#Mumbai: And I Love You So…

There is a romance of the idyllic village.

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

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

And I wonder.

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

IMG 1676

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

//Inset

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

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

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

My love isn’t going anywhere. I am.

Umbilical Cut

When do we cut the umbilical?

You might ask; which? And I’d say; good question.

The obvious answer: when we are born. That’s the physical cut. I suspect, there is more to it, than the physical cut. The physical, does not necessarily undo the spiritual.

There are other umbilicals, though. The unseen – some spiritual, some emotional. Umbilical connections are liquid. Blood, sweat, and tears. When we connect, how we connect, we never know. But, we do.

We move away from home. We may stop thinking of home. Yet, we never leave home. There will always be a connection. It may or may not pull us back. But you cannot deny the connection. Accept it or ignore it. At your cost.

The umbilical is a sense of belonging.

And one day the physical is cut. And it is all over. It is not sad, necessarily. But, in a moment, it just does not exist. Did you have a choice? Did you choose? Did someone make the choice for you? In a slice of a moment; it is two.

It’s a memory now, a static set of audio-visuals, so to speak. Like watching a life of someone else.

I have been cut.
do not belong.
am free.

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.

IMG_0820

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.

Say, I Love You

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

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

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

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

Say it, and be on your way.

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.

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.

Better, For You

Four years ago around this time, I wrote a post about an apology from a Leograph. I had to follow up, the next day with another apology for saying Leograph instead of Leogryph, which is the correct word, which I intended. The apology was due, because a post blitzkrieg was upon my readers. And the quality of the writing was in doubt. It would be prudent to apologise in advance. So, I did.

More, later.

*

Since that day, I haven’t picked up a challenge that would require me to work hard. Life’s been good, so to speak. Life is usually shovelling challenges our way — why create new challenges? Nice, peaceful mantra. June 2014 was the last time I created a challenge for myself. This month is an anniversary of sorts. It just so happens that in June last year, we had a school re-union, and most of us met after over three decades. Details here.

We decided to meet again to celebrate the anniversary of our first re-union after 30-odd years. Go figure. It just so happened that the exact dates were a weekend. So it would be perfect. Weekend of 9th June. God is gracious with the calendar. But God’s grace stopped, at giving us a weekend on the same date. In school, we attended classes together, spent time together. We had a time-table. To be clear, we all had the same time-table. Now, no more. We all, now, have our own time-tables. Ah! The scheduling conflicts we go through. A nightmare.

Then, Magic!

Last-minute confirmations, and we swelled twice the size that we imagined. Forty-somethings being teenage-somethings. Husbands, wives, kids in tow; I can say that there was utter confusion. Mostly, the actual kids were confused, seeing their parents being teenagers. In a way, I am happy that kids saw their parents in a different light. I won’t bore you with the details. [Wink-wink]

Us @ Uttorda, Goa

The conversations are unlimited. Tea is flowing like beer; same as beer which flows as water. The beverage doesn’t matter – and the conversations invade the deep night. No more names, no more roles. Friends, husbands, wives, kids – – it becomes one big family.

I usually talk too much. But there are times, when I watch from the sidelines. While I rarely go to the sidelines, it’s a moment of epiphany. Their love, their respect. Leaning on the railing watching them, I say to myself: I have to be better. I am not bad, mind you. But I want to be better. Not because I have something to prove or I seek acceptance. Just that being with you all wants me to be better, for you. I have nothing to prove to you all – because you have accepted me the way I am. Yet, a part of me, is asking questions: how can I be better for you? Not in relative terms, but in absolute.

One year ago – I was happy that I found you all. One year later, the emotions are different. Yes, today the floodgates have opened. Late-lateef. All my friends from school are as crazy, or more, than I am. But without ever declaring it, we have genuine interest in each other’s life.

We push each other to be better. No, we never said it in that much detail.

There’s value in the unsaid; which we derive from the said

*

After four years, I am taking up the challenge of publishing at least one post everyday, this July. I cannot guarantee the quality of the July posts. But I will write. One, everyday, next month.

I will be better, for you.

Coming Of Age

When does one come of age? What age, i.e. I believe that questions does not have a definitive answer.

*

I consider myself fortunate that I grew up surrounded by books. But the books I grew up with were not mine. They belonged to my father. My sister and I were allowed spaces in that library to keep our books. I do not know if he intended it, but that was our education of books; not their content, but their upkeep. We were, if you are wondering, allowed access to his library. And there was a theme to the books he read.

Eventually, I grew up. I chose books that were very different from the books in his library. Our library, now. I was grown up enough to buy my books. I was never a rebel. It was the influence of a combination of the books I could afford and the influence I was under. My books were welcomed in his library. I was flirting with atheism, and a book by Dawkins found a place nearby his Upanishadic texts. On weekends we had good conversations of the books that I was stuffing in his thematic library. Lovely conversations.

It’s been 17 years, and now they are only ghosts of conversations. Now, my sister and I are the sole heirs of his library. That’s the best thing he bequeathed to us.

*

In Bullet Time

I just finished reading a book called Nationalism by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Gurudev was an articulate person. He had a power over words, which he used, not with dominance, but with love, care, and sense. Gurudev’s ideas about nationalism are incongruent with my own acquired beliefs. But, it matters less. It was, to say the lest, an enjoyable read. What he believed in, he has expressed so well, with so much conviction; as you read the book, you cannot feel anything but respect. I have an ideological difference from his POV.

This post is not about that.

*

Having read that book, I discovered that there is a point of view that is discordant with mine. Then came the question. Do I accept it or reject it? This problem of binary will be the death of us all. David Weinberg, in his book “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room” — I know a really long title, talks of the nature of debate, among other things:

“A conversation like this is possible when each of us has freedom of expression and no one is required to change.”

While I study Nationalism, Gurudev’s perspectives have informed me. I respect his views. I do not entirely agree with them. And, as I study more, I am willing that my perspective may change.

May I read more books!

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.

Happy Republic Day

Happy Republic Day, to all fellow Indians.

This day that year, we got our own Constitution. It is the Supreme Guide. That Supreme Guide provides us ways and means to amend the Supreme Guide itself, if we think that the Supreme Guide is not helping, or lacking. Laws of society have been codified for thousands of years. In all the thousands of years, they have changed according to how society has changed.

“It’s a stupid law. I won’t follow it.”

I have heard the above statement often. It’s a gift that we live in a democratic society. I agree that many of the rules and laws are archaic, stupid, even, and they are not applicable given how society has evolved. I feel, however, violating law because you do not agree with it, is not the right way to protest. Frankly, it is counter-intuitive. Given that we have a dynamic constitution, we can change the law. But therein lies the inherent problem. We do not want to struggle to get the relevant laws in place. I often do not celebrate the freedom struggle anniversaries; mostly because I feel that I have failed those who got us independence. I do not know, how we got set in comfort of the “static quality” of independence.

Independence is always work-in-progress. Our Freedom Fighters were lucky, if I may say so with due respect, to able to point a finger at someone and say – I want to be independent of you. And they struggled, and we are now a free country. That was 1947. Three years before we became a Republic. We are now in 2018. And 1947 and 1950 have to dance together: an independent republic.

 

Mine is a big country. As a democracy, all are allowed to do and say what they want. So, it is difficult to understand the idea of India. With all the voices in the ten directions. And all the voices are allowed. I understand, how we may come across as a confused nation.

But, come, watch us celebrate a festival. Any festival. We promise you, you will be more confused than you were before.

Happy Republic Day to all my fellow Indians.

Vada Pav and Tapri Chai

The staple day-food of almost everyone who works in the field in Mumbai. It’s not an alien concept to me. I have lived this life, for almost four years, early in my career. It’s easily available and its cheap. When you don’t have a lot of money and time, it’s the perfect combination.

Having the Vada Pav and Tapri Chai, we’d gaze at the fancy hotels and say, someday. That someday came soon enough, and the days of gobbling Street food before the next appointment, were a thing of the past. Then came the era of fancy street food. Overpriced, badly cooked street food that was promoted through Facebook events. I visited those too, hated the food, and returned home slightly disappointed.

Most people I’d meet wanted to have breakfast meetings, in fancy air-conditioned restaurants. All this while, imagining Vada Pav and Tapri Chai, and thinking, someday.

Having a Vada Pav and Tapri Chai become the new luxury, for which I had to take time out and go out to the street to get one.

Today, I had Vada Pav and Tapri Chai. Work has changed for me and I am less bound to a desk than I was before. I love that sense. Not because it is nostalgic, but it’s a happy sense. Great ambitions have been cooked and inspiring dreams have been brewed over a Vada Pav and Tapri Chai.

There’s nothing wrong with fancy food. Food’s purpose is to satisfy hunger. All food can do that. Some food, however, not just satisfies your hunger, it feeds your soul.

Happy Independence Day

We all work for our country.

We write software programmes, we build buildings, we save children, we teach, we police our community. We train customer service people. We help commerce across boundaries. We clean the sewers, we sweep the streets. We balance the books, we make machines, we serve food. We offer loans, we give interest. We sit at home and make our children good people. We fight for what is not right. We fight to keep what is right. We fight, sometimes, for all the wrong reasons. We do what we have to do, to protect our present and our future. We join the armed forces, we protect our country; our families.

The Indian Tricolour - National Flag

The Indian Tricolour – National Flag

On this Independence Day, here’s a shout out to all the armed forces – national and state [The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy. The State Police forces, the paramilitary forces, CISF, CRPF, BSF, IB, R&AW, All of you], who protect our present.

Here’s a shout out to all the teachers – who protect and nurture our future. You are the most important of us all. Our soldiers are looking to you. They are protecting our present, so that you can protect our future.

As someone who just does stuff and pays taxes, so that you can do your job, I hope you know that each morning, I salute you first.

And I apologise for the kind of leaders we ended up electing. Spineless and gutless. Do not blame the politicians. We failed you. Yet, we trust you. But, I promise you, we will do better. Your sacrifice and you frustration will not be in vain.

And to, all our soldiers: promise us one thing: Kill, do not die. Please do not die for your country; kill if you have to; live for your country. Come back home.

This is all WIP (work-in-progress), we’ll get there, bear with us.

To all my protectors of the present and the future: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

A Warm Embrace

When Richard Bach said,

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.

He wasn’t joking.

8632: Keep the Faith

It’s been a couple of months since I had been to a school reunion. And after three decades of being apart, we are rediscovering what we meant to each other. It is amusing that we aren’t on this road to rediscovery from the age that we are now, but from the age when we separated. Amusing, because we tend to behave like teenagers in our conversations. Memories have faded, too much water under and over the bridge. But we haven’t lost the sense of who we were, how we were. Theories abound about why some people feel connected with others, each with some merit, or at least some factor of interestingness.

To me, it’s the snug, cosiness that I experience in our conversations. Tied up, close and tight from all sides, never to fall apart, never to leave.

A warm clasped embrace, that defies time and space, which I always carry around with me.

Wish I Were Here! And There Too!

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

A situation arose today. I wanted to be at a place. But I also had to be elsewhere. Not that I didn’t want to be (that) elsewhere. I wanted to be there too. If I had over-thought – I could have chosen one of the places. They are 1007 kms apart. I had good reason to be at both places. I wanted to be at both places. Needless to say, I had to choose. A few months ago, this wasn’t so difficult. I would have just left. It is becoming difficult by the day.

The Matrix

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

Because I would not be the receiver of both the experiences. Clones do not have a common sense of experience, do they? No, cloning would not solve it. Nothing will, in fact. That’s perhaps, what makes up life and life experiences. I don’t know it yet, but I am better for it. Not that I made a “right” choice — in this case, it wasn’t about right and wrong. It was simple: I wanted both. And the other thing was simpler: I couldn’t have both. It was only a life lesson.

If you were here, with me, my smile would have confounded you.

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.

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.

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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!

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

A Broken Narrative

Few of my friends know of a certain profile picture I use on Facebook, which indicates that I am away. Every once in a while I test if I can be away from Facebook (and therefore Twitter and other such networks). October was my away month — by my standards. I used Facebook sparsely. I’ll be back on the 1st of November. The last three or four times I did this away exercise, it was more of a test of my addiction, so to speak. While October started with the same purpose; the revelations were interesting to say the least.

The narrative of everything has changed.

There isn’t — according to the way I see it — anything that we can say, that will not be crushed out or hammered in by some ism that someone else follows. Opinions do not have spaces anymore. Jokes have no space. Most people I see, are angry and belligerent. Mostly, deep down, they are defensive – but outwardly they are angry and belligerent. Those that aren’t angry are on a trip, some trip, which offers them a false sense of happiness.

When ideological camps never intersect, where is that common space for us to speak and hear? What is our meeting ground? Not to make a statement; just to speak, to listen to each other. In the race to be heard, no one is listening.

I am not lamenting social change. I have lived my adult life, with and without mobile phones, e.g., and I am aware of the boons and curses of how society responds to changes it did not expect. In these times of (mostly) nonsensical back-and-forth, I struggle to find a place of my own.

~

Within that struggle, I have discovered a small place. It’s nice. Comfortable. Mine. It’s not mine, yet. But I’d like it to be mine. And it has the potential to be mine. In times of predictable spaces, determined by isms, I am fortunate to have found one that allows for isms, but is not dictated by an ism.

~

I am participating in Movember, yet again, this year. (That’s the day I return to Facebook) It has been over half-a-decade of Movembering; I have yet to find an organisation that works for men’s health, in India. If you know of one – do let me know. Nevertheless, It seems, I will be a permanent Movember Member; inspired in no less measure thanks to The Bum.

2016-01-01 17.04.50: Orchha

It’s the festival of lights, here, in India. In my head, there is a philosophical connotation to the festival. To tell you the truth, it is a festival of light and sound. Traditionally, philosophically, and spiritually. Not anymore. Either by armchair activism or sheer usurpation. Those that purportedly attack and those that apparently protect — both have it wrong. Festivals are resilient enough that they can survive attacks. Festivals are strong enough that they do not need protection. I wish I do not live long enough to have to wish “Happy Holidays” for a festival that you celebrate, even if I do not celebrate it. When a festivity is reduced to a holiday – that is when we have lost everything. We should be worried about sameness, assuming we will live long enough to sense it.

My apologies for this line of thinking on such a wonderful festive day. I leave you not with thoughts to discover the light within but just be good. In your own way. Do something nice. I will.

Happy Diwali!

No Bucket; No List

It’s a good thing I believe in rebirth.

Partly, because I have been brought up believing in these tenets. More-so, because I find there’s value in it. We spent all of yesterday visiting historical places; we, is a couple of friends and I. The original idea was to visit one fort, slightly binge on the wonderful seafood available at this town that hosts the coastal fort. We ended up visiting three forts in the vicinity.

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I saw The Bucket List, a while ago. Given the actors, I loved the movie. I could not relate to the movie, much. I didn’t quite get the bucket list. I know what it means, I didn’t get the why.

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Very few of us have the privilege of doing what we want, when we want to. Most of us have to work for a living (which is a conspiracy theory, in itself), and we are offered slices of time to do what we want to do (as against what we need to do). That slice occupies most of our attention. What we would otherwise take five week-days to do, we cram in a weekend. It’s like a game of tag. Or GTD. Needless to say, the weekend list is longer than the other five days. And we play a game of touch and go. It becomes a challenge of checkboxes that we can strike-out.

Smart people (and I am getting there) become curators. There’s an acknowledgement about how much can be achieved, given the constraints. It seems, the trick is not to speed up, but to slow down. Resignation is not necessarily a negative word. It is positive in your own personal sense of acceptance. The remainders, I leave for my next life. There are experiences that fill our hearts so much, that we would explode. But if we never gave them time to fill our hearts, we’d never know.

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

View of Revdanda Fort from Korlai Fort

Lists also tend to deny us experiences that we would otherwise have. For we focus on the list and our blinders take us where the list takes us. We tend to see nothing else, when we focus on the list. Climbing up to a fort, climbing down a fort, we ignore our heart beat; we focus on completion; we never sense the lives that made that fort; which is why we climbed, in the first place. We are losing much as we strike off an item in a check-list; we are losing even when we seek an experience.

Some of us may have specific ambitions. For the rest of us, there are no rules.

We have to be just out there and allow life to do what it does best. Allow a life.

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