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.

Advertisements

The Unexplained: #Anthem: 16

It’s been a while, since I posted an Anthem.

Songs of tragedy, pain, and loss are usually difficult to write about. One, the original context of the sadness is often very personal to the song’s author. When we listen to a song, the meaning changes — because the author’s context makes way for our own. Two, most sad songs are beautiful. So when you say you like a sad song, it isn’t clear if you like it because it’s beautiful, because you relate to it, or both. And finally, they enclose emotions that there aren’t words for, it can only be an experience.

But it’s a wonder (for me) how the poets do it. What kind of pattern-thinking do they posses that allows them to choose and lay out words that can make meaning to thousands, millions of people and relate to that inexplicable experience? The abstraction that they create, reaches far deeper than a simple statement would. There seems to be, to me, a sense of protectiveness of the sorrow, and if it has to be displayed, it stays behind the lattice-work of abstraction.

Perhaps that is why some sad songs become beautiful. In a single instant, there’s meaning, and there isn’t.

*

When I first heard this song, I didn’t understand it much. There was something however, about the song that never left me. This is the song that people sing at picnics and outings, after all the dance has been done, all the drinks are over. Like a full circle. This song, is essentially, full of questions. Mostly, none of the questions have answers. It’s the phenomenon of no-one-knows..

Here’s a decent translation (And a link to the same song, with better Audio, but no video)

I cannot, but think of a doha (couplet) by Kabir:

ऐसा कोई ना मिला जासों कहूं दुख रोय।
जासों कहिये भेद को,सो फिरी बैरी होय।।

None could I find, as such, to share my sorrow, sad profile
To those in whom, I did confide inimically turned hostile.

Above translation by Daduzen (DN Harjani), from Kabir Speaks

 

 

Dear God, Grant me the Serenity…To Stay Away

Dear God grant me the courage to ignore the intellectuals, the serenity to ignore the idiots, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wait.

Scratch that last part. I’ll use the wisdom part somewhere else. Same difference, I think. (I don’t want to use up my chances, here)

*

Having met some really smart people, I’ve always lamented why I was not as smart as them. And, having met some really stupid people, I’ve always been grateful that I am not as stupid as them. Irrespective of what others think of me, that puts me somewhere in the middle. And if academic achievement was any measure, I have documentary proof. I’ve discovered that most intelligent beings can be quite stupid, and vice versa. Which does beget the question — how do I know people are intelligent, if I do not have the intelligence to discern intelligence in other people. A person of average intelligence may discern stupidity, if at all, but not higher intelligence. Let’s go with seemingly intelligent. Just to help this post chug along.

So, this seemingly intelligent person made — what a below-average intelligent person, would recognise — to be a stupid statement about another, relatively intelligent person. But I am not below-average. I am perfect average. So I did make the connection. The seemingly intelligent person and the relatively intelligent person – both – are my friends. Undoubtedly, I have respect for them both. Because, undoubtedly, both are above-average intelligent people, and I am just perfect-average. I do have a theory. Most intelligent people don’t understand humour. I apply that to myself. When I don’t understand a joke, I realise, I suffer from overintelligensia. Yes. I coined that word. I should, however, tell you, that more often than not, I do get the joke. Almost 99%. Further proof of my average intelligence.

12.09.32: Wood Block & Bottle

While the two intelligent people were duelling (one refused, almost to come and play), I was the one getting all the cuts of the intellectually wielded sabres. I wasn’t there really, it was all happening in my head. I didn’t die; in those cross cuts. I survived. And here’s the moral of the story of dealing with intelligent folks:

Stay away.

What’s Yours? What’s Mine? What’s Ours?

What’s yours? What’s mine? What’s ours? Is anything ours?

There has to be a better way for us to strive for greatness than claiming cultural artefacts. This sense of belonging and sense of identity has all of us in a tizzy. At the top, there’s Human. But then the branches come out. Religious. Political. Social. And, thanks to social media, Personal. Within these main branches, further branches erupt. We have been made smarter by the exposure at our disposal (consumption?)

Finer branches are shooting out of nowhere, and we are clinging to those. Unique identities allow us to be special. We want to be special. And often, overestimating the strength of the finer branches to see us through our lives, we cling, they break, and then we fall. Some other finer-finer branches allow us to cling to them, just about saving ourselves. And we do cling, just so that we may not fall in the bottomless pit called inconsequential.

A strong and clear identity is what we seek. But more than that, what we seek, is acknowledgement of our identity by another. Respect, is a long way off. Acknowledgement is the first step. Identity, then kneels down to acknowledgement. We are speaking too much, we are listening less. We have so much to say, we are busy talking, to no one in particular. We are obsessed to discover who agrees with us; we are less likely to have a debate of the things that we understand and don’t understand. Our lives are consumed defining and defending my -ism vs. your -ism.

*

There’s a beautiful arch in Vasai Fort. I was there today. It was built by the Portuguese, embellished by the Marathas, repaired by the British. Who does that arch belong to? In my opinion, it belongs to the generation of today. But, they care less.

There is no yours. There is no mine. There is ours.

141603: Dear Nitin (and others) ...

I wonder, if we should blame this generation.

*

Tolerance is a bad word. It inherently has anger and disgust. Acknowledgement is almost bad; there is a sense of distant resignation. Acceptance, makes more sense, if at all.

FoE (Freedom of Expression) is inviolable. It is also very broad; very abstract. Perhaps we can start calling it FoEwR. Freedom of Expression with Responsibility.

But, what’s responsibility? In a Gestalt sense, it is an ability to respond. But there’s more to it. And no one can dictate to us what responsibility means. To accept another’s sense of responsibility is instant irresponsibility. Because that is not how we would respond. How would you respond? Wherein lies the responsibility?

We will have to look within.

Successful Partial Detox

As against a Partial(ly) Successful Detox.

It’s been a month that I have ‘stayed away’ from Facebook, and have been successful at that. It’s a good feeling. As a mark of being away, I changed my cover photo and profile picture to reflect that, I guess it didn’t make much sense. Only one friend asked me about my absence and I pointed her to my Facebook cover and profile photo. That was my cryptic way of saying, “I am away.”

And, apparently, too cryptic.

Screen Shot 2013 04 30 at 1 16 03 PM

My being away from Facebook was not a full detox (that should explain the “partial.”) Because I administer a photography MOOC on Facebook and my company’s page, I couldn’t be completely away. So it was only a detox of status updates and commenting etc, on my profile page, unless addressed directly. The need to share shifted a bit on Twitter for the month, but it wasn’t significant.

All of this meant that I wrote more on my blog (than before, not in absolute terms), had a chance to read quite a lot, support my Premier League team, de-clutter the space around and spend some time with myself, become better at cooking, learning the fundamentals, and start something new (at work). It also helped think about, to an extent, how to make optimal, non-intrusive use of social media. Of all the things, however, it lets you know the value of your presence in social media networks.

Walking away, in a funny way, is knowing where you really stand.

Message of Silence

Some messages are very easy to expect: festival greetings or other congratulatory messages, for example. Convention and empirical evidence inform us of the promise of their occurrence. There is calculated taking-for-granted in such messages. Some other messages are different: especially if they are a response to questions. There is not much in terms of surety that can be said of the content of the response; for that matter, there is no surety whether there will be a response.

Silence.

Now, that’s a form of response that is the most difficult for us to make sense of. Even more so if a festive or congratulatory promise exists. If you think hard enough, however, silence is easy to decode. You can make meaning of silence through the context and the circumstance. The onus of interpretation is now on you – that’s the implicit message of silence. The explicit, in this case, are just forms of excuses.

And of all possible meanings that we may discover, we learn that when we see beyond the excuses, the message is loud and clear.

Diwali on the Square: Trafalgar Square, London, UK.jpg

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, full of meaning, conversations, and great times with friends and family!

To Begin, An End

I wrote once about expiry — a long time ago. It was about conspiracy theories. It was about food. It was really an excuse to show-off my experimental cooking.

We are on the brink of yet another conspiracy theory. The end of the world; I am not sure though, whether it can truly be called a conspiracy theory. It’s more of a speculative theory. But then again, those who would bother to simply read the Wikipedia entry on the Mayan calendar would know that there is nothing to speculate.

The end fascinates us humans. Whether for a positive effect or a negative one, we are all fascinated by the end.

Race. Film. Book. Exam. Road. Life. Game. Work.

We are eager, whether with curiosity or anxiety, to get to the end or at least know it before it occurs. The usual philosophical maxim of journey vs. destination will not follow. I am sure you have heard it many times.

And we know that everything comes to an end. We learn that early in life, yet we seldom allow ourselves to come to terms with the end. Depending on what the adjective for the end is – happy or sad – we speed up or slow down towards the end. Sometimes things end by themselves but we do not recognise the end. We continue to live as if the end is a long way off. It’s our way of not allowing things to end: like dragging a corpse. Sometimes, things end the way we expect them to, and we are left with a sense of void: there’s no end to get to. Some ends are abrupt; they hurt the most, I guess.

577143_447008765329976_506895824_n

And almost everything that begins must have an end. For good reason or not.

And the things that we must end consciously, by force, are the most difficult endings of all. Because these are the things that we probably do not want to end, but have to. Because certain things have to end before new things can begin. Some beginnings are contingent upon some endings.

Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!