Inland Schizophrenia

We have a WhatsApp group.

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

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

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

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Indian Inland Letter India Post Rs. 2.50

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

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

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

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

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

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Friends As Homing Devices

A peeking rose

 

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this,
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

I read this poem a couple of days ago. Only because I stumbled upon it, while I was reading a book. A book, which I had no idea existed, and discovered it only because I saw a movie, which was recommended to me by a dear friend, which, I would have never watched, if it was left to me. How and why this poem found its way to me, intrigues me. In an amusing way, i.e., not in a way that makes me weave the wool of conspiracy with needles of reason. Ironically, this book had itself alerted me to this phenomenon that I was to soon experience. I had smiled, when I read it; it was cute, but to have experienced the exact phenomenon couple of score pages later, was a revelation, it said:

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

Importantly, the above line ended with, “How delightful if that were true.”

Ah, well, dear author, here is a perfect example of why I believe that books have homing instincts. My time to tell you the story.

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Time-travel is my favourite movie/series genre. It fascinates me, much. The actual time travel not so much, but the implications of it all. The scientific and the philosophical. Needless to say, all time-travel themed movies and series have been binge-consumed and there is nothing left. I move to the War genre.

Out of the blue, a friend asks, if I have watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I tell her, it has been nagging me on Netflix, but it seems (because of the poster) too mushy for my taste. She urges me to watch it. A few days pass. I do watch it. I love it. I tweet about it. Amit thinks I am talking of the book. I say, no, I watched the film. As gently as he can, he curses my wretchedness, that I haven’t read the book, and Amit being Amit, he explains why. Point well taken. I buy the book. I flip through it. I know, what Amit meant. I start reading the book. It’s enjoyable. Then I stumble upon the homing device statement. I smile. Cute, I say to myself. Then I stumble upon the opening line of a poem, that the character in the book writes of; he doesn’t recall the author. Well, I have Google.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

These are the opening lines of Malcolm Arnold’s “Hymn to Empedocles,” part of Empedocles on Etna. I’ve never heard of Malcolm Arnold the poet before. More Googling ensues. I am reminded of something else, in the book”

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

And suddenly, late as it is, I am reading “Dover Beach. for sheer enjoyment.”

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I feel blessed. I thank my friend who suggested the movie. I thank Amit for making me read the book.

I am grateful to the homing devices, that are my friends.

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!

Balancing Breaks

A friend is taking a break from social networks. So, off Facebook and WhatsApp, the two networks, I know, he uses. So, the phone is the only way I can get in touch with him — that’s what he has suggested. So, needless to say, he won’t see this post. So, sigh! I do not know if an email comes under “social network”. Technically speaking, if I mark a few people on an email, it should constitute as social network. Assuming people reply.

I had taken a break from Facebook once. A month. I had even changed my profile picture – one looking away; thought that was quite smart. Not many people responded with the same sentiment. My self-declared smartness imploded.

Another friend has quit Facebook altogether as well as WhatsApp (Here’s an inside story: He had to quit WhatsApp because he insists on using a phone that doesn’t support WhatsApp). He is on Twitter, so for smaller, quick, personal messages we use SMS (Text, for the rest of you). Because we receive so many transactional messages (Banks and government, mostly), I usually ignore them – or see them altogether once a week and delete them. Sometimes, Twitter DM.

Some friends insist on using Facebook Messenger for chats. Then, some are on Instagram, and for the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure it out. I’m Flickr. Old school. I’ve uninstalled Facebook Messenger on my phone. I now have enough space to download the entire Internet on my phone.

So, what do we have?

An extremely complicated Venn diagram of social networks that my friends use, and I somehow lie in that intersection of all these sets. And believe me, I know exactly the best way to reach out to each one of them.

Balancing Act - Glasses Stacked

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For a long time now, I have not taken a break from any social network. Not officially, i.e. Come to think of it, not unofficially, either. But, for reasons yet unknown, social networks have lost their grip on me. I’ve stopped caring how often I post, what I post. One method I used, was asking myself: Is this important, does anyone care, does it matter? Mostly, (again, for reasons unknown) the answer was: No, not really. And mostly, there’s so much of noise – no one will receive the signal anyway. So, when I felt that there was no need to post something, I didn’t. I stopped caring. For those of you follow me on various networks – you may have noticed this. I can now, unlike earlier, go with long gaps without feeling hassled. I used to feel that a few years ago.

It’s akin to what a wise man once told me, when I was quite young and having my first drink. The drink’s for you; you are not for the drink. It was about choice. But there is no one way which works for all of us. If making a Gestalt-like “clean-cut” is what’s required, then that’s what is required. If going along without being hitched is what’s required, then that’s what is required. We balance or break, in a way that works best for us.

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My friends don’t make my life easy. I am on so many networks — only so that we have a way to reach out to each other. Thankfully, most of my friends are pre-Snapchat generation. So that’s one network I am not on. But I don’t mind. I don’t care about the platform; I care about my friends. The best network of them all is F2F: an elusive, temperamental, but the perfect network. My favourite.

There’s a reason I have not taken a break from digital and online networks: they enable me to meet my friends F2F, someday. I cherish those events, I await them.

I am balancing the breaks.

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PS: I am 8 days behind on my challenge. Help! 🙂

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.

Of Delays And Such

I wonder, if we didn’t have the concept of structured time – would words like delay exist? If a good answer is found for this question, it would work in my favour. I have missed my daily posts of July, for a few days. And I have to catch-up.

Tree Rings

I wonder, at the same time, if age would exist. Would we know how old we are? I am not talking of the absence of time itself, but an absence of measuring and counting it. Whether as notches or as the rising and setting of the sun and keeping a count. Mostly, I am saying what if there wasn’t a clock or a calendar, ever. There would be no deadlines, no schedules. You couldn’t say to me – I wanted that yesterday! Yesterday is dependent on today, and if we didn’t mark today, what would yesterday even mean? An entire set of words from our vocabulary would vanish. We would not celebrate birthdays and anniversaries; we would not be able to plan anything.

We’d never be able to tell our friends when are meeting them next. Scary thought.

It’s a good thing we measure and calculate time. I am grateful for the clock and the calendars. I want to keep meeting my friends and plan for days together!

I’ll catch-up on my posts.

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 al 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.