Book review : Norwegian Wood

Cover Page of Norwegian Wood, Murakami

Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami.

It is an infinitely difficult tale for me to review. It’s not because the tale is beyond a justifiable review, it’s solely because I am blinded by the emotions that I’d bring to the table when I talk about this book. I shall do my best to alienate myself from the book while I attempt to review this Masterpiece.

Norwegian wood, a song by The Beatles, also happens to be the song that the leading lady of the tale likes. Naoko. Toru Watanabe is the narrator and this story revolves around his life, how it intersects with Naoko , Reiko and Midori. The book is a testament to the predictability of how unpredictable our reasoning becomes when we face challenges that test our emotional stability. In short, Love, is the most predictable means to call out how we become unpredictable because of it.

N.W is a simple tale of love. Toru, his best friend Kizuki and K’s girlfriend Naoko are a trio. The story takes place when Toru is aged 17. Kizuki kills himself which leaves a void in Naoko and Toru’s lives. It’s a void that is beyond repair. It leaves a gaping hole in their lives. Toru and Naoko move to Tokyo, each pursuing their education. Toru and Naoko seem to find solace between themselves and Naoko , one fine day, exiles herself from Toru’s life. Toru feels the icy talons of isolation once again.

He later comes to know that Naoko , who is suffering from depression, has checked herself into an institution. Naoko reaches out to him through letters. Toru makes it a point to visit her and that’s when they meet Reiko. Reiko is Naoko’s roomie and she’s also a victim of a breakdown. There is a new trio that is formed.

While all of this happens, Toru meets Midori and finds her to be full of life, a quality that he misses both in his life and that in Naoko. She represents everything that Toru misses. Toru is in love with Naoko. Naoko is imprisoned by her depression. She’s a broken version of what she can be. She’s unable to reciprocate that love. Her solitude leaves Toru in a state of solitude. Midori start to fall for Toru and he feels the conflict.

So far the plot of the book does point towards the simple fact that love can get as complicated as one wants it to be. It’s not the mere words of love that this book represents. It is a hurricane of emotions that each of the character expresses. The volatile nature of emotions, the impact of such emotions on our lives, the way our lives affect the lives of folks around us, and this book absolutely , precisely rams the hammer down the perfect nail.

As the protagonist suffers the misery of helplessness of his love, we feel his pain. We feel the pain and misery that keeps Naoko trapped. Her inability to jolt herself off her depression, the toll and strain that has on the love, the residual sadness and guilt of Kizuki’s death, a world of walls keep the lovers apart. Toru’s love for Naoko keeps him disconnected from Midori. Midori’s solitude finds comforts in Toru.

It’s not hard to imagine the way love flourishes through pain and sadness. Each character is trapped , waiting and longing for that special attention. Each character denies that special attention to someone that desperately seeks from them. We are left with human nature in its rawest unblemished form.

What happens to the love? Whose love finally endures the test of time? Whose battle with depression, loneliness finally sees the light of dawn? The story goes on to conclude in the most fashionable way that readers of Murakami are now used to.

I loved this book. This book struck a chord and I couldn’t keep myself away from living the characters in my head. The book expresses a lot of themes.

We find it hard to accept but the under appreciated truth to many of us is the fact that we put our happiness in someone else’s hands. The tale is a testament to that fact. There is the side of love that the book ventures into. Love, while is empowering, it also has the capacity to render us helpless. There is frustrated helplessness plastered across the walls of this tale. Then comes the big elephant in the room, Depression. What I loved the most about the book is that it portrayed a picture of Love in the time of a depression. I guess it’s hard in real life as it’s conveyed in the book.

The book also explores the fact that people are drawn to certain people. Toru is broken inside, he finds himself gravitating towards Naoko, Midori and Reiko, and all of them are broken too. Like attracts like, I’d presume. There is a certain nativity in such pain. We draw and reach out to similar folks.

This book is most definitely not about giving up on life. The broken lives of Toru and Naoko represent the baggage of the past. Midori represents the present. Reiko represents the way future unfolds. It’s a convoluted thought that connects the characters to the linearity of time. But that’s how I see it. Toru and Naoko are anchored to the past and hence neither is able to move on. Midori on the other hand, represents life. She’s the one character that makes choices in the right time. It’s just a matter of time for her to realize if her choices were right or wrong. Reiko represents the future. She is both an outcome of the past, and also changes with changes to the choices that are made in the present.

For what it’s worth, somewhere , some time in the future, I’ll read this again. I love this book!

Karthik

The sparkle

‘Daddy’ the little one called out as she restlessly pulled my arm.

The bright day of August, it was the brightest that it would ever get. The grass looked lush and it glistened from the dew that caught the sun’s warm vivid rays. We sat together on a grey concrete bench. The view was spectacular as it has always been through the summer. During the winters, the whole place did appear gloomy. The pristine white of the snow, the dirty sober white of the building, the dried leafless trees, grass that yearned for enthusiasm, it did grow a bit gloomy in the winter. The winter was still miles away from today.

This was the first time Krishna had accompanied me. She was too little to make it there before. At 10, there was a part of me that felt it was still a little too young for her to be there. There was a part of me that felt that she was a decade already behind schedule. It was a convoluted conflict and there was no escaping it. We sat by the bench and rested while we waited. I couldn’t help but reminisce about how we had gotten there. The journey of life, the miles walked and all of it did have humble beginnings. ‘It’s going to be alright’, those were the words that had started it all.

She was not older than Krishna when we had first met. It was uncommon in those days where boys and girls wouldn’t socialize. There was nothing that stopped us and yet none of the other kids had bothered breaching that wall of imposed ideology. I wasn’t any different from the usual average. I was neither special, nor lost in the obscurity of stereotyped mundane of normalcy. I was me and I guess I fit in without much fuss. We were neither poor nor super rich back those days. We lived in a small flat in an apartment complex. They were our neighbours. We had a small park in front of the building. I liked the park. It had one big tree and the rest of the small land was covered in grass. The grass was cut short, the zone was kept litter free. The building association were obsessed with keeping the park clean. Us kids, we were the ones that haunted the grounds. We were always there. Good times.

One normal twilight, it was the first time I saw her in the park. She was sitting under the tree, under the dirty night sky whose moon looked oddly brown. So much for comparing the moon to pristine white, I wondered that night. She sat alone, all by herself , staring at the sky. It wasn’t odd that there weren’t many kids when the sun had sunk. One by one , we’d have our mothers yell out our names from the balcony. One by one, we’d disburse from the park. No one had probably called out her name. She might have been too occupied to realize that the other kids had head home. None of that seemed to matter to her. She sat alone.

There was a troubled peace on her face. I was too young to realize what all of it had meant. I approached her, without saying a word, I sat quietly beside her. Nothing sparked that moment, nothing blossomed that night. We both sat in comforting silence. The night had grown thicker by the minute. She got up. ‘Thanks’ she said and nothing else flowed from her lips that night. She walked back home.

She was back to her smiling self the next day. Of course, neither of us bothered acknowledging the tree or sitting dumb under it. We’d silently sneak a nod of acknowledgement. We rarely used words to keep in touch. every once a while, she’d sit alone by the tree. Every day, I’d watch the tree for her presence. I never let her slip my watch. The days she was there, I was right beside her. As our silence grew , our bond deepened. A deep bond , not formed of words, but from a comforting silence.

It would be a few years before the normal routine would blossom a change. Beyond the word thanks, she’d find words to explain her escape from home. The obscene violence, the abuses, the mental fracture, she’d tell me her story in a way that made no sense back then. It was only years later when I had the intelligence to connect the dots. Back then, all I could understand was that hers was not a home of peace. I didn’t know what to make of it. ‘It’s going to be aright;, I told her once after she thanked me for sitting beside her.

She smiled and made it back home. That was a smile. Etched forever in my memory. The day I saw her eyes sparkle. It could have been the reflection of the stars on her eyes, it could have been her eyes. I didn’t care to worry about the difference.

The years passed. Her solitude didn’t. We grew closer as friends. ‘Thanks’. ‘It’s going to be alight’. It made sense for us to marry. We weren’t sure if we had found love. We were sure that we had found traces of ourselves within each other. It was not an easy relationship. Her solitude made her fragile and unpredictable. Her solitude made me feel lonely at times. We had the best of times, we endured the worst of times. Through the years of us being together, we grew miserable and closer. I shared a part of her pain but I couldn’t ever understand them. I head rushed with ideas to cheer up her life. I later realized that it was the dumbest thing to do. I tried patience as a substitute. It got better and then it got a lot worse. Nothing I did could ever piece that emptiness in her forever.

We spoke of a divorce and my heart cried blood. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Heart broken, two hearts broken, she was determined to not place my life on hold. I was adamant of not letting her go. One more time, the words came to my rescue. We embraced under the tree of moon and stars. ‘It’s going to be alright’ I assured her.

The place was picked, the isolation mandated. It was a place of healing , the ones that fixed broken hearts and shattered minds. It wasn’t an asylum, that was not the name they preferred. For what it was worth, it was a prison for both of us. She was confined within it’s wall. I was confined outside it’s walls. Every month I’d pay my wife a visit. We’d share smiles most days. We’d share her tears some days. It wasn’t meant to be easy. It wasn’t easy. I don’t know what we shared. Was it love? Was it pity? I didn’t have time to ponder. I’d sit beside her by the concrete bench, just like old times, we’d sit in silence.

My heart would fill from the satisfaction of being with her. I couldn’t explain the happiness, I couldn’t quite understand it though.

A decade later, it was time to expand our world. Krishna would finally reunite with the love she brought to this world.

‘Daddy’, little Krishna restlessly pulled my arm. ‘When is mom coming to see us?’ . Her excitement couldn’t be capped.

Krishna walked in and sat between us. Her eyes swelled with tears of joy. She grabbed my hand with her right , she hugged our daughter with her left , the three of us would go on to set our world right.

Love in the time of depression!

Karthik

Books, life, death and interviews

"Burning a book is a good way to find warmth on a cold night. Reading one instead, provides warmth for a lifetime!"

Fine, that's neither the funniest nor the wisest quote in the world. I had to coin it because I couldn't remember the one from book thief. It mocks, rather observes the effectiveness of WW2 because ze germans enjoyed burning things. Especially books.

Two book on life and death, the third : hundred years of solitude is something that's one imaginative surreal mess so far, I couldn't help but connect the experiences gained by the books I read, tie them nice and neat to the things that I do on a daily basis. The outcome was nothing short of stuff worth reading in books.

Right. On with the show. The books did leave me with thoughts on life, death, what one does with a life, what makes a life a life, why do we or rather why don't we take sides with life and always find nativity in misery that define our choices. Far too many questions and the best way around them, in my pointless opinion, is to not do a thing about the questions. We spend ample time in pursuit of far too many things. Walking a mile on account of such questions would eventually end up wasting our time. Do nothing about it. You read me right. Do absolutely nothing about it. Walk along.

I did just that. I couldn't place my life on pause to seek out answers. Who has the time for important things in life ??????? Instead, I continued being what I am. That didn't quench my thirst for knowledge, but I wasn't parched enough to experience a thirst of that magnitude.

As I settle down and get comfortable with my new workstack, align myself to the objectives of my boss , Interviewing also happened to be a part of the responsibilities that I was soon trusted with. I got to interview a lot of candidates. I enjoyed the process. It was nice to be on the other side of the table. I enjoyed having the harder job. Yeah, being interviewed is easy in comparison to carrying out an interview. We do have a task at hand, we do need the right people for the right job, we do need to watch out for the subtle signs of attitude towards work and life. End of the day, we'd still need that someone who could deliver. Carrying out an interview was hard indeed.

Like most hard things at work, if you had a plan and a strategy of getting it done, one would eventually find a way to enjoy the hardship. I managed to enjoy the sessions.

One session after another, the long day eventually came to a close. I finally managed to have a conversation with my boss.

So.. he enquired. What's your take?

We sat down to discuss the highlights and the lowlights of the day. We spoke about the strengths that we could spot in the people. We spoke about personal limitations and weighed them against our team's collective strength. We had made our choices. I had made my recommendations. But all of that is the boring side of a normal business day.

This is where it got interesting. I found myself lost in thought amidst our conversation. My boss does enjoy my whacky take on life. He decided to indulge a little into my thoughts. What's on your mind, he asked. I told him what was on my mind.

While Book thief and Never let me go focused on the life that either could be lived or wished that was lived, both highlighted the simple fact that most of our life, we spend wishing for the way it could have been rather than living it and making it the way we'd want it to be. Carpe the bloody diem. Seize the day. Live the moment. Don't live in the past, don't worry about the future. WHAT DOES ALL OF THAT REALLY MEAN?

Life doesn't throw me those silly fill in the blanks questions. The answer to many of our problems can not be lifted and pasted from the motivational pep talks and are you alive yet forwards that go slapped on our social walls.

'Of all the folks we spoke with, I do wonder, Why didn't even one bother asking us what we were looking for? Had they asked what we were looking for, I'm sure they could have framed their responses and cited their experience that would have met our expectations'.

My boss gave me a blank stare.

I shrugged my shoulders at the obviousness of the ask. It was one of the simplest thing to do. We appear for an interview, it does make business sense, common sense to ask what the needs were. Strategically, it could help us articulate better about our work experience. We could help the interviewer visualize how the experiences of the past can add value to the experiences waiting to be made in the future.

My boss smiled after a period of a brief silence. 'I did the very same thing when I joined here years ago. I knew I'd not make it. The interviewer knew I was not right for the part. Then the magic turn around happened. I stopped and asked them what they wanted me to deliver. I asked them what skills they were looking for. Once that ask was out in the open, it no longer was a struggle.'

So, your books, did they really tell you that? Ask?

I didn't have an answer to that. I guess that's the beauty of a book. That's the power of words. Once written, they have the capacity to convey what ever the reader is ready to accept. Rather, wants to accept.

Books, life and death, and interviews…

Karthik

When in Rome.

One of the funniest aspect of living in the UK is along the way you get greeted. 'You alright?' . The first thing , every day, every new meeting, you are asked the question which is always accompanied by a smile and sincere tinge of politeness. You alright? It is the quintessential ice breaker here in the UK.

Of course, none of that goes down well in my head. I'm from Chennai. Where I come from, When careless motorists ram their vehicle on carefree pedestrians who carelessly , drowned in their pressing mobile call or a whatsapp message, BHAM, accident later, the first question that gets popped is, 'You alright?'.

To me the question is, and probably will be, always tagged to self preservation and overall enquiry about the status of being alive or dead upon an impact. The question is not confined to the road. Walk the canteen with piping hot sambar in your plate( he he he he, irony is humongous. Hot food and canteen!!!), a mad rush during the peak hour and we are bound to bump into someone. Accidental spillage is inevitable. You alright? followed by an awkward sorry boss!

Now that's what I call comforts of home. The parlance is ingrained into the subconscious. The reflexes are sharp. The responses are immediate, to the point and crisp. The instantaneous delegation of blame and accountability is spot on. If we are the guilty one, sorry boss comes up. If we were but innocent victims of circumstance, you alright? sorry boss with a air of entitlement. Human to human interaction at it's elemental best. Yup. That's the way I like things.

Here, it's a different beast. Although I'm a bored shopper , I do accompany my friends when they visit the malls here. Stand idle inside a shop for a little while, vultures start to circle and the inevitable happens. You alright?

Just looking, I'd sheepishly admit. Awkwardly wait a little while longer, I'd get the question asked by another vulture. Endure a few iteration and a random sense of obligation kicks in, exit shop one. Enter shop two.

I've done my part trying to understand the phrase. Of course I failed. It's just the way it is. I trained hard to adapt to it. I still don't offer a 'You alright?' as a response. Much like I don't bother with How do you do to meet a How do you do. Excellent. Not so bad. And smashing. I've found creative and yet perceived as a bit imaginative and annoying way to reciprocate. That being said, my struggle with the question has also been very real. I hate it, I detest it, it irks me. I leaves me uncomfortable. Naturally, I found deliverance by whining about it from time to time.

And so, one late evening I made it back home. The night was cold. The street was deserted at 9. I knew there wouldn't be much movement on the streets that night. The routine was almost set. I'd gently open the front door, soft enough to muffle the creaking sound it'd make. I'd then tippy toe upstairs. The wooden stairs always did announce the return of the king! Two quality gates, passed with flying colours. I always failed the last one. I always, and I mean on most days, would end up slamming my door shut. Call it the breeze, call it carelessness, call it the euphoria of knowing that your bed is a minute away from transporting you to a land of sleepy lazy heaven, net result ; that door would slam. Everybody knew I was in.

Silently I made a mental note to refrain from slamming my door. I reached the house. With an expertise that would put a petty burglar to shame, I opened the front door stealthily. Success.

I walked in, only to notice my neighbour, an Indian, was waiting by the washing machine to wrap it's spin cycle.

This was odd. I never bump into my neighbours. His presence obviously put me off guard. I'm willing to bet that my presence was just as awkward to him as well.

A few seconds of shocking silence later, I thought I might as well get on with the show. Whats up, hey buddy, yo dude, pair laago maaji, I knew I could exercise the birth right of being an Indian by picking a cheesy greeting.

'You alright?' I popped impulsively.

It was his turn to shake his head disapprovingly.

Karthik

Never let me go

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“Through rain, through the thunder that roars

be my strength and never let me go”

I cried through the rain. The screams of my heart felt eclipsed by the night’s thunder. I had always known the day would come. I had braced for it. I had put a brave front. I smiled through it all. The day of joy and excited new beginnings, I was there , armed with smiles. I pretended as far as I could, for as long as I could. Moments before my crushing surrender, I had walked my road alone. Broken, wistful, the comforts of home weren’t mine for the taking today. I walked as far as I could. Far away from everything I had ever known. Far away from everyone I had ever known. I walked, walked away from myself. It was when the skies had opened. Under the cover of the tears of the twilight sky, I secretly shed a few tears of myself. In that moment, my tears went unnoticed. Insignificant to the ways of the world. The crushing weight in my heart grew heavier by the minute. Tears were my only comfort.

 

 

“Through the night, the light of a mourning moon

be my shadow and never let me go”

 

All was soon forgotten, and beginnings were soon to be made. It was all a distant memory. The day for what it was, the night for what I was, the tears that bore witness to the matters of a heart without a voice, all of that was a fading memory waiting to be forgotten. I endured it all, I survived it all. The relentless nature of time had helped me mask my broken self. In pursuit of goals and pretended ambitions, I set upon a task to excel. I drowned myself into work and life was good. All things considered, it was good indeed.

 

That evening the moon was high. Her blemished radiance had left the world seduced to her charm. I, however, remember the night for something else. We had finally met. Through bruises and a busted lip, through her reddened eyes and swollen tears, I knew what it meant that night to have the very fabric of your heart distraught in pain. The sight of her tears froze my eyes from joining in. There was lot to do, there were things to set right. Broken, now twice, I lost myself again in pursuit of newer goals.

 

“Through time, the memories forgotten and cherished

be my soul and never let me to”

 

Time , once again, was relentless as ever. Wounds healed, scars remained. We were thrust into changes that we had never contemplated before. A lot had changed, some remained the way they always had been. I knew there wasn’t a rewind. An ocean had passed under that bridge. This felt new but was still an ancient rite. We sat across the table to watch the little one dance. The day was bright, all things considered. The skies had opened, the little one wanted to dance under the comforts of a warm soothing rain. we both sat and watched her in silence. Ah, the silence. I had lost my heart to silences once. I stayed quiet when it was the turn to speak. I embraced silence. I feared the road ahead. This would have to do, I reminded myself. We both sat in silence. I knew what her silence meant. I wondered if she knew what mine was screaming. We glanced into each other’s eyes. A smile there. A smile here. Two stories were denied a voice.

 

“Through the distance, our hearts will stay bridged

find me when i’m lost, but never let me go”

 

Today , as I look back the decades that have passed, I couldn’t help but cherish the memory that had warmed my heart for the longest while. I was 12 and so was she. Mrs Valli who taught english at school, had tasked us with a poem. I wrote something that wasn’t destined to be remembered. She wrote , something that wouldn’t go forgotten ever.

And there she was, and there I was. Two kids walking the road back home. The sky bestowed a gentle rain. She danced her silly dance. I knew I could watch that dance for the rest of my life. The rain had stopped.

You know what I wrote? , she suddenly sprung to excitement. We went on to narrate her little poem.

Through rain, through the thunder that roars

be my strength and never let me go

Through the night, the light of a mourning moon

be my shadow and never let me go

Through time, the memories forgotten and cherished

be my soul and never let me to

Through the distance, our hearts will stay bridged

find me when i’m lost, but never let me go.

 

She held my hand tight and gently whispered, ‘Never let me go’.

 

 

I stand watching her grave. I’m now an old man. I have had many possessions, I’ve had trinket around the world. Her poem, I cherish it the most. Every year, for the last 5 years, I see her once again. I read her the words that once she wrote. The words that she gave life, wonderfully were the ones keeping her alive today. As tears flowed, I gently wiped them. I kissed the poem and folded it neat.

Maybe next time, I looked at the heavens and begged a promise.

 

Karthik

H for Himmel

"The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better.
What good were the words?" – The book thief

Oh but when it comes to rules, I do find myself breaking most of them from time to time. However, there are those rules which I wouldn't dare challenge. One such rule is the one about not writing a book review without actually finishing a book. Bound by this innate compulsion, I put a brave fight to not write a review today. Well , almost. Rules are meant to be broken. I do love the loopholes. I found one today. Conformance meets rebellion. Win-Win.

Himmel. The word means heaven in German. There are times when I wonder about the heavens. There were many times when I had teased my mum about her theory of finding peace in the Himalayas. 'Why go all the way there to find peace? Why cant you find it here, in our house?'. Our arguments would reach a stalemate and we skip to other things to fight about.

The word of the day is Himmel. I want to talk about it. Himmel is also the name of a place where the story of the book unfolds. But enough about that book. I've treaded far enough already. The restless curiosity in me at the verge of eruption. If only I could fake an ailment, scuttle back home and find comforts of my bed and continue reading the book. If only!

How would you describe a Himmel? Is it the land of clouds, harps, angels, grass and greenery, scenery that would gather a billion likes on instagram if shot and uploaded without filters. 2 billion likes with the filters used. What does heaven sound like? Is it a land of serenity , far away from the reach of the common bloke. Is death the only eligibility criteria to enter the gates?

The answers could be as diverse as possible. The answers would only be limited by the imagination of folks responding to the question. Heaven is all set to be whatever we choose for it to be. There are ideas of rules and imposed ideologies that surround it. What can I say, rules… what good are they if we don't dare breaking them from time to time. The purist version of heaven is in place to keep most of us away. The classification of life, the nature of life lived, the acknowledgement of living by a given code, yadi-yadi-ya… in the modern age, it's called discrimination.

Similar to the thought along Himmel, what does it mean to have a happy life? Happiness is a lot to a lot of people. Unlike heaven, the description of happiness is not limited by the creativity or insanity of the mind of the responder. This is limited by wistfulness. Happiness , that happy life is everything that we currently lack. It probably would be a precursor to all the things that we'd have robbed away from our own selves. Sad and true and inevitable. By virtue of reasoning, that places happiness as one of the most lucrative sour grape. There, and just a whisker away from reach.

I asked myself a question today. In fact, I asked my self a question that was asked to me yesterday. Do we need an adversity to appreciate the valour in us? Do we need catastrophe to realize that there is a hero in us? Do I need to lead a miserable life to acknowledge what it means to be alive? The answer is an assertive NO. I realized the celebration of life through tears.

As the book went on, in a random instant, I felt overwhelmed emotionally by what I had just read. Instinctively and subconsciously, I shed a few tears. I stayed aware of where I was and realized I had a stranger staring at me. He looked at me, he looked at the book and I guess he wondered what the hell wag going around. I felt a little silly , weeping like a little ducky and a little flushed embarrassment later, I closed the book and decided to read it later. Two things happened then.. actually make it 3.

1. I wanted to cry freely , to my heart's content, in the safety and privacy of my house, till I could vent out the sadness from the book.
2. I realized that the book was more about a celebration of life. It was not a death that brought tears. It was a fond cherished memory of the characters lives that broke me down.
3. I felt super satisfied at accepting the humanity in me, to feel comfortable enough to cry a little. I felt alive.

Life without acknowledgement of life is barely a life at all. Yes, just like Himmel, we'd want to paint a million shades to our definition of happy. If this.. If only that.. Had I had that….. All I need is that…. and Cut the EXCUSES. We feel comfortable refusing to accept that we are capable of being happy the way we are. We refuse to acknowledge the little things that we achieve and accomplish each day. We refuse to let our smiles live in dignity, without fear of being compared to a imaginative figment of happiness whose only purpose is to keep us in a state of stasis, acting as a carrot at the end of a long stick. There are a lot many days where we can be happy with what, where, when, who and hows of being ourselves.

I guess celebration of life is not meant to follow once the curtain falls and the actors disappear into obscurity. Everything is just a state of the mind. Except Poverty.. take that Mr R G!

Karthik

The hashtags of life

Now that I sit back and reflect on the road of words, I see a distinct pattern. The more I found myself lost in words, I realized I had found a little more about myself. Writing brings me clarity. Writing to me is more than just a mere expression of thought. It is a way where I contemplate life and find ways to articulate those tiny nuances to daily living which I couldn't enjoy in real time. I am, hence I write. I write, hence I am.

Interestingly, I've had a relative success blogging in the public domain. Far away from the comforts of an assured 20 likes , blogging in the open internet was a challenge. It helped me relive the excitement of the early years of blogging. It reminded me of a time when I was still Katz and that word meant absolutely nothing to anybody. I kept the translation of thoughts into words consistent and in time the name found an acknowledgement. Blogging in the public domain helped me find that joy again. It wasn't until recently where I stumbled upon the significance of picking my categories and tags wisely. When I moved away from the default 'Uncategorized' to adding meaningful categories to my thoughts (now that's an oxymoron playing itself out) , it improved the stats to my posts. Folks with a shared interest paid a visit and the visitor's tally improved a bit.

I'm still no where around the aspirational phenomenal writer that I'd like to be someday, but I'm glad with waking up from oblivion. It's a start. It sure does suffice for now.

As I started this one, writing and life, I don't think I can separate the two. They coexist, they each reflect that attribute that defines what it means to write, or even to live. I started off as the persona Katz, I write today as Karthik and apart from the way my words are signed off, there is a far more serious change that I underwent that stays comfortably hidden behind the proverbial screen. I'm interested in exploring the territory of the humble hash tag today.

The way of the words, a hash tag serves a simpler purpose of engineering a nativity to a larger collective classification of interest. While the hash doesn't really dictate terms of what is written, it adds , it enriches , it helps deliver the words to an audience. Is that not how life also works? Haven't we all experienced that before? Only we do call it by different names.

Virtue by association. That's the phrase I'd use. By virtue of what or whom we associate ourselves to, we define what we are. Thoughts transpire into actions, company transpires thoughts and in effect, it's all a connected mesh and they all feed into the hash tags of our very own life.

Far away from the comforts of my home, exiled from the familiar faces, banished from the routines of norm, I realized the value of that virtue of association. We are the company that we keep. Our thoughts are a reflection of whom we speak to , and what our collective conscious thoughts are. Our reactions are defined by perceived and witnessed reactions of the flock that we are a part of. There is solace in numbers. There conformance in numbers. Which is why, keeping a stock of the identity and the nature of the participants of a flock is just as, if not , most important aspect of this collective existence.

I'd like to believe that I've stayed adaptable over the years. When the common mood was offence, I found myself as an aggressor. I played defence for a while. I also rejected nativity to thoughts that I couldn't associate myself with. I've been and I'd probably ever remain a rebel to things that I'm not convinced about. I've turned my back to social dogma and conservative living, I've turned my back to rebellion for the sake of being a rebel. I've turned my back to altruism for the image of it. In fact, I do what that I please and there does not go a day where I don't pay the price for the life of my choosing, or soak in the satisfied happiness to being that misfit. But that's me.

The point is, a hive mind alters the way of individual thought. While everybody enjoys the comforts of staying unique, there many among us who prefer the comforts it provides. The cost? Surrender of free-will, suspension of free thoughts, compliance dedicated to conformance rather than compliance that arises because of acceptable goals.

Life's many hashtags are but a reflection of that virtue of association. The story of our lives, now they are represented by these borrowed tags. The world views us by those tags. In fact, in time we start viewing ourselves as these tags. All of which made me wonder. If life was a blog, a story of sorts, why does it take us that immense effort to identify the tags rather than focusing all that effort into scripting the construct of the story itself. If tags are not as important as the content, why does the world stay influenced and seduced by the tag clouds rather than staying informed and awakened by the words of the content.

The simplest answer is convenience.

One plays to the strength. Yeah, that's probably how I'd wrap this up. Like life, like the words that go conjured , tags and content both define the nature of what gets scripted. End of the day, the thingy called happiness and satisfaction, they are relative commodities. It goes back to the larger question that looms around the horizon. Are we happy because we are capable of doing things, or are we happy because we get recognized by our capability of getting things done.

And so Maslow's obsolete pyramid speaks of things beyond acceptance. Actualization. The perfect imaginative utopia where we know what we are capable of, other's opinion seldom matters and we do things because we'd like to.

Hash tags of life, ladies and gentlemen. Hash tags of life.

Karthik

Book Review : Aleph

Is it possible to deviate from the path of God has made? Yes, but it’s always a mistake. Is it possible to avoid pain? Yes, but you’ll never learn anything. Is it possible to know something without ever having experienced it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you." – Aleph

The last time I read Paulo Coelho, I hated his work. I scoffed at it. I strongly believed that the book was ridiculous at best. A ranting of a master of words who weaved a story too hard to believe, is what I felt. In the decade that followed later, I realized the magic to the words that I had once read.

The setting of an ignorant novice me reading the Alchemist is pretty much a plot that can help me explain his words in the book Aleph. In the most simplest of terms, the book Aleph is about a journey of life. I'll let you decide the number of lives that your faith and your belief system will permit you to consider. If there is just one life, this book talks about a journey that we all undergo at different points in our own existence.

Much like how I first rejected the Alchemist, the words had not changed in the years that followed after my read. It was only I who had changed. There was no constant at play. Time flew past me, I gained life by experiences, my beliefs changed gradually. From a skeptic, I went on to become a wanderer with a curious and an open mind. Aleph is a book that talks about similar journey of the self.

It is hard to review a book on spirituality or philosophy. I remember the day I picked this book in London. The bloke at the store said aren't you too young to lose yourself to spirituality. I smiled , aren't we all young enough as it is, i asked. We both shared a laugh.

The book touches upon the simplest of facts that we tend to complicate beyond all recognition. It talks a great deal about experience.

"Is it possible to know something without ever having experienced it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you."

My biggest take from this book is along that line of experience. All of us experience various things of varying degrees in the miles that we cover in life. What we experience is just as irrelevant as what we desire to experience. What we do with such an experience, goes on to define the quality of our life, it mandates the state of bliss that one can stand to enjoy.

The simple act of falling down, getting up, crying a little, wiping away our tears and heading out for the next big adventure was something we were extremely proficient at doing when we were kids. In fact, the pain we experienced as a kid was very much real. With a limited knowledge and awareness of the world, with limited fears and limited unknown, even the tiny setback of falling down was supposed to be a huge hurdle. We did overcome that. We did that in style. We did that we cause we wanted to.

The more we grew up, the lesser we remain ourselves. That fight in us gets replaced by a lot of other things. Aleph is a book that serves to remind us that nothing else matters more than what we stand to do today. Our actions of today have the power to redeem us from the sins of yesterday and sow the seeds for the things to come tomorrow.

Oh btw, it was long after I picked the book did I realize that this book was not an fictional account of a spiritual journey! Damn!

Read it at your own peril. Belief is a rare commodity these days. We choose to believe in the goodness of vile folks dressed as sheep and yet struggle to believe that we are but a part of a vast machinery called the universe. If your eyes wont let you digest the spiritual nature of the book, no biggie, read it as a fictional tale of science and teleportation device. The heart of Aleph is not it's vast spiritual abundance, it's a simple tale of learning to live your own life.

Karthik