Don’t Hate

A few years ago, I chose to remove the word “hate” from my usable vocabulary. Which instantly raised the question – how I would express that extreme emotion. So I invented phrases that were equivalent, while not using the h-word. Well, not invented – they were always up for grabs and in vogue.

Sort of. Intense dislike; utter disgust; absolute abhorrence, and such. Using these phrases allowed me, or so I imagined, to qualify my degree of disagreement. That is what “hate” is actually. It is a degree of disagreement — the extreme degree of disagreement.

Hate is blinding. And, while quantifying adjectives may just seem to be an exercise in creative writing, I prefer that. Because there is no adjective that ever qualifies hate. It’s extreme, it is absolute. Hate is point of no return.

Hate is like standing at the edge of a cliff and refusing to turn back. Refusing to look at anything other than the drop. Qualified adjectives may give you a chance to turn around, look for options. Hate does not. It may seem like an exercise in word-smithery, but it is not.

I hate the way hate consumes us (OK, yes, for effect, I am using the h-word). It shuts our mind to possibilities. To options. To Truth, that we may not have experienced before; to Truth that was no available to us. Hate extends. From one thing to one person, to one concept, to a thought. Hate is a dark, sticky envelope. Ever-ready to engulf.

Love is not hate’s ‘necessary’ or ‘automatic’ antonym or antidote. Love/hate are not obvious antonyms — if you take the time to think about it. Proper, relevant, and topical adjectives, paired with appropriate synonyms of disagreement is what will bring us back from the abyss (or cliff; #YouPrefer)

Disagree till the cows come home; be disgusted vehemently.

But don’t hate.

A Musical Schizophrenia

There’s always one song — a crass, inelegant one. The genre doesn’t matter, the period does. Almost always this will be a song from when you were young. Perhaps in your early college days; a little more than three decades ago. (Needless to say, if you are still in college, or if you are just out; this won’t make sense to you.)

It is your favourite song. Still.

30 years ago, people around you, agreed with you. It was the best, they echoed. 30 years later, you dare not say it loud: I love this song. Most of us mature in our taste of music; some of us do not. It’s not something to apologise for. It is however, something not worth advertising.

*

I may have said this before. I lost my iPod Classic during travel, a few years ago; it’s been a while. Since then, the music experience has never been the same. Music, movies, books, have to be possessed – the cloud does not cut it. Imagine painstakingly tagging over seven thousand songs in your own way, and not being able to access your music in the way that you want to.

Discontinuing the iPod Classic is the worst thing that Apple did. Not that they care, but I will never forgive them for that.

*

I’ve lost my religion. I have to get back to Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel. True salvation lies in their words and their strings. For me. I do not know about you.

*

Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them.
Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.
I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.
The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love.
My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.

~ Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

*

 

*

My life’s so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears

 

All’s Well: The Intersection

Something that I had once said, came true today. I am happy, because I was/am right. I am sad, because I did not want it to be right.

Not all intersections are indicators of long and shared journeys. Intersections are opportunities; but some are just that: intersections. We may believe that an intersection may make me change my direction and walk with you, or an intersection may make you change your direction and walk with me. It may happen even; but not always, and not at every intersection. Sometimes intersections are only intersections. Enjoy them, and move along your path. An intersection is only a milestone of what was lost or what we let go.

Your opportunity may be waiting at the next intersection. Or not.

BWSL Mumbai

And intersections are lively. They are fun, they are entertaining. But we have to be on and away on our journey. An intersection is a stop; the opposite of a journey. Every intersection prolongs your journey; so be wary of intersections.

As long as you keep walking, all’s well.

A Sense of a Presence: #Anthem 20

My uncle, father’s brother, once accidentally called our landline, a few days after my father’s death. My uncle heard a recorded message — in my father’s voice on the answering machine. Needless to say it was a jarring experience for him, and I heard it from him years later.

What do you remember? Is it the voice; a name, or a face?

Almost twenty years have passed since my father passed. Frankly, I remember not his face or his voice. I often try and feel his physical presence. If I try, I could construct memories; but that’s inorganic. When family get’s together, there is a sense — a shared one — and memories play tricks on us; tease us almost.

Over two decades I have had friends who have lost a parent or parents. And my unqualified message to them is just this: It may take whatever time; but you will forget. You will forget the face, the voice. The presence will dilute. It does become easier, with difficulty. After twenty years, how you remember will change: tears will be smiles. How we remember, changes.

Each fragment of a memory; and there will only be fragments; will bring a smile to your face instead of tear in your eyes. The pain will never ever go away; but eventually you will learn to manage it. Some random Thursday afternoon it will sting you suddenly like the end of the world. And suddenly enough you will smile. God has given us equal strength to remember; and an equal strength to forget. (This theory of the power to remember/forget is not mine – I got it from another Uncle of mine)

Here is what the opening lines of this song are:

My name will be lost
My face will change
My voice is my only identity
If, you would recognise it

This song is for people who are alive. For me, this is the 20th song in the series. And it is a non-Anthem. In any case #Anthem has outlived its time, since the originator of this Tag is long gone. Am not doing any more #Anthems. I may embed music videos for other reasons

Photographs help. Stories from spouses and siblings help. Friends can tell vivid stories. But the absence of the person stings — in various degrees at various times. Twenty years later, it hurts but the pain isn’t there.

Twenty years later there is a remainder; a sense of a presence. And that is enough; even as memories dilute.

All the forgotten moments, all the conversations, all the arguments, all the fights, all the affection, all the advice: It is all enough to be together.

Forever.

#Mumbai: And I Love You So…

There is a romance of the idyllic village.

Not a constant; a fragmented romance. In between the moments of a busy life, we feel it, want it, yearn it. Is it ever real? Or do we just want to get away from it all? An escape. Some of us can make the escape true too – even if, for a weekend. But that is the largest real fragment that is ever offered to us city folks.

Even the largest fragment, the weekend, is often fragmented. It is never a continuous experience. The shards are large enough for us to imagine it romantic; that is all that the weekend offers.

And I wonder.

Do places — the cities vs. the country, make a difference? Do cities consume us differently than the countryside. Is boredom about wanting to do different things or having more time than we can spend? And forget romance; what about love? Does one trump the other?

IMG 1676

There is a love for this city that I cannot let go. If and when we sit and argue — we will list the shortcomings of every place. But that would be such an academic exercise of worthlessness. An exchange of ugly facts; so bereft of emotion! And while facts have their own rightful place, they whither when confronted by love: unconditional love.

//Inset

I was recently asked to consider moving away from Mumbai. #WorkFromHome is the new norm – would it be so bad moving to a quiet place?

No, it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d like it for a few days, but, again, I wonder — would it be good forever? For that which has not come to pass, I can only dread. I could romance it even, but, I wonder — would it be true love?

But I have loved; it is within me. Perhaps a chance for the idyllic romance is due.

My love isn’t going anywhere. I am.

The Story of Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago, when I wrote my first post, without any idea what I was getting into and how how far I wanted to take it – I gave a very short advisory about carrying cash, if you travel to Konkan. The next post came much much later. And then slowly, but surely I found my writing rhythm, which has continued to this day, with all the highs and lows one would expect in any seventeen-year relationship. In a high, there is not much to think of – you go with the adrenaline-fuelled flow. It’s the lows that get you thinking.

You tend to seek the past highs as they were – and try and replicate them. But no high is like the other. The construct, the motivation, the experience, the quantity and concentration of the adrenaline – is all different. It is impossible to make the same concoction again. The lows become lower.

Needless to say, a high, with a different cocktail soon comes over, and you are good to go, once again.

That has pretty much been the story of my seventeen years of blogging. Quite a bit of the writing has been about my thoughts and ideas, but a large part has been about my experiences – translated, protected, or reflected upon. And each experience was a result of an adventure. Those adventures are responsible for most content here, on the blog. And, those adventures happened because I said – YES!

As I look back at the lows of my blogging rhythm, I discover that almost all those times were when I said no to an adventure. For a few, I had good reason, but not for all. But I don’t think the reasons matter – irrespective of the reason (unless it’s about your safety) it’s usually a good idea to say yes. I recently went through such a time when I was called upon to do something that I wasn’t particularly interested in, but I did it anyway – in spite of an utter discomfort. I imagined it would be one off, so I thought, I’d just get it out of the way and be done with it. And I did. Without warning, however, it has set me on a path that I am now very curious about, and I believe I will enjoy it. It has a faded scent of a concoction I have had a long time ago; yet is absolutely fresh (and frightening) and exciting. Where it will lead me, I do not know – and that is the best part of it!

From the “Keep the Faith” Series, Atul Sabnis

*

In the last few years, I have done a disservice to my readers, I feel. The frequency is down, the mood is depressing, and the tone is dark. Like the long-high of 2013-15, the time between 2017-20 has been a long low. Yet, many of you have always been here, often silently waiting, perhaps – for the high, that I have been waiting for.

Thank you all for all the love and generosity for all these years!

Knock, knock. Who’s there. Opportunity.

Some of us have suffered temporary deafness. Especially when opportunity knocked. Either we didn’t hear it or we ignored it. Long after the opportunity took a flight far away, someone told us, that it was opportunity knocking. And helter-skelter we ran.

All that we could do now was, kick ourselves (which, come to try and do it, is not that easy). Of course, we assume that it was a good opportunity, which makes us kick ourselves. By itself, in absolute terms, the word — opportunity — holds in itself a positive, favourable intent. So, there, we have declined the existence of “bad” opportunities.

IMG_3967

Needless to say, possibilities exist. Every opportunity, holds within itself, a possibility. Some, which we hope will become a reality, some we dread, and hope that they live and die in our imagination. In an otherwise casual conversation, a friend alerted me about why, an opportunity, which I think I missed, was actually a blessing in disguise. Logic won with aplomb, and I agreed with him. Trouble, is as much possible as happiness is. I feel I should quote a great writer who said something about this subject. No one comes to mind. My mind splits and surfs two parallel worlds of an opportunity that could have gone either way. And I finely align myself to stay strong somewhere in middle. The middle, which is nowhere.

Time passes.

And I question, what I consider as logic, is perhaps only feeding a social construct, that restricts. Opportunity is a slave to conditioning, perhaps?

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.

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.

*

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.

Say, I Love You

It doesn’t matter who you say it to. If you feel it, you should say it. And that is it. Leave.

Love never dies, except when it is waiting in line. Waiting in line to receive something, anything. A response, mostly. It’s a slow, painful death. But it can be avoided. Just say, I love you, and leave. Love lives and flourishes, when it leaves after saying what it wants to say. And just goes on about its business of loving. There is no taking the high road, there is no ego in love. There is no proving, there is no transaction.

It’s only a feeling
feel it in your spirit
let love be love
name it not anything.

[My very basic attempt at a translation] Which shouldn’t matter. What should matter – is saying, I Love You!

Say it, and be on your way.

It’s Not About Photographs – VI

Don’t take a photo of what you see – take a photo of what you want to show!

I said that in a recent conversation to a friend. There were some composition rules she was missing, which she could have easily rectified; was just helping her take a better photo the next time around. What I said to her, however, has been haunting me for a few hours, now. I don’t altogether believe what I said to my friend. I think, I was asking her to be more careful with the camera. Or, in my head, I was asking her to be more careful with the frame. Our eyes see a lot, we send it all to the brain. Somewhere, somehow, all the chemical and electrical events that occur during this transmission from eye to brain, are not the sum total of the image that we present.

What our eye does see is vast, the frame is a crop. Having a camera in your hand, in front of your eyes is a responsibility. How will you crop?

153400: Light & Arches

I cannot relate to the urgency of taking a photo. I just do not understand the urgency. Photography is patience. Personified. Why do we seek to take a photo in this moment when, it is possible that the next moment is better? And if the next moment is not better, what have we lost? If we lived in that moment, which we did not capture, is the moment lost to us? What wasn’t captured is a memory that is our own. Do you remember stills that aren’t available on paper or as digital files? When we crossed rows in the classroom; when we stood in front of each other, that split moment, when nothing was said and yet, an entire life was lived?

I don’t remember it, but you do. There’s no documentation of the moment, but both of us live it. Photos aren’t false memories – they are only artificial. Artificial in the sense of the frame in which they are presented to you.

Not that they do not represent the truth. Photos are as real. Just that they are a slice of the reality. And we have to learn to see photos for what they are. My eyes, your eyes.

All the eyes that see the photo, that is what the photo is about.

Growing Up With Lions

I come from a family of wrestlers.

I discovered that, today. I knew of an uncle here or there who used to wrestle, but never knew that it was a family pursuit. Either there was some genetic leakage along the way; or there was a mutation, and I now wrestle with life, taxes, and twitter; not with other wrestlers. My uncles who are 50-somethings, 60-somethings, and even 70-somethings, took me on a tour of the wrestling heritage of my family. My long-gone grand-uncles included. When my uncles narrate the wrestling history of my family, there is sheer respect when they speak of my grand-uncles, unlike when they speak of their own achievements. Thankfully, this history is not brand new to me, so I know them well. But that’s what a conversation is all about.

One of my uncle was a great wrestler who used to take me to the talim when I was a little kid. Yes, I have wrestled too, but those memories have been generously showered with fine red mud. I do enjoy watching Olympic wrestling, perhaps for that reason, but I can’t relate to it on a one-to-one basis. We used to wrestle bare, on fine red mud. The rules were different, the style, and approach was Indian.

I wonder if being 40-something is the advantage I have now. Because for the last four decades details in these stories were unknown to me. 50/60/70-somethings, are willing to give you that exclusive pass to join their club. Only because you are 40-something. Yet, an other uncle was in denial about my age. Also a wrestler. I asked him, If I am not 40-something what age am I. He shrugged off the question, perhaps because he would have to calculate when his sister (my mother) got married, had her first child, then had me, and all that. Emotional drain, I am thinking.

Without warning an invisible fog of guilt enveloped the space of our conversation. Only I saw it.

*

These are uncles who could, and have changed my diapers (or equivalent; we didn’t have diapers then); hoisted me on their shoulders, in crowded fairs, so I could see; they never lost me in that crowd though, I was, in my own sense, untethered, and they taught me wonderful values, perhaps without being aware — because they were only teaching me what they had learnt and experienced. Their own values. Uncles were the best part of my life. And ditto for Aunts. But, I’ll stick to my maternal Uncles, given the wrestling reference. An entire different post, I’d dedicate to my paternal uncles for most of my life skills. My uncles and aunts are amazonian jungles of adventure, learning, and fun.

*

I wish I was not a 40-something. Not because I regret being old. Somehow, by saying I am now 40-something, they realised their age. Was I reminding these once regal 20-somethings that they are no more who they were? That was the invisible message of the invisible fog. Over time, I knew, that was not it. When you live a good life, it is forever. Even when you live it through transferred memories. But, I like being a 40-something. I now have access to jokes and trivia and memories that they are now comfortable sharing with me. They are balding, and thinning white hair now adorns what was a crop of thick swishing manes.

These are the lions (and the lionesses) I grew up with. I am a happy cub.

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

*

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.

*

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.

*

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

Love Is; What Else?

छुपा लो यूँ दिल में प्यार मेरा
के जैसे मंदिर में लौ दीए की

*

Hold my love in your heart, the way
a temple Holds the glow of a lamp

*

I am not a good translator. You know that already – addressing those, who have followed this blog for a few years. This is the best I could do.

*

There is a love epidemic; so prevalent in this world; it demands to be loved. It’s, if I may call it, a misdirected epidemic. There is so much transaction of the purest form of human connection; it’s almost pathetic. It’s so much fun to love than being loved. It’s freedom! The unshackling feeling of being in love. Give me that any time. Being loved is a task, an effort, an exercise. But to love? It is a way to be free.

Diwali Lamp

I love you.

And nothing else matters. Being with you does not matter. You being mine does not matter. Having you with me doesn’t matter. Nor does you having me. Being able to love you, beyond the shackles of time and space, in the infinite space of imagination: that is, how I love you. Love is good; we love, as and when we can.

Never ask anything of it, however.

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.

A Useless Post of Dance, Love, and Hate

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

Nope. Not doing that. Breaking free.

*

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

Love.

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

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

The True Letter

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

I always love hearing his voice.

Hey, how are you, I asked.

“All good man. I am sorry.”

Huh? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Meaning?”

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

“Meaning?”

*

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

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

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

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

The first paragraph is exquisite. Your friend has sat down to write the letter, slowed down the thought process, and the best of her handwriting shows up. One page down. Now the excitement of 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.

I Care That Much

“I don’t care.”

Saw this on the back of a car, a few days ago. I wasn’t driving. I thought of taking a photo of that careless decal, but, I couldn’t.

I have to tell you, I was amused by that statement. To begin with, the amusement was about the statement itself. The person driving the car, didn’t care. Obvious. In my head, I would have imagined, you’d have a bumper-sticker equivalent of what you care. Like who you would vote for, or an issue that you support. But, here was a bumper sticker: I don’t care.

Tate Modern - Wall Art - 9

I don’t have photo of the sticker. So, let me describe it to you. It was finely crafted. Custom font. Black on white. It stood out. You could not miss it. There was an artistic sense of the sticker.

*

I wonder, why someone would make a statement like that. Decals on vehicles are mostly statements of identity and belonging. Almost always they are a statement of power. And here I have a statement that does not belong: I don’t care.

Given the effort of the decal, I propose that the person cares. Cares enough to make a statement that he/she doesn’t care. If, you really don’t care – is a statement necessary? Do those who would like you to care, care about you?

*

To invest in a sticker with a custom font, is to care. Even if it is a statement saying that you do not care. You care to say that you do not care. And that says much.

You care enough, to say that you don’t care.

Love is Wabi-sabi

It’s easy to fall in love. An irresponsible chemical reaction is all it takes, and we say – I love you. Of course, there is no guarantee that the same irresponsible chemical reaction has occurred in the you of the “I love you.” Given the voluminous literature of romantic tragedy, it is safe to say that one chemical reaction does not cause another as desired. That’s the first problem.

Overcome that, and you have two irresponsible chemical reactions happening simultaneously. Bliss! We have an I love you and we also have an I love you, too. Such a lovely feeling that is, everything seems so bright, vibrant, sweet, and in place. Yes, it’s great.

Then, millions of years of training takes over. This and that. Black and white. Good and bad. Like and dislike. Almost all of evolutionary classification starts its slow game. It begins with small requests. The requests then come in earnest. And a few shades later become demands. Now you realise the irresponsibility of that chemical reaction; it over-rode all this classification that’s now playing the game. What begins, is the process of fashioning a personality of your choice and liking. A small iron chisel, lovingly thumped by a wooden mallet, finely carving out a sculptor’s imagination on a life.

“I love you, if only you would [insert desired change]”

Nayak Nayika. c. 11th CE. Hinjalgarh (Mandsaur). State Museum, Bhopal, MP, India

Nayak Nayika. c. 11th CE. Hinjalgarh (Mandsaur). State Museum, Bhopal, MP, India

Begets the question then; are we to trust the native irresponsible chemical reaction that tripped us and threw us in love? What are we to do when we feel betrayed by this instinctive chemical reaction? We could accept that the reaction was wrong; a mistake and walk away. Mostly, it seems, we insist that the reaction was almost right and start changing what we once loved; what was once pure. Iron chisel. Wooden mallet. Lover becomes sculptor. With no time to love.

Relentlessly sculpting, he makes a great work of art. Just like the sculptor has imagined it. It’s perfect. It’s shiny. It’s sophisticated. It’s unreal. It’s unattainable. It’s not human.

To partly accept, is to not accept. Love is pure Wabi-sabi

End of an Exile: 14 Years

Fourteen years is usually a standard for an exile in ancient Indian texts. So, exile is the first word that comes to mind when fourteen years have passed. Of course exile doesn’t apply in the context of this post – it is actually the fourteenth-anniversary of this blog. Yes, fourteen years. Not a round number like ten of fifteen, just a number, somewhere in the middle.

I don’t know if I have enough to show for it, I mean I have less than 1400 posts, not even a 100 for every year. Once upon a time it made a lot of difference to me – to write regularly, nicely. Over time, it didn’t seem as important. The urge to write was always there, the bloggable thoughts continued. Just writing them seemed unimportant. What’s one thought lost among the millions that never saw the bytes of a blog? More thoughts got added to those millions.

1132: Jantar Mantar

Recently, after a long and an interesting conversation, which I may add is pretty rare these days, I discovered that a lot of what was going in that conversation had occurred before and it was in this blog, somewhere. Present-me felt thankful to the Past-me. Thank you for expressing all that out here. This experience has also got me reading my blog all over again. It’s not just nostalgia, there’s a wonderful sense of getting to know a person. For me, more so, because I know the person more than these posts describe.

There’s not much to say about this anniversary, just that it is overwhelming to think it, even. I just look forward to do more justice and send lesser thoughts the way of the firing squad in the days and years to come. Not every thought may be popular or interesting, even, but it is worth in itself. For its be-ing.

That’s worth fighting for.

*

Thank you all who have visited all these years, I am truly grateful for your visit, acknowledgement, and your thoughts.