A shoulder to go

I’ve never had trouble lending a shoulder to lean on. Offering a shoulder for folks to lean on is both a gesture and an emotion. It transcends the boundaries of age and gender. I’ve had friends across the spectrum rely on my shoulder , lean away in a comfort and loiter away in a maze of crisscrossing thoughts. Some times, being a good listener is all about keeping your shoulders open and mouth shut.

The comfort, as I’d call it, also was a service offered to the general public that was either in transit or on a routine commute. Yes. I’ve had strangers doze away in happy oblivion. I never did have the heart to discriminate and rudely awaken people. I let the heads be in their resting position and carry on with my book or music.

The thing about different days is that I usually can’t predict about the people who’d turn up and turn on their snooze button. I had the most awesome girl in the world who found her cozy comfort in my shoulder. Left shoulder to be exact. I’d place her at about less than a year of mileage in life. The morning train, as crowded as ever, she sat obediently for a while watching the strange giants around her. Her boredom inspired her to brave new conversations. A few stops later, the little lady got chatty. A world of her own, a language of her own. Rest of the world would find warm smiles , thanks to her presence.

As the train progressed on its predestined path, fatigue crept up on the little girl. She started to doze away into her slumber land. I’d sneak a glance from time to time and return my eyes to the book that I had in hand. A little person who had just started life , on my left. A book about a bunch of 70 year olds on the spectral end of life, in front of me. It wasn’t hard to ditch a concentrated focus on reading about life fading away into retired obscurity. With the little one now asleep, with the drama from moments ago vanished, I had no choice but to pay more attention to the book.

I felt a tender tug on my arm. The little one had lost balance and had found cushioned comfort in my arm. Her mother , in her pursuit of maintaining public decency and decorum, repositioned the kid a few times. Repetition ushered monotony. Thankfully, the mother gave up and let the kid be. I hadn’t even considered thinking about protesting for my personal space. It was a victory of convenience.

The thing about babies is that there are only two easy ways around them. One, either you make one or Two, you take one. I’ve not aligned myself to either of those opportunities. That said, I’ve not been a stranger to thoughts on having one. I still remember the pointless conversations that I’ve had in the past about them kids. Conversations destined to fade away in time and fade slower in thought. As chance would have it, I bumped into a wonderful kid the other day, when I was in Chennai. This kid was not any cuter than any other kid I’ve come across. This kid was not as familiar as other kids have been. Yet we shared a very small connection. We both knew it’s mom. If life hadn’t taken the course it had, there was a definite chance that that kid wouldn’t have been a stranger to me. Could have been mine.

It’s funny how life introduces moments. They pop in at a time least expected, they leave us impacted in ways unimaginable. When the events conspired, it left me with very few thoughts. A sign that I wasn’t the same bloke from the past. A sign that I had travelled a few miles from where I had once started.

It’s nice to know that an open shoulder goes a long way. Unperturbed by the comforts of once being shackled by chains of choice. Unperturbed by the uncertainties of chance. It felt nice to know that a shoulder left open ushers limitless possibilities that the future lines up. A shoulder to go on is a commitment to stay away from inertia. It is a reflection of an open mind, it’s a reflection of a willingness to give oneself a fair shot at life. Despite the challenges, right through the curve balls. It’s nice to know that I don’t know who the next stranger is who might make a dazed effort of borrowing a strangers shoulder. It’s a fantastic , insignificant, inconsequential subplot of the tale called life.

A smile and a toast to the many journeys in life.

Karthik

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Coz everybody knows!

A week in the new land and I’m already a creature of habit. The virtue of sharing a living room inspired the gentleman in me. I make it a point to wake up around five-ish in the morning. I brave the cold with my trusty beaten up cardigan. A phone in hand, cool winds that play seek and freeze, it’s a beautiful feeling to listen to the voice of my parents that way.

While Chennai is warm and cozy and London is at its unforgiving best, I do like the peace and quiet of the morning. There is nothing like disrupting peace , early during the day. Back to being a creature of habit, I am a kat of music. I like the empty spaces and silences of my life filled with the sound of music. This morning, I reached out to a personal favourite of mine. It’s from the repertoire of the movie The Justice League. In my pompous , arrogant, condescending and mighty judgemental view, the first 5 minutes of the movie is a masterpiece. Things spiral down from there.

Elevating the master class that is the first five minutes of the movie is a wonderful song called ‘Everybody Knows’. Very similar to my writing and the music that I make, this song oozes with emotions. This particular song is a testament to optimism. This comes at a time when the hope (personified by the, *Spoiler alert and in case you haven’t watched it yet, I don’t see why you might want to give it a shot now, death of Superman. Another spoiler on that note, he comes back alive!!!!!!! Bet you didn’t see that coming!) dies.

The voice of Sigrid is at its melancholic best. I fell in love with the voice the moment I heard it. That love has no means of faltering. It’s here to stay.

The lines of the song got me thinking.

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.

Everybody knows that the war is over

and everybody knows that the good guys lost.

Everybody knows that the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor and the rich get rich.

That’s how it goes and Everybody knows”

While the song and it’s context are tremendously appealing, I couldn’t help but wonder about the simpler subtleties of life. The minute we are born, we are against the clock. The timer ticks and with every tick, we are a moment closer to death and simultaneous a moment away from life. All of us will eventually fail. All of us fail a lot of times along the way. Some fail and stay a failure. Some fail, fight , fight back and are victorious and go on to fail another day. When nothing else fails, they just die one day.

Some find luck and are happy and others are lucky if they find luck. The point is, Everybody knows 🙂

Life seldom is picture perfect. I wont take the liberty of speaking for others. My life ain’t picture perfect. It aint a fairy tale. It aint the tale that brings warmth to the heart and inspires courage and wisdom when others get to hear it. But that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be any of that. I have my wins. I have my loses and I tread upon life hoping to make that miracle win each day. There are days when I fall flat and there are days when I sing my song of victory. It doesn’t matter what everybody knows. I know and I can make my peace with that.

The above passage is not my birth right. It’s not an exclusive story of my life. We share that tale. We share many similar and dissimilar fates. We are not alone in our misery and we aint ever going to be alone in our moment of triumph. With gazillion people walking the mortal earth, nothing that we do, ensure, survive, succumb to, rejoice or mourn is a 100% exclusively unique deal. While the factors change, while the contributors change, the sentiment itself is shared.

Everybody knows that. We have trouble believing in that. The irony screams at the top of its lungs everyday. Was it the Gita where the good lord said it? ‘Humans are the only ones where the dead of the future mourn the dead of the present. I don’t advocate a stone cold stoic disconnected way of life. At the same time, I don’t advocate that we are here, surrounded by eternal misery.

If you have your bed cover wrapped around your face, all you might get to see is the darkness that surrounds you. Lift the blanket and let yourself view a wider world. Coz, that’s how it goes and darling , everybody knows 🙂

The best the world can do is either Jeer you or Cheer you. The world is a huge spectator and it spectates. It usually is up to you to put on the greatest show that you are capable of putting and nothing else has to matter.

Karthik

It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way 😉

Karthik

Book review : The high mountains of Portugal

The High mountains of Portugal, Yann Martel.

Straight off the bat, this is a weird book. This is a tale of three different blokes across three different periods of time. The year is 1904 and the story starts with Tomas. Tomas is a different person. He walks backwards, always. Tomas has a bone to pick with god, whom he blames for the death of his wife and child. Infuriated with God’s grand scheme of everything, Tomas decides that walking backwards is the ultimate insult to god. And so, as an act of unrivalled rebellion, Tomas continues to walk backwards. He is quite efficient in gathering the attention and curiosities of the town.

Tomas finds comforts in the diary of Father Ulisses. Father Ulisses had been very vocal about the salves during his time in the 1600’s. Tomas finds himself in the same state of mind as Father Ulisses. Both had abandoned their faith, both were in conflict with the hierarchy of man. Both had rejected god because of god’s indifference to events occurring across the world. Both reject god because in their mind, god had rejected them. Ulisses apparently had created an artefact that would challenge the status of god in this world. Tomas embarks upon a quest to find that artefact. Tomas would never rest till he impeaches god from the pedestal.

Tomas reasons out that the artefact would be in one of the churches in the high mountains of Portugal. He begins his adventure on a brand new contraption that is believed to change all of humanity. An Automobile. Does Tomas find the artefact? Does Tomas exact his revenge against the mighty G?

And the in 1938, a Pathologist Eusebio is burning the midnight candle on the new year’s eve. He has a couple of cadavers to work through. He is interrupted by his angelic wife, Maria. Maria drags a present for her darling husband. She also lets him on a theory that she has been deeply contemplating. She questions the nature of god and reasons that most of God’s tales are through fables. She reasons that it is the nature of god’s existence through fables, is what that makes him endure and survive through ever changing contexts of the world. She also goes ahead and compares the works of Agatha Christie to that of the Bible. Her reasoning is flawless and does leave Eusebio wondering about the nature of god. Maria leaves and Eusebio is left missing his wife.

The good doctor is disturbed again by a woman. Maria, not his wife, but another woman. She says that she’s from the high mountains of Portugal. She walks in with a very weird request. She had dragged the body of her recently departed husband and expresses desire for Eusebio to conduct a full autopsy. Esuebio declines the request at first but eventually relents.

What killed Maria’s husband? Will Eusebio ever manage to balance work and life and return back to a happy life with his Maria?

And finally in 1981, Peter is a Senator in Canada. After the death of his wife, Clara, Peter is jaded with life. He happens to bump into the cage of a chimpanzee, Odo, and for whatever reason, he decides to buy the chimp and move out of Canada and live in the high mountains of Portugal. Peter’s ancestors had once lived there. With nothing more to look forward to, Peter decides to take Odo and live in Portugal. It’s a brand new start for both Peter and Odo. The two learn to exist and eventually live in each other’s presence. Peter doesn’t speak Portuguese fluently and neither does Odo! They manage to establish themselves into the lives of their new neighbours in the high mountains.

Peter is fascinated by Odo. He starts fearing the animal at first and slowly he moves away from fear. He feels alive in the presence of the chimp. Peter also starts to question the nature of Odo. Odo is extremely friendly and at the same time he is capable of causing bodily harm. Odo is usually pleasant and loveable but he also has his moments of rage and unpredictability. Peter tries to understand Odo and the two start to adjust their way of life to living in the high mountains of Portugal.

Will Peter figure out the evil that Odo is? Will Odo ever pose a threat to Peter? Will the villagers coexist peacefully with Peter and Odo? Will Peter ever want to go back to his life as a Senator in Canada?

The book’s central theme can be described in just a word. it’s a Search. God is plastered all over the book. Tomas and Peter, reach out to God in their time of need. The two deal with grief in their own separate ways. I’ll skip the good doctor because there is a nifty little twist to his tale.

This book is overambitious and is neither intelligent nor profoundly deep as it wants to be. The book does have a great potential in talking about our individual relationship with God. We are angry with god when we don’t get what we want. We make our peace with god when we decide to reclaim our life. And then there is hope. We live on hope and that hope defines our relationship with god. In fact, the three characters are wonderfully placed to have their distinct relationship with the almighty. Tomas represents anger, Peter represents acceptance ,The good doctor represents what it means to stay a human.

This is most definitely not the kind of book that one would absolutely feel compelled to read. It’s a kind of book that you buy because it was sold at a 70% discount. I got this as a gift. I enjoyed the book in parts.

Karthik

[Book review]: kafka on the shore

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive” – Kafka on the shore

Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami.

Ever felt incomplete? Ever felt a void in you, the kind of emptiness that consumes you and renders you helpless and alienated from all the smiles and happiness of the world that surrounds you? Kafka on the shore is a testament to life that is defined by the sense of incompleteness experienced by the characters. This is a wonderfully layered book that makes you wonder what it means to feel complete again. We are born complete and along the way, fragments of our inner self disintegrates and remains forever lost on us. Some succumb to that void. Some accept it and carry on , lifeless without colours. Some acknowledge that emptiness and find a way to plug that deficit.

Kafka on the shore is a story of incomplete people. The characters find themselves in pursuit of find that which completes them. The book introduces us to Kafka Tamura, Mr Nakata and Ms Saeki. Now that I’m penning my thoughts about the book, I do find it a strange coincidence that each of the central character called out , also is very closely associated to a secondary character. Ms Sakura, for Kafka. Mr Hoshino for Nakata and Mr Oshima for Saeki. I’m not sure if the secondary characters are the perfect counterbalance to their corresponding primary, and that being said, I’ll rake my brains to see if there is a novel hidden between the lines.

All the characters are incomplete. Kafka has no memory of his mother or his sister. His mum had separated from his father when he was very young. Kafka has a faded memory of a moment they spent in a beach. That’s the extent of his recollection of either his mum or his sister. He estranges himself from his father and decides to run away from his house on his fifteenth birthday. Kafka is burdened by a curse. Kafka feels incomplete because he has no one.

Nakata is a very strange bloke. He has an ability to talk to cats and yet neither can read nor write. Nakata was a very bright kid until an accident rendered him dumb. He views himself as a guy with the intelligence of a door mat. He feels incomplete without his intelligence.

Saeki was , at some point, one of the brightest starlet that the region had ever seen. Her music inspired thousands. She eventually throws it all away and leads a life as a recluse. Saeki’s loss of her love renders her incomplete. Nothing ever matters to her anymore. Fame doesn’t interest her and in fact , there is nothing left in life that she looks forward to.

The worlds of the characters start to converge. Nakata is on a mission to find a missing cat. His quest leads him to murder. Kafka spaces out from time to time without a single recollection of where he was or what he did. One evening, he finds himself soaked in blood and he begins to suspect that he might have murdered someone. Saeki’s waiting to die.

Will Nakata ever find his smarts again? Will Kafka ever meet his mother? Will Saeki move on with her life? The rest of the story is about the journey of the characters in trying to plug that void in their lives.

The book leaves us with a lot of questions. The void in people is beautifully called out. It would be a grave oversight if we were to assume that Nakata’s lack of intelligence is what the makes him feel incomplete. It’s not the intelligence that matters. It’s how the lack of it makes him feel that conveys a story. Nakata’s esteem , his view of himself is something to ponder about.

It’s the same with Kafka and Saeki. It’s not the state of not having anyone to love or losing someone that was deeply loved that ushers the void in these two. it’s leading a life with that void is what that renders them incomplete. Kafka sees his loss as his inability to be loved. Saeki sees her loss as the end of the line. She exists and ceases to live.

The book is an emotional roller coaster. Nakata is incapable of loving or being loved. He is numb to it. Saeki’s loss of her love keeps her robbed of love for all eternity. She’s unable to replenish that love back into her life. Kafka’s longing for his mother , alienates him from everybody else. He tries to see his mother and sister in everybody that he meets. It’s not the person’s loss that affects Kafka. It’s what Kafka is missing in himself that drives him to be what he is.

The book is big on the nature of a soul. The incomplete soul and how it affects people. Each soul is unique in the way it feels incomplete. The book plays out the fantastic irony of haves and have nots. The have nots, feel devastated by what they don’t have. The haves, who have what others are looking for, don’t give a hoot about what they have. Aint that the story of the world.

The book also speaks about the transcendence. Souls exist beyond the realm of linear time. They blend and morph seamlessly. The multiple lives converge and separate based on moments. This book represents loss and the endeavour of the human spirit to recover it and complete itself. Happiness is irrelevant.

Give it a shot. Choose to be amazed and left dazed by the wizardry of Murakami.

Karthik

Digital singularity and the way of a cyber punk reality

I don’t think we ought to worry about a future where Digital singularity is a reality. There is no point to mull about it. That’s because it’s already here.

Singularity, the term has many definitions as it sits smug among many contexts. The crux of any Singularity is the convergence point of a collective conscious. Many , grouped and represented as one.

Lets take a look at how we’ve managed that singularity in the past. I always go back to the dude with a funny moustache. To my mind, he represented a point in time when there was a singularity. Anti Semitism, racial purity, a 1000 years of reich, they weren’t necessarily the unanimous individual voice. It was a single collective voice. The voice of the individuals were either silenced or oppressed. Murmurs were present in discrete pockets. The dude with the funny moustache had managed Singularity. For a while, it existed.

Lets rewind back to the usual modern times. Xenophobia is a collective singularity. It also does not represent individual voices. It is an accepted collective voice. The way social media reacts to many triggers also represents those many moments of digital singularity.

We aren’t talking about bits and pieces of such a singular existence. We are talking about full blown societies where natural scientific evolution would have taken us to adopt a collective conscious. We are getting there with each day passing. The trouble with such a collective conscious is that it does not take into account the individual voice. The greater good is a sentiment that directly conflicts with the most basic human need. That need to be unique. We , currently, feel offended to be tagged as average and normal. We are ok with it , as long as no body points out that mediocre existence. We are ok with ignorance.

I do think that, strike that, I do believe that we would eventually adopt a collective conscious for our society. We’d have gone through the usual iteration of corruption, oppression and politics and opt that technology ,which is both transparent and focused on delivering social good, as the right alternative. The biggest challenge that such a singularity would face would be along the lines of harmonizing multiple voices and opinion.

The simpler view of that conundrum is that in today’s world, we are not free enough to do good. There are many vested interests that deter us from doing good. Poverty and hunger. If the world wanted to eradicate them both, it could have. It exists because hunger and poverty serves vested interest. The essential conflict of interest has always shaped up the political picture of the world.

The deal with a digital collective conscious is that it would easily expose the conflict of interest. The interest would stick out like a sore thumb, the collective hive would eliminate it and plan ahead by bull dozing through it. That’s the bright happy picture.

As long as we identify ourselves as humans, we embrace disruption. The human desires of acceptance, acknowledgement, recognition, these are meaningless without an Identity. Ego, it’s not a bad word. Ego sketches an identity for us. We embrace it. Through it, we announce ourselves to the world. Resentment arises when we eliminate the need for that identity. That identity is the line that separates the men and the women from herds of sheep.

We are witnessing an interesting age of compliance. Take a good look at the usual activity. We do what others are doing. We play the same games, we forward the same posts, we voice out for the same causes, we click, like, share alike. We , as a species, are the closest to compliance. We live to standards without recognizing that we are aligning ourselves to established templates. Take a good look at your instagram photos. Same filters. Different places and yet everything looks similar to everything else.

And so, this wonderful Friday, I do sit amused at the compliance conundrum. We are a conflicted kind. We crave to be unique and do whatever it takes to fit in. Singularity is here. It’s where we all would eventually end up being a part of. It’s a scary cyber punk future and I’ve already started crying Wolf.

Karthik

A little faith

‘And you, whats up with you? You look like shit. Feels like a truck ran over you!!’

That, to me, is a compliment of the best kind. It affirms my faith. There are masks that we wear and there are days when the face reflects the storm that’s raged within the mind. I do look like shit. It affirms my mind. It’s definitely the kind of a deal that says that there are days when words are best that will ever be. It is a reminder that words mean.

And so just like that, I found myself in the usual crowd of the train. The more I think about the morning, the more I feel amused at the irony that faith has guided me to. There was a point in time where I believed. There was a time when I didn’t anymore. And then there was a time when I choose where I got to invest my faith into. Life finds many ways to remind me that the choice wasn’t a bad one.

Words got me here. Words got me to this calm forest of faith. I jumped in clueless. I jumped clueless to conclusions. I then stopped jumping, I was still clueless. Today, I’m comfortably clueless. I’ve moved away from facts and evidences that once inspired my thirst for curiosity. I choose to experience these days. Experience without bias. Experience without exerting an effort to understand the far corners of the whys and whats to the plot. It is quite something to just experience and refrain from the desire to understand the bigger picture. It’s quite a challenge to curb that innate curiosity to judge real from delusion. For what it’s worth, I do like to believe that experience comes first and understanding of it might come someday.

The simplest example is that of coincidences. I see far too many coincidences to a lot of things. I’m surrounded by coincidences. It does place me in a tricky spot. Am I seeing what I want to see? Am I seeing something that’s not real, but does sound surreal and good? Am I seeing a lie that I’ve subconsciously made a reality of sorts? The exhaustion from wanting a proof does act as a naughty accomplice. I don’t want a validity and is that because I believe or is it because I don’t want to lose a faith? I could argue both ways.

The fact is, irrespective of the side that I choose to pick, I still end up witnessing coincidences unfold before my eyes. I couldn’t brush them away.

This morning, off the blue, I decided to shut my eyes a bit and reach out to the infinity above and the vastness below. Like a spoilt brat, I reached out to the universe and the earth. I bridged myself firm between the two extremes. The drill was usual. I grounded myself to the earth. I asked for a favour from the universe to share a bit of light. I deliberated the energies trapped within me to run down through my body, reach to the depths of the earth and neutralise themselves.

This was different from the ones I’ve tried before. I wasn’t seated in the comforts of a room. I didn’t have a music to keep me company. I was in a loaded train. I was standing and conscious of the stations passing by. I had heard a station’s name call out. I knew I had time.

And so one by one, chakra by chakra, I deliberated that transfer of energy. Despite the rushed endeavour, the experience felt similar. I had managed to jump right into the phase where I didn’t have to spell out the sentences and words in my mind. They naturally truncated themselves. There only and intent of a thought. Intent manifested.

I disconnected my chord with the earth and looked above for a light of protection. Ask and it shall be given. I asked and it was graciously granted.

Faith is a tricky and slippery business. I don’t know what worked today. Did I convince myself of a lie? I did feel fresher and rejuvenated. I could feel the strength booming back into my body.

Did the exercise really work? Did my mind trick the body and prove the mind over matter theory?

It could be anything. When you go searching for a proof, you shall find one. When you experience and don’t bother about the logistics of what, why , how and when, nothing really matters. The biggest proponent of faith is when you don’t get what you pray for. It tests you. It makes you question your faith. It doesn’t really mean much to harbour a faith when every prayer goes answered. That faith defines you as a person when you hold on to it at a time when nothing goes in your favour. I’d like to believe so.

And so the coincidences keep me assured that I have my faith in the right spot. If that aint true, I’m at least blissfully foolish.

One day

‘As a child’ I started and paused for a second to see if she was paying proper attention. She was. Instinctively I smiled at her attention. I’ve always been a charismatic speaker. I’ve always been arrogant too. The lines had blurred a long while ago. I existed believing in the nonexistence of such a line.

This wasn’t a bad place to be in. The last few years of relentless pursuit of cases, the taste of victory, the parties and after parties, the ever growing stash of money in the bank, It definitely wasn’t a bad place to be in. On any other day, I’d have argued that this resort was the , or was to be treated as the eventual fruit of my labour. It hadn’t been an easy road. I had left behind many people and principles. I had grown accustomed to a solitary life. I grew into a life without strings attached. None of that mattered to me before. I don’t think it matters much now.

It hadn’t been an easy life though. I’ve always toiled hard. First, it was that struggle for being popular and noticed. I had neither at my disposal. Then it was the struggle to compete and get noted. There was a price to pay. I had exiled myself from the world in pursuit of that glory. Once I graduated, I didn’t have the need to turn back and take a stock of all my sacrifices. Only losers have the time to sit back and reflect on all the things they’ve lost. I wasn’t a loser. Not in my book. I was a winner. I went for the things I wanted. I fought for the things I wanted. I didn’t care about the moralities of the things that I wanted. If I wanted something, wrong was a word that ceased to exist. Everything was fair game. In fact, everything was a game to me. I kept winning and that’s all that mattered.

When I was a kid, I had many great many promises. All of those promises started with the words, ‘One day’. ‘One day, I’d be rich that people would flog around me’. ‘One day, I’d be successful that the world would stay envious of me’. ‘One day, I’d be too busy having fun that I wouldn’t notice that people who went missing from my life’. ‘One day I would jump of a plane and float free in the sky’.

My promises were both innocent and tainted. I promised myself a better life. I promised myself tangible treats for all the sacrifices that I had once made. I didn’t have the time to pursue the silly promises though. There was one case after another, one alleged perpetrator after another whom I had to protect in a court of law. I walked in with the guilty and usually walked out with the innocent. That’s my life. Ever heard of the phrase ‘ Swimming with the sharks’. I am a ruthless shark myself.

‘As a child, I had made many promises darling. Most of them started with the words, One Day’ I continued. She shook her head in disbelief.

I had taken my first proper , sober vacation in years. It gave me a lot of time to think. All the memories of my world gravitated back to one person. I was sitting by the beach, soaking the warm rays of the sun. I typed away a lot of lines at first. I read them once. Dissatisfied with them all, I deleted a lot of lines and gave it another iteration of a review. The lines still felt wrong. I deleted a few more. Eventually I settled down with the ones that I was happy with.

‘It’s been a while. Hope this is still your mail id. It’d be nice to hear from you’. I pulled the email address from the contacts list. It was a name that I hadn’t reached out to in decades. I had nothing to lose. This was beyond the point of pride.

I waited a week for a reply. None came. I shrugged my shoulders and flung the phone across the bed. The vacation had come to a close. I had bags to pack. I left another email. This time , I had left my mobile number. I prayed a bit , remembered god for a bit and then hit the send button. Prayers, God and my recipient, none of them answered.

Over the last few weeks, I did have a lot of time on my hands. I hadn’t taken a case. Money wasn’t a problem. I needed the time out. A few more mails sent and no responses received. I had shared the non consequential bits and bob of my life. About work, about the thrills of winning a case, about the raging parties , about how I had turned out to be a maverick. Email by email, I had opened up myself to a mailbox that didn’t reply. In course of the mails, I had learnt a few things about myself too. I had turned hollow inside. I now wasn’t even a shade of my former self. I had swapped excess in lieu for a wholesome life that had been constantly denied. I had rejected the world with the same passion that the world had used to reject me. I had gotten even with the world. Getting even and living in peace weren’t the same things.

I then opted to stop the emails. The saga had run for a month. I started to feel foolish about the exercise. I reverted to my current self. I had nothing to lose and it did help to nurture the ‘hell don’t care’ attitude. The attitude had served me well for so long.

‘So’, she asked. ‘What does that have to do with anything. We’ve talked about this before. I think you are being a stubborn child now. You are doing this because you are afraid. You are running away from life, just like you’ve run away from everything that had mattered before. This is serious.’

She did have a point. She would have made sense to me if I was the kind of a person who had the right kind of smarts to listen to people and learn from them. I wasn’t that. I had made my choice. There wasn’t much that would sway me away from my choice. I can be very dense when I’m that way. Occupational hazard, I’d tell her that. Today, the charm wouldn’t work on her. She wasn’t there to sit transfixed by my charm. She was there because she meant business.

‘I don’t care. I don’t want to care. Can you stop bothering me please?’ and finally the holy grails of emails had arrived. I read through the lines and smirked arrogantly. Of course that wasn’t the intended meaning. There was anger. Yes. There was so much hate. Yes. There was also a mobile number , right under the body of the mail. I read between the lines.

‘The thing is, I’ve lived an entire life waiting for that one day.’ I said. ‘I have a choice now. Right here, Right now. I can either sit here and make another promise that starts with One day, or I can just call tomorrow as that fateful One day and start living things up. I pick the latter. I think tomorrow is a wonderful start’. I concluded and started outside the window. The skies , dark as ever, felt inviting.

‘This is insane’ she replied. ‘I wonder what the hell made you decide such a thing’

It wasn’t a hard choice to make. Of course I didn’t feel like telling her about it. I had reached out to the mobile number. Since my number wasn’t published, my call was picked and answered. Answered it was. It drove her completely nuts. Disbelief took over her. Then came anger. Then came wrath. Then came her slew of abuses. Ten years of resentment and contempt , articulated using the flimsiest of abuses. She had vented out the block of boulder that had been buried in her heart. I listened to it patiently.

‘SAY SOMETHING’ she finally screamed. It wasn’t bad. The call wasn’t cut off. I smiled and thanked my stars for that emotionally super charged welcome.

‘I’m dying Sonia. Could be a year. Could be less. cold be more. But there is no escaping it. I can either stay here in the rehab centre while they try to prolong my life, or I can spend a bit of my time seeing you, spending a few moments and making a few memories before I conk. So the choice is yours. You are the only world outside these walls that matter to me. Either you agree to meet me, or You don’t hear from me after this’

Life wasn’t how I planned it to be. Of course, Sonia couldn’t care less if I lived or died. She refused to meet. I didn’t feel like sitting in a room and spend the time waiting for my death. I made a nice little list of the things that I wanted to do, people with whom I wanted to make a few amends. If I were to die, I’d die on my own terms.

I guess I’m arrogant that way. Or brave. I don’t know. That line had been blurred a long while ago.

‘I want to die on my own terms Doctor‘ I told her and hugged her.

‘Fine. It’s your life after all’ she said and stormed off the room. I looked at my packed bags and the empty room. It felt weird. It felt both right and wrong. I felt the pangs of anxiety grip me. In a nutshell, I finally felt alive.

#Fiction

Karthik

Book review : The marble collector

“Hurtful things are roots,they spread ,branch out, creep under the surface touching other parts of the lives of those they hurt. It’s never one mistake, it’s never one moment, it becomes a series of moments, each moment growing roots and spurting in different directions”

Coverpage of The marble collector

The marble collector, Cecelia Ahern.

There was something about the book that made me pick it. I was oblivious to Cecelia when I picked a copy. Something appealed to my sensibilities and on an impulse, I had clicked it for a speedy delivery. It turned out to be a happy turn of events.

The marble collector is a warm tale of life, love, secrets, resentment and ties that bind a family together. The story starts with a little kid, Fergus, who gets punished at school. He spends a significant portion of the day , locked away in a dark room, under solitary confinement. The darkest of rooms does hold the warmest of light in Fergus’ life. His lifetime passion for marbles starts there.

Decades later, we are introduced to Sabrina Boggs. She leads a stagnated life. A job as a lifeguard in a country club for old people, a marriage in trouble, kids playing on her nerves, all of that renders her bored with her life. She survived her parents’ divorce when she was fifteen. Her dad is now under a special care. Doctors do recommend that stress had caused him to have a stroke and the stroke leaves him with an amnesia. Her dad doesn’t remember a lot. He gets a clean slate, fresh start to life. On days her mom visits the dad, they do enjoy their company. Irony. The couple had separated as they couldn’t tolerate each other any more and now with memories erased, they were finding a companionship that had always evaded them.

One morning, a mystery box arrives at Sabrina’s doorsteps. It has boxes and boxes of marbles in them. It has a note, written by her dad, that serves as an inventory of all the marbles collected. Some are precious, some are cheap, but all of them hold a mystery to Sabrina. Neither she nor her mom knew that their dad , Fergus , collected marbles. Two of the most expensive marbles listed in the inventory are found to be missing. Sabrina tries to find them.

As the road takes Sabrina closer to the missing marbles, they also take her closer to a side of her dad that she never did know. She learns that her dad was passionate about marbles. She learns that her dad had lived two distinct lives. As she inches closer to finding out the missing marbles, she also realizes that she has been missing out on quite a lot of her dad’s other life. Far away from a serious, workaholic man , his other life had been quite on the wild-enough side.

Rest of the tale is how the two worlds reconcile. Does her father regain his memories? Does the man who’d lost his marbles, finally find them? The book is a warm tale of a daughter who is on a quest to find out about her father.

The characters are plenty in the book. There is Fergus, his mom, dad and brothers. There is Fergus’ divorced wife. He still calls her his wife even though she now has been married to someone else. There is Sabrina, caught right in the middle of what she doesn’t know about her dad and what the rest of the world isn’t tell her about him.

The story outlines the price that one pays in order to keep secrets. Why did Fergus keep his passion for marbles a secret? Of course, it is rather silly for a grown man to play around with marbles. Was that silliness , or rather, was keeping that silliness a secret worth the price that he had paid in life? The book is a testament to simple honesty to life. The book talks about how hearts want to be honest. The book talks about how people don’t always readily award honesty. It’s one thing to want honesty but it’s a whole new challenge to hear it out.

The book’s themes centre around choices. It articulates on how a life branches out each time we make choices that keep us from staying true to our character. It is human to want to fit in. It is human to present our finest, best version of ourselves to the people that we want to impress. It is human to lie. An acceptance based on a foundation of lies, context determines if its worth the toll it takes to sustain that. The book captures that fracture. The irony is melancholic at best. We give our best, beyond what that is us, and in the end the relationship crumbles because we couldn’t just give ourselves for what we were.

The other arching theme is around the nature of relationships. Sabrina has a marriage that is under stress. Fergus’ ended up in a divorce. There are aspects that connect the causality of the state of their respective relationships. Honesty , I’d like to believe, is a by-product in a relationship. Contrary to popular sentiment that honesty is the holy grail of relationships, the book made me wonder about the lack of honesty. Why do the characters choose to hold secrets? Why aren’t the characters free to open up? In a relationship, it takes two to tango. Honesty often flows when the two vested people are receptive to each other. There are barriers that keep us away from honesty. Fear aces that list. Fear of losing the person. It’s in that pursuit of holding on to the people we end up doing a whole lot of things that destroy the said relationship.

The other big theme in the book is that of Association. I loved this to bits. Like it or hate it, we do tend to associate things to people. Marbles are a symbol throughout the book. They mean something else to Fergus, they mean something different to Sabrina. We are attached to things and that’s because we are attached to the people in our world. Things hold no meaning by themselves. This association gets delicately conveyed throughout the book. Fantastic job there.

The book did leave me with a thought that honesty in a relationship is probably not an entitlement. It’s earned by both. If honesty is reciprocated with punishing judgement, it is human to avoid confrontation. It’s easier to lie. The simplicity of the choices the characters make, their justified reasons, their individual pursuit of redemption, the consequences on people, I enjoyed every inch of this tale.

I’d definitely recommend the book. A simple story did leave me with lasting thoughts about the many marbles that I’ve lost.

Karthik

Book Review : The first fifteen lives of Harry August

Coverpage of the First Fifteen lives of Harry August

The first fifteen lives of Harry August, Claire North.

I’m fascinated about souls, time travel, time paradox and a sweet tale of cat and mouse. The first fifteen is a story that checks all the items on that fascination list. This is a wonderful tale that spans the multiple life times of Harry August. The premise is simple enough. We are introduced to the usual world which has a few special people in them. These folks are called the Kalachakras. The world itself translates to the cycle of time. The Kalacharkras reincarnate time and again in this world. They retain their memories from their life times. There is a unique fundamental rule that governs this iteration of births, each time a Kalachakra dies, they are always born back in the same point in time , under the same circumstance and they get to relive their life all over again. There are events that change across each lifetime and there are those which do not. WW1, WW2, the Berlin wall, the revolutions, the rise and fall of dictators, none of these ‘Linear events’ usually change.

The life of Harry starts the most usual way. He’s born as an unwanted child, his biological parents decide to dump him. He finds foster care. He struggles through life , the early days. When his memories come gushing back , it opens his conscious to the many lives he has lived before. There is the usual struggle to cope up with such an overflow of information. He does what most normal folks do. He kills himself. The process resets his time. He realizes the folly and adopts a different approach to his life.

And so the tale begins. Harry, having lived quite a few life times, has the cumulative knowledge of the world that was, the world that will be. With each life, he learns how the world evolves across each lifetime. Like all sensible blokes, he memories the outcome of sporting events and makes a winning wager. Easy money. The funds secured, he goes on to observe the world around and keep track of how technology shapes the world in each of his lifetime. He eventually accepts his life, accepts the fact that he’s destined to relive the same life and that acceptance opens up options for him. He uses the time, life time to be exact, to learn and quench his thirst for knowledge. Things seem to be going good for our protagonist.

Through his lives, Harry starts to learn the dos and don’ts of his existence. He realizes the dangers of fiddling around with the natural flow of time and in the process , he gets introduced to the Chronos Club. The club is made of similar Kalachakras and Harry beings to learn more about his kind. Kalachakras have always existed. They have always observed the world, refused to actively change the linear events of the world. He also learns that information is passed down back to the generations by way of a child to the old. The children of the modern age would feed the near dying. The reincarnate would then kick start their life with the knowledge. Logistics and logistics.

The status quo changes when the Kalachakras start feeding back the news of how the end of the world is now accelerated. There seems to be a breach in the way of the world. The apocalypse rapidly accelerating, the end almost near, all of this pushes Harry to challenge the status quo and see if he can save the world.

From here, the game of cat and mouse picks up pace. When time is immaterial, immortality is the way of life, the simple task of saving the world does span a few lifetimes. It sure is not an easy task. The rest of the story is all about Harry’s quest to save the world. He does get to die a few times in the process. Does he save the world? Does he conclude that the world is not worth saving? Does he feel disgusted by humanity’s capacity to destroy itself? The immortals are posed with questions of a different kind indeed.

The book does hold a mirror to humanity. We live in a world where it’s easier to be insensitive towards tyranny and oppression rather than staying vociferous against it. We live in a world where history does tend to repeat itself, the world lets it happen time and again. We are more divided than we’d acknowledge. Given the context of the book, within a given lifetime, we grow numb to way of the world. Imagine living through centuries and centuries of the same world and magnitude of indifference towards the way the world is!

Harry goes through the same challenges that we all go through. Do we stay mum? Do we ache to change the world around us? Do we stand up and become the voice for the voiceless? Do we succumb under the weight of a messed up world? Given the fact that Harry does live on, he still makes his choices. Given the fact that we endure and survive the ugliness of the world, we also do make our choices.

The book’s central premise rests with the ability to travel back in time, the ability to alter the course ahead for humanity. Technology is a great disruptor. Imagine the course of the great wars if Mobile reception was made available during the wars. Imagine the outcome , if the nations had the capacity to make a billion calculations under a second. What if WW1 had access to nukes? The nature of what ifs, the nature of driving technological changes to alter the course of humanity is very intriguing. With the amount of technology in hand, aren’t we inching a step closer to making all the science fiction of our past into a modern day reality?

The other big theme is around immortality and the boredom that is generated by repetition. Spend enough lives, and one gets bored of living. Introspectively, lead a life doing the same set of things, life grows mundane. Insensitivity, or that feeling of staying numb, is an apt outcome of that dogmatic, narrow minded, tunnelled vision of an outlook towards life, are symptoms of a life stagnating away in front of our eyes. There is a certain helplessness to it all. We are, because we do. We are not able to break free and that’s also because we just do.

All is not super fantastic about the book. The way it ended was a colossal miss. The first two acts invest ample into building tension and the way the tale ends, did feel a bit rushed and not well thought off. The climax squandered away the emotional investment that the readers would have made to the characters.

I’d still give it a shot. If you like souls and a commercial , mass appeal view of spirituality and indulge in the act of breaking your head about lives, deaths and reincarnation, this is the right amount of palatable fiction.

Karthik