The Story of Seventeen Years

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

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

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

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

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

From the “Keep the Faith” Series, Atul Sabnis

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

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

Sixteen-Four

Show up.

Way back, I was reading a book, primarily written for artists, but I went ahead and read it anyways. It was well-written, in the sense that it never made me feel that I wasn’t an artist, even though I am not one.

In the book, the author expounded several principles to help struggling artists, in very well-crafted essays. One of those principles was: Show up.

As would have been expected, the intended audience was the artist, but when you took in the essence of the essay, it applies to all of us, irrespective of what we do. Showing up is half the work done. With your presence, there is at least a chance of further value; your absence ensures that you will not gain anything at all.

If you come up on the stage, people may like your work, if you don’t they won’t even know your existence.

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Showing up is easier said than done, because the sheer act of showing up, means fighting and conquering many demons — real and imagined.

I have lost my audience – due to my long absence here. And the last few posts have hardly had any views. It’s easy for me to say that – well, I have lost my audience here, why bother writing anything at all. I am late on my plan of writing every day

But I will catch up. And I will write better in the days to come.

In the meanwhile I am doing the least I should be doing.

Show up.

Fifteen-Three

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

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

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

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

That we have to, is not a question.

No, Not Extinct

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to observe a Geography class in session. Gravity was the topic of the day and a kid stood up and wondered why people on other side of the earth weren’t falling off. It was clear that he knew they weren’t falling off, but he wondered why. The teacher was trying her best to explain that gravity works the same all around the earth; perhaps centripetal and centrifugal forces were not yet covered in Physics.

I was then, smiling a slight smile. Way back, many years ago, while we were being taught about volcanoes, I had a nagging question, I remember. I had asked my teacher about it, but had not got a satisfactory answer.

How do we know that a volcano is really extinct? I mean, what if it suddenly starts erupting, would it not be an active volcano? Or would it be a dormant volcano that has now become active? What if a dormant volcano never erupted? Would that one actually be extinct? How is the state of a volcano really determined?

The question still remains – attributing a state to a volcano is not an exact science really, and if there is – I still do not know.

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No, Not a Volcano

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog that is noteworthy. When I was recently asked about the blog, I was not sure what I should say. The blog is: active, dormant, or extinct.

The volcano question erupted, after many years.

Dormant seemed to qualify, as I understand the states. Didn’t qualify for active (What’s the frequency for qualifying it as active?) Definitely not extinct — which was an emotional response – because I was not yet ready to let go of the blog forever.

So this post is to classify this blog as dormant. At least for now. In days to come, it may become active. And then be dormant again. But never extinct, for as long as the volcano stands.

Thriving in the Traffic

Traffic jams are frustrating, to say the least. That place, with all the rear red lights, as if lasering with personal malice, directed at your eyes only. The incessant honking, and you honking back just to relive a bit of frustration, just in case that works. Perhaps, the evening traffic jams are the worst ones – when you just want to reach your destination — usually home. Relax, and be with your family. Traffic jams just add to the fatigue of the day gone by.

There cannot be anyone, obviously, who can say that they enjoy traffic jams. In any sense of the word.

Except for these guys.

They’re selling roasted peanuts in tightly packed spires, inverted white cones, ready to temporarily satisfy the hunger of the traffic-jammed, or perhaps the traffic-damned! Rolled up for Rs. 10 or for Rs. 20, dodging the adventurous drivers who are busy changing lanes, for no discernible advantage, but perhaps, for a sense of gratification. Their business model has been fine tuned now, it has been over a year since the Metro construction began.

They know which day of the week, which hour of the evening, at which point, the traffic is at a standstill. They have been smart enough to price these welcome cones of delight that requires minimum exchange. They have the exact change available and are able to dish out the cones and the currency, before you shift from neutral to first. They even have their inventory stocked along the divider, for Mondays and Fridays, when the snail-pace is especially pronounced.

There are, as you may have now realised, people who like traffic jams. Come to think of it, they must be praying for the jams and the continued slow pace of the Metro construction. Four hours of navigating dead slow cars on this damned and cursed highway, is a boon for them. The unfinished Metro pillars are their altars, now.

That’s the industrious face of grit, determination, and opportunity.

Salaam Bombay!

In Between Imagination and Reality

The last post was almost two months ago.

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

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

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

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

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

LearningMate Founders

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

May we all shorten the space between imagination and reality!

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.

When You Have Nothing To Say

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

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

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

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

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

It’s ok to be quiet.

Balancing Breaks

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

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

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

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

So, what do we have?

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

Balancing Act - Glasses Stacked

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

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

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

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

I am balancing the breaks.

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

The Mob Within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am the conflict. I am peace.

Happy Teachers’ Day

Every year this day comes. On this day. And you find yourself wondering what will you say different from all the times before. Things are changing so slowly, they are hardly noticeable. The most important serviceperson of the nation is getting disillusioned and I have not much to offer that makes real sense to a teacher.

I hope things will change for the better. The teacher’s life will become better. I will do all that I can, along with like-minded people who share the same beliefs. For now, the people you work with, are the best motivation for you.

Young students, Akanksha, Teacher's Day

Courtesy: Akanksha Photo Shoot

Thank you, dear architects of the future of this country. Thank you for your relentless service to the nation against the most challenging odds. Thank you, especially, for standing tall and strong through the seemingly hopelessness of it all. That takes a different type of courage.

#RESPECT

The Man in the Plane

Location: 33K feet above sea level; somewhere over Rajasthan.

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Saw an oldish man taking notes in the flight today (Today is relative; this happened a year ago, 4 Feb, 2016, to be precise).

Two books for reference. And another small notebook, with thoughts perhaps. He had some interesting method of referencing, as he flipped back and forth between the pages of the notebook, he seemed to find exactly what he was looking for.

What is the origin of our questions? Is it how we see ourselves or is it how we see others? How do we know ourselves? As ourselves or as a reference to others? Are these the questions of identity? Of experience? 

There is some romance in the academic rigour, as I’ve experienced it, off late.

3445: Elphinstone College
Everything that we learned in school and college needs to come back.

Fast!

Writers & Carpenters

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

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

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

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

6172: Buddha

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

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

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

~

* Kathy’s Song, Paul Simon

Painlessness

It was a sharp pain.

Below the chest. Not exactly in the stomach. Somewhere in between. That’s where the intestines are, I suppose. Having majored high-school in Biology didn’t help, all that study, and I had no idea what was there; which of those many tightly packed organs was keening like a banshee. (Sorry, Mrs. SS!) My thoughts went back to my textbook from school, trying to remember the organic arrangement. Then, and I have no idea why, I realised I had been feeling the pain for a while; I just hadn’t noticed it. My thoughts shifted from what I was thinking, to the pain, and —without notice — like a ghost spirited away by sunlight: the pain vanished.

Just like that!

It took a couple of kilometres, to realise that I was very angry, when the pain started. Very angry about something that’s going on in the world that I live in. Very angry about how people are reacting to this thing. Very, very angry at all the name calling, the all too common spewing of venom all around me. Specifically, the bile-filled pit of 140 chars. And as soon as I started thinking about the placement of my organs, I wasn’t in pain anymore.

A while ago, I made a conscious choice not to go anywhere near that pit. And I haven’t ever, almost never. But it is all so pervading. It’s a big pit. Large. Huge. Massive. Enormous. It’s inescapable. And just like that, I left.

Not Twitter; I left the pit.

A Fine Divide

The medium is not the message. Sometimes, bits of messaging corrode the medium, all we need to do is clean the medium. It’s all clean now. I am away from the pit.

There’s no pain.

Keep Giving Up

The temptation to give up, is high.

Well, you’ve stated the primary idea. Why write more? If people want to know more about your idea, they’ll Google it, or they’ll ask questions. My writing is suffering. I still love starting to write, but after the key note has been written, I lose interest. Who cares? I’ve just finished a post on my History blog. (as of when I am writing this post, it hasn’t been published). I can sense the gaps. It is staccato. I asked a few friends to check it. They end up telling me the things I know.

Even when I know how I should write, I don’t.

One of two things have happened: Blogging has changed and I haven’t, or, I have changed and Blogging hasn’t. When this mystery is solved, I’ll know what I should do.

Or, perhaps, there’s too much of a big deal with giving up and keeping at it. Why is giving up looked down upon? When you think hard about it, giving up actually opens up new avenues. If you give up there’s so many other things that you can do. If you, however, keep at it there’s only one thing you are doing, and chances are, you are doing it for some (potentially) foolhardy reason that you committed yourself to. Or perhaps, there’s merit in keeping at it.

So I should either give up at keeping at it, or keep at it at giving up.

Something tells me, they are the same, but, now I’ve lost interest. I give up.

Over Clouds; Over Mountains; Over Whelmed

My first memory of going Kazakhstan, will always be the clouds. Thick, wispy, temperamental, or duvet-like, clouds were everywhere. And they were beautiful. Teasingly, they allowed me a sneak peek of the Hindu-kush Mountains. Where exactly, I have no idea. Even when we were to land at Almaty, I could have sworn, our plane took almost thirty minutes descending a thick wad of white cottony cloud.

File May 25, 22 11 42

Landed safely in Almaty, amidst mountains and a never-ending thick carpet of green. This was Saturday, last, one emotionally charged, memorable travel events, since a long time.

Signing off from Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, where I am at work. Undoubtedly, more, later.

 

Almost There

Closer to that finish line, there are two ways, I think, how we respond. Either we summon all the reminder of our energy to cross it, or we slow down, and slowly walk to the ribbon. I am close to that line. And I must admit, I have no way to express what I feel. I am split in the middle, one wanting to finish; the other wanting to take time.

0466: Blur Walk

I am happy, though. The line that I will cross is absolute. Absolute, in the sense that it is mine, completely. It has no relation to what other people are doing or what other people expect. It is mine and mine alone. I am happy because I never planned to reach this line. I never worked towards it. I just kept walking. It will come soon, and you will all know; I am not telling. Even if you try to guess it with comments, I won’t tell. And because it is so near, you will know soon enough.

That’s all. Wait for just a little while.

Writing Tomorrow’s Post

Tomorrow’s post is going to be easy.

It’s a no brainer, what tomorrow’s post is going to be about. It’s a summary of all that happened this month about this post-a-day challenge that I took up. Easy post. Just like the first post, this month. It’s the posts in the middle that have caused all the pain. Of course, needless to say, when I say pain, I don’t intend to complain.

Advice to Writers; Billy Collins; http://www.moragjoss.com/writers_and_writing.asp

Advice to Writers; Billy Collins; http://www.moragjoss.com/writers_and_writing.asp

I had to kick myself about blogging, because a sense of complacency was setting in, given the decade that this blog has been alive. It has been a while now, that I have stopped actively paying attention to page stats, likes and votes. I visit all followers’ blogs at least once; partly to see what they write about, and in some part to know what nature of people follow my blog. I ignore all the obvious spam blogs or product blogs, but once in a while, you find a refreshing blog, like Alfred’s Almanac.

Newer social networks provided a simpler, easier, and faster way for people to have conversations, sometimes having one word (Like!) or one number (+1) conversations and all exchanges moved on to those networks. I did too, for a while. Why bother writing a hundred words when you can make do in ten. I suspect that the reason conversations seem longer on these social networks is because the idea isn’t well expressed, and bulk of the comments that follow are about refining the thought. In any case, these networks still seem to be the place where most conversations happen.

As my writing became infrequent, the phenomenon folded upon itself doubly, and I discovered I could not write very well. So I wrote less. Triple fold. I could not write at all. (Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration). Yet, quite an effort was called for, to write the simplest of things. I thought I had lost interest in blogging, but I hadn’t. That’s where the challenge came in.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 19.05.46Like any other discipline, writing too is all about discipline. The distracting clutter has to cleaned up, the act has to have purpose. Thoughts have to be coaxed and cajoled to form a shape. The shape’s surface and curves and angles have to be adorned by the right words. And the words have to be your own and should not be slave to and unknown future acknowledgement by another.

I started watching my stats again. And it was encouraging, to say the least. You can see what’s happened in July. This is not to say that if you write regularly, people will come to your site. It doesn’t guarantee that people will like your posts or leave many comments. Nothing, guarantees anything.

Just like this post, I think. This was meant to be tomorrow’s post about the entire month of writing.

Tomorrow’s post is not going to be easy.

Fatigue Fighters

Apart from watching a few select sports on TV, I don’t have much of a relationship with sports. I don’t worship a sportsperson or a team; I usually don’t take sides (with the one exception of any Indian team or sportsperson playing any sport); I don’t armchair comment; I don’t follow any controversial news about sports; I am not glued to any device for scores. Also, I don’t play any.

In high school, however, I was an athlete. End of the school day, we used to head out for practice; Track & Field events. I never tracked, I only fielded. But our PT instructor made us run around the ground before we could begin practice. Warm up, it seems. Once on the far side of the ground, we field guys used to cut corners — convert the 400m track to 300-350m — if were only to throw medieval weapons as far as we could, running and getting tired didn’t make sense to us. All the stretching exercises that we did before the run should suffice, we argued — in our heads i.e.; never in his presence.

One of best friends then, and now, was a track guy. He used to run long-distance events: the 400m and the 800m and the marathons and other similar events. He is in the Merchant Navy now, and I asked him once, if he still ran. Apparently he does. In my head I have this aerial view of a large rusty coloured merchant vessel in deep blue waters, and I see him in white, running around edges of the ship.

I’ve, however, stopped throwing things around. Not tantrums even. Of all the sports I was involved in, I’ve never played any that involved continuous activity. I’ve never experienced fatigue, in that context.

For my challenge, I am to write six more posts for the next six days. And I am beginning to draw blanks.

4348: 49 Shades of Grey

This must be fatigue.

My question to my friend, when we meet next will be this: what goes on at the instance when every aching muscle is ready to fall out of your body, and you have only a few metres left to the finish line? It has to be a little more than inertia that takes the athlete to the finish line.

How do you fight fatigue?

Our Doubts are Traitors

I would never have thought I’d find a quote like this in LinkedIn, but I did, and it seems quite common for inspirational messages to posted to LinkedIn. (This quote was a shared by a friend of of mine, who, I suspect reads my posts once in a while — so my dear friend, this post is not about you, but about the quote, and more so how I see the quote)

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.

Right.

0653: Ghost of ManFirst, whoever said this in the first place was being unfair. The way it is said, it is clear that the author (is quoter a word?) feels that walking away is easy (as against trying harder). In almost all social contexts, “working hard” is a virtue that we all learn from childhood. Some have substituted smart in place of hard, yet, the value of working hard has never diminished. When I read the quote through that lens, it seems to suggest that walking away is easy. It’s not. At all. In fact, trying harder is easier; walking away can be harder than trying harder. That’s one of the reasons many people feel stuck, where they are in life.

Second, the quote has no context of what we are walking away from or what it is that we need to try harder. Different situations, circumstances, and considerations will need different responses. You’d probably walk away from a dead-end job but try harder if you are working towards excellence. You’d walk away from an abusive relationship, but try harder when your loved ones need help. The instances may seem silly as you read them now, however, each situation is unique and has its on context and variables.

Finally, in my very personal opinion: to choose to try harder is not a decision (in the way it is used in the quote). Trying hard is a natural social and cultural response for the most of us. Seldom is it a conscious choice.

Here’s another quote, while we are at it:

“Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them.” ― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

When are we certain? When can we be certain? How long should we continue with that possible future to get to the point where we can categorically say that we are certain? No one can answer this for us, but us. It is an extremely personal experience, and whether people around you agree with you or not, you are the only person who can be certain. You are the only person who has to be certain.

And finally, one last quote. One that I feel has been constructed so well, it works even if you want to walk away or if you try harder. Is it the decision that’s hard, or the act? Perhaps you will see a glimpse of the real culprit, in what is the hardest decision.

Our doubts are traitors,
And makes us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4

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