Of skepticism and superstitions

If I had a black and a white outlook towards life, scepticism and superstition would align themselves at the polar ends of the spectrum. Fortunately, I enjoy the simple pleasures of dwelling in the land of grey. The fine line that separates my identity as a skeptic and my unshakable faith in superstition can very well be termed as hypocrisy. I’m happy with that label. And so I think I’m a hypocrite. I selectively debunk superstitions and selectively protect that belief with all my heart.

What started all of this ?

‘Bite your tongue’ , is a phrase one uses to flag a certain disapproval of things said. Nobody tells me that. My mom does tell me other things. Things like when you bite your lips , accidentally a few times in quick succession, it means there is someone who is venting out their anger and disgust for you eloquently.

I’ve had my tryst with my mom’s wisdom quite a number of times. The recent of the lot, it was a Saturday when I nearly ripped off my lip. It started abruptly and a week later, it ended as abruptly as it started. It was a week where I think I was being screamed at. Arguably, by virtue of being just myself, I think I feel a certain comfort in staying entitled that at time of the day, there is someone who has me living in their head. There is a guilty sinful pleasure there. I enjoy the fact that I’m worthy enough to occupy someone’s mind and inspire a degree of pristine hate and disgust in them. It’s a living!

This time around, I had my suspects. The timelines made sense. Coincidence was at it’s dramatic best. The week done, my lips are now safe. I don’t bite into them now. The phase of violence is now over.

I’m also a skeptic. I remember the first time I was made aware of that scepticism. It was in Liverpool, Peter and I were by the Mersey and we were talking about humanity. He believed, still believes in the goodness of the species. I didn’t back then. It was a stark realization of how bitter and resentful my experiences had made me. I had found it easier to distrust the goodness in us. I had found it easy to succumb to the simplicity of the impending doom that awaited us all.

That was me, being a skeptic. I also do enjoy the curiosity that drives me. I’m a cat on the wall when it comes to most belief systems. I rarely pick a side. When I do, I usually vet things by subjecting them to a test of time, a test of people, a test of context and circumstances. Once the faith stands tall post that scrutiny, I’m rather quick in adopting it. I usually never look back. It’s the curiosity and my reluctance to pick sides that has left me challenging the status quo.

I’m a bit superstitious. I still don’t bother trimming nails after sunset. I’d not visit a temple without showering. I’d not visit anybody’s house empty handed. I think the world is made of vibes and there are vibes that are positive and there those which I infer as being negative. The extent of my indulgence of superstitions stop there.

The other side of the tale, I’m skeptic about the eclipse or how one shouldn’t dine during the eclipse. I don’t mind dangling the key chain after dark. I have no qualms about having a conversation with my god. I’m not into dogmatic procedures that most would ardently adhere to. I enjoy my non-compliance. I love to annoy my mom.

I reckon the state of staying a skeptic or superstitious is very much a personal choice. It’s a life choice. It’s a life style. Like most similar choices, trouble brews when we try to force these opinions/faiths/belief systems onto others. For example, I am a bit old fashioned and yet I’m intolerant towards folks who expect a conservative outlook towards life. After quite a few many clashes of ideology, I am a bit jaded from voicing out opinions. Live and let live seems to be a wonderful means to a peaceful existence. Of course, not the world’s peace. Just mine and mine alone.

It is funny, the way we are. We find it easy to believe a heaven that is filled with angels, we find it easy to believe a hell that’s crowded with demons. Yet we find it hard to place trust on people who walk amongst us. By virtue, we find it easier to believe comfortable and convenient unknowns and yet choose to fear the ones that we are unsure about. Irony walks with us.

I don’t think I’m alone here. Many of us do share that enthusiasm for debunking myths. Many of us have our peeves for superstition. A lot of us are chained to our obsessive repetitive routines. So what do you believe in? What do you voice against?

Karthik

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Book review : memoirs of an imaginary friend

My name is Budo.

I have been alive for five years.

Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.

Max gave me my name.

Max is the only human person who can see me.

Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.

I love Max’s teacher, Mrs Gosk.

I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs Patterson.

I am not imaginary.

Coverpage of Memoirs of an imaginary friend

That’s what the preview of the book in Amazon read. On an impulse, I hit the click to buy button. The book came and along with it came a wonderful journey of words. Memoirs of an imaginary friend is a cute teddy bear with a bright pink heart that you hug tight to feel warm and fuzzy. It is a kind of a book that leaves you feeling warm, nice and happy. It’s a Disney movie that you watch by reading a book. I think this is by far the most ADORABLE thing that I’ve ever read.

Memoirs of an imaginary friend , Matthew Dicks is a fantastic fantasy-adventure of Budo. Budo is an imaginary person. He is very much real as he is not. Max, an autistic child , imagines Budo and Budo has now been around for five years. Given the world of imaginary friends, five years is almost a near impossible lifetime for an imagination to stay alive.

Budo understands the world that Max tends to skip at times. Budo never sleeps and has a curiosity of a child. At five, Budo is torn between the world of adults and children. He’s too mature to be a child and a product of a child’s imagination to be an adult. Budo’s view of the world is often perceived as an outlook of a child.

The story picks speed as we soon realize that Max is a special child with special needs. Max and Budo’s conversations are a bliss to read. There is innocence sprayed all over the book in vulgarly copious amounts. Nuances and mannerisms of an autistic child are beautifully portrayed in the book. We , as readers, soon associate ourselves to Max’s strengths and limitations. We cheer him for the things he does. We feel bad for the things he does differently. Max’s challenges become our challenges.

While innocence does remain cemented throughout the journey of this tale, it’s Budo’s curiosity, his self awareness of being an imaginary being , and his questions on life and death; the difference between existence and fading away into oblivion that offsets the childlike tone of the book. Thankfully , Budo does not go Gung-Ho and spew philosophy. He has simple needs, simple wants and it’s that pursuit of needs and wants that drives the themes of existence and purpose of life in this book.

Budo would ‘Die’ if Max stopped believing in him. As boys grow older , they do grow out of the ‘having an imaginary friend’ phase. Max’s direction towards a better , fuller, normal life also means Budo ceases to exist. It’s this conflict that is so wonderfully nurtured through the book.

One fine day, Max goes missing from school and it’s up to Budo to embark upon a fantastic adventure in finding Max and saving the day. A challenge which would have been easier had Budo been a real bloke! The rest of the book is all about this excellent , heart warming adventure. The pace is perfect, it gives us beautiful moments to pause and absorb the adventure. The story doesn’t feel rushed.

I couldn’t help but draw some connections out of the plot. I imagined Max as the transient point in time. Max was a summation of the past, the present and the future. I imagined Budo to be the self. Budo’s status quo changes with how Max grows in time. Aren’t we like that. The best days of our lives, always tend to be in the past. We coast through the present, we exist. The unknowns of the future probes fear into our hearts and we do tend to worry about our existence.

“It’s very strange to be an imaginary friend. You can’t be suffocated and you can’t get sick and you can’t fall and break your head and you can’t catch pneumonia. The only thing that can kill you is a person not believing in you.” Budo

I refused to let myself wander away in thoughts. I enjoyed the story narrated. Far away from the land of murders, crimes, deaths, contemplations about life, this felt like a breath of rejuvenating fresh air to read.

Make time for Budo. Give his story a shot. You wont regret it.

Next stop, A man called Ove.

Karthik

Book Review : Atonement

Coverpage of the Book : Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan

There is something so familiar in this book that struck a chord. It’s a tale of an affair with words, the world of imagination , the choices made and consequences eventually atoned for.

This is a story of Ms Briony Tallis. She’s a bored little teenager who dreams big of being a writer one day. A summer that changes her life and the lives of people around her. The story is set amidst the boredom of this girl, her way of coping up with the boredom by imagining a world of drama and thematic challenges. With her brother Leon returning back home from university, it presents her with a wonderful opportunity of hosting a play to entertain the guests.

Briony’s world is her home, her sister Cecillia , Robbie; who is the son of the housekeeper who helps around the Tallis household, Lola and the twins who are her aunt’s kids and are guests in the house. Briony engages Lola and the twins to take part in her play. Briony has a change of heart and decides to call off the play.

She also happens to witness the raw and crude strained love that Cecillia and Robbie share. Her age of ignorance and naïve innocence, her lack of understanding of young blossoming love, her pampered outlook towards life, all of this results in her bearing witness to Robbie assaulting Lola. Briony’s testament , her dedicated unwavering conviction to her testimony seals Robbie’s fate.

The story then branches out to its next two acts. Set in the backdrop of Dunkirk, Robbie is now a man, a solider who has one and only reason that drives him to survive the war and return home to his one true love Cecillia. Robbie , of course, is innocent of the crime that he was charged with, finds it hard to forgive Briony but also wants Cec to unite with her family and sister again. The incident had fractured the family and the lives of its people. Forgiveness becomes a commodity that is not easily exchanged.

Act three revolves around Briony’s penance. In time, she realizes the magnitude of her childish act. Now fully aware of the consequences of her actions, the striking difference between words of fiction and words that are stated in the real world, Briony is plagued with the knowledge that her thirst for fiction and drama in life had resulted in fractured lives. Briony decides to face the consequences of bearing the truth.

Atonement is a book that bored me to hell. The pace was slower than a dead horse trying to drag itself from point a to b. While the premise was promising, the execution lacked drama and was far away from it’s potential. Briony’s atonement was barely a crescendo. It fizzed away and drowned in distracted narration , much like a sound of triangle getting lost in a blaring orchestra. By the time one reaches the end, we don’t feel Briony’s burden, we don’t share her guilt, we remain unaffected by the choices of the characters.

I’m glad that this was the last of the 5 that I picked up. Another day, another book read, another lessons learnt and a few ones skipped. I wish I felt inspired to explore the themes that the book covered. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with it to bother that effort.

If you have the time to kill, if someone gifted you this book and you feel compelled to not cheat, not sneak up the plot in Wiki, then have fun reading the book.

Karthik

Eyes out : A rear window story

Rear window is a brilliant movie. It’s a fantastic tale of a broken leg, binoculars, rear window, deceit , murder. It’s a movie that screams of the advantage of an voyeuristic outlook to life. The movie made in 1954 did not have the foresight to imagine how it’s theme would go on to shape the world in the decades to come.

Lets take a deep breath and acknowledge the fact that we are an voyeurism obsessed society. With most notifications that I get , which usually are spying on the lives of others, I view them as an irritant rather than a fodder to my curious eyes. Linked and face book have always been excited in keeping me informed on whom my friends connect with. Goodreads does that and also keeps me posted on what my friends are reading and what their friends are reading as well.

As the wings of this social voyeurism spreads, the social media also wages a battle of privacy to bridge that gap. It is a cycle of sorts that results in stagnation. The social media thrives on reducing the degrees of separation between people. The relaxed privacy norms facilitates that random connection across people. This relaxed nature also leaves us exposed to insidious minds and sinister intents. A quick tweak of privacy to keep ourselves protected also results in a bottleneck of people that we find ourselves connected to. The net result is a mind numbing number of avenues where we get to connect with the same set of people that we are surrounded by.

While that stagnation doesn’t really matter to us much, after all we enjoy the company of our friends and why would we worry about having a lot more of them a lot more of the time all the time? Narrow vision , for starters. There is a reason why we connect with people. Either they think the same as us, or they are equally crazy. When there is a hive of like minded people, the existing biases get fortified. When we connect with crazy minds, there is too much crazy with little ventilation. That leads to saturation. So the obvious conclusion is that we are stuck with the same set of predictable opinions and thoughts, which get fed to us every single day.

How does this feed back into the voyeurism ?

Oh that’s rather simple.. We share and share unceremoniously. The hive does rob us of the simpler ability to realize the dependence or the risks of opening our minds to a world that is far away from being moderated. This leaves us with a weak outlook towards fencing our mind. With minds exposed, exposed to the same old same old every day, it feeds back into the stagnation that I spoke about. The closed claustrophobic circle , the daily feeds of tiny details of life , they all feed our hunger for voyeurism. We get exposed to the lives of others, we expose our lives.

Does such a lifestyle come with a price?

One word. Hollow. The lifestyle does leave us hollow. We are already leading a life as an advert to events that unfold around us. We advertise our lives for likes and amusement of our world. We crave the attention and there are times when that attention span means the most to us. Substitute this addiction to any other substance abuse and we’d probably be tagged as a junkie.

I’m in no way immune to the charm of such an hollow advertised life. In fact, I am all the more guilty of the charges levied on me. It’s fun to reflect the addiction and acknowledge the things that are at stake. What got me into such a thought process was a discussion on perspectives.

‘Dude, that’s the image you are portraying’ an observation was made.

I didn’t see a point in a rebuttal. The moment we are on display, we also lose control over what the world makes of us. The simple pleasures of a vicious cycle 😉

So what’s the verdict ? Does it make sense or does this leave me as the guy who cried wolf? I’ve stayed clear of depriviation that’s caused by a digital avatar of the self.

Karthik

Under the same sun

French, German, English, Indian( throw in a few languages there), African, European… the list goes longer and I’m limited by my ability to spot the subtle differences in ethnicity of the world. London , to me, is a wonderful city of sights , sounds, people and life. Commuting in the city is a big part of the life here. It is through such mundane , sober daily toils of a journey, where I’ve come to realize the simplicity of context of my existence. We are, more or less, same under the same sun.

The day started early. I had to find my way to a place where I’ve not travelled before. A friend had called in a favour and I felt obliged to help. This commute took me places. A walk, a bus ride, an over ground rail , an underground tube, a bright sun in the sky, a Friday to appreciate the little things of life, a cup of coffee in hand, a soul that felt rejuvenated from the experience.

I do like to view myself as an observer. I enjoy the state of feeling insignificant in a world filled with people. People who mind their own business, carry out their set of chores , connected and yet disconnected from the world around. This morning was special indeed. A little girl, probably around 4-5 years of age. Could be younger than that. She was a little talkative lady. Innocence had a voice. Beauty had a form. Angels had a face. It was all evident in the little one. She spoke her magic words, she smiled her lovely smile, her mother tried to wash her hands using a mild alcohol rub and the little one played along by not bothering to put up any resistance.

It was a warm fuzzy experience , watching her rub her hands and talk to her mum in a language of her own making. Words spoken. Words that conveyed sincere meanings. Words that needed no translation to transcend the human made boundaries of comprehension or bias. I found myself lost in the moment of sheer bliss. I stood watching the mother and daughter go about their business.

The mother spoke in cuddly cooish French. Ca – Va was all I could comprehend. Ca va , the child acknowledged.

I couldn’t help but reminisce over the nieces and nephews that I’ve had the pleasure of building conversations with. The words have always been similar, the enthusiasm has always been similar, the arguments have always been cute and pointless. There was a sense of familiarity to the whole episode. The angel in that one kid was the ever present angel that I got to see in all the kids that I’ve ever seen.

My undivided attention was soon divided. German this time around. Another mum, another infant. This one was a lot younger than the French little lady. Talkative too. I was surrounded by innocence. I felt relaxed in such a company. The writer in me, the deluded voice in my head , found this to be sigh from the universe that would stand to remind me to embrace the truth. We had the capacity to remain innocent. We all do have the capacity to resist that erosion of moral fibre. We have it in us to remain brave, grounded in principles, surrounded by goodness. Yeah, the writer in me wanted that, Desperately.

The months where I’ve lived in this wonderful city, I’ve seen many cultures. I’ve observed many good people who earn an honest day’s living. The kind of goodness that defies the world plagued by fear. The kind of goodness that reminds all of us the meaning of being human. Mind your business, help those who are in need to be helped, spread the joy through smiles. Face life as it comes. I’d very much like to believe in that version of life.

I’ve also seen violence. Interestingly, in stark comparison to events, it’s not the abundance of violence that overwhelms me. It’s the abundance of love, care and staying human that overshadows the sceptical world of my making. For every act of impolite rudeness, there are ten more that bestow kindness. For every act of deception, there are ten more that remind me the value of honesty. For every sin against the fabric of human, I see a hundred more that sing the gospel of how wonderful it is to be a human.

We are divided by borders, we are divided by beliefs and belief system. There are gods, there are big data data centres, there are folks who believe in either options as the one that would take us to sublime salvation. There is hate and there is love. These two are not engaged in an eternal conflict. Ironically, they both exist. They both are in place and they do leave us with the choice to rest our faith in either of them.

As far as the day is concerned, I feel happy knowing that we are born innocent, we are nurtured to the way we are. Which also implies that common sense dictates that , we as a species, are quite capable of staying human. Kids are a wonderful example of how one stays immune to the pollution that corrupts the fabric of staying a human. It would be childish to say that we can learn a lot from the kids. It would be unwise to discount the simpler truth that kids do lead a simpler , easier life. Not because they have nothing else to do, or strings that don’t mandate their motives. It’s because they have a simpler understanding of the world around. They do what they have to, they learn, adapt and are yet to see the world through filters of bias , fears, insecurities and prejudice.

I think it’s not a stretch to assume that there would come a day, where we’d feel saturated by pointlessness to ideologies of faith, text, cultures that don’t hold water given the context of life. I’d be more than happy should that happen in my lifetime. But it’s coming . It’s inevitable. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

The innocence is proof enough that the future is safe. After all, aren’t we all the same under the same sun!

Karthik

La Belle Annabelle

What should have been a fun movie review outlining how good the movie is, how the scares and the scare tactics work, how the movie’s subtle plot points connect well with the Conjuring universe, Unfortunately, it was not the kind of horror that I thought I’d be watching.

The day started off nice and easy. The I-Day. It felt nice to celebrate the day in a way that I could. Spur of the moment decision and I opted to watch a movie, Annabelle : Creation , later in the evening. A quick hop to Leicester Square later, I knew I had arrived an hour before the show could start .It was going to be a good evening after all. I loitered the streets, shot a few pictures, the smiling faces of Londoners was as pleasant as they have always been. With a little time to go, I made it to the movie hall. A large bag of salted popcorn later, the show was all set to begin.

This was a first of many kinds. I’ve been a purist when it comes to picking movie halls. BFI – IMAX. Period. Unfortunately, BFI was still showing Dunkirk, a movie that I seem to be avoiding for no warranted reason, I made that choice to try Super Screen in Cineword Leicester Sq. Italian leather seats, Oh I picked the balcony, which made it even more flamboyant. The balcony was smallish and cozy. I knew I’d enjoy the show. I had picked a nice strategic seat. Bang on Centre to the screen. The horror was all that I needed. Like a junkie after a fix, I was excited about the show that was to begin.

The funny thing that added to the sense of horror in that balcony was the simple fact that when people walked in, the entire room would feed shock waves. Two false jumps later, I had gotten used to the movement and the aftershocks. The ads had started. There were a dozen people sharing the balcony with me. Small crowd. That enhanced the eeriness to the movie watching experience. Perfect.

The floor rattled once again. I had grown wiser to it’s rumble. I ignored it. It rattled and rattled some more. The rattling persisted and I realized that something was going on a few seats away. I slowly turned away from the screen towards the side to see what was going on. Two blokes had kick started a fist fight. They were about 10 seats away from me, a row above.

My initial thought was that they were just a bunch of kids, teasing each other and landing soft punches to kill time. With the clock ticking, the punches didn’t sound soft any more. Yes, I could hear each thud landing. I could hear each fist getting in contact with a body.

Lets just say things escalated really quick. I’ll skip through the gory details. Watch American history X instead. I saw the same thing. Thank god, it wasn’t an execution.

I sat frozen in fear. I didn’t want to be on the path of the two idiots hell bent on killing each other. I made a split decision to run down the stairs and notify the manager , or flag it to the cops who were there on the streets. The message now conveyed, the cops now engaged, as I walked back to the hall to collect my bag, the victim walked past me. The horror still remains in my head and his blood remained splattered across my shirt. I didn’t realize it when he walked past me.

Testimony and witness account narrated to the cops, the movie resumed. With the movie now watched, only when I walked under the lights of the street did I notice streaks of red plotting fashionable tangent across my white shirt. I grew sicker and sicker on the train ride back home. I knew I was hallucinating the smell of blood. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t real. It felt all too real to me. The sanctity of my sanity had been breached.

It was the moment when the horror had finally caught on.

What drives us to deliver horror in real life? For what it’s worth, the movie was good and it’s horror was pale in comparison to the one which I didn’t volunteer to witness.

Journey of a million miles

It was odd. These days, everything is odd. I couldn't start where the absurdity began. I couldn't put a finger on the frenzy that it all was. If I may, I'd skip the oddities and craziness of the world around and restrict myself to the nature throwing me a curve ball. The land covered in white of the snow, the biting cold, the defeated sun and it's near sterile rays, I couldn't quite fathom the heat that seemed to be emitting from somewhere beyond my eyes. It didn't make sense. On that cold day, it wasn't the cold that made me comfortable. The heat felt unbearably torturing.

The queue was long. It was going to be a long wait ahead. I gently smiled at the irony to the moment. Nothing felt rushed. A gentle subtle and a near final reminder that nothing was meant to be rushed in life. The thoughts amused me. All things aside, I found myself smiling like a silly man. The smile was a rare commodity. The grave grim air around us couldn't tolerate the conspicuous smile. Eyes cast on me. I knew the eyes. I knew. I had no comfort or justification to reciprocate those glances. I let them be. I had built a wall around my mind to phase them out of my peripheral attention. I denied the world around an acknowledgement.

It wasn't long before I had to sacrifice my decision to disown the world around me. I couldn't. He wouldn't let me be. A little boy of possibly eight. His eyes looked bored. He looked a bit tired but then again, so was everybody else. The wonders and magic of a confused winter morning. He had an air of curiosity about him, that little boy. While I could stereotype the gazes that I was attracting from everyone else, his, his was different. His eyes neither passed a judgement nor represented the cold sadness. He was just himself. He viewed the world through his curious little eyes. Everything fascinated him. Everything was new to him. Everything excited him. Everything.

'Hallo' I gently waved my hand to engage a conversation with him. He was standing with his dad a few places ahead. I must have caught him off his guard. Part embarrassed, part flustered, he quickly turned around and gripped his father's hand tight. I was amused by his innocent juvenile reaction. Kids will be kids and I quite enjoyed his little panic. The boy didn't give up. Not yet. He took his moment, gathered his courage and turned back. He meekly waved his hand and said nothing. The boy's action did stir his dad's inertia. He turned back and smiled. There was a certain relief on his face. He quickly turned his face again to look straight.

The little boy stood watching the place for a while. Outwitted by his boredom, he decided to embark on a tiny adventure. He walked towards me.

'Do I know you?' his gentle soft voice pierced through the cold silence.

'Ja', I promptly replied. You see, I started, we are but friends from a long long time ago. You and I have always been friends. You grew bored, just like how you are bored now, and that explains why you are little today. I have never been bored. I've always played my games, been a silly explorer. That's why I'm old now. Just as old as your dad.

The boy wasn't sure on how he had to comprehend what he had heard. His curiosity had gotten the better of him. He asked me a lot of questions. How? what? When? Are you lying? He'd ask me from time to time.

And so began the long tale of two friends who first met when the earth itself was young. This was the time after the apple incident. This was the time after the floods. The lands had been painted green, and that's where we had met first. He was a tiger, I was a lion. We had roamed carelessly in the jungle. We had played in the meadows, given hunters the slip, we had hunted together for the longest of while. One stormy night, we had walked our separate roads.

'I was a tiger?' he asked me in excitement.

'Ja', 'See that explains why you are always excited and brave. Just like the tiger you once were' I explained .

That had made sense to him.

As the story progressed, he and I had been friends in the wild. Eagle and a hawk. We had been trees too. We finally became men. Ah yes, that was a fun age. French one time, ancient heretic Indian once. We had met so many times and there were times when we weren't friends any more. The thought that we weren't friends seemed to sadden him a bit.

'Oh don't be sad' I tried to comfort him. See, we are friends now. That's how it is. We always spot each other.

That seemed to cheer the little rascal a bit. We went on to talk about his school, his friends. The queue had moved further quite significantly.

'Ok bye' he enthusiastically shrieked. I bid him a silent farewell. It was odd indeed. An odd day to make a new friend. An odd day to die. My journey from Berlin to Auschwitz was not as foreboding as I thought it would be. It was a day to remember. The kind of day that was hot for a given winter morning. The kind of day when two very old friends got to meet each other. I wanted the silly tale to be true. I wished there was some truth to it. It was after all the last day under the sun for both of us. The sadness in the eyes of the world managed to find mine too.

************

'Mummy' I kept pestering my mother. I was too little to know what depressing meant, but I was old enough to feel it crushing my enthusiasm. The hall was depressingly boring. I fidgeted restlessly. My mother wouldn't bother pacifying me. Glued to her fancy rectangle box of sorts, she kept staring into it irritably. It was not the day where I could manage to draw her attention gravitate towards me. Defeated, I gave up without a fight. I looked around to see the place. Old people, coughing people sick people were around. This was not the way I had intended to spend the day. I fancied a walk in the park instead. The kind of park where there were gulls to feed, pigeons to shoo. This was boring.

As I grazed my eyes across the room, I couldn't help but stare at this old man. He looked like a proper grandfather. The grey, the way his face was, full of folks. I think it's called rinkle or something. Rinkles scare mummy. I've heard her talk about it. He looked old.

'Hello little princess' he called out softly.

Mummy shot her eyes away from the box thing and directed it towards the grandfather. 'Agatha, don't bother the nice gentleman there' she blurted a noncommittal warning. She was happy to get rid of me , she was happy to have me bother someone else. I walked towards the old man.

'Do I know you?' I asked him curiously.

'Oh, but we are friends, from a long long time ago, little one' he replied in excitement.

Karthik

Tale inspired by this little girl, with an angel face who waved a familiar hi. We didn't speak, it was a very short hi. She smiled as her car picked up speed and left me standing and wondering if She and I were friends from a long long time ago. What can I say, Life inspires Life.

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