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?