Fourteen-Two

Building a habit is tough, I tell you. Especially a good habit, that is not inherently addictive. Requires intense and creative re-wiring.

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Thirteen-One

While there may be many things for which I seek clarity, one thing that’s clear as a summer sky, is that I have lost the urge and inspiration to write here. Perhaps it has been evident for a while, but I wasn’t willing to accept it; was hoping that the sense would return slowly and steadily. There have been spurts of bloggable ideas, thoughts, and incidents. Very few made it to the stage where I would click Publish. Many, many more, never even made it to the editor.

I do have a lot of creative excuses though, for not writing, and more often than not the root of the excuse is outside of me, making me a colluding victim. It’s a win-win situation of sorts.

Today is no different. There isn’t a bloggable idea, thought, or incident that I am writing about.

There’s an event, and someone suggested I make good use of it.

In less than a month we are now living in a world that looks and feels so different. A cauldron-full of every turbulent emotion has been suitably sautéed and served. Small signs of movie-like dystopian visuals abound, and we close our eyes looking for hope. To realise that hope, India announced a 21-day lockdown all over the country, to stop the spread of the virus.

Today is the first day of that official lockdown. I am not a stranger to remote working, yet the announcement that you have to #StayHome for three weeks, caused some angst. And an otherwise frivolous post asking for ideas, on how to cope, got “write on your blog” as a suggestion; so this post. And I hope to continue writing for the next twenty days.

There were other suggestions, a few I have taken up earnestly (which didn’t require any physically tiring effort) and I hope to continue those too, for the next twenty days. Directionally, I don’t expect any of these suggested adventures to take me anywhere.

But, perhaps there will be an opportunity to repair, align, and balance.

Misaligned, rusty Iron Gate Closeup

Scrape away the rust and polish to a brilliant shine, reposition and reorder to the standard, and return from the extremes; come home.

Time has appointed itself to decide, but I will have to pass the judgement.

Without prejudice.

Life of Others

There is finite time we have in life. Unfortunately no one knows how much time we all have. Which is why I always have an argument about ‘middle-age’ — how do we know, it’s the middle? Middle-age can be determined, only at the end. But that’s another post.

In this finite time, there is so much to do. Things that we need to do and things that we want to do. And somehow, both these are at loggerheads with each other. Using fear and guilt, they vie for your time. And as inanimate as they seem, they have borrowed a part of your consciousness, and have developed character. They haven’t necessarily taken permission while borrowing, and there’s little you can do about it.

The only escape, if at all, is to do nothing. Not what you need to do, not what you want to do. But that never works in your favour. It’s a separate and unique dread that has a character of its own. So you squeeze in a bit of want-to-do when you are doing what you need to do and bit of need-to-do when you are doing what you want-to-do.

If you are good at this alternative squeezing, you might be able to do what you need and what you want. But neither, ever seems complete.

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And you have to wonder, if the life that you are living, really belongs to you. And when you can answer that, all answers fall in place.

It’s a tough one.

All’s Well: Purposeful Moments

There is not a moment that stands apart – unless it is created purposefully, with intent. Each moment is a bad reflection of the previous one; like bouncing off of a cracked mirror. Can’t call out sameness even, but it is the same. An incremental distortion of sorts.

Those moments of intention, they stand out – brilliant, alone, and tall. In each slice there is a memory: fresh, fixed, and forever. These moments become the firm step which take us forward.

The moments that reflect off each other, they are imposters, like thin ice; they slow us down and could bring us crashing down in cold still water.

And therefore it is imperative to create purposeful, intentional moments. More we have, more we move forward, with purpose. Sturdy and reliable stepping stones towards a full life.

May there be many such moments.

All’s well.

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.

Pressure and Pleasure Theory

A few posts on this blog early in this year, dealt with the problem of the “writer’s block” – what it meant for me. I thought I had found some answers, but deep down I wasn’t really convinced with those. There was more to it. Something real. Something tangible, something I could put a finger on and say, this is it. This is the writer’s block! Subconsciously, though, it seemed I was aware of it, and was taking action to unblock so to speak. I was aware of those actions, I was unaware, however about the purpose behind the action.

This news is not new, but there is an epidemic of attention spans getting shorter. Having grown through school and life with a heavy dose and habit of long-form reading and writing I believe I have acquired some immunity to diminishing attention spans. But belief isn’t enough, so I had to test it by reading and writing as I did. It was a relief to discover that I was indeed immune. I read two long-form non-fiction books, wrote reviews and other long-form writing. But, as Sulu would have said, defences were at 75%. Something was missing. The flow wasn’t as smooth, the effort was laboured, and the distraction was larger. There was an urge to complete.

This was new. And I did not recognise this sense at first. Folks had commented on a few posts, saying it felt abrupt. This sense extended to reading. I could see how my reading was changing. I looked forward to finishing the book. I wasn’t skipping parts of the book to get to the end, I was getting impatient with the content.

It was spilling over to my writing, for sure. The urge to publish was strong. And that was affecting the quality and the completeness of the content. The days when blogging was the primary social network is long past us. There is sanctuary there. There is no pressure to churn content like before. Thankfully that has shifted to micro-blogging networks, and I have shifted away from those.

What’s true for coffee is true for life and everything else.

Real Pleasure Can’t come in An Instant.

(Caption Courtesy: An old MR Coffee print ad).

Slow-brewed Heavenly South-Indian Filter Coffee

So 2020 will all be about taking time. The pleasure will all be mine. To savour it slowly.

#SOTD The 59th Street Bridge Song

Sweet Sixteen

It’s that time of the year. Again. The mandatory post of informing everyone how long this blog has been in existence. I say, in existence for a reason. To be alive and to exist, are two very different things. Often, incorrectly, used interchangeably.

Ten posts a year, eleven – if you count this one, does not a blog make. That is, not according to the old standards of this blog. There isn’t a global standard for frequency of blogging, so it really does not matter how many posts you post. So where’s the lament? That is something I have never explored. That, once there was a decent frequency of posts, is the only reference available for these lamenting anniversary posts in recent years.

This year’s theme for the anniversary post seems no different.

But perhaps, I could use this august date to discover why I have been posting posts of lament. Then, the post would not be a post of lament. This blog has always been about bloggable thoughts, so it would be worthwhile wondering if there haven’t been as many bloggable thoughts in the last few years. I’d posit, it is not true. There have been many thoughts, many ideas, many experiences, that have been bloggable. Even as I write this, the memories of all-things-bloggable flood my mind. And I wonder, why they never got blogged.

Things that had to be done to carry on the existence have hogged more time than usual, and hijacked the space and time required to be alive. That is the only conclusion I can arrive at. Which does pose the question, how much time to we really need to exist? At the extreme level, as long you continue breathing, existence is possible. But then what does being alive mean? All of us will have a different take on that – because it is intensely and decidedly personal. And an anniversary is as good a time as any other to think of how we allocate time to exist and to be alive.

It’s time to say yes, again. And again. And for different reasons. In different contexts. For different things.

Reflection

But then, like a pin-drop in a deathly silent room, you hear a question — what if you have changed and the blog needs to change with you? What if this is a split conversation of two selves reflecting differently off an image that once was?

That’s an answer for later.

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Happy sixteenth anniversary, Gaizabonts!

A Short Story of Obsession

Decaying Leaf

There’s a story of obsession out there somewhere. How it came into being, and for sure, how it died away eventually. Or, how it became so large and violent that it consumed the obsessor, and died because it consumed what kept it alive and fed its growth.

I am not sure how the story goes, but I have seen a version of it, unfold itself.

No, Not Extinct

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to observe a Geography class in session. Gravity was the topic of the day and a kid stood up and wondered why people on other side of the earth weren’t falling off. It was clear that he knew they weren’t falling off, but he wondered why. The teacher was trying her best to explain that gravity works the same all around the earth; perhaps centripetal and centrifugal forces were not yet covered in Physics.

I was then, smiling a slight smile. Way back, many years ago, while we were being taught about volcanoes, I had a nagging question, I remember. I had asked my teacher about it, but had not got a satisfactory answer.

How do we know that a volcano is really extinct? I mean, what if it suddenly starts erupting, would it not be an active volcano? Or would it be a dormant volcano that has now become active? What if a dormant volcano never erupted? Would that one actually be extinct? How is the state of a volcano really determined?

The question still remains – attributing a state to a volcano is not an exact science really, and if there is – I still do not know.

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No, Not a Volcano

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog that is noteworthy. When I was recently asked about the blog, I was not sure what I should say. The blog is: active, dormant, or extinct.

The volcano question erupted, after many years.

Dormant seemed to qualify, as I understand the states. Didn’t qualify for active (What’s the frequency for qualifying it as active?) Definitely not extinct — which was an emotional response – because I was not yet ready to let go of the blog forever.

So this post is to classify this blog as dormant. At least for now. In days to come, it may become active. And then be dormant again. But never extinct, for as long as the volcano stands.

Knock, knock. Who’s there. Opportunity.

Some of us have suffered temporary deafness. Especially when opportunity knocked. Either we didn’t hear it or we ignored it. Long after the opportunity took a flight far away, someone told us, that it was opportunity knocking. And helter-skelter we ran.

All that we could do now was, kick ourselves (which, come to try and do it, is not that easy). Of course, we assume that it was a good opportunity, which makes us kick ourselves. By itself, in absolute terms, the word — opportunity — holds in itself a positive, favourable intent. So, there, we have declined the existence of “bad” opportunities.

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Needless to say, possibilities exist. Every opportunity, holds within itself, a possibility. Some, which we hope will become a reality, some we dread, and hope that they live and die in our imagination. In an otherwise casual conversation, a friend alerted me about why, an opportunity, which I think I missed, was actually a blessing in disguise. Logic won with aplomb, and I agreed with him. Trouble, is as much possible as happiness is. I feel I should quote a great writer who said something about this subject. No one comes to mind. My mind splits and surfs two parallel worlds of an opportunity that could have gone either way. And I finely align myself to stay strong somewhere in middle. The middle, which is nowhere.

Time passes.

And I question, what I consider as logic, is perhaps only feeding a social construct, that restricts. Opportunity is a slave to conditioning, perhaps?

Finely Filtered Fragments

I haven’t published a post in a while.

Of all the places I should have mentioned it; was here. On this blog. But, no, I mentioned it on Facebook. Needless to say, I got all sorts of (entertaining) comments on my FB post. There seems to be an easy invite on Facebook and Twitter to post a quick and dirty which a blog post does not permit. Not by structure, but by purpose.

WordPress may beg to differ, but I do speak on their behalf.

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Micro-blogging networks, by virtue of design do not offer the gatekeeping that a normal blog offers. Longform writing is as much a victim as longform reading. As I write this post, I ponder on the pauses as I type. These pauses are exemplary of the sense of building a story; a construction, which is in absent in micro-blogging. The instantaneous nature of the medium, allows fine fragments to pass through, without filters. It is in the moment, without care and concern. It doesn’t matter anyway, because the nature of these fine fragments is transient. Within moments, the fragments, live a full life, die a natural death, go to heaven, and assume a new identity, which is unrecognisable. In short, no one cares. Lifetime in an instance!

#longpause

This post has no content per se; perhaps that is what makes it a unique post. Is it about the container? It is definitely an empty post. It has no story, no characters, no idea. And notwithstanding that, it has so many words. Is there any value in this post? Can a container have story? The container that has been selfless for so long; silent because what is contained has more meaning.

Does the container borrow meaning from the content?

 

Inland Schizophrenia

We have a WhatsApp group.

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Classmates. Living a peripatetic life. Non-linear overlaps across the length and breadth of India, in varying time slices. Born early seventies, all of us. Gen X. Gen X is a fancy name for a generation that didn’t have access to technology. Obvious. This Gen was supposed to build the technology. So, in our early days we were dependent on the technology that the Baby Boomers used.

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Letters. Post. Mail. (not email). In India specifically we had Inland letters and Postcards. 25p and 15p respectively. If you had to write a really long letter, you had to shell out 50p for a postal envelope. But, we had to be careful, there was a weight limit. That’s when we discovered onion sheets – extremely thin paper. We could now stuff more sheets in the 50p envelope than before. We weren’t quite smart then, we used to pay a fortune for the onion paper pad, to save on postage. Go figure.

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Times have changed. Classmates grew up, and are doing well in their lives. If we feel like meeting out friends, we just hop on to a flight in the morning, spend a day with them, and return in the evening. We have WhatsApp, we have video calls, and such (which our generation built, mind you). We now live in a world of hyper-connectivity. Just the other day, mates from Goa, Dubai, Mumbai, Pune, and Surat met one evening. Easy-peasy.

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Indian Inland Letter India Post Rs. 2.50

The 25p Inland letter is now Rs. 2.50. I have taken it up upon myself to write letters to my friends. Notwithstanding the WhatsApp group. It’s not easy. But writing letters is muscle memory. It’s all coming back, no thanks to the changed format of the new expensive inland letter. All my letters start by asking my friend – what do I write in this letter, given that we already know everything that is going on in our lives. What should be the purpose and content of the letter? And as my out-of-practice trembling hands ask this question, an answer emerges. Purpose and content in this context don’t matter much. It is the intent, and the sense of sending you something tangible – is what matters. WhatsApp messages get deleted every night – to save space. Their nature is transient. A paper and scrawled ink is forever. When we are no more (like the deleted WhatsApp messages) these letters are an ounce of us that will be with you forever.

I should know, I have letters from dead people. And they are a part of me. And a part of them is with me.

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I have an old briefcase full of letters from all of my friends, from the early 80s. It is one of my most prized possessions. May the briefcase become a suitcase. May there be many more letters. May there be many more fragments of our lives in each other’s lives.

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Some gratitude is due. To my teachers and friends. I may not be the best letter-writer, but I understand something of structure and format and choice of words. Here’s a big thank you to all my teachers for helping us learn how to write letters and follow know the rules. To break a rule, you first have to know the rule. Here’s a big thank you to all my friends for helping me to learn how to break those rules.

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PS: I really, really wanted to use “peripatetic” – Happy now.

Friends As Homing Devices

A peeking rose

 

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this,
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

I read this poem a couple of days ago. Only because I stumbled upon it, while I was reading a book. A book, which I had no idea existed, and discovered it only because I saw a movie, which was recommended to me by a dear friend, which, I would have never watched, if it was left to me. How and why this poem found its way to me, intrigues me. In an amusing way, i.e., not in a way that makes me weave the wool of conspiracy with needles of reason. Ironically, this book had itself alerted me to this phenomenon that I was to soon experience. I had smiled, when I read it; it was cute, but to have experienced the exact phenomenon couple of score pages later, was a revelation, it said:

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

Importantly, the above line ended with, “How delightful if that were true.”

Ah, well, dear author, here is a perfect example of why I believe that books have homing instincts. My time to tell you the story.

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Time-travel is my favourite movie/series genre. It fascinates me, much. The actual time travel not so much, but the implications of it all. The scientific and the philosophical. Needless to say, all time-travel themed movies and series have been binge-consumed and there is nothing left. I move to the War genre.

Out of the blue, a friend asks, if I have watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I tell her, it has been nagging me on Netflix, but it seems (because of the poster) too mushy for my taste. She urges me to watch it. A few days pass. I do watch it. I love it. I tweet about it. Amit thinks I am talking of the book. I say, no, I watched the film. As gently as he can, he curses my wretchedness, that I haven’t read the book, and Amit being Amit, he explains why. Point well taken. I buy the book. I flip through it. I know, what Amit meant. I start reading the book. It’s enjoyable. Then I stumble upon the homing device statement. I smile. Cute, I say to myself. Then I stumble upon the opening line of a poem, that the character in the book writes of; he doesn’t recall the author. Well, I have Google.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

These are the opening lines of Malcolm Arnold’s “Hymn to Empedocles,” part of Empedocles on Etna. I’ve never heard of Malcolm Arnold the poet before. More Googling ensues. I am reminded of something else, in the book”

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

And suddenly, late as it is, I am reading “Dover Beach. for sheer enjoyment.”

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I feel blessed. I thank my friend who suggested the movie. I thank Amit for making me read the book.

I am grateful to the homing devices, that are my friends.

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!

Not in Vain

The first (and the only) time I used the F-word on my blog, was after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. I was pissed, to say the least. I love my country, and I love my city.

My anger had no direction. I did not understand my anger. Was it because these attacks happened? Or was it because I felt helpless sitting in front of the TV, watching it for days. For a long time, I had no way to answer the question. But, I found an answer, eventually.

September 2001, I had the same feeling when the Twin Towers in NY were attacked (my other favourite city). July 2005, London – and I was there in London (my other favourite city). For us, in India, ghastly attacks have become a regular feature. There’s a bigger problem about the frequency.

It is something worse than the attacks, themselves. The frequency causes numbness. Our emotional responses are automated and proportionate to the number of dead people. It’s just numbers, now, not lives. One dead soldier receives less emotional response than forty dead soldiers. Our emotional responses are directly proportional to a number. It is disgusting. Value of a life is competitive. Media houses report it as “biggest since”, as if one attack is more newsworthy than another.

I got stuck in this web of artificial outrage for a while. But my helplessness was out of control. With each cowardly attack, I ended up feeling even more helpless.

I had to do something.

And while it may not make sense to everyone, it did dawn upon me. We have been thinking wrong about what our defence forces do. It seems that they protect the territory, but that is a visible symptom because of their position. These brave men and women are not protecting and safeguarding borders; that — is only their position.

They are safeguarding our way of life.

I am helpless in making the life of my soldiers better, but I am not helpless in making better, what these men and women are protecting. I will:

Keep my city clean
Obey traffic rules
Be an aware citizen
Use my skills to make this country better
Respect all the people around me
Share my knowledge
Offer my time to help

And more.

My soldiers are doing so much for me, this is the least I can do. I will build a better world for them; for they offer me a safe place to build a better world. WhatsApp forwards, Facebook shares, and Twitter outrage is not the way to salute the sacrifices of my soldiers. I will bring it in my discipline to make better, what our soldiers are protecting. Remember, after the aura of being a soldier, they are our family, friends, and neighbours.

Don’t ask others to do the simple things. You do it! Let us start by being an island of one. We’ll join hands, and become a continent.

#Respect for all my brothers and sisters out there in uniform. I don’t know about the others, but I will make better what you protect. Soon enough you will have an army. And you will be proud of us, the way we are proud of you.

#SALUTE. I will become better for you. I hope that you will be as proud of me, as I am proud of you.

May your sacrifice never be in vain.

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.

All’s Well: Places and Spaces

In this instant; right now; as you are reading this – could you tell me who you are?

Don’t fret, I cannot either. I’d imagine no one can. For if we were put in a spot with question like this – we’d only select a convenient label that is handy, shove it in your face, and say: this! Go away, don’t ask me any more questions. And then, many months later comes that Tuesday. It’s late in the morning, you are home. No one around you; you are cooking eggs in a way that you would never Instagram. It’s almost like it is in the movies, but it is definitely not. The eggs? Oh, they are as un-Instagramable as ever; that is perfect. But you aren’t in a wood cabin overlooking a lake or a river and by yourself, while birds are chirping and the movie-like artificial ambience is of peace.

Mostly, you are on the 12th floor of a road-facing noisy flat or in room No. 7 of chawl that intentionally denies private space.

In a city.

That happy, lonesome Tuesday late morning.

There is incessant honking by those who want to use a feature of their vehicle or the never-ending cackle of gossip and argument. The city offers no respite. Therefore we seek, the mountains of Ladakh or the beaches of Goa. Or an equivalent place.

I wonder, then, if it is places that offer the answers that we seek, or spaces?

Arches

The effort that we make to know ourselves on a beach in Goa is fungible. It is equivalent of an evening in local train in Mumbai going back home. The evening is the same. Are we mistaking places for spaces?

A wood cabin overlooking a lake in the middle of the forest is the same as a dilapidated concrete building overlooking a traffic jam.

If you take a moment to think about it, it is just material.

Of Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

That’s how long I have been blogging. Last year this day, I said, given that I have blogged for so many years, I don’t have much to show for it. I was referring to the number of posts. A year has passed since, and if are to go by numbers, the numbers are worse.

While I have not been writing much, I have read a lot; my blog, i.e. And I am very happy about what I have written. It’s not extraordinary, but it is good. It makes me feel good to read what I have written. That, I suppose is the value of a personal blog.

My relationship with words amuses me the most. I am most curious of how the most abstract emotion, event, or a thought actually transforms to something so discrete as a post. When I read a post, I enjoy how the original abstraction presents itself. In my head, at least. I hope, most of the readers get it too. This blog has helped me elevate how I think, and I am grateful for that.

I can’t promise regular updates, I do not want to promise regular updates.

All I want to say is thank you – to everyone who has helped this blog become what it is. Thank you for the love, appreciation, and acknowledgement.

In Between Imagination and Reality

The last post was almost two months ago.

Interestingly, in these last two months, I have had the most to say. To write, I mean. But, as you have observed, [or have not] – I haven’t written here at all. We often imagine certain dreadful moments; I do, at least – and then, some times, those events actually occur. They are nothing like you imagine. And in between dealing with how those events occur and how you feel cheated, the event passes by. There’s a life lesson in there, somewhere.

But good things happen too. And we would have imagined them too. And just like the dreadful things, they are nothing that you imagined. Reality is the better cousin of imagination. There’s some healthy rivalry and teasing going on. Reality and imagination. Reality, mostly, winning. We are mere spectators to their act.

You find solace, where you wouldn’t expect to. Not what you imagined, BTW. Reality wins again. Not by a huge margin, though. What you had imagined about friends is true, too. We’ll call this a tie. Life’s surprises never cease. If only we would keep the door open. I am glad, I kept the door open.

These are things that no one can teach you. And while I have been hungry for a teacher, I have had to make do with makeshift teachers. Students are also teachers. Someone who is wading through the muck of life can hardly help you get across. But, they can do one thing: they can hold your hand, and help you move forward together – sharing the uncertainty; living the same fear.

SS, JR, PM, MD, GKMR, NP, and MB.

LearningMate Founders

Thank you for being with me in between the ever narrowing and broadening spaces of the gap of imagination and reality. While we lamented the lack of mentors, I think we did good for each other. We are better because of the shared scrapes on our knees and elbows; and sprained ankles. But our shoulders are strong – and that is what matters; that is what mattered. We sought mentors, but little did we know, we had each other – always – unqualified mentors. And we are better because of that. My reality is trumping my imagination, now. Only because of you all.

May we all shorten the space between imagination and reality!

It’s Not About Photographs – VII

One of my friend, never lets go of an opportunity to remind me that I have never taken a photo of her. She does it in good jest, and she is intelligent, funny, always. (She has stopped reminding me; she shouldn’t) Not sure, if she would like to be mentioned in a public post, so let’s call her SM. Fact that she wants me to photograph her, it would be safe to assume, that she likes the portraits of my friends that I often post on social media.

Needless to say, I’d like to take photos of her and her wonderful family, which includes AP (SM&AP are married, BTW). I am scared, however. Not about my ability to take good photos, but how those photos would be received. Not because how SM and AP would see them, but of my own limitations. SM and AP are pretty cool people – and I believe, they’d like the photos that I’d click for them.

My fear, is placed, elsewhere.

An old man working at a molasses (jaggery) unit, Kolhapur, Mh, India

An old man working at a molasses (jaggery) unit, Kolhapur, Mh, India

Photography is a difficult art. Not because of the technicality of using a (proper) camera, but because of what you see in your view-finder. Broadly, there are three. [I am using “she”, but it equally applies to “he”]

For one, there is the person who wants to be photographed. This person has a relationship with the camera. This is not their first photograph; they are sure of the angles that work best for them. The photographer has little to say, the subject direct the camera. There is an awareness, of what the lens will capture and they have a say in what can be published and what cannot. These are people you want to take photos of, for the glam factor. You shine as a photographer, but there’s not much you can do. Easy for the photographer. TYPE 1

Then the second. The “unawares” – they are the photographer’s delight. Pliable. The photographer can take control. Move your head a bit right; turn right slightly; smile, but not so much. As a photographer, I can play a dance with light, but they cannot. I can edit the final result in oh-so-many-ways, but their consciousness shines through. All of them are beautiful, but I wish they would know it too. TYPE 2

For the third there is the person, who *just* does not want to be photographed.I have many photographs of folks like these. Hand on their face, eyes closed, looking away, blurred by their moving.I am a fan of blur (It’s good that they do not know it). These portraits, you click when they are oblivious. Most photogenic folks, for some reason are these. I have no idea why, but photographers seek these people. TYPE 3

Not sure if you are waiting for me to say, which TYPE is better. Sorry, no one type is better than the other. Oh, I forgot to say, there’s TYPES in-between. Like 1.2 and 2.4. All of you are wonderful in your own way.

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There’s no such thing as a bad photograph. Portrait or not. A photo is a moment captured in time. Every photograph has a past and future, though, by itself it is captured present.

A photograph is imagination. More than that, a photograph is how I see you.