A face in the crowd

The more you run, the more things follow. The rule holds well to animals and the demons in the mind.

The Saturday was fun. With news of Ophelia , the hurricane, looming around the social feeds, the morning was pleasantly sunny. The plan was set in stone. We were to hit the Istore near Covent Garden to pick up a fixed Mac. That’s a funny tale all by itself. I treat my Mac like crap. I don’t guard it, I don’t pamper it. I don’t let it flaunt it’s worth. For its part, my Mac has not died on me yet. It was a different tale for this friend of mine. Kept her safe, like a Disney princess. She died the moment he tried to connect the DSLR memory stick in it.

Delicate little darling, that mac turned out to be.

The plan was set in stone. We were to meet by 9. Hit Central London and collect the laptop. I had made alternate plans to visit South bank and stay lost in the food festival that the place hosts every weekend. None of that materialized though. Mostly because the plan was set in stone.

The day did start lazy. I hadn’t slept well and I usually don’t sleep well on most Fridays. I woke up groggy. I decided to indulge an English breakfast. Toast, eggs, beans, grilled vegetables and a tall glass of Pineapple juice. The food came as ordered, Pineapple juice, not so much. Apples were served, pines took a hike. The heavy hearty meal rendered me near useless. I had to endure an hour’s commute and I didn’t have a book handy to keep me company. I slept through the train and woke up miserable when the train stopped at the station.

With the laptop collected, with musical instruments gawked at a shop next to the store, we made it a point to walk a while. A lousy raspberry crush drink thrashed in the process. The time had ticked, the hours loitered, it was the time to head back home. The train ride back wasn’t any spectacular either. I did my best to keep myself entertained by playing a game on the mobile. I still couldn’t buy a book to keep me occupied. The book would have to wait for a while.

That’s when I noticed a face in the crowd. It wasn’t the usual spot. I presumed her to be in her sixties. She looked blissfully in her fifties, but her wrinkles conveyed a different story. People are a part of the daily commute. One gets to observe many faces. Some are pleasant, some are beautiful, some people carry a certain creepy vibe to them. I’m happy with the role of an observer that I play in the city. I observe. I steal a few glances, I make jokes in my head at times and smile things off. Some times, I imagine macabre plots and wonder about the many secrets that the eyes hide. It’s usual for an observer to observe without intruding into the comfortable safety zone that surrounds us all. It’s almost like stealing a glance at the sun. You see and then you don’t.

She was different. She had the kindest eyes that I had ever seen. There was something so familiar about her that I couldn’t stick to my golden role as an observer. A glance became many glances. I even mustered the courage to offer a smile. A smile offered, a smile reciprocated. The realities of this life came into play and a few stops later, we parted ways as strangers that we were.

I couldn’t help but think about the untold stories that were running in my mind. Such comforting familiarity, such gravitating vibes, those tired eyes surrounded by a touch of kindness. Her old age was on display. She’d , from time to time, wear her glasses to keep track of the stations that passed us by. She’d gently place them back into the case and repeat and rinse the exercise a few times. I watched the first times and decided to slip into a deep slumber where I could indulge in a tale that spanned across lives, across lifetimes, across appearances and logistics that mandated the reality that we are a part of.

I see similar faces all the time. The people change , their ethnicity changes, the colours of their eyes and skin change, their hairdo comes in various tones and shapes, the familiarity remains the same. It’s like holding on to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and realizing that a few pieces are extremely compatible irrespective of which puzzle I’m trying to assemble back together.

The more I tried to ignore the coincidences , the harder it kept coincidenting! That’s not even a word but I couldn’t think of a suitable alternate. I think that’s the deal with life. The more we run away from things , we put ourselves in a spot where we are forced to confront them. There is no escape. The only viable way is to endure and survive. I couldn’t help but delude myself into imagining the same set of folks that I keep bumping into. I couldn’t help but try to see if there was a cryptic secret in front of my eyes that was challenging me to solve them. I couldn’t resist the temptation of believing that there is more to life than the mundaneness of normal ,sober, existence.

When faces in the crowd aren’t a reflection of fading away into obscurity, but are a manifested haunting of a mind trying to piece back a fractured point in time, the world becomes a canvas of a surreal tale , waiting to be written. Who knew, that descent into madness would be so much fun.

Have you ever experienced such doppelgangers? Do you ever see the same people around you, irrespective of where you are in the world or whom you are looking at? Is it the case of comedy of errors and mistaken identities because people are people and most of them are the same!

Small world after all and thank god, the world ain’t so small

Karthik

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Oh young Jung!

There is something so fascinating and mysterious about the way the people are. The sight beyond the sight, the game of cat and mouse played in the mind. The petty satisfaction derived from guessing what others are thinking and the joy of making ample correct guesses. That’s the game of poker. That’s also the game of entertaining psychology.

Most of us associate psychology to Psychos. And then the conservative ones think of shrinks, Psychologists, at the mere mention of the word. There is also the massive negative connotation. All things psychology point towards mental instability and the feared fracture of the mind. Most of us usually don’t realize that we all exhibit such analytical skills in judging and predetermining motives of others in our day to day lives. The step into office and we try to put ourselves into many shoes. We think like how we think others would think. Workplace and business is usually a brilliant and yet such a subtle game of picking psychology hues. It helps us understand things better. It helps us plan for things better.

Different people are different and our ability to adapt and know the right set of things to say to keep the folks happy, is a skill that differentiates the ‘Go doers’ and the coveted ‘Go Getters’. Business has a different name to it. It’s called a soft skill. A soft skill is a million square miles beyond just the ability to string a few sentences together in a different language. This people skill is the one that we tend to call ‘Leadership’ skills. The wonderful ability to influence, manipulate, steer, inspire a wider team in order to meet common objectives. The average day is littered with evidences of Psychology 1-0-1.

I have many vested interest into this area. I like talking to people. I love meeting new people. I enjoy imagining the life they’d have lived. I like writing fictitious tales of such characters, leading such lives. As a story teller, I enjoy the many nuances to how people are, how they interact with their world, how they react to given circumstances. I love framing tales around the rise and fall of heroes and villains to add that drama to my story.

This curiosity led me to the works of Carl Jung. While the authenticity and the validity of Jung’s works can be disputed, I’m fascinated by the fact that I have tools to model my characters and give them a personality. I remember writing a bit about Anima and Animus. The masculine and feminine side to us all. This time around, I found myself stumbling deeper into the rabbit hole called Archtypes.

Personality, as the word stands, is derived from Persona. It’s a bit funny because Persona is something that we use so that others can spot us, identify us, categorize us and subsequently either accept or reject us. Persona and by implication, a personality is a mask that we put on display to appease to the world around us. It’s a fad. It’s a fashion statement. It’s a lifestyle choice that’s put on a public display.

The self, and along other contexts(examples include self discovery, spirituality and arm chair philosophy) which is referred to as the soul, is the way we are to ourselves. The self , quite often , is very different from Persona and the personality.

Got a bit of a time. Google – > Jung Archtype personality test. I don’t remember the link, but yeah, I took one. I happen to be a Joker. That’s two levels of joker. I see myself as one and it’s my choice of persona. Apparently, the tests reveal how you see yourself and what show you put for the world to see. Yup. It’s pseudo-science official.

Before we step into the details of the Archtype, the term archtype itself is a definition of traits that are exhibited by most people. We have the Joker. There is the Wise old man, The wise old woman, the Lover, The Devil to name a few. Archtype itself is a part of the collective unconscious that most people are aware of but indifferent towards. Collective unconscious, the words do suggest that we acknowledge the archtypes without even realizing it.

To quote an example, anyone dressed in orange, peaceful enough face, long enough beard. We equate them to God-men/women. Associate honesty, truth and purity towards them. And bada boom, scandal a few months down the line. Archtypes do play a pivotal role in shaping up history. All leaders, who have managed to capture the attention and hearts of people, exhibit this trait. They are successful only because we put our faith in them. We do that, also because unconsciously, we feel compelled to form a favourable opinion.

So back to Joker. The Joker takes the life easy. Fun. Contemplative. Thinks a lot. Acts when necessary. Uses humour to win the day and doesn’t care about the heroes and villains of the tale. It’s the journey that fascinates the joker. Call it a confirmation bias, but yeah, I can lead myself to believe that I fit the bill.

Another interesting thing about such Archtypes is the existence of Shadow. Shadow is a darker influence. Every archtype has a corresponding shade of a shadow. The deeper the manifestation of such a shadow, the stark opposite becomes the Personality and identification of the self.

Friday, that today is, go on and indulge a little curiosity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson-Marr_Archetype_Indicator_(PMAI) and google Jung and Archtypes to learn a bit more about yourself.

Just thinking about Archtypes and Shadows has made me restless enough to want to sit and breathe complicated characters to life. Sweet sweet pleasures of life 🙂

Karthik

Book review : The handmaid’s tale

For starters , I thought this was a fairly new book. Now I do realize that the tale was published in 1985. This adds more chills to the reading experience.

This is an uncomfortable book to read. It’s not the case of a boring plot, under developed characters and a story plagued by near dead pacing. On the contrary, it’s the realism to the book that makes the reading experience a little heavy on the mind. On that grounds, this book is a bit hard to digest. As I started, I thought this was written in this decade, which could explain the way the plot was pictured. The fact that this book now stands the test of time and the context , more real today than it was decades ago, is a testament to the gloomy world this book introduces us to.

This is a simple tale of a dystopian , not so far away, future. The world has survived a few jolts. Societies have transformed and the new norm is an accepted way of life. It is a world where women , usually, don’t have a name. There are Aunts, Marthas, Wives, Handmaids and econowives. The plot doesn’t really spend a lot of time classifying the strata of men. There wasn’t much need anyways. And then there were also men.

On the onset of near annihilation, the society tries to reconstruct itself from the ashes. The fallout from the radiation, the chemicals and the toxic world itself, renders most men sterile. The society emulates a dictatorship of sorts. Senior government officials are ENTITLED to handmaids. I think you can guess where the tale is heading and what is the role of such handmaids in their dystopian society.

So the primary role of a handmaid is to facilitate progeny. In fact , the entire society is built around repopulation. Women who can’t are shipped off to the colonies. The ones who can, are Handmaids are deployed across families. Their sole purpose is to birth the next generation. The successful handmaids eventually retire when their clocks run their due course. The unsuccessful ones are shipped off to the colony. In a nutshell, the role of a woman in the society is valued through the filter of procreation.

Aunts are a sect of women who train , groom and condition the handmaids. Marthas are housekeepers and carry out their role in running the chores around the household. Econowives are the wives allotted to men who have insignificant roles in the machinery of the society. The society is policed through the army. Angels to be precise. These are the foot soldiers. Then there are eyes, who spy on the society and report on the miscreants who don’t comply to the religious cause of the society. There you go. That’s their world.

Feeling disgusted at it so far? Good. So was I. you don’t have to be a feminist to feel offended by the course that this society took. The fact that this society accepts this ridiculousness as a norm is disgusting. The fact that this society was let to be, is offensive. The fact that this society is a reality, now that’s a gentle revelation of sorts.

The reminder of the tale hinges around the fate of the titular Handmaid. What happens to her? Does she ever deliver a child into that world of hers? Does she eventually retire or does she get shipped to the colony? The book keeps you guessing and curious. It’s a page turner alright.

There are bucket loads of themes in this book. Ever noticed that in this write up, I had not bothered with names? The first theme is that of an Identity. A name is more than just a name. It is an identity. It is an announcement of self, it protects and preserves the self. What if you re robbed of a name. what if your name didn’t even matter?

This book is also an alarming reminder that you don’t have to be political, but politics will govern, impact and affect your life. Deny it with all your might, but it’s not going to go away. This book talks about the nature of politics.

Back to why 1985 was such a shocker. Patriot Act. The whole Demonetisation in India, The big politics of sentiments and fear. Fear leads to suspension of constitution and the very rights that protect the citizens of a nation. I’m not political. I’m an observer. I’ve observed ample instances of how sentiments affect the policies and how policies affect life. It’s almost a near inevitability. One fine day, there will be a disaster, people will be frightened and defenceless. The law of the land will do it’s best to protect us. The caring hand could easily turn our to be a talon gripping it’s prey. This book , very comfortably, predicted the way we would behave in the future. The whole big bang around WW2 , it’s not that hard to realize that history is meant to repeat itself and we as a species do tend to forget the lessons of the past.

Religion plays a central role in this book. A society that follows any religion and religious practices blindly, without understanding the whys of the things it does, will eventually follow things as a rote. It would police itself in that fashion. It will grow intolerant towards those who choose to not follow. This society is not very different. There are those who follow it with all their heart and disciplined conviction. A closer look at their motives does reveal self preservation and other conflicting interests.

This book is a wonderful example of a loveless, emotionless state of existence. Life as a protocol to be carried, compliance to comply to, life defined around purpose. While it does feel like the right thing to aspire to be, it also exposes the limitations of such fulfilling existence.

This book is a mirror to self, it is a mirror to the society.

I enjoyed reading it. If serious stuff holds your attention, go for it. It is after all a story of a handmaid. Her life’s story is worth the read.

Karthik

Of Newton, apples and sin

With all my heart, I do detest Newton and his contribution to physics. Not that I don’t believe in science or that Newton’s contribution conflicts with my personal belief system, it’s just that I had trouble passing the exams. The fact that I did manage to pass physics (High school and Uni) is a testament to the fact that there is something which is all powerful and is capable of manifesting miracles. It was a miracle that I managed to pass.

The minute we think about Newton, I think about apples. There are folks who might associate the three laws.

1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2.A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

Oh, wrong bloke. Yeah, so when it comes to Newton, my mind goes to Apples. When my mind goes to the apples, fortunately, I’m not materialistic enough to associate that with IPhone or all the vulgarly expensive products that are offered by the company. I think about sins instead. Newton -> Apples -> Sins.

Sin is a wonderful example of context. Have a value system and a put your faith and beliefs into it. Break the cardinal rules and you are a sinner. You are left with remorse, regret and a bucket load of guilt. It’s funny how my mind wanders. Speaking of sins, I remember the first time I did it. I guess I was 18 or 19. Unlike what the world says, one doesn’t always remember the first time in all it’s vivid glory. I felt plagued by fear and guilt. It was against my system of beliefs.

As I tried to cope up with the act, coast through the day, I couldn’t rub off the feeling of dirt clinging on to my soul. It just happened and I thought it shouldn’t be a big deal. It was. Paranoia gripped me. It felt as if I was exposed to the world and that everybody knew what I had done. 18-19, being that, that age, that sense of adventure, that spirit of defying norms, once the fear settled, once that restless anxiety died down, over the next few years, I had found myself doing it a lot more times.

It was fun while it lasted. It’s funny that with repetition, fear and guilt dissipates. You no longer feel burdened by it. It remains your little secret and you stay assured that the ears of the world are unaware of your life’s actions and choices. All was well , till I started growing some sense. A new fear. Fear of science. I had reasons to believe that God would stand to punish me for my deeds. While it had nothing to do with religious and spiritual journeys(and I had neither back then), I just had a bad feeling about things to come. I knew karma would catch up and I’d be super sick and ailment would give away my secrets. The fear of public persecution had gripped me again.

I came to my sense. Decided to clean up my act. For a while, things were good again. I felt good again. Such peace was never meant to last. Last, they didn’t.

And so from time to time, I’d do it. The sense of paranoia now under control, I’d do it for kicks, sometimes out of compulsion. Some times, it was just the way it was.

The secrets were safe, buried within my smug smile. And as years packed on, I knew I dint have anything to feel ashamed about. At 34, it’s a life choice and it’s what I want my life to be.

‘NOT BRUSHING MY TEETH’, was a the lynchpin that shattered belief system, challenged the status quo, instigated fears that were both rational and irrational. It felt so wrong. The feeling of ‘it felt so wrong’ comes from social conditioning and it is factored by how we grow, what our family and society expects of us. The first time was a knocker. The guilt, the fears.

Most fears, most sense of guilt, I think they can be traced back to how we choose to judge ourselves. We are so addicted and dogmatic about our belief systems, a lot of which we inherited and some of which we decided to on board, that breaking away from it renders us psychologically paralysed.

While I’ve aged, I’ve become more sensible, I make it a point to brush MOST mornings. There are days when I wake up a little late, gargle a mouth wash and promise to get home and do it. There are days when I just don’t care. As long as I don’t smell, and the world doesn’t uncomfortably move away in my presence, I’m ok by it.

Apples and sins. Same deal. The more open we let our minds be, we’d be surprised by our evolved view of what sins are. Narrowed minds are usually the most tortured ones.

For what it’s worth, brush everyday. It’s nice to not torment your neighbours!

Karthik

Kadhal Kasakudhaiyya – Love’s bitter

kka

Ilayaraja got it right a long long while ago. Live long enough and Love starts to turn sour. This is most definitely not a rant about how love hurts or why relationships turn sour. It’s a casual observation of how life facilitates all, in good time.

2000. That was a beautiful year. I was 18, I was in a band, it was the age of dreams and life was waiting to unfold. I also happened to be in love. Like most things stereotyped, my folks wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense. It was apparently my first serious venture into falling in love. Scandalous by the standards back then. I had found love in a girl who was a bit older than me. Mom and dad threw in the ‘Sort your life first’ card. As I sat down to sort my life, dad had asked me , in a not so subtle way, to find someone who was more age appropriate.

Now that I look back, my folks have been scandalized and rather open minded about most aspects of my life. They were opposed to all things love, like most folks. I wouldn’t really blame them. I would have been worried or spoilt epic had they not had their apprehensions. The initial disruption aside, they would eventually give up and put up with my choices. They are sweet.

So fast forward to a few more years. Only this time, I had managed to fall in love with someone younger. My parent’s did muster a shining smile. A happy check against their compliance. They were even more pleased to figure out that she was more or less the same , when it came to religion. The subtle difference between horizontal lines and vertical lines didn’t bother them too much. They were happy as long as lines were there.

Fast forward a few more years. After a few years of bummed outlook towards love and world around, after growing tired of not shaving and needless to say , the incessant itching that accompanies the endeavor of growing beards, I sobered up and realized that I was done searching for love. The transition was near cinematic bliss. With my interest on love fading away, I had also managed to delegate the head hunting (aka bride searching) to my folks.

It was a fun era. From opposition on moral, ethical, logical and social norms, Love started to appear like a better prospect to my folks and my wider relatives. My extended family had always maintained that I was a gem of a bloke and would not dare tying a knot over a story of love. With ample time, the conversations did prompt towards , ‘why don’t you fall in love Karthik’. My folks , for quite a while now, have maintained a similar stance. We are ok, as long as you bring home a girl!

It’s funny , the way the cycle of time has inspired a better outlook in my folks. Call is anxiety or sheer desperation to get rid of me, my folks have evolved to accept anyone into my life. The irony has been ridiculously funny. The folks are in for it and I find myself rather bored of the adventure.

Falling in love is not magic. It’s a byproduct of People, Place and Time. Force a subset sample of people into a routine and sooner than later, you’d find yourself a relationship blooming. When the conditions are right, bada boom, you have a story. That’s usually the long and short of any tale of a boy meets girl. The factors , themselves pose a challenge when the parameters are challenging. There is that simple window of time when the factors align. You skip the window, People , place and time are rendered useless.

I think one of the fair advantages of a progressive timeline is the fact that most people are not afraid to fall into relationships, fall out of them and wise up and kick start the iteration all over again. For starters, it challenges the status quo defined by people and place. It inspires folks to improve upon their sample sets and expand upon the choices.

I recently had the opportunity to challenge the status quo myself. I did manage to find someone interesting. The odds were stacked sky high. I had , in fact, checked a lot of items to were engineered to send shivers down the parent’s spine. I had breached their expectations in most ways possible. It would have been fun had the stint continued. It didn’t! My folks din’t approve of me wanting to settle down with a divorcee. Her folks thought that I was way too goofy to be taken seriously. It was good fun to see how the society crumbled.

While nothing significantly lost and nothing significantly gained, I did extend my thoughts around the Love thingy. Love is magical and beautiful when it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It leaves lives fractured, it leaves a big shoddy mess that is not easy to clean. It leaves us with doubts about self and questions over esteem and worth. The first time I was in love, I was both innocent and naive to realize the extent of what Love can do to a person’s life. A few decades later, I’m quite happy to have survived it’s warmth and the coldness that it leaves you with.

All said and done, I’m a bit jaded when it comes to love. There is this aversion to repetitive routines of practiced courtship , that is almost a mandatory phase when it comes to arranged marriage. The same questions on what does thou like, what color does thou liketh, what do you do… and so on and so forth. I can almost imagine the day in the life of an HR. You get to meet far too many people, ask them the same round of questions and then quickly opt to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with them.

I do sound like a grumpy old git now! I think there is a certain charm to the innocence of love. It’s not that I’m an advocate of one life and one love. Clearly , that’s not the road that I’ve taken. It’s just that, it’s not the same adventure if you embark upon it for a few times. The roads aren’t new, the dragons aren’t a surprise, heck in fact the feeling itself seems to be manufactured rather than something natural.

What the bleep would I know? The world is loaded with people who are interesting and it’s a life of limitless possibilities, only if you let it be. On that happy note, Kadhal indeed kasakudhu aiyya. Sometimes the best one can do is run wild with an open heart. 🙂

Karthik

 

IF

Wow. It’s been an intensive day. I think sisters are the best. I don’t talk a lot about my sister. We’ve had a wonderful bond over my 34 years of existence. The first 15, I spent that in holy pursuit of driving my sister nuts. As I grew older, as the things that we both could talk about broadened its horizon, I think my sis and I make a good team of conversationalists.

What she said today, does haunt me a little. It’s not the first time that I’ve heard what she said. Not a few weeks ago, another online friend told me just that.

‘I had no idea Karthik. I thought you were a happy carefree guy , enjoying a bachelor life in London. I thought you were burning money, recklessly spending and doing whatever that you pleased. I didn’t imagine there was this side to you’.

I’m not hiding away a dubious side. I’m a fun loving guy. I’m funny, on most days. That’s a bit contentious, some folks don’t think I’m funny. That’s alright. I’m a bit changed though. There was a time when all I could do was write fun little snippets. As I wrote more, the themes that I chose to write about became darker and the plots became grimmer. I’m like two separate people when it comes to writing. My comments and overall social interactions are light. The blogs that I write, I’ll call them dense, in an effort to sound humble.

That’s true. It’s almost like I swap personalities. I didn’t plan for any of this. It happens to be that way.

So a long conversation with my sister about my life, it was a side that I had never shown to my family ever before. Something in me snapped and I didn’t care enough to pretend anymore. Now that I’m back to being my pretending self, safe behind a mask, I think the conversation did leave my heart feeling a little light.

The big point of conversation was around my marital status. I don’t particularly despise my current status. I nether lament it nor rejoice it. It is what it is. I refused to marry for the sake of marrying. I chose to not put a tick on a compliance checklist and compromise on my expectations of a married life.

Long story short, call me fussy, call me unlucky in love, call me a bloke of sky high expectations, in fact call me whatever, when it comes to marriage, I will opt a yes if I really really feel like it.

I’m a bit tired of folks giving me that look. I’m tired of ‘marriage experts’ giving me gyan on what I should and shouldn’t expect. I’m tired of world expressing sympathies around my marital status. I’m so tired that I stopped trying to explain my take on the whole thing. I’ve grown so tired that I even refrain from spraying obscenities in this very paragraph.

Just because I’m tired, it doesn’t mean that the world stops trying. For good or for worse, I am thick skinned and I can deal with the world. Unfortunately, there is a kink in my armour. It’s called wonderful parents. It just bums me every day that there is nothing that I can do to alleviate their worries about my future.

I could look the other way around my preferences and settle down, just to appease my folks. That, to me, would be a dumb move. I can’t hold them responsible for my actions. I can’t hide behind their happiness. I refuse to hold them as a scapegoat to all my failures. That adds to my misery. I’m left with the naked truth that I can’t keep my folks happy because I’m too wound up in my head to find a suitable match.

Yeah big deal. It’s one thing to deal with the world, it’s a whole new challenge to try to want to keep others protected and safe and comfortable. They are my parents and unfortunately, my thoughts and their happiness usually are not on the same page.

Wish there was an easy way to resolve the battle of love. It would have been nice if they’d give up on me. It would have been easier if I had given up on myself and succumbed to my own fate. I refuse to give up on myself. My folks refuse to give up on me. Vicious cycle.

It’s funny the way our world works. It’s funny that compliance seems to be the way of life. It’s odd that my life has no meaning unless I meet the million expectations that the world has on me. For some reason, I am reminded of the poem IF.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

The many ifs of life. If only I wasn’t me, none of this might matter to me. I take comforts in knowing that it isn’t true. I am what I am. I will be what I’d choose to be.

I’d find the strength to endure, not because I’m a hero in a world of damned souls. I’d find the strength to endure, not because I’m a chosen one and an example waiting to shine. I’d find the strength to endure, not because there is a sweet taste of victory at the end of it all.

I’d find the strength because if I don’t, nobody else is going to find it for me.

Special thanks to my sister and another sis in FB. Bhavana. Her blog caught my attention today. It speaks about the many battles that we wage. Mine, is just another battle in an ocean of battles.

Her words can be found here : Sa Ham

Karthik

Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be

” Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be. “ Allan Karlsson from The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

While this is not a review of the book, the spirit of that quote was ample enough to inspire me to wing a few thoughts about it. I, for one, am conflicted about the deal of ‘Going with the flow’. To me, that approach is a little too free fall for comfort. While I’m not obsessive or compulsive about making plans and sticking to every single line item, I do find it a bit odd to completely ignore even the faintest remotest idea of a plan. I find assurance in knowing that there is a plan. What the plan stands to cover is immaterial.

Given the nature of the book and that it’s a fantastic fabulous work of fiction, I do acknowledge that in the realms of fiction, everything is possible. Real life poses certain challenges that a fictional life doesn’t have to deal with. With revered humility, I acknowledge that real life does have a capacity to throw a few curve balls that we are usually not well prepared to resolve. It’s that grasp of reality often pushes us to succumb to the flow of things and let things take their own course. In an act of part desperation and part faith, we let ourselves be willed by the way of the universe.

All of that sounds fine and dandy and that’s precisely why I can’t stomach that isolation of accountability towards life.

Given the context of the book, given the context of the movie ‘Forrest Gump’, given the context of life’s many adventures and experiences that we gather, there is a simple, subtle fact that stays hidden and yet possesses the magical charm to alter the course of one’s destiny. The underlying, undermined secret is one’s capacity to adjust and adapt to the changing course of things and steer ahead.

Yup. That’s the key. The ability to adapt to changes of varying magnitude. That ability doesn’t fall from the sky. It’s a reflection of skills possessed, strengths played to, limitations mitigated and a certain degree of faith on oneself. Give these, going with the flow does make a lot of sense. When we are better placed to deal with open challenges, the other limiting factor is in the form of how we choose to restrict ourselves because of our biases. Having an open mind helps. It’s a sign of being ready to deal with the unknowns. By unrestricting the things that we can do, we do end up doing a lot more than we initially thought we could.

That conquest of fear is wonderfully explored in the quote. ‘Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be’

Contrary to popular belief, going with the flow is not synonymous with not being ready to take on life’s many curve balls. It means having an outlook to take those curve balls and whack em up plenty. I’d like to believe that it is this spirit to life that enriches by giving us the varied experiences that go on to construct the story of our lives.

Go with the flow. It’s a bit different than drifting away helplessly.

Karthik

The white knight

The morning felt the same. Well almost. The bright Holland Orange coloured T-Shirt that I picked for the gym did wonders. It was quite a workout. I head back home and slept away like a baby. The morning new and not so bright, the coffee new and not so sweet, it was a morning like most mornings have been.

Well almost.

I saw her. The beauty in white. For a few years now, three to be exact, I’ve been thinking about her. A white color Kawasaki Ninja motorbike.

White Ninja Motorbike

She zoomed past me today. I gawked at it for as long as I could and found myself narrating the desire to own a sports bike for a change. I’ve never really fancied a sports bike. I’ve always enjoyed metal. At one point in time , I did own a bullet bike. That was the best years of my life. I had to sell her off. That being said, a sports bike was something that my heart had never really longed for. That soon changed.

A few years ago, my friend picked up the usual Green one. I remember hopping showrooms with him. He had fallen in love with the green bike and I had rested my eyes over the white one. White motorcycle and black leather. I enjoyed imagining myself own that. I don’t think I’ve ever been a speed demon, but I could see myself indulge in a bit of a road rage. I did like that very much back then.

All the memories of wanting to buy a bike came rushing back in , this morning. I wanted a bike, I had picked up a comfy car instead. It’s not the same. The two things mean very different things. Being a biker is a choice of a life that has a sense of adventure to it. Really comfortable plush leather seats of my car is a choice that I enjoyed the road, the music the moon through the moon roof. My lifestyle had hit a fork on the road. I guess I had already made my choice.

And so, my friend asked me if I had plans of heading home and buying that motorcycle. Sure, It made sense. I’ve always yapped about a life without regrets. I’ve always believed in doing things that I wanted to do, without offending my brain with reason and logic. I knew what my response was going to be. It had not changed in years now.

Naah, It’s probably a midlife crisis thing. I won’t end up buying it.

And in silence I contemplated the joys of riding the bike.

The term midlife crisis wouldn’t die away without putting up a fight. My curiosity had gotten the better of me and I felt absolutely compelled to read a little more about it. My take on the matter was rather primitive. I thought when folks got bored of their lives, bada bing, we have someone who is cruising through a midlife crisis. To me it felt like a lifetime spent without a sense of excitement and adventure and hence that push to do something drastic to jumpstart that said life.

A wiki gyan later, I’m at extreme loss of words.

The near expert view of the term centres around

1. Work

2. Relationships

3. Wards

4. Growing old

5. The big anxiety about death.

All of those, some of those, often result in various forms of regret and resentment over the life lived. I didn’t expect that view. I still can’t put my head around it. It’s usually not the case where one wakes up on a fine Monday morning and realizes the gaps which are now as wide as they can be. A midlife crisis can’t be something that would/could come as a surprise. To me , I think it’s an inevitable eventuality. One would have to choose to ignore the problems, discount the visible symptoms and live in denial for the longest while till things get a little too overwhelming to ignore any further.

The contention seems to be around how one views oneself. Inequality is a great level playing field. Everybody has something that they don’t have. Comparing ourselves with all our limitations with others doesn’t really sound like a great plan!

From day dreaming about riding a white motor cycle to running rampant with questions on why we doubt ourselves and undermine ourselves, I need some coffee to jump start the day.

While the bike might not be the one for an immediate grab, the Orange shirt was good enough to keep me jumping with excitement. I think that’s what dealing with crisis is all about. It’s not a massive battle once we reach a certain age. It’s the daily struggle to want to have a life, of wanting to have a career, of wanting to make relationships work, of feeling better about ourselves, of a commitment to stay in shape and fit.

Everything in that list of 5 is inevitable. Nobody can give it the slip. We are bound to collide with it at some point or the other.

Karthik

All hail the ‘move on’

Everybody who is anybody is absolutely besotted with the phrase ‘move on’. Moving on, by definition, is the simple process of purging oneself off all the things that prevents the said person from moving on. Conveyed that way, it does seem a little silly. Why would the process of moving on face a challenge? Why would one choose to hold on to things that would keep one anchored to the same place, to the same point in time, to a state without a present and a possible stale future?

Moving on also is a process which inspires the best realist in most of our friends. It’s usually a mind over matter thingy. The woes are in the mind. The pain is not real. It usually takes a simple push to regain and reclaim life. These are but the standard templates of dealing with the not so unique problem statement.

Reading is both a vice and a virtue. Reading enlightens one’s mind. Books do tend to have that effect on me. It must be a touch of a misplaced confirmation bias which gravitates me towards certain books. I don’t think I can quite explain it any better than that. I was tempted to state the ‘destined to read these’ and celebrate the fact that nothing is a mere coincidence to an initiated mind. That would surely kindle my delusion. The easier, depreciative   alternative was to blame it all on a confirmation bias.

Okie dokie, the story so far  : Struggle to move on, books and their impact on life. How did the two manage to exist in the same sentence?

Once again, I’d take use the stick called confirmation bias instead of quoting coincidence.

Before we get there, there is something that would set a better context around the stream of my thoughts. All big bang and planning later, I bailed out the marriage plans. My reason was not that farfetched, given my capacity to dwell extremely wild around surreal tangents. We didn’t talk much and I almost could see a lifeless life together.  I had lowered my expectation and embraced an open mind approach to the whole thing. Push came to shove, I had exhausted all my reasons for all of that to really work out. A few sleepless nights later I had made my decision.

So that setting the context, the book called A man called Ove made it to my reading list. It felt like a future of sorts. Ove’s life, the initial descriptions of it, struck a chord. It was the same life , void of all colors , enthusiasm and a will to live that had gripped me when I turned the other way to the marriage. It felt as if someone had meticulously read my thoughts, read my fears for the future, pulled a list of all the things that unsettled me and wrote a fantastic story around it. The book struck a chord indeed.

The book also played a few more strings around my emotions. Given the premise of the book, the titular character, Ove, had trouble carrying on with his life without his better half. For good and worse, he had managed to marry someone who had completed him. When it was her time to depart, and when he still had time to endure and survive in the mortal plane, it was not a life that was going on. It was an existence alright. An existence devoid of any life, color, enthusiasm and spirit. Ove’s expression of how much his wife completed him was a stark realization of how much incomplete that I see myself as.

Moving on, the whole act of it, is an endeavour to replace the ones that were in our lives with new people to compensate that loss. When we can’t find people to substitute the ones that we miss, we try to fill it with activities. It’s not an uncommon or an unpopular reasoning. The ones who have lost something extremely precious have always been the ones to give a lot more back to their own community and their own society. The best of altruism does have its roots in a grave personal loss. It’s a scary thought. The best in us, the most charitable in us, if all it takes is an irreconcilable loss to be that, it’s a scary world indeed.

Another way to view it would be the whole act of pretending to invest all that energy into something better, something that generates a smile. None of that undermines the loss that one has to come to terms with.

I guess I’m stranded in that land called moving on. I pour my mind into the words that I write. I vent my emotions into the music that I make. I smile, I shoot pictures and delude myself into thinking about how expressive I can get as a hobbyist photographer. The underlying truth is, none of it means much to me. I do appreciate a few likes. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have a few people indulge into my works and encourage me by liking the works. It’s the case of a whole world of likes versus the one like that I could never get.

That’s been my constant struggle. I’m not happy with the entire world. I’m a lot happier in viewing that one person as my entire world. I’ve been through quite a few iterations of swapping my one person – world view. People have come and people have gone. The world has liked me and indulged me and has at times opted to not bother.

It’s this idea, it’s this sentiment, and it’s this trait in me that a lot have trouble comprehending. It contradicts the notion of moving on. Moving on, in effect, is an ability to look beyond just one person and give the world a chance. To me, it’s the same as looking past my entire universe and giving something else a shot.

It’s not easy. I pretend. So far, I’ve been pretending so well. There is no other way around it. Its a daily struggle to remind myself that only I can set myself free. I guess that a classic conflict with self. A part of me keeps me imprisoned and a part of me wants liberation.

A man called Ove. A man called Katz. The thing called life. I can muster a smile and hope it would be a sunny day tomorrow.

Change is inevitable and resistance is futile. It’s only a matter of time before I don’t have to pretend some more.☺️

Karthik

Book review : a man called ove

“Maybe to her destiny was “something”; that was none of his business. But to him, destiny was “someone.”

Coverpage of A man caled Ove

A man called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

I picked this book because a friend recommended it. To be perfectly honest, it was a spur of the moment decision to quench my curiosity about the book. I dived into its pages without a shimmer of expectation. When I was done with the book, something within me had snapped, there was something that I could spot as odd in the way I lived. With eyes wet with tears, my heart warm with satisfied overwhelmed emotions, it was time to move on to a different book. I did my best to savour the memories of the book and it was precisely because of that pleasure, I delayed writing about it. Words once read, words once written would probably move on to become words once cherished.

Back to the tale, Ove. Ove is an old geezer whom you’d probably dislike. He is a stickler for rules. He incessantly keeps reminding the world around that they don’t follow the dogma that rules are. He’s not much for small talk. It’s hard to enjoy a pleasant conversation with him. Ove is perceived as old, grumpy and chip of the block from a generation that’s been comfortably forgotten. That’s Ove. He’s unapologetic about what you’d think about him. He doesn’t really care. It probably wouldn’t be Ove if he did!

That’s Ove. That would probably be your first reaction to Ove.

The book is a tale of the life of the man who goes by the name Ove. As we get a glimpse of his present, we are also introduced to his past. The story of what he is now feels almost incomplete without seeing the story of what he was before. As we catch up on his past, we also find ourselves getting very eager about his present and the course of his future.

Hidden away in the tale is one of the most romantic relationship that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Far away from clichés of roses are red, violets are blue, I got a letters of love and you need a stick of glue, there is a beautiful story of romance that blossoms and grows warmer and warmer till it occupies every inch of your heart and soaks you with its warmth. Ove and his wife Sonja. Theirs is a very romantic relationship which is very far away from dramatic and cinematic romance. Theirs is a world of sweet nothings, a wonderful intersection of two people’s very distinct life that come together and form a pleasant harmony. We , as readers, witness a cute love that they both share. Theirs is a kind of love that span through health and sickness. It spans across life and death. It’s a kind of a love that refuses to die away despite death at it’s doors.

Ove does have a secret. He knows how to solve all his woes and wants to put an end to his misery. Only, it’s not his time yet. It’s just about the right time for Ove to be thrust into a world of people around him. His world is all set to explode. Cue in the people around Ove.

The secondary characters are phenomenal. They are vivid and colourful and blend blissfully into the life of Ove. Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian lady , her daughters, the Lanky one, Ove and Rune’s big conflicts, you’d fall in love with everyone in Ove’s world.

There are wonderful themes that are explored in the book. It offers us a glance into questions like, What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean when people say that lives are meant to be colourful?

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had”

Ove’s story is a gentle reminder that sometimes our lives are meaningless without our special people in it. It calls out the similarities between existing for existence sake and living void of colors and emotions. It is through Ove, we get to assess our own hues about life. Ove’s story is also a wonderful example of going with the flow and letting life take it’s own course.

We are a product of what we choose to be and the people we let into our lives.

Would I recommend his book? ABSOLUTELY. Go ahead and grab yourself a copy today. You wont regret it.

Next stop :The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Karthik