A cycle of circles

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, followed by a brief moment of a pause. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The mechanical sound of assisted breathing wasn’t anything like I had ever imagined. Breathing. The simple, unappreciated , biologically reflex process of iterative inhaling and exhaling felt sinister and daunting when there was a machine assisting it along the way. I had never paid any attention to the sound of breathing ever before. It was the mechanical hum and a sense of distortion , which felt added to the natural sound of the rhythm ,that had caught my attention.

Hmmmm and an Ahhhhh. It felt scary.

The peace and quiet of the white, dull room of the hospital to the eeriness of the mechanical breathing. There was nothing comforting and assuring about the white walls anymore. It then dawned on me. The reason why hospitals pick those colours to paint their walls. I realized the colours played a role in messing with our psychology. It was a subliminal messaging of sorts. Everything about hospitals were to either assure that things would be ok or to pacify the agitated state of minds. My mind had been racing with many thoughts. I did feel a bit distracted at the moment. I couldn’t explain how I ended up in this state of the mind, but I was there nonetheless.

I saw my dad resting silently. Unaffected by the sounds and noise. Good for him. It felt reassuring to see him rest. The past few days were a nightmare. It all started a few months ago. I think age is just a number. When there is a medical professional at the other side of the table, reminding you of mortality and that in god’s mighty plan, nothing lasts forever; It shakes your steady , concrete foundation. Neither dad nor I were prepared for the news. Dad being dad, took it all with a stiff upper lip and his usual poker face. I am my dad’s son. I didn’t display the crushing emotions publically. Inside, I was just as broke as my dad was. The news had changed our worlds. Yeah, doctors do tend to alter lives, more than god has ever altered.

I found it peaceful to see dad rest. I think , deep down , deep within his rock exterior, he had accepted his fate. He no longer resisted it. Unlike what the self help books prescribe, acceptance does not always translate to a better living. The deeper my dad’s acceptance penetrated within him, the frailer he started to appear. He was a mirage of his former self. Disinterested, disconnected and lived a hopeless existence. It pained me to see him that way. I guess , my dad also endured such a pain. He would no longer look me into my eyes. His gaze found a new way of staying distanced. We no longer spoke. We both had accepted this twisted new fate and silently choose to drift away into fears and oblivion.

That changed a three days ago. A ride in a manic ambulance does that. Circumstance had changed my dad once again. I think it was more to do with the realization of the dwindling eternity of time ahead that forced the change. Weak and distraught, my dad finally managed to see me in my eye. It was a moment , of something that I couldn’t even being to explain. It meant we both had made a choice to live in the present. We both had chose to ignore the future. Future didn’t matter, especially when there wasn’t a future ahead.

The doctors got busy and they wouldn’t let me see dad for a while. The sun had risen and had poised to set. The orange hue of the sunset dictated the flow of time. It was the first of the many conversations that dad and I managed to catch up. It had been a while. We had grown strangers in time. Dad told me of his days. How he’d ride a crowded train, on its steps, for three hours each day. He’d commute through rush to watch mom for five minutes. He’d wait by the gate and watch her walk into her university. He’d watch her leave for home in the evening. That five minutes of bliss was evenly split across the day the and the evening.

Dad paused and asked me about my tryst with love. He had never had the time to contemplate the circle of life that I’d go through. He thought there’d always be time for that chit chat. It was finally the time. I told dad about the heart. Parts broken, parts sewn back together. My dad, rather weakly, brushed my hair and said it was the way of life. He said that people often meet the right people on the rightest moment in time. For some, all it takes is a few minutes. For some, it takes a whole lifetime. Everybody eventually meets their people on the rightest moment in time.

Dad then spoke about how his world had crashed when mom passed away. He confessed his supressed guilt of choosing work to drown his sadness. He felt bad that he wasn’t there enough. None of that mattered anyway. Not any more.

Things improved for a while. We had two more days of long conversations. The doctors would take him away from time to time. Each time he returned, he looked more broke than before. I knew it wouldn’t be long now. There was only so much a man could break. I knew my dad would hit rock bottom fast. I had already reached there.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.. The noise started to haunt again. There was dad. There wasn’t much that I had to tell him now. All had been said. I wanted him to know that everything would be alright. I couldn’t find the words. I couldn’t. The body wouldn’t. The last thing that I ever saw was the most beautiful sight of my dad, resting peacefully.

Ah crap, I thought to myself. It wouldn’t last for long.

Fade to black.

Karthik

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Book Review : The trouble with goats and sheep

“You only really need two people to believe in the same thing, to feel as though you just might belong.”

The trouble with goats and sheep , Joanna Cannon.

Coverpage of The trouble with goats and sheep

Sometimes the whole wide world is a small place. There is no vast expanse. There are no far away horizons. The trouble with goats and sheep is a tale of such a small world. 12 to be precise. This is a tale of 12 houses in an avenue. The avenue comes alive because of its inhabitants. The people are fantastically portrayed.

One very hot June in 1976, Mrs Margaret Creasy goes missing. This jolts the residents of the avenue. They are a very tight close knit community. The disappearance disrupts their lives. Mrs Creasy was the heart of the avenue. She spoke to all , without any reservations. Everybody felt warm and nice in her company. Her disappearance leaves a gaping hole in the lives of the 12 families.

Gracie, a ten year old, and her friend Tilly , an almost a ten year old, take it upon themselves to solve the case of the disappearance of Mrs Creasy. The girls do miss her. The embark upon a quest to find her. Their journey takes them to a very interesting junction. If only they could find God , everybody would be protected and all will be better again. By implication, finding god , they feel that they’d manage to bring Mrs Creasy back into their lives again.

And so the kids start their investigation.

The kids go about the neighbourhood asking the adults if they believed in God and if they had seen one. Each character has a representation of god and the diverse answers that the kids get, leave them convinced that god doesn’t really reside in their avenue. God wouldn’t, and there is a reason for that. While kids struggle to uncover the mystery, the adults are holding on to a terrible sinister secret. The adults are nervous about Mrs Creasy’s vanishing act because it had attracted the police’s attention. The adults do worry about what the police might discover.

Hidden away within the confines of the avenue that houses 12 families, One cold winter in 1967 , the residents make that decision to burn down the house with the door #11. Why ? Mr Walter Bishop. Mr Bishop is perceived as creepy , wicked, and a pervert. The families bank on collective evidences to justify their justice. They pick a night ,when Mr Bishop and his mum are away, to burn the house down. The logic behind the act was that without the house, there wouldn’t be a Mr Bishop in their neighbourhood.

The plan goes well. The house does burn down and it is made to appear like an accident. Unfortunately, Mr Bishop and his mum get caught in the blaze. The mum falls victim to the incident. This does bear down a bit on the collective conscious of the residents.

The narrative swings between that winter in 1967 and the current summer in 1976. As the girls prod about Mrs Creasy, we get to uncover the series of events that led to that fateful night. Rest of the tale is about the fate of Mrs Creasy. Is she dead? Was she murdered? Did she leave because she figured out that the residents had killed Bishop’s mom? The community starts to crumble under it’s own weight of guilt and prejudice.

The book is about the collective conscious. This book beautifully captures the dynamics of families living together as a closed community. Each character brings a bag of prejudice and bias to the table. Each character is flawed and broken. Each character tries to fit in, and find that sense of belonging to the wider community.

The conflict between conformance and fitting in with staying unique and true to character is portrayed through the eyes of the two little heroes, Gracie and Tilly. The girls are a social outcast in their school. They do not fit in. They get bullied. Gracie looks up to another kid, Lisa, and tries to ape her to gain acceptance. Gracie is prepared to do what it takes to fit in.

Tilly on the other hand, has an overprotective mom who smothers her all the time. Tilly wants to be free, she wants her dad, who is separated from her mom, to acknowledge her and accept her. Tilly feels that being Gracie’s friend is all the acceptance that she needs in the world. The contrasting nature of the girls serves as the perfect juxtaposition to the community and Mr Bishop , who the community unanimously detests.

The biggest theme explored in the book is about conformance to society and the nature of the society to tolerate people who are different. Under the pressure of wanting to fit in, many of us do the things that we do. We gang up and pick on people who are different. While , as individuals, we do not express strong views; under the safety of numbers, we do tend to promote the ravaging beast that we hold dormant within.

I loved this book. The characters are sculpted to near perfection in the book. It holds a mirror to us as a society. It makes us think.

Give this a shot.

Karthik

Not on display!

Exciting times indeed. I could play Nostradamus and take a shot at predicting the near future. I see pain and satisfied smiles. Possibly a tinge of disappointment, however, the mood would be still the one of joy and smiles.

Almost an accurate prediction, if there could be one. With the bags almost packed, there was an imminent catch up that I wouldn’t even dream of missing. A quick hop on a train later, I’d be in the land of the Liver bird again. A city that I’ve come to love and that’s mostly because of the crazy bloke who resides there. Funny enough, all the memories of the city are tied to deep conversations, million laughs and a Tattoo. It’s almost time to add a little plural to that word. Tattoos, or at least that seems to be the plan.

For starters, I do not publically display my tattoo. I’ve got one that sits happy on my right shoulder. I could flaunt it, but I usually don’t. I’ve had a few questions being asked about the incognito status of that tattoo. It exists and to the world it doesn’t. That’s almost like I view things around. The world’s acknowledgement doesn’t deny an existence. There is a charm to that obliviousness.

What’s the point of sticking needles, shedding a little blood and enduring a prickly pain?

It’s a statement. To me, it’s a statement that I address to my self. My first tattoo was a semi-circle that contained a kanji that represented fire. I did weave a huge tale around it. The simplest explanation, it looked cool. The most complicated explanation, that’s the way I see life. The second one that’s cruising along my expectations is one of a harvest moon. A big ball of orange-red, decked with imperfections, riddled with lines of distortion. If the artist works a miracle, it has the potential to look beautiful.

What does it represent? It’s a bit too early in the day to stack thoughts to something that doesn’t exist today. Through the needles, I’ll figure something out.

Now that I’m pondering on the subject, the status of incognito, a display that’s denied, how does it affect us? In the cycle of all things considered, recognition plays a very vital role in ensuring satisfaction. We start off on our quest to get recognized and the subsequent desire is to get rewarded for that excellence. With recognition and rewards piling up, we saturate from it and move on to bigger things. We aim for actualisation. A state in which we contribute and still stay numb to the games of recognition and rewards. We are no longer burdened by who takes the credit, the insecurities that keep us on the top of our paranoia fuelled toes. We do, because we can. We help , because we can. We contribute because we can. It’s a fantastic state worth aspiring.

A lot of my personal passions are inclined towards the actualisation. Not necessarily in the purist sense. I do miss the recognition. I’m yet to get rewarded. I endure , I learn and I derive pleasure from the sheer act of contribution. When I don’t have sights on acknowledgement of my skills, there is no pressure. I can deliver at any pace that I see fit. The quality gates are strictly personal. I do set rather high , near impossible , quality standards. It’s fun to strive hard and fail miserably against self imposed yardsticks.

Similarly, a tattoo to me is a representation of a thought. It exists. It’s does not represent a contest that I have to contest in. It does not represent an output which is waiting to get judged and appreciated. It exists.

While getting inked is not everybody’s cup of tea with a fancy cake, I think what it stands to represent is a lesson that caters to most interests. It answers the question, ‘Why do we do the things that we do?’

I am reminded of this movie, Indiana Jones and the last crusade. Indie is on a boat, fighting for survival. The bloke asks him the purpose of his quest. ‘Are you doing this for his glory(God) or for yours?’ It’s such a profound quote that gets tossed around in a swashbuckling flick.

And so the anticipation game begins. It’s going to be a long week of hopes and dreams. The crescendo , in the third act, would probably be played in tears and blood. It’s probably going to be worth it. Or, in the humble words of Homer Simpson- the wise, ‘DOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

Karthik

Oddities of Oddities

Sometimes, what They say is true. Not all the time. And most definitely not everything that goes said. The first oddity is that sometimes, things do pan out right. One such specimen of the things that go said is ‘ An idle mind is a devil’s playground’. Indeed.

Science is at odds with beliefs and the existence of a devil is , but of course, questionable at best. There are devils. Stay assured of that. Just as how inevitable the existence of a devil is, an idle mind is right there too. An idle mind is inevitable. Resistance to that idea is futile. The mind eventually, and definitely, does catch up. So back to what they say; It is during this burst of blankness of a mind, where we find our greatest foe.

And just like that, one morning , I learnt something new. I knew what connected Cancer, Alzheimers, Jeff Dahmer, Ted Bundy, MK Gandhi , to name a few personalities. Add a touch of hues across the color spectrum, throw in a bit of archaic Jungian archtypes and the degrees of separation across all the entities were starting to blur. The connection, what was it? , you ask me. It was me. It could have been you. It could be anybody.

The trouble with looking for something in a haystack is that you eventually end up finding something lying dormant there. The idle mind, the random disconnected searches, the indulgence in silly tests to kill time and boredom, and I realized I could be anything and anyone. The digital crawl was eventful in being pointless. It had served its purpose though. The time spent wisely had fuelled the bored mind. The mind is such a fascinating device. It , to me , is almost the most perfect pattern mining tool there ever is. A mind seldom requires a robust rational to dole out sequence of patterns. To it, everything makes sense. To it, nothing makes sense. The lavish knowledge that the mind imparts , relies heavily on the gravity of the moment. The point in time is all what the mind is about.

The longer I let my mind wander aimlessly, the longer I realized the lack of direction in my thoughts. It reflected the lack of direction, I thought , I expressed in my life. Odds stacked, odds imagined, challenges loaded, I got into a biased mode of introspection. The land grew dark and gloomy, the mind descended into grimness. I had reached a point where I felt I was lost to any sight of purpose. The thoughts had hit a saturation point.

Not all is grim in this tale. This is a transient state that most of us loiter into. And then the fantastic happened. Half heartedly, I decided to unwind by hitting the gym. The bed had looked comfortable, the heater hymned a recognizable hum. I was wise to the trap that rested ahead. I knew I wouldn’t sleep, in the shape my mind was in. Hitting the gym was the sensible thing to it.

And so it started. The endurance test of sorts. For both the mind and the body. I decided to not vary out my workout pattern that evening. One cardio machine. One velocity. One activity. The only catch was that I’d burn for as long as I could. I would burn for as long as my grit and determination would let me to. Burn I did.

The first few minutes were horrible. The body expressed a dignified reluctance to defy its inertia. The mind branched wild. Still , was a word that I was a billion miles far away from. As the clock ticked forward, as I started to zone out and tune into the repetition induced state of trance, as my breathing fluctuated between its sudden spike to a practiced rhythm, I knew I had reached the gates of my land of bliss.

This state is called many things by many people. It’s a state where consciousness slips into the unconscious. Unconsciousness takes precedence. As I moved towards the auto pilot mode of the workout, I no longer had to deliberate on thoughts. In fact , it was the other way around. Thoughts first deliberated for that space in my head. Thoughts would struggle to gain a recognition from me. As the state prolonged, the thoughts cleared off. In time, there was nothing else to ponder about. In time, there was nothing.

The songs buzzing in my ear phones, my eyes closed to a lost melody that was heard but not listened to, the emptiness in my head started feeling comfortable. The songs changed, the sweat poured, the body tired, it was time to head back home.

I head back home feeling better, happier and thoughtless. Nothing mattered. I didn’t have the inclination to strain my thoughts towards the idleness that had invaded me all day. There was a sense of joy of staying alive and of existence. There was a joy of being me. There was a joy of not feeling the lull of the burdens that my head conjured.

And just like that, oddities met with oddities. This was an exchange of sorts. The challenges of the mind foiled by introducing challenges to the body. Most of us do the opposite, we calm the mind to foil the body in distress. Most days, it’s all the game of mind over matter and matter over the mind. When we play it, nothing else matters.

A simple thing like a workout has the capacity to reset our daily life. A good workout is just one of the many many ways of achieving this exchange of oddities. Hobbies serve that purpose. Altruism serves that purpose. In fact, anything can serve that purpose if one manages to substitute an unquantifiable commodity with a finite quantified challenge.

The simple pleasures of foxing the self 🙂

Karthik

Take a hike, Charles Darwin

Darwin, or as his parents named him, Charles Robert Darwin, is not an unknown name to all of us. Right through the text books of science, we got indoctrinated to this theory of evolution through natural selection.

The simplest explanation of that theory is, ‘ Don’t do anything. Mommy nature knows best. You shall be evolved as she sees fit’. That’s Darwin’s sober way of saying , Go with da flow man. The theory has had a profound impact on our understanding of the world around us and our evolution as a species. We’ve earned the right to survive in this planet. As outlined in the anticlimactic premise of ‘War of the worlds’ , Homo sapiens as a species are now used to the inhospitable host that is Planet Earth. Through years of adapting and evolution, we exist without a glitch.

So far so good and that doesn’t make a worthy read in a blog. Let’s talk about the history of eugenics. Simplified and trivialised, Eugenics is the process of aunty ji picking vegetables in the market. She runs her own selection process. Why is the potato too fat, why aren’t the tomatoes in their usual blend of green and red, why is that banana too yellow?? And so the lady goes on, carrying out her perfected unscientific and yet tried and tested execution of food selection.

The markets paid attention to her choices. They started delivering potatoes that weren’t too fat. They picked the right color for that banana. And so you get the picture. Eugenics is man’s science dictating the terms and conditions for what is the best that meets functional and social needs. Eugenics is not a new concept. If I were to believe in what Hollywood has to offer, through the movie 300, we can believe that the ancient Spartans exercised a certain degree of eugenics. They wanted the next generation to meet a certain said standards. They achieved it through careful repopulation. That’s the scientific best that they could manage, given the advancements in science and tech in that era.

Surprisingly enough, even before a certain bloke with a funny moustache had determined ideas about racial purity , governments around the world had actually tried their hand at eugenics. They had celebrated it and accepted it as the best course that the species could take. Funny moustache guy turned the notch all the way to 11 and went nuts with it.

And then as a direct consequence, eugenics became a taboo and got associated to cruel and evil intent. The world refused to indulge in the concept for a while. Slowly and gradually, it started setting it’s eyes on this principle. Of course, we don’t call it eugenics anymore. We have means to identify abnormalities in us , hidden away in the ocean of our genes. We aim to correct it. As we unlock the secrets that are stored away in the DNA, we also unlock the means to dictate the constituents and attributes of what that DNA could represent. Welcome to the new supermarket of Humans. We are getting there. Within a decade, we can customize our progeny.

Grey eyes, black hair, perfectly functioning pituitary glad that would keep the kid from growing fat due to thyroids. The market is ripe, the demand is off the roof and for once, money would meet technology to meet the depths of the human expectation. So far , so good and I really don’t mind. A means to a fulfilling and a happier life is worth the amount of brain power that nerds invest into research. Two thumbs up there.

And so , given this road and where it can take us, It’s the road ahead that looks to be a bit grim. Selective genetics, elimination of imperfections in humans, marketed standards that define what is and what isn’t a perfect human, that scares me. With out any advancements in genetics, the world did manage to dictate that slim is in, fair is in, blue eyes are angelic and the world let its people dwell in misery because of conceived social norms of perfection. All of that, without the ability to alter the genetic makeup. Using just cosmetics, the world managed to divide it’s people. People saw themselves different. The great big divide and inequality still reigns supreme.

That road down the line, the ability to course correct the natural selection of evolution, it challenges both our humanity and also poor old Darwin’s take on mommy nature. As always, it’s not the science that scares me. It’s the way that science gets adopted into the mainstream society. It’s the ability of the society to breed misery , that is a cause for concern.

I do find cyber punk a very interesting genre in science and fiction. Even at a psychology and behaviour strains, cyber punk captivates my attention. Bread and butter of a punk dystopian society is through eugenics. We are slowly inching towards that.

Sure is nice to play god 🙂

Karthik

The charms of simplicity

It’s almost a weekly affair now. Most Fridays, I make it a point to hit the screen at BFI Imax. I enjoy watching movies on the biggest screen there is. While the experience of watching movies on the screen has been consistently the same, the experience of the movie itself , I’ve felt a change.

Like most of us, I’d head into the movie hall after catching a glimpse of the hype generated in the social webs. The movie does what it does. The expectations either get met or get decimated. Within the first five minutes of walking out of the movie hall, I’d have left a comment on Facebook. Oh yeah, the ritual also starts with checking into the movie hall. Brownie points made of love and pointlessness.

Carrying the routine over an iterative number of 10, I started realizing that the whole exercise of reviewing the movie was in fact detrimental to the movie watching experience. It’s perfectly alright to watch a movie, review it at lengths, infer a billion things from it, share the opinion and get pulled into a heated debate over rubbishing it or justifying the greatness that was on display.

I started to realize that by wanting to make a point, I had ended up missing a point. While a movie, or any other activity or source of distraction that we indulge in, is meant to distract us from the daily routine of life. The 3 hours invested, the book read, the art painted, the music composed, they are a source of escape from the clutches of a routine. Their primary priority is to reset our minds. Leave us feeling fresher by helping us break the cycle of an auto pilot routine.

I then applied a different filter to the viewing experience. Was I entertained? Yes or a No. And that was a sufficient yardstick of a measure to me.

We live in the age of instantaneous mastery of a subject. It usually takes an active internet account, a few wiki pages, a few minutes of quality web crawling to arrive at a certain degree of competence to form an opinion on any given subject. Over the last month, I reckon I’ve invested hours into the process of modelling clay, digital art work rendering, the capabilities of gaming engines like Unreal to have a pulse of what is possible to recreate over a digital medium. While it does make me a theoretical amateur on the subject, I’m also conscious of the fact that I still have zero skills and experience in actually getting any art rendered.

The same goes to other passions that I indulge in. The degree of my participation and my opinions vary based on the time I’ve invested into each of my consuming hobbies.

Goes back to the fundamental question. Why do we do the things we do? Do we do things, because we can and we have the means to do? Do we do things, because we love to reach a state of absolute perfection that garners adoration and admiration of audiences scattered across the globe? Do we do things, because we don’t have anything else to do? I really do wish that I had a hobby when I was a kid. Other kids collected stamps. I had a door, and I’d collect all the stickers that came free with a bar of chocolate. I’d religiously paste them on that door. That was that. My folks could no longer confidently call out the original colour of the door. The world did not have a glimpse of the stickered door.

There was a simple joy of peeling off stickers of He-man, Bat-Man, Gi Joes, Archies and just about anything that would come my way, and sticking them on the fabled door. I even had a sticker of Nag-Raaj there, in all his green glory. I miss that simplicity. I did that because I enjoyed doing it. No other soul in the planet was aware of the brightest satisfied smile that I on my face.

It’s hard for me , especially me, to imagine a world without a share. I often wonder , what it would be like to write and not publish. I do think about the satisfaction of making music and not putting them in sound cloud. There is also a soft satisfaction and contradictorily a longing desire to find an audience, each time I have something to share. I’d like to believe that nobody pays any attention to the content that I create. Certainly the statistics of the portal analytics corroborate that theory. I create content and share them anyways.

I guess man is a social animal and I’m more animal than other animals. There is a sense of accomplishment to it. Rest of the supply chain is something that I don’t mull over. I create what I feel like creating. People consume what they feel like consuming. As long as these two transactions don’t influence each other, I’d like to believe that things would be good.

On that note, What’s your take on simple experiences? When was the last time you enjoyed things without a care for a click or a share. When was the last time where your personal triumph was just your own personal triumph?

Karthik

Heart of ice

I walked up to the window to catch a view of the morning sky. Predictably, all I saw was a thick blanket of fog looming around the horizon. I paused, I hesitated for a second and then decided to open the window up. I breathed in the fresh-enough cold air.

My phone rested face first on the bed. I flipped it to check for the time. 6:30. I had beat the alarm by thirty minutes today. I resumed my attention towards the world that was, outside my glazed window. The pile of tiles that made a roof, right below my window, were frosted today. The night would have been cold. The ice was inevitable. It would be here now. The winter had finally arrived. I felt happy. I’ve always identified myself as a winter person. I like the cold. I’d love to believe that I’m immune to the frosty charms of the winter. I choose my layers carefully. It’s usually my T-shirt and my ragged cardigan. Turquoise or probably teal. I was never good at naming the colours. Things are usually red, blue, yellow, black , white or pink. I stereotype most of the other colours into these groups.

I spent a few minutes staring at the thin sheet of ice that covered the roof. There was a play of light. The sun was bright on my left. The building cast a shadow across the right side of the roof. Ice continued to persist in the shadows. Everywhere the sun touched, Ice had died away meeting it’s melting demise. The view kept my morbid mind engaged. Like most mornings, surrounded by the fresh-enough air, I called home. Dad was his usual self. All to eager to walk me through his day. It was a routine now. He’d quickly recite the things he had for breakfast, was planning to have to lunch. It was too early to chalk out the plans for the dinner.

He’d then ask me about what I had for breakfast. I’d remind him that my day had just started. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I skipped the silly meal on most days. I’ll brush, pick up a coffee and a sandwich by the shop near the station, dad. I’d religiously lie to him everyday. Today was no different. The practiced lie was delivered effortlessly. Glad that I had my morning planned, my dad handed over the phone to my mom.

‘Do you remember…’ my mom went on to introduce something. Someone. Apparently, in one of my years, I had spent probably an hour with this relative of mine. My mom alleged that I had a super good time , playing silly games, with the uncle. ‘Don’t you remember?’, my mom paused to pick a response.

With enormous, vulgar amounts of shoulder shrugged indifference, I said I couldn’t quite place the fella. My response wasn’t new. The honesty wasn’t new. My mother’s acceptance of my obliviousness to the ties of the blood , wasn’t new either. ‘That’s ok’ she effortlessly dismissed my apathy. ‘He is no more’ she declared.

Something something about something something, she continued for a while. I had lost interest and attention. I continued to steer my eyes towards the ice. My mom had finally concluded saying that she’d be off to pass her condolences.

‘Cool’ I replied. I was a victim of a routine too. ‘Have fun mom. Have a safe ride to the place. Come back safe’ I said. If my mom was cool enough, she’d have hash tagged that conversation with FacePalm. My mom ain’t cool. She handed the phone back to my dad without a tinge of an after thought. That was that.

The call now over, I pondered over the ice. The silly icicle had managed to capture my imagination. I hit the hot shower wondering about a prince , who had a heart of ice. I mulled over a plot that would talk about the juxtaposition of the coldness of ice, the lack of warmth in his heart, the prince’s inability to emote and the irony that it was emotions that had driven the prince to adopt that cold heart. Warmth and sensitivity that led to apathy and indifference. The prince , in my mind, would be a victim of circumstances.

By the time I walked out towards the station, the burning desire to pen a tale of fiction had withered away. I was bored of the melodrama. I was bored of forced tragedies that build character. The fascination that I had about the ice, was not the same that I had about the fictional tale. Something had changed. There was a loss in that translation of the state of mind and the state of the tale that mind was cooking. There was something amiss. I couldn’t fathom what.

I let the thought soak in my mind and went about the usual ritual of commuting to work. A serial killer was terrorizing through the pages of the novel. A skilled, broken, detective was in hot pursuit. The game of cat and mouse kept me entertained. I let the other thought slip by.

Ice, Cold, in fact the winter, all of these are associated to emotional coldness and unforgiving apathy in our outlook. A heart of ice is a symbolic representation of amorality, or even a complete lack of empathy. It maybe true. I’m throwing a maybe, mostly because there are only a handful of examples around people with hearts of this kind of an ice.

There is another property to ice. Ice is rock solid. It chips, but doesn’t break easy. It’s a naturally occurring state that solidifies water and hence that curtailed flow. Now that is a state, most of us are accustomed to. Right through the flow of many emotions, we solidify and freeze. That curtails the way we react , or express a reaction to the flow of emotions. Ice, a heart of ice, is an emotional response to a nature of being overwhelmed by it. It becomes a defence mechanism to brace oneself for a future collision. Ice protects and the price we pay for it is through building dams and hampering the natural flow of states of the heart and the mind.

I couldn’t help but think about the kid that I was; where I’d vex my mom because I just wouldn’t cry when watching tragedies in movies. I couldn’t help but think about the person that I am now today. My heart broke and ached when I read the books that I read. Grief stricken, emotionally overwhelmed and I couldn’t bear the crushing force of a tragedy.

All that on one hand and I expressed no sympathies for the uncle who no longer walks our plane. A river, one side and an iceberg the other. I think we are like that. Tell you what, I’ll restructure that . I am like that. I either host a wild rapid, that I call my state of emotions, or I can be as cold as ice. People either exist to me or they simply don’t. There is no middle ground. Either I care, or I just don’t.

Somewhere along those lines of thought, I did think about the tale of a prince who had a heart of ice. Awaiting judgement, enduring prejudice and secretly holding on to the greatest story that will never be told.

Winter mornings!!!!!!!!!!!! So what stories are the seasons holding for you? What do you tag to each of the season?

Karthik

Book Review : Lord of the flies

Coverpage of the Lord of the Flies

Lord of the flies, William Golding

In many ways, the book Lord of the flies can be compared to a fantastic experiment to understand collective psychosis. Psychosis, according to wiki, is the fracture of the mind because of a disconnect from reality. Collective psychosis is a reflection of how a group of people , who are confined to a space, display a hive mentality. This hive mentality usually amplifies the common outlook. A society with enough good intentions will garner a collective good intent. A society that thrives on other motives will generally oscillate towards that. Hence the phrase, it’s only human.

The book starts with a bunch of kids finding themselves stranded in an island that is desolate. The first of the kid that is introduced to us is a chubby little one. He meets another kid, who has a fair hair and is fitter and handsome. The new kid introduces himself as Ralph. The chubby kid never gets the opportunity to speak of his real name. He goes on to narrate that , back home, the other kids used to taunt him by calling him Piggy. The nick name sticks. So in that island, there is Ralph and then there is Piggy.

The unlikely duo stumble upon a conch. Ralph blows and this attracts the attention of the other kids who are stranded. As the kids assemble, we get to realize the situation. Kids vary in their age. The littleuns are aged around six. The biguns are teens. The prominent biguns are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Roger , Sam and Eric. There probably are a few more but I didn’t make a note. Mostly because I found them to be a plot filler than anything else.

The littleuns, there is Percival, and there is this other little rug rat who has a purplish face.

Jack , is the leader of a choir and his mates and him are stranded on the island. Since Jack and his mates form the majority of the biguns, Jack does feel a little betrayed when he is not elected as the chief. Ralph is the appointed as the chief. And that’s mostly because Ralph had assembled the kids by blowing through the conch. The conch goes on to symbolise leadership for the rest of the book. Symbolism is a major theme in this book.

Zippa-do-dee, the kids manage to conclude and agree upon the plan that their apex priority is to get rescued. To be rescued, Ralph rationalises that they should be lighting up a fire that would generate smoke. This smoke is expected to be spotted by the ships. The biguns explore the island to confirm that it is an island indeed, and isolate the perfect vantage point to light up a fire.

Piggy’s spectacles is the only means of ignition. School grade science at play here.

Things start off good and then they stop staying good. Jack takes the role as a hunter and his group of cronies, and yes a word that I’ve not had the pleasure of using for a long time now, become the designated hunters. Jack starts off as a lame hunter. His first attempt at hunting a wild pig ends up as a failure. This becomes a significant failure in Jack’s life on the island. His ego hurt, hunting now and hunting successfully becomes a symbol to Jack to assert his credibility. Fine, I tried to sound politically correct. Jack’s manhood is now represented by his ability to hunt. Yup, that suits the tone , as written in the book.

In course of time, the kids entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the fire alive , goof up. The let the fire die. A ship passes by and panic ensues in Ralph’s mind. This creates a rift between Ralph and Jack. To Ralph, getting rescued is the most important thing. To Jack, it’s hunting.

The stark reality is that these are all a bunch of kids who are trying desperately hard to transform into responsible adults. They try and they collectively fail. The littleuns are too little to understand the circumstance. They continue to do the million mischievous and silly things that kids that age do. They miss their mothers and cry, they play in the sun and enjoy getting dirty. They lead a normal life of pointless distraction.

The biguns are caught between two worlds. They are kids and since they are also the elder ones, they pretend to be adults.

As the days go by, there is a talk of beasts that are there in the island. Fear grips the group. The littleuns are the first to be scared witless. Fear propagates through the group. Mass hysteria and paranoia kicks in. The group decides to never to speak about the beasts. The biguns do their part in trying to hunt down the beast and that doesn’t go anywhere.

Frustrations start to press down the kids and over disagreements, Jack decides to take his pack of hunters and leave the group. He creates his own tribe and in his tribe, kids paint themselves in red and white.

The rest of the book is about the beast that hunts in the island, and you’ve got to read to the book to know if the kids made it safe and sound.

This book is a master class on psychology.

Piggy, the fat kid , and yes I’ll call him that. It’s not because I’m insensitive or I feel the need to rubbish a kid on it’s physical appearance to feel a bit better about myself. Piggy, the fat kid, is the one who stumbles upon the conch. He is the thinker in the island. He has the necessary traits to be a leader. He is the lord of the fire, without his glasses there wouldn’t be a fire. Piggy never shines bright through the book. Something holds him back. He gets teased a lot and piggy’s outlook towards life is a line on throwing excuses. He hides his limitations behind excuses.

Ralph, the chief, is uncertain as hell but pretends to be a wise chief. He consults piggy but there is that confidence in him that makes him a leader. Ralph is a wonderful example of how one can rule the world by feeling wonderful and confident about oneself. It’s that self assurance that makes Ralph a natural leader

Jack, the hunter and a chief of his own tribe. Jack’s ability or inability to hunt manifests as his worth in the island. Whatever that Jack is battling inside his head, he translates that into the skill of hunting. There is so much violence in Jack. That coming out from a kid who sings in a choir!!!! interesting peek into the psyche of such a little boy. Jack expresses violence to compensate things that he lacks or things that he is denied of.

Ralph wants to remain civilized and English throughout the book. Jack descends into savagery. The conflict between culture and primal is evident in the tale. When there is no one to look at us, or to judge and supervise us, do we still remain decent and true to our masks? That is the question that the book poses. Different people are different when there are no eyes on them.

In the context of real life, it does explain the lack of civic sense in our offices and the same folks are at their ‘International Best’ when they are deputed. We are different people when people are around us. This book removes that supervision from the equation. It observes the people in it in that absence. Chaos flies spirited.

Lord of the flies is a wonderful book. I found it hard to read. There were numerous times when I lost track of what I was reading. I found it to be extremely descriptive. Every inch of the island is described. I had trouble sustaining focus. It’s still a wonderful book to read.

Karthik

Literature and project management

Lord of the flies versus Lord of the FILES.

One read of the book, ‘Lord of the flies’ later, it’s not too hard to compare the masterpiece of literature with the master class that is project management. I couldn’t help but spot similarities embedded across the two distinct plots. The book and , on most days, project management both deal with business and the people who constitute that business. To outline the common plot points, lets compare the book and the day to day project management lifecycle.

We’ll start with the book.

Kids stranded in an island. They think things through and then decide to start a fire that would generate smoke. The smoke would act as a beacon that would attract possible ships. Ship would then rescue the kids.

A simple enough plot. A simple enough storyline. For the purpose of comparison, we can structure the book into the different phases of project management.

1. Business case : The grandest if there was one. Get rescued from the Island.

2. Planning : The kids unanimously exhibit the desire to get rescued. They formulate a plan. Plan A , make fire , generate smoke so that ships can spot them. Spotting would lead to a rescue

3. Resourcing and budgeting : The kids then split themselves into teams. One group is in charge of collecting the wood required to make the fire. One group is in charge of hunting. One group is in charge of building shelters to keep the kids. There is no financial spend, but resources are abundant. The island is covered with trees, it has animals waiting to be hunted for game and food. It probably also has animals waiting to hunt the poor little kids. Sunset and the night poses a limitation on the productivity

4. Design : The kids then formalize the means to execute their plan. The point of the fire and the smoke is to attract the attention of ships passing by. By design, the strategic vantage point is the highest point in the island. This also poses a logistical problem. The kids cant camp high up in the hills. It also means that a team has to be deployed ‘Onsite’ to monitor and manage the fire. It’s initially assessed to be a critical 24/7 project.

5. Delivery : The responsibilities charted out, the kids are set aside to carry their chores.

6. Governance : The kids elect a chief. The chief conducts meetings to keep the order in the group.

So far, so good. The kids have a requirement. The kids have a plan. The kids know exactly what they need to make things happen. The kids start to act towards their goals. There is an elected leadership to provide the much needed direction towards the project. And like everything else, the plan goes to hell. Things go south. Cracks run deep and the goals remain elusive.

The problems are many in the context of the book. A, since the fire is maintained far away from habitation, the kids who are entrusted to the task of keeping the fire going, find themselves bored of the task. They start to slack. They distract themselves into other tasks and are more eager to hunt rather than babysit the fire. The job is a demanding one indeed. 24/7 job to ensure that the fire is fuelled properly and always kept alive. Another problem, there is only one way to light a fire in the island. That’s by using another kid’s spectacles as a lens to generate the flame. Should the fire die out, it cant be resurrected.

The segregation of the team also leads to people problems. The hunters are perceived to have a cool job. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a hunter. The other kids want to be hunters. The hunters themselves are novices and struggle to exhibit proper competency. But they try and get better. With the social status of the Hunters now elevated, this also results in dissatisfaction across other job profiles.

As a direct result, the blokes in charge of the fire ignore their task. A ship comes and goes and the kids remain stranded.

The chief, aka the lead, doesn’t take this lightly. With their survival on the line, the chief loses it and his feedback is blatant. Constructive feedback is a fantastic thing. Actual failure is a fantastic thing. Actual failure challenges the mind and inspires a crude , rough leadership. A lead is measured through how they react under adversity. The not so constructive feedback later, the kids are left with their egos bruised and extremely hurt. This breeds resentment. The foundation of a democratic leadership starts to crumble. Another kid eyes for the spot. Conspires and manages to attract a few supporters. The inevitable happens and the team of kids, now are separated. They are separated in ideology, they are separated in their goals. There is an unhealthy cut throat competition to survive.

The actual goal of getting rescued is diluted beyond recognition. Distraction takes precedence and there is no viable direction left in the kids. As chaos ensures, there is a systematic breakdown of process. Interestingly, a process is only as good as the people following it. If the folks find the process redundant or useless, the process loses its charm. Any and all effort invested into ratifying such a process , doesn’t really inspire compliance. The output of work narrates the state of things.

This book is not very different from the way projects get executed. We all start on an optimistic note. Unless we are driven , at all times, by the end result, chaos ensues. Without a steer, different directions are pursued and these might not always align towards the actual goal for which the project was created. The skills of the people, the availability of resources , the utilization of the resources and the skills of the people involved, the individual motivations that inspire people to deliver, challenges along the way, all of these are a part and parcel of the daily IT way of life.

Much like how the kids realized that keeping the fire all through the night would have been useless because the smoke wouldn’t be spotted at night. This resulted in their project moving away from a 24/7 engagement to just about 12/7. An earlier forethought would have minimised resentment from the fire team.

In retrospect, everything makes sense. We are able to spot where things could have been done better. In retrospect, the book is a fine example of individuals and their behaviours, the way that impacts the overall collective behaviour of the folks. The book also predicts the things that are inevitable. Motivations are usually short lived. One mustn’t expect a motivating factor to persist for as long as one lives. Logistically, that cant happen. We stay motivated when we see such factors. Then we ship into an autopilot mode. When we feed jaded, we find another driving force. When nothing works, we look for a change in scenery and the cycle kicks in again.

The hardest gear of a business is its people. Rest , are only a tried and tested thought process away. Literate and Project management indeed. Who’d have thought!

Karthik

A shoe that bites

Perspectives and perspectives.

It is fun to contemplate on life. That statement also warrants that through the course of a busy day, I still do efficiently manage to sneak a little time to let my wild mind loose. A mind that thinks is a mind that wanders is also the one that can head directions. I’m quite happy and excited to talk about my shoes today. To be fair, a tale about my shoes is not the most obtuse thing that I’ve ever managed to pen down.

Where do I start? How about at the beginning? Living in a house that doesn’t have a kitchen does have its advantages. No council tax what so ever! Done. That was the shortest list , if there ever was one. A house without a kitchen has a long list of disadvantages. Can’t cook. Can’t clean vessels. Can’t make coffee, actually can, just can’t clean the mug after each use. I stopped making coffee at home. I realized that I don’t cook and since I don’t cook at home, I don’t have to run errands in pursuit of keep the refrigerator filled. Since I don’t shop, I felt it was pointless to walk all the way to the closest ASDA ( a big store) to pick a pint of milk. And long story short, I managed to eat out last night with my friends.

Eating out is fun. Eating late is fun. It offsets the sage-like routine that I have charted for my life here. The day yesterday was a challenge. Breakfast skipped, a bowl of salad, which I tossed away half way through , for lunch; and that led to the eventual realization that I was way out of steam to have a meaningful workout at the gym. Since no gym, I had a bit of a time to kill and since I had nearly run the entire day on empty, I lobbied my friends to have dinner outside. Dinner outside always, and I mean always ensures a bucket load of laughs, a graceful helping of calories and usually means the state of late to bed.

The time I spend is predictable and fortunately I happen to be a bloke who enjoys predictability. There are certain things that I do where a routine does not bore me. Making music is one such activity. A good workout at the gym transpires to a fresher mind and a fresher body. Through the day’s hassles, a workout resets my mind. The hour of focus helps me unlock my mind to its possible potential. It is in this state of the mind where I’m the closest to my musical inspiration. Emotions translate to notes. Notes fuel back to the emotions. It’s those 45 minutes of sublime bliss where I lose myself in myself.

A night of laughs does not inspire that karmic bliss. And hence the problem statement. Ever heard the phrase, an idle mind is a devil’s circus. I overdose on that sentiment. A long night of thoughts keep me distanced from the comforts of a amnesiac sleep. There are those days when thoughts manifest through dreams. The fact that I remember such dreams is also a testament to the quality of the sleep. But not everything is grim. Since dreams are a manifestation of thought, it does offer me a pristine view of even the most muddiest , distracted , distorted version of a thought.

The next morning does start with the Sun and a beautiful puzzle, that is the dream, waiting to get analysed and dissected through more applied thought! I like such mornings.

A shoe that bites does play a tiny , insignificant role in all of this. Let me explain why I’m quite happy and excited to talk about the shoe that bites.

The cycle of thoughts, dreams, and even more thoughts are here to stay. There are days when I do take a stock of things that irk me, that worry me, that inspire me and those that have a capacity to destroy me. Some times, such days are abundant. These are the days that pose a threat and a challenge to the outlook that I’ve engineered towards life. The things outlined above are not unique to me. The way I cope up with such days, is also not unique. Yet there is a subtle difference , that I call as the over all general outlook towards life.

A lot of us coast through the million challenges of life. We play our life despite the stacked odds. Some exhibit a profound pessimism that gets expressed as the way they view life. Some bank on an unshakeable faith that one day things are meant to get better. How we view ourselves, the world around us, has a direct bearing on how we see the challenges of our lives and how we deal with them.

Shoes.

I wear a pair of shoes and the left shoe bites. It is a near constant annoyance. Some days I manage to tolerate it. Some days, I promise myself to change them immediately. Almost every day, there is a sense of rejuvenated happiness each time I take the damn shoe off.

And yup. That’s why I’m excited to talk about that shoe. The day coming to a near close, an hour of commute later, I’d be home. I’d be free to cast the demon shoe off. I’d be liberated from the nagging pain. I’ll be free again to pursue that saint-like , disciplined, well almost disciplined, conformance to a routine to commute, sweat and that leap into the magic of sounds notes and emotions.

The short of it, happiness is only a shoe away.

So why am I happy about it? What brings excitement to the table? Why would anyone bother holding on to a pair of shoes that bite?

Through the day, I could have focused on thinking about the million things that inspire a frown on my face. I could have written about the million things that break my spirit. Somehow, I found it interesting to talk about the one thing that guarantees me happiness. I’m excited to talk about that distillation that helps me remove the noise of daily existence and that which brings me closer to smiles. That is something worth being excited about. I don’t think I’ll ever find happiness, if I refuse to acknowledge the things that make me feel happy. That’s worth being excited about.

Of all the wisdom of the world, all the literature on the adventures in pursuit of happiness. Some times, all it takes is the pointless insight of knowing which shoe to remove.

Karthik