Enough, Enough Now: Part 2

Happiness is a choice.

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That sentence is easy to state. Easily stated by the person who thought of that. It is definitely a choice, but you should need to make the choice to be happy. Else, that sentence is just a collection of sequenced words. For some, the meaning of that sentence is obvious; we can relate to to it; and we can make it our own. For others, it’s a process: of discovery.

For some it may be a straight road; for others it is a convoluted journey over mountains, through rivers, and across valleys, discovering what choices we have. Choices are seldom evident. Choices don’t always present themselves as choices. They often take the garb of experiences, and then it is not just a job of choosing. You have to live through the experiences. Only then we realise what that camouflaged choice means. We run the risk of romancing the experience – and then, it is no more a choice.

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Deeper and deeper in the experience we go. We become the experience and the experience becomes us. And somewhere, in this, the top stops spinning. (Shout out to Inception (2010)). Whether you exit, depends on whether you see it stop, or not.

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I have seen the top stop and tumble on the table. And I am ready to exit. I have been happy before. And I wasn’t for a while. Because I was exploring choices. And therein I tumbled into experiences. Specific experiences. Was excited at those experiences, lived a life around them, but I wasn’t happy. I was angry. I was upset. And it took me a while to realise that there was no matter to the anger. It was empty. Anger is as good an energy as any other emotion. That energy kept me going. But, I said: Enough, enough now. Whatever be the nature of the experiences, I am choosing to be happy. I know now, I do not want to dwell there.

I have just started on this journey, so, I have no evidence of how it works and where it ends. I can tell you for sure, though, that those angry experiences have been left behind.

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Happiness is a choice. All those angry experiences have helped me choose better. And I have chosen happiness.

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.

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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 Story of Seventeen Years

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

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

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

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

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

From the “Keep the Faith” Series, Atul Sabnis

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

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

In My Corner

Recently a friend shared a quote on Facebook.

“Earn two friends in life, One like Krishna who will not fight but will make sure you win and another like Karna who will fight for you even when you are wrong”.

Now, you need some context of Mahabharat, to understand this quote more than it’s literal sense, but even otherwise, I cringed when I read this. Those who have read the Mahabharat, will know what I mean – there is a connect with all that the Krishna and Karna did in the epic.

In short, Krishna was on the “right” side and Karna on the “wrong“. I highlight right and wrong because the entire story is about the nuances of good and evil; right and wrong, and quite complicated to explain in a single sentence. There is, as an author has said, The Difficulty of Being Good.

Back to the quote, I take exception to “fight for you even when you are wrong.” It just does not sound right — either because it is misleading or incomplete. And, mostly because I know of Krishna and Karna. It would be good to have a friend who will defend you against the world when you are wrong, but if the friend validates or supports the wrong, then we have a serious problem. Defending a friend should not be about, or construed as, justifying a wrong act or supporting it.

Somewhere herein lies the concept of friendship.

Also, this is where the context comes into play. Not like Karna. I believe Karna had a misguided sense of loyalty, and is often referred to as a “flawed tragic hero of the Mahabharata” – who justifies and even participates in the evil intentions and actions of his friend.

I have always been better because of my friends. They challenge me to be a better version of myself. Either in the way they carry themselves or by helping me do, what takes me a step ahead, towards good. In public, they will defend me, but in private, they will fight with me and ask of me to be better.

I’d rather have a friend, who is ready to show me the side of me that I may not see, or may not want to see. To show a mirror to my shortcomings and weaknesses. Yet stand strong for me, in the face of adversity.

In my corner.


I recently experienced this, when someone moved in front of me as I was taking a volley of blows. I was at fault, and was cornered and defenceless, when this armour of a person stood in front of me. It was a learning moment, and I am grateful to have that person in my corner. It wasn’t to justify my fault; it was to stop the assault at the time. Then, there was time for us to get together and plan, so that I could be better.

Thriving in the Traffic

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

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

Except for these guys.

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

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

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

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

Salaam Bombay!

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.

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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.

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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.

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?

Coming Of Age

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

Love is Wabi-sabi

It’s easy to fall in love. An irresponsible chemical reaction is all it takes, and we say – I love you. Of course, there is no guarantee that the same irresponsible chemical reaction has occurred in the you of the “I love you.” Given the voluminous literature of romantic tragedy, it is safe to say that one chemical reaction does not cause another as desired. That’s the first problem.

Overcome that, and you have two irresponsible chemical reactions happening simultaneously. Bliss! We have an I love you and we also have an I love you, too. Such a lovely feeling that is, everything seems so bright, vibrant, sweet, and in place. Yes, it’s great.

Then, millions of years of training takes over. This and that. Black and white. Good and bad. Like and dislike. Almost all of evolutionary classification starts its slow game. It begins with small requests. The requests then come in earnest. And a few shades later become demands. Now you realise the irresponsibility of that chemical reaction; it over-rode all this classification that’s now playing the game. What begins, is the process of fashioning a personality of your choice and liking. A small iron chisel, lovingly thumped by a wooden mallet, finely carving out a sculptor’s imagination on a life.

“I love you, if only you would [insert desired change]”

Nayak Nayika. c. 11th CE. Hinjalgarh (Mandsaur). State Museum, Bhopal, MP, India

Nayak Nayika. c. 11th CE. Hinjalgarh (Mandsaur). State Museum, Bhopal, MP, India

Begets the question then; are we to trust the native irresponsible chemical reaction that tripped us and threw us in love? What are we to do when we feel betrayed by this instinctive chemical reaction? We could accept that the reaction was wrong; a mistake and walk away. Mostly, it seems, we insist that the reaction was almost right and start changing what we once loved; what was once pure. Iron chisel. Wooden mallet. Lover becomes sculptor. With no time to love.

Relentlessly sculpting, he makes a great work of art. Just like the sculptor has imagined it. It’s perfect. It’s shiny. It’s sophisticated. It’s unreal. It’s unattainable. It’s not human.

To partly accept, is to not accept. Love is pure Wabi-sabi

End of an Exile: 14 Years

Fourteen years is usually a standard for an exile in ancient Indian texts. So, exile is the first word that comes to mind when fourteen years have passed. Of course exile doesn’t apply in the context of this post – it is actually the fourteenth-anniversary of this blog. Yes, fourteen years. Not a round number like ten of fifteen, just a number, somewhere in the middle.

I don’t know if I have enough to show for it, I mean I have less than 1400 posts, not even a 100 for every year. Once upon a time it made a lot of difference to me – to write regularly, nicely. Over time, it didn’t seem as important. The urge to write was always there, the bloggable thoughts continued. Just writing them seemed unimportant. What’s one thought lost among the millions that never saw the bytes of a blog? More thoughts got added to those millions.

1132: Jantar Mantar

Recently, after a long and an interesting conversation, which I may add is pretty rare these days, I discovered that a lot of what was going in that conversation had occurred before and it was in this blog, somewhere. Present-me felt thankful to the Past-me. Thank you for expressing all that out here. This experience has also got me reading my blog all over again. It’s not just nostalgia, there’s a wonderful sense of getting to know a person. For me, more so, because I know the person more than these posts describe.

There’s not much to say about this anniversary, just that it is overwhelming to think it, even. I just look forward to do more justice and send lesser thoughts the way of the firing squad in the days and years to come. Not every thought may be popular or interesting, even, but it is worth in itself. For its be-ing.

That’s worth fighting for.

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Thank you all who have visited all these years, I am truly grateful for your visit, acknowledgement, and your thoughts.

Sunday Schizophrenia

Ah, the Pink City, I said. It’s peach actually, she replied. We all know that girls see more shades than boys. I wanted to say, “it’s sandstone-ish brick red, that looks pink in the summer sky,” but I did not. An argument on colours with a girl is a foregone defeat for a boy. I agreed with her, and let it lie. It’s sandstone red, that looks pink in the summer sky, I confirmed with myself, and lived in a blissful state. It just so happens, that she is so sweet, it is difficult to argue with her. She can hold her own, mind you, it was just that we were in the pink city having fun; a shady argument was just not worth it.

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Facebook has an option, when you choose a relationship. One of the option is: “It’s Complicated.” I think Facebook should do away with that option. Relationships are never complicated. The number of ways we look at a relationship, are. People take so much of effort to enter a relationship. When it comes to exiting, it becomes complicated. Not because it is complicated.  There are words and methods to say I love you. No greeting card in this world has the right way to say, I need out. I learnt this, listening to someone for three hours. I am reminded of Abhimanyu. I know how to get in, no idea how to get out.

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How old were you when… is a good question as far as perspective is concerned. Never judge a person’s knowledge based on the year that person was born. I was stupefied tonight with a young man’s conversation. Reality was hovering around me, and towards the end of the evening it kicked me you-know-where.

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I am not modest. In some way, I am vain, in fact. I know how far I can reach. I do not compare my work with the work of others. I think, however, I know enough to say, if my work is good. Others may like my work and they will say as much. I have to be my critic. Because only I know what I have set to achieve, and if I have achieved it. When you compliment me, and I shrug that compliment off; it’s not a statement about you. It is a statement about me. When I shrug off your compliment, I do not intend to demean your sense of appreciation. I just mean to say, I could have done better.

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Love is timeless. It knows no boundaries or limits. I am happy, I am in love.

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.

The Mob Within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

I am the conflict. I am peace.

LIFO: The Recusant Rule

Till recently, India did not have a no-fly list. A while ago, an Indian MP (Member of Parliament) misbehaved with the staff of an airline. What actually ensued, during that misbehaviour is a matter of discussion (and speculation), which, folks on Twitter have happily voiced, without their seat-belts on. The misbehaviour occurred when the doors of the flight were open. I am further assuming that when the aircraft is “open” there is ground/airport security available (and in charge). As far as I know, Captain of the flight gets authority only when the doors are closed and his or her word is final. Airline staff could have just handed him over to airport security; charged him for assault etc. We live in times when a 140-character tweet gives you all the information you need to be, not just the judge, jury, and executioner; you can even be sarcastic, nasty, abusive, and further. Without a need to investigate or reflect.

Private and public sector airlines came together and listed this MP on a “no-fly” list. Simple — he would not be allowed to fly on any airline. This, when India did not have a government-mandated “no-fly-list.” We have a body, in India, called the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) – a regulatory body for, well, you guessed it, civil aviation. The DGCA (or any other government body) was not a part of adding this MP on a no-fly-list (as far as I know, and I may be wrong). The “no-fly” list was issued by the association of airlines. A private body. This one name was declared persona-non-airline-grata. No thought, no plan, just no-fly-list. How will the airlines know if some other passenger with the same name is travelling? What if this MP has a medical emergency? (He has only misbehaved, he is not a terrorist, right?) Many such questions came to my mind.

It all got resolved in a few weeks, and this MP was back flying. A few days ago, I heard that India, now has an official no-fly list. Three degrees and all. It’s scary. I’ll leave it at that.

*

But this post is not about that at all. But the irony is stark. I’d assume, bad behaviour is bad behaviour, right? Not so, apparently.

*

Airlines in India tend to promote recusant behaviour. As a person who generally respects authority, I find the baggage handling of all airlines to be very peculiar. Now, here are all airlines, asking us to check-in anywhere from two-three hours before, right? So a person like me, does that. I check-in early. That’s good behaviour, right? The new commercial airports in India are happy too, because of passengers like me I end up paying three times for some eatable just to hold something in my hand and chew on. Win, win. For the airline and the airport. But it is actually win-win-lose. And I am the loser. When I land, my bag is the last to come. The recusants are the first to get their bags. LIFO. Last In First Out.

They are the ones who are brought to the front of the security line by the airline staff. Almost every time I have seen this, and I have wondered, why do I follow the rules? I am denied my five minutes in the smoking lounge and the time to buy the overpriced sandwich. Needless to say, these irreverent people are the ones who will carry mobile phones in their pockets, and will be sent back by the security to send their devices through the X-ray machines. Delaying me further, six minutes. I am amused by how they are blinded by the 12 signs asking them to send their devices and wallets through the machine. Why don’t private airports get this? That’s one overpriced sandwich I do not have time to buy! That idiot who you just allowed to cross the line, is not going to buy anything at your illegally overpriced shop. He is going to run to the bus. (If you are certain blue airline. If you are the other blue airline, you get an aerobridge.)

Airlines and airports promote bad behaviour. Commerce eats rules for breakfast. That’s about it. Given my upbringing, my ethics, and my respect for authority, I will continue to behave the way I do. But, if you have no qualms, be a bad boy or a bad girl. You will be rewarded. I actually recommend it.

Little did I know when learning data structures in college, LIFO/FIFO it would have meaning in just more than code.

How, will you use what you learnt in school and college?

Happy Teachers’ Day

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

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

Young students, Akanksha, Teacher's Day

Courtesy: Akanksha Photo Shoot

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

#RESPECT

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.

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.