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

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Of dentists and enlightenment

‘Don’t walk in the middle of the road. Here hold my hand , we are going to cross a busy road’.

The father was unperturbed by the child’s endeavour to conquer the road. The roads had not changed a bit in the many years. The cars grew in number, the world grew in number. The child and the father grew a lot too, in time. The child walked slowly and a bit carelessly too. I reckon that it’s in the nature of the child to enjoy that carefree liberation when walking the roads of the world. Children are children and fathers are fathers.

I remember the time when my father used to walk me to the toy shop. It was a bit far from where we still live. I’d hold on to my dad’s finger and I’d chat all the way to eternity till we’d reach the shop. Once in the shop, I’d usually forget the whereabouts of my dad. I’d lose myself to the many toys that the heart would long and that the wallet of my dad couldn’t aspire to conquer. I’ve not been a greedy child. I’d enquire about the biggest of toys but would always settle down for affordable ones. If memory serves me right, a figure of GI JOE was around 29 bucks. Inflation is the best yardstick to measure one’s age. Yup, that was a few decades ago.

I do take pride in acknowledging that I’ve always been a tough kid to raise. I’ve always been free spirited, and yeah, a bit lot spoilt too. My folks have always been patient with me. The perfect example of how to cope up with a kid, how to encourage it to improve its strengths, how to slap some sense into it when it goes wrong. My dad is epic huge on character. He’d tolerate a lot of nonsense from me, but would never compromise when it came to the value system that I chose to inherit. My folks didn’t drill religion into my head. They helped me understand what it meant to be a better human. Of course, I’ve always been a slow learner.

All said and done, I did manage to chip of my tooth when I was in the UK. The fears of a massively hefty bill deterred me from seeking an appointment. I endured the broken tooth and waited to head home to fix the issue. Fix the issue I did. Learnt a lot , I DID.

Don’t walk in the middle of the road, Daddy, I told my dad a lot of times yesterday evening. Here, hold my hand. We are going to cross this busy road. I held on to his hand , instinctively , and instead of rushing him, I enjoyed slowing down my pace and tried to make him feel comfortable and confident. The Karthik from a few years ago would have disgracefully failed the situation. It’s not about judging. It’s not about guilt. I accept what I was and I acknowledge what I’ve become.

I couldn’t help but realize that my folks are now kids. My kids, to be precise. I’m single and yet I am helping raise two kids. My mom and dad. We walked slow. I saw the children that my parents currently are. They keep their secrets about health and their world. I engage in conversations and they confess without realising their confession. I choose to not scream, most times. I hear them out , make a mental note and see what I can do better.

My folks have always been nurturing and supportive in my formative years. They did a great job on me. It’s my turn to offer that nurturing and supportive environment for them to grow confident and self reliant , all over again.

I sat on the dentist’s chair, I endured the probes of the pokey metal thingy and my mind was focused and determined in a chain of thought. This wasn’t a time to feel guilty that I’ve not been the perfect son. This aint the time to throw a career and reprioritise life choices. It was the time to accept the effects of time on us. We live, we grow old. It’s an inevitability. We try to do the best that we can.

I cant help but see the similarities of choices. My dad didn’t quit his day job to spend more time with me. Neither am I going to adopt that approach. Living each day amidst the rush and hustle of survival. Living each day, a foot in the past and an eye on the future. ‘Jeena isi ka naam hai’ moment (Cest la vie)

This aint a preachy tale of adjusting one’s priorities in life. Our choices are ours to make and we have our reasons. This is a modest acceptance of time and the effect it has on us. My Granny’s ‘cursed blessing’ has come true. ‘Someday, when you have kids, you’ll understand’, she had said. I kinda do get the point today.

I walked in to pull a tooth, walked out with realized wisdom.

Karthik

An ode to villainy

And so once upon a time, I was young and brash. Actually, I’m still all of that. The simpler times were a bliss. Growing up, I had a vast circle of friends. I had nominated and publically declared a few enemies. By virtue of branding blokes as enemies, I would do whatever it took to refrain from any communication with them. I still remember the joys of plotting and scheming over petty wins.

That was decades ago. A few days ago, I was in a conversation with a friend. A kind of friend who has always been ignored and kept at a very generous , healthy distance. Social etiquette was on its grandest display. We’d joke around, exchange petty messages from time to time. We would maintain a cordial public image. If one were to ask the bloke if they deemed us as bitter enemies, I’d not be surprised if they express a pleasant shock over such a dramatic conclusion.

Half way through the practiced execution of social nicety to near perfection, I sat amused wondering about the complexity of grey that is life. Gone is the time where one could enjoy the existence of enemies. Gone is the time where life’s biggest purpose was to outsmart and outplay the identified enemies. These days, the world has no place for enemies. Maybe in other words, Villainy exists only as an exaggeration. There is no room for realistic and subtle evil that we are capable of. It , mostly, goes unnoticed or overlooked.

I do find it ironic that as we age and grow wiser, our outlook and definitions grow murkier. It is convenient to blur the lines. Boundaries are a mirage. In the name of social conformity, we deter ourselves from most confrontation. Sin is branded on honesty. Honesty is an inconvenient vice. Think about it. We live in a very complicated and extremely connected world. Or make that a very complicated and extremely connected digital world. Sometimes, it becomes a paramount headache to exile a few blokes from our spheres of influence. The deeper our connection in the virtual world, the harder it becomes to lead a personal life. We are on display and all our actions are understood, misunderstood, misinterpreted, twisted convolutedly or simply put, judged.

The fear of social persecution keeps us deterred from our birth right of choosing the blokes in our life. The advent of frenemies is a testament to that shallow choices towards living. We appease and accommodate. We avoid to accommodate. We even abscond to accommodate. It takes a herculean effort to speak our mind.

That seems to be the case. Or that seems to be my case anyway. It does bug me. The knowledge that I see myself as too polite and too nice to confront people head on.

Oh by the way, such perpetrators are guilty of exhibiting passive aggression. They aggressively encroach our personal space. They are quite aware that social etiquette warrants that we don’t retaliate. Such perps bank on our silence to thrive being the way they are. Passive aggression is a social malice. It affects us , both in our personal and professional life. There are so many victims out there who find it hard to even breathe because of such passive aggressors. there was a time when people would rather quit than find a way to solve their people problems.

Here is an ode to such vile villainy. Heroes must fall in order to fell such villains. In this age of acceptance, do heroes even stand a chance !

I do miss the simpler times. It was easy to brand people in my world. The status quo was thankfully transparent.

What’s your take on Passive aggression?

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

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

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

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

Emancipation, Expectations and Exceptions

There is nothing as good as a little alliteration to jump start the day. The festival of lights and sound now done and dusted, the many celebratory meals gorged and regretted, a few walls of writers block rammed , the day popped in a bright ray of sunlight of thought. There is a taste of freedom when we brave the odds to dream different. There is an excitement to defying the natural order of things. There are expectations to live up to and expectations waiting to fulfil our desire for a rewrite of a said destiny.

The sweet rush to making dreams come true, the tryst with the first roadblock, that will to overcome challenges through grit and determination, the usual fork in the road; that goes by altering names of success and failure, with these the lifecycle of a dream comes to a near close. Things usually start off as an itch waiting to be scratched, the itch to achieve goes on to consume our thoughts and dictate our actions. The nature of exception is to force challenges our way. The rest of the story deals with how one manages the odds. The eulogy to the dream completes the narration.

The big question that bakes my noodle is ‘What should I expect when I harbour expectations?’. The question, itself, shares boundaries with pragmatic reality, philosophies of armchair and wisdom, the general outlook towards the way of life. Sometimes, I do feel that the entire world is brainwashed, and that certain values are ingrained into our belief system. For starters, the wise blokes have always maintained an accord of not having any expectations. Do your thing, let karma do the rest. It’s better to have lowest expectation to avoid heart attacks in the future. Shoot for the moon, to at least reach the stars. You get the gist.

I wont deny the merits to the wise words. In my personal opinion, I think they are risk-averse and have a shade of pessimism to them. It doesn’t take a lot to under promise and under deliver. In fact, that seems to be the accepted , untold status quo. Set lower benchmarks and almost meet them. Now that I say it that way, it does feel underwhelming. But ain’t that not the usual case?

The way we sell our dreams and ideas, also is influenced by what we can bring to the table. Some call it skill, some call it panache, and I usually tag them as confidence. It’s this confidence, that most of the world associates to arrogance. I can’t help it. I can’t change the views of the hundred people that my world is made of. There is a method to that confidence and that arrogance. I tend to understand my limitations and play to my strengths. What I can do, I promote and what I can’t, I articulate the limitations. This keeps me closer to selling what I can deliver and not overshooting it or undermining it.

Knowledge plays a vital role here. It’s the knowledge of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. There is also a better word for this. It goes by the name ‘ Awareness’. Self awareness to be exact.

So back to the question at hand. What should one expect when one harbours expectations?

I have a few note books and a I’m always found without a pen. Just by virtue of availability of resources, It’s almost certain that I set my eyes on being a published and possibly a celebrated author. I have a few musical instruments, I know to record stuff. It’s almost certain that I start viewing myself as a music producer. It’s not wrong to expect such greatness. I don’t usually let the world tell me otherwise. That being said, between where I currently stand and where I’d want to see myself stand, there are things that I must accomplish to bridge that gap.

This brings us to the question. What should I expect, when I have set really high expectations for my passion?

A dream can be dissected into the following attributes

1. The ideology of a dream

2. The things needed to make it a reality

3. The things that one currently has, that can bring momentum to the cause

4. The things one goes to acquire to bridge the gap

5. Delivery and eventual acceptance.

While the list above talks about the bare essentials on how to translate ideas to quantitative deliverables, there is also an underpinned factor that measures the magnitude of success to making such dreams come true. It usually rests within the confines of the answer to the question

‘Whose seal of approval does our dreams and actions need in order for us to accept our success or failure in the matter?’

The irony is sarcastic. While a dream, a goal, a passion , is all too very personal commodity, we still bank on the world to acknowledge , accept and approve our work. We wait on the world to certify the nature of our dream. That approval also has a quantitative means of getting measured. It’s measured through monetary returns. Fame and popularity are usually qualitative attributes.

Most of it ties back to the questions that I’ve always asked myself. What makes me a writer? What makes me a musician? What makes me a fitness enthusiast? Is it sufficient that I accept those traits in me, or does it take the people around me to certify the verbs that I do? Answering that usually answers the question on expectations.

Are we a product of the world’s perception of us or are we what we are forced/choose to be?

Karthik

Spread a little sunshine

A wise bloke once told me to keep my charities secret and stupidity published. I concur. It makes sense, on most days. Call it CSR, call it a charity drive, call it what ever you may, I choose to call it a satisfaction of spreading smiles.

I don’t think I have a bone that’s dedicated to an Altruistic cause. I don’t spend time wondering about it. I pick dates and make choices. It started with my mom’s birthday. One morning I decided to help a cause to celebrate that day. It felt good. Actually, it didn’t feel any different from normal mundane existence between Monday to Sunday. I did it nonetheless. Then I’ve been doing it for a few years now.

Then I decided to spread smiles around for my birthday. I figured that the world has had enough crying over spilt milk. 34 years of existence later, there is very little that the world can do to alter that outcome. I’m here. One way or the other. So I added that date to the cause of spreading smiles. Then added Diwali to the list. Odd enough, I don’t do anything special for my dad’s birthday. I get him a watch. Then I get him a pen. Then I get him a lame T-shirt and he pretends that he enjoys getting them 🙂

It all dawned on me this morning. I had set up a meeting and was later told that I had set one up on the Diwali day. The day of lights and I had intended to turn it off for poor blokes. I apologized for my ignorance of the date. I also realized that it was the time to pass a few smiles across again.

So the wise bloke did tell me to not flaunt my good deeds. I still respect that. This is more of a challenge. I remember running one last year too. I challenge you to put a smile on a stranger’s life. Go ahead, brighten up the world around you. I’d like the sense of playing a teeny tiny insignificant superhero. It doesn’t enrich my life with purpose. It doesn’t make me feel great about myself. It doesn’t magically transform my life.

It does offer me a sense of satisfaction. The satisfaction that I could help someone forget about the bum chances and lousy cards that their life might have dealt them with. Cheating the sourness that life can provide, even it only lasts a minute, is a good victory that I’m proud of.

I don’t believe in appealing. I don’t like to appeal to the sensibilities in people. It’s not my place to promote or advice. I challenge you. That’s in line to my way of life.

A brand new day, a wonderful colourful festival of lights and laughter. I challenge you to add more decibels to that laughter.

On that note, Spread a little sunshine, darling. It’s the world’s way of telling you that you are capable of spreading that sunshine.

Karthik