Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blissful Ignorance

What a silly rat! - little did it know that it's quick scurry across the room would churn the juices of the onlookers' stomach, the wrong way.
It was a strange sight - all of us busy in our worlds . There were two men - a young and a slightly older colleague with strange spectacles - discussing their mundane work and the mundaneness of it.
There was an extended family of 6 crowding on a table meant for 4, ordering meal for more than 8.
On the next table was a solo guy, ostensibly hungry and waiting impatiently for his order to arrive.. checking his cellphone every 5th second.

And the rat made it's move. Somehow, everyone saw it in that split second - that black blob move across the tainted marble, out of the kitchen.
There was a longer second of silence after that subtle verdict on the quality of Mysore Sada Dosa and 'fresh' watermelon juice that most people were consuming.
Finally, the kid in the family of 6 suddenly cried, and broke the discomforting silence. All got back to eating.

Information is not always good. It comes in the way of new decisions, it makes you reconsider older decisions that were made with clarity & certainty... it an annoying piece of data that sits idly in your brain and interferes with everything productive.
The worst part is that it's impossible to erase it, and difficult to ignore it. It peeps out at wrong times and stares you in your face, especially when you wish to overlook it.

It is precisely for this reason that reading books, watching movies, holding serious conversations etc are a double-edged sword. While they may serve as intellectual fodder, it is very difficult to undo them, once done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fire vs Water

It is the festival that celibrates the victory of good over evil.

I reach the venue of celebration, to see thousands of kindred souls, enraptured in the music... some trying to match their steps with the groups', others trying to come up with innovative steps... still others with eyes darting and following the moves of co-ordinated choreographies. As they move, there is a cacophony of colors of their attires - vibrant hues of bandhani used in chaniya cholis as well as modern-day adaptations of kurtis, along with the dangling of oxidized jewelry and the what-have-yous of the garba ensemble.

The music is good, the original songs have always been soulful. There is a marked difference in listening to them in the privacy of your room, versus dancing to them openly, boldly in public.

I move in rhythm - swirl, hop, kick, almost pirouette in the tempo for a couple of minutes... until the mix of daze and sweat stop me. Even as I stand and stare, I take vicarious pleasure in the people of other groups.

Some people come to join our dance group. They know someone from the group. I notice that it's a couple and their friend - a strikingly handsome guy.  He was the kinda handsome who, you would wish, would never open his mouth to talk or try to dance or do anything else that is high on your litmus test... you know that it is highly improbable that any of his actions would match up to his handsome-ness. In fact they are more likely to reduce his handsome-ness by reminding you of his fallibility.

Well, he looks around, seemingly unimpressed. He waits and composes himself, drinking water to cool himself, and letting the scene sink in. You can see that he is judging, but not letting the verdict show on his face.

In some time he joins in. He starts dancing. I watch him amidst my swivels, wanting to decide how good a swivel-er he is. But he is moving in his neither-impressive-nor-clumsy unique, confident style. He smiles occasionally.. almost to himself. He doesn't care if he's fitting in... but he knows he is in sync.

The stomach gets butterflies amongst all the blazing music and heat and the growing exhaustion. The basic instincts, of putting forth the best appearance, grip over. There is adjustment of clothes and hair and smiles and steps. The carefree-ness is marred by the unaware intruder. But the excitement is doubled. Along with the growing tempo of the songs, I sense a growing fire in the belly.

And then I see her - an exquisite face with a coquettish charm. She is dressed in bright peacock green, with the right shade of make-up. She is alone.
She is fiddling with her cellphone, and... looking around, unimpressed.

She looks at our group and decides to join. She is a killer dancer... with flawless synch and matching expressions. She is so graceful and riveting that it makes the 'weaker' dancers pause and watch in admiration.
There is an understandable renewed vigor amongst the men. There is greater energy.

The show goes on. The butterflies wax and wane... now there are additional butterflies of (peacock) green wings of envy.
People come and go. I dance and pause and resume and pause.

We are trying to decide on newer steps. I look around. Too much happening - vicarious stuff, colors, synchronizations, butterflies, humidity, and the escalating tempo of the beats. The show is almost coming to an end, as the music suggests.

And then, in a speechless moment, I see them talk. Clearly, they are introductions. Clearly, they are both playing hard-to-get.
Mysteriously, the butterflies escape.

I turn around to my boyfriend. He smiles and asks if I want water. I nod.
Comfortable love.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Importance of Being Cool

You buy tees from Pantaloons and dresses from Ritu Kumars,
You read the paper every morning to not miss out on the lunch hour discussions
You listen to HipHop so that you can mouth the songs while grooving in the club
You don't answer personal calls at work coz you pretend to be busy at work
You wear halter bras to show a little bit
You put up pretty pics on FB and untag yourself from the unprettier ones
You want a knowledge-filled and social boyfriend
You use a Mac
You have your eyebrows in shape and ensure that no underarm curls sprout out
You talk about evolution with the authority of Darwin's first cousin
You talk about Futures and Options without knowing the underlying
You put up psychedelic posters on the walls of your room
You follow FIFA and the stock market and entrepreneurship blog with undetectable fake passion

You tread the path of coolness... you try to ooze as much of it as you can imagine

Can you afford to be uncool, is the question?
More like, do you have the courage to be uncool?

Monday, July 19, 2010


Read the paper during breakfast,
Check the stock prices while going to work,
Listen to music while working,
Browse the net while talking on the phone,

Dream while sleeping,
Calculate calories while working out,
Think of other conversations while conversing,
Rush around fervidly in this beautiful weather... all one has to do is pause, and stop the f*@#ing multitasking

Monday, July 05, 2010

Love's in the air

Falling in love has it's advantages, and catches.
However, re-falling in love has a different set of upsides and downsides.
And re-falling after several re-falls is a totally different ball-game. It is certainly not meant for the faint hearted.

For starters, even if the initial gush of love is strong, stronger is the caution that grips you from the fear of falling off the love-fence.  Romancing the idea of a long-lasting, 'happily ever after' liaison is given up, and its place is taken by pragmatic thoughts of potential issues that could crop up eventually. At odd times, when one is immersed in throes of passion, skepticism peeks out its annoying face to disrupt the bliss. And one of the biggest and unforeseen challenge is to not let the new participant's actions trigger those of the past ones. A joke, a song, the word selected... hell, even a sneeze can transport one to those 'good-old days' with good-ol participants of love. The more 'colorful' a past one has, the more compounded this problem gets.
Then there is the perennial thought-race of who is 'better'. An impossible answer to come up with. And just as impossible to get rid of these comparisons. I guess it's inherent. Humans compare people. That's not the problem. The problem is that this is socially considered to be insensitive. And so along with a seemingly-genuine confusion of 'whos better', there is an added baggage of guilt associated with asking such unkind questions.

So, what's the key to cracking the puzzle? Is it a wiser strategy to give up on love? How much can a human heart endure? What is the healthy option - to risk another damage, or to go ahead in hope?
A good friend had once given an interesting theory - every time one falls in love, one gives a piece of one's heart to the person. And when there is a break-up, the piece is lost. After several such endeavors, one has lost several pieces (big and small) and the size of the heart has considerably shrunk. Eventually not much of the heart is left to give, and since love primarily involves in giving a piece of heart to someone, one cannot fall in love after some critical number of attempts.
Although hilarious, this theory seems to make sense at different levels of abstraction, and is gradually rising the ranks to becoming my personal favorite.

There are other statistical theories that claim that you should just discard the first 30% of people you date, find the next best and stick on. But statistics get my mind muddled up, given their tricky, that theory is discarded.

All said and 'done', there is some truth to the adage- "the heart is forever inexperienced"
The butterflies in the stomach during the initial dates, the long dates that get over too quickly, the "good-night" calls stretching to a 3-hour late-night mushy talks, the storing of every sms on the cell only to re-read and re-live the moment... it feels good to be in this state.

Also, the re-falls have helped in aligning priorities, and discovering the must-haves in potential partners. Love is respected. It is taken seriously, it is given time and resources. It is not a 'by-the-way' activity, it is THE activity. There is an increased awareness of the emotional investment made.

More than anything else, one feels free and on top-of-the-world... fearless, flawless and filmy :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sarpas Final Day

Vast stretches of snow welcome me. I walk across them - sometimes carefully, other times with carefree abandon.
The sun shines so bright that I feel the burn on my hands. The combination of snow and sun is comforting - if too hot, just lie in the snow, if too cold just stand with arms stretched facing the sun.

The snow passes. The scenery becomes fairy-tale picturesque. It's a scene straight out of childhood dreams. There is a lush green sloping land. There are mountains all around - some snow covered pristine peaks and others green with tall pines. There's a distant sound of the stream that runs into the divide between two slopes. The sky is clear except for a few stray clouds forming curious shapes (which can engage the imaginary mind for hours). There are small flowers growing wildly, out of free-will.

Footprints guide me as I walk along... and the breeze brings with it the stories of people who live and breathe here. I stand still for a moment and shut my eyes. I see healthy horses galloping in the freedom, a wooden hut housing a fulfilled family, and I see a kid lying on the grass with sunlight playing on his face.

I don't want to move. I want to capture this feeling. I want to return to this feeling in the dark hours.

I open my eyes. I see a face. A smile. Confident eyes. And a conversation begins with a fellow-traveler who is equally sunk in the surroundings. We click. We talk and laugh, violating protocols of propriety and appropriateness. We immerse ourselves into each other and the beauty around. General rules of conduct and acceptable principles of communication have no place in a place gushing with natural instincts. We take in the beauty of the wild nature. And walk along.

And then there is rain. We look up. It's hail. Small, but sharp, balls of snow falling around. They stun me. This is even beyond my fecund childhood imagination. There are milk-white balls bouncing off the ground. The lush green gradually gets covered by a white carpet. It drives us crazy. We jump and dance around, two people who have never witnessed such a spectacular performance of nature.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vulnerable Child vs Venerable Parent

The story goes like this:-

Once upon a time there was a rich girl who, like all rich girls, possessed lot of footwear -  Nike running shoes, Keens all-weather flippers, Bata regulars, flip-flops, crocs, high heels and low heels and everything in between. And yet, she wasn't much pleased with her collection. Her parents (who, of course, were a part of a rags-to-riches story) thought she was out-of-control and beyond redemption when it came to her imprudent shopping sprees. But she successfully over-powered them and dragged her harrowed mother to a shoe store to get her a pair of daring red stilettos.
It was there that she saw a girl without legs... suddenly there was torrential rain in the background (and it got the leg-less girl soaked), there was lightening, there were terrifying terrestrial movements, and invariably, these movements caused the camera (that was filming this story) to shake and zoom into the leg-less girl's forlorn face. Three times. From different angles. With zooming in and zooming out swish-swoosh sounds.
Cut to the rich brat: She is clearly humbled. It was the classic epiphany moment and she 'realized her mistake'. She, who could choose a new footwear was face-to-face with someone who didn't have the choice to choose.

Another story:-
The rich daughter (who now walks barefeet) had a sprightly young brother. He would ask the servant (a decrepit old lady in the most tattered saree) to make him a lot of food for lunch - he would want dhokla and ghee-na-phaaphda, and a lot of undhiyoo made for him. He would fill up his plate, watch TV while eating, and then call the servant to take away the plate... which had a lot of leftover food. One day, the mother, tired of his ways, edified him on how "there are so many people in the world who survive a day on half a bread or less... so you here are wasting food that would probably feed a dozen starved fellas. Do you know what a criminal waste that is?"
This time, the epiphany moment was not that powerful (no lightening or earthy movements... just a daunting adult staring at a confounded child), nonetheless, the guy felt a moral pinch and gulped down all the food.

Well, apart from the colorful dramatizations, I have had (a not-so-unique) privilege of being the audience of such stories. Surprisingly though, I have hardly ever questioned their logic. They seem so saturated with moral fiber that it felt almost blasphemous to question them... as if the question-er did not have heart enough.

Since now I am anyway classified as a heartless creature (by the same people who I was afraid of offending with my heartless questions), I might as well take the plunge. 

1. What does the food content on my plate have anything to do with food content in the sub-saharan regions of utter poverty? Do those guys benefit if I eat up all my food? Or do they suffer if I waste?
Or will the girl get her legs back if the rich girl is any less voracious in her shoe appetite?
In other words, connection kya hai, dost?

2. Do those who are 'suffering', have a claim on those who are relatively well-off?

If all the stories that a child is made to hear as a part of her 'learning/culture/sanskaar', are consolidated into a single volume, I am certain there would be moral/logical holes in the arguments. But that is not the disturbing part. What is disturbing and also often, annoying, is that the principles meant to be imparted are deftly sewed together with the fabric of guilt, sympathy, and similar feelings.

For instance, why couldn't the girl who goes to purchase new shoes be poor, and the leg-less girl be rich?
Or why can't the hungry child example be that of a naughty kid who is kept in detention and hence hungry?
Is there a fear that if these lessons are not camouflaged under the coating of emotional drama, they will taste bitter or be rejected?

I personally believe that if one wants to drive a point, especially to a growing being, like a child, one has to be honest and clear about it. Else, it messes up the child.

And if this continues, I think it is time for some of us motivated adults to take up this case and come up with stories for adults that are all-the-more heavily laden with guilt and sympathy and all those things that are tricky to handle... just for kicks!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Current Thoughts

Following are unrelated thoughts that currently bother me.

1. Sticking to my decisions.
Every once in a while, or more often than that, I come across an article or a book, or a person or some perfectly random trigger (like hearing my friend praise a book) that gets me motivated. I get charged... super-charged perhaps. I am raring to go, I could run a Marathon in that state perhaps. And then, in that state of mind, I make decisions. I commit myself to "I must do this by this month" or so very easily in that state. And then, when the time comes to actually executing that commitment, I become lethargic... I find reasons to not do it. Simply put, I have lost my drive. I know that I must do it somehow, I must get hold of that finance book and read it through. I feel that twist in my long intestinal tract when my mind tactfully refuses to go along with those decisions.
And at the end of it, the failure is mighty frustrating. I look at that book and give up.
Well, THAT act, of not sticking to my decisions is doubly harmful... not only do I not live up to my resolution, but I give my brain negative feedback. I tell it, through my actions, that it was ok to break my word to myself. And that completely ruins self-image.

2. Mental health
I see a lot of people trying hard to 'become fit'. Irrespective of their fitness goals there seems to be an effort dedicated by the enterpreneurs to assist these people to reach their goals. There are gyms and aerobic classes, Yoga teachers and a million-dollar diet industry mushrooming that capitalizes on this intention of people - to 'become fit'.
I am genuinely surprised by the lack of 'mental health' gyms. I wonder why it has not become a fad yet. Ostensibly, people are becoming unhealthier in terms of mental health, at least in Mumbai. For whatever reasons, there is a major resource crunch which is causing life to be more painful. There is more traffic, more rush, more competition to get admissions, more pressure from parents on kids, more pressure from kids on parents, from society, from boss... from your freaking kaam-wali bai. It's getting tougher to be happier, or so it seems. At times like these, there should be gyms that sort of increase fitness level. Perhaps the gym should simulate a stressed atmostphere and the trainer trains the patron to stay calmer and happier. Really, it seems to a much needed facility.

3. Empathy
So, as I walk down the street, there happened to be a bullock-cart wheeling it's way on the busy street in the tempering heat. The slow speed clearly annoyed the driver who, seemingly mercilessly, whipped the bull. And almost everyone who witnessed it, cringed at the sight and felt that terrible rigmarole in the pit of their bellies. I did. And I wonder why. Why do I have to thrust my world-view on the bull? Perhaps that whip didn't hurt much. Perhaps it likes it. Perhaps it got turned on, who knows... goddamit, why do I empathise? I have no idea of what it is to be a bull. My physical strucutre is completely different. So, a whip may not hurt him at all. Clearly, I cannot put myself in the bull's shoes, for the lack of such feet or shoes. So why do I assume it hurts him? Worse still, why do I feel anger at the driver who probably cares more and loves that animal more than all the on-lookers collectively? It really is difficult to shrug off this empathy. It's one of those things were my philosophy is in dissonance with my actual instantaneous reaction to such an act.

4. Why most of the exciting lives are not built under such a structure.
I am, for a year now, trying to live healthy and mindfully. I am, more than ever before, conscious of my lifestyle - physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, socially. I eat and sleep healthy and I exercise regularly. I have become financially independent and actively invest and learn more in that field. I do yoga and keep a check on all my negative energy/emotions actively. And I have tried my hand at Art of living, Jainism, meditation for spiritual well-being. Socially, I am more involved with my family and have gotten closer to my friends (through all that partying ;-)  )
And I am certainly happier for it.

But, grudgingly, I concede that most of the exciting stories I read (fiction/non-fiction) seem to have the protagonist living a super colorful and much-envied (by me) life without really taking much effort in the directions of well-being that I am taking. Shantaram, for instance, lived the most exciting life I know of. He was the most-wanted guy of Australia and broke thru the highest-security prison, lived in the Mumbai slums, was a part of mafia, lived in Arthur road jail, fought in Afghanistan, fell in love, and wrote a book about all this! What could be more enviable.

And the guy smoked regularly, was financially questionable, a social-outcast once, and emotionally on heroin-support when he felt like!

 Anyway, I guess one can't plan an exciting life. It either happens and you are prepared for it. Or you just survive a banal existence.
But like Klaus had once told me, "luck favors the prepared". I am going to be prepared (with all my strength training) in case I get an opportunity to join the Mafia ;-)

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Stud

He knew her for a long time. He knew exactly how she felt about studying incomprehensible subjects before the exam during those scary engineering days, he understood her frustrations at her failure to score well. He could make her laugh by simply making faces... and he knew her humor g-spots so well, that she would metaphorically shudder at the slightest insinuations of his typically flamboyant-yet-honest, semi-mocking, semi-cocky jokes.

They would discuss movies, and he would give the most appealing reviews which were just-rightly aberrant from her perspective.... the aberrance that provoked the most intriguing thoughts in her head.
He understood music and sang well. He enjoyed correcting her singing. He knew about the raagaas - not too much perhaps, but just enough to amuse her. He enjoyed dancing and she did too. He explained history and civics and geography and politics to her in the most fascinating way - combining story-telling with subjective edification.

He took deep interest in people and their ways, in societies and their working, in finance, in sports, in trivia, in making friends and mocking them amicably, in postulating outrageous theories, in devouring unhealthy road-side indian-chinese food, in sitting on the steps of a moving train watching the scene go by.
He possessed a great interest in life, in love... and in learning.

She thought of him and her as two tributaries of the same river which ran down the mountain together and faced similarly challenging terrain, which often converged to form a single stream, and then again diverged at agreeable deltas... only to join the sea together.

He defined what it implies to be 'an old friend'.
He had been a savior during those vivas, and an entertainer in the mind-numbing lectures, and the guy who hinted the answer (often wrong) from the side when the teacher asked her a question, an annoying lab-partner who consistently undervalued her attempts at programming and discussed ways of procuring the program print-out directly. He was the understanding 'best friend' to confide the excitement of young love as well as the tumultuous woes of a heart-broken, disillusioned damsel in distress... and everything between those two states.

He was her alter-ego... someone she could always bounce her ideas on, seeking clarity of her own mind.

There are certain relationships that don't fit the framework of social structure.
Was he a friend? Much more.
Was he a good friend? Ya, but more.
Was he a boyfriend? No.
Did she have a crush on him? No.
Did she love him? Yes.
But didn't she open out more to him than any other person (crush/boyfriend/'guy-friend'/girl-friend) she knew? Yes.

Bollywood honchos have had it right from the beginning - "Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi sirf dost nahi reh sakte hai"

Here's raising a toast to a lifetime of companionship with him - fun, frolic and living life fully!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

choice about choices

You take big decisions seriously. They are life altering after all, you argue.
Casual small decisions are taken 'by the way'. They happen. They are not that significant to you.

You think and re-think and make a decision about the college you want to go to. And then you re-rethink and change your mind. You dilly-dally and weigh the sides until you think you have put in enough labor and are finally satisfied (hopefully). (Yet you are woeful when the college you foregave seems more promising on hindsight, what with your friends enjoying their time there immensely).
Similarly, whether to go for an MBA, MS, job, family beeziness, break, early-marriage, fooling around, waiting for the annual ritual of entrance exams... whatever you select, you ensure that you put in the deserved thought labor to the decision.

But really, what do we think when we think we are trying to decide? Do we look for any new information on the subject, or do we look for new information in the crevices of our mind... about ourselves?

The small decisions that you have made over the period of your life matter more... whether you chose craft or arts or music or drawing as that optional subject, whether you studied sanskrit or not, whether you were given a chance in the inter-school basketball tournament, whether you agreed to participate in the debate competition, whether you forced your mother to get you the new bike so that you could get thrill rides with fellow bikers, whether you were convinced that that silly but cute boy would make for a 'good bf' and gave him a chance, whether you copied and didn't get caught... or got caught, whether you chose to flout basic rules of propriety because you didn't understand the import of it.
Whether you cared about the choices you have to make everyday... whether you realized they were choices in the first place, that would eventually accumulate to what you would look back and call your life!

I realized today how much I enjoy reading... and I attribute that to one blessed day in history when a classmate mistakenly gave me a Nancy Drew book. It was the first serious novel that I read (semi) voluntarily. It was as late as 8th or 9th grade.
And it was absolutely un-put-down-able.  I was hooked...
and i wonder how many other things I could have (still can) potentially gotten hooked on to, only if I made a small choice... not life-altering when I make it, but perhaps life-altering when looked back upon.