[Book Review] : Tibetan book of the dead

If there was an illusion that could be called the mother of illusion, I think spirituality would be just that.

The Tibetan book of the dead is a fantastic book on spirituality. I’ve not read many books on the matter, so to me, it’s good enough. It just has way too much information that my jaded mind struggles to comprehend.

This review will stay away from the bias of a spiritual aspirant. This is my attempt at writing a non spiritual view of a quintessential spiritual book. Here goes. Fortune favours the brave.

Reverse Engineering : The process is a product to conception approach to problem solving. Just because all the parts and clockwork are there, it doesn’t translate to an easy approach. It does however establish the building blocks required to conjure the final finished product. Life’s biggest antonym is Death. What better way to define life than starting at death and sweeping back to the point of origin. The book of the dead does exactly just that. It’s a book about the list of things that ought to be passed on to folks who are near death. It’s still not a cool idea to say ‘ PSSST, you are gonna konk out bro’ .

Whilst the ideals are to help the near dying transition better into death and beyond, the principles work like a charm if the living were to follow it. That’s like having an issue in the production system, painful escalations and an extensive RCA later, one figures out that blokes did not bother having a review or running a unit test case.

The point is, knowing what matters in the end is a fantastic guideline to accommodate practices while we are still alive and kicking.

Fears , Regrets and messy closet! : Oh but I am trying hard to not sound like a frantic wannabe spiritualist trying to solicit the words of wisdom from a book. Through the eyes of psychology and behaviour, the message is not that difficult to understand. Bottom line, fear. Fear leads to everything else. Fear of failure results in lack of actions which results in regret. Fear of failure leads to insecurity which leads to lack of actions. Fear of failure, leads to inertia which leads to lack of actions. I think when fear paralyses the mind, we find ourselves incapable of progressing with life.

Science offers a way to confront such fears. Fish bone analysis, Root cause analysis, cause and effect analysis, they are all roads to identifying what fails and what the consequences of failures are. One can start with, I get this wrong and my entire life is wasted. By virtue of sitting down and deconstructing the effects of consequence, one might soon realise that not many things usually lead to a life getting wasted. Mess up a delivery, mess up the immediate appraisal. That’s a cause and effect. But assuming that one would always mess everything up hence forth is just paranoia taking creative control over all the choices we stand to make in life.

The worst that can happen is one can lose one’s job. The worst that can happen post that is one may never find a job. The question to ask is, why am I so unemployable? That question alters a lifetime of unemployment. It facilitates options that we had never considered before.

The road to a happy death, and a happy staying alive is taking a stock of the things that scare us crazy. It’s human to fail. It’s human to fear that failure. It’s very human to assume that there is no success ever , after a failure. It is also human to have a bit of a common sense and argue that one has to be an idiot to volunteer to carry out the same set of mistakes over and over again. That special skill is called reluctance to learn , adapt, evolve and grow. Science or spirituality can do very little to help such people from their moment of inertia.

Acceptance and denial: The big deal is, when you are about to die, would you rather accept everything that you’ve done or would you choose to die staying comforted by the talons of denial. Denial is the ability of a person to blame oneself or rest of the world in order to justify why one deserves misery.

Acceptance is the ability of a person to accept that one might have been responsible(partly or in complete) to actions that led to a failure. Acceptance leads to acknowledgement that there is something to learn and something new to adopt to. Acceptance is key to evolution and growth. Either lead a life in denial and face the moment of truth where time doesn’t really matter anymore or make that effort to accept, face your failures, make an effort to call out the different grades of consequences to deal with and live a life of choices rather than feeling helpless and saying ‘i’m going with the flow’.

Forget about the million gods and billion souls. It’s psychology one on one. One either learns or resists. Resistance is futile. Consequences are inevitable. One faces them one day.

Illusions and Illusions of illusions : The biggest take away from the book is that once we reach the choice of acceptance or denial, should one choose to accept, one also sees through the illusions that one has always been surrounded by. We are not talking about the entire world being an illusion. I’d very much like that if that were to be the case. It isn’t. Violence is real. Hunger and poverty is real. Abuse is real. Misery is real. Pain is real.

The things that aren’t real are our forced choices to stay succumbed and imprisoned to the realities. Violence is real and walking away from it is a choice. Hunger is real, but trying hard to stay away from it is a choice. Abuse is real, standing up against it is a choice. We love our excuses. We hide behind words like ‘Insignificance’, ‘Powerless’, ‘What can one person really achieve’, ‘ its my fate’, ‘Destiny’ to stay comfortably numb , connected strong to such illusions.

There is no miracle cure. There are no one stop shops. Embracing science or spirituality for the sole reason of escaping the choices that one couldn’t find the courage to make is the biggest illusion of them all. In that context, Spirituality is the biggest illusion of them all. We are so eager to surrender and embrace something divine in order to distance ourselves from the responsibilities of the choices that we’ve already made and the choices that we hesitate forever to make It boils down to acceptance and denial. We awaken from one illusion only to embrace another.

One doesn’t need to read ancient scriptures or words of the wise to know this simple truth. As kids , we were told stories about god helps those who help themselves. As adults, we hide behind convenience that words from various sources provide.

And so even from a purist skeptic point of view, I do feel refreshingly enlightened by the book. It was easier to distance the imagery and symbolism adopted in the book and associate myself with the lessons that were intended to be imparted. I see the argument of science versus spirituality as a quintessential epitome of pointlessness. They are the same, different words and both leading to the fundamental simple truth. WAKE UP , SMELL THE ROSES, and START LIVING

Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya – From darkness, lead me to light



An ode to challenges

“Oh come on. You look miserable. Give it up and put an end to the misery” the friendly advice came from a stranger. He got me smiling and thinking!

A six letter word for a Red fruit. I’ve been killing time playing word search and I pop that screen from time to time to vent out the pressures and stress of the day. Most of it was a breeze to cruise through and then I hit a blocker. I refused to seek a ‘Hint’ to solve the puzzle. I sat on the word, or rather the lack of the word for a few days. I was in the elevator when a stranger peeked into the screen and glanced at my misery ridden face. He taunted my choice to stay that way. Giving up made more sense to him. I couldn’t give up. I wouldn’t , not yet.

Speaking of mobile games and life, the games seldom matter. Life , on the other hand, matters plenty. Similar to the silly trivial game of word trivia, life poses many challenges. Some , we coast through without a hitch. Some we struggle but manage to find a solution and power on. Some, they test us. We feel stuck without a solution at hand. We refuse, out of principles and convoluted reasoning, to seek help. We embrace that inertia of inactivity and learn to live with misery at first and soon evolve to dwell in that. Misery becomes a part of life. At all times, there are choices waiting to be made. We refuse the choices. Giving up is one such choice. Asking for help is another. Cheating our way through resolution is another. Quitting is another. The choices are abundant and our reluctance to make them is quite apparent.

What is life without the many challenges. The pretenders usually cite that challenges maketh the bloke. That’s fancy talk for they haven’t been through a challenge that had rendered them useless. Challenge is a way of life, cite the wise. That’s fancy for the inevitability of failure and crushing difficulties that one has to face. Never give up, the champions sing. It sounds miserably optimistic when we are at our pessimistic best. The commonality is that all of us have our challenges in front of us. What we do with them, goes on to determine the life that we stand to live.

In the context of a game, the challenge is a bitter sweet wait. It brushes the ego, it taunts our ignorance. It pushes us to excel and overcome. The gamification offers the right motive to overcome it. There is the bragging right to overcoming the hurdle. The pointless, meaningless likes of a million strangers keeps us going and going strong.

In the context of life, there are no awards, there are no badges, there are no ‘TA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA’ moments to the many victories and many failures that we experience. Lead a lucky enough life, one would have a few friends to share those moments. Lead a deluded life, one would have a thousand strangers to comment on the events published in the social stream. The subtle magnificence of life is that the only big motivation that we have to solving any challenge is the satisfaction of overcoming it. The biggest fear that we fester is the fear of failure of overcoming it. Rest are ego satisfiers at best.

The mind wanders towards perceived repercussions. We assume the worst and hence fear the worst. The reality isn’t either rosy red or blackish black as we want it to be. It rests somewhere in between. While gamification helps us realise the significance of the game and it’s place in our life to assess the worth of success and the failure, real life doesn’t offer that yard stick. We either fail, or we succeed and we go with the ‘Flow of things’. We seldom do sit back and pause to ponder about the meaning of our successes and failures and what they really mean to our lives.

A classic wonderful example is the success at work. A fantastic delivery. While it holds its value in gold in the context of the business, what do we stand to gain from it in the context of life? A failure at work is a failure for us as a professional. Does it translate to a failure as a human? Why aren’t we comfortable in separating the lines that blur our lives? Wisdom is the ability to call out the significance of such victories and failures. Wisdom is the ability to translate them into what it means for us, as people and as professionals.

On that note, the word was Pitaya! of course , I cheated 🙂 I learnt a bit about resilience in the process. I don’t give up because I hate to give up.


Dual of Fates

The title is a play on the best ever sound track there ever is, ‘Duel of Fates’ from Star wars.

When it comes to spirituality, I’m not a well-read bloke. I’m starting to see the wisdom behind written words these days. Fresh out of an autobiography of a yogi to The Tibetan book of the dead. The latter, it’s helping me broaden my mind.

From what I’ve read and things that I’ve picked across conversations is the unshakeable duality that is the world around us. There is a yes and there is a no. There is existence and there is the opposite of that. I don’t know the word that represents the exact opposite of an existence. Then come the natural stereotypes of black and white, night and day, and so on and so forth. The arguments are around there is no dark, just an absence of light. There isn’t a night but only absence of a view of the sun. The hypothesis and the arguments are both right.

One of the conversations that I had in the recent past was around singularity. How and why would one drift away from that singularity. I could fathom a guess and one day I’d grow wise enough to know if that still remains valid. And so we started as a singularity. A singularity that could manifest anything. It manifested thoughts. Along the manifestation of thoughts, it manifested the causal plane where things manifest.

As thoughts manifested, based on a very human logic, thoughts also had an opportunity to confront and conflict with one another. There was a yes. And then there came a No. Hence the first fracture from the singularity. In the causal plane, thoughts manifest and I’d like to guess that the thoughts that the thoughts could think, would also manifest. More thoughts, more differences and with differences, there came by the need to reconcile, aka Heal. In time we had souls, soul families, soul clusters, soul mates and twin flames! Ever since, our souls have been in pursuit of reconciliation and uniting with souls that we fractured from. We inch towards that eventual and inevitable reunion.

The ultimate purpose of a spiritual aspirant is to unite with the singularity. The cycle of births, and through that the mind of a million thoughts, usually keep us distanced away from that union. For a physical body, it is the mind that is the eventual master of choices. Some argue that we are as how god intended. I, personally, wouldn’t know the difference. It’s easier for me accept and take accountability for my actions, my karma rather than delegating that to god and living an illusion.

And so we birth, lead a life, die, take stock of karma and rebirth, eventually break that cycle, and cruise through another round of illusions in the astral and the causal plane. Finally find the road that takes us to the singularity. For arguments sake, what if one wanted to remain wicked and evil? This would result in accumulation of bad karma and stay strong at it for the longest while, eventually that soul would be the exact opposite of the singularity. The antithesis, the antagonist. The yang to the ying. This validates the duality. There was Yes and then there came a No.

It is the mind that manifests thoughts and thoughts inspire actions. The mind fuels us towards the course of our lives. This is the mind that also has the ears to listen to the words of our soul. Our soul talks to us for which we do not need physical ears to listen to. Our mind facilitates our spiritual awakening. Our mind helps us progress that road.

Speaking of the mind, spiritually, all practices help us tune our mind to steer away from the illusion of the many lives we’ve lived. Meditation, prayers are all moments in time when one aspires to liberate the mind. The mind speaks to us in two ways. When we sleep and dream, the physical body, the conscious of the self, loses its grip over the mind. The mind speaks liberated.

Through meditation, one trains to separate the way of the mind from the way of the physical body’s influence of the mind. Dreaming and Meditation are almost the same. When we dream, we aren’t aware that we aren’t awake. When we meditate, we know and train ourselves to let go.

All of it comes down to the mind. This reality, all that is an illusion, they all exist because our minds make it real. When one spiritually awakens, it’s not the world that has changed and altered itself. It’s only us, who are now learning to decipher the world around in a brand new way. Through the sight of an awakened mind.

Duality exists because our mind makes it real.

The Tibetan book of the dead presents another approach to spirituality. Instead of going through cycles of birth, rebirth and purification and eventually uniting with the singularity, What if the truth was that our mind is the same and is united with the singularity right now. Today. As we speak?

We don’t yet see it or experience it because our mind is distracted from the distortion of choices across lives. The ultimate truth is we are still the same as that singularity. Rest is an illusion that keeps us distanced away from that truth. We spiritually awaken the mind and it continues its quest to simplify itself to be the same as the singularity. This is very different from ‘Finding’ the spiritual path. This is more around ‘Experiencing’ it. Why search for something that we already have handy.

The challenge is an exciting one. The mind is the same as the singularity that we so fondly long for. The mind is the only thing that keeps us away from it. It is the mind that we must use to remove the veil of illusion and realize that we are already where we want to be. This takes me back to the movie Matrix. Know yourself. The one is only ready when he realizes it. It’s probably the same case for us as well. Talk about fate. All real and non-existent.

The mind approach does appeal to me plenty. One, it does not strip us away from the responsibility and accountability of our ability to awaken from this stasis. Two, it drives the point about ‘Anubhava’ or ‘Experience’ really strong. When it’s all in the mind, there is nothing tangible to see, feel, touch or smell. We are left with the ability to feel its existence. I believe in that very much. It’s the same that the masters speak of, from what I’ve read from the autobiography of a yogi.

The bigger take away. I’ve believed in this for a while and my character expresses it from time to time. The virtues and the vices of this life, or any life, doesn’t really matter for we judge ourselves through the acquired intelligence of our mind. There isn’t a right or a wrong and once we awaken ourselves to that truth that we are not held hostage by actions of the past, we can focus our energies into making things right. The awakening of the mind hints at this. The book offers a framework to that spiritual life. It isn’t vulgarly complicated. Don’t do wrong by yourself or others. Don’t shy away from working. Don’t speak ill of yourself and others. It’s not a perfect verbatim match, but the gist is be kind to the world and be kind to yourself. See the illusion that surrounds your mind. Let your mind awaken and stay aware. It’s simple enough. I’m yet to read through the book. I am quite excited and looking forward to it. I’m able to connect the words called here and the experiences that I’ve read in the other book. Together, they all convey the same story. Just different words.

Do not let the failures and challenges of the past deter your from the spiritual progress that awaits ahead. Accept them, forgive yourself for falling, forgive others for pushing you towards that fall. Make your peace with it all and free yourself to experience the world beyond. I think that is the key. That is the big leap away from the inertia of births and rebirths.

The Tibetan framework starts with invocation of the mind to become aware. It then progresses to help us reach out to the awakened masters for guidance and help. We then proceed to cleanse ourselves, by first forgiving our self and then forgiving the world around. This is similar to the forgiveness prayer that I’ve come across. Then one progresses to cleanse the aura around the chakras. That’s where I have paused the book. Interestingly, it also offers a color code explanation of our energy centres (chakras). I noticed Red, Yellow, White and Green. White is east, Red is west. Yellow was south and Green north. I have no idea what they or any of it means. Might live to learn someday.

So far, the illusions have been kind 🙂


In light of stranger dark things!

A quick homage to Stranger things and Dark from Netflix. We’ll talk a bit about both in a little while from now. In light of the stranger dark things is a quick comparative study of stranger things, dark things and Light.

And so my heart broke again. Heart a bit broken, I stood deep in contemplation. The story does not start there though. It starts on a much happier note.

The retro rock of 1980’s blaring, I had found myself getting hooked on to the series called Stranger things. Like a junkie, it was the right time to binge on the seasons. Two seasons vanished under a week. Ah, time well spent. Most junkies feel that kick from withdrawal. I needed my thriller/horror fix. I found that fix in DARK, another series. The two series now watched, my mind had reached it’s normalcy. A nativity that I find in stitching thoughts together.

Staying cautious of the spoilers , I’ll refrain from the plots. Funny that. Fiction and life, sharing a common trait of keeping the plot points concealed. Perfect. Both stories are about the existence of more than one dimension. Both deal with that other dimension in their own unique way. Stranger things is a funny , goofy and feisty. Dark is a grim tale in comparison. The duality of the circumstance baffles me. One is light hearted and other is heavy with its undertones.

Both explore the possibilities of the existence of other realms. I’ve spent a few moments trying to guess if such a dimension(s) really exists? Different people have very different names for such parallel worlds. Instead of setting my eyes towards in the infinite vastness of the world around me, I turned my gaze towards the world within in. The mind. A mind offers limitless possibilities. We change our perspectives based on knowledge and experiences gained. We base our perspectives based on the people in our lives and the nature of company that we keep. We rest our faith in many things invisible but struggle to back the reflection that we see when we view ourselves in a mirror. The mind is a world of its own making. Understanding the clockwork of our mind is just as herculean task as trying to pin the infinite vastness of the world that surrounds us. In effect, we, our cognisance is a thin line that separates the two infinities that are found within ourselves and found everywhere else.

When I heard the things that I heard, my heart broke. The snippet of information was first heard, then listened to a million times as a reverberating echo that my mind kept replaying. Once I had listened, I dug deeper within to see what I had done to bring such a fate upon myself. All the actions in the past were now ripe and apt to be charged with guilt. Even before another word was said, I had sentenced myself.

When the dust settled, A walk under the cloudy sky was in order. The walk helped me brush aside the broken ego and guilt trips. I believe I was finally ready to accept things that I hadn’t even had the time to contemplate before. I reasoned the causes, only this time I managed keep myself and my guilt away from the equation. Things fell into a perspective when I was no longer the charged instigator of events that had transpired. I assessed the situation and could call out the subtle difference between doing what’s right and doing what’s right by me.

Now armed with a progressive cause and effect of things, with acceptance now under the belt, I felt ready to talk about things with the heartbreaker. When things aren’t personal, there aint much to feel offended about. This helped the conversation plenty. Emotional conversations are hard while neutral conversations are easier to manage. A quick tete-a-tete later, RCA was simple enough. Just so happened that the decisions were wondered because of circumstances that in no way related to me. I just happened to be the guy in the place when the message was passed.

Now , how is this any different from weird things that spill over to our side across the many other dimensions? The unknowns managed by our minds are nothing short of a fantastic scripted mystery. We make everything real. The ridiculousness that truth offers is lost to us because we are what our minds make of us. A blink of an eye later, I had succumbed to the many failures of my life. A walk later, I had accepted them and had made a choice to rise above them. All the while, it was an exercise not worth the while. My mind had made it a necessity.

We live with Stranger , darker things residing in our mind. Call it buried deep within the heart or call it a biased reflex response to stimuli, we are a product of our own making and conditioning. If only our mind could be personified, it would have been easier to confront that bloke and set things right. Battling a mind is twice the challenge. It takes an effort for the mind to rebel against its hardwiring. It takes an effort to contradict it and pick a side. The exercise is difficult because the mind executes the judgement and the same mind accepts that sentence and still it’s the same mind that tries to challenge that agreed status quo.

It is in the light where our absolution rests. In the light where the stranger dark things dissipate. The irony is, it is the mind that is darkness and it is the mind that is the light!


Book Experience : Autobiography of a yogi

“May you find peace” – Oct 2015

It was a simple message that adorned the book when I received it. It’s taken me a lot of time to read through the book. Have I found peace? I wouldn’t know the answer for that. Have I found questions worth asking? Absolutely. Have I found answers to all the questions locked away in the universe of my mind? March 2018 is probably not the right time to assess the answer to that question.

It’s neither modesty nor humility that encouraged me to revamp the title from a book review to a book experience. I accept and acknowledge that I’m not yet ready to comprehend the book in its entirety. One also cannot deny the experience that is called reading this wonderful book. This is by no means a review. It’s a scribe of the experience that I’ve had reading through its pages.

I’m a novice at best, in the road of spirituality. I jot my experiences for two reasons, 1. To serve as a milestone so that one day I might reflect and see how far I might have travelled. 2. Blur the lines of spirituality and simple well being. This is important as the tag ‘Spirituality’ can be a bit too overwhelming to us. This is a kind of book where you get what you read. Viewing it through different eyes still offers wisdom that we stand to gain from.

I classify the book into 3 sections .

1. Where are we in the vast wideness of the universe

2. Have others been here and done that? What is so special about them?

3. Is it real? What is real?

I’ll elaborate on the second point first. It sets the context for the book.

Have others been here and done that? What is so special about them?

A considerable portion of the book accounts the experiences and lives of many people. From scientists to faces that none of us might have heard of, the book offers us a peek into their wonderful life. This aspect of the book, to me, is very important. The book is not about yogis locked away in the Himalayas, far away from the societal civilization of the modern day living. Different people from all walks of life experience a happy fulfilling life. They are awake to a wisdom beyond the books that our educational institutions cover. These folks are amongst us. Some as entrepreneurs, some as common folk, some as full time spiritual aspirants and some as skeptics. The book does not intend to have a focused target audience. It rests open to all.

The biggest takeaway is also along the much sought after purpose of life. Many people , whose experiences have been elaborated in the book, did not start with Altruistic , global peace and wellbeing in their minds. Just like you and me, they wanted something normal. They put their faith and it changed their way of life. One needn’t set their eyes on the lonely mountains to connect with this book. Have your eyes on the trinket, and put your faith and maybe you’d end up with your share of the loot.

What is so special about the people that have been quoted in the book? Apart from being normal as you and I can ever be, there is nothing special about them. And that is a level playing field. The book banks on our ability to be the best that we aspire to be. It helps along the way. I’ll get to the simplicity of it shortly.

Is it real? What is real?

Reality is a floating baseline. For some of us, reality is a bucket load of system issues waiting to be fixed by the close of play today. For some, reality is that we live in a world of illusion. We’d like to see what is real. For some, science is the yardstick that determines what is real and what is not. This book is a convergence of all the realities around. Reality is what we want it to be. Reality is challenging the status quo. When we are happy with everything about and around us, there is no further quest for reality. When we aren’t happy, our efforts to make things better, that becomes our reality. When we aren’t happy and we feel trapped by it. That also becomes our reality. All of it is real. Coincidentally, none of it has to be real as well. It’s all about perception and what we want things to be. As I said, reality is a floating baseline. It is what we want it to be. Through time, as we evolve, our understanding and our acceptance and tolerance to the said reality also changes. This explains why we constantly evolve and alter the realities around us.

Where are we in the vast wide universe ?

The answer to this question really depends on who is asking that question. The book offers wonderful, realistic examples as a response to that question. As a skeptic, what I got to see in the words were that put your faith in yourself. Do what you possibly can. Improve where you can improve. That’s precisely where you are in the vast wide universe.

To the believer in me, the tells me that there indeed is a god. One god, many faces and names. It recommends god as an idea. The book explicitly doesn’t, but it draws parallels across religions.

To the spiritual aspirant in me, it opens a million more thoughts and questions. It offers some answers.

Regardless of what you believe in, the crux of the conversation is around Experience. Anubhava. One doesn’t find the truth, or the god, or whatever. One experiences it. Most of us would have experienced love. We call it, ‘found love’. Finding love can either result in having it and holding on to it, or losing it. Experiencing love on the other hand, it stays with us. Irrespective of the outcome, irrespective of where time has taken us, One cannot un-experience what that was experienced. That is the nature of all the truths around us. We try to find it. We seldom try to experience it. The risk of finding is that by virtue of objectifying it, we also stand to lose it.

The book, in so many different ways, through so many people’s lives , explains the simplicity of our lives. We can be special, if we let ourselves experience the things that we call special and miraculous.

The book is polymorphic in nature. Based on the maturity of thoughts of the reader, the words it imparts can/will offer grander answers to some of our questions. It still is not a one stop shop for every Q that bothers us.


Disney’s silly song

The story starts in the year 2000. Ripe out of school, right into a university, there was this wonderful gestation period of a few months to acclimatise to the new way of adolescent life. The time would go on to alter my life forever. It was the time when I had discovered the musician in me. What started with a gig bag of a notebook and a pen , soon ballooned up to include an instrument of musical expression. The band knew that we had to take that first step. That step was soon taken.

Cue in my cousin. We looked up to him. A product of IIT-Madras, he had the right collection of rock in the form of audio cassettes. In fact, when I was too young to even acknowledge music, he had already curated an impressive collection of the best that 80’s bill board had to offer. From Madonna to Michael Jackson, from Judas priest to Guns and roses, he had it all. He was a musician. I guess he might be one , even today. Just goes to say that time parts us all.

Anyways, we needed a guitar and he had one to sell. Two amateur , wannabe musicians walked to his hallowed room. A sale was made. My cousin did say, at some point, that it was his first guitar. That took us by surprise. ‘Why are you selling off your first guitar dude?’ , I had asked.

‘I need the money to buy a new one’, the simplicity of his detachment was mind numbing. I couldn’t understand back then, his stoic and cold sense of business. I don’t fully understand even now. That guitar was the first of the acoustic guitars that I’ve owned. I went on to pick a few more acoustic ones and four more electric ones. One of my acoustic guitars , now sleeps happy in my friend’s place. I don’t have any of my electric guitars anymore.

Somewhere down the line, I had freed myself from the clutches of musical instrument attachment. If only I could recreate the magic across all spheres of my life.

Flash forward to 2018, Feb the 23rd. I was talking about a book with a colleague of mine. ‘Do you mind if I can borrow it once you’ve done with it’, my colleague meekly asked.

‘Negatory , dude. I don’t think I can part with it. It’s special to me’ , I turned him down. That was that.

I found it easier to buy him a new one than afford the cost of handing out my cherished possession. I nudged him this morning to tell him that I’ve placed an order for his new book. I thanked him for the valuable lesson that he helped me see.

Disney’s lousy song, ‘Let it go’, is easy to sing and enormously difficult to imbibe. I’ve not considered myself as a materialistic person and I knew the book didn’t mean much to me. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. The irony was a jibing slap on my face. The words and wisdom that it stood to impart were in direct contradiction to the actions that I was committing myself to. I acknowledged my inability to let it go. I also accepted the influencing factors. Maybe one day, I’d be ready to treat it as a book and sever the strings that it houses.

The whole exercise, the lesson that I could see, makes me believe that attachment does slow us down. We like holding on to things. Some things, because they have wonderful and nice memories tied to them. Some, because we’d like the unpleasantness that was plastered across every inch of them, to serve as a reminder for the future. By virtue of just holding on, we do risk skipping the opportunity to hold new things, explore new possibilities and try something new. One doesn’t have to be clad in orange and move to the mountains to see the benefits of keeping a free pair of hands. My rock-n-rolla cousin saw this a very long time ago. He knew what he wanted and was ready to do what it took to get him closer to his dreams. Maybe one day my hands will be free too.

The deal with letting things go is that we are comfortable with the deal if we have something else to hold on to. The challenge is to let things go, especially when we have nothing else to replace it with. Who knows, it can open doors. On the things that await behind them doors, it’s only a matter of time to see if there is a reward or another lousy lesson waiting to be learnt !


Shoes or feet?

I’ve been thinking about the age old saying, ‘One shoe doesn’t have to fit em all’. Ok, I lied. Twice. Just thought of it and that’s not an old saying at all!! Talk about a deceptive way to kick start a Friday morning.

Humour me and indulge my thoughts for a minute. What if I told you that the shoe is not the problem. It’s probably the feet that are off. The one shoe doesn’t fit them all feet is a wonderful example of how we choose to find fault with the world of things rather than having a moment to introspect. Why blame a shoe. It isn’t even sentient.

I’d like to believe that customer engagement is my forte. I’d very much like to believe that I’m usually the bloke who gets sent to the front line when all things go wrong. Some of it has to do with how I manage issues and most of it has to do with the choices that I make to manage people. While I’m not a designated leader, time and again, I inherit that role. Once my job is done, I strip myself of the title and resume being a peasant.

This ties back to the shoes and feet. Leadership is similar to that shoe. The people who don that role, well well well, we are that feet. It’s good to sit back and see if its the shoe or the feet.

From a resolution point of view, there are a few commandments that I always follow.

1. Listen to the customer erupt

2. Set the first view of the expectation and promise to revert with an updated view

3. Sit back and understand the issue

3.a Evaluate the boundaries around the issue

3.b If its got nothing to do with us, Push back and Push back hard

3.c If its got to do with us, focus on resolution than witch hunt

4. Reassess and reset the updated expectation

5. Do whatever the hell it takes to meet that commitment

And that’s how I wrap a given Monday.

The things that I’ve called out are not a formal framework set in stone. These are the few steps that I follow , which I’ve learnt by getting yelled at for years. Get yelled repeatedly, you are bound to see a method to the madness. The steps are still attributes of the shoe that we spoke about. Most of us end up doing them in varying capacities. They do get done.

The difference between a bloke, a better bloke, good bloke and a great bloke, is how individuals carry those steps out. Feet.

A failure or a challenge is a fantastic way to understand how our mind works. We react to a challenge based on our limitations, our fears and insecurities and our strengths.

The ability for the feet to not take a failure personally goes a very very long way. When hell breaks loose, which it usually does on Fridays, there are specific ways where the feet of the IT world react

1. There are those who find the source to blame and end up making someone’s life miserable

2. There are those who panic because they freeze

3. There are those who start worrying about the consequences and how it might impact their plans of paying off those EMIs

4. There are those who stop, think, plan, act and solve

5. And there are those who call on help , wash their hands off the responsibility, let the right people do their jobs, come back for the laurels

6. Oh and there are those who call on help, let the right people do their jobs, support them, take ownership of the situation and when the time comes for passing the due credit, they generously award them to the folks who got things back on track

The point is, there is no right and wrong. Leadership is not a trait. It’s usually a necessity because the situation warrants it. Managers and leaders are not born. They just happen to be blokes, caught in the wrong time at the wrong place. Some make their hay when that sun shines, some don’t.

The leadership trait that we express is a culmination of two significant factors. The things we read on benchmarked leadership traits and the other important thing, WHAT WE BRING TO THE TABLE. Besides our skills and years of experience, sore backs from the inertia of those lousy chairs, we also bring our personal and professional demons .We exhibit our strengths and limitations. If our limitations worry us, we tend to display a defensive approach to situations. When we stay assured of our strengths and stay wary of our limitations, we play to our strengths.

Always remember, there are no bad managers, just people bringing additional skills to the table!

So there you go. Shoes, feet and Management ! Fancy that sentence. Fancy that indeed!!!!!!


[Book Review] The old devils

The old devils, Kingsley Amis

Cover page of The Old Devils

This is a book about old timers who’d have lived all their lives in the same town in wales. Their lives take a turn when Alun and Rhiannon decided to come back to the Wales and spend the remainder of their lives there. The arrival of the couple stirs up the neighbourhood and it does for a very good reason. Love.

Alun is an established author who follows the footsteps of Brydan, a welsh poet. Alun is a celebrity of sorts. Books, public appearance and interviews for the telly and the radio are his way of life. His wife Rhiannon, she’s something else. She coexists with her husband, doesn’t really come in his way. Together, they do make an enviable pair.

Alun’s friends , Peter & Muriel, Charlie & Sophie, Malcom & Gwen spend most of their time drinking the town dry. Everyday is an occasion to bid sobriety a farewell. Alun and Rhi quicky get inducted into the drinking games. The tale picks pace in establishing the lives of the old couples. Complications arise, because they bloody well would. Alun is promiscuous. Peter and Rhi were a couple at some point in the time before Peter got her knocked up and dumped her for someone else. Malcom and Rhi were a couple at sometime too. The men in the book go around rekindling the flame that had gripped their lives in the past. While secrets are kept close to the chest, the unspoken truth grows into a white elephant that is deaf, dumb and blind. Truth becomes an inconvenience which is not worth uncovering.

The tale is a wonderful example of how appearances can be deceiving. As we continue our journey through the tale, we take a closer look at the lives of the couple. Peter, for example, was a player in his youth. He was charming , seductive and had his way with women. In the present day where he is pushing 70, Peter’s life is lacklustre. He lives an isolated , alienated life with his wife who barely even acknowledges his presence in the house. Gone are his days of love and raging romanticism. His reality is void of any emotional connect at home. The two stay clear off each other. Peter longs for companionship and Muriel resents the very existence of Peter.

Charile on the other had is a man born for drinking, He drinks and drinks unconditionally. He battles his demons in the form of panic attacks. Charlie can’t endure being left all by himself. The dark and the loneliness gets to him. Sophie , and his brother Victor, ensure that they accompany him whenever they can. While it’s not explicitly implied, but one can fathom the dynamics of the relationship that Victor and Sophie share.

Malcom and Gwen’s lives take a turn because of Alun. Gwen an Alun were a thing. Alun and everybody else were a thing. Alun being Alun, complicates Gwen’s life. Gwen retaliates vocally under the influence of alcohol in a party. The friends reduce her hateful words as booze driven rage and set things aside.

The book is painfully slow. It does offer a subtle insight into a life of regret and resentment. In the book, nobody marries for love. The marriages are for convenience. Everybody harbours a longing that goes unrewarded for as long as it can. The stark difference between life in the prime of our youth and life of old age is wonderfully drawn. The strengths that we took for granted do vanish with time. While it’s easier to live a lie when we have the energy and zeal to compensate it, when it’s the time to slow down and sit back, the lies turn around to haunt.

My biggest take away from the book is about closure. I think it’s easier to wrap up a chapter in life and move on as long as we bag and tag the past and cast it aside, beyond our line of sight and hence beyond our realm of thought. Unless we reconcile with it, we’d never find peace with it, should the past catch up with us in the future. Considering life, the past always manages to catch up. The characters in the book are both victims of circumstances, are instigators of actions made of choices, and are aloof to owning their choices in a befitting manner. They all take to the bottle to keep their demons locked. They carry on for as long as they can maintain the façade.

This book ushers us to take a good look at the lies that we tell ourselves.

This is a slow book and it lacks sudden jump surprises. This book takes its time to establish the characters really well. If you endure it, it does reward you in parts. This is not a definite must read, but there is a happy ending of sorts, should that matter to you.


Trains and coffee

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck.

“I’ll figure something out. Please don’t cry. I’m here now. We’ll find a way and do what needs to get done” he assured. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a girl could manage to get a break from the cruel talons of life.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone. I didn’t know David for all my life. The first time I noticed him was the morning train to work. He stood by the door, facing me. I glanced at him without an afterthought. That was that. I got off my stop and made it to work. I didn’t have a reason to spare a thought about him.

My life is a little complicated. I’m a simple girl and I’ve had a rather humble beginning. I walked into this land with hopes of a better life. I did find a better life and it was good for a while. I met my future husband at work. We both felt a mutual spark and we married soon. The troubles started slowly. There were days when my darkened glasses would mask my bruised face. The loving tender and care had soon vanished and had left behind booze fuelled rage and resentment. There were days when I saw more of his roughened fist than his caring face. I had quietly accepted my fate and had opted to succumb to the cruelties of destiny. This was my life and I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was one of those days when I noticed David. He had been taking the same train, always standing at a safe distance away from me. I was always in his line of sight, as was he on mine. I had seen enough of him to find his face familiar. He had the same kind blue eyes. I secretly wondered if he also had demons locked away behind his innocence.

A good two weeks later, he managed to muster up the courage to approach me. We had been neighbours on a train all the way. The one off glances had changed to acknowledged smiles. It wasn’t long before he had braved to speak. It wasn’t much. A generous offer for a cup of coffee. I didn’t see a harm in that. Sharing a cup of coffee with a stranger wasn’t the same as cheating. It wasn’t the same thing. It was always going to be an innocent cup of coffee.

A few cups of coffee later we realized that we had become friends. The Friday was sunny and the clouds had made way for the sun. It was a beautiful pleasant day to be outdoors. I had carried my dark sunglasses with me that morning. Things had gotten rough the previous evening. I needed someone in the world to know what I was going through. I needed someone to see me for what I was. I wanted someone to hear my trapped misery. David was all that I had.

I told him the horrors that I had accepted into my life. He was deeply saddened by it.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. It was all that I could manage to do. I had given my life the best that I could.

I do believe that in a world where Karma catches up. It wasn’t long before David came up with the solution. In his mind, a murder felt justified. It justified my pain. It justified a revenge and the most important thing to it , he knew it couldn’t be traced back to us. The simplicity of his plan terrified me. I couldn’t have imagined a sinister mind hiding behind his innocent eyes. I had made up my mind and had accepted to let fate take its course. I had to endure my cursed life for a month. Liberation was waiting for me on the other side.

It wasn’t long before David popped a proposal . It was the same coffee shop. It was the same David. I felt newer and livelier. Of course I said yes. I was always going to say yes. For good and for worse, David was the one that set me free. He had both my heart and my gratitude.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. I had broken down in front of him.

Six months of a marriage later, I had met Michael. Same blue eyes. Same innocence. I knew there was a demon hiding away in plain sight.

“Please don’t cry. I’m here now. I mean it’s fate now aint it. We met on the train and now you have a problem and I think I know how to get that sorted” , Michael tried to console me.

As I said, I’m a simple girl with humble beginnings. Our coffee had arrived. A murder was in the horizon.


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.