Fries, Pepsi and God


It sure feels like a volatile time these days. Someone or the other makes a declaration. We have hash tag battles being waged. There are rebels in abundance ( causes going scarce) , protesting is the way of life. Then there are trollers, the liberals, the ‘cool’ who play devil’s advocate by not picking a side and unceremoniously criticising everybody else. There are social observers armed with their opinion. God is also dragged into the mix and the big divide and debate over religions fuelling madness and madness on the pretext of religions. Yup, volatile times indeed.

The latest in that list was about not in my name and I was both amused and annoyed by the widespread use of that hashtag. Opinions poured out and I found myself caught in a storm of arguments that were flying past me. God didn’t ask for it, one bloke screamed in caps and bold. Religion is the opiate of the masses , another articulated. Men will be men, a silent murmur. I couldn’t help but wonder about fries and Pepsi.

About three years ago, I made a conscious choice to set my life choices straight. I bid adieu to junk food and embraced fitness into my life. I made the time, altered my priorities, refused to jump companies because the other company refused to accommodate my priorities. Without care for a balanced approach, I did enjoy a nose dive to a stringent audit of what I ate and the time I invested in the gym. So what does Fries have to do with the context at hand? EVERYTHING.

It would probably be lousy bad for the business if the McDs of the world promoted the health risks along with their juice deep fried products. It would be a nightmare for the Pepsis of the world if they promoted the serious risk of excessive sugar intake and how long term exposure to its products leaves the mass in a state of malnutrition. The shortest conclusion is that these companies don’t see a need to force feed choices down our throats. They offer what they can, make a money while they can, settle disputes when they are challenged and keep figuring out new ways to sustain business. 
It would be rather foolish of the folks to say that we endured health risks because the providers didn’t bother take ownership of the mess that they were selling. 

I think a similar parallel can be reached when it comes to God and the path of religion. It is what it is. The onus rests with us. We made that choice to adopt and embrace principles. We made that choice to express faith and be fanatics about it. Hiding behind an ideology is convenient because the said ideology does not have a way to express it’s own voice and opinion. In fact, if God was to walk among us, she’d probably spend a lot of time alienating herself from the silly things that we do on a daily basis. 
I do feel amused at the amount of silliness that goes unchecked because neither god nor religion has a direct say in the things that surround us. They both have representatives and that reduces the argument to one bloke’s word against another bloke’s word. It narrows the conflict to whose side do you fancy picking. 

Choices define us. Such choices are not restricted to larger than epic issues like god, religion or outlook towards life. Choices do have a say in even the most insignificant decision that we stand to make. There are those who own their choices and deal with the consequences. There are those who wait to delegate the blame for being forced to make a choice, there are those who do what they can from making any choice at all. The recent volatile battle of opinion and ideologies does share it’s boundaries with the said accountability of choices. 

People pick their heroes. Heroes pick their options and propagate them. End of the day, you and I are left with a choice to either get swayed or make an informed decision. Next time when you face an outburst and a public spread mania, ask yourself that question. Did that bag of fries ask you to eat it? Did that Pepsi beg you to drink it? Did that gym force you to spend some time in it? While it might not solve any problem, it would be an amusing train of thought. 

Karthik

Sixty pence 

And so I stood outside the station, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, wondering how things have rapidly changed. My thoughts took me back to the many tales of bonds and emotional ties , the thread of death that separates and ironically fortifies the connection, the many roads walked and the forks that divide people in their journeys. I couldn’t help but contemplate about that age old symbiotic relationship between a wandering artist and the pain locked away in their stone hearts that burst out and manifest as beautiful , inspiring, tear jerking works of art. I stood thinking about the present. I’ve moved away from such tales. In a way I feel betrayed by this zen state of happiness. Robbed by happiness, robbed of tales and yet I barely long for that twilight of the dark to spin words.
Sixty pence please, a voice interrupted my chain of thoughts. A bloke, affected by the cold; draped in torn jeans and dirty shirt , his voice tried to appeal to my empathy and sensibilities. It wasn’t a long search for that buried goodness of my heart. I usually don’t carry cash. Digital money and spontaneous acts of kindness don’t mix well. I politely refused to spare change. I offered him a smile. Big help that might be to him, I silently wondered in a disgusted shame. I couldn’t help.
The beautiful thing about waiting for friends early in the morning is that one has nothing to do and a lot of time to kill. I continued sipping that cup of hot chocolate and continued to observe the bloke. His ask was rather strategic. Not a pound, not fifty pence, sixty was an unique ask. His luck was tested to it’s limits as he tried asking the daily commuters for a change. The sight left me feeling both blessed and depressed. Many chose to refuse acknowledging his existence. For them, he could very well be a spirit trapped in this world. He had no voice, that could be heard. He had no physical existence that people would acknowledge. He simply ceased to be recognized as someone alive, someone who deserved a denial of charity. 
There were many who continued their steps towards the station, without sparing a moment to accept his presence. Some politely refused. Some nodded their heads and walked away. 
I don’t know what poverty feels like. I’ve never felt poor. I’ve been broke a few times. I guess there is that arrogant confidence that rises its head from the assurance that help is not really too far away. I’ve never felt that rejection from the society. I take my existence for granted. I’ve never really been challenged to push myself to the boundaries of the human spirit , screaming for attention, screaming for an acknowledgement that I am indeed there! I don’t know what it feels to shred the last fading sense of dignity and self esteem and ask for help.
The thought instantly made me feel blessed for what I was and the life that I’ve enjoyed. The thought set an avalanche of depression at the mere observation of the extent of apathy that we express at times. There is no one to blame here. I wouldn’t dare blame the blokes who have and choose to deny spreading that sunshine. I wouldn’t dare blame the failures and hold competence of the blokes who don’t have as a hostage. We are driven by the choices that we make and none of the choices are meant to be generalized into the social bias of right and wrong. 
Sixty pence to me was a reminder of the quintessential craving that drives all of us. Acceptance. Campaigned, marketed causes attract awareness and that translates to better funds. The causes without a voice put up a fierce battle and there are days when there is a victory of sorts. Smiles are delivered. Dignity and the integrity of the human spirit gets rewarded. There are days when it’s a losing battle. Helpless wait on prayers and the goodness of the world. 
I did the best I could. I offered to buy breakfast and cup of coffee. The offer was rejected. Sixty pence was a better alternative. The whole experience left me feeling humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the clockworks of the big wide world. Money is not necessarily evil and basic necessities like food are not always the only things that , we as humans, are deprived of. The change in times, the constant evolution of self, the dynamic volatile nature of wants and needs, everything is subjective. Especially the generous sense of charity that spontaneously takes over us. 

And so my hot chocolate done, the arrival of my friend, the grave thoughts soon were replaced by the mundane routine of a happy obligated whine about the weather and the trains. A wandering artist turns a page, the world continues as it always has, the train of thoughts get substituted by another train of thoughts. Business as usual.

Karthik

So to speak 

I’d probably describe myself as a façade that lingers between the purgatory of introversion and extroversion , unrivalled candour with an appetite for disguised honesty where context manipulates the moment. Articulate to the point of growing adjectives in a purple field of surreal imagination. I tend to observe passionately and when the opportunity presents itself , I’d participate to either influence a coercive thought or disrupt the collective bias , mostly for my own beguiled amusement. 
Or, I speak a lot, am moody at times and I’m quite a fun bloke to hang out with. 

Now where did all of that come from? I was thinking about the nature of communication and I guess there are broadly two classifications to sort them out. 
1. We communicate to be understood
2. We communicate to establish a status quo

While the former banks on the parties’ capacity to understand one another, the latter deals with building a personal brand. Everybody goes through multiple iterations of introducing oneself and if you keenly observe, how we choose to introduce ourselves, what we want the audience to perceive about us, is all a conscious choice and effort to fuel the masks that we wear. One could arguably also say that not wanting to have a mask is a mask by itself. That, I guess, is a simple contradiction that arises because what we are is always different from how we are perceived. There are those who are victims because of that disconnect and then there are those who coast through the skies because of the very same.
My mom was a bit worried about blatant persecution here in the UK. She had never steered our conversations towards the racism that is prevalent in this world. In fact, her choice of wanting to talk about racism got me in a state of surprise. I had never imagined that word featuring in her world. To her, everybody was the same.
A few lines of exchange later, the culprit was easily identified. NEWS and media. News channels had created a sense of panic and it was but obviously that my mom was worried about the current affairs of sorts.
The things that we hear, listen, watch and see, borrow and eventually propagate, they all are bound by the rules of intent. If you think about it, it’s the intent that sets the context to most information that gets passed around. Under the filter of intent, truth and lies are the same and are usually an object of convenience. 
As a species, as one spends a life learning and adapting to social morals and perceived framework of right and wrong, one does tend to ignore the intent and one skims along the peripheral logistics of truth and false. Intent is a simpler measure to assess information.
While the filtration mechanism is simpler, intent itself is a byproduct of personal bias. We express our intent in the way we perceive the world around us. There is no absolute true north in viewing other’s intent. Fortunately, on most days, true north is an redundant luxury. 
Classic examples of intent include any assessment of circumstances where the line of thought is to follow the money trail. Intent is money and the flow of it unravels the road it takes.
Skepticism is a wonderful ally to this method of information assimilation. Asking your whys, asking who benefits and how, what one stands to gain and what one stands to lose, the answers do take us a step closer to the big motivation behind any information exchange. 

A simple news channel, a worried mother, her son, a die hard skeptic, and a train of thoughts along intent. This connects us back to the first few lines of the blog.
How we introduce ourselves is a tell tale sign of the intent that we carry. Want to stay understood, we use the simplest of words that breed no ambiguity. Want to impress, the adjectives flow seamlessly.
So, how do you introduce yourself? What motivates your introduction. Are you eager to establish a common ground or do you fear exposure and possible ridicule and hence restrict the words that can help you break ice?

A simple introduction sure can be complicated by a thought process 🙂 
Karthik

Barking up the wrong tree

” You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee” the sign read in my office’s canteen. I had a hearty laugh and moments later, I found myself chasing thoughts. I think money can buy happiness. You read me right. I don’t think money is the only source of happiness. That said, it sure facilitates the happiness quotient. 

I don’t have altruism running through my veins. I won’t even dare dispute that. Fortunately or unfortunately, meeting wonderful blokes like Sarba did leave a lasting impression. I didn’t go beyond my way to pretend an altruistic heart. When I could, I spared a bar of candy. When I could, I’d offer to buy food. When I could, I did. When I couldn’t, I didn’t mull around it. The stint came in phases and I’m glad it’s here to stay. There is a certain joy to helping those who are in need. There is a huge relief in suspending scepticism and believing that those who are in need are in need indeed. 

My tryst with altruism, which is insignificant at best, is actually a good example of ‘Yes, money can buy you happiness”. Substituting materialistic gratification instead of emotional ones is probably not the most healthiest ways to fill that gaping hole in our hearts. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that when you have to buy things to feel happy, it’s no different from reaching out in addiction to satisfy that itching need to feel high. Unless one keeps fuelling that constant drive to buy, one ends up feeling unhappy. This is a good case of sustainability of the operating model in order to reach that said happiness.

While that is one side of the story, the fact that all of us make enough, make ample to spare a little to the society, is blatant proof that money can buy happiness. I think we mix content and satisfaction to happiness. Happiness is far too easier to acquire. That sense of feeling satisfied and content, now that takes a considerable effort. 
Money , that desire to make money , is not evil. There is nothing out there in the world which will convince me that the desire to make a buck is sinful in nature. I do worry about the ethics and legalities of making that buck. This is a forced filter of sorts. It’s forced because I care enough to enforce that into my moral principles. Money, by itself , does not translate to a guilty pleasure. 

All the altruism in the world, if you can suspend the politics and the agenda behind it, it serves the needy by fulfilling their essential needs. The needs could either be materials or it could be empathy. Yes, we do live in a world where we are but robbed of emotional satisfaction and staying emotionally satisfied has spawned a business of providing that gratification to the masses. Sounds complicated and perplexing? Not quite. Social media is aimed to keep the narcissist in us pampered. 

That probably is a different tangent to explore. In line with what we are talking about, money can buy us happiness. In fact, both nothing and everything can help us reach that state of happiness. ALL IT USUSALLY TAKES IS AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT HAPPINESS MEANS TO US. The funny irony is that a lot of us can’t quantify and state with certainty on things that have to happen in order for us to stay happy. Happiness is a state function, it changes from time to time, it differs as our thoughts differ. It’s not a fixed destination. It’s a by product that makes an appearance each time we set out to brave the big world around us. 

Think about it. If one’s intent is firm around helping others, no matter how heavy that inflow of currency is, it would be used to serve people in the way one does best. If one’s intent is to substitute trinket for satisfaction, that loaded cupboard would still fall short of meeting all our expectations. 
Buy it, sell it, steal it, beg for it, as long as you find it and know to keep it sustained, happiness ain’t the holy grail of all treasures. It happens to be the most ignored , commonly occurring abundant state of the mind. If money can’t buy you happiness, you are probably shopping in all the wrong places! 

Karthik 

Busting a few myths on a given day

Daddy’s day behind us, numerous wishes or rather public display of conformance later, the day does signal a change in the way fatherhood has changed across decades. 
Movies have always resonated with the change in time and changes in the minds of a given society. I did have a jolly good laugh comparing this movie to real life in the recent past. Mouna Ragam, I’m not even going to attempt translating the title here. It’s one of Manirathnam’s master pieces. It talks about a girl’s push into arranged marriage and how that relationship of cactus blossoms. Of course, we are not going to talk about marriages for a while now. The movie also depicted the quintessential stereotyped relationship status quo between a father and his daughter. 
We find ourselves swaying away from the age old tradition of Man of the house, father being the bread winner of the family, The father figure who espouses authority and generally makes all the decisions. The counsel of the wife plays a role, but seldom pivotal to the central functioning of the family. The household is demarked to functionalities and the father figure holds the reigns to everything that spans outside the boundaries of the house and the mother is usually the queen of the way a household runs. 
That status quo was not bad. My sisters and dad had that relationship decades ago. There was a lot of give, if I can rake my memories right. Ours has never been the traditional power driven house of sorts. All of us did have a certain say in things. 
The father figure, the established bread winner, also was a stereotyped beast of financial burden. This meant time getting invested a lot more into work than having the time to spend with the family. That was the way families operated in the 80’s. Another starling myth was along the lines of parents in the western world weren’t as caring and as protective as the way Indian families operated. These assumptions still do run rampant in the current day and age. 
The sun was out and it meant only one thing. I loitered the streets on the given Sunday. The sights and sounds were impressive. The moments could melt one’s heart. Myths were waiting to be shattered .
There is a change among us. Of course, I can only speak about the people I’ve either personally known or have had the opportunity to watch and observe. I could note a change. Fatherhood has changed for the better. There is inclusivity in the overall decision making process. I’ve seen ample samples of dads being supportive of their kid’s ambitions and dreams. There is a considerable amount of effort , time and money invested into the big dreams of little children. Kids are relatively free to make their own lives rather than wait to fulfil the incomplete dreams of their parents. The way parents these days view careers and future prospects is slowly taking a little detour from the ancient one of dogma. 
I saw fathers discuss math problems with their tiny tots yesterday. Geographies aside, the care and love shown could be generalized to being the same in the common world. Fathers seem to have made changes to their priorities. Money is good, but family seems to be better to them. They do manage to balance the odds to juggle time between being a workhorse and an active participant of a family. The decisions probably are decentralised. Families are slowly moving away from Money being the locus to power and decision making. With women now more than capable of meeting the numbers even steven, the equation does change. 
It sure is a good sign. We have families that are working hard in restoring the spirit of what a family represents. We have both parents who now have the time and skills to contribute into their families in a holistic fashion. We as a society are rejecting the malice of the yester-era and doing our delta best in cleaning up the house, one day and one decision at a time. 
Yesterday, when I ran my thoughts towards this notable changes to the way families worked, It left me both excited and scared. There is excitement around the whole exercise of building a family and there is a lot of anxious fears in managing to getting all of them wrong. As the society slowly inches towards being open and communicative, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to slip into the dogma. 
So far , so good and yeah, it’s nice to acknowledge that we’ve come a long way from where we once started. 

Karthik 

A for arranged marriage!

huh-what

 

So I walk into a coffee shop and I know what I want. Cappuccino, no sugar on that. Somedays it’s topped with a shot of hazelnut and some days it’s hot chocolate with no cream on that. Everyday it’s a solid yes to a helping of chocolate icing. The biggest challenge to that endeavor is passing my name for the drink to be served. Most days, people don’t bother asking for the name. Easy peasy and done deal.

 

The thing about arranged marriage is that , unlike most people who are so sure that they know they are ready for a marriage and have undergone a PHD certification on What it all means to get married, I for one am pretty oblivious and clueless to the ways of knowing what it means to get ready for marriage. Most people I know have been married just once and oddly that makes them qualified subject matter experts on the topic. If it was recruitment for the works in my pipeline, that experience would not have got them an audition with me in the meeting room!

 

So mom has updated her runbook of questions she has for me everyday. Apart from the usual, did you eat, are you ok and are you sure that you are not falling sick, she’s added a few more questions to that list. Did you speak???? I still don’t have an appeasing answer to that question.

When it comes to an arranged marriage, there is a definite advantage in terms of the initial questions and conversations that would unravel in sweet time. For instance, Love marriage would have had it’s initial batch of questions around ‘Whats your favorite color pa’, ‘Pav baji ah, bhel puri ah? ‘. Lets not forget the past. Anyone and everyone who has had a crush, a fling, a stint at being a lover, would have endured and survived that question.

Advantage arranged marriage: Here , since the prospect is kinda pre approved, pre vetted, skimmed scanned and requisites assessed even before the first word of a ‘Hi’ exchanged, it also means that Pav baji ah bhel puri ah is no longer the determining factor of where that relationship is going to head. That being said, that question is definitely waiting in the pipeline to be asked. With arranged marriage, the sequencing order changes.

 

Come to think of it, I think there has to be a published list of questions that have to be asked, and expected. It might come in handy as a framework to kick start and sustain conversations and more importantly, it might help with the decision making process.

 

I mean questions like

 

  1. Do you snore ? how loud is your snoring? Have you ever had it checked? Can it be cured? Do I have to wear ear plugs to get a proper night’s sleep?  This makes sense in an arranged marriage. With loveu, trips tours or even office meetings presents the valuable opportunity to assess the decibel levels of snoring from a safe distance.
  2. How prone are you to embarrassing yourself in public? It’s a very relevant question. No married couple is going to stay indoors forever. People make funny noises (if you know what I mean), people spill things all the time, people have baritone voices which refuse to stay in the whisper zone , people pick noses, and i’ll leave that list to your imagination. I’m pretty sure that these annoying peeves are not going to get featured in the resume under the section ‘About myself’ in the matrimony portals. Tough luck gathering intel on these. The only way you’d find out is when you bare witness or put on a grand show!!!!!
  3. Are you a sadist, masochist, sociopath, psychopath and feel free to pull in any and all worst case hollywood thriller villain’s mental ailment here. Unless you ask, you wont know. All honesty aside, it takes a really SPECIAL special kinda person to go public and proud about it. Who knows, that question might prove to be a game changer!
  4. What are your dining habits ? Do you slurp, do you nakkify all your fingers in public after a meal? Do you use towels to dry your hands or is it always the jeans? Come to think of it, eating is going last a lifetime. One not only marries a partner, one also ends up marrying their habits. Habits tend to last a lifetime. No wonder people go on dates!!!!!

 

There are a million questions that are either waiting to be asked or stuck somewhere in the thought process. I had a little time to ponder today and quite honestly, I’m glad that I don’t have any serious questions running numbers in my head. I do feel that having questions is an indication of a preconceived plan of how that life after marriage is going to be. Those questions are probably our own way of confirming our bias or expressing our expectations and hence setting a bench mark for the other person to fit into. Not that it’s wrong, not that it’s any more pressure, I think it’s kinda pointless. Read all you want, once married, that is a goldmine of gyan only married folks experience and keep mum about it. Rest of us solo flying blokes can’t , very fortunately, quite experience yet.

 

For what it’s worth, I think questions on life choices, life styles and outlook are worth the ask. It would probably be a steeper and a dreadful co-learning curve if there are stark differences to life choices. Anways, what the bleep do I know. I’m winging it all one day at a time. I’m still short by one marriage to be a SME on marriage 😛

 

 

Karthik

 

 

 

Information data news and life

“You should have watched it man. How barbaric????” I remember talking about it when I was in Chennai. The ‘IT’ was a documentary about medi care and one of the blokes interviewed in that documentary was a carpenter. He had had an accident at work and had severed his palm. The doctors in the USA had given him a choice. He could choose which finger that he wanted to be surgically reattached. He couldn’t save his entire palm. Why? 
He couldn’t afford it and his insurance didn’t cover it. 
Ah, it’s all coming back to me now. I reckon it was a documentary by Michael Moore. Sicko, Yup, that was the name of the chilling documentary. 
Back then, all of it was information to me. It was shocking the way the world was. Money was the master and if you had it, you probably could enjoy a better life. The world was not poised to be a fair one offering equal and habitable chances to everyone. Inequality meant the difference between life and death. 
Information, data, news and life. They all intersect and converge everyday. When it happens to someone whom you’ve not met, don’t know, possibly couldn’t care less, it’s information. When things happen when you know something about the person, place or the event, it becomes data and news. When it happens to you, it goes to be a changer. It alters your perception of what is right, what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. 
I’m no nationalist and that doesn’t qualify me to be an anti-nationalist either. I don’t beat around the bush and hide behind identities to call out what could be fixed in my house, my land, my country. That puts me in a comfortable seat of sarcasm where I feel free to express unbiased condescending judgement of the world that I see. It does annoy me to find feeds in the social stream about ‘Why Indians don’t deserve better quality products’ and ‘This is xxx, they’ve done yyyy, be proud of em’. I couldn’t care less. 
The point is , my pride for my nation is none of anyone’s business and I don’t feel that burning need to express my loyalties that run deep red in my blood. That did sound super dramatic!!! 
Anyways, there is this friend of mine here in London. Super passionate bloke when it comes to India. He does love his motherland. What irks him the most is that blokes who’d have probably never stepped outside India’s soil, would talk wonders about the western world and rubbish the home turf. There were times when my friend felt compelled to shoot pictures of stagnant water here and send it back to the hate spewers to enlighten everyone about a simple fact that no land is perfect, unless it’s own citizen work hard towards keeping it clean and nice. 
A few weeks ago, I did manage to crack my tooth. A rift, straight down the middle. I’d have been much happier if the bloody thing fell apart, dislodged from the root and gum. Unfortunately, like baggage we carry in life, that tooth chose to linger on. I’m stuck with a partially broken tooth, and it hurts crazy when I try to bite into something using that tooth. I guess I’ve managed to live with it now. 
One evening , yesterday to be exact, I decided that I had had enough of living with nagging pain. I decided to check out the dental options to get the damn thing extracted and exiled. A quick google later, the average quoted estimates for the procedure left me in a state of disbelief. I can buy a second hand car instead of yanking out a tooth. 
Inflation and cost of living aside, it did make me wonder about the larger things that are worth fighting for. Right to life, right to lead a life with dignity, right to health, they all enrich a life of a given citizen. We fight over right for an identity, right to express opinion and the underlying life , without with neither expression nor freedom matter, usually goes unnoticed and unappreciated. I don’t blame London for what it is. It would be naïve of me to ignore the millions back at home who do not have access to health and health care. It seems to be a problem that plagues the world alike. It’s not contained to the first world or the third worlds. It’s a common malice of our one single world. 

All is not grim either. There are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many angels who walk among us. They are the techies, managers, students, vendors, average blokes who take time from their life and invest a little into helping others who are in need. Such kindness exists today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that kind of care and kindness was a priority and part of an agenda and political manifesto? I know I sound like I woke up in wonderland to dancing unicorns, but everything is possible provided we believe in it, we are ready to sweat over it, we do something towards it rather than restrict ourselves to just thoughts .

For what it’s worth, I’ve made a choice to lookout to help folks who are in need. I did feel a little ashamed that while I could pocket the enormous bill, I still didn’t feel it was a worthy spend. That shame pushed me to wonder about the a lot of us who don’t have that luxury to make choices over where one gets to spend. It’s a start. I hope that’s what it is. 
I don’t think we need all the information, all the data, all the news in the world to be a human. Guess all it takes is a little heart. 
Karthik 

Loser

“Please god , please god, please god” I prayed decades ago. 17 years ago to be exact. The 12th standard results were out. I had to commute to school to get the grades. I was young, quite possibly dumb and definitely clueless about the way of life. I secretly made a pact with god for a sign. If I could spot a red car, then I guessed my grades would be good. If I spotted a black one, it would be a shaky start to a possible pointless future. I believed in the pact with all my heart.

 

That road to the school felt uncomfortably long that day. I couldn’t spot neither colors for a while. This felt unusual because red and black were and still are quite popular colors as far as cars go. I think I spotted a black one first. My heart sank. By then, I had renegotiated my terms with god. I had swapped black for yellow and red for white. Still nothing though. I spotted black and then consoled myself by placing my faith in the renegotiated contract. The results were inevitable. The numbers had already defined the course of my life. I had given up that day. I passed. A lot of shit happened and a course correction later, I think school and grades are behind me now.

 

That little boy did grow up a lot. I guess somethings seldom change. So there I was this evening, making another such treaty with god. Please play this song, I prayed. The ipod was on shuffle, I was on the treadmill. The next immediate song, I wished upon it to be the sign from god. The song came and so did a quick bout of renegotiation. The immediate next song became best of 5 songs. Best of 5 soon became ‘play my song before I give up running’. The prayers had changed fast. The battle was on. God versus the desires of the heart.

 

The song continued to evade me. I refused to give up. 5 minutes later the song changed and I silently prayed. Another 5 passed and another prayer made. God wasn’t interested in listening to my prayers this evening. There was another thing that was growing certain. I was competing with myself today. It was an endurance test of sorts. At any point in time, all I had to do was give up running, call it an evening and that would be it. It would be the defacto sign from the big G. I could give up, but I wouldn’t. I ran till I felt exhausted. The miles kept turning, the calories burnt kept piling up. That song never came. My determination stood strong and firm.

 

My mind wandered a lot in the hour that I ran. It took me from one memory to another. I felt gripped by all the emotions that I could muster. There was love, there was anger. There was resentment, there was stoic coldness. There was a lot of care and there was a profound disappointment. As the tracks kept changing, the prayer stayed strong. That song never did come.

Exhaustion started kicking in. It was for both the mind and the body. How could I give up now? It was a test of will. How could I give up knowing that I had to give up? It symbolized my acknowledgement and acceptance of the inevitable. I put up a futile fight against that inevitable. With each breath, I was proving a point and being a fool. There was no balance in that moment. There was no voice of reason. All that stood between me and my desire was song that never came and a prayer that I wouldn’t stop making.

 

Somewhere down the line , I soon realized that I couldn’t beat the odds. The song refused to get played and I kept refusing to stop. One of the two would have to give in sooner than later. I secretly hoped and wished with all my heart that the song would play. It never did.

 

It was the workout that helped me see the pointlessness to my misery. I had placed my bets on a losing biased game. The odds were in favor of the house and I kept feeding the table money. Misery, the longer I fought for what I sought, the longer I stayed miserable. The mind was at war with the heart. Reason , logic hand in hand against the flawed heart’s meek voice. It was a nasty war.

Through sweat and determination, I finally decided to call it quits. I knew I had lost. I accepted being a loser. I felt happy that I gave it all. I fought for as long as I could. Somethings are not meant to be. I walked out of the gym feeling strangely enlightened. I didn’t feel sad that I had lost, I felt happy that I didn’t give up easy. There are days when life reduces us to be losers. We can either give in quietly, or put up a brave fight.

 

I came face to face with faith this evening. Faith is tested by reducing us to shambles. It is at the very brink of rejection of that faith is where one gets to make that choice. Do I hate god today? Do I give up on every thread of faith that I’ve accumulated in the past? Do I walk out because things didn’t pan my way? Do I accept and surrender, not out of free will but out of that sense of defeat?

 

I choose to embrace my faith. Yes I’ve lost. But I still am as clueless as I was that many years ago. I couldn’t see what I would become back then, I still don’t know what I would be tomorrow.  I’m taking a leap of faith. The sign signaled from the skies up above, I cut my loses and do what I’ve come to do best. Live to fight another day.

 

Yeah, whatever!!! Fuck it.

Into the light.

“You seem to be lost young man. Do you need help? ” the old lady with a sweet voice offered. 

I nervously smiled and accepted her offer for help. After much deliberated discussion, she insisted that I pick daffodils. It was a wonderful relaxing Friday, yes that’s what it was and apparently love was in the air. Surprises too. For two long years, I had been avoiding the only question that was waiting to be asked. I kept putting it off. I was unsure for a while. The uncertainty stopped making sense one day. Under the guise of a dinner with friends, I knew the moment would catch her off guard. It was going to be fun. I knew I’d be screamed at for a while. I could almost see her face blush. The moment would take a while to sink in and time would pause for a brief few seconds. It would all come back rushing. She’d say yes. She had always wanted to say yes to the question. It’s just that the question had never presented itself. All of that was going to change. 

I planned for the evening for over a week now. I orchestrated a petty little fight to keep her off the trail. It worked well. It worked amazingly well. If there was something that I was extremely competent at, it was at keeping her annoyed. Our fights were usual. We’d quibble over something silly. Her pride and mine, would ensure that neither came forward to apologize. On most days, the anger would simmer down. I’d make a sarcastic apology, she’d eventually relent and always keep a neat score of the many million times I’d have wronged her. It was a game of sorts. She was winning it of course. She always won. I felt happy that I had someone to annoy and someone to apologize to, in due time. 

The week was special. I had bugged her and poked my nose into her work. That ticked her off. Needless to say, it worked brilliantly. I was immediately sentenced to a silent treatment. Perfect. It was exactly the roadmap that I had planned. I instigated a truce by bugging our friends to invite her to the dinner. She wouldn’t say no to that. She could try, but our friendly would eventually win. Win they did. The Friday arrived sooner than I had anticipated. Butterflies the size of tyrannosaurus rex were running in my stomach. There was a comfortable nervousness to me. The entire day, I had felt restless. While I could put some faith in us and assume that she was going to say yes. There was a voice of doubt that kept me in fear. There was no telling. I had to endure the day to get to my moment of truth.
I left office early that evening. The dinner was still a few more hours to go. We had booked a table in the Shard. She did love watching the city from a towering height. She liked the way the sun would softly set over the busy city. She loved the way it felt to stand beside the clouds. I had managed to secure a table by the window. I had ample time to kill so I decided to walk to the place instead of taking the tube. I found the walk to be refreshing to the mind. 

The city had come to life that evening. It was Friday after all. The pubs were busy. Everybody had their own favourite watering hole to hang out with their friends. The conversations were abundant and the city felt pampered playing a host to it’s habitants. I spotted a flower shop on the way. I’ve always fancied picking up flowers but I never really had the time or forced a priority to stop and pick them. Today was going to be special. Today was a brand new start and I promised myself that I’d always see to it that ours was a house which always had fresh flowers arranged in the house. I suspected that she might enjoy that. We’d anyways give it a try. I figured that all the new enthusiasm would die one day and we’d , together, make sense of routines and find a way to keep a fresh pair of eyes in how we’d view our world together. 
Flowers were a new thing. It felt more overwhelming that I had imagined. Cue in the owner. She was a kind lady, full of love and motherly warmth. She held on to my hand , as she’d have held on to her son’s arm, while she helped me make a choice. I told her about the occasion and her smile widened. She asked to see a picture and I didn’t find anything odd with that request. Enthusiastically, I unlocked my phone and my gallery had a zillion pictures of us. One look was all it took for the old lady to point me towards daffodils. Bright and yellow, it’s just like her. You should buy these for her. I insist, she said. 

She packed a handful. The billing now done, she walked with me as I exited her shop. All the best for the evening, she cheered. You both must pay our shop a visit. Promise me that please.

I nodded a yes. A quick embrace later, I bid her farewell. Destiny was waiting!!!!

It was then I saw a flash of light and a boom followed shortly. A short moment of fear over things that I couldn’t comprehend. It all happened way too fast. All I could remember was that quick flash of white light and that piercing noise. There was peace after. 

“So, that’s it? ” I asked. 
Of course, I didn’t get a response. 
“Why me? What did I do wrong? Did I intent a harm or instigate anything evil? Why? Is this karma? ”
Still no answer.
The anger, the disappointment, the regret, all of it flooded my heart all at once. I couldn’t contain them within me any more.
“Answer me” I bellowed in fuming rage. 

“There is no reason to it. Just happened. I know it must hurt to realize that there is no fair justification to what transpired. It must feel really bad to uncover the truth that the way things work, are not based on individual’s course of life. In fact , it’s the other way around, Individuals are affected by the nature of things that transpire. lives continue, lives cut short, promises are made, dreams are broken. These are consequences of things that transpire around us. ” 

“You will be remembered. There will be tears for a while. There will be smiles one day. Someday, you will be a cherished memory. Someday you will be remembered and tears might follow from time to time. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is”
I had tears flowing through my eyes. I never could fathom that beyond life there could be tears. I didn’t what I was now, was I a spirit, or was I what I thought was a soul. None of that mattered anymore. It wasn’t the same anymore. I wiped my tears and turned back to steal a final glance. I saw myself scattered across the pavement. The daffodils on the pavement were yellow and red. 

Ah crap! 

Karthik