A Social-Media Experiment Unravels

This post is premature. By a day. But, I’ll allow it. The advantage of having your own blog! Rules assume the garb of guidelines, when you want them to.

I have ranted often of what I am now writing about, today. The topic is not new, the emotion has been experienced often. The content, perhaps has a fresh flavour or a tantalising twist.

As of tomorrow, I have been away from three social networks that I used to indulge in, regularly — for a working month. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I was mostly a consumer on all three, while creating some content on Facebook and Twitter. YT was pure consumption.

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Little over a month ago, I finished reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport — I was amused by the directness of a Chapter Title — “Quit Social Media” — but I read it nevertheless. This post is not a review of the book, nor do I want it to be. After a while you pick and choose your battles — like writing a review of a book. A star rating is enough to describe where you stand.

Of the many reasons mentioned in “Quit Social Media” – the one that intrigued me the most was the question: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you, if you do not post. YT didn’t fall in that category, because I never created any content on YT.

Twitter also did not matter much, because a decent percentage of my followers started following me, because of a random tweet in a timeline of years, which appealed to them. They stayed followed, but never ever interacted after that one tweet. Most Twitter connections (other than my actual friends) are connections of convenience.

Facebook was the one I really wanted to put to the test of: how many people (of the few hundred friends you have) will miss you.do actually know all (ah, ok, most!) of my connections on FB. In recent years, I was never a prolific poster – but I was irregularly regular. What would happen if I stop? Armed with a commandment from Cal Newport’s book, I took the step. Changed my profile picture — showing my back, looking away, to all my FB friends. Changed my cover photo to a metaphorical chain (smart, eh?). And just stopped posting.

For ten days since that day, I religiously did not open any of the three sites, web or mobile. But, what if Cal was wrong? What if in the ten days gone by, people were missing me? So, I did some soft cheating; I did not post anything still, but went and checked who was missing me.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

//INSET

The mobile phone innovation came to us in the late 90s. Even before that – basic telephony was costly and cumbersome. It was cheaper to meet-in-person according to convenience. 50p and 1Re coins jingled in our pockets. In 2021 coins have almost gone out of circulation, and 1Re coins cant get you anything worthwhile. We used to make 3-min calls, without any niceties, conforming time, place, and Plan B’s.

For me a phone has always been about name, place, and time. Most of friends and relatives do not understand; I have a low tolerance for conversation on a phone. The real engagement happened when I met the named person at a time in a place that we we had planned for. Face to Face.

//

So, some people had liked my profile picture, with my back turned to them. No comments, no questions. Cal Newport was winning. On Twitter there was one mention, purely circumstantial; work-related. I didn’t even bother about YT.

I developed a 10-day-itch, so I continued to soft-cheat every ten days.

Zilch on Twitter; Zilch on Facebook.

(One day, I liked a photo that a cousin had posted; sheer muscle memory. #FAIL) #Sigh! I totally OUCHed myself!

In just a month long social-media rehab, I feel cured; or at least on the way to a cure.

For sure, however, not a cure from friends. For Sure. It’s a cure from the network. It’s like mistaking the map for the territory; or forest for the trees. Something like that. Specifically, it is a cure from the compulsions of the network. A networked connection does not automatically mean friendship. Not every network enables conversations (if they would, they would have greater opportunities of data mining and targeted advertising!)

[Damn! I should not have given them that idea. But, chances are, they have already exploited it.]

I have not lost touch with my friends because of my absence on social networks. In fact, I am speaking with them more often. On a mobile phone that does not weigh as much as a construction brick. Pandemic and all, that is the best we can do today. I no longer feel the need to post my crappy humour, unoriginal ideas, ill-formed opinions, and angry rants on these social networks anymore. I have not lost the feeling; I just do not feel a need to post it. (WhatsApp/Other IMs are an exception, because they are more intimate; but I think I shall conquer that, in good time)

Finally, this post; about social networks and social media – is not a rant. It’s a happy experience of not experiencing everything that is fed to you.

#JOMO.

As an early-70s kid, it has brought back a happiness that I knew and related to.

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Life’s better when it is small and full; rather than being big and empty.

The Silent Shout

The Bum and I spoke recently. On phone. Neither of us feel the compulsion to use video, when we speak. Never felt it.

In these times, when almost everything seems to go sideways, most people are changing the mode and frequency of their communication. Not us. I’ll admit, the frequency is better – and we are both happy about it. But a call is good for us. I think our collective imaginations more than make up for bad streaming video. We speak for about 15 or 20 minutes, at best. Either he has something to say or I do. And we dispense with the topic. If we did a video call, we would end up spending 15 or 20 minutes about how we look. That’s such a waste of time!

He called me a few days ago to tell me he attended a travel writing workshop online. I half-cringed (Another reason, why not to use video.) The first word on the tagline of this blog is travel. And I hardly write about travel anymore. Actually, I hardly write, anyway.

In conversation, I discovered that the workshop was less about travel writing and more about online branding. At least, that is my take-away; if he did learn any tips on travel writing, he did not share any.

This conversation, like any other, had a mind of its own – and we steered to the topic of the serious lack of content on our respective blogs, in the recent past. We surgically analysed the deficit and were satisfied with the analysis. We put off the solution for some other day.

And today, The Bum put out a lovely post about The Loud Silence. The date of the content of his post is close to my heart – that was the day we met, before we all locked down.

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Writing has been difficult for a long time now. Forget travel writing; any writing has been difficult. Not for want of topics to write, mind you. There is a numbing sense out of sheer fatigue; an overload of thoughts, and a break down in belief.

It is not unconquerable, this fatigue. It requires you to reposition yourself at a point of your own strength, even if it seems weak and lonely. And this position is not necessarily the position where most are standing. Our side. Their side. There is only one side.

And stand strong, even if you stand alone.

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.

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

*

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! 🙂

A Corrupt Artist

The Man in the Red Shirt, Ajanta Caves, MH, India

Humanity will survive even if every politician, every bureaucrat, and even the last common man is corrupt, to the core. The day the artist mortgages her soul to evil and greed, there will be no hope left. When the artist holds a mirror stained with corruption — and tells the rest of us, this is who we are, doom is imminent.

A corrupt artist is the indicator of the dawn of darkness.

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But, how will we know, when such darkness is destined for us?

Happy Teachers’ Day

In my work, I often see the angst that has now become the mainstay of any conversation or discussion about education. The world as we know it, is changing rapidly and almost everything is under the social microscope. Every thing is being dissected by those who know something of a thing, as well as those who do not know about a thing. Alike.

In this rapidly changing world, all professions and vocations are being evaluated and questioned. Teaching is no exception. Except in one way. For almost all professions, it is the profession which is being looked at, not so much the professionals. When it comes to teaching, it is the teachers where the focus falls. It has become personal. For reasons I have not yet understood. I do understand, however, that it’s the wrong approach that we are taking.

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For all of us who have had the good fortune to have had good teachers, we know that these folks did good by us in spite of the hurdles they faced. The problems of the system existed then, as they do, now. Only the context has changed. And even today, teachers are working in spite of the problems. I know this because I see the love and respect for teachers by the young ones around me.

The situation is not as bad as we are made to believe it is. It only looks worse because those telling us how bad it is, are only looking at the situation and doing very little (other than telling us how bad it is). And I’d like to salute those teachers today, who are doing something for our teachers. They are the reason we will have even better teachers tomorrow.

To all my teachers — in school and college, at home and my workplace, young and small. Those who intended to teach me and those who didn’t; who got called teachers and those that didn’t.

Happy Teachers’ Day!

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.

Of Disrespect

When we were young, we didn’t like some people. Because we didn’t know words like ‘obnoxious’ or ‘haughty’ or ‘disdainful’ — we could never explain why we didn’t like those people. Yet, our parents ensured that we ‘respect’ them. Mostly, it was about age. “That person is elder; show respect.”. Respect your elders. (So said, Baz Luhrman, in Sunscreen)

The respect was cautious. While we didn’t feel respect, we feigned it. In the least, we didn’t exhibit disrespect.

Most Indic languages have addressable word-forms that inherently define who you address. So, we have a different word-form for a sibling, a friend, and a senior. In Hindi, e.g. we have tu, tum, aap — you (casual/street), you (formal/common), you (official/respectable), respectively.

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By virtue of my upbringing, my education, and having lived in North India for a while, I default to aap — the respectable form, when I speak in Hindi, irrespective of the age of the person. And over time, I discovered, respect and age have nothing in common. Respect is how you see people.

I recently was addressed in the “street form” on Twitter. I did not take exception to it, and continued the Twitter banter. Yet, I was amused. The person was tweeting from an organisational account. I know that the person knows I am “elder” — but I am a fan (of that organisation) as much as a 12yo is a fan. I was not upset; as I said before, I was amused. I live in different times. There’s a flatness, that I live in, which I understand, but confuses me.

Respect, makes the world go round.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my head, it takes much, to know that person is not worthy of respect. When I see casual mentions of disrespect, I generally ignore them. Not that those who are disrespectful are making it difficult for us, though.

Instinctively, I believe, we are tuned to be respectful. But in recent times, it seems to me that we have been conditioned otherwise. Our default is now to ignore respect; which, mind you, is different from disrespect. Our tired fingers are losing the grip on humanity; our adventures of science (science not in absolute terms, but how we abuse it), are perhaps, the reason we will drop, deep down.

Deep, deep down. In a dark abyss.

Of Toxins

 

2015-11-05 17.06.29It might take us some time to understand what’s toxic for us. It’s not usually common sense. But, when we know, staying away from the toxin is common sense.

Standing in front of the toxin, cursing it loudly, and waving your hands in despair and anger, doesn’t help. In fact, it harms. You are too close to the toxin.

Get away, as far as you can, as soon as you can.

Happy Teachers’ Day, Mr. Shukla

I’ve been having interesting conversations with Mr. Shukla; the last few mornings.

Our conversations have mostly been about Hindi. No surprise there, Mr. Shukla did his Masters in Hindi literature, from his hometown, near Kanpur. He was also a teacher in the local school, teaching Hindi up to Class 5. We’ve duelled a couple of times with beautiful verses from various poems in Hindi. We’ve discussed the structure of the language, and argued about the value of learning and teaching Hindi in schools. Once in a while, he talks of his experiences in school. His students, his hometown. Once, we lamented the side-streaming of the language in society. Mr. Shukla also knows Sanskrit. Quite well, I’d say. He rattles off Sanskrit verses with equal ease. In those instances, I turn listener. Hindi or Sanskrit, the conversations have been interesting and educational.

Next week onwards, I’ll miss him, because I am moving away from this guest house. He’ll continue his work here, as a security guard, long after I’ve left.

He moved to Delhi a few years ago, when being a teacher became unaffordable. This person, who would have otherwise be securing our future and our children’s future, is now securing just one lifeless building.

The Fault in the Pattern

Happy Teachers’ Day, Mr. Shukla.

And, a Happy Teachers’ Day to all the teachers in this world. Never mind, whether you are working as a teacher or not.

Helping Friends

A friend asked for help today.

Given the nature of help required, I wasn’t in a position to help. Let’s say it was a location-specific and network-specific help; I had access to neither. And even, after I tried the “degree-of-separation” help by calling folks who could have helped, it didn’t work.

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Recently, I posted on Twitter about my follow-up mantra:

This applies when you want a prospect to return your calls, or a customer who hasn’t paid your bills. Long ago, I was in a situation which was quite scary. I got out of it unscathed, but a wise man who was also involved, said this to me, “If a person isn’t paying your dues, there are two reasons: either he cannot or he doesn’t intend to. Either of the reasons are bad for you.” I was very young then; I took it literally to be about people making payments.

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I’ve spent some time in this life, and I have discovered that it applies to almost anything, not just payments. We think we will get help. So we ask. And, sometimes, those that we think can help do not help. They have their limitations. They cannot, or, for whatever reason, they don’t want to. The smarter people of us will know the difference. Here’s the kicker: you don’t need to know the difference because either ways – it doesn’t benefit you. Got to move on.

I am blessed that I have had people in my life who have helped me. A few haven’t. I have stopped, however, wondering why the help didn’t come through. I have stayed away from it.

Even if I discover the why, it does not help solve my problem.

Threatopology

“How many friends do you have on Facebook?”

“About two hundred-something”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

Recently, I’ve seen more than one post on social networks, where people in my timeline threatened to unfriend a few folks based on some criteria. There’s an inherent apology in that threat. Sorry, but you are quite un-followable. I have never felt the need to make this threatopology, if I may call it that. When I have seen a pattern that certain people adopt when using social networks, and if I do not subscribe to their method of sharing, I have just unfollowed them (Facebook) or just muted them (Twitter). The reason I don’t unfriend them (Facebook) or unfollow them (Twitter), is that it allows the possibility of direct messaging. I’ve noticed, more often than not, direct messages (or private messages) are made of worthwhile content. Having lesser people populate the timeline also helps me focus on what to see (and click-through) and what not to see (unfollow). We can achieve goals without extreme measures.

The platform is not the message.

The Interesting Index

Who we call an interesting person is directly related to what we find interesting. If we think of a person as interesting, and that person in turn finds someone else interesting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will find that third person interesting. We may, but it isn’t always true.

Split-Tone portrait

I got some lovely responses to my earlier post, when I asked fellow bloggers to tell me what makes a person interesting. You should head over there and read some very interesting responses. If you haven’t already responded, and if you would like to, please let me know. That post, is of course about what makes a person interesting.

But how do we discover interesting people?

Watchman

One way, is what I call the Positive Default. All people we meet are interesting, by default. We engage with people with this positive thought and embark on a journey together. There are no preconceived notions nor, expectations. When engaging in this way, it’s necessary that we keep an open mind as we discover each other. In time, both of us try to direct the nature of our engagement towards what we find interesting. When these directions are same, or similar, the interestingness index increases. We are able to give positively and we respect each other. We also discover some interests that are divergent or, often opposing. That’s when we both make decisions about each other. We may continue to engage and become friends for life. We may meet just where our interests intersect. Or we may slowly move away.

Then, there is a way of identifying interestingness and then engaging. The Confirmation Default. I am not sure how this happened before social media existed. Perhaps, it wasn’t possible then. Or, if it was, it was quite tedious. The confirmation default is a wait, watch, confirm, and then engage approach. We get to know who people are, through their social interactions (usually online) and we decide how interesting they are. If they are, then we engage, and life goes on.

Finally there is the Decided Default. Few people do this, but it happens. The decided default of interesting people is an -ist list. It is category-based. And it could be as specific or as generic as can be. People who wear red shoes; single and unemployed; double-chined 40-somethings; DINKs, or for that matter SINKs; senior citizens; unshaven South Indians; Metrosexuals; Maharastrians with an accent; Guppies, and the list goes on. The decided default is almost the opposite of the positive default. It’s a closed system of looking at things. The earlier post, and this post was triggered by someone who said that to me: applied a category and told me (straight to my face: I found that interesting) that I wasn’t interesting, by default. It didn’t matter to me that the person was a complete stranger, and had slotted me in a category within three minutes of meeting me, it however provoked me to explore my own default.

Rama

We can always find the slightest reason not to like people (and it is easy), yet we have to look for big reasons why we can like them (and that’s not easy). I don’t say this because I seek to make this world a better place. I say this with a very selfish purpose. I have found so many interesting people in my life, and life is better because of them.

In the process, if that helps making this world a better place, I don’t mind.

Museum Musings

She runs her finger through a printout of a list of books and their prices. I am exasperated. The prices of the books are printed on the books! One is ₹45 and the other is ₹226. Let’s just do simple addition, I’ll pay, and be on my way. She slowly scans through the list and starts making the invoice.

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It has been a while since I saw these two books locked up in a glass display, sitting like hopeless prisoners, who will never see the open sky. The lady who was sleeping on duty was perhaps angry with me because I woke her up. She had no idea how I could go about buying the books. It didn’t help that we didn’t have a common language to speak in, so we made do with hand signals and pointing at books, and such. It was clear that no one had bought books from here for a long time. She shouts out to a man, who is not much help either, but at least he understands I want to buy the books. He finds a scrap of paper and asks me to write the names of the books. He indicates that I should wait right where I stood. I pick up other English keywords in his dialogue and assume that he is going to the office to ask about the books. It’s a long wait. I start walking towards the office. He shows up from nowhere and beckons me to follow him. He plonks the two books on the table and a conversation ensues between him and another lady, who is probably a manager of sorts. I couldn’t say why, but they seemed excited that someone was buying books at the museum.

The lady now goes towards a cupboard and removes a receipt book. She inserts a carbon paper under a fresh receipt. I haven’t seen a carbon paper in ages. But then, I think to myself, where else would you find carbon paper, than a museum? She is near another cupboard now, finding something in a heap of mangled papers.

*

In very beautiful and articulated handwriting, the sweet old lady starts making out the receipt. She charges ₹36 for the first book and ₹113 for the second. I feel bad about being irritated, when I realized what was going on. Such instances are good learning — of not succumbing to stereotypically thinking, every time we think we have met one. She was doing her job and she gave me the benefit. I would have never know that there was a discount. The list that she was going through, was a list of discounts on the books. 20% and 50% respectively.

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She smiles, I hand over the money and thank her. In my head, I also apologize. I turn to the man who helped make all of this happen. I thank him; he thanks me in return. In the end, we are all happy. I leave the museum content, but something is bugging me.

* * *

File Jun 06, 19 43 30The Government State Museum in Bangalore, charges ₹4 as entry fee. Half a cup of tea, or cutting chai, as we call it in dear old Mumbai, costs ₹6. It’s fair to say then, that the cost of seeing priceless and timeless pieces of art, history, and culture is less than half a cup of tea.

It’s not a very large museum, but the artefacts are very valuable, even if most of them are in a state of neglect and disrepair. As I walked along the exhibits, I wondered if it was for the lack of funds or the lack of enthusiasm and concern. It wasn’t very obvious to me what could be done if it was the latter. But if it was because of the lack of funds, there was an instant answer — increase the entry fee and don’t offer discounts on books! World over, many museums charge (often) exorbitant entry fees and then charge separately for certain exhibits. This, and other sales like books and souvenirs help them fund the upkeep, I’d imagine.

Instant answers, however are not always complete. This is a state museum running on public funds. Increasing fees or withdrawing discounts denies access to those who cannot afford it. And the inability to pay an entry fee can not be the reason you cannot view your heritage. It falls to us, then to buy books, and support our museums in whichever way we can.

Hereafter, I will stop taking discounts on books. And even if I am offered any, I’ll donate the difference to the museum.

And yet, this thought is incomplete. There’s more to this.

The Slash of a Broadsword

Something told us, we should occupy seats near the exit. We weren’t forced to attend the lecture in that hall, we went of our own volition. The subject was of interest to both of us — my niece, of 15 years, has a curious interest in history; so do I.

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We are great companions when we travel or visit museums. Her favourite reign in Indian history and my favourite reign in Indian history were enemies and were always at each others’ throats. Yet, we have a very interesting conversations. When she was younger I tried to bring her over to ‘my’ side to no avail. She liked them, and she liked them a lot. Her likeness for the enemy camp is further aggravated by the fact that she doesn’t particularly have respect for my side. We’ve been at various places of historical interest together and her innate curiosity of things has never ceased to amaze me. In fact, most of my reading is a result of her questions: answers for which, I did not have. I like her lens of looking at history — devoid of religion, politics, and social norms. Seeing it for what it was. For what it is. And while our favourite factions may have been sworn enemies once upon a time, there is one thing that brings us close, very close, together: medieval arms and armour. The same weapons that our favourite factions used against each other, and shed blood on both sides. We see the sword in absolute terms: it has no side. The beauty, the grace, and the sheer presence of a sword, a dagger, or a shield sucks us both in the same wormhole. (I think she is a dagger person and I am a sword person, but we haven’t established that yet.) Most of them are common (to the factions we support). And as these ronin blades hang in glass-cases in museums all over the world, both of us are filled with wonder. We appreciated the jade and ivory hilts. Engraved rock-crystal hilts, and beautifully damascened blades. Art of War can mean other things. Very few of the weapons were properly labelled, so we had to refer to our book to make sense of what was what, which period it belonged to, and such. The rest of the stuff in the museum didn’t seem to be as much of value and beauty. Also, it was time for us to get to the lecture.

*

It was a memorial lecture. In memory of a person who has contributed much to the museum. So we got to saw a short film on his life. It was fascinating. Then we heard a short lecture about his life. Not so fascinating. And just when sitting close to the exit was making sense, the main lecture started. We could not see the person who was lecturing. She sat and lectured. The first slide of the presentation was all that we could see. For a long time. We heard another long introduction of the person, in whose memory the lecture was being delivered. This time, the experiences of the lecturer with the memory-person. Of the 60-80 people attending the lecture at least 90% were senior citizens. I felt out-of-place. You can imagine my niece’s plight. An hour passed by. After multiple promises by the lecturer that she will show us pictures and talk about it, the first slide seemed determined to be in the spotlight; unmoving. We exchanged glances. She opened her fist: five more minutes. At the stroke of the end of the fourth minute, she poked me.

Like a swift slash of a broadsword, we were out of there.

We drove to the nearest cinema theatre and watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). In 3D. We both enjoyed it immensely!

The Street & The Building

This day is special.

Or, at least I have made it so. Every event, which we consider special, becomes an anniversary. The quality of the event notwithstanding, we return back to the “this-day-that-year” concept; we either celebrate or down ourselves in something that’s fluid — like feelings, memories and emotions. The day itself doesn’t care. It does not participate. It just continues to be a day.

Humans time-travel all the time. Just that they keep flying back. To “what was”, in which they embed, “what-could-have-been”. And these flights have names: Nostalgia, memories, and such. Life, becomes an unmanageable spreadsheet of what-if analysis. On lesser occasions, we fly to the future. But never to the real future. We never get there. We only reach the imagined future. The imagined future is a construct of our past. It’s synthetic.

Enough of this “we, they, us.”

I.

Angles & Curves

To exit a building, I have to close more than one door behind me. I just closed one and I thought I was out. But the way out is more arduous than I thought. The room, the floor, the elevator, the main gate. It takes a while to get out. And the architecture of some buildings is misleading. I took four doors, and I have no idea if I have exited the building. Too much of living in the building has dulled my street sense, I think.

Long time ago, I came into this building from the street. Yet it seems, I am unable to find my way to the street.

What’s that smell? What’s that sound?

*

There are oily-rings in this tea of over heated milk. I look out towards the street. I am on time, but he isn’t. Deep inside I am willing to let go off this tea, but I am unwilling that he would believe that he got here before me. The tea is my witness. This oil-ringed tea is witness that I have lived my values.

*

Hello street. It has been a while. Howdy. Good to be back. Whatsay? Yes.

I left the building.

Beyond Anger

A wise man once advised me that I should be open about my feelings. Negative, even if they are. Years of suppressing your emotions is the means for creating an unpredictable event at an unpredictable time.

“It’s like trying to force an empty pot, face down, in water. For a while, you will be able to manage it by brute force, but the pot will resist and it will flip out,” he said with a peculiarly balanced tone, “and you will not be able to control the jounce of that flipping pot.”

I smiled. I nodded my head, as if in acknowledgement and agreement. The sense that you could hurt someone with a clinical explanation of your feelings was much to bear. At the time, the unpredictable pot in the future made more sense.

*

Sleeping Pot

There’s an ugly side of sarcasm’s coin that I am not fond of. I love humorous sarcasm, heck, I enjoy it. Sarcasm is always a package of what’s said and what’s intended. Funny sarcasm is well-packaged. It’s simple. There’s a wrapper and the content. Completely unambiguous. When you open it, it’s clear as sky. The ugly version has compartments. Many compartments. Often, hidden compartments. That’s the one I dread.

*

I am unable to relate to most of my contacts on social networks. I continue to fail to understand their sarcasm, which is veiled in cynical scepticism. Most of them seem angry. The word they are using for anger, nowadays, is outrage. Most of them are taking sides. (Which is, I will admit, so much better than sitting on the fence). There’s too much data. No, not information or knowledge. Data. And these data grenades are being hurled in the dark by people who are blinded by their shades. Each data grenade has a counter-data grenade. The hurling continues. No targets. Just hurling. There is no stock-taking of the damage. Just hurling. And data is never wrong. Data is unintelligent and perhaps, even stupid, but never wrong. It is what it is.

All this anger (outrage), righteous as it is, is an unending ripple in the calm. Minds seem so agitated and busy finding the next counter-grenade, there isn’t peace. In the mind, i.e. We aren’t talking about the world. The narrowness of belonging is sharp, one-way, and unrelenting.

We’ll have to pause.

If you read accounts of enlightened people, you will notice that because they are so open, with so few filters on perception, everything for them is poetry. Everything is alive, asking for attention.

Attention to what? To the divine that hovers beneath the surface of all life. What we respond to in the great paintings of history is the depth of attention the artist had focused on the project. We could even use the word prayer—not in a religious sense, although for some artists that might be accurate. But prayer in the sense of communion with the stuff of creation. [Principle Fifteen: Creative Authenticity]

Anger/outrage is no more an expression, it is a community. Only two sides. With us or against us. Yet, I am sure, there be pastures, where the shades of green and gold abound and call for a sense of being, and not belonging:

Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

[Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore]

We have to stop imagining our life; start living it.

CHILDREN SIMPLY CANNOT BE A PART OF IT

Late seventies, I think. I don’t recall very well and none of those who recall are at hand for me to ask.

I think, it was the day Emergency was declared in India. So, maybe 1977. I was five or six, then, assuming it was 77. Schools closed in the middle of the session and we were all asked to go home. There was a general state of panic. Our school rickshaw (as against a school bus) obviously wasn’t there. My sister and I had an option either to stay back at school or find our way home.  For some reason, we chose to find our way home. It must have been our response to the panic we saw in the school. We thought we’d walk back. I was confident, I knew the route. So we started towards home and somewhere in between I lost my bearings. The distance between our school and our home was not much; about 5 – 6 kms.

Suffice it to say, in the days when mobiles didn’t exist (we didn’t even have a landline), we walked a bit, flagged down a local rickshaw and made it home. Much happened during our way back home as my mother was calling our school, and my father.

We didn’t have enough money to pay the rickshaw, which was paid by the neighbours. Mom was out (looking for us) so we stayed a while at our neighbours’ house. After a while, our parents discovered we were home. They came back.

*

For the life of me, I cannot forget the expression on my parents’ faces when we got home.

*

I dare not imagine, what’s happening with the parents, in Peshawar, Pakistan. The words: wrong and senseless keep resonating in my head. If ever the phrase, “I wish this wouldn’t happen to my worst enemy” ever made sense, it is today. Our countries have had wars between us: direct and indirect; open and proxy. We have openly hated each other. And that’s fine. Yes, I said that. That is FINE. We did that as adults knowing where it will lead to and we paid the price and are willing to pay the price.

eVeltio TEN-Featured Images-V2.030

The incident has nothing to do with India and Pakistan as such, yet, whatever your grouse, take it to the people with whom you have the grouse.

CHILDREN SIMPLY CANNOT BE A PART OF IT.

Offence Update

It has been a fortnight since I decided to disengage from the offence and outrage on social networks. I can tell you, that for the last couple of weeks I am feeling much better. I have been carefully curating what I see, and I must say that the results so far are heartening. An angry and upset statement does pass through, once in a while, but I am learning to quickly move to the next nice statement or message. This also means that I must be missing a few nice and useful statements, and that is fine, for now at least, till I find a better way.

This is what you can do with mediums where you can control and curate what you see. Mass media is another story. If you are watching TV, you have to change channels or switch it off. If you are driving along the highway in the city, you can’t close your eyes to a hoarding that is, well, offensive. For such things, you have to use another tool, that we had since we were born.

Ignore.

 

What is love? : #Anthem 2

I am continuing the #TenAnthemsChallenge that Paul offered, us bloggers. Here’s a quick context about this challenge: Due to an English education, I don’t read/write my mother-tongue very well. English happens to be the language of communication, Hindi, my national language, happens to be the language that I use to think and feel, Marathi, my mother-tongue, unfortunately is the language where struggle, yet find myself.

2525: Garden

Flashback

I am somewhere in college. It’s vacation time, or teachers have gone on strike. Irrespective, the college is closed. I take of to my Aunt’s place — an industrial town. My aunt’s husband, my uncle, works there. Absolutely nothing beckons. If there was ever a definition of being lazy, this was it. I have absolutely nothing to do. The town I live in revolves around the factory that the town survives on. There are sirens going off; life in the town revolves around the shifts. The factory never closes down, because the furnace never sleeps. Unlike me. I sleep all day long and indulge in laziness.

Except, when I play cassettes of Marathi songs in the hot afternoon.

My aunt has finished her chores for the day. I even help her out, somewhat. in the boombox, I insert a cassette, and play a song. I ask my aunt, what the song means. Some words in that song do not belong to my vocabulary. She explains the meaning. She is smart enough to give me the meaning without context. I build my context. I ask her, did I understand it right? She says to me, you have understood it in your own way.

The one song that I play over and over is a song of love. The kind of love that normal human beings will never experience. I ask my aunt the meaning of each and every word, hoping she will give me a context. She answers all my questions, without ever giving a context. I end up making my meaning for that song.

Flashfront

It is a song that is the epitome of being in love; of the expression of love.

I dare not translate this song, like anything else that I dare not translate. So I Googled the “translation” of this song. I made a few edits, and here is what I can offer you as the essence. But, what follows is so much less than what the song is all about.

All the directions seem foggy on such an evening
As the moon is rising in the sky…
On this lovely moon night my sweetheart is with me
And my emotions are overwhelmed

Both of us are speechless in a sweet puzzlement
Like confluence of rivers, (we have) become one
The air is filled with the fragrance of “Raat-Ranee” flowers
And the flowers of love are blossoming
Can hear the romantic songs play
Even though there are no words in the song

Unknowingly we are tinted with evening glow
By playing the strings in heart …
By singing the duet and by becoming one
Let us show our true love …
By becoming one; let’s show our love
The romantic picture is visible in impressive colour combination
Even though there is no paintbrush.

All the directions seem foggy on such an evening
As the moon is rising in the sky…
On this lovely moon night my sweetheart is with me
And my emotions are overwhelmed

And the only reason I add this translation, is that some of my readers will not understand Marathi. The translation you see above does less than 1% justification to the intent and feel of the song that you heard. Yet, I hope, you all can feel the same sense of pure love that I feel when I listen to this song.

I am proud that I am born into a family that descends from great artists, poets, warriors, and administrators; it is unfortunate that my English education distances me from my heritage. It’s late, but I am making amends.

Paul, I have to thank you for this meme. You are extracting some amazing stories.