Bengaluru-versary

Been a fine twelve months, these.

 

Made new friends, connected with old ones. Laughed a lot. Cried a little. Discovered new places. Went on city walks. Did some great work. Took in the lovely weather. Enjoyed the food. Read a lot. Lost a little bit of myself. Found much more of myself. Very easily started feeling at home. Connected. Often happy, seldom sad.

Thank you, Bengaluru!

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Reuniting With Myself

Thirty-two years is a long time.

They say that every seven years the human body is essentially new (all cells being replaced, in that span; not entirely accurate, but it’s a good thought). By this theory, I have been renewed a little over four times, since I left my school in Goa, for another one in Bombay. It wasn’t only me, all my friends from then, have changed exactly that many times. Some dread lingered after I confirmed that I’d attend the school reunion.

Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, India

Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, India

In 1985 we didn’t have many tools to save memories. We either remembered them or wrote it down on paper. Of the cells in our body, brain cells are the one’s that last a lifetime, and if they do die, they don’t regenerate (Don’t worry, there’s always new research around the corner that says otherwise).

For a month before the reunion, all of us 40-somethings, were connected online, seeking lost fragments of half-broken memories to make them whole. We only had one physical reference — the annual class photo — to help us. The rest of it, we had to seek from our randomly connected neurons; from disused and discarded pathways. Slowly, it started coming back together; some memories we recalled; for the rest we trusted our friends’ authority. But this wasn’t true about all our memories. A select few were sharp, very sharp: those of adventures, discoveries, punishments, and of course – first crushes.

*

It was an agonising wait for 9th June. The suspense hung suspended like smog in New Delhi. Who would I meet? The vaguely familiar 13-year-olds or the vaguely unfamiliar 40-somethings? What would I say? What would they say? What would they remember? There was a motley crowd of questions commuting in my head, but none of them, strong enough to trample on my resolve to attend.

The bag was packed two days before. Finally, the airport. Flight’s on time. So far. For some events, you leave nothing to chance. Plan well. I reach the airport two hours earlier than I should have. Nothing; nothing should be left to chance. Am waiting at the gate. Not much to do. Update Facebook status:

Reached airport two hours early. I know it doesn’t affect when the aircraft will take off. Don’t remember the last time I was so excited. Meeting friends from thirty-two years ago, does that to you, I guess. Friendships forged in classrooms and playgrounds. Helping each other in study and games. Those long conversations that were dense with imagination. That very awkward age of being thirteen. That display of solidarity during class punishments. The giggly responses to the newly discovered double-entrende.

The love declaration in the last page of the notebook and the vigorous scratching of it.

The white-haired, pot-bellied, balding boys; and the beautiful girls of that class are going to relive it all. Entry is by invitation only, else you would also get to see 13yr old 45-somethings.

It starts raining. Flight’s delayed. Thankfully, only 15 minutes. The seasoned air-traveller who pays for the aisle seat has chosen the window. There’s a promise of something wonderful on the other side of this one hour and fifteen minutes. The clouds told me.

Taking off from Bengaluru Airport

Taking off from Bengaluru Airport

finally am there. Five minutes in, I see that everything and everyone has changed. Except the love. That’s as intact as it was three decades ago. There is, however, one surreal dissonance: all of my friends look very different from how I remember them; but they are the same 13-year old kids I had parted from. The smiles, the words, the jokes, everything – was how it was, then. One by one, we all trickle in. It’s the same with everyone. It takes each of us less than five minutes to establish identities (often by recalling something absolutely stupid that we had done).

The reunion of Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1, INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, was ON.

Without any delay, the collective memories were laid out as Exhibit No. 1, 2, 3, … You get the picture. Sheepish and naughty references began floating around. Ah, well, boys will be boys, though, technically, they were all men. I was a compliant and participating member, but the dissonance didn’t leave me. Late at night, we finally settled down for a conversation so that the one with most of his neurons intact, would remind us how much of our memories were real; how many were imagined.

Then, the girls joined.

Long-forgotten pubescent awkward silence enveloped the boys in the room. There was some conversation, yes. I think the girls were somewhat disappointed with our inability to gossip in their presence.

My Classroom - Right of Centre

My Classroom – Right of Centre

Hangovers and emotions are never good, when they arrive together. It’s Saturday morning now. We are in our school. Needless to say much has changed. Then, we just had a barbed-wire fence. Now there are 10-feet walls. Dissonance. Then we had just two parallel building. Now it’s a square of four buildings. But my classrooms are there. It’s vacation, so the rooms are closed. But I peep in through the high windows. I recall where I sat, where my BFF sat, where my crush sat. A movie plays. The abstract kind. Part memory, part imagination, part dream. Hangovers and emotions are good when the arrive together. You can use one to hide the other. Most of my reunion-mates assume I am hungover. Works for me. I see across from my classroom to the building opposite. My sister’s class. Every time I was in trouble, she was summoned to ensure that the complaint reached home.

We walked the corridors of yore. Then, as if drawn by an old magnet, we were drawn and stood in the middle of the assembly ground. Aligned ourselves perfectly. Without a warning, without a signal, without a plan, without a prompt, strict in attention, we sang the National Anthem. If I ever had to explain hive mind, this would be it. Not one of us was surprised or taken aback. It felt as natural as breathing. Any hesitation or apprehension I had felt in the month before this day was quelled, without a fight.

National Anthem - At School - KV INS Hansa

National Anthem – At School – KV INS Hansa

And the rest of the day passed in much fun and frolic. The evening was one of the best since I can long remember. No, I am not telling any more. (Some of my juvenile friends may read this!) I retired happy. Especially for someone who could manage only four awkward and useless phrases for those two years, a long time ago. I forget, even, what the words were. But it matters not, anymore. I may have forgotten the words, but not the sense, not what I felt. What I alone, felt.

Three decades is a lifetime, if you think of it. There’s so much water under the bridge, the landscape has changed. So have the cells of our eyes. Everything is different now. We’ve been renewed four times over. Life is different. And it is still beautiful as ever.

*

Sunday was shocking. The sun behind the rainy clouds was teasing us, chuckling almost, telling us it was all over. We wasted no time, though. We jumped right back on to the fun-wagon. Much fun was had. Even though it was a dry-day (elections). With all who were there, we made the best of the little remaining time. Then, one-by-one came the goodbyes. Tearful, but I shed not one, then. I am a late-bloomer, I guess.

Today is my day, when the floodgates open.

It was a good reunion. With friends from long ago. It was also a reunion with my self. A discovery, an acknowledgement, a sense of being. A sense, beyond words. The best way to discover ourselves, is when we are with others.

This is a public post, so I won’t take your names, but you know who you are. All of you in Goa who arranged everything to perfection. The rest of you who came from far and wide, and all of you for so much of love, that I find hard to contain.

Good positive vibes, as you said.

Hello 2017

There’s an uncanny silence to the way this year has started. Not freaky or weird, just odd, perhaps. Not that I was expecting some big-bang event, yet that sense of a New year isn’t apparent.

Puducherry Boatman

Puducherry (Pondicherry), India. It was a good morning

One step that we take, crossing a milestone, is the same as the thousand steps we took to reach the milestone. The step itself, or the milestone mean nothing. It is the sense of that step that becomes celebratory.

It is that sense which is worthy of being cherished.

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.

20161129_222808

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!

How Blue Should Be: #Anthem 17

If you have missed earlier Anthem posts, see all of them here.

~

51-SPMEH7fLThere may be people in this world who aren’t particularly fond of blue. I have, however, yet to come across someone who despises blue. It is pretty much an inescapable colour.

But how should blue really be?

There is no one answer to that question. Blue is different for all of us – whether we love blue or not. But there’s on shade that Paul Simon talks of, and it is a beautiful shade.

It’s Dazzling Blue.

I’ve always loved Paul Simon’s work, right from Tom & Jerry, Simon & Garfunkel, and later, when he was just Paul Simon. Name an emotion and there’s an S&G or a PS song for it. But Dazzling blue is different. Very different.

It’s a song of culmination, rediscovery, and existence itself. It’s love at its best.

And we wondered why, and imagined it was someday
And that is how the future came to be

There’s a timelessness to the words in this song; it is perhaps more relatable to me due to the use of the tabla. And not just the lyrics, the music is as visual as it can be.

For all the times that all of us have felt it, but never had a song, here it is.

PS: I must say, with some sadness, that the person who started this meme is not blogging anymore. But A’s A, if you are reading this, thank you!

 

Time to Go

Ambition can change its character, and we end up not recognising it. In fact, we begin to question its very existence. The problem is just about syncing our place with our ambition on the timescale of life.

*

The Dharma Bum is doing a-post-a-day series about his workplace. Two things stand out, as I read his posts every day: one, the natural flow of his thoughts about his experience and the weave; and two, the nature of his workplace; it’s easy to be envious of him, working there.

Bala - The Dharma Bum

Bala – The Dharma Bum (Not the current true likeness; this one is from two years ago)

*

I challenged myself to a-post-a-day, two years ago. July 2014, to be precise. It wasn’t easy. But I completed the challenge. I can imagine what the Dharma Bum must be going through. The toughest promises to keep are those that you make to yourself.

*

I get angry with my words, sometimes. They seem to mock me. Like, when I said:

Tomorrow can either be impregnated with the sameness of all your suspicions, cynicism and scepticism, or it can be the tomorrow that rids you of that sameness that you so despise.

Your call.

*

A wise man once told me the secret of attaining perfection. You don’t. God is perfect, in whatever sense you choose to see. Being perfect is not for humans; there’s only striving, striving, and striving. (He used to do that; repeat a keyword thrice; each with a unique tone) The beauty of being human is in the striving. It is, indeed an unshackling philosophy. It took me a while, but I can sense it now.

*

It’s time to go. The skews are being straightened. Or perhaps, new skews are awaiting.

Arth: A Conversation

When we smile, do we hide a lot? Are our smiles honest? It begets the question, what is honesty, really? When we express ourselves the way we want to — it is honesty. When we express ourselves without intention, that is honesty, too. Is the smile a manner of how we “are,” or how we want to “be,” or how we want to be “seen.”

Honest to whom? To ourselves, of course, I presume. Then, what we project is immaterial, isn’t it? Or is it? I don’t know. What we feel, what we think, what we want to happen, what we want others to think about how we “really” feel is all about being “happy”, with our being, in essence, it seems. So, whether we really feel a certain way of being “happy”, or we expect others to reinforce our own “projected happiness”, to be really happy with our own existence… well, I still don’t know what begets what. “Aankhon mein namee, haseen labon par” [Translation: Moist eyes; yet a smile on my lips]— we all need someone to see that moist eye, somewhere hiding behind the smiling face, I guess?

Are our tears a call for action, from the other, in that sense? When we cry, alone, are we really hoping that someone sees our tears? Not true, always, in my experience. Crying alone has its value; its virtue. Cathartic, some might say. We are to be responsible for ourselves. I am not talking of the social diktat. We have to dwell, twirl, and spiral within all that we feel. Poets, the good ones, have done injustice, for we borrow from them, the meaning and structure of what we feel. I utterly dislike poets. I have perhaps, said this to you before. As much as I love them. The sense of my feelings never seem to be my own.

We borrow, where we fail to express well. However, in essence, the point is that there’s a form and meaning to the emotions that we all feel that these poets provide, so to speak. A vehicle, in a way. But that’s besides the point, no? Are our tears, shown or not shown, a call to action for the other? Well, we want to hide the best we can what we don’t want others, including our loved ones, to judge us on, at any point of time. Point remains – any emotion , when unexpressed, is what we appreciate much more when felt by the ‘other’. As for the expression of these emotions, through those vicarious, or through some ways external to us – like these songs from Arth, are just a channel. In some sense, I feel, it’s useless in way. Because, such oral and obvious expressions are not what we’re looking, for when we expect latent emotions to be really “felt” without specific ventilation on our part. When you lose your primary audience (you know who I mean) and that medium of conversation (with those channels cut off), these songs become your emotional anthems.

So, these songs are our crutches, in some form? They are, perhaps. But, given that these songs are so beautiful, I’d rather not attribute ‘crutch’ to them. But that that’s just me. So, when the lover asks, how could I ever burn those wonderful handwritten letters of yours, he speaks of the dilemma of the beginning and the end at the same time. But the sense of burning never leaves him, for even when he submits her love letters to the Holy Ganges, he speaks of lighting a pyre in that pure water. Purity of fire, meets purity of the Ganges.

“Him”; I think of ‘me’ every single time these words pass through me. Beauty of these words, somewhere, lies in the fact that it’s so close to the feeling of a sense of loss, that you feel, is not warranted. The connection, the emotion, the whole ventilation that goes through you, is what makes these songs immortal, at least as far as I’m concerned. Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us. A letter, handwritten, garnished, conceived from start to the end, in the heart of someone that values us for “just existing,” for God’s sake, is something that cannot be burnt. That age-old paper, with that ink, lost in past, with those emotions buried within those strokes of ink, lends you, your life — today. And, that’s a big deal.

“Despite all the things we do in our regular lives, we live for those moments that remain with us.” — well said. I once said, that our lives are just a count of incidents. It’s the same, when you refer to them as “moments.” And, as most corny and cheesy memes on Facebook and Twitter will tell you, it’s these moments that determine our life. I disagree. Moments are so personal, they can never be generalised to a population. When, in “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” – he asks her to count the heartbeats of her young heart and asks for comparison with his own, that’s not his real question — he is seeking a sense of oneness; a sense of a shared, common existence. I go back to my question of the smile. In the song, in the last stanza, he displays braggadocio – but it’s not; he is as much scared in his expression of love as much as she is scared to admit it.

“He is seeking a sense of oneness”. Hoping. That’s what a lover ends up hoping for, and hopes for it to be the truth. I sense; a sense of optimism mixed with romanticism, with a purport of really knowing what the other person feels. You only know if it’s what ‘you hope for’, or ‘is the truth that’s being hidden behind all these facial expressions of casualness’; if you’ve really gone through it with a person yourself. Depending on where you are in any relationship, you could be anywhere in the continuum of possibilities — hope to reality. And, when things in reality don’t really converge with hope, then, you end up blurting out – “vo jo apna tha vohi aur kisi ka kyun hai, yahi duniya hai to phir eisi ye duniya kyun hai, yehi hota hai to aakhir yehi hota kyun hai…”. [Translation: That which was mine, why is it someone else’s; if this is how the world is, why is the world like this] Sometimes, it’s all about hope. Even in despair, poets find a way to find hope. Even if that knock on your door is in your imagination, you seek to open it. Oughta learn?

Are you in love?

A lover is always in.

Haha. Good one, mate. I expected another word to end that sentence of yours. But, by the stroke of slashing that word, you have described a true lover. Love is not about being loved. It is about being “in” love.

Aah, there’s my clue! Did you notice that we have two words – “Lover” and “beloved”. Loving is the action, and that’s the only one that you’re responsible for. Being a beloved is not in your hands. So, yeah, Love is about loving. As for being loved, well, keep hoping. Being loved is not in your hands. So, all you can do is love. And, being beloved? Well….

I like that. Being in love, i.e. It was Voltaire, if I remember well, who said, “it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all.” And I reiterate — I like being in love. The sheer essence of the feeling makes my world go round (or around, whatever the word is). May there be more who seek love, in the true sense of what it means (and that needs to be discovered, for who knows, what love really means.)

You said it – “Who knows what love really means”. ‘Koi ye kaise bateye ke vo tanhaan kyun hai,..’ [Translation: How does one know if another is lonely]. Who knows whatever ‘whatever’ means. In the end, like Jagjit Singh says… ‘Aas jo toot gayi, phir se bandhata kyun hai…’ [Translation: Why do you try and bind the hope that is broken] – It’s all about hope, mate. Whenever I listen to these songs of “Arth”, I get a sense of melancholy and hope — in love, combined, if it makes sense; that’s what matters, immaterial of the possession of that ‘you’.

I see you, and this thought comes to my mind…

~o~

PS: The above post was a “live conversation” that occurred on a shared Google Doc that I had with Ashish Bhagwat. We were together, facing each other, as this post developed. Before we started this “experiment,” we talked of much, and as a blogging experiment, we had a ‘digital’ conversation. The conversation was centred around the songs of the movie — Arth. No edits were made. This post was linear; one paragraph by him and the next by me. His conversations are in italics; mine are regular. My blogging experiments continue. If you have an idea, let me know: we should experiment more.

Ashish Bhagwat - Co-blogging

Ashish Bhagwat – Co-blogging