Saturday, September 26, 2009

And So I'm Going Away

I may have OCD.

I need the magazines and newspapers to be placed only in the newspaper stand and absolutely straight. I need the shoes to be lined up in a straight line if they are outside the shelf at all. I have three dustbins in various sizes in the kitchen for various purposes (vegetable peels and tetra-pack corners, food scraps from dinner plates, general waste etc). I need the kitchen platform and the tables in the living room to be empty at all times when they are not in use. And everything needs to look spotlessly clean. I am not exactly Jack Nicholson from As Good As It Gets but you get the ring.

But every once in a while something comes over me. The shoes start taking angles of 30 or 60 degrees. The books being read start piling up on any table available to pile in the house. The newspaper remains on the table from the morning’s read instead of in the stand…where newspapers from the previous 3 days are stacked instead of in the old newspaper stack. And the house slowly goes into a mess.

I believe the house or one’s home is a perfect reflection of one’s mind at any given point in time. A clean orderly house points to a person whose thoughts are in order and who is at peace with life. A disorderly house indicates confusion in the head. There is no evidence for this theory other than my own experience with my present abode but that’s what I believe.

So my house needs some cleaning, organization and change of arrangement now. It needs those old corners to be dusted and for the books to be rearranged (by size and category) in the bookshelf in the living room. It needs new hand towels for the wash basin as opposed to the well-used ones we have now. It needs a fresh scent instead of the lavender and lemon grass I have been diffusing so far. It needs some attention.

So does my mind. And so I am going away. Alone. Before I shop for nice and new things for my house I am going to repair or replace the furniture in my head. And the best way I can think of to do that is among strangers in a strange land…to travel far out so I can travel within, the expanse being directly proportional. And so I am going away. Alone.

There is no map for this journey. Exploration is the only aim. In either direction. And it could not have been any other way. If you don’t know where you are going inside your head it doesn’t matter where you are headed in the physical dimension either. You’ve got to figure it out. And that’s just how it is going to be.

Hopefully I will come back with a mind smelling fresh from the lush greens of the Western Ghats…thoughts rearranged much like the tables, chairs and the bed at home…more light falling onto the soul through the windows of my eyes witnessing new sights…a nice clean orderly mind to get the rut out and radiance back in.

And sooner or later the newspapers will get back in the magazine stand, the shoes will return to their orderly file, the table will be moved and a fresh scent will linger in the corridor.

It isn’t for nothing that they say As Within, So Without.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creativity and Technology

How many times have we been greeted with drab and dull messages on various websites saying ‘Site down for maintenance’ or some such mundane message? It is good to know there are people who add a dash of creativity to even that space and make the users smile even as they are returning from a site…

Grooveshark went down yesterday and though I couldn’t hear the music I wanted to hear they made sure I didn’t go back with a frown. I loved the way they told us they would be down for some time and described the problem…technology in the garb of good humour and metaphor. Here is the homepage and the message…I wish they keep this amalgamation of technology at the backend and creativity upfront going…such a joy in cyberspace!

'To those of you who were redirected here, we apologize.

In an attempt to befriend Asian investors and increase office morale, we here at Grooveshark established some connections with the Chinese black market and imported our very own black-and-white Giant Panda (hereby known as "Pickles"). Unfortunately, due to circumstances no one could have foreseen, Pickles became agitated at the fluorescent lights and near-constant belly rubs and began clawing at our computers.

Pickles is currently thrashing about in the server room, causing the technical difficulties and temporary outage you just experienced. As soon as our interns return from Pier 1 with synthetic bamboo, a picnic basket and an oversized net, we will be able to return the servers back to normal and, if we can, rescue the coder that Pickles has taken as a prize.

Thank you for your patience.'

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Is The Long Goodbye

I should be writing about the long forgotten innocence I rediscovered in Gundlupet on Saturday. I should be writing about the seldom-experienced laughter at the play on Sunday. Instead here I am, leaving all of that aside, the daily joys and thinking of those whom I have lost…to death or otherwise. It’s the absences that are most prominently present tonight…all those goodbyes I have had to say, some forced, others voluntary, some just felt.
Life floats through a sea of people…like a fishnet in many ways. The volume of water just passes through, only a few beings stay behind…caught in the net and struggling for freedom. After all, most human interactions feel like obligations to some…they want to be free as the air. Ultimately most go back to the sea. They have to be returned to the water. They struggle too much to free themselves. They wriggle through the nets. They organize and take many others with them…that force. But they leave.
And you are left on the boat. With an empty net and a heavy heart but its dawn and a beautiful sunrise is coming on at the horizon. It is an irony that is too much to ignore. Life still looks good and feels beautiful. But it’s just not the same anymore.
And a part of you stays behind in those places and moments when life wasn’t like this. Sometimes it is by a hospital bed cupping a face you thought would never disappear from your life. Sometimes it is on the pavement outside college on cold rainy afternoons holding warm roasted corns and having a warm chat with your best friend. Sometimes it is under that tree in campus debating the meaning of life. Sometimes it is on the floor of the living room on a girl’s night out sharing secrets. And sometimes it is in a chair on a regular afternoon of a regular day talking about the most irregular things.
You try and hold on for a while but even if it means bruising your hands people break free. It’s best to make peace with their will and wish.
And it is here I revisit Serendipity…if you hold on tight and it starts to slip away, is that sand or is it a Pearl? Will it stay if you keep your palm open? Or will it be washed away?
Even as you wonder, you move on leaving all those bits of you behind in those places and moments, incomplete in some way. And all you can do is wish that things didn’t have to be this way. Life is more than that kind of wishful thinking of course.
On days like today when there is a beautiful sunset decorating the sky and no one to talk about it you think of all of those who broke away more than ever. You absorb the beauty alone. And every long lost while you see that fish that had swam into your net jump in the water that stretches before you. It plays around for a while before disappearing again, reminding you more so what you are missing in your heart.
But the next morning you wake up and drag the boat into the blue sea again, it’s a new day and there is hope. One of those fish might find you again. And if you still have an empty net, there is always a beautiful sunrise to watch from in the middle of the sea.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Why Things Happen: Thane 1999

I have travelled a little so far in life. I continue to. Starting today I’ll try and recount some of those stories in this new travel series, The Rolling Stone's Moss.

That was the second time I cried while I was in school…on the 8th of September 1999. It was also the last time. I moved on to go to college soon after and had to pretend to be grown-up and strong due of the turn of events. I did too…pretend. Ten years have passed since.

All those years I was in school, at least for 9 of those 12 years, one of my dreams was to be a teacher on Self-Government Day…be a teacher for one day on Teacher’s Day. Of course, the ‘teacher’ bit changed to ‘Headmistress’ somewhere on the way but Self-Government Day was a dream close to my heart. It seems silly looking back on it but at that point it meant the world to me. Every year around Teacher’s Day I would go all dreamy-eyed and day dream about teaching English or Biology to a class of 60 odd children.

So the day they announced that the school’s self government day for the academic year of 1999-2000 would be on the 8th of September my heart broke for the first time in life. I was travelling on the 6th of September to Thane for the State Science Seminar. It was not something I could have backed out of. So I cried. Thankfully the announcement was immediately followed by the short recess and saved me a lot of embarrassment.

And I hated that I had opted to participate in that District Level Seminar in the first place. The one whose consequences were making me travel to Thane. I hated the whole idea.

This is the Rolling Stone’s Moss…all these memories, stories, acquaintances, friendships, experiences…it’s gathered while I travelled…to places some of which I might never go back to. But I was never the same when I turned around to return.

So I did get over that broken dream and managed to get excited about travelling to Thane…for the first time. We were to arrive in Thane on the morning of the 7th of September 1999 for the seminar slated to be held the next day…the 8th of September…the day of Self-Government. All seemed to go as per plan when panic struck; a train carrying gas had got derailed somewhere on the tracks of the Western Railways and all trains had got delayed, some indefinitely. In the moments spent waiting for the train and wondering if we would make it in time for the seminar (it takes 15 hours to get from Nagpur to Thane) we swore we would never travel with such less buffer again (by again we meant the National Science Seminar the next month…one always hopes).

With good fortune, we made it to Thane on the evening of the 7th. Thane then was a sleepy shadow of Mumbai and many people travelled to and fro between the two cities daily on work. It seemed to be a pretty regular city that way. Our hosts lived in the Eastern part of the city, one that was a stark contrast to the buzzing Western Thane. They were very sweet people who lived in the Railway Quarters in Thane. For the two days that we stayed with them, they felt like family.

We arrived at the venue the next morning for the seminar, the auditorium of a local school. People from all over Maharashtra were present for the seminar, mostly teachers and students but also a few scientists and officials from educational bodies and Zilla Parishads. That is when I realized how big a deal it was to be where I was.

Nagpur is the second capital of Maharashtra and the seat of the Winter Session of the Legislative Assembly and yet in spirit it is a small town. It is fast growing out of that reputation today but at that time 10 years ago it was a hard-core small town. And for all the confidence and self-assurance I always carried I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive meeting those participants from schools in Bombay and Pune. I automatically assumed they would be better prepared.

The seminar began and proceeded to the presentations from all the 14 of us who had come from the 7 divisions of Maharashtra, 2 from each. I finished my presentation midway and answered 2 of the 3 questions correctly but my hopes were hanging by shoestrings the way other students presented their material, in particular this girl from Solapur. By the end of the day I had lost it mentally. I thought I stood no chance. But vindication for the small town came with the result announcement and all apprehension was quelled. Ah sweet victory!

What struck me hardest at the seminar was this teacher from a village in Maharashtra who had brought a young boy of 12 to the seminar. Only students from classes 8th, 9th and 10th could participate but this 7th standard kid was one of the few literate ones in his village. The teacher told us he had been making that boy participate or watch these seminars for 3 odd years so he would be prepared when it came to his turn. I was awestruck by the teacher’s dedication to his profession. He asked me questions about what sources I had referred to while preparing, why I had chosen the topic I had chosen etc. The boy listened intently the whole time. I do hope he went on to participate and win in the later years although I never found out.

We had half of the next day free and we decided to go see the town. It was around 10 AM in the morning and we landed among a sea of office-goers, one that I am part of today but not in the same crazy stressed out way, on one of the city’s main roads. There as we ambled aimlessly amidst people who seemed to know their way with their eyes closed (most of them walked with their eyes to the pavement) I realized how out of place I was in that crowd and that city. It is one of the reasons the idea of Mumbai makes me jittery (no I haven’t visited yet)…that pace of life, that robotic lifestyle…existence as opposed to living. I came back from that city on the run to my sleepy city, mostly relieved.

Thane isn’t too much of an engraving on my mind except that it was my first exposure to big city competition and reaffirmation of the fact that it is what is inside you and not what is on the outside that matters. It is who you are as a person that makes all the difference no matter where you hail from.

Thane also was the stepping-stone to New Delhi and October 1999 and one of the most special events of my life so far. I am celebrating 10 years of that stepping stone today and of that eventful journey.

Oh yes, Thane has been long forgiven for its clash with Self-Government that year. Self-Government would have been a parallel Universe where Delhi and a million other things that make my life memorable wouldn’t have existed.

What is it they say again? About everything happening for a reason? About everything happening for the best…

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pondicherry Pictures Up...

...on Flickr: