Sweet Sixteen

It’s that time of the year. Again. The mandatory post of informing everyone how long this blog has been in existence. I say, in existence for a reason. To be alive and to exist, are two very different things. Often, incorrectly, used interchangeably.

Ten posts a year, eleven – if you count this one, does not a blog make. That is, not according to the old standards of this blog. There isn’t a global standard for frequency of blogging, so it really does not matter how many posts you post. So where’s the lament? That is something I have never explored. That, once there was a decent frequency of posts, is the only reference available for these lamenting anniversary posts in recent years.

This year’s theme for the anniversary post seems no different.

But perhaps, I could use this august date to discover why I have been posting posts of lament. Then, the post would not be a post of lament. This blog has always been about bloggable thoughts, so it would be worthwhile wondering if there haven’t been as many bloggable thoughts in the last few years. I’d posit, it is not true. There have been many thoughts, many ideas, many experiences, that have been bloggable. Even as I write this, the memories of all-things-bloggable flood my mind. And I wonder, why they never got blogged.

Things that had to be done to carry on the existence have hogged more time than usual, and hijacked the space and time required to be alive. That is the only conclusion I can arrive at. Which does pose the question, how much time to we really need to exist? At the extreme level, as long you continue breathing, existence is possible. But then what does being alive mean? All of us will have a different take on that – because it is intensely and decidedly personal. And an anniversary is as good a time as any other to think of how we allocate time to exist and to be alive.

It’s time to say yes, again. And again. And for different reasons. In different contexts. For different things.

Reflection

But then, like a pin-drop in a deathly silent room, you hear a question — what if you have changed and the blog needs to change with you? What if this is a split conversation of two selves reflecting differently off an image that once was?

That’s an answer for later.

*

Happy sixteenth anniversary, Gaizabonts!

Of Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

That’s how long I have been blogging. Last year this day, I said, given that I have blogged for so many years, I don’t have much to show for it. I was referring to the number of posts. A year has passed since, and if are to go by numbers, the numbers are worse.

While I have not been writing much, I have read a lot; my blog, i.e. And I am very happy about what I have written. It’s not extraordinary, but it is good. It makes me feel good to read what I have written. That, I suppose is the value of a personal blog.

My relationship with words amuses me the most. I am most curious of how the most abstract emotion, event, or a thought actually transforms to something so discrete as a post. When I read a post, I enjoy how the original abstraction presents itself. In my head, at least. I hope, most of the readers get it too. This blog has helped me elevate how I think, and I am grateful for that.

I can’t promise regular updates, I do not want to promise regular updates.

All I want to say is thank you – to everyone who has helped this blog become what it is. Thank you for the love, appreciation, and acknowledgement.

Crowd of Strangers

Fill it up. Fill it up. Fill it up. Damn the blank page. Put words. Words. Words. Words. And drop it in Times Square, NY. None of the words will know each other, strangers from far off lands revolving on the axis of their feet, drowned in wonder. The crowd of strangers is what gives meaning to Times Square. Not meaning itself. The meaning is in the presence; not in anything else. NY winks and we miss it in the blink of an eye. It’s at its naughtiest best.

Bow to the city, it has seen the birth of your grandparents; it is witnessing your death. Never, ever, however, has a city wished for a birth or death. It is a witness. It allows all. It winks, often, (and you may miss it) but it never asks for either this or that.

Fill it up. Fill it up. Fill it up. Damn the blank page.

I’ll just put five words. I’ll call it abstract. Not for what it is, but for what I can hide behind.

Nay, nay, nay! This wasn’t to be. At the peak of the strange words, there was to be meaning. For me, for you. Running around the base of the pyramid I am lost; for no stone at the base is discrete. I have to climb! Something forms at the peak. And it is built by these abstract slabs at the bottom. I am a slave to how these huge slabs were dragged in place. Without ropes, without connections, I am dragged down. I stay here as if a mutual belonging exists; yet the apex.

May I flex my wrists and twist my ankles. Flex my muscles and twist my body. Shackles will be broken. I will be free. In a foreign land. In New York. In London. In Mumbai. My I see the cities winking at me. And jump on those abstract slabs. Thoughtful; unlike the agitated Prince of Persia.

Once again, watching the crowd of strangers.

Teachers’ Day is for Teachers

Happy Teachers’ Day to all Teachers.

In these days, when a meaning of a word can be stretched far from its actual and intended meaning, even the meaning of “teacher” has fallen victim to Unspeak. It has now come to mean any and every person who is responsible for anything that we learn.

That’s not a teacher. A teacher makes a conscious commitment to nurture and develop young people to do better. The act isn’t incidental nor accidental. It’s a deliberate choice that requires a dedication to continue “teaching” for a lifetime. I don’t disagree that we learn from people who aren’t “teachers”, yet, if we were to ask these people to do what they do, day in and day out, we’d probably not get the answer we think we will. The attitude, the patience, the rigour of a teacher is different from a person from whom we learn.

It is not that these non-teachers are seeking to be acknowledged on this day. It’s us. We are expanding the meaning of the word and the purpose of the day to make it inclusive. Very inclusive. Perhaps it is our laziness. To take time to think of our teachers and be grateful to them, specifically. Open the gates wide enough, and we could pretty much include every person we met, for we have learnt something from every person we met.

Irrespective of whether that person intended to teach us.

We could thank the others on all of the 364 days of the year, but that would take effort, to think of who it is we are grateful to, and for what purpose. It’s a lot of work!Teachers’ Day is a good blanket that covers it all. And one message, which includes, “… to all the people who have taught me along the way…” covers it all. While we may learn things from people, I am not sure if everyone intended to teach us.

This day is in celebration of those who have made it their life’s work to teach – who have held their patience for years together, while we fumbled and fell. They picked us up time and again, without judgement and urged us on towards success. They loved us without discrimination, and we went on ahead in life while they stood in the same place, awaiting the next generation, and did the same with them. In return they get a paltry sum, but their biggest payment is in our happiness and success.

For all the others who helped us learn, we’ll celebrate it all through the year.

There is a sanctity to this day. Let it remain Teachers’ Day.

A Broken Letter

Everyone knows everything about everyone else. As it happens. Information age and all. Instant ka zamaana hai. Almost everything. From the important to the trivial. Fact that my friend bought a new house and the fact that another friend over-ate last Saturday.  You don’t miss a thing.

Most of us, moved a lot, during our childhood. Given our fathers lived a peripatetic life. Armed forces, Government, Banks, and such. A couple and three decades ago, nothing was instant. Except for coffee, perhaps. We had to resort to old-school (those days it was the best tech available to us) and used to stay in touch through letters. I was recently surprised to know that they still teach letter-writing in school. I wonder if the kids write letters other than scribbling make-believe content to imaginary friends. Even recently, a friend was lamenting the loss of all these sweet old-world charms; ironically on an instant messenger. Being a sucker for sentiment, I shared a letter (not the contents; just the back of the inland-letter he had sent me, way back). Emotions gushed, much emojical sentiment was shared and received.

Another friend caught on to it. Hey, do you have any letters that I wrote to you? I’d like to share them with my kids, show, how we communicated when we were young. Of course, I said, I have a few. I wondered, however, if he’d actually share the content of the letter. We laughed-out-loud emojically.  Share them with me, I’ll see what I can share. I started shuffling through the semi-organised pile of withering envelopes, inland covers, and pages torn from notebooks. I find three of his letters.

One letter, not in any particular pile, sits in the box, with not a care for the world. It’s in a decorative envelope, addressed, but no postage stamp on it. My handwriting. Stuffed, with neatly folded pages. Yellowed by twenty-nine years. I recognise it. I am not sure I want to open it. I know it is about fifteen pages long, back-to-back; that’s thirty pages worth of a letter. It was meant to go where it was supposed to go, but I never let go of it. Letters that don’t get sent, don’t live a life. They don’t die, for they never have lived. They just don’t live. It’s not an unfinished letter. It has been completed, signed. I gingerly open it. It starts to break in my hands. Folds that have not been opened for almost three decades are now sharp cuts where once there were folds. It’s broken. Yet, it does not fall to pieces. Something held the letter together. And I started reading it.

20180826_192919-01

It slowly comes back to me. I knew where I was sitting. I remember the time of that night. I sense all that I sensed then. It’s painful. It’s raw. Ironically, it is satisfying. In retrospect, it is always easy to justify something. And even if it wasn’t so intentioned, I was writing this letter to myself. To be discovered thirty years later.

Who knew, a broken letter had the power to mend so much.

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.

A Permanent Image

I was on vacation, last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s etched on my soul.

All’s Well; The Owl

One night, I was day-dreaming about being an owl. Not being an owl, actually, but looking like one. It was so late in the night, it was almost early morning. I don’t mean to say, ‘somewhere in the world, it was early morning’, but there, just right there, where I lay, it was so late in the night, it was almost early morning. You never know. (Neither do I)

It was like when once a friend said, “I am middle-aged.” I asked, “How do you know? Unless you know your exact life-span, you can never know when you are middle-aged!” I know the convention for using the term middle-age — I just think it is illogical.

Let me tell you of another conversation I had (and you may recall it, because I wrote about it, “some” time ago). Like Black and White. Whatever scale you assign for the colour range between black and white, both black and white are such tiny specks on that range, the range is almost completely grey.

It’s all sense-making. Late-night, early morning, young-age, middle-age, and old-age. Black and White. Day or night, human or animal, inside or outside. There is no sharp line that separates these pair of opposites, but a band or a scale.

Centuries of us all living together have forced us to make sense to and of each other. Irrespective of the language we employ, sense-making is the true semantic we deal in. When we made sense, things have been somewhat calm; when we didn’t make sense, we went to war; or created a Twitter handle. I prefer the Twitter handle. At least lives aren’t lost. Mostly.

Going to war is also sense-making; somewhat aggressive, but war is a means to make the other person see sense. War is akin to an actor on stage with a monologue. Who actually makes sense, however, depends on who wins the war.

I don’t know how you see it, but I believe we experience more than sense-making, naturally, i.e. when we are left to our own: not having to transmit the same experience, we aren’t limited and coerced to step-up or step down our experience to make sense – to someone else.

The experience is real even without the devices of language and expression. This experience is possible only when we leave the factory of shared constructs. And there’s nothing necessarily grand or glorious about these experiences (though, some may be), But perhaps you will agree with me my dear reader, what makes them grand and glorious, irrespective, is that they are our own.

Perhaps, you will indulge me further, by risking your “agreement” further, that these experiences matter more than sense-making. (I do not yet ask for the indulgence; only the consideration). The question that follows is how would you ask another to cherish these experiences without sense-making?

It’s just another random Thursday in my life, somewhere between late night and early morning. I am thinking: Owl: I almost look like an owl. Almost. Long way to go.

All’s well.

Divider

Optional Appendix

I recall a legend from my childhood. [I’ve over simplified it for this post; link for proper narration at the end]

/Digress Begin

Hiranyakashipu, a demon, once performed penance to Brahma (a God) to acquire immortality. PS: Demon wanted immortality to take revenge against Vishnu (another God). Brahma, though pleased with the austerity and penance, refused immortality (Bro-code). So, Hiranyakashipu chose the next best thing: a proper specification of how Hiranyakashipu could never die. He asked that he never meet his death (and this is just a representative list):

  • not in day, nor in night
  • not inside a house, nor outside
  • not on ground, not in the sky
  • not by a weapon
  • not by your creation
  • not by human or animal
… and the list goes on.
To cut a long story short, he wreaked havoc on the world after he got this boon, and the Gods kept going over the spec, wondering how to vanquish him. Then an avataar of Vishnu – Narsimha (Man-Lion), killed him.
A half-human, half-lion, who wasn’t a creation of Brahma, lifted him up, between earth and sky, on the threshold of a house, tore his entrails with claws, at twilight.
As mentioned, an oversimplistic story-telling. Hiranyakashipu was sense-making. In asking for the boon, he ignored possible experiences, and went with what was common grammar between him and Brahma. It did not include Vishnu’s experiences.

Detailed Story: Hiranyakashipu

/Digress 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.

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.

January 2016 Schizophrenia

As the first month comes to an end, the only sport that I am really passionate about (other than other sports) goes live. My home team wins the first game, and as usual, I am not happy about how they win it. In this third season of #ProKabaddi much has changed, so, I’ll post more after the first rounds are done. (Need to get my head around it)

*

I am losing currency, in certain places. No! It’s not about money. There’s another meaning of that word: “the fact or quality of being generally accepted or in use.” If you look up the dictionary, this is the second meaning; I think it should be the first.

*

And we speak with ourselves. It’s weird. We do it when we are alone. We suspect, we are going mad. So we shunt it. And, suddenly, there’s no conversation. Our robotics continue. We accept it. We slowly and surely forget our purpose.

*

I am glad (and blessed) that I can laugh about when people make jokes about me. I have the ability to laugh at myself. Laughing at a joke is not an endorsement or a betrayal of our beliefs. If we are true to ourselves, then, we can laugh at all the mockery. But no joke can offend us or alter what we believe. Humour is ephemeral; beliefs are permanent. If you know that, you will laugh more. I laughed a lot today.

*

Losing trust is an important milestone. Like a shattered glass, there is no coming back. And if there is coming back, it is meaningless. I lost trust. If, for whatever reason we came back together, would you want it? Because I would continue to be a stranger and distant. You don’t seek that, do you? You seek status quo. But I am guarded because of your earlier transgressions. Even if we become the same as before, we will never be the same as before. At least, I will not be.

*

Truth is not always the best way to express yourself. Truth hurts. Truth, is how you usually drive people away. Be smart.

Honesty may be the best policy, it’s not the smartest. Or, just apply this policy at every nook and corner.

We are all different, that way. 

All’s Well; Perhaps

If all my posts were put in a word-cloud, (yes, that’s easily possible, but I am not doing it), perhaps, the word I use the most is, perhaps. The word is a tentative word. People think of it as a weakening or a disclaiming word, often, both. When I speak, I use maybe quite often. Same difference. Words like ‘perhaps’ are the refuge of people without conviction. They lack assertiveness, perhaps. So be it.

“You are being modest,” he said, with some irritation.

“I am being truthful,” I said, “I know what I know, and I know that there’s much that I don’t know. And I know this because I know people who know much more than what I know.”

We will never know everything, for sure. We will also never know everything in a specific discipline of our choice. There will always be something more. Of course, to prove me wrong, you can narrow down the discipline so much that, you’ll know everything in the discipline. And then, you’d be right.

Perhaps (the word) will never figure when we own the conviction of what we know. It’s when we cross the borders of our knowing that we need words like perhaps to help us navigate the unknown landscape of new knowledge. Slowly, we conquer these rich lands, by becoming familiar and then knowledgeable. Steadier now, we step deeper into the Fog of War. When we are faced with low visibility, we have to be tentative, and the vehicles we use to traverse this untravelled terrain, are made up of perhaps and maybe.

And it works well for all that is without. Within is a different mystery altogether.

The Real Spaces between Black and White

The Real Spaces between Black and White

We’d imagine, with all that we know, with all the certainty, the sedimentary maturity of the years, we’d be more expressive and less prone to misunderstandings, for example. Perhaps, words like perhaps and maybe are reminders of how much we know. And how much we don’t.

“In the colour band between black and white, the pure black and the pure white are just tiny specks. Our eyes deceive us,” he said, last Saturday, “and we see the range of grey towards white, and call it white, or we see the range of grey towards black, and call it black. It’s our sense of making sense of things; only because we understand white and black better than grey.” I thought, I’d counter him on that. He interrupted me, before I could start, “I want to explore that infinite band of grey, rather than seeking minuscule specks of white or black.”

In that grey colour band of life, I do not recall a moment of pure white, or pure black. Though, there have been moments that were almost white, almost black. I can, therefore say this:

All’s well; perhaps.

Honestly, The Almost Year-end Schizophrenia

“We come across as rude, because we speak little, and what we speak, we are straightforward,” he said. “We are sarcastic,” I said, half-apologetically, half-proud.

***

I have always thought of myself as brilliantly sarcastic, but I have realised, over time, I am not. There’s a line, between wit and sarcasm, and it’s so thin, an electron microscope might miss it. I am not saying I am witty either. I love humour, however. I love to experience humour and commit it. In trying to be funny, witty, and sarcastic, I have — more often than not — crossed lines. No, not in my head, in some one else’s perception. In other words, for me, I now do not know where clean starts and offence begins. It’s perhaps not a line; it’s a band of grey. And from where I stand, it looks like a really broad band of grey.

So, I limited my brand of humour to folks who knew me (irrespective if they knew my brand of humour). I was being safe.

*

A movie is due to release in a couple of weeks. It’s a classic example of everything that can go wrong, making historical fiction. I am upset about it, and after much, much, much deliberation, I wrote a sarcastic post on Facebook. Another friend, who has an evolved state of sarcasm, told me that my post was very safe. I didn’t change anything, but by my standards, it has become popular. I did cheat, to be fair, I made it public, while most of my posts are limited to my friends on Facebook. Often, limited to my close friends.

*

There’s no telling, how your joke will be received. But then, if you care, you cannot be a joker.

*

All expression needs space and time. For it to be absorbed, digested, and responded. For example, a misunderstanding needs space and time to rearrange itself and morph itself back to understanding. But we are so busy and crowded, our opinions take over. Quickly call judgements, simplify our life, accuse the other, move on.

*

3791: The Green Door

Seeking safety in expression is irony. Because, if we are being safe, then we are not expressing the truth. And safety is not security against misunderstanding. Honesty, while being the best policy, can get you in all sorts of trouble. Late in life though it may be, honesty is really worth the trouble.

*

Of being honest, the worst is being honest to yourself. It is daunting and scary. In the beginning. After a while, we question our own honesty. Then, over time, slowly, one fine afternoon, your conversations with your self are the most interesting.

And that’s enough.

November Schizo: The m-dash

No post in November — at least seventy thoughts went unexpressed — @ the rate of an average of 10 per day — it should be more — but — I am conservative — I am also OCD — someone said.

Since all the thoughts of the last seven days are dead — I have nothing much to say — yet November has been good, so far — new friends — great dinners — coffee-laced brownies — and wonderful conversations.

All the guys reading this post — if you are celebrating Movember — say hello — you can say hello — even if you are not celebrating Movember.

Finished a book in a single sitting after a long time — my love for history grows — it makes me a better person after every experience — it challenges my common notions — after every read — it makes me want to read more — know more — not because I want to say something to you — though I want to — but — because I want to fine-tune my attitude and perspective — and that’s enough for me — we don’t need to change people — to change the world — we only need to change ourselves.

I fell in love with love again — if you saw it — it would look like an empty chair — for me — it was more, much more than that — in the circle of life — I watched myself crossing some lines — I smiled — I said — It’s alright — it matters less what I think what others think — it matters more what I think — I smiled again — It was an intriguing smile.

I think — I have encountered my second enemy — Clarity

(The Teachings of Don Juan, Four Enemies Of A Man Of Knowledge, Carlos Castaneda)

PS: The m-dash is one of my favourite grammatical symbols. I have not, yet, mastered its use. As is obvious.

 

 

Capital Schizophrenia

“You never reveal your true self on Twitter.”
“I do, I just don’t like being personal in such a public forum.”
“How will we ever know the real you?”
“We’ll meet IRL (In Real Life) and we will discover each other.”
This goes on for a while.
Something happens, I feel strongly about it, I express my true feelings, as gracefully as I can, given the context.
“You are so rude.”
“No, I expressed what I felt, politely.”
“I can see the malice in your tweets.”

#Facepalm

*

I stepped out for a smoke. [Smoking is injurious to health. This blog does not promote smoking. If you smoke you should stop now. If you don’t, never start.] Two other young men stepped out too. One of them was a smoker. Smokers are confined to small places. We end up being more intimate. Overhearing their conversation, I realised they were from the Indian Army. One was posted in Leh, the other in Dimapur. Brothers. Different Mothers. They meet in Delhi during their furlough. As they were about to leave, I stopped them, asked if, indeed, they were from the Army. They confirmed. I shook hands with them. Thanked them for the immense freedom and safety I live in. I avoided mentioning how most of us wantonly abuse that freedom. We had a short round of wonderful introductions. I was ridden with goosebumps for the next half-an hour.

*

My disgust at the word startup and related terms is well documented. [All disliked words are suitably italicised] To be sure, the disgust is about the terminology, not the act itself. I have immense respect for those who take a dream and struggle to make it a reality. I was there once, twice, thrice, before. I feel blessed, that I have had, an almost, equal measure of success and failure. And I have learnt from both events. And then, recently, I heard, “We are a startup, we don’t do documentation or plans.” A very small (thankfully) bit of me, died a writhing death. Some idiot, somewhere, laid out a sexy sexy (not italics) imitative path to success. And the entrepreneurs (another word I dislike) gravitated to it like engineering students to porn. I call it “Building bereft of basics.” And I smile, and go my way.

*

Until you use the public transport in a city, you are a tourist. I know, even tourists use public transport. But there has to come a time when you say, bloody tourists – since they have no idea about the local protocol of the public transport. Man becomes one with a city when he makes the public transport his own. He feels possessive, guarded, and intimate with the system. Every city, in this world, has something that you can dislike. And if it is not a good thing, you should dislike it. If you live in that city, however, you have to also find what is lovable. Every city, in this world, has something that is lovable. I sensed today, that I can be friends with Delhi. I said hello, the city reciprocated. We smiled. We are going to spend more time together.

*

I got my Delhi Metro SmartCard today. The equivalent of an Oyster in London. These are childish pleasures, but immense in their intensity. Touch a card, and the baffle gate opens, only for you. Automagically the amount is deducted when you exit, because, automagically it remembers where you boarded. It was fun in 2005, it is fun, ten years later. Those who were born into it, may not appreciate it, but if you knew what it was when this tech didn’t exist, you will know what I mean.

Delhi Metro Card

Delhi Metro Card

*

I carried a book today. Thought, I’d read it on the Metro. But it didn’t come out of the bag. There was so much to see of this new city, I didn’t feel like reading. Distance, usually, is measured in length. In Mumbai, we measure the distance in time. So, if you ask someone in Mumbai, how far is [some place], they’ll respond in time, not in kilometres. So, traveling a distance is a means of consuming time. Books, for example. Most people today consume media. Head phones and eyes-down on a small screen. I was smiling to myself. Loudly. No one noticed. No one looked up from their screens, at my face. In Central Delhi, the metro goes underground. And it comes up at the perfect station: Qutub Minar. It’s far away from the station, but the view from a distance doesn’t diminish it, at all. Being childish, makes sense, all over again. [No, I didn’t take a photograph, I was busy looking at it.]

*

It’s very easy to insult. There are print books dedicated to a number of insults. 1001 insults, 5001 insults, and such. I’ve always wondered if that extra, one insult is special? Reading and using insults from books is so yesterday. Good insults come from really smart people. I was insulted twice in a single conversation today. One, I easily defended, it was obvious. The other one, was smart. It took me a few hours to realise it. Long after the conversation was over. I just smiled, when the second insult did a sunrise across my forehead, and inside my head. It was a class act. I didn’t accept it, but I mentally saluted my insulter. The sophistication of an insult, that’s an evolved art form.

*

I just killed four more thoughts that were supposed to make it to this post.

But that’s life.

 

7

My flight’s at 7pm. I am early at the airport. Really early. 4 hours early.

There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. Over the next 4 hours, flights will be announced and most of these occupants will leave the tables. When I came to this section of the airport, only two tables were as described above. I occupied the third table. I assume most of them are day-travellers: took the morning flight, attended a meeting; now returning. Somewhat like me. New table-occupiers come in — everyone is looking for an unoccupied table. Single-occupancy on a table, somehow signifies privacy. I take my place along the glass wall that allows me to see the comings and goings on the tarmac. This is the far-end of Hyderabad airport.

*

The makers of these new OTT (over-the-top) private-sector airports are trying hard to make the journey seem like it is the grandest thing that you have ever done. Failing miserably. In the glitter of the unaffordable items displayed with focus-lights on products, and back-lit lights on brands and logos, the sullen faces on the uncomfortable chairs seem to ask of just one thing: get me home!

People aren’t hungry. They are eating either to regulate their blood sugar or to while away time. I can tell. The one who eats quickly is the former; the one who eats slowly is the latter. Yet, most of them are not eating. Anything. They are recharging their phones. They are making post-meeting phone calls to their home base, to tell the completion of paperwork for the deals they closed. Excel sheets open. Row 55 they say. Add a discount of 12%. Recalculate. Very methodical. These are employees. Then, there are business people. Do x and it’s all done. Employees usually speak in English. Business folks speak in a language I do not understand. Yet, I can sense they are closing deals.

*

Modern airports are designed to serve two purposes: to make life miserable for travellers and for smokers. Almost always, however (and I am not doing any statistical magic show here) smokers are the smart people. Necessity, mother, invention and all that jazz.

*

IMG_20150424_155241There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. No one is looking to make friends. Each person seeks an unoccupied table. [ProTip: This the left-most end of the airport as you walk in, after security] Four hours to kill. Most of the people at this end of the airport drink and smoke. This is the only place where you don’t have to trek to the other end of the airport to have a smoke and trek back to have your drink. The smoking booth is close by. A glass showcase, where everyone can see a dying species. But within that showcase there is camaraderie. Good conversation. Suddenly, people are leaving their tables and joining in groups. Having conversations. Not about smoking. About themselves.

It’s so much easier to be intimate with strangers; we discover. In a couple of hours I’ll take a flight south-bound, and you will take one west-bound. Chances are, we will never meet again. C’est la vie!

*

There are 7 tables, flanked by 3 or 4 sofa-styled chairs. Each table has a single occupant. Each occupant is male. Every table boasts of one beer bottle and a glass. And this is how it will be. For our airports have brought us many expensive experiences, but they have utterly failed at bringing people together. More often than not, people end up spending more time at the airport than they want to. Airports, railway stations, and bus-stands are inherently depressing places. Primarily because no one wants to be there.

*

Seven thoughts in that small place. Seven characters. Seven humans with their personal fears and seven achievements. Seven senses of home. Perhaps these seven senses are not different. They are all the same.

They are human.

Remains of the Day: 014

I’ve started with coffee again. Just kept missing it too much all these years. All I had to do was to start making it and  drinking it to not miss it as much.

*

There’s too much of worry going on about the blog. A friend had a few thoughts on why the blog isn’t doing so well; of all the things he said, one stood out in the spotlight: it just isn’t as good. I need to define a DNR for the blog. “It just isn’t as good,” is equally true of people and everything else in life. Everything should have a DNR associated with it. Makes way for new things. (see also: Current State of Indian Politics)

*

Pull is so much better than push. It makes more sense.

*

9693729032_9f4cf9bb0e_c

Charity should be a two-way street. Don’t give it, unless solicited and don’t ask for it, unless needed. Especially the giving; charity and dignity have an interesting relationship which I sense, but am not equipped to articulate. At least not now.

*

Siri would never understand what Sushant Singh said all through the film, in Shuddh Desi Romance. For that matter no human would, either. Bad diction, unfortunately, has become fashionable. Yes. I saw it. Ridicule me. I deserve it.

*

How you see someone is not how they are. They are, how they are. You have to see them in the way that they are. It follows therefore, that they cannot be who you think they are. Don’t try.

*

My thoughts about Pain and Fear haven’t changed much.

*

I think it’s quite ambitious of me to have a three-digit running counter for these Remains of the Day posts. I am amused because, first, I actually believe somewhere in my heart that there will be at least 999 such posts, and second, I wonder what I’ll do after the 999th post.

Old Friends

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends

There’s a space between them, between these Old Friends, if they are sitting like bookends. That space must be all the years and experiences they have had – together and apart. I’ve always been intrigued by old friends (not the song, but actual old friends). In the movies and such, they will have you believe that old friends talk mostly of days gone by and the troubles that hover over white hair or bald patches. I have no idea what old friends talk about or what their silence is about. Catching up seems to be a very young-friends thing. There’s excitement that exceeds the time we seem to have. We are desperate to create memories, rather than be with our friends. I have often wondered what I would do, when I am sitting on a bench like this, with an old friend.

A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends
Old friends

But this post is not an analysis of the song. If you every have wondered about what Paul Simon’s songs really mean, or how to get to know them better, I strongly urge you to visit Every Single Paul Simon Song* – a blog I recently discovered and fell in love with instantly. Without doubt, for me, this has been the best discovery in recent times. I can say that without any hesitation. No, no analysis here, just a couple of scattered thoughts and one story, about old friends.

It was the early winter of 2005. I was to attend a wedding in Kolhapur. The rest of my family were unable to attend. It was up to me to represent the family. I decided to go. A cousin joined me. And later, an old friend (from school) joined us. We started two days earlier, and instead of taking the shortest route, we drove along the coast of Maharashtra. We drove at will, stopped at will. While we were on the road seeking an unplanned adventure, Vijaypat Singhania was on his way up in a hot air balloon to become the first man to soar 69,852 feet above sea level. We took a couple of photographs of the balloon and set off on our own possible adventures. A few mini-adventures across Kashedi Ghat, Mirya, we reached Sakhartar.

A picture-postcard-village is how you’d describe it. There is no other way to describe it. We stopped for a while to take in what we were seeing. And for a few photos. Here’s one of them:

IMG_0742 - Version 4

Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

I’ve been in love with this photo since that pleasant November day. I posted it to my Flickr account a few days later. It was a wonderful mystery all the while. Who were these people, what was their story, how long and ho many times have they walked like this. It was a great portrait to keep looking at, without knowing anything about these two friends.

Until September 2007; when another Flickr user, from Sakhartar, commented on this photo.

Mohd. Anwar Sakharkar and Fakir Mohammad , best friends Sakhartar

I never saw their faces when I took the photograph. Now I knew their names. I knew that they were best friends. I knew that someone else knew it, besides me. Everything I had ever thought of this photograph became real.

Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy
Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

It would be nice to go out for a walk with an old friend.

*

PS: Right-aligned, italicised text are the lyrics of the wonderful song, Old Friends, by Paul Simon.

Missing Dave | Ground Burger Store

Six years ago, I was sitting at the Ground Burger Store  in Chiswick in London. The lovely place has now closed down, but my memory of that very lazy Saturday afternoon. The burgers were sumptuous and the salad colourful and filling. It was thankfully a Saturday with nothing to do. And while i did leave home with my camera bag and books to read and notebooks to write, I wasn’t really sure, which one, I’d use.

There were not many photographs taken, except this one – and I am glad I took it.

IMG 0909  Version 2

That slow Saturday afternoon was not to be about photographs or about reading a book. It was to be about writing: a story about Missing Dave.

It’s Not About Photographs – I

I have stopped taking photographs.

After about fifty-thousand of them, you have pretty much photographed everything. Everything has an interesting meaning in this context, but, yes, I feel I’ve photographed everything. The lens and the eye have a relationship and as long as it exists, the photograph comes into being. When that relationship is over, you know that the journey is complete. Perhaps the eye and the lens will find that they are still in love; perhaps they may get together again in the future, but for now, they know: it is over.

This was one of the last photos I took.

IMG 3351  Version 2

I was sitting in a rickshaw and took this photograph while we were waiting at a traffic signal. A small window that described what was there behind me. If you are the analytical-type, you might say – It was a glimpse of the past – through a small window. But, there is no way you can relate to the content.

***

For a while now, I have been thinking about the things I read in a book. It was a very small book, few pages, but it packed a dynamite, so to speak. And I’ve been trying hard to understand it. It is making perfect sense – but it doesn’t work. Then, I read another book. And I get a feeling that – somehow I think I understand – why some cities are cool and some are not. I see no reason for Delhi to be peaceful, ever. That city has seen trauma in a way that, as far as I know, no city in this world has seen.

***

Atul Chitnis died this week. I knew him only as a Twitter contact and a sane voice. I didn’t send a RIP tweet. He deserved a lot more than that. He deserves a lot more than this mention in a potpourri post, but I am unable to say anything more. Some emotions can never be frivolous. 

***

It is sad to see the obsession that some people accumulate for the trivial. To see a great mind stoop to gossip-level is disheartening. To see that great mind justify and genuinely believe in the commercial malice is worse. I’d be happy to agree that the great mind was doing this for a limited purpose; it seems, however, we fall prey to our own lies. At that time, even those who throw a rope to save us from drowning, seem ideological enemies.

***

By default, humans were not designed for choice – that’s a social imposition – which we have got used to.

***

Knowing is more important than proving. If some hack takes your idea and presents it as his (or hers – just being politically correct) enjoy the fact that you idea has appeal and resonance. Ignore that they call it their own. The idea has to be more important than the owner of the idea. Open-source your idea. If you never implemented it, you will die happy that you started it.

***

Some things in life are futile.

futile (adj.): (etymology) literally “pouring out easily” (of a vessel), hence “easily emptied, leaky, unreliable,”

Long time ago, in India we used water clocks. If you have heard of the term “ghada bhar gaya” you know now where this came from.

With his new optimism came the thought that – if he was indeed to establish himself here – he must try to understand this new land and its customs. With the aid of Junayd Barlas as interpreter, he began to question some of those they passed on the road, farmers, merchants, peasants, about the things he saw. One day he noticed a man in a purple turban striking with a mallet a brass disc big as a tray hanging above a tank of water. He learned that this man was a ghariyali – a timekeeper. In Babur’s homeland each day was divided into twenty-four hours and each hour into sixty minutes but he discovered that in Hindustan his new subjects apportioned day and night into sixty parts – gharis – of twenty-four minutes, while night and day were also each divided into four watches, pahars. Ghariyalis measured the passage of each pahar by submerging in water special pots with a hole in the bottom that took exactly one ghari to fill. At the end of the first ghari of their watch they struck a large, thick brass disc so that all could hear. At the end of the second ghari they struck it twice, and so on until their watch was over, when they struck it many times in rapid succession.

~ Raiders from the North, Alex Rutherford (Empire of the Moghul Series)

It’s futile. It’s not water; our feelings leak; we drown.

***

Someday, I’ll start taking photos of things that really mean something.