ever shortening attention spans.

*

Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

Jama Masjid, Kalburgai (Gulbarga)

All is not lost however, as apocalyptic this post may sound: as long as you curate.

There are many people who are spreading joy (not by mis-attributed feel-good hackneyed cheesy-quotes on mushy-stock-images) but, by just being themselves, sharing life experiences. These are statements in the true sense. They carry with them, no attributes of opinions, suggestions, and such. There is no compulsion to engage. In this case, the consumption is the engagement.

That’s where curation becomes crucial.

This is not to say that we become unaware as citizens and humans. What’s wrong must be righted.

In the real-world. Not on Twitter.

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.

Word’s Worth

A well-known person recently wrote a very ill-structured article, distorting history, and creating a hateful environment, all around. It was worse than a recently released film, which distorted history, but without any predetermined malice. This article, not so.

The nature, structure, and intent of the article disturbed me, I wrote a response. A really long response. A well-intentioned friend, encouraged me to publish it. It’s there, in my drafts.

I don’t want to publish it, however. At least not now.

*

After I finished writing that article, and was proof-reading it, I thought of the time I spent thinking and writing about it. What was the time worth? If I had published it, nothing would have changed. I do not mean this in a defeatist way. Some like-minded folks would appreciate it, and then, in a month or so, we would move to the next outrage. Knowing (as in, about the person; not personally knowing) the person, nothing would change. That person will continue to spew hatred, irrespective. A few hundred words would not effect a change. There are enough problems in this world, and they need our help to be solved. And the way to solve these problems is through a concerted effort, not one-off responses.

For the Love of Writing

For the Love of Writing

In these same few hours, I could have written a better post, which is due, anyway. It’s sweet, interesting (to some of us), and informative. It’s part of a very long-term project I am working on. The limited time I get in a day to write, was wasted on a response to a confirmed bigot. Even if I wasn’t writing, I have a very interesting book, which I’d love to read. I’ve, mostly been able to ignore distractions from folks like the aforementioned bigots, but once in a while I succumb. Today was one such instance. I may have wasted my time, but I feel happy about my decision not to publish that article. In a chat, with my well-intentioned friend, I mentioned, that this is a slippery slope. I felt there was no turning back after I click, Publish!

At the edge, I saved myself.

Our time, our words, are worth much more than being directed at a worthless person or a worthless idea.

*

On a separate note, I am taking cue from my dear friend, The Bum, and plan to write letters. On paper. With pen (or pencil). Using envelopes. Postage stamps. In India. Abroad. Wherever you are. If you’d like to receive and write letters, let me know your address by email. (You can get my email through a comment I have posted). If you have difficulty finding that, let me know, and we’ll find a way.

Our word’s are worth, much more.

A Different Kind of Post

I wrote a real letter, after a long time.

There’s a context to real. It means that it was handwritten on paper, put in an envelope, was addresses by hand, postage stamps were applied, and it was dropped in a proper post-box.

India Post - Post Box "Indian Post Box". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

India Post – Post Box “Indian Post Box“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve recently written a few letters. Some are incomplete. Some complete, but not posted. Some completed, and sent — but as scans, some nearly perfect, but sent via courier.

There were two challenges with this letter; one that it was being written to someone who was less than a third my age, second that it was (in all probability) the first letter for my young recipient ever. After all was done, I had to go to the post office. I had no postage stamps. And though my mother had some old ones, I had no idea how much postage would be required for my letter’s destination.

So off I went.

It’s five rupees now. For less than the cost of a cutting-chai two pages of a letter can travel anywhere in this country. For those of you who may not have cutting-chai as a benchmark, it costs US$0.08. Less than a dime. The Indian postal system is an institution that I have always respected, and nothing has changed in that department. No pun intended. The post office is much cleaner, spacious, and instead of letters being bang-stamped there is a whirr of a dot-matrix printer. The post office looks brighter and happier.

I owe a bit to my recipient, else this was an experience I would not have had.

*

Writing the letter was a very interesting experience. Especially with the spellings, because another friend had pointed out, that I should be careful with the spellings. I discovered, the speed with which I can write, has reduced considerably. I wrote the letter as I would have written when I was prolific with letter writing. I do not know if the style will make sense to my young reader. Well, in the least, my reader will know how we used to write letters 20-25 years ago. Yet, I did not feel like making any changes in the style. In the end, I was very happy with what came out.

Postal Envelopes and Stamps

Postal Envelopes and Stamps

I knew I’d write more letters than before. And I want to write letters now. Let me know if you’d like to receive one. So, while I was dropping this letter, in the post office, I bought some prepaid envelopes and a few stamps.  The prepaid envelopes look very different now. But I’ve changed too. So has my handwriting. So has my paper. So has my pen. So have my thoughts. So have the people I’d write to.

In this ever-changing world, the sense of writing a letter has stayed the same.

Dedicated to My Nerdy Friend

History is a beautiful subject to study. Most of us, because of the way it is taught in schools, dislike history. We should start learning history, again, after we are out of school.

I met Samir today.

For a long time, in my head, the word — nerd — was associated with science and such. Samir, was the first person who declared that we were History nerds. I liked it. Because I was not in college anymore, and because I am hitched. There is a respectable element in the word, which was never attributed to me, ever. Samir and I talk of history; mostly regional, but global as well. And within those discussions we have enriched each other’s lives, even if it had nothing to do with history.

Samir Pathak (left) and me (right).

The History Nerds. Samir Pathak (left) and me (right).

We do have a problem with history, though. (not Samir, not I; the world at large, i.e.). It’s sad, that History is being appropriated and maligned for sociopolitical purposes. It’s sadder, that people at large are allowing it to happen. It’s saddest, that over time, people start believing in the propaganda. The instant-generation lives off the micro-context; the now-context.  The new mantra is: have-platform-will-abuse.

And that is why, I enjoy my conversations with Samir. Especially, tonight. We engage. We differ on views. But we take the time, effort, and patience to hear each other out. Needless to say, we met in IRL (In Real Life; or F2F = Face-to-Face). No one has the time to study. Correction: No one cares to study. If we were charged a couple of USD for every tweet or a Facebook post, would we be so gloriously expressive? I think not. Once upon a time, the act of writing a letter to the editor was effort intensive. It limited the number of responses and it controlled the quality of of responses. Social media platforms disrupted that. What did we do? We abused the platforms. We ended up caring more about responses than our content.Instead of learning from others, we used it to diss others.

*

One clan, in the history of Western India has captured Samir’s imagination. We spoke about it at length. LENGTH. I doubt if Samir realised it when he was telling me about it, but he ended up comparing two sources of history and painted an animation of events. Samir is cynical, but if ever, a phrase had to be coined, this is the time: he is a cynical optimist. In other words: I-want-it-to-be-true,-but-I-am-happy-to-be-proved-wrong.

*

This post is about history, no doubt, but it is more about conversations with friends. This is not the first time; definitely not the last.

Notwithstanding what we talked about, I cherish, sacredly, these conversations.

Why Do I Write?

Good writers are concerned about their writing. Often to the point of anxiety. The worry spans many concerns.

Do I write well? If I do, how do I know? Does anyone read what I write? How do I know that someone is reading what I write? How many read what I write? Do they like what I write? Do they know who I am? Are those who read what I write smart as me, or smarter? Do they like me or do they like what I write? Should I write more or should I write less? Should I write for the masses or for the classes?

These and many other such concerns are a good writer’s constant companions. Different writers are concerned differently, with varying intensity of the concern, and apart for their other interests and intelligence, these concerns are what makes them good writers.

MacBooking

Recently, while writing On the Write Path, Amit asked if writing has value outside of its readership, and I said yes. He then turned the question over its head and asked if readership has a value for a writer (apart from money), and I said yes.

The value in both, the writing and readership is intangible, but is valuable indeed. Writing helps refine our thoughts, create expression, and plants the seed for a conversation. Readership creates conversation, broadens our thinking, enables us to write better. That’s how the cycle starts and keeps going on.

That, you will agree, is a very simple, insipid value statement.

What makes the cycle exciting is all the traps and the escapes that a writer goes through. Staring at the blank page, every writer, has questioned, at least once — Why do I write? While the answer to that question is yet to be discovered, the writer writes, and the question permeates the writing, even though no word will betray it. The writer waits for a reader. Or, waits for at least an acknowledgement, that a reader exists. The writing resonates with a reader. Reader acknowledges the writer. It feels like an answer to the writer’s question, but the writer is mistaken. The writer, in turn, acknowledges the reader. Writer continues writing. More readers arrive. The writer becomes a reader. Writes. Reads. Writes, again. The writer forgets the original question. A new question emerges — Who do I write for? A new trap. And new escapes. Somewhere, while all of this is going on, social compulsions attack the writer. Promotion, engagement, statistics, popularity. Multiple skirmishes occur. New questions are born (see second paragraph, above). New escapes. The writer becomes a warrior. In a few cases, the readers become an army. Some battles are won, some lost. Much experience is gained. Over time, a few from the army, desert. The writing continues. New readers are conscripted. The question — Why do I write — remains unanswered. It bares itself at its whim. Every other question is either answered or discarded as worthless. This one question, just refuses to get answered and go quietly into the night. And the writer continues writing.

All the writing, whether it is read or not, whether appreciated or not, becomes a value in itself, over time. The cumulative experience of writing and reading, that intangibly laces the words, curiously determines their placement, and stealthily deepens the meaning, is the value. Impossible to measure or define, but most easy to feel, right after we write. Part of this value accumulates to the writing, part of value to the self.

Perhaps, that is why I write.

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.

Question’s Question

I have a friend who asks questions. And asking questions is good. But, to an extent. If the questions you ask are such that you seek truth, knowledge, and pertinent information, they are good. Beyond that, they are cynical. Beyond that, they only seek to create an event, where you are the superhero. If you have already decided what the answer to your question should be, there isn’t a need for asking the question.

Polarisation is the buzzword. We often attribute it to persons and personalities. Here’s a polarising figure, we say. In that instance, we give up our objectivity, I feel. Like a predator, we sit and wait; and the moment when a person says something that we can question, we pounce. But, that’s us. Because we seek that, that would confirm our own sense of beliefs. And we say it out loud. We describe the purpose of the pounce. It isn’t the person. We create the polarisation because of what we think should be.

3286- Blades in the Sun

A question has to be rooted in a belief. It has to be rooted in understanding. It has to be rooted in curiosity. It has to come from a platform of an open mind. Everything in this universe is open to a question. But if your question has no root in this universe, what would be the value of your question?

Teachers often tell their students, that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I agree. No question is stupid, by itself. But some questions are trivial, provocative, and superficial. So-called stupid questions are often from an open mind. They seek to fill the gaps. They come from the view of un-understanding. They are usually accepting. Questions that seek to corner the answerer should not be asked, if you ask me. By the purpose of cornering, your answer is available to you before you ask.

Scepticism is a virtue, and a worthwhile one, at that. It informs that we will not accept something for the sake of it. When it is stretched, however, it becomes a vice. When you question everything, it follows, that you believe in nothing. Which is a big question mark on your sense of being.

In a recent 3AM conversation, a friend affected my belief system. I realised I was questioning it in a predetermined fashion and I promised her, I will learn more of the issue and come back to her with better questions, if at all.

We can ask questions that validate what we already believe, or we can ask questions that help us understand the human condition.

We’ll have to choose.

Truth, Lies Beneath

Seek out the Truth.

That, many say, is what we should be doing. And it is a noble pursuit, hell, even necessary some times. The same aforementioned many also say that the truth shall set us free. Which seems like a good state for us to be in — free.

So we march ahead and seek the truth. We attempt to uncover the lies, for, perhaps, truth lies beneath the lies. And we pull off that potential layer of deceit, throw it out, and dig further. All the time discarding the layers we have uncovered.

Or, we take the biggest thing we know and we chisel it, in the hope of discovering the truth. We keep breaking it down, the smallest indestructible unit, perhaps will be the truth.

Some of us find the truth, some don’t.

This post is for those of us who haven’t found the truth. If you have, the rest of this post is not for you.

8973: Beach Walk
The big question, really, is what is the truth? If we do not know what we are looking for, how will we know if and when we find it? What will allow us to recognise it? Someone has to tell us, “Here, this is the truth.” That would allow us to find it. That will allow us to know when to stop uncovering the layers or when to stop chiselling. But it occurs to me (as it may already have occurred to you, my dear reader) that we already know the truth. We have been told! The exercise, then, of seeking truth. is mere academic in purpose. If we haven’t been told, that’s a different world altogether. I have no idea how we will ever know the truth. Perhaps we feel it. But truth isn’t like heat, or cold. I am not sure how we can feel it, or experience it.

It’s the not knowing that gets to us. The silence of unawareness is like a quiet chainsaw cutting through us noiselessly without emotion. It is painful as an experience, but it does not hurt us in a meaningful way. Unless of course, we are aimlessly uncovering or chiselling.

Truth, I think, should seek us out.

I am not suggesting that we be blissful in an ignorant way. We should just allow truth to come to us. Richard Bach, once said, something similar, but about seeking love:

“Flying with the wind, Richard, from town to town, has it occurred to you that’s not a way to find her, that’s a way to lose her?” ~ Richard Bach, in The Bridge Across Forever

In the Pas de deux of assumption and investigation, there is much fatigue.

I am going to wait for the truth to be told.

*

PS: Of the many blessings I have in my life are my friends. Even if some do not live in the same city that I do. Of the many blessings I have in my life, is that we find time to have lovely conversations. Thank you.

Offence Update

It has been a fortnight since I decided to disengage from the offence and outrage on social networks. I can tell you, that for the last couple of weeks I am feeling much better. I have been carefully curating what I see, and I must say that the results so far are heartening. An angry and upset statement does pass through, once in a while, but I am learning to quickly move to the next nice statement or message. This also means that I must be missing a few nice and useful statements, and that is fine, for now at least, till I find a better way.

This is what you can do with mediums where you can control and curate what you see. Mass media is another story. If you are watching TV, you have to change channels or switch it off. If you are driving along the highway in the city, you can’t close your eyes to a hoarding that is, well, offensive. For such things, you have to use another tool, that we had since we were born.

Ignore.

 

Something Like My Mind

This photo, perhaps best represents the mind of a blogger who is struggling to write a post-a-day. Yes, I noticed it too – there’s a pattern emerging – all my recent posts are about this challenge that I have taken up. If nothing, it describes the state of my mind and tells you that the challenge is consuming my thoughts.

4622: Something Like My Mind

It is never that there isn’t a thought that we want to express, it’s just that there are too many thoughts. The expression, like the reflection in this picture also makes sense, to an extent, but it is not perfectly aligned. The thoughts a pieced together, with slight changes in alignment and angles, and that’s where the distortion occurs.

Something like the recent posts on this blog. You can make out what it is that I am saying, but it isn’t clear. You have to invest time to make sense and assume that perhaps this line of thought continues like this and that tile of an idea makes sense if it was placed 3° to the left. Or something like that. This misalignment is what hampers being articulate.

All we have to do is lay the tiles in order, on a flat surface and make sure that the reflection matches the original. There’s too much distraction around us and within us. We have to be careful and delicate with the tiles.

The shards are difficult to put back together.