Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chennai to Bangkok

They never give us a breather at school. If we have any fun, the Proffs take it as their cue to make the programme more rigorous. Apparently a lot of people who did this course before me seem to have had a really good time, which implies, we pay for it with our sweat and blood. Ok I'm exaggerating. But trust me, it isn't very far from reality. So I was exhilarated to know that they will let us out for one whole month in the name of winter vacation. Yes, the whole of December. So off I went, packed my bags, and left for Bangkok with my folks to visit the Sis. I landed here just in time for the king's birthday. Long live the king! It's amazing how much the people here love their king. I'm his new fan now.

It's been about 3 weeks now, and I've been having a ball of a time. I'm totally loving the food, the mindless shopping, the little boat rides through Chao Phraya, the trips to those little islands (which brings a bad taste to my mouth as I'm reminded of my first brush with seasickness on a high tide day - more on that later), and just sitting back and enjoying this awesome view of the sparkling Chao Phraya river from the sis's apartment. It's just beautiful.

More about it all later. I don't want to miss the next shuttle boat to get my fill of heaven.

Monday, December 19, 2011

what a changeover maama!

Changeovers are bittersweet. Almost always. The thing with them is you barely know how bitter or how sweet they are going to be. You always expect that element of surprise right around the corner, but you'd never know whether you'd be happy meeting them or not.

And so, when I made up my mind on getting back to school, I could never know whether it is going to be like the old times.. like I could just pick up the thread from where I left it long back and get on with life.. or mebbe, just mebbe, it's gonna be a brand new experience? The former thought was comforting but boring, and the latter made me a little too anxious but excited nonetheless.

Day 1 of my life at school put all those thoughts to rest. Totally. It was nothing like what I could have ever imagined. It was much more challenging, and it hit me hard. Real hard. Every passing day would take me out of my comfort zone, bit by bit.. until one day I found myself totally out of it. Totally. The last time I was in that place, I got myself hurt real bad. And so I was scared. I wanted to be out of there soon. Come what may. But I am not exactly proud of the last time I did something like that. So the only way to deal with it, was to deal with it. Period.

It's been 135 days of life as a student again. I'm quarter way through the programme and I can see myself heading towards the finishing line in another year and a half. And yeah, it's been bittersweet, no doubts. Just that everyday it becomes a bit less bitter and a bit more sweet. So no complaints. :)

The most beautiful thing about this changeover is that it's not just a change of scene in life. I see myself change as a person. I'm finding weaknesses in me, and addressing them one at a time. Some I fix, some I know I will fix. Sometimes I find strengths in me which I never knew existed.. which pumps me up a bit more to go fix some more weaknesses. It's kinda interesting. It's like meeting yourself from time to time n saying "Oh hello! nice to meet you. you've changed quite a lot since the last time we met, and I'm glad you did!" :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How difficult is difficult?

Next time you find yourself dealing with a (God forbid) difficult person, find peace in the fact that you just have to deal with them for the time being.

But be a kind soul and say a little prayer for them. Because, guess what, they are stuck with their own miserable selves for an whole effing lifetime!!!

And if you are one of those mean, wicked people like yours truly, dealing with them will also help awaken the classroom philosopher in you.

*wicked grin*

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

hogi bartini, Bengaluru!

Today's sunrise was regular. Just the way it always looks like on a regular dewy, misty Bangalore morning. What's different is the realisation that I would have left this place I have been calling home for the past 7 years, before the sun rises tomorrow. I'm having my morning coffee right now and I hear a bird chirping away outside. Like it's trying to tell me something. I don't quite understand bird-talk, but I wish I knew, because I badly want to have a little goodbye chat right now.

Today when I went out to the Nandini outlet near the park for milk, I wanted to tell the guy who always handed me my packet of milk in the morning, that I'm leaving. I wanted to tell the Uncle at the little Koshy's outlet nearby who used to get me the best chicken sandwich ever, that I'll be gone. I wanted to go hug the kachdewali who always stomps up the stairs to haggle for her 30 bucks. I wanted to tell her, that my day used to go just great when I see her with her broom outside the gate in the morning. It's supposed to be a bad omen, I know. But seeing her on my way out worked more like a lucky charm for me. I wanted to go ask the newspaper boy at that little stall near the lane, how he remembered which newspaper I read. even when I went to him after weeks or months of newspaper-abstinence. How he knew that I would want the Saturday Crest? I wanted to go run and say bye to the boys at the shop that sends us our weekly water cans. I always fight with them for having to remind them twice whenever I need the can. "Sorry chechi" they'd say always "ippo ethikkaam. anchu minittu". always. and take the whole damned day, to finally get it home. I want to go tell that sweet little kid at the Sreeraj Lassi bar nearby that I'm leaving for good. I'd always drive him mad with my ever changing preferences for the amount of sugar and ice that goes into my watermelon juice. But he'd still be nice and oblige, always. I want to go tell that guy at the Krishna sagar darshini counter that I will go there the next time I come to Bangalore.

There's this thing about life in a busy metropolitan city. It's like this unwritten rule that you don't really talk to people. You connect to people. That's because it is human. But you don't really talk. I can't imagine walking upto any of the afore mentioned poeple and saying a goodbye. They'd probably be taken aback! Because that isn't expected around here, right? You leave the place quietly, at the break of dawn, load all your stuff into a cab and just leave. Your place in this part of the universe will be filled up by another being. They'll bring a part of themselves to this place where you leave a part of yourself behind. It just goes on.

For some reason, I also like the fact that I'm spared the goodbye ritual. Everytime you say a goodbye to someone, the sense of finality sinks in. That you'll be gone. For real. I just prefer to believe that I'll be back soon. Bangalore has been much more than a city to me. It's been this living, breathing person. I'll remember the sight of the beautiful break of dawn at Lalbagh, and the taste of karabath at MTR later. The lazy sunday afternoons at Cubbon park. (I was lucky to live in a place half way between these two beautiful places, though I feel I did fail to make the most of it. But with Bangalore, I know there will always be a next time. There has to be. I knew it when I left this place the last time. and I was back the year after. ) I remember walking into the Hockey stadium on lazy evenings and watching such high voltage matches in the rain with an umbrella to boot, booing and cheering and walking out super charged. The stroll down M.G. road and Brigade road could cure me of any blues. There's something about the energy in that place. It has to do with the people who walk up and down the street, determined, busy, always on the move. The energy is very positive and highly contagious. and then I would walk into the old world colonial charm of Koshy's and have a humungous cup of super strong coffee and everything will be fine with my world. Bangalore has always helped make life more beautiful to me. It's celebrated with me during my little triumphs and been my rock during my times of trial.

So when I pack my bags and leave before I say hi to tomorrow's Bangalore sun, my parting words will be "See you soon! hogi bartini, Bengaluru!"

In other news: watched Harry Potter last Sunday and totally loved it. super cool. I put on those clumsy little 3D goggles, and clapped and cheered for the people in that magical world. It felt like we've known them since ages. And now they are gone. But what a way to go!
And for me, it was the best way to end my second innings in Bangalore.
It's back to the real world and packing up my stuff for now. Too bad we don't get to have magic wands in the real world!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Shutting out the noise

I have never been wild about silence and solitude. When people talked about their ideal getaways to quiet places because they found them peaceful, I would be preplexed. I found 'Quiet', quite disquieting. For me, Peace needn't necessarily correlate to quietness. One can find peace in the middle of chaos too. It all depends on your level of comfort in your given environment, independant of whether it is calm or chaotic. Or so I thought for a very long time, partly because of my inadequacy in dealing with absolute silence (pin-drop-silence, like the Nuns at school used to call it), and partly because of my need to talk/sing/hum or make some noise (no, farting strictly doesn't qualify for self-amusement in my book) just so that I feel alive. (Confession: I could never meditate, because I was just not ready to accept the nothingness around me. I used to find it un-nerving, so I would think of something to keep my mind busy.) Initially, when I became aware of my phobia of silence, I even googled it to read up more in an attempt to counter it. It didn't quite help, except for giving me a new word to add to my (pitiful) vocabulary. 'Sedatophobia', it is. Yes people, you can please take a moment to thank me for introducing you to that word, before reading further. If by any chance, you have read about it, like me, then let's have a warm virtual bear hug and then continue with my issues with silence.

It was when I moved in to my own little abode in '05, that I got to experience how wonderful silence could be. My pad was in this sleepy little town of Mohali, where on sundays you could spot many beautiful women riding their bikes with their long gorgeous mane blowing in the wind, like in the shampoo ads. Until you see that they are well blessed with hair on their beautiful faces as well. Oh wait, that's a Sardarji enj(w)oying his Sunday after his weekly hairwash! But, I still maintain, their hair can put any 'Dhatri ayurvedic hair oil' model to shame. And I'm serious. Such shiny, silky mane! I'm not sure whether it has got to do with sun protection gear or their 'headbath only once a week, ji!' funda. I haven't tried either so can't vouch for them. Ah, I digress. So, I found this well furnished, 1st floor apartment (at almost a quarter of what it would have costed me in Bangalore, I must say!) overlooking the children's play area of a lively park. The kids in the play area contributed to the cacophony which would make me feel at home. I would sit in the balcony to see them play their little tricks and have their little fights. It was all nice, except that I would never get to talk much. The initial days at work was bitter-sweet. I found a bunch of super nice people, and then on the other end of the spectrum, got a bunch of well.. umm.. let's simply put them as people a tad too insensitive. Like the teammate who laughed heartily at a silly joke I cracked and quickly turned around to share the joke with the rest of the gang who went '***ji, aap toh bade smart ho! kaise soch lete ho aap yeh sab'. And he sat with a self important air while I was busy scraping my jaw from the floor. (Later I learnt that he thought that I didn't know hindi, so that was apparently his pervert idea of having a little private joke at the expense of a silly south Indian, by translating the joke from English to Hindi, and dishing it out as his own.) This environment of extremities was very different to me from the one I came from. My world was something that would fit smugly to the term 'Mediocristan' as Taleb would call it. When we are brought up in a society, we involuntarily pick up the behavioral and thinking patterns of the regular crowd in that society and adapt ourselves to it. Though when we suddenly find ourselves planted in a society which has a different temperament, it calls for a little more than the regular easy-go-lucky attitude to survive. On impulse, I knew the first thing I needed was a place just to myself. A place I didn't want to share with anyone. I was much amused with the suddenness of the thought hitting me and the diligence with which I went about it, but I've always had too much trust in my intution.

But that was just the beginning. I would go for late evening walks in the park, plonk myself near the dancing fountain where little Punjabi kids would do their balle balle's and practise their Dhoom moves to the Daler Mehandi songs electrifying the air around me. And just like that, when 8:30 strikes, poof, the music would go off, and so would the dancing fountain along with their colorful lights. And then, would come the deafening silence. Mothers would quickly collect their tiny tots and go home to make garam garam rotis. And I would just get myself up and walk myself home with the same urgency as others. Herd mentality is quite an involutary phenomenon, I'm told. And on the way back, I would realise the silence, breathe in the silence and feel good about it. Those were the times when I learned to be friends with myself. I am a friendly person otherwise, but I hadn't really been my own best friend until then. It came naturally. And it came during those precious moments of silence. Slowly I started finding comfort in solitude, as a state of being. It became the most conductive environment to unwind, to introspect, to assimilate my lessons, to make my little Plans-of-Action. Alternatively, I would write. And I soon discovered the advantage writing gives me in processing my thoughts. Things started becoming more structured.

I lived in that place close to an year, quite the most remarkable year of my life so far. I met many people, made many meaningful friendships which have lasted the test of time, learned to draw boundaries and respect them, pushed my limits and overcame many fears (one of which is Sedatophobia, of course). Quietness was the best tool I've ever found to find that inner harmony. And then, Bangalore happened. Again. The city I've always been hoeplessly in love with.

Bangalore brought me back to my state of noise spiked sense of well-being, and I settled down well after some mild withdrawal symptoms, like talking to old dost log from balle-balle land and reminiscing the happy times. But Bangalore being Bangalore (technically that would be wrong, because Bangalore became Bengaluru by the time I hit the shore for my 2nd innings here), made sure that I fit in like a pair old gloves. Eventually, I forgot the joys of Solitude and said hello to the same old Sedatophobia. My sense of awareness was at an all-time low. As much as it comforts, Noise also distracts. It keeps your mind away from things that need your attention. I walked into a world that was falling apart, without even realising it. Not until everything really fell apart.

And then there were people. People who loved to talk, just like me. They all had something to tell me. Every one of them. Everyone apparently knew (exactly) what I should do.
Some were the followers of 'The Secret' sponsored laws of attraction. According to them, I must be doing something wrong that things are going southwards for me. Imagine good things, they would tell me. World would have been such a gay place if you just had to think a thought to manifest it, I would say, but to no avail.
Some just wanted to use the opportunity to feel a little self important to be in a superior-than-thou mode and feel good about themselves for sharing their crap gyan.
Some would just say, 'I know what you are going through because I myself am struggling with....' to launch into their current pity story. Trust me, finding audience for pity stories is a very daunting experience. People scavenge for someone who is going through a harder time than themselves and then get started. For example, talking about a stalled promotion to someone who just lost her job.
Some were just too convinced that they need to tell me what I should be doing. They believe that they know what is right for everyone, especially me.

After dealing with many such specimens in a very short time, I quickly got back to following my instincts. As a verbose talker, I've always had this urge to make my point clear to others. And it was during this time of trials that I realised that it drains me of energy. Energy, I would rather use in working my way out of the mess. One by one, I would cut down on the self-appointed advisors. Some would take offence. Some would understand. Some just knew when to step back and give me space. Some needed to be told sternly to eff-off. I re-learned to draw my boundaries, and implement them effectively. I was becoming more aware, could sense it immediately when anyone took unwanted liberties, and could bring down my response time drastically. Now I am pretty pleased with myself for that. This activity has helped me clear a lot of muck, and has helped me gain a lot of clarity. It's been one of the best cleansing activities I have ever indulged in.

Television was the first to go. It's been 32 months of TV-free life, and I can never stress enough about its benefits. the daily newspaper was something I was addicted to, which was one of the prime sources of noise. Media needs to sensationalise everything for their survival, and I decided I was just not going to allow them to push it down my throat. Just not done. I got to reading weekly round-ups which would give me just the news minus the sensationalisation.

I had to just become choosy about what / whom I open up my time and attention to, and as if my magic, I started finding time to do things that I truly value. My life started becoming more meaningful. I could 'generate' time for reading books, for some serious learning, for growing my knowledge base on disciplines I never thought I would want to know more about. It's been such a wonderful experience, all thanks to shutting out the noise outside, for that is what enabled me to tune into the voice within.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So, what's your game?

I've played some games to win.
I've played some to lose. Sometimes you really win the big game by losing the small ones. You know it when you are playing those.
I've played some games because I have to play it, without bothering about winning or losing.
I've played some games where I didn't care about winning or losing.
I've played some games without realising how dangerous it could be.
I've played some games with absolute awareness of how dangerous it is. But still went ahead because winning it meant a lot to me. Also, knowing the level of risk/danger beforehand gave me a chance to strategise better.
I've also played some games 'not to lose'.

Of all the games I have played, it is the last one that I would never want to play again. Because now I understand the difference between 'Playing to Win' and 'Playing not to lose'.

Playing not to lose holds you hostage. It also brings in mediocrity in the way you play the game. Doing just enough so that you don't lose. For that reason, it is also the safest way to play. You dont have to stretch yourself to your limits. It is also the easiest way to play.

Playing to Win, on the other hand, is highly demanding. It demands being aware of the risks and knowing how to counter any attacks, and believing in your ability to dodge attacks or launch counter attacks, when required. It demands absolute faith, commitment and focus.

So, how do you play your game?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A walk into a new world

Harry Potter walked into a wall... and walked into a new world.

And I, after all these years of zero interest in literature pertaining to Economics, am finding myself devouring it like there is no tomorrow. Whenever I ran into such books at the bookstores, I used to dismiss them all as hot gas. It might have to do with the Economics fanatics (mostly posers, who seemed to have no idea of what they are talking about) I have come across. But boy! this is one wonderful world. To be honest, while I was reading the first few books which turned me into this new convert on the block, I couldn't stop wondering why the hell did I ever not bother to know more about it? But then, I would have missed this charm of tripping on something like this, unexpectedly. Also, after all these years I've more or less caught up on this pattern of life. The way I bump into something and discover a whole new world from time to time. What's the fun in life otherwise?

It all started with Blink, which takes off from the good old saying "First impression is the best impression" and goes on further to investigate its validity. This new perspective of looking at reflexes formed at a subconscious level, appealed to me. It's like learning to tune into your sensory responses. This is something I've been paying serious attention to, since the past year or so. Whenever I meet a new person, or visit a new place, I open myself up to feel the energy flow towards me. We've always known it as intution, though now it is like making a conscious effort to increase the awareness to our surroundings. And I'm amazed at the quality of guidance provided by that capacity. Afterthought: May be 'Love at first sight', is not altogether a Mills and Boon sponsored concept, eh?

And so, I went scouring for other books by the same author, which led me to The Tipping Point. And that, my friends, is the book that spiked my interest in Economics. It is not a hardcore economics book, in the literal sense of it. But I loved the way it ushered me into that world. The way it beautifully discusses seemingly mysterious happenings and tries to find it's cause whcih turns out to be so very surprising for a naive person. I've been particularly interested in the tools and methodology they've used to reach their conclusions. And so, that book led me to Freakonomics (super freaky, super fun) and I'm glad to say, I'm happily hooked to this apparently freaky domain.

As of now, I'm busy lapping up The Argumentative Indian, which I'm very much liking much to my surprise, as Indian history is not something I was very interested in, during my formative years at school. It's only lately that I've found myself looking up historical facts, in a bid to understand the Causality of current trends in our assorted culture and belief system. It's been 5 years since I've been hearing about this book, but as I always believe, you get to a book (or rather the book finds you) only when you are prepared for it. I loved the timing, because I've never been so keen about the socio-political scene in India. It all started with another book (ha!), A suitable boy, I read early last year. For some reason, the gentleman who runs that little library wanted to know whether I managed to read the whole book. When I told him how much I loved the book for the insights it provided about that interesting phase post-independant India was going through, he gave me the warmest smile ever. Apparently, quite a lot of people who borrowed the book from him could not manage to sit through the whole book. I still don't get how they all managed to not put it down. The book is my idea of an wholesome novel. Sheer brilliance.

And how could I have gone without mentioning Many Masters, Many Lives. My first read of a book on Parapsychology (looks like it's been a month of Firsts for me). To be honest, I was a li'l skeptical about this one. Because, the ways of the mind seem to me like a maze of winding narrow lanes. I'm not quite sure of what exactly holds me back. Whether it is the fear of getting lost in there, or the fear of finding what is at the other end. Some seriously scary $hit, that is. Thanks to Dhanya, who gave me a very re-assuring review of the book, I went ahead and read it up the very same evening. While I was getting prepared to deal with it, in case it turns out to be a disturbing read, it amazingly put me at ease. You'll find it interesting too, if you have ever wondered about afterlife and the concept of re-incarnation.

Dhanya was also gracious enough to lend me her copy of The inheritance of loss , while treating me to an awesome mallu lunch at her new pad. (Bless the noble bunch of blog friends). Now let me revel in my kid-in-the-candyshopbookstore mode, while you peeps get back to your own world of books.

************************************

In other news: Have been getting my fill of some good Bollywood masala as well. Will write about them soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reboot

Dear friend J called up after many years. J is this friend I shared a hostel room with, 7 years back. We were room-mates for about 3 months. We hit it off real well, thanks to our very similar backgrounds, though we had totally different expectations from life. Our life experiences till then were more or less comparable, but the lessons we learnt from our experiences were very different from each other's. (Remember primary school days, when the teacher just had to ask "...And the moral of the story is?" and brace herself for the 'n' number of answers from each one of the 'n' number of students.)

J was naturally optimistic, while I was cautiously optimistic.

J trusted that life will be great, we just have to go with the flow. I too trusted that life will be great, but that we need to have a foolproof plan and stick to the plan, to make it happen.

We were too young then to know the complexities of life. We just had a one-dimensional view of happiness, love, success and knowledge. Life seemed simple. It seemed conquerable. Life was promising, for both of us.

And then, soon, she was to get married to this nice guy working in Abu Dhabi. And I was to take up this new job in Chandigarh. We met up one last time in Bangalore, the city we both loved to bits, and the city we were both leaving at the same time to pursue our lives. It was a heady feeling. From there on, it was going to be a new city, new people, new lifestyle, a brand new life. We were both raring to go.

What we didn't know then was that 7 years later, we would be having this conversation.

J has just filed for divorce after having lived a troubled life with a violent man and his family that quotes the bible to remind her that 'A wife is her husband's slave'. Years of ill-treatment and manipulation by holding back her little son, and other assorted tactics by them, J made up her mind when she saw her toddler son screaming while his father was beating up his mother. Yes, that is the same situation which forces many mothers to put up with their collective fates for the sake of their child's future. But J decided to stand up for herself, for the sake of her son's well-being. and I'm awfully proud of her for that. J is planning to go back to school, and restart her life. And it just so happens that I am gearing up for a major reboot myself.

Life is such a slippery thing, I tell you. No amount of planning or positive thinking is going to save you from those nasty blows, just the way nothing can ever take away the triumphs it has it store for you. Good thing, this will power is.. which helps you get back on your feet again, pick up the broken pieces and move on. Because, there's one brand new life waiting to be lived, and you don't want to miss that bus.

J and I remembered that evening 7 years back. There were no silly giggles this time, no carefree laughter, no friendly teasing. Only a stronger resolve, and a promise to live it up, better than ever.

==============================================================

Reboot always seems like the most difficult thing to do. The prospect of starting life from scratch all over again can be scary. You don't know whether you have it in you anymore, to fight it out. You would want to look for work-arounds and quick fixes. Anything, something, just so that you can avoid the reboot.
You doubt whether rebooting = quitting? You know you are not a quitter.
You doubt whether you are supposed to adapt to whatever your life has become? But why would you put up with it when you know you deserve better?
You doubt the outcome of this new innings. Is this for better or for worse?

If we take a look around, there are so many of us stuck in dead-end jobs ('coz I don't know any other work!, 'coz I have worked 10 years in this industry to let it go.), sorry relationships (but I can't live without him/her.. wait a minute, neither can I live with him/her!), bad investments (I know, I should have opted out of that xyz fund when the market nose dived, but I would have had to suffer a loss. It's another thing that I could have recovered my loss + made sky rocketing profits, had I pulled out of it anyways and re-invested in something else, maybe gold?), grieving the loss (I can never get over it). So many of us know that our boats are heading in the wrong direction, but still prefer inaction because we don't want to rock our precious boats.

I wonder what keeps so many of us from letting bygones be bygones, and making a fresh start on a clear state?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finally, I saw light at the end of the tunnel….

…and luckily, it wasn’t that of an incoming train. Phew!

Bye bye, dark and winding tunnel.
Bye bye, grappling in the dark and thinking twice/thrice/’n’ number of times before taking one step forward.
Bye bye, fearing whether my next step forward would land me in a deep pit, or whether I’ll ram my head into some stone wall.
Bye bye, freaking out wondering whether I’m walking forwards or backwards (or leftwards or rightwards or God knows where!)
Bye bye, endless number of nights with no days in between.
Bye bye, wondering whether I’d ever see daylight again.
Bye bye, friends who wished me luck and let me go during my tunnel-trip. No, I’m not looking forward to seeing you again. Good luck to you too!

Hello beautiful Daylight, I value you much more than you’d ever know.
Hello Internal Compass, glad to meet you and know you. Please hang around. I’m gonna need you more often now.
Hello Optimism, you’re quite my hero for standing strong against all those pessimistic vibes.
Hello Happiness, your frequent visits to the tunnel are most valued. Would you consider moving in?
Hello you little bunch of lovely people who held my hands tight all the way through.. Tell me how can I ever thank you enough?
Hello God, did I tell you lately how wonderful you are!
Hello Blog!! I missed you like hell!!!!

Wha? Another tunnel already? Yes Sir, I'm game for it! Bring. it. on!!