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.

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.

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.

The Persistent Witness

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

Towards the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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.

*

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.

A Matter of Faith

In almost every Indian temple, you aren’t allowed to take a photo of the main deity of the temple. Some temples allow it, but without a flash. If you have been to an Indian temple, you will have noticed that the space where the main deity resides, is dimly lit, usually by oil lamps. Taking a photograph of a the deity, in such light conditions, is usually difficult, without a flash. In my experience, this rule applies only to Indian temples. I have not sensed this, severely enforced in mosques or churches.

Why this is so, is not something I can explain. There are a couple of scientific theories about why the deities should not be photographed, but they are based on faith and belief, not hard science, as we know it. Three of my best friends are atheists. My best friend believes in Jesus, though she is not a Christian. Given my engagement with these four people, my personal (inherited; would be more proper) sense of faith is often questioned. I welcome the questions, even, if at times I have no answers. But the questions do not shake my faith. They make me seek a deeper understanding of my faith. And the faith, and its understanding, is personal.

In a recent visit to a temple I saw a couple of my friends, who were faithful take pictures of a the main deity in a temple. One of my atheist friend was accompanying us. I did not see him take photos of the main deity, but if he had, I would not be surprised. Needless to say, I offered my worship in the way I do, and moved on, to take photos of some of the wonderful sculpture that adorned that temple.

I was, I confess, slightly disturbed by the act of my believer friends taking photos of the deity. After a while we left the temple and made our way home.

Stones, layer,

*

It was one of the most beautiful drives I have had in my life. We were circumferencing a large lake, in a valley surrounded by my favourite mountain range — the Sahyadri. Small village roads, meandering along the folds of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, a mountain road, cut across the Deccan Traps. My three companions in the car, juggling the role of the DJ; good music played. We sang along, we laughed: at each other and with each other. I was a bit preoccupied; my passengers thought it was because I had a flight later that evening; and was looking to back as soon as possible.

I was thinking of the meaning of faith. I was thinking of how I was disturbed because someone else did not follow the general belief and custom. Somewhere, in that question, I was asking myself why I was disturbed. It was not a good feeling, and I wanted to understand why I felt that.

*

All of this happened a week ago. And I cannot say that I now have a proper answer; the answer will evolve. I know this much, though: my faith, my sense of my faith is mine. It is personal. I need not seek justification for what I believe. I do not need others to practice what I believe. (For even if I could make them follow, it would be coerced; devoid of belonging) There is no science to it. In the same way that I seek answers, I have to understand that other people do too. They make their own meaning. And how we sense our answers varies from friend to friend. And it changes with time.

Faith matters. But there is no matter in faith.

Writing Rigour

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

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

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

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

We have just lost the rhythm.

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

*

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

125659: Wall Grunge

*

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

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

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!

An Unfinished Thought

4958: Grand Ceiling

“How would you write about the end and the beginning…”

“Every beginnin…”

“…without a butterfly, caterpillar, window, sunsets, sky, clouds, linings or the tenses? No metaphors, no telling me what a great artist or a scientist said, no clichés, and definitely no fake quotes.”

“Whatever ends, doesn’t continue; whatever begins, continues.”

“Is that all? Would you write no more?”

“Well, if you took all my devices away from me, all my paints and brushes, deny me any decoration, then that would be all. In any case, there is nothing more to an end or a beginning. It is what it is.”

It’s over and it wont last
It ends, this is the last.
Only for that, it is the end
What’s new, at this end.

“You know what doesn’t have a beginning or an end?”

“What?”

“An unfinished thought.”

“An unfinished thought has a beginning, it hasn’t found its end, as yet.”

“But, if it is unfinished, how de we know where it begins and where it ends?”

“The very fact that it is un-finished…”

“Aaargh. When I began this conversation, I thought it would be fun. I’d like to end it now.”

The End

Time to Go

Ambition can change its character, and we end up not recognising it. In fact, we begin to question its very existence. The problem is just about syncing our place with our ambition on the timescale of life.

*

The Dharma Bum is doing a-post-a-day series about his workplace. Two things stand out, as I read his posts every day: one, the natural flow of his thoughts about his experience and the weave; and two, the nature of his workplace; it’s easy to be envious of him, working there.

Bala - The Dharma Bum

Bala – The Dharma Bum (Not the current true likeness; this one is from two years ago)

*

I challenged myself to a-post-a-day, two years ago. July 2014, to be precise. It wasn’t easy. But I completed the challenge. I can imagine what the Dharma Bum must be going through. The toughest promises to keep are those that you make to yourself.

*

I get angry with my words, sometimes. They seem to mock me. Like, when I said:

Tomorrow can either be impregnated with the sameness of all your suspicions, cynicism and scepticism, or it can be the tomorrow that rids you of that sameness that you so despise.

Your call.

*

A wise man once told me the secret of attaining perfection. You don’t. God is perfect, in whatever sense you choose to see. Being perfect is not for humans; there’s only striving, striving, and striving. (He used to do that; repeat a keyword thrice; each with a unique tone) The beauty of being human is in the striving. It is, indeed an unshackling philosophy. It took me a while, but I can sense it now.

*

It’s time to go. The skews are being straightened. Or perhaps, new skews are awaiting.

In Collateral we Trust

It’s been years.

I asked a wise man once, what collateral meant. Patiently, and in his own inimitable style he explained the meaning of that word. I had some follow-up, what-if questions, which were more to confirm what I understood, than pure questions themselves. His answers confirmed that I had understood collateral correctly. Apparently, learning Computer Science is useless if you do not learn where to use it; we had to, therefore learn something called “Commercial Applications” – Banking, Accounting, Finance, Ratios, and related boring (but money-making) stuff. That’s about college; I usually tend to remember other, interesting, college stuff.

Bound: Original

In the following years, I heard the word trust many times. In different contexts: love, family, friends, organisational structures (See Business & Legal), and of course as simple day-to-day use of trusty-phrases. Much later, (as a young, ambitious — and obviously foolish — man) I went to a bank and asked for a loan to start a business. I have to admit, I loved the attention when they knew I had come for a loan, though that delight was short-lived. I had no collateral to give and therefore they had no money to give. But that’s how banks operate, and without any grudge, I found other (legal) means to start my business. And it was good for a while, which is another story.

But it is not just about banks (and their business model is to trust only in lieu of collateral) – this transactional trust tradition has become a part of our everyday lives. The forms have changed; the nature has not. The presentation has become sweeter, the legal document has not. But, there’s more to trust, than that. Trust is not a street-kid that you adopt out of sympathy; but sense it, acknowledge it, and embrace it.

In the times we live in, your future is the new collateral. One might say, that’s fine. Hedge, I think is the word. (But I may be completely wrong, because “Commercial Applications” wasn’t my favourite subject.) And I may even agree, if it was just that; just the unknown future; a random bastard value, legitimised by sheets and sheets of non-native numbers and foreign formulas. But I don’t agree, because, essentially, it is not just the future which is in lien; a slice of your present, is also to be surrendered: for that possible future. [Fun activity: look for the etymological roots of the word lien and ligament.]

Here and now, she said, here and now. You are slashing your supreme sword at empty shadows that have long been sent skywards in the pyres of the past. At the same time you are nitpicking on details that you know not how will unfold; entitling it grandiose: opportunity and strategy. Be with me? In these war games that are long dead and the chess games that haven’t begun, I see you nowhere. You are behind me or ahead; but not with me. [Dramatical abstraction of an otherwise simple, straightforward conversation]

Commitment considers not cost, neither collateral. Nor does Passion. Experience is the evolved cousin of commitment and passion; perhaps the most arrogant of the three — but is rooted in certainty and reality. And all the wealth that Kubera hoards; cannot stand collateral for these three cousins. All three cousins are here and now. They have no sense of the future. But they are faceless intangibles seeking a presence within noxious numbers and random ratios.

You and I, distant cousins of these three; once removed, perhaps twice removed, know them very well. They are almost us. And so we say, No! No, sir. We have nothing tangible to deposit in those vaults of yours, what we have, cannot be stored or locked behind those steel doors. For they are formless and beyond being bound.

But, if it is to be a market, in spite of all, we walk with swords ready to be unsheathed, that have value inscribed across the blade.

Light & Darkness: Remainders

It’s been a long time. I’ve been blogging for over a decade. And I have forgotten all that I have planned for this blog. Mostly, I’ve confused the summary posts. Those that have been called many things. Summary posts, pot-pourri, schizophrenic, remainders, and other such names. The Schizophrenia label was my doing. I used it in the sense of disconnectedness. Most of these posts have found refuge in abstraction. A person, who once was a friend, might find some closure in this statement.

If there were a machine that could extract every emotion of me – and classify it; my being would fill every compartment that was defined, and then, some would be dropped in a big basket called “Miscellaneous.” I know not this for a fact, but it might be the same for you too.

Light Leaks - As Nature Imagined It

Light Leaks – As Nature Imagined It

There’s pride and there’s humility. There’s fear and anger. There’s desperation and there’s conviction. And more of these opposites. A friend today referred a popular theme; I thought of darkness. We never tend to darkness; there’s no pull: it is within; We fight it, if at all, towards our way to light. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Or, that’s what we think. For how are we to know if we have succeeded or failed? What’s light, and what’s darkness? Is it the same as brightness and shadow?

Abstraction is good for expression; not for experience.

What do we ask for, when we ask the power-that-be to lead us from darkness to light? If we have never experienced light and never recognised darkness, how will we ever know, even if we are led? We know light only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. We know darkness only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. Our meanings cannot be slave to inherited meanings. We have to discover them all over again. And in that, if we fall to the so-called depths or have to rise to the so-called peaks, so be it. Our inherited meanings are shared – so we bond and become social. There’s comfort in those shared meanings, even if they do not mean anything.

Our experience is our only guide. The experience of others is, but, a perspective. It can never be ours.

One day, we will walk out in the sun.

The Shady Bar; The Sidey Bar

In my opinion, a shady bar is not the same as a sidey bar.

There is something sinister about a shady bar. Illegal and unethical acts abound, in a shady bar.

A sidey bar, is where the other people drink. The glasses are lightly rinsed, your rum glass stinks of whiskey, the waiters wait, not on you, but, for when the bar will close. Their degree of dreariness is always requesting that you need to go home. Most patrons of the sidey bar sit alone. (And since they do, four lonely folks often share a table). There’s nothing sinister going there, in a sidey bar. Unless, you think of the frustration, anger, dreams, thoughts, questions, that hang precariously along the low-hanging roofs of such places. But all that *shit* eventually is gulped down by these limit drinkers. In such a place, no one is looking to meet someone, no one is looking for human accompaniment, no hitching, no hookup. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke, a rare phenomenon these days. [Statutory Warning: Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to health]. There’s a stench of alcoholic blends that competes with the dense humidity of this city of dreams. No conversation is private, given the arrangement of the tables. But, when everyone is engrossed in their own troubles, privacy is tossed on the street; for no one cares.

In such a bar, I stepped in. Honestly, I do not remember the name of that bar. That’s the nature of these places. We remember them by location (so that we may find them again, if we are in the vicinity); not by their identity. They have none, really — an identity  — they have service, and that is all that matters. I had my own crossroads to think of. In such a haven, I stepped, where no one would care.

I shared a table with a man who was engrossed, for most part in the cricket match. My back was to the TV screen; I cared less. I pinged my friend in Africa. I pinged my fried in Florida. I pinged my friend in Jaipur. I was looking for answers that I would reject. Some conversations began, but at their birth, I sensed, they were unsustainable. I started a conversation with my own life. It’s not fair, I thought, that every step is a crossroad. I thought of my friend in Delhi. He wishes that design should be decision. Design should be such. Not having to take decisions. Design should dictate all. I thought of my design guru. I have learnt a lot from him. Of how things are, how they should be, and how they shouldn’t be.

The cricket match is over.

MS, The Entrepreneur

MS, The Entrepreneur

My table-mate gives me an acknowledging smile. It’s good to know I exist. I return it exactly as I received it. He says hello, I return the hello. And a long conversation ensues. He never drinks more than a quarter (~three large pegs), but today because of this conversation withe me, he decides to have, an additional, one small peg. He is an entrepreneur. No, not the one we celebrate; the one we ignore. For 25 years he has run a garment factory. Employs 50 people. For 25 years, without fail, he has paid salaries on the 1st of every month, for all his employees. I am sceptical. I say, it can’t have been easy in the early years? He confirms. I have had cash-flow problems, in the first few years. I sold my gold. But I have never delayed salaries. It took me 5 more years, but I have recovered my gold. Education? I failed 12th class, he says. No one would celebrate you, I say, almost. Shirts? Skirts? PPHH! You are not changing the world.

He keeps referring to me as as Sir, I tell him my name, please address me as Atul, I ask. He refuses; I know you are well-educated than me. I wonder, is there a relation between education and success? I wonder where this sense of respect comes from. If earnings are a metric, he is more successful than I am. I met, in a shady bar, an entrepreneur who wasn’t buttressed by venture capitalists and who has never been the focus of an Internet article. I know the brand of clothing he manufactures (he told me), but I will tell you not. [It might hurt your sentiments and assumptions.] I know the cost of his assembly line, and how he looks at reams of cloth as Rs/metre.

His additional peg, in my respect is over; he leaves.

I am alone at the table. I return to think of the crossroads of my own life, when three men descend on this table. Needless to say, conversation ensues. They are visitors to this city of dreams. Very soon, we are talking of caste constructs. All three of them are Dalits, and without prologue, we are discussing the philosophy of Dr. BR Ambedkar. The conversation carries on, I ask of the Grammar of Anarchy, and Dr. Ambedkar’s constitutional beliefs. We talk of how every political party has appropriated him. Without understanding the essence of his beliefs and philosophy. My caste, as you may already wondered, comes into play. I proudly declare it. One of the three is surprised in the manner with which I declare it. We speak of politics. How caste, is no more (which once was) a system of social segregation, but (is now) a system of political segregation. In the end we all agree. We eat Tandoori Chicken together. We exchanged phone numbers. I have been invited to my favourite place – Konkan (Dapoli) – as a guest of honour. Just then, a friend called me and said we could meet, so, with prolific excuses, I made my way out.

Shady bars are different. Sidey bars are different. In sidey bars, alcohol is cheap. The patronage is unglamorous. Engagement is optional. Entertainment is minimal. Learning, even more so. For all the entrepreneurial stories of digital tech, there are a thousand entrepreneurial case studies of people who failed 12th and have provided sustainable income to 50 employees without “cash burn”, who come to such sidey bars for exactly one quarter. For the thousands of stories of caste strife that you see in in India, there are tens of thousands of stories of humans, devoid of caste identities enjoying, enriching each others company. Mass media, by it’s compulsions may pick and choose, and even distort the truth, but they can never alter the truth.

When, we sit in a sidey bar, we experience it.

The Challenge

I don’t remember the last time a book challenged me.

Reading non-fiction, for a long time has, perhaps slowed me down. In a way, non-fiction is the book of answers, fiction is the book of questions.

This one book has me in a frenzy. For many reasons. One, it was written in a language that’s not native to me. It’s not alien though. Both my parents learnt this language, and were good at it. Two, it is written by a person who is known as the father of the revival of this language; I know little about his work, but I am learning. And I am fascinated. Three, it is historical. That should explain a lot, of my interest in the book. Yes, it’s fiction. Four, it was written about 125 years ago, and it is timeless, for it holds within it answers that society is asking today. If we can see it through our own eyes and not through a lense that belongs to another. Five, finally, the questions that this book asks of me, that are appearing in my notebook, are those that I do not recognise. I am excited of what answers will come.

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The Questions I Was Asked

But they’ll have to wait, those answers, I need to read two more translations before I know. And I think my life will thank me for it.

Moblogged. E&OE

12 Years

12 years.

IMG_20151227_163445

Not enough posts perhaps, to account for the time.

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

Many thoughts.

So many changes.

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

Crossroads.

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

Leaving. Taking charge.

Learning love; unlearning love.

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

Notwithstanding, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Dedicated to My Nerdy Friend

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

I met Samir today.

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

Samir Pathak (left) and me (right).

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

Never Say Never

Our prejudice of people and places puts us in precarious positions. And they are precarious because they potentially inhibit a forward movement (or backward, as the case may be). When whoever coined Never Say Never, I wonder if they were being contradictory on purpose. The last word contradicts the first two or the first word contradicts the last two. Your choice. Some crafty person thought about it I am sure, perhaps waiting for others to see the contradiction.

6904: Never Say Never

In a no – there is an automatic decline of an experience, which is why, recently, I started saying yes. When I look back on my life experiences, I am glad I said yes. For the ones, which I declined, I will never know. Also, it’s easy to step back to a no after you have said yes; it’s seldom possible, vice versa. Then, there are sacrifices that come along with the yes. And it is impossible to weigh known sacrifices with unknown gains that the yes has the potential to bring, at a later unknown date. Then, your yes is a leap—less, of faith—more, of an abstract calculation. With the knowledge that you always can draw out the no card at a later date, when the yes isn’t worth the effort.

No yes, however, should be blind, or, for the sake of it. Our intuition (as against our prejudice) plays an important role in this yes and no of life. It requires a down-calibration of our prejudice and an up-calibration of our intuition. And while the results of a yes or a no may feed our prejudice in some way, it enhances our experience, which, in a very subtle yet sophisticated manner—feeds our intuition.

This little life of ours is capable of experiencing more than we believe it can.

Being Superstitious

There are many ways to be superstitious. Actually, there are many degrees to being superstitious. The lowest level of it, is trivial.

If you are a cricket fan, especially in India, you will know what I mean. Folks sit in a particular position for the entire duration of the match, lest we lose a wicket. Some of them only listen to the commentary, do not watch the match. There are a million more; all of them quirky.

Then comes the next degree, the personal. They aren’t trivial, but are rooted in long-term observation or experience. Empirical. These are the kind that tend to affect our lives (in a rather far-reaching way, than the result of a cricket match). These are personal, in the sense that these superstitions only affect us and the result is experienced in a very personal way.

Finally there are the global ones. Walking under the ladder, breaking of a mirror, and such. There is no value in the superstition, except that it has been handed down from generations and we accept them for their sake.

And that’s how superstition propagates. From the trivial, to the personal to the global. The trivial ones are easily discarded, for they are temporary. There is a comic element to them, and should be treated as such. The global ones, we just have to deny, for we can find no rational basis in them.

2726: Three Crows

The difficult ones to deal with, and the critical ones — are the personal superstitions. They hold within them the potential to become global, because we often tend to prove with “data” how real they are. Yet we cannot deny our own experience. Especially when it is repeated. The key, perhaps, is to not allow an experience (or experiences) to turn into belief. That’s where the rational mind shuts down.

And when we need its faculty the most, it may not be available to us.

Je Suis Moron

I’d like a T-shirt that says that.

I don’t know what’s the theme and sense of the local social argument around the world. In India, if you have a difference of opinion, or are asking questions (whether innocent or not) – you are a moron. Almost, always, self-styled lieutenants address every other person as a moron. I am a teacher who has taught a beautiful language for more than 40 years. I am a teenager who seeks to understand my world. Just because you have knowledge of a narrow theme (which of course you dwell in) it’s easy for you to call me a moron. I am often amused, when questions are asked of these experts, on a social platform, and the seekers are dismissed as morons.

A Boatman's Question

Not all questions are about casting aspersion. Some are innocent questions. Some are about curiosity. Some a genuine doubts. A leader answers a question, even when they do not have an answer. “I do not have an answer for you at this time, but I am happy to seek an answer to this question, with you,” is a leader’s response. But to call a seeker a moron? In the first instance? Without seeking context? That reeks of a power-obsessed personality, conceit, and some specific delusions of grandeur. What if this moron has dedicated his life and times to study a specific theme all his life?

This conversation happened on Twitter, and perhaps it is easy to blame the platform than the people dancing on the platform. Platforms are as characterless as they get. We often make the mistake of mistaking the person for the platform. Twitter as a platform enables us to have a public conversation. Twitter as a platform enables us to make things better. Twitter as a platform enables us to call people morons. The good and the not-so-good that we publish on the platform is about us. It has nothing to do with the platform.

If this is what it means to be an expert — calling people names — I never want to be an expert on any thing. I am happy to be an amateur and ask that people ask questions of me, so that I may become better; so that they may become better. If asking a question, whether through ignorance, or as a challenge, or to seek more information is about being a moron, then I have only one thing to say. For when I stop asking questions, I’ll be dead and irrelevant at the same time.

Je Suis Moron.