Toys and Trinket

‘Last one daddy’ I remember promising. I knew it was a lie. My dad knew it was a lie. The smiling shopkeeper knew it was a lie. All of us had heard that very statement ample times to know that it would be declared soon enough.

Looking back, the thrills and spills of acquiring a new toy has always been a joyous one. There was a certain ritual to the madness. The tell tale signs of the arrival of a new toy , always seemed to be the same. I’d grow more chatty that week. We’d pick a pleasant Saturday, early morning, to mark the occasion. Dad and I would walk to the shop. The shop stayed the same. I was a bit of a loyalist to cheat on that shop. I knew everybody there and everybody there knew me. Dad would have a word with the ‘Guys’ in the shop and I’d feast my eyes around the million things that I desired and the one thing that I knew I could bring back home.

Dad would collect my promise of that toy being the last one ever. The return home was almost a race. I’d itch to head back home as fast as I could manage. Dad would keep up. The way back home, I’d spin many tales around the GiJoe. I’d share details of the cool factor that made the toy special. My dad would ask me about What a Cobra was. I’d tell my dad that he was silly and wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the details. To be totally honest, I hadn’t had a view of the financial toll that I’d subject my dad to each month. To be totally candid, my dad never let me in on it ever. There were days when the shop would be closed. There were days when we’d walk. I wasn’t greedy and I wasn’t a stranger to my bag of toys.

“Last one da” I now heard a promise. The wheel of time had churned plenty. The amount of ceramic vessels around the house made my dad a bit jumpy. He saw the inevitability of the plates , assisted by gravity, meeting the wooden floor. He didn’t want any of that nonsense. We had our usual run to the shop to replace the fragile ones with durable melamine ones. With each iteration, I giggled and reminded dad that for a house of 3 , we sure had ample cutlery to feed an army.

The weekend set, I hit the gym while my dad made plans for the day. It wasn’t huge or spectacular. Dad had spotted a stand in Wilco ( a big fancy enough shop that sold bits and bolts) He wanted to place all the breakable cutlery in a treasure chest of sorts. The Davey Jones equivalent of drawers. It was the kind of a chest where fragile things in the house went to never come back ever again. The walk to the shop was exactly the same that we had those many decades ago.

Only now, dad was the excited kid. We spoke at lengths about the benefits of the new trinket. We spoke of risk avoidance and how the trinket would breathe a sense of relief. We spoke of the city, we spoke of the shops. We spoke of the economy and the football world cup. The shop reached, dad set upon the task of finding the stand that he had spotted a week ago. A long search and a compromised pick later, it wasn’t a chest of plastic as he had hoped. We had opted for a british steel instead.

“Last one da. You can either keep them or throw them off later. I think everything is now set. We don’t have to pick anything any more” my dad assured me. I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew that statement. I had said it for years. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. He knew it wouldn’t be the last time. And sure enough, a few days later, he braved the city again to pick a few more.

In time, we all swap roles. In time, we get to experience the other side. It’s such a warm and a fantastic feeling , just to know that I’ve been fortunate enough to witness and participate in the turning tide. Through the busy oddities of life, I do feel lucky that I’ve had the priorities and time set aside to spend a little time. For all the money, fame and fortune dangling as carrots , time is the most precious commodity that most of us never quite have. It’s good to have time. It’s great to make time. Give it a shot.

Karthik.

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Mama’s boy

I mean I did used to wonder a lot about the way I am. The visible flamboyance is not a family trait. I didn’t get that from aping the way of my folks. If I had to copy their way of life, I think I’d have grown up being modest, humble and firmly grounded. That , very clearly, hasn’t been the case.

And so there I was, eyes glued to the smart phone. I was catching up on my reading for the day when I opened a door without a second thought. The lady on the other side hadn’t quite anticipated that. The surprise rendered her jumpy. I meekly apologised for startling her. We exchanged a smile, we spoke about how ineffective the maintenance team was, when it came to addressing the woes around the lift. We parted ways without a wonder and that was just that. The story was also a subtle tale of my lifestyle. I’m quick into a small talk. I ease my way into conversations and I exit off them as I please. Moments , as random as these, I make an effort to fill them with strangers. While this doesn’t make me any special, this always ensures that I’m never too bored.

And fast forward to the Saturday that followed. The day was new and challenges were new too. I got to introduce the wonders of the ‘Oyster card’ to my parents. We had decided to commute to ‘East Ham’. A place far away from Chennai and the kind of place that was Chennai-like in many ways. Dad enjoys such travels and the carrot that I used to entice mom was a promise of a temple that was there. Throw in a temple and my mom would gladly make that effort to commute.

Travelling with aged parents is both stressful and a deeply satisfying affair. The super off peak travel ensured that I didn’t have to worry about Londoners who were on a time bound quest to get form point A to point B. The carriage was nearly empty and despite all the planning, my mom had plans of her own. She separated from the herd of three and managed to acquire a seat.

As the train picked speed, she tumbled from the acceleration. Fortunately, no harm done. She managed to recover and took her intended seat on the train.

The onlookers expressed their healthy concern. A quick enquiry over the incident later, they went about their business. Mom and her new neighbour got into a conversation about how the KumKum bindi is a quintessential Indian thingy. ‘I’m sorry if I caused a stir’ my mom casually implied.

I was standing right by my dad when I overheard her statement. It took me by surprise. And so there she was, my mum, casually building conversations with folks around her. She offered to manage the neighbour’s kid on the train. A few Long-enough conversations later, it was the time to jump stations and take a new train. She got off without an adventure. Dad managed his solo exit too.

The next train was another long ride and this time, mom’s network with strangers around was on wonderful display. Effortlessly, she was every bit a Londoner. She was more a Londoner than I had ever been. She embraced the new land, the new people in it. The world was her muse and conversations were at her easy disposal. I stopped trying to babysit mom.

Dad was busy comparing notes from the land he had visited 3 decades ago. A lot had changed and a lot yet remained to be the same. The sunny , hot city was a new. The ambience of East ham was a new. The saravana bhavan continued to remain the same. England’s happy win added a certain charm to the city. The flags swayed proudly and the pubs were humming with a jolly score. The city started to paint itself in red. The sun wasn’t a bother anymore.

I’ve set aside my immediate fears of how my folks would cope up with this new world. They are doing fine. In fact, they are doing much better than what I’ve managed. Most evenings when I return from work, they do have a story to share. Their world of the usual shop runs, the giggles over groceries, new faces and tiny tales, I do feel awed by their adventures.

I guess apples don’t fall from Lemon trees. I’m proud to acknowledge that I’m a mama’s boy. Glad that I got that from her! It does compensate for the other vices that I’m proficient with.

I do have a question outstanding that waiting to be answered. Why is the district line named the way it is? I hadn’t really thought of that ever. Leave it to dad to ask sensible questions!

Karthik

Breaking ICE

Some times I do feel bad for speakers. Addressing a gathering is not a walk in the park. The nature of the audience is unpredictable and their enthusiastic participation is always an uncertainty. Just typing that sentence, I’m flooded with images of poor blokes , holding their fancy microphones, pleading with the audience for an interaction.

Many stages have endured and survived the noisy symphony orchestrated by crickets!

Ice breakers are the best of the lot. Humour is a default trait that everybody expects from a bearer of the microphone. I mean, Frodo’s burden was a breeze in direct comparison. In the name of humour, there is a lot of funny business at play. I happened to sit through a session recently. I was an unexpected invite and I had to oblige.

‘Would you jump off a plane, if I were to give you a £1000 ?’ the hopeful speaker started the conversation.

Luck, as he knew it, had apparently run out. After a long day’s work, I was itching to let a little steam off. Someone saw my childlike face and decided that I’d make the best of scapegoats to pump questions that would render me nervous and hence help establish and make a point. Yeah. Luck had changed hands.

Sure, why not. I replied. From the immediate reaction of the speaker, it wasn’t hard to notice two things. One, he wasn’t an experienced speaker. Two, his usual target audience were not in the habit of throwing a few punches.

He posed the question to a few more lambs and as certain as the number of hair on my head, most of them had replied that they wouldn’t.

The ice now broken, the message could be delivered. He wanted to strive the point of having an open mind. Open mind mandated that jumping of a plane that wasn’t flying was a safe affair and an easy buck to earn.

I giggled my devious smile.

‘Yeah, what airplane are we talking about?, I shot back.

‘What, beg your pardon?’

‘All I’m saying is that If one were to jump from an A-380, the one that’s parked in the hanger. I’d still break a lot of bones. It’s not all that joyful experience. It’s now a question of how desperate I am to earn that £1000.’

‘Good point sir. I’m sorry what’s your name? That’s a fair point. One has to always evaluate what one will do to achieve what they want’, he tried to reclaim his session.

‘Katz. I mean, if you were to ponder over that for a minute, Let me pose another question. If I knew the cost of medical aid of broken bones, then I’d know if that £1000 is worth the effort. In which case, the status quo changes. It’s now a question of knowing the variables and arriving at a decision.’

There is a moment in time when the audience shifts their attention by realigning the orientation of how they sit. I’ve always enjoyed that attention. In time, I had learnt to stay away from such cheap thrills. In short, it was this breed of arrogance that I spent a few years trying to unlearn. I didn’t particularly want to remain a nice audience.

So far, I do appear as a poster child for a spoilt arrogant brat.

I was in fact playing a vigilante. The session was about a glorified PONZI scam.

I felt nauseated by the fact that a few suits had the right set of words to manipulate the lambs by selling them their dreams. I couldn’t , wouldn’t tolerate the illicit gamble of people’s misery. Greed deserved greed. Not misery.

The introduction spoilt, I piped down. I knew I’d have more opportunities to crash that party. I didn’t have to wait long.

So, what is success? Another bloke opened up the forum. Is it money? Is it fame? and then went on to engage the audience over how altruism captures a place in history and not fortunes and fame.

Interesting point there. It was pleasant to see Bill Gates, Mahatma and Mother Theresa feature in the same statement. And I put my hands up.

‘Yes, Katz’ the speaker paused.

‘I’m all in for altruism. Gandhi ji got shot. Billy and Mother got raked into a billion controversies over ethics. The big deal with altruism is that when there is a generous supply of money and social service dragged into the same sentence, There is usually a lot of allegations of foul. Money corrupts. It’s a constant.’

Radio silence.

‘Any case, I do find it interesting that the pitch first spoke about owning a TESLA, 4 international holidays, money in 7 figures and as a foot note, social care. Makes me wonder if the priorities featured in the exact same way as presented’

‘It’s always not about the money’ the defence was offered. The point already made and the damage quite dealt, I had managed to leave 5 folks with questions over the smoke dream that they were being sold. The rest, focused on the greed that eyes could carry.

As etiquette mandated , I had to manage a saving grace. ‘Oh don’t worry about my questions. I like to ask the hard ones to ensure that I’m doing the right things. I’m convinced that I’m in the right place. Thanks for the wonderful session’ I smiled my fakest smile. The condescension in my voice missed most but hurt the intended target.

I walked off the session with a thought.

Maybe I am in the wrong line of business. Maybe I have the gift of glib and my resistance towards leading the lambs to temptation is the summary of everything that is wrong with my life.

I felt I’d be immensely successful in the business of deception. I walked back home knowing that I’d never let myself buy my red Jaguar by robbing the dreams and hopes of the people I barely knew. A conscience is a terrible thing to have. Especially if you have the potential to be bad.

Cest la vie!!!!!

Karthik

Amazoning life

When I was a kid, and that’s probably an eon ago, my grand dad took me to watch a magic show. PC Sarkar or so, I’d guess. Back then, it was the most amazing thing that I had watched. I couldn’t explain how the magician did the things that he did and that was precisely a wonderful part of the charm to it. Magic seemed to come to life through my ignorance.

Years later, I managed to catch another live performance from a different magician. Only this time around, I wasn’t the kid filled with awe and wonder. I was a cynic. The ‘How magicians work’ telly program had ruined magic for me. I was busy being a smart alec and took a sadistic pleasure in knowing how the tricks worked. My cynicism led to condescension and I began to judge the quality of the show. Somewhere along the line, I felt ashamed of what I had become. I took a stalk of how live acts and such shows were a rarity. The seats were nearly empty. It was a sign of a new age of entertainment. The age old stages were now the battle grounds for Stand up comics. Same stage, just new actors.

With mum and dad now in the UK with me, one fine morning I woke up a sweet and a cute surprise. ‘Alexa’ my mom ventured. ‘What is the time in India?’ she had asked her million dollar question. The time is, came the instant response. ‘Thank you ma’ my mom concluded. From repeated ask for time, odd ball requests for Alexa to sing a song, How are you feeling today, the boundaries of human presence were being blurred. There was a human voice on the other end and it had managed to maintain a sensible conversation with my parents.

It took me back to the years my nephews and niece were growing up in the house. Mom and dad would pose the same old simple odd questions. The answers world flow in funny ways. Such conversations were usually warm and fuzzy nice. After decades, after the age of internet of everything, after the boom of smartification of the world, it was the simplicity of the expressed human connect that wowed my heart.

My folks , now, share the same ignorance that I had once expressed as a kid. The science of the magic trick didn’t matter back then. Magic mattered and magic did inspire a genuine sense of excitement. My folks are going through that phase of amazed excitement. Mom didn’t pause to bother about the clockwork. Dad , once a while, does pop the questions around how does it all work.

The most overlooked, underrated, underappreciated reward to life is probably companionship.

Having someone or something to talk to is almost akin to salt. It’s only when you are left devoid of salt, do you start to realise how much your life has grown accustomed to it. The future of digital conversations is a wonderful space. Throw in a personality, iGrandChild , iDaughter, iSon , iSpouse to the mix and the magic of AI to adapt and evolve conversations, humanity would have an easy access to a conversation buddy. It’s almost funny and a pity that we have evolved to a point where it’s easier to build the technology to mimic humans than have the mind to converse with actual living and breathing humans. There sure is a potential market. Loneliness might finally have a cure!

Odd enough, I see Asimov giggling in his grave.

The simple things to life, the simple joys of smiles. A toast to that rarity. What can I say, It’s an AMAZONING life.

Karthik

The reluctant commitment

I do have reasons to believe that I’ve evolved into a commitment-phobe. It’s easier to wing things than slow down, make choices, stick to them and see them all through.

The big deal with commitment is that it takes up a significant portion of your life and your lifestyle. I had dreaded that for the longest while. Let me tell you this though, no amount of preparation and planning, no amount of think tanking around the statement actually does warrant your readiness when the push comes to shove. My tryst with such a commitment started a few weeks ago. The choice waiting to be made, the choice that I kept stalling for no definite reason, the mind games had began.

The most sanest thing that I could think about was to sit down and weigh the options. To do or not to do was apparently the question. The biggest win in the not to do list was comfort. I’m used to being me. I’m used to living like a part saint, part hobo, full on lazy. Commitment was a road towards a more disciplined living, or so I had began to ponder.

On the other hand, the biggest win on the To do and go for it list was the fact that I thought I really , really, really wanted it.

I have a monkey’s heart and I have an attention span of a kid jacked high on sugar.

On the best given day, I want everything under the sky. A few moments later, on the same best given day, I’d pretty much enjoy to be left all alone and not change or budge a thing. In short, I have a heart that is a monkey. It jumps and jumps and it’s never slowed down through the ages.

The two sides called out, it was time to start investing a serious thought into the decision making process. I had to consider the financial implications of the change. I thought I could muster it. A fancy spreadsheet later, I braced myself for the hike in the OPex of life. There wasn’t much I could do about it. Either ignore the change and coast through life without changing the status quo or embrace that change and plan things around it. On the other hand, the change seemed to be exciting. All changes do seem exciting at first.

The next round was that of getting my decision vetted with a few minds. The usual came to the mix. Go for it. Are you nuts? The mixed reactions were here to stay. Nothing about life seldom attracts a homogeneous reaction. The advices made me think for a bit. The decision was already made and I wasn’t going to back away from it. Interesting thing about decisions is that some folks ask about and then step into the process of deciding. I usually decide and then ask. If folks have nothing to dissuade me , I go right ahead. If folks do have some compelling reason that I’d have missed, mostly I go ahead with an understanding of what consequences to brace. There are a few times when I pay heed to that compelling reason and revert the decision of my own. It’s not a scientific means of attaining nirvana to the daily decision making process of life. It does help me coast through by owning up my choices and living past the consequences.

Ever noticed? The idea of an idea always seems enticing and inviting. It sweeps our imagination. It helps us jump start our motivations. Then the reality seeps in and there is , usually , a disconnect. What you think you’d eventually land with is not always arrived on the first day of landing on the things that you had imagined. It always takes a while to adapt, evolve and there is a sad period of time involved in growing warm and accustomed to the altered way of life.

That was it. Once again, I experienced it first hand.

The choice to pick a Nespresso coffee maker was neither hard nor easy to make. I did go on to wonder about the tenure of the said relationship. I didn’t know if I’d stick around to enjoy a lifetime worth of a coffee. I thought it would be a nice buy. I always fancied a red and chrome coffee maker. The always , in this case, translates to around 5 days.

The options explored, the money worked out, it was now a question of a desire to change the way I made coffee. A bachelor’s coffee, rather this bachelor’s coffee had its roots in black magic. Water in the kettle, milk from the fridge, cup (washed with contempt , once a week) and I managed to concoct something that resembled an Americano, which wasn’t quite that. There were days when I’d get the proportions horribly wrong and end up with a very diluted cup. There were days when milk would flow through heavens and I’d end up with a milkier than milk cup of joe. Lousy cup of coffee seemed to be a constant.

That’s not changed though. Setting up the machine was a breeze. Plug and play, load the cartridge, press a button and it spewed a hot, perfect cup of espresso. Only I don’t prefer an espresso. The monkey games began and I tried to filled around the delicate balance of frothing the perfect cup of milk. Ah yes, the machine came with a frother.

The first shot was fridge from the milk, and strike that. Reverse that. Milk from the fridge , frother later, I managed to concoct a palatable cup of cold coffee. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t hot. Monkey business later, I’m still trying to find the quickest way around a cup of coffee that I’m happy with.

Commitments are that way. Either you chicken out and give up from the minute things don’t fall into place or you fight for what you want and improve your skills in living with your commitments.

So far, the battles have been divided and the war is yet to have the last bloke standing.

There is a lot more to a cup of coffee than just bad coffee!!

Karthik

Carrots and sambar – A tale of life

And so there I was wondering about the next course of life. It was a busy week and I was leading it through jangling nerves. My body was playing a jazz rhythm of its own.

There has always been a dream. A carrot of carrots , if you may. The dream has been a Remote controlled car. As the years flew by, that obsession to buying an RC car grew stronger. I had reached a point in life where I had grown scared of actually buying one. What if having an RC was pointless? What if it didn’t turn out to be as much fun as I had imagined for well over two decades? What if? In pursuit of keeping the dream alive, I shifted focus to another dream. A red sports car.

The mileage through life has one singular tangible benefit. It’s called a pay check. One could argue that the check wasn’t plenty but it exists and I had to make peace with it. A quick scan , check and compromised acceptance later, I had managed to put a number to another carrot. A carrot in an ocean of carrots.

A red Jaguar, F-Type, the math worked out to £55,000. It was most definitely a compromise of sorts. The entry variant came cheap-ish. The number opened up another series of numbers in the long list of numbers that mandate life. It would probably take me 3 years to save enough to pick one. Adjusting for inflation was another number to deal with. Loans and EMI were numbers that I didn’t want to consider.

With the immediate milestone set, I had other things to plan around. A driver’s license was another headache to sort through. Riding from point A to point B is seldom the point. The free trial exam was a good example of pointlessness of the education system that I had endured. Do you call for help or do you help when someone is injured on the road? Do you overtake or do you wait? Do you honk or do you smile? The questions were plenty and they were trying effortlessly to inspire the civil , obedient , compliant , numbed citizen in me. I soon lost interest.

Then came the logistics of acquiring one. The written exam, now ignored, the actual driving test was another logistics fuelled nightmare. Rent a car that had baby wheels to them. While many of these listed things seem rational and acceptable, to my mind , they were ridiculous. Living in London often translates to sanity that prevails and why one would opt for a public transport than loitering in a car and paying through the roof for parking tickets.

That said, I had carrots to run after. Then came more numbers into the mix. ‘So’, my boss said. ‘Looks like you have plans of swapping a wife for a red sports car!’. And he was right. I hadn’t considered the cost of a marriage or the operational cost of a shared life. More numbers and I could see life slipping away between each line item.

The Monday was harsh and it usually is harsh most Mondays. Issues to resolve, meetings to report, meetings to chair. Monday is the kind of the day when I’m left gasping for air. There are ‘Back to back’ calls and I wish I was still leading the simpler life where I got to join a meeting , place the phone on mute and sit away contemplating the other challenges to life which included, where do I eat tonight , what movie to watch during the weekend, where do ‘We’ go for the weekend, what did ‘we’ almost discuss last evening.

Those days are years and a lifetime ago. There isn’t a going back. The clouds and the silver lining of the mileage is that most things that I talk about, on a professional basis, have consequences tagged to them. Some bear benefits, some flag risks, some put smiles across the customers and some, frowns across the business. Physically present and mentally in a different planet isn’t an option anymore.

And then I said ‘ Sorry, missed that. Was lost in a different train of thought’, I interrupted the meeting. It was a close call. My mind was drifting off and I had to head back into the game. I couldn’t afford to sit and count the carrots in my grocery basket. The iteration lasted a while. Good byes later, another meeting kick started.

With a twenty minute break, I had to make a choice. I had ample time to freshen up, call my folks , pick a sandwich and rush back to desk. No hot lunch and it was the usual norm for the Monday. Freshen up – Check. Call mom and dad – Check. Pick a sandwich – No GO. A glance on the salt and calories label, I had made a choice to pick a coffee rather than a sandwich. The dash back to the meeting was timely. The screen buzzed to life, the mind buzzed with questions, for a while. And then it drifted.

Somewhere between the decisions that impacted the next financial year, I had a concentrated , centred, dedicated focus over wanting to have Sambar for dinner. The breakfast and lunch now skipped, the saving grace was a Sambar dinner. I tried to remember the snapshot of the fridge back home. Onions, nope. Tamarind, nope.Tomatos, iffy at best. Lentils, yup.

‘I’m sorry. Missed that. When do we want that report by?’, I had managed to yank myself away from the distraction and also salvage the damage done. From Jaguar to sambar, the day’s motivations had travelled really far indeed. The commute back home, the shops hopped, things picked. I came home to a hot room. London’s been blazing away , putting Chennai on a jealous spree lately. The bed looked comforting. Homeland had seasons waiting to be watch. The toll of the day, the fatigue of forced fasting, the depression of not having a Jaguar and the anger at the silly stupid process of acquiring a driver’s licence, the defeated victory of having shopped on a tiresome day, I picked the comforts of watching ‘The Alienist’.

Twenty minutes into a distracted watch later, I had had enough. I am going to make that sambar. I am going to eat that sambar today. I had opted against having seeded bread for dinner. I had worked way too hard, sacrificed way too many dreams, made a lot of compromises along the way and I wouldn’t be denied of Sambar that day. I checked the cupboard, I already had a stash of tamarind. Onions were there too. Tomatoes weren’t iffy. Plump and red. Quite obviously, I had imagined the house in a drought.

And so life has many carrots. Some , we choose. Some , others make that choice for us and we aren’t free to speak up and voice against it. Through the many miseries of daily struggles, it’s the simple pleasure and satisfaction of achieving the smaller , insignificant goals to life. I would probably have that Jag in a few years time, I’d probably have a lot of what I desire in course of time. What I really do wish for is that I have a grounded sense to appreciate that I don’t need many carrots, as long as I’m not making a carrot Sambar.

Karthik

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.

Karthik

The age of innocence

There will always be a part of Chennai in my blood, no matter where in the world I get to be in. I’ll always be the bloke who loves the sun and whines about it too. I’ll always be the pampered spirit who cant sleep without an air conditioner or, at the very least, a fan. I ‘ll probably always be the guy who is mesmerised by a snow fall.

London has been kind and gracious. We had a bit of snow the whole day on the Sunday. Saturdays are the worst, and in the right light, they also are the best day in the week. Saturdays are usually quiet. I get to lose myself in making music. The days have come and the months have passed. Something that has refused to change is the way Saturday treats me. The day loitered, the evenings wandered, I do always manage to make it back to the confines of my room with a million unspoken thoughts and a sounds that give my emotions a voice.

This Saturday was no different to the usual practiced rote. Late to bed, early enough to the window, the Sunday greeted me with a glimpse of falling snow. And just like that , I was a kid who was staring blank into the blanket of white. And just like that, I was someone else in a strange land of gleeful excitement and innocence.

It’s beautiful the way nature inspires the best in us. All it took was a shower of snow to transform my mind. I was no longer myself with arms weighed down by thoughts. I was no longer a bloke who was trapped in mind , soul and time. I was no longer a mirage of what I had become. It felt nice to shed some skin and stare at pristine innocence.

Flake by flake, as the ice fell through the open heart of the sky, with each falling drop I could see the many timelines blur and transcend. The snow resembled the flow of time itself. With each free falling flake, it felt like time had reset itself and that it had unconditionally altered itself free from the bonds of experiences that it had subjected me to. With each falling flake, I found myself closer to the liberation of the imprisoned mind.

I was staring right into the age of innocence. An age where time was immaterial. An age where experiences amounted to nothing. An age where everything was new. An age free of definitions , meanings and insinuations. I was finally free to feel trapped in a moment. The sweet comforts of swapping one prison for another. Only this one offered a comfort that I had never known before. A prison without an yesterday, without a tomorrow. A prison where today wasn’t relevant either. All that mattered was the unconditional existence in the moment. A moment that constituted of just snow and a pair of eyes admiring them.

As the day raged on, the snow manifested itself in different ways. It started as a soft magical shower. It picked speed and expressed a fury of purification. The sky had painted the land white. Then black and the world of grey did not matter. All was white and pristine was an one-dimensional direction. I joined its vigour. I felt the clouds lighten within. I was caught in that moment. Mad, zealous for that purification. The time of reckoning was finally here. Unlike the devil’s scripture, it wasn’t a time for judgement. The whitened land offered no prejudice. There was white and that’s all there was to it. A redemption offered without asking. An atonement gained without a longing.

As the phase slowly vanished, I decided to step outside my prison. In mind and the body, I found myself under the vast open sky. High up , all the way to the heavens, snow had painted the world white. Right below my feet, the price of that white was being paid. The bewitching beauty of the innocent snow had left behind a swamp of dirt and grime. The sky and the land were locked in a conflict. As the sky redeemed itself, the land felt burdened with conscious. White above, black below and I was right between the two.

I smiled at the age of innocence. I had been naïve. The moment had passed and realities were now spotted. The seduction of the white no longer mattered. I was a bloke of the land. This land’s my home. All the whites looked dark in comparison to the compassion of the soiled earth. The sky’s preoccupation felt bullish. It had exerted its will. The land took it all. It offered me my moment of bliss. It offered me it’s truest colour. I loved the land for what it was. It could take it all and still offer a nurturing embrace. I finally understood its soiled skin. Beauty was the blemish. The beauty without par.

Karthik

Ink and life

ZZZZZZZZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR . That was the noise that quietened the noise in my head. Zzzzzzzzzzzr, then the noise was muffled a bit. And hello pain.

The story doesn’t really start with the numbing pain. In fact, it doesn’t even end on that painful note. The bags packed to Liverpool, I knew it was the right moment to get another tattoo. On an impulse, I had finalized on what I wanted to get. The same impulse got me an appointment. The dates were now set. The design was now set. To go or not to go with the plan, was the only question running in my head.

Getting a second tattoo did pose challenges of a different kind. Once one has experienced the needle, the nature of questions around tattoos does change. Does it hurt? , is a question no longer asked. Of course, it was going to hurt. It was always going to hurt. I knew that. The new batch of questions were around,

Do I really need this one?

Am I dumb enough to go through the process again?

Do I really really really want this one for all my life?

The first tattoo was a child of a lifetime of desire to get inked. I had invested a lot of time into thinking about symbols and formulating the wider deeper meaning of what it stood to represent. I knew that I’d do whatever it took to get that first tattoo. The second one was different. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. I didn’t need another tattoo to tell the world that I was demented enough for a tattoo. I hadn’t really invested a lot of time and thoughts into what I wanted. The fact that I wasn’t a 100% sure on what I wanted, also pushed me to have second thoughts about them.

Did I really need one? Yup. Was I dumb enough to go through the process again? Yup. Do I really really really want this for all my life? I guess so.

I guess so. That’s the whole point. There is so much life spent around those words. I GUESS SO. Choices that sit on the fence that separates decisions and doubts. I guess so is the easier road to take. We are almost there. Nearly confident that we are geared up for the unknowns that are ahead of us. There is a fear of that uncertainty. I guess so is a win win state to be in. It’s not the same as staying inert because of the paralysis of fear. It’s not the same as galloping bravely into the arms of the future. It’s a slow , cautious walk in a direction. Any direction.

I guessed that I could use another tattoo. The first thing that came to my mind was the full moon. I remember the many days I’ve spent admiring the ball of white. It wasn’t the white that I fancied. I liked the orange full moon. That was almost immediate. I had opted to ink a full moon that was a ball of Orange. With that in mind, there was a destination to look forward to.

The decision now made, I wanted to spend a little more time understanding the whys of my choice. Moon shares a deep association with spirituality. Spiritual aspirants draw on the moon’s grace in their journey. The colour also had a meaning. I wasn’t surprised by my choices in them. Red and Orange. They both deal with the first two chakras.

The skeptic , within me, calls this as Confirmation bias. I had made my choice and was looking for meanings to tag along. The believer in me laughs at the chain of coincidences. I had never imagined getting a moon, of all things, inked. Far away from dreams of getting skulls and bones, there I was shooting for the moon.

The inking began. I tried to zone out of the pain. The process lasted two hours and there is only so much that one can tune out off. I got chatty with my tattoo artist, Mr Auris. Then I got bored of sitting idle and still. I even braved looking at the needles playing poke -e -man with my skin. In time, I got used to the pain, I was starting to get excited about the final product.

The two hours of pain and dreams did give me the opportunity to think. Somewhere along the first 15 minute mark, I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to believe in the tattoo any more. I didn’t see a purpose. I didn’t see why I had opted to sit through pain. It was the lousiest moment of the entire bloody day. I channelled out the pain by thinking about the image of the moon that I was aiming for, It didn’t bring me peace. Take that Dramatic moments written in literature.

It did distract me away from the pain. The wave of pain subsided. It didn’t feel hurt that bad for a while. The pain kept coming in waves. I sat satisfied that I could sit through it without tears. I had started to enjoy the moment. I was getting a tattoo. I was getting one that had 9 colours in them. That’s two more than the average joe Rainbow!

I guess life is like that. It’s exactly how we choose to reflect and describe. We either make a choice , or sit around wishing that we could make one. We either enjoy the choice made, or lament it. We either write a wonderful tale of purpose and joy, or lament it and blame the many factors that were unlucky. Life is what we make of it. And an ink is what I make of it.

I have a moon on my shoulder. I guess that makes me a star 🙂 and I can live with that.

Oh, live a life doing stupid things, you are bound to learn a lot of lessons. Getting inked during winter, in Liverpool, not the smartest of ideas. It does make me stronger though! A big bar of hazelnut candy made the experience a lot sweeter. Everything feels better with a baby diaper rash ointment!!!!!

I now have my eyes on the next batch! Third time is the CHARM

My tattoo of a full moon

Karthik

Not on display!

Exciting times indeed. I could play Nostradamus and take a shot at predicting the near future. I see pain and satisfied smiles. Possibly a tinge of disappointment, however, the mood would be still the one of joy and smiles.

Almost an accurate prediction, if there could be one. With the bags almost packed, there was an imminent catch up that I wouldn’t even dream of missing. A quick hop on a train later, I’d be in the land of the Liver bird again. A city that I’ve come to love and that’s mostly because of the crazy bloke who resides there. Funny enough, all the memories of the city are tied to deep conversations, million laughs and a Tattoo. It’s almost time to add a little plural to that word. Tattoos, or at least that seems to be the plan.

For starters, I do not publically display my tattoo. I’ve got one that sits happy on my right shoulder. I could flaunt it, but I usually don’t. I’ve had a few questions being asked about the incognito status of that tattoo. It exists and to the world it doesn’t. That’s almost like I view things around. The world’s acknowledgement doesn’t deny an existence. There is a charm to that obliviousness.

What’s the point of sticking needles, shedding a little blood and enduring a prickly pain?

It’s a statement. To me, it’s a statement that I address to my self. My first tattoo was a semi-circle that contained a kanji that represented fire. I did weave a huge tale around it. The simplest explanation, it looked cool. The most complicated explanation, that’s the way I see life. The second one that’s cruising along my expectations is one of a harvest moon. A big ball of orange-red, decked with imperfections, riddled with lines of distortion. If the artist works a miracle, it has the potential to look beautiful.

What does it represent? It’s a bit too early in the day to stack thoughts to something that doesn’t exist today. Through the needles, I’ll figure something out.

Now that I’m pondering on the subject, the status of incognito, a display that’s denied, how does it affect us? In the cycle of all things considered, recognition plays a very vital role in ensuring satisfaction. We start off on our quest to get recognized and the subsequent desire is to get rewarded for that excellence. With recognition and rewards piling up, we saturate from it and move on to bigger things. We aim for actualisation. A state in which we contribute and still stay numb to the games of recognition and rewards. We are no longer burdened by who takes the credit, the insecurities that keep us on the top of our paranoia fuelled toes. We do, because we can. We help , because we can. We contribute because we can. It’s a fantastic state worth aspiring.

A lot of my personal passions are inclined towards the actualisation. Not necessarily in the purist sense. I do miss the recognition. I’m yet to get rewarded. I endure , I learn and I derive pleasure from the sheer act of contribution. When I don’t have sights on acknowledgement of my skills, there is no pressure. I can deliver at any pace that I see fit. The quality gates are strictly personal. I do set rather high , near impossible , quality standards. It’s fun to strive hard and fail miserably against self imposed yardsticks.

Similarly, a tattoo to me is a representation of a thought. It exists. It’s does not represent a contest that I have to contest in. It does not represent an output which is waiting to get judged and appreciated. It exists.

While getting inked is not everybody’s cup of tea with a fancy cake, I think what it stands to represent is a lesson that caters to most interests. It answers the question, ‘Why do we do the things that we do?’

I am reminded of this movie, Indiana Jones and the last crusade. Indie is on a boat, fighting for survival. The bloke asks him the purpose of his quest. ‘Are you doing this for his glory(God) or for yours?’ It’s such a profound quote that gets tossed around in a swashbuckling flick.

And so the anticipation game begins. It’s going to be a long week of hopes and dreams. The crescendo , in the third act, would probably be played in tears and blood. It’s probably going to be worth it. Or, in the humble words of Homer Simpson- the wise, ‘DOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

Karthik