A Social-Media Experiment Unravels

This post is premature. By a day. But, I’ll allow it. The advantage of having your own blog! Rules assume the garb of guidelines, when you want them to.

I have ranted often of what I am now writing about, today. The topic is not new, the emotion has been experienced often. The content, perhaps has a fresh flavour or a tantalising twist.

As of tomorrow, I have been away from three social networks that I used to indulge in, regularly — for a working month. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I was mostly a consumer on all three, while creating some content on Facebook and Twitter. YT was pure consumption.

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Little over a month ago, I finished reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport — I was amused by the directness of a Chapter Title — “Quit Social Media” — but I read it nevertheless. This post is not a review of the book, nor do I want it to be. After a while you pick and choose your battles — like writing a review of a book. A star rating is enough to describe where you stand.

Of the many reasons mentioned in “Quit Social Media” – the one that intrigued me the most was the question: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you, if you do not post. YT didn’t fall in that category, because I never created any content on YT.

Twitter also did not matter much, because a decent percentage of my followers started following me, because of a random tweet in a timeline of years, which appealed to them. They stayed followed, but never ever interacted after that one tweet. Most Twitter connections (other than my actual friends) are connections of convenience.

Facebook was the one I really wanted to put to the test of: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you.do actually know all (ah, ok, most!) of my connections on FB. In recent years, I was never a prolific poster – but I was irregularly regular. What would happen if I stop? Armed with a commandment from Cal Newport’s book, I took the step. Changed my profile picture — showing my back, looking away, to all my FB friends. Changed my cover photo to a metaphorical chain (smart, eh?). And just stopped posting.

For ten days since that day, I religiously did not open any of the three sites, web or mobile. But, what if Cal was wrong? What if in the ten days gone by, people were missing me? So, I did some soft cheating; I did not post anything still, but went and checked who was missing me.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

//INSET

The mobile phone innovation came to us in the late 90s. Even before that – basic telephony was costly and cumbersome. It was cheaper to meet-in-person according to convenience. 50p and 1Re coins jingled in our pockets. In 2021 coins have almost gone out of circulation, and 1Re coins cant get you anything worthwhile. We used to make 3-min calls, without any niceties, conforming time, place, and Plan B’s.

For me a phone has always been about name, place, and time. Most of friends and relatives do not understand; I have a low tolerance for conversation on a phone. The real engagement happened when I met the named person at a time in a place that we we had planned for. Face to Face.

//

So, some people had liked my profile picture, with my back turned to them. No comments, no questions. Cal Newport was winning. On Twitter there was one mention, purely circumstantial; work-related. I didn’t even bother about YT.

I developed a 10-day-itch, so I continued to soft-cheat every ten days.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

(One day, I liked a photo that a cousin had posted; sheer muscle memory. #FAIL) #Sigh! I totally OUCHed myself!

In just a month long social-media rehab, I feel cured; or at least on the way to a cure.

For sure, however, not a cure from friends. For Sure. It’s a cure from the network. It’s like mistaking the map for the territory; or forest for the trees. Something like that. Specifically, it is a cure from the compulsions of the network. A networked connection does not automatically mean friendship. Not every network enables conversations (if they would, they would have greater opportunities of data mining and targeted advertising!)

[Damn! I should not have given them that idea. But, chances are, they have already exploited it.]

I have not lost touch with my friends because of my absence on social networks. In fact, I am speaking with them more often. On a mobile phone that does not weigh as much as a construction brick. Pandemic and all, that is the best we can do today. I no longer feel the need to post my crappy humour, unoriginal ideas, ill-formed opinions, and angry rants on these social networks anymore. I have not lost the feeling; I just do not feel a need to post it. (WhatsApp/Other IMs are an exception, because they are more intimate; but I think I shall conquer that, in good time)

Finally, this post; about social networks and social media – is not a rant. It’s a happy experience of not experiencing everything that is fed to you.

#JOMO.

As an early-70s kid, it has brought back a happiness that I knew and related to.

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Life’s better when it is small and full; rather than being big and empty.

Seventeen-Five

True art is in the doing of it.

~ Jean Renoir

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

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The quote however begets the question: is it enough?

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

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

Fifteen-Three

In between the obsession, there has to be sanity. If not, then it becomes a case for the mental health professionals.

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There isn’t a doubt that these are unprecedented and difficult times. Challenging ones. And amongst the different challenges, tactical ones, i.e., the real challenge is of keeping our sanity in check. I believe we will overcome these difficult time, even if it takes a while. So, the question before us is – will we expend all our energy dealing with everyday transactions, or will we keep some in reserve for when this is all over?

Because this will all get over one day. And in preparing ourselves during the difficult time – we tend to forget that we have to be ready for when it is all over.

Therein lies all the preparation. And we all will have different ways in which we will.

That we have to, is not a question.

Fourteen-Two

Building a habit is tough, I tell you. Especially a good habit, that is not inherently addictive. Requires intense and creative re-wiring.

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Thirteen-One

While there may be many things for which I seek clarity, one thing that’s clear as a summer sky, is that I have lost the urge and inspiration to write here. Perhaps it has been evident for a while, but I wasn’t willing to accept it; was hoping that the sense would return slowly and steadily. There have been spurts of bloggable ideas, thoughts, and incidents. Very few made it to the stage where I would click Publish. Many, many more, never even made it to the editor.

I do have a lot of creative excuses though, for not writing, and more often than not the root of the excuse is outside of me, making me a colluding victim. It’s a win-win situation of sorts.

Today is no different. There isn’t a bloggable idea, thought, or incident that I am writing about.

There’s an event, and someone suggested I make good use of it.

In less than a month we are now living in a world that looks and feels so different. A cauldron-full of every turbulent emotion has been suitably sautéed and served. Small signs of movie-like dystopian visuals abound, and we close our eyes looking for hope. To realise that hope, India announced a 21-day lockdown all over the country, to stop the spread of the virus.

Today is the first day of that official lockdown. I am not a stranger to remote working, yet the announcement that you have to #StayHome for three weeks, caused some angst. And an otherwise frivolous post asking for ideas, on how to cope, got “write on your blog” as a suggestion; so this post. And I hope to continue writing for the next twenty days.

There were other suggestions, a few I have taken up earnestly (which didn’t require any physically tiring effort) and I hope to continue those too, for the next twenty days. Directionally, I don’t expect any of these suggested adventures to take me anywhere.

But, perhaps there will be an opportunity to repair, align, and balance.

Misaligned, rusty Iron Gate Closeup

Scrape away the rust and polish to a brilliant shine, reposition and reorder to the standard, and return from the extremes; come home.

Time has appointed itself to decide, but I will have to pass the judgement.

Without prejudice.

In Between Imagination and Reality

The last post was almost two months ago.

Interestingly, in these last two months, I have had the most to say. To write, I mean. But, as you have observed, [or have not] – I haven’t written here at all. We often imagine certain dreadful moments; I do, at least – and then, some times, those events actually occur. They are nothing like you imagine. And in between dealing with how those events occur and how you feel cheated, the event passes by. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.

But good things happen too. And we would have imagined them too. And just like the dreadful things, they are nothing that you imagined. Reality is the better cousin of imagination. There’s some healthy rivalry and teasing going on. Reality and imagination. Reality, mostly, winning. We are mere spectators to their act.

You find solace, where you wouldn’t expect to. Not what you imagined, BTW. Reality wins again. Not by a huge margin, though. What you had imagined about friends is true, too. We’ll call this a tie. Life’s surprises never cease. If only we would keep the door open. I am glad, I kept the door open.

These are things that no one can teach you. And while I have been hungry for a teacher, I have had to make do with makeshift teachers. Students are also teachers. Someone who is wading through the muck of life can hardly help you get across. But, they can do one thing: they can hold your hand, and help you move forward together – sharing the uncertainty; living the same fear.

SS, JR, PM, MD, GKMR, NP, and MB.

LearningMate Founders

Thank you for being with me in between the ever narrowing and broadening spaces of the gap of imagination and reality. While we lamented the lack of mentors, I think we did good for each other. We are better because of the shared scrapes on our knees and elbows; and sprained ankles. But our shoulders are strong – and that is what matters; that is what mattered. We sought mentors, but little did we know, we had each other – always – unqualified mentors. And we are better because of that. My reality is trumping my imagination, now. Only because of you all.

May we all shorten the space between imagination and reality!

When You Have Nothing To Say

I suggested a change in a WhatsApp school group. For a month, I asked, don’t post anything that is not yours. In other words, I asked my school friends, don’t forward any content that you have not created.

It has been a few days, and my school friends are trying hard. Many have stopped participating. I can sense, how they are holding back, forwarding funny, social, political messages.

Mostly, there isn’t much to say. But, since I asked that no forwards be posted, for a month, my friends have followed the rule. It has been a few days, and there have been no forwards. All our conversations have been about teasing each other. It’s a good thing. And there are gaps. Because we now can no more randomly forward anything, we are forced to talk with each other.

And it seems, that we don’t have that much to talk to each other. We feel that just because we are connected, we have to share something with each other. I have, for a while stayed away from this sharing. Our lives are so ordinary, we cannot extract anything of glamour from our everyday lives. So we share something that does not belong to us. As if, the content belongs to us. Just so that we will be relevant.

We have nothing to say. At best, we have little to say. But we want to say much more. But that voice is not ours. It is someone else’s voice that we are amplifying.

It’s ok to be quiet.

Medium & the Message

This happened: A friend wrote a post, a very personal one. In a notepad. Pen and paper. I was privy to it. It was as personal as it could be. Photos of that very personal encounter were shared with me. It was later edited, to remove all personal references and posted in a WhatsApp group of friends. People commented on it, appreciated, loved it, responded to it. Good fun. In July. Last year. Six months later, the same post was reposted as a forward. Exactly the same text. Author changed. Apparently the same text was written by the Big B. I was upset, and I let people know that I was upset, because they just accepted the post as a Big B post. It was wrongly attributed to say the least. But none, in that group even wondered or asked, hey! Haven’t I seen this before?

Needless to say, that post went out of our group, and came back in our group in a shiny new bottle with celebrity status.

Gemstone Necklace

My blood started boiling and my FitBit had a fit.

I asked my friend, the author — did you see it? My friend sent me a smile. Just a smile.

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It would have been very easy for me to tell everyone in the WA group that this was wrongly attributed. This was an original piece from our friend, which exited our group, and re-entered our group, now falsely attributed to a famous person. I sent a few messages describing why the famous person could not have said it. Let it be known that I am a big fan of the famous person. Some of my close friends asked me to disclose the source and get it over with.

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Every once in a while, life asks you to look at problems, not from where you stand, but to take a position where a problem exists. Walk to where the problem is. Stand where the problem is. Sometime you have to see afar, sometimes you have to look inward. Giving answers is easy. Most people will take answers. Very few will take questions and go and to find answers. Often, what we call a problem, is just a question of our vantage point; or lack thereof.

Sometimes, we are just careless.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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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.

Vada Pav and Tapri Chai

The staple day-food of almost everyone who works in the field in Mumbai. It’s not an alien concept to me. I have lived this life, for almost four years, early in my career. It’s easily available and its cheap. When you don’t have a lot of money and time, it’s the perfect combination.

Having the Vada Pav and Tapri Chai, we’d gaze at the fancy hotels and say, someday. That someday came soon enough, and the days of gobbling Street food before the next appointment, were a thing of the past. Then came the era of fancy street food. Overpriced, badly cooked street food that was promoted through Facebook events. I visited those too, hated the food, and returned home slightly disappointed.

Most people I’d meet wanted to have breakfast meetings, in fancy air-conditioned restaurants. All this while, imagining Vada Pav and Tapri Chai, and thinking, someday.

Having a Vada Pav and Tapri Chai become the new luxury, for which I had to take time out and go out to the street to get one.

Today, I had Vada Pav and Tapri Chai. Work has changed for me and I am less bound to a desk than I was before. I love that sense. Not because it is nostalgic, but it’s a happy sense. Great ambitions have been cooked and inspiring dreams have been brewed over a Vada Pav and Tapri Chai.

There’s nothing wrong with fancy food. Food’s purpose is to satisfy hunger. All food can do that. Some food, however, not just satisfies your hunger, it feeds your soul.

The Mob Within

There are those who wear white. But they didn’t always wear white. And then, there are those who wear black. They didn’t always wear black either. What was white, what was black was never something that was definite.

In the absence of standards, White said, this is how it all should be. Black said, this is how it should not be. Like iron-shavings, around and about a horseshoe magnet, alignment happened. Needless to say, the shavings had no mind of their own.

Whitish emotions aligned with the White end. Blackish emotions, of course, aligned with the Black end. I wonder if it was truly magnetic. Emotions are mercenaries. They will go where they get the most benefit. White camp, Black camp. They’ll adorn their hoods of grey and go to either camp. Emotions have the same basic survival instinct as humans. They will make their choice. Emotions choose to survive. Simple.

White makes a recruitment case, so does Black. We are our emotions. We are choosing camps.

There is darkness in all of us. The “obvious” Black. But the White camp has currency. Black is bleaching their hoods and becoming greyer towards white. Acceptance eats identity for breakfast. The White-hood gangs up. Swords drawn, ready to attack the Black. Black is smart, it fades in the darkness that is its nature. White can’t fight in that arena, it withdraws. Stands tall.

Black is not vanquished. And it never will be. For if Black was to ever disappear, how will White exist. White knows this. It can only push Black to the shadows, but never vanquish it. When and how did White become the vanquisher? Did it borrow from Black? Is a part of White’s identity based on Black?

Then comes the question of the whole. Can it be fully White? Can it be fully Black? Is there a Blackness in White? Is there a Whiteness in Black?

I am White fighter. In between the gunfight, I look over my shoulder, and my coat is grey. A shade I have never seen before. I am Black fighter. In between the gunfight, I look over my shoulder, and my coat is grey. A shade I have never seen before.

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I am White and Black, and everything between. I am the total of the Mob that is fighting with each other. I am fighting with me. I am both sides of the Mob. I am White. I am Black. I acknowledge White. I accept Black. I am Whole.

I am the conflict. I am peace.

Destination: Journey – II

It is a good evening. It isn’t raining but the clouds are full of tease. There is no planned destination, and we aren’t really thinking about the lack of one. Perhaps there is a vague sense, where we would reach; it is the journey which has preoccupied our senses, all the while.

Curving through the folds of the hills, we drive through the beauty that is on offer, without condition, without agenda. Here a beautiful flower, there a wise tree. A naughty stream and some sweet chirping. Over the sagely hill, looking at the inscrutable sea below. Beckoning. Hearts full of joy, minds free from everyday shackles, we move. This is the life we had always imagined.

1195: Rails along a Lake

And, then without warning, it comes upon us. There is no destination.

When we don’t know if there was destination or not, the journey is wondrous; the vague, cloudy, unknown sense of the destination is enough to power the journey, directionless, though it may seem. The realisation that there is no destination, however, takes the life out of the journey.

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I often wonder if a journey is an orphan without a destination. I have written about this often, and I have yet to discover.

Can a journey be a destination?

There’s Hope #Movies

Potential spoiler. Not giving out the plot, but it may influence your thinking, if you haven’t and are going to watch the movie.

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I watched Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017), yesterday. (IMDB has got it wrong; its spelled with two a’s, unless of course, you use the ā, in place of the single a). It was everything that I didn’t expect it to be. Primarily, it was dragged to death and beyond. I am a big fan of the fantasy genre, and I enjoyed Baahubali: The Beginning (2015), a lot. In spite of some really over-the-top stuff in the movie. And given the suspense created in the first movie, I was really looking forward to the second. I’ll stop just short of saying that it fell flat. I’ll concede, however, that watching it dubbed (very badly) in Hindi was a mistake. I should have gone for the original Telugu version. I understand a few words and phrases in Telugu; but that’s not reason: there’s something very disturbing when sound and lip-movements are out of sync. It’s the effect, methinks, that’s diluted in dubbing. Subtitles are a better alternative. And when you are creating an artwork on such a large canvas, that one small thing can ruin the painting. Most of the CGI was impeccable, except for fire. They haven’t mastered that. That was very childish. This isn’t review, just thoughts. Five of my co-cinema-goers were equally (or more) disappointed, so we decided to wash down our dismay with a few beers.

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I have practiced suspension of disbelief much before I learnt what it meant. It has always helped me with imagination. Considering possibilities is exciting. And when you start considering, you can go various places. Including some not-so-nice places. Yet, it is worth the trade-off.

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After mocking the movie over a couple of beers, we asked ourselves if this is the fare that we are doomed for? I didn’t completely agree, but I didn’t say so.

Holding on

A week ago, I watched Poorna (2017). [PS: It’s available on Amazon Prime]

I am a very involved movie-watcher, and I experience the emotions that a director of a movie would like me to. If she is a good director. I laugh and cry wholeheartedly; get angry and afraid as the story asks of me. I do not watch horror movies because I do not like to be terrified. It’s not an emotion I prefer, if I can avoid it. The real-world is terrifying enough.

Poorna is the (real) story of the youngest girl to have scaled Mt. Everest. I’ll just say that. There are other adjectives to the tag line, in my opinion — they aren’t important.

The movie was a multi-layered emotional roller-coaster. The first layer is obvious: it’s her story, and in that sense, a dramatised documentary. But there’s something deeper. And without warning the layers reveal themselves. And it’s less about her and her motivations; it starts becoming about you. It touches your heart. Straight, direct, instant.

There’s hope. There’s proof. Of good movies.

A Permanent Image

I was on vacation, last week.

It has been a while that I have been on a vacation. Those of you know me, will probably be rolling your eyes. Yes, I have been on a holiday recently, but it has been a while that I have been on a vacation. Somewhere, in my mind a break, a holiday, and a vacation are different. I mean obviously they are different, they are three different words. But how they differ, actually, is a mystery to me. It’s probably got to do with the length, of how long you are away. This one was a full week, so, vacation.

A vacation after five years, almost. And much has changed, since my last vacation.

I saw all that I thought I would see. The faraway trailing mountain lines, the thready waterfalls of summer, the centenarian eucalypti seeking the sky, wild flowers sidelining the roads, brightly coloured happy homes that are the stuff of dreams, and sunsets that Turner would want to capture on a canvas. I saw all of that. Yes, I did.

I also saw, however, that no one else was seeing all this. Almost everyone had their backs to these wondrous sights. Seeing the sight doesn’t matter much. Being seen with the sight is now important. At all places, yes, all places, all the tourists had their back to what they came to see. This is not to say that they weren’t seeing the mountains, the trees, the waterfalls, or the flowers. They were seeing it. They were seeing it on their phones, bounded in an unnatural 16:9 ratio on a five-inch screen, while they took a photo of themselves being there.

I do not deride these selfie-seekers. For, when you are on a vacation, you must seek that, that makes you happy. I am, however, unable to relate to it.

How I look to the mountains; how the mountains look at me, is an image. It will never be shared. But it is forever.

It’s etched on my soul.

209 pages

This book that I am reading. A mass market paperback. It’s called “What is History?” by Edward Hallett Carr. I started reading it on 10th October, this year; am on page 112, now. That seems like an achievement to me. So, as is my nature, I posted this update on Goodreads, and it showed up on my Facebook feed. (Not magically; I’ve given Goodreads permission to publish on Facebook on my behalf.)

Of all the people who saw that post, it was picked up by my English teacher from school, and she commented, “Atul, keep up the speed.”

Disclaimer: She is my favourite teacher of all times and I am her favourite student of all times. (Irrespective of the thousands of kids she taught after I completed high school. A few of these thousand kids may have been good, but I am her favourite, I am sure. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I didn’t make it to Editor of the school magazine, in my last year. Those were purely technical issues.)

More than twenty-five years later, she keeps tabs on what read and write. On my previous post, she said, “Well tried.” That was a message, if I ever got one. That’s who and how she is; she always pushes you forward.

You are never as good (or bad) as what you just accomplished, you are as good as what you can achieve.

Perhaps, that was her mantra for all of us. Perhaps that’s why I am not as lost as I think I would have been, otherwise.

20161129_222808

Back to the book.

This book is about Historiography. Unlike most facile stuff that I once used to read, it’s not an easy read. Here’s a sample:

This is the real indictment of those who seek to erect a super-historical standard or criterion in the light of which judgement is passed on historical events or situations—whether that standard derives from some divine authority postulated by the theologians, or from a static Reason or Nature postulated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. It is not that shortcomings occur in the application of the standard, or defects in the standard itself. It is that the attempt to erect such a standard is unhistorical and contradicts the very essence of history. [E. H. Carr, What is History?]

As is obvious, such a paragraph takes time (for me, at least). The idea in itself is quite simple and straightforward. The manner in which it is presented seeks that the reader be involved with heart, soul, and mind.

So, yes, I’ll complete this book. Soon enough, for it’s the kind that needs to be savoured.

And that’s the speed. Thank you Ma’am!

Writers & Carpenters

Writing is difficult. Writing well, is another matter altogether.

Carpentry is difficult too. Carpentering well, is another matter. Just like writing well.

Writers get distracted; just like carpenters. Writers and carpenters have their own means of getting distracted. Writers get distracted by style, grammar, method, medium, and such. Carpenters think of paint, cuts, design, trends, and such. (Needless to say, I am making things up for carpenters. I am not a carpenter. Though I would have liked to be one. Come to think of it, I am, perhaps, making things up for writers too!)

When distracted and diffused*, writers write nonsense or trite passages and carpenters make bad furniture or misaligned shelves. And this distraction is perhaps important. For writers and carpenters. It offers an opportunity to move away from the known, experiment, make mistakes, fail (often miserably), learn, and therefore, create something new.

6172: Buddha

After all the wandering through the land of distractions, however, the writer and the carpenter return. To the place where they started. Everything is the same, but nothing is. The intercourse of familiarity and strangeness is at once comforting and disquieting. This conflict is beauty’s birthplace.

The carpenter creates a writing desk for the expression through words, as the writer would, and the writer measures and assembles his words as the carpenter would. The open window is witness: to what the carpenter would like the writer to see and to how the writer sees what the carpenter intended.

It may not happen at first, but it is a stage for success.

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* Kathy’s Song, Paul Simon

A Broken Narrative

Few of my friends know of a certain profile picture I use on Facebook, which indicates that I am away. Every once in a while I test if I can be away from Facebook (and therefore Twitter and other such networks). October was my away month — by my standards. I used Facebook sparsely. I’ll be back on the 1st of November. The last three or four times I did this away exercise, it was more of a test of my addiction, so to speak. While October started with the same purpose; the revelations were interesting to say the least.

The narrative of everything has changed.

There isn’t — according to the way I see it — anything that we can say, that will not be crushed out or hammered in by some ism that someone else follows. Opinions do not have spaces anymore. Jokes have no space. Most people I see, are angry and belligerent. Mostly, deep down, they are defensive – but outwardly they are angry and belligerent. Those that aren’t angry are on a trip, some trip, which offers them a false sense of happiness.

When ideological camps never intersect, where is that common space for us to speak and hear? What is our meeting ground? Not to make a statement; just to speak, to listen to each other. In the race to be heard, no one is listening.

I am not lamenting social change. I have lived my adult life, with and without mobile phones, e.g., and I am aware of the boons and curses of how society responds to changes it did not expect. In these times of (mostly) nonsensical back-and-forth, I struggle to find a place of my own.

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Within that struggle, I have discovered a small place. It’s nice. Comfortable. Mine. It’s not mine, yet. But I’d like it to be mine. And it has the potential to be mine. In times of predictable spaces, determined by isms, I am fortunate to have found one that allows for isms, but is not dictated by an ism.

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I am participating in Movember, yet again, this year. (That’s the day I return to Facebook) It has been over half-a-decade of Movembering; I have yet to find an organisation that works for men’s health, in India. If you know of one – do let me know. Nevertheless, It seems, I will be a permanent Movember Member; inspired in no less measure thanks to The Bum.

2016-01-01 17.04.50: Orchha

It’s the festival of lights, here, in India. In my head, there is a philosophical connotation to the festival. To tell you the truth, it is a festival of light and sound. Traditionally, philosophically, and spiritually. Not anymore. Either by armchair activism or sheer usurpation. Those that purportedly attack and those that apparently protect — both have it wrong. Festivals are resilient enough that they can survive attacks. Festivals are strong enough that they do not need protection. I wish I do not live long enough to have to wish “Happy Holidays” for a festival that you celebrate, even if I do not celebrate it. When a festivity is reduced to a holiday – that is when we have lost everything. We should be worried about sameness, assuming we will live long enough to sense it.

My apologies for this line of thinking on such a wonderful festive day. I leave you not with thoughts to discover the light within but just be good. In your own way. Do something nice. I will.

Happy Diwali!