Documenting the journey 2

August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

The more I grow up, the more I remain the same.
Just a little happier with who I am.

My world view expands enough for me to know that I have a place in this world, that there’s a role that lets me exercise my individuality; to understand there are others like me, there were others before me. The ideas that buzz in my head have been voiced and studied by others. The realization that there’s a community outside of those around you – outside of those who tell you to be a little more practical, a little more realistic, a little more career-oriented- that could and would accept you is priceless.

Three years ago, I had come to university to become a Mechanical Engineer. Soon, I realised that my scientific curiosity was near-zero. I  was a dreamer and I had proclaimed it to the world. But I needed to know that there was a place for me, a place where I’d fit in. I discovered economics by sheer happenstance. It tried to explain what made us tick, it brought cultures and histories under the broad umbrella of rationality. It attempted to study the rise and fall of civilizations and regimes and thought- bullionism, colonialism, capitalism… If I were to say that I was seeing the world though a mosaic, then every new thing I studied added a newer, brighter colour.  I became more and more interested in the social sciences, psychology, philosophy, computer science, mathematics.

I’m not saying I’m an expert. I really am not. But I grew to appreciate them.

Coming from a science and engineering background, I felt really out of place for the longest time. But after getting through three years, and over thirty courses, of sciences and engineering, I’m not as afraid of it. It might not be intuitive to me but I’ve become a bit more open to these areas of knowledge

Throughout this journey though, my pure and unwavering love for art and literature hasn’t reduced one bit. I listen to piano pieces by Chopin and read great fiction. I collect book marks and local art. I try to draw. I yearn to learn more languages, to dance a little more, to surprise myself by things I didn’t know I could do.

Four years of college have taught me how to be comfortable with being by myself, happy with the knowledge that I’m carrying a world in my head that can’t be touched. It has taught me to value relationships. It has taught me that it’s okay to be judged, to not be liked by those who don’t matter. It taught me to be comfortable with my body. It taught me how to let go. It taught me to be open to new knowledge.

 

But, most importantly, it taught me to value art. Art makes the world a better place.

 

August 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

In the dark shadows of a cavernous past, she was euphoric. Her breath would mist the windows with his name, her eyes would lower instinctively every time she looked up at his towering frame. Her heart would race in her chest when she thought about those nights of separation- she would fall asleep with his name on her lips- the taste of their kiss still lingering on the tip of her tongue.

What a romantic, she huffed. She locked that part of hers away when she set out purposefully to face the world. But her thoughts went back to a time when she was younger. It was us against the world. We had no future.

They had gone their own separate ways leaving an ever increasing schism between them. They had grown older rapidly until they were changed people. She looked down at their naiveté and their wishfulness in another era; yet she held on, harder than ever, to a piece of that childish rebellion. It was us against the world. We had no future…but they can’t take away our memories.

Little did she know that in holding on, she had accepted her own defeat. Love had gotten the better of her. It had become a part and parcel of herself that she had to get used to. Like her funny nose, her slightly crooked teeth or her stubby fingers. But love, like all of her other imperfections, made her even more beautiful. She carried it with her in her expressive eyes, her quick smile, and her fluid gestures. She carried it in her words, in her thoughts, in her dreams. Would she ever get over it? She didn’t fool herself into thinking she knew the answer. It was us against the world, still. Then together, now alone.

So she set out into the rain to face life afresh- to chase her dreams while he chased his. Fighting the world in their own little ways, unknown to each other.

August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

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“I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart”
– The Great Gatsby

To me, conversation with you was a drug. I chased it blindly, unfeelingly- convinced that the answers that I found in a state of drunken exuberance would turn my fate around. I didn’t know how I would find deliverance from the familiarity of the past, when I would lose it to casual forgetfulness. God, I wish it were that easy.  I’d extricate myself from the deep waters of your heart slowly, wade cautiously…

But our touch was caustic. Our memories were burned onto the fabric of time, your presence was indelibly felt in the great halls of my consciousness: my wakefulness and my sleep, my lucidity and my dreams.

It was not my fault. I had just walked past a colossal wreck that could inspire a lingering awe in the best of humanity. Together, we were a masterpiece of my memory. I found a sense of old belongingness in every nook and corner that surfaced from dark forgotten places at sea. It seemed like the end of a long wait, of hoping to stumble across a physical proof of a legendary tragedy. I was simultaneously enamoured and destroyed by a wave of emotion that swept over me long after I had found tranquil shores because…

because of salt-starched remains that were old remembrances.
because of the wuthering winds that knew tumultuous origins
because the deeper I looked, the more there was to save
And the farther I saw, louder was the heart’s call to stay

Your simple words would bite into the thick skin I grew from reality.

In my mind…
we had walked the same walk of bygone days,
and talked the same talk of long-lost ways
Words had made a stronghold over my heart
I wondered…
Were they yours
or were they mine
or those still left unsaid?

A Robin hood of words

July 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have a feeling that this post is a beginning to many more. Some of them are inspired, some of them are meant to inspire. I’ve come back from a two month stay in Mumbai- the city of dreams- feeling like my heart is heavier by a ton. Even as I was making memories everyday, I knew that they were transient in nature. These were short allegiances, quick friendships and confidants only in passing. The time would come to leave, to move away; when holding on would only mean strained conversations and fast disappointments. But my heart swells like the ocean during high tide when I think about the people I’ve met- people who’re ambitious, independent, bold. Young men and women who want to change the world.  What have these short friendships taught me?

I’ve learnt that we have immense potential to be kind.
I’ve learnt that we can make a difference even to a stranger.
I’ve learnt that we can all open our heart to the world.

One just needs that little nudge. To step out of that comfort zone. To be in a strange city, among strangers, with strange ideals and stranger beliefs.  But most of all, I’ve learnt to value old buildings, pleasant music and great conversation.  I’ve decided to note down all the things people have told me that I can never forget. Some ideas run longer than the conversations that birthed them and, somehow, they’ve gone a long way in shaping who I am.

“Read the first line. It often reveals many assumptions and intentions that weave into the narrative of a life.”

– A pseudo art connoisseur like I am who loves to knit stories

The phrase “first line”, of course, is symbolic. It’s what someone chooses to reveal to the world. In a way, this post of mine is a “first line”. A framework of borrowed ideals, and stolen ideas that have shaped my life.

“I like to hear people’s advice. Not with the intention of following it, but because a person’s advice is often a culmination of the lessons they’ve learnt.”

– A 2 am philosophy junkie who initiated me as a good friend with a horror story.

So perhaps consider this post to be advice that I’ve found very useful. As a stranger had once told me: The more I learn about life, the more I realize how little I know. But what I do know now is that if you have a code to live life by, it becomes easier.

My code is intricately sewn as memorable lines in the supple fabric of conversation. And these few lines stood out in his moral code:

 

  • Remember that friendships and relationships don’t always have the same intensity. Don’t worry about it.
  • Learn how to tell stories. Master the art of making the ordinary into something wonderful.

 

These lines come from a longer note that in itself makes for an interesting read.

“The worst of situations seems better if one can laugh about it. The problem doesn’t get solved. But we find the strength to face it.”

– An unlikely friend who turned out to be a great person

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

– A mentor who is also a nouveau Potterhead.

The best of conversations are of course those that happen with books. The quotes I love are all stored away in books with home-made book marks or in pages with dog-eared edges. More recently, they’re stored in my kindle. This makes it easier to quote them because I can’t, for the life of me, do it from memory.

But one quote which comes to my mind very often is:

‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me,’just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald

And of course there are the conversations one has with oneself which are inspired by self-reflections and lonesome evenings:

“You will never regret that you were too kind. Only that you’ve shown too little of kindness. So don’t be afraid to care for someone more than he or she cares for you.  Don’t be hurt when you find out that the love and kindness wasn’t returned.”

– Yours truly, inspired by And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini

More later.

Love.

Living my dystopia

May 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

This is not a conspiracy theory.

Before I start convincing  you that the state of things today is bad, let me tell you this: every dystopia ever talks about the worst case scenario. It talks about an absolute state of degradation and then it plants the idea that…you know what? We should perhaps be a bit more cautious with where we’re going.

The eternal cynicism that we keep hearing is this: We only act when something terribly wrong happens. But being prepared after an unfortunate event takes place sometimes doesn’t help. Especially in the case of black swan events– events that can’t be predicted but we want to prevent them anyway. There are millions of unsung heroes everyday who check the engine, who clear the pipes, who stub out their cigarettes before dropping them…thus avoiding major disasters. Then there are our representatives who jump in with protocols after a disaster saying that all the necessary actions are being taken. So we see that there are people who are mechanical with their rules and precautions when dealing with uncertain things…and there are those who act out, sometimes emotionally, the instant after a disaster strikes. An instant too late. And that’s the eternal dilemma! Our precautions are not enough and our redressal is only temporary.

But there are those very few people who have the keenness and the critical awareness to pick out systemic flaws that lead us to disaster. These flaws are sometimes so structural that we can’t correct them without knowing our social or mental handicaps that are extremely deep seated. The roots of this knowledge are firmly planted in philosophy in every form- anthropology, natural science, mathematics, economics. It’s about adapting our knowledge to a situation which is much more complex than a simple word problem.

Perhaps the best way to look at it is to imagine a simple world with a simple problem and then see the agents evolve as the problem evolves as well. The Lord of the Flies is one such allegorical novel that talks about such a simple situation- A bunch of young boys who find themselves estranged on an uninhibited safe island with enough fruit, meat and water. Unlike a survival story like Lost, these boys end up playing and enjoying all day. But what about when they’re up against more complex situations? The resulting scenario is a slow descent into madness and murkiness. The funny part? It now seems scarily familiar to how the real world is organized. The power struggles, the emotion, the eventualities and the sacrifices…but in a simple world it needn’t happen! So what made it complex?

As one of the estranged boys, Ralph, says in the Lord of the Flies, “I’m frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.”

It seems like we’re just as likely to act like young boys on a good island. And we all desperately require a reminder of civilization- a place where one is safe and secure with enough food, shelter and opportunity.

So why don’t we act right? I don’t know. But I have a feeling that in a world where more of us can think critically instead of just assimilating information… we would not be indulging in child-play, fanaticism, passioned rebellions and unnecessary violence. And here in lies my fear. This critical thinking seems to be a thing of the past. We don’t do so many thought-experiments, not as many allegories. The media we use- the cinema, television shows, games – are quick to quench our senses with vivid color, bright lights and pretty faces. The idea being conveyed demands more patience… and dies out as we don’t have any to give.

Human beings have evolved not just due to our language but our ability to create fiction, to assign meanings. We have the ability to believe that a Corporation can have a personal account because it has just as much of an identity as a living person, and that having as many as 36,000 gods isn’t too much of a crowd. We can believe that nationalism is a human emotion that somehow binds us all. But do these ideas make us or break us?

To answer these questions we need more patience, more effort…and more reading…so that we know what ideas form the skeleton of our institutions and our actions. Reading requires patience, a willing suspension of disbelief, and an active imagination. It also gives you the time to formulate an opinion or an idea while the characters and the setting are in the making. But reading has slowly become a dying habit…so we need to stop and wonder: Are we depriving ourselves of a unique kind of knowledge which can’t be found elsewhere?

Book Recommendations:
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradsbury
Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

10 Random things about me

April 7, 2016 § 1 Comment

1. I’ve been writing in my diary on and off since at least fifth grade. Perhaps one day I’ll post a picture of what I had written in primary school but it was mostly about early morning assemblies and prayers. I’d question why there was poverty, or why religions fought and write the lyrics of my favorite christmas carols. Through my diary and this blog, I’ve tried to capture a few important things I’ve been passionate about or few things I’ve learnt in the long process of growing up. And, oh, my diary is called ‘Anne’ after Anne Frank.

2. I’m an ENFP according to the MBTI personality test. Although that test is not very reliable and our personalities are inherently malleable, I think it tells a lot about the kind of person you are. Me? I’m highly empathetic and I run high on emotions.IMG_20150313_202124

3. I met a stranger at an oratory club who had made a sketch of a girl and given it to me. I kept hoping against hope that I had become someone’s inspiration even without knowing it.

4. I had a pet squirrel. People don’t believe it but I did! I called him Squirrely and I fed him milk and, if he was good, even sugar. He became one fat squirrel so my dog chased him out of the house and then he was gone. God bless squirrelly. I grew up in an area that was semi urban so sometimes I’d walk by a lake to school and we still have a dairy farm really close by!

5. I find inspiration in Indian buses. I imagine myself to be a casual observer of people frozen in the ride: thinking about places they’re coming from, places they’re headed to. I wonder what they’re running away from, where their destination lies; I wonder what are the thoughts that bother them when they’re staring out the window. It gives rise to an infusion of characters that become a part of one of my stories.

6. I enjoy conversation. It gives me a high like nothing else. But I don’t want to gossip or bitch or laugh so loud that I appear happy to the rest of the world. I want to know what you ache for. No matter how different we are or the places we’re from are, I believe that we can understand each other and indulge in a meaningful conversation if we bothered to try.

7. I’m a huge fan of Marilyn Monroe. At some level, I feel like she carried her heart on her sleeve. The mischief glinted in her eyes, her smile dared you to open your heart and give fate a chance. Her entire persona had an oomph, a charm and a vivacity that now reminds me of her alone.

8. I’ve tried to dabble in multiple things but my heart always comes back to writing. Writing has always seemed more honest to me than anything else I’ve ever come across.

9. A little about my personal space: On my wall you will find a Monroe poster, a collage saying “I come from fairy tales/ Frozen in time/ Watch. Me. Fly”, a ‘best sister’ scroll from my brother, a list of goals, and a mirror. My bag is really messy, and my bed is messy too for a good part of the year. I always have a kindle, a book of my poetry and my diary lying less than an arm’s length away.

10. I’d love to know 10 Random things about you too- in person or chat or as a blog post. If you tell me, I’ll try to write a poem for you about your best character trait. But that’s optional!

Unexpected friends. One city.

February 6, 2016 § 1 Comment

Today I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Ganesh. Let me introduce Ganesh to you. Ganesh is industrious, enterprising and hard working. He has an innate kindness to him; a bright burning lamp of hope whose light escapes the boundaries of his own person and shines on those who surround him. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing this for myself and I want to show it to you.

***

If you’re wondering why I didn’t introduce him in the introduction of this article, there’s a really good reason behind it. I wanted to separate his qualities from his circumstances. I met Ganesh during a break of a session at the local oratory club. We were acting like the pseudo-intellectuals that we were – talking about all things under the sun, arguing about this or that, when we found Ganesh coming to us to sell us some tea. He was all of ten years old, perhaps. We ignored him, none of us wanted any tea. Chai comes at the end of our sessions. He lurked around and, a few minutes later, he asked again. This time a friend of mine did buy some tea for us. I accepted it, we really did not want to dishearten this young boy.

A long session of debating over Nature vs Nurture later, (how fitting?) I walk out like the ill-fated Cinderella who can’t possibly afford to break curfew after all, and it was in fact getting dark. I run into Ganesh waiting outside the door and pondering if my friends would like some coffee instead? This time I was amused. This boy was clearly persistent. I decided to get one coffee and talked to him over it. (Translated from Telugu to English)

I asked him if he went to school. He said he did. I asked him if his parents asked him to sell the tea. He said no, they didn’t. Why was he selling the tea then?

“I want to buy a cycle.”

“Oh! Which cycle?”, I asked, now even more amused than before.

“Gear cycle,” he said, stressing on the word ‘gear’ as if the privilige was already all his.

“Oh. I see. How much is it?”

“Ten thousand, I think.”

“Ten thousand! How long do you think that will take?”

“One month…mostly…I think.”

“Why! How much do you earn everyday?”

“Hundred rupees, if I sell the whole can,” he said, pointing at the big flasks of tea and coffee. What a delightful child, I thought to myself. He studies in a government school nearby and also goes to tuitions every day morning. His favorite subject, he says, is English, although he doesn’t know English and he wants to learn it.

A couple of my friends joined us and bought some more coffee from him. He took his own time calculating what four cups of coffee costed, “Eight + Eight + Eight +Eight…is…”  I told him to work on his math and english. That I’d give him my old books next time we meet.

He asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, “Doctor? Policeman? Military Policeman?,” he asked, incredulously, perhaps already seeing me marching around in a stiff green uniform. I laughed, how do I explain ‘economist’ to him?

“Teacher,” I replied.

“Teacher,” he gulped. All boys are scared of their teachers, it seems.

I walked him to the gate and told him I’d see him next week. The pleasure, you see, was all mine.

Hyderabad. This city never fails to inspire me with its sweat, toil, hope, the ruthlessness of it and, yet, the sheer simplity of us staying strong. So many evils, risks, uncertainities… and yet there’s a boy saving up for his gear bicycle.

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