Books, life, death and interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My boss gave me a blank stare.

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

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

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

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

Books, life and death, and interviews…

Karthik

Never let me go

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“Through rain, through the thunder that roars

be my strength and never let me go”

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

 

 

“Through the night, the light of a mourning moon

be my shadow and never let me go”

 

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

 

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

 

“Through time, the memories forgotten and cherished

be my soul and never let me to”

 

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

 

“Through the distance, our hearts will stay bridged

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

 

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

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

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

Through rain, through the thunder that roars

be my strength and never let me go

Through the night, the light of a mourning moon

be my shadow and never let me go

Through time, the memories forgotten and cherished

be my soul and never let me to

Through the distance, our hearts will stay bridged

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Karthik

The secret in her eyes

The nagging headache was back again. It came in sporadic bursts. The first few times, I tolerated them and dismissed them as a part and parcel of life. Work did come as a package and I assumed that the headache was something that I signed up for. The classic case of not having the time and the inclination to read through the fine print!

As they became a regular occurrence, my friends put the fear of the lord with thoughts about aneurism into my head. Happy , smiling and walking one minute and dropping dead another. The fear had sunk in. I rushed to the doctor for an opinion. The doctor had dismissed it as a harmless eventuality. Drink water, exercise , don't strain yourself a lot and you should be a-ok, he had adviced. That was a proper waste of £100 flushed down the drain in the name of professional consultation. My mom would tell me the same every bloody morning. As always, I'd carelessly ignore her pearls of sensible wisdom.

And so I drank my water, I exercised a bit. I tried to relax through the days of challenges and mental pressures. It worked for a while and the headaches seemed to recede. Things came back with a vengeance this afternoon. I had breached the limits of my tolerance. I packed my bags and decided to head home and sleep things off. St Paul's station was a minute away from work. I made it to the tube. Tuesday afternoon was a little lean on the commuting. I wouldn't know any better. I had never bailed off at 13:00 ever. The compartment had twenty odd people. I boarded the train. As it started to move, I could feel the pulsating throb in my head. Slowly , a shooting pain was sweeping up to a crescendo.

"I wonder how she'd be doing now".

I looked around to see if anyone was trying to have a quick chat with me. No one. I was standing alone by the window. I scanned the vicinity to find the source of that voice. I failed in spotting anyone.

"I shouldn't have come to work today. I hope Emma doesn't have the flu"

I could understand what was being said, only couldn't understand who was saying it. I looked around frantically like a madman. Luck eluded me.

"Who the hell does he think he is!!!!!! I hope he burns in hell"

Far away from little Emma and her possible bout with the flu, this statement was way out of the ballpark. Anger and disgust oozed in it. I could feel the intensity behind that hatred.

I stumbled upon the answer. I realized that each time I made an eye contact with the fellow passengers, I could hear the things running in their heads. I wondered if they could listen to my thoughts! I assumed that they'd consider me a nut case and shake their heads disapprovingly. I decided to validate the thesis. I tried gazing into a few more eyes inconspicuously. It was funny, the way the city worked. One could make an eye contact for a second and nobody would make anything out of it. If one continued to keep staring, people would usually avoid confrontation and would shift their eyes elsewhere. The body language and the signals shared would be obvious. People would gracefully turn their backs to the prying eyes and that would usually be it.

"Damn, it's still a long way to Friday"

"It better be a negative. I don't think we are ready for this"

"Why is that weird bald man with his clumsy pony tail staring at everyone"

The last one made me panic a bit. I tried to slow things down. I felt assured of what was going on around me. I could hear thoughts by gazing into people's eyes.

The train stopped by Green Park. I saw her walk in. She walked past me, searched for a seat to occupy. For some reason, she decided against sitting and stood right beside me. We were facing each other. We were separated by generous inches but in thoughts, I knew I'd be a lot more closer to her.

"That was a rush"

I smiled at her as I did when my eyes met strangers. It was a social norm. She was no stranger to it. She smiled back. I was beginning to enjoy this game of thought- voyeurism. It felt oddly satisfying to know what others thought was a hidden secret.

"It's sad that it's over. But yeah, It's nice that I can start again"

It was a bit stranger that unlike the rest, hers wasn't a thought of concern or a conclusion to the events of the day. She was actually having a conversation in her head. I felt the excitement surge in me. The anxiety kindled the headache. I felt the throbbing in my head again. I shut my eyes tight and decide to mentally clench my mind to supress the pain. It seemed to work.

"I wonder if he'd bleed any different. I guess chubby folks have more blood in them or something. A soft precise cut here, the thin chrome blade slicing through the skin, I wonder if he'd feel the cold from the steel"

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was contemplating a murder. The way her thoughts were structured, I couldn't help but assume that she was not a novice to the dark side. It so appeared that she had done that a lot of times and her curiosity were now part science and part amusement. I scanned the train to see if there were any other chubby folks in it besides me. For the first time, I felt exposed and unsafe. The angelic blue eyes , that soft tanned skin, her black curly hair no longer felt like belonged to the heavens. She was possibly HR from the department of Satan.

"Indian… I don't think I've ever played with an Indian before. I wonder what that'd be like"

I could sense my heart palpitating at this point. She was talking about me. In her mind, she was orchestrating my murder. I felt trapped and helpless. I couldn't cry out for help. Who'd believe me. Besides, thinking of murder and actually committing one were two separate things. I'd be a nut if I accused her of thoughts of violence. I'd be dead on her table, if she actually did what she was thinking about.

The pain had taken over by this point. I closed my eyes to supress it again. The pain shadowed everything else. All I could see, hear and feel was a blank black emptiness. Everything else had faded into it. I think I had blacked out. Ah damn it.

I opened my eyes with a strain. The bright white light strained my eyes and it was a challenge to focus on what I was seeing. Everything felt blurred. I saw her again. Same blue eyes, same black curly hair. She was looking down upon me. My heart raced. I couldn't figure out how I landed on her table of death. The serials and the movies had sensitized me to the ways of hidden psychotic killers. They all seemed to have their own operating table of murder. The posh ones sure did. She had one. There was a strange sense of adventure, knowing that I was going to be her victim number whatever, and there was a surge of adrenalin in hopes of the preservation of self.

"Easy there" she softly whispered.

I couldn't tell if it was her eyes reminding me that resistance was futile or if she had really spoken the words to pacify me.

I struggled to get up. My hands weren't tied but I was groggy. That made things difficult. This must have been her MO. Obviously she had sprayed something that had left me immobile. I couldn't understand how she managed to sneak me out from the train. Then again, beauty and brains, I didn't think it would have been hard for her to not accomplish most things that she had set her mind to achieve.

"Relax. Take it easy. Now what's your name"

What? Why was she asking me for my name. She was a sick sicko predator. She was toying with me. I tried to scream but I could barely hear my voice through the silent room. My throat felt dry.

Before I could say anything else, before I could get a pulse of my surroundings, all I saw was her readying the plunger of an injection. The she-wolf was now all set for the kill. I accepted defeat and decided to not struggle anymore. This was it. Everything blacked out again.

"Dude".. "Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude".. the word seemed to echo.

"Eat man. Been telling you that for bloody ages. You freaking passed out on the train. You caused the Central line severe delays. Folks from the hospital called. Thank god, you never did have your phone secured by passwords or finger prints. They reached out to the recent calls and gave me a call."

Where am I man? I could see the familiar face of my bud. That was assuring.

I learnt of the events of that afternoon. I had blacked out. In and out of consciousness, my mind had conjured up realities that weren't there. An hour later, I was good as new. I had dressed up and was ready to leave. I asked to meet the nurse who had helped me. I learnt her name was Emma. Apparently, it was her day off, she was battling the flu, but had decided to turn up for work nonetheless. I guessed she'd have cursed the doctors a bit. All of it was now making sense. Subconsciously, I had picked up conversations and my mind filled in the rest. I hugged her and thanked her for saving me. Ah well, happy endings and smiles ever after.

Two months later, the headaches had seized. It was a Friday and I had decided to leave work early. The same old tube, similar crowd in the mix.

Hi, came a familiar voice. It was Emma. We chat for a bit, giggled at silly jokes and decided to hit a coffee shop by Covent Garden.

She was nice. I was glad that fate had managed to bring us together. The last two months, we had kept in touch. Silly greets and whatsapp messages. I'd probably not say that there was something that was going on, but the chemistry was sure there.

We ordered mocha and decided to take it on the go. We sat by the market to soak in the sights of the evening.

Things felt good. Things felt in place and then I felt a shooting pain. Something had pricked me.

Emma smiled her angelic smile."I've always wondered what it'd be to play with an Indian" her soft soothing voice carried.

Ah crap!

Karthik

A little more conversation

I did grow tired over the years. The fake façade of smiles, the mandatory life of parties, the jester for all occasions, the merry-maker of moments, as the titles kept piling up, I didn't bother living up to the expectations any further. Like everything else, it was a meek necessity to be noticed, a desire to be accepted that had kept me driven to being that way. Ironic. The bloke who brought to life to everything around, I found myself dead on the inside.

Life wasn't picture perfect dramatic as I hoped it would be. I did have a very happy childhood. I didn't have challenges worth calling out to brave, endure and survive. I wasn't cursed with any rare disorders. My ordeals were mundane. Maybe that's what it really was. My biggest foe was a sober mundane life. I didn't have the people I thought I wanted in life. I was left with rest of the world interacting with me, who wanted a moment with me, who felt special just by being at my side. I was the muse for the world to enjoy. I couldn't find that in anyone else. I wish I had known what it would mean to be here, at this very spot under the limelight. Eyes of the world on me and yet none that I could claim as mine and mine alone.

It did bear on me the mess that I'd be leaving behind. In fact, the thoughts of a world left behind had been a burden enough to keep me from accomplishing anything stupid. It was a battle destined to be lost anyways. I knew I was prolonging the inevitable. It was coming and I did my best from delaying it for as long as I could. None of this means anything to me anymore. Nobody understands and I don't care for the ears that want to listen. What would they know? A bunch of judgemental curious ears with nothing at stake over my life. Speaking to them would just about be the same. It wouldn't make a difference. It wouldn't change my world. It wouldn't usher magic into my life. It wouldn't plug that gaping hole of nothingness within me. Deep down, I think I deserve this all. Why would I have to suffer through all of this , if none of this was my fault?

YEAH. IF THATS HOW YOU'VE FELT,IF that's how you feel on many days, most days, IT SHOULD BE A WAKE UP CALL.

Another day in passing and another rocker, musician, celebrity who finds the light at the wrong end of a horribly wrong misplaced tunnel. A simple enough wiki later, that's 89 rockers who have taken their own life. Does suicide and depression only affect celebrities? In a way yes and in a way no. The more popular one is, and more alienated and distanced one feels, that source of light starts feeling comfortable. Depression affects us all. Thoughts of suicide are contemplated from time to time by many of us. To a lot of us, it's just a bad moment , bad thought and is just as easily dismissed as how it easy came into our radar of thoughts. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deaths_in_rock_and_roll) – Wikied it a bit.

To some of us, that feeling of frustration, that feeling of helplessness, that spiralling down to the abyss is a reality. We feel trapped by it, unable to scream for help as the voices fall on deaf ears, unable to wiggle our way out of it because we don't know how. That feeling keeps building up and push eventually does come to shove. Shove it does. Alienation, isolation lead to frustration. Frustration and depression are neighbours. Depression opens door to really dumb avenues!

For what it's worth, I've been there a few times. I've felt restless. I thank my fortunes because a thick skin and a skull were part of my cope up mechanism. That has helped me shield away from most challenges of the average Joe of the real world. When your image and the perception of the world on you seldom matters, you are free to be yourself. It's a trait that has come very handy and pulled me away from the brink of twisted sanity to the insanity where I find comforts in dwelling. That's my story.

The true constant of the world is that everybody has demons to deal with. Nobody walks this plane with a dedicated helpline system. We ask for help, we keep asking, the kindness of the world fades away. We pretend to be happy and there are days when we really are happy. The magic is to eventually stop pretending someday. All of that starts with an intent to want to stay happy. Intent is everything. Intent is a choice made and choices do move more mountains than faith has ever done.

Life is worth living. Problems are like those pesky colds or headaches. One does not put up with them by doing nothing about them. One does not endure a suffering. Life's million problems are meant to be tackled, sorted, overcome and faced all over again. Do what it takes because that's what we are here to do anyways.

There are only a few things that really do offend me. Giving up on life offends me the most. Excuses are only excuses which serve the purpose of justifying the misery that we hold on to. Break that chain. Wow, a grim thought for a Friday. Then again, a better jump start to the weekend. Life is a carnival of many lights and colours, only if we let it be that way.

Say yes to life. Always.

Karthik

Book review : The one, John Marrs

Oh it's been ages since I wrote a book review. Here is my take on this fun breezy tale that left me with a few things to ponder about.

This is a not so simple, not so straight forward tale of five people who subscribe to a service to find their ideal soul mate/ Match. In the world defined by the book, a science has identified information locked away within a person's DNA that can be used to match them with their perfect partner. The service is monetized and the phenomenon changes the way the world sees itself.

Match your DNA helps millions find their perfect match. There rests a statistic that 92% of the matched profile find their spark. It's a mathematical quantification of 'Love at first sight'. The story opens with five people, Christopher, Ellie, Jade , Mandy and Neil at moment in time when they are about to open their inbox to the mail that would go on to change their lives forever.

Without getting into the plot, the drama rests in the way their lives unfold. There are interesting themes outlined in this book that I was absolutely fascinated by.

1. Surrender of Freewill
2. Shades of Love
3. Emotional Dynamics

Surrender of freewill : I love this angle to the book. Maybe it didn't really exist but I couldn't help but ponder over the parallels that volunteer us towards that suspension of choice, that relegation of ownership, our comforts in living with denial. Science and scientists agree on the way the DNA can be used to find that perfect match. There is no disputing that. The world soon adapts to this change. Firm faith in scientific backing, the world is now split into a newer breed of discrimination. The people who have been matched and the ones who haven't. The social divide has repercussions on the psychological and emotional quality of life.

Blind faith challenges the natural status quo of living a life as opposed to waiting on a predestination where one is reduced to a mere witness to a life. Interestingly, the chase , that search , the pursuit of romance is sacrificed and preapproved matches replaces the fun and thrills of discovering romance.

Shades of love : While the book is centred on love, I couldn't help by see the multiple shades to it. It's unconditional. Yes. It has the power to bring the best in us. Love facilitates that change in all of us. Yes. So far, boring as hell depiction of love. Things get interesting from here on. Love as a means to manipulate emotions in others. It's quite the tool that engages in deception to achieve intended means. And finally throw in a bit of a vengeance that piggy backs on love to set things right.

Emotional dynamics : If you had sight of your destiny, would you brave defying it? What would drive you to take your chances against set facts, agreed faith systems, accepted norms? This book introduces the characters to a point where they are left with that choice to make.

I liked the individual story lines of each of the five central characters. Their lives did make an engaging read. The plot of 'what happens if' maintains momentum throughout the book. As each character gets closer to their DNA match, secrets come out from their hiding.

Oh by the way, there is a serial killer in the loose in the plot too.

I quite liked the book. I found the narration to be simple and effective. It almost felt like the author's first ever venture into writing but I guess that's the style the narrator adopted. The story does engage, it does make us think, it keeps us guessing for most parts. There are simple twists and gap fillers that slow down the pace towards the end, but that's alright. It doesn't feel drastically offensive.

It made me rethink the way I saw Love. Love , despite all the odds stacked against it, was always a mind over everything else matter. I'll let you be the judge and jury over that statement.

Karthik

I’m working on it

The rumbling sound of the bus was comforting and soothing in a way. With thirty hours to kill, a thousand kilometres to tread, time facilitated a wonderful opportunity for two people to catch up on a life that they had shared together for decades. He was dressed in brown and black, pretty oldmanish by the current fashion trends. His shoes were neatly polished. He was a creature of habit. She was dressed the way most grandmothers were dressed. Thick woollen sweater , a shade of pink to it.

The bus powered on. The milestones kept passing by. The enthusiasm that had once gripped the bus , gradually fizzed away. The toll of the long strenuous journey ahead was already visible. The sound of the bus, the rhythmic sweep of distinct snores and a few hushed conversations added to the silence of the moment.

'So what's it going to be now?' he whispered softly to her ear.

His voice was drowned by the ambience. He tried again, only a little more louder this time. She hadn't replied but the subtle change in her hue from her warm blush conveyed a different story. It was not the first time she had faced that question. It was not the first time that he had asked her that question. It was definitely not the last time that the question would be asked.

There was a time when they were both young. New to the world of being an adult. New to the ways of shared responsibilities. Novice to a life , planning to be lived as one. Their conversations were new. Curious questions were exchanged that spanned across colors of choices and preferences galore. It wasn't the age where lifestyle , outlook to life and life's billion choices were exhaustively discussed. Theirs was a simple conversation of discovering each other. The run up to the big event was short. Shorter timeline did catalyse quicker decisions.

'So, what's it going to be now?' he popped his question with a blush.

She looked deep into his eyes and smiled. 'I don't know. I'm working on it' she said.

The date set, the festive in progress , amidst the chaos there was a moment that was theirs alone. The opportune young lad ,with a heart brimming with excitement and dreams of a new beginning, sneaked in his question in a whisper. Hers was a reply reciprocated in whispered secrecy. I'm working on it, she hushed softly.

The tide of time came rushing in. The young ones were not so young any more. The pressures of life had started to sink in. There were smiles. There were fights and verbal duels. Tempers flared from time to time. Love's warmth managed to keep them cosy despite the challenges. From time to time the question would be asked. Time and again, her consistent reply never shook away from it's resolve. They were two , aligned to each other, accommodating each other, enduring each other when the days were hard.

Life bloomed and with it another life bloomed too. The daily challenges of soiled diapers and screams from a little soul kept the two occupied. Time , for once, had refused to slow down. It sped up instead. The twenty five years that followed , passed them by like a blur. The youngling had grown into a dashing handsome man. It was the time for him to kick start a story of his own. The tide of time appeared to remain constant through the iterations witnessed by different eyes. He was a reflection of his parents. He brought the foundations of a happy home to the table. He went on to live a happily ever after tale of sorts. Unperturbed by the oddities of luck and challenges. He endured where he ought to, he enjoyed where he could.

The wheels turned ahead and life bloomed once again. Grey hairs greeted fresh black patch of hair. They shared a satisfied smile when they met their granddaughter. Paradise had found itself on earth.

Life almost lived in full, well almost, the old in body, young at heart couple decided to pursue the dreams that had dared having when they started their life together , all those many years ago. They booked their bus to Leh. A thirty three hour ride on the road. A journey of thousand kilometres was in front of them. The two sat in their designated seat. She rested her head on his shoulder, like the way she had always rested. He pat gently on her head, like the way he had always patted. He'd gently stroke her greyed hair. The color had changed over the years. The gesture had remained the same.

The bus slowly clocked the miles. With nothing else to do, the opportune lad, who was young at heart, decided to give his question another shot. Quite a few years had passed and he had almost forgotten that question of his. That day seemed to be a day like any other. It felt like a good day to pop the question again. He knew that answer that would come. It made no difference to him any more. It was a question, a question meant to be asked. The question had lost it's relevance decades ago.

'So..' he asked

'Ah haan' she acknowledged.

'So.. What's it going to be now? Do you love me?. For all the years we've been together, of all the things we've survived, of all the time that gone past us, not once have you told me that you loved me'.

She sat in comforted silence. She had seen her fair share of ugly challenges over the years. This question, that statement , by no means was a challenge that would break a sweat in her. Nonetheless, it was just about the right time to respond to that, she thought.

'The thing is…' she started slowly. ' Till the point we met, everyone that I had loved dearly, had either died or left. I didn't know why. Deep down , I felt I was cursed. There wasn't much that I could do about it. And then my grandparents introduced us. I had a jinx to battle. I lacked both the strength and courage to test that theory. A while later, I knew I couldn't bear losing you. I still can't. You are the best thing that's ever happened to me. So… ' she paused.

'So…', he curiously asked.

'Does it matter now. For what it's worth, I don't know. I'm working on it'.

Karthik

PS: Reading does wonders to the writing process. I'm so glad that I'm back to good old reading 🙂

All about the one 


The one. The quest for 'The One' is as elusive as it can be. There is a keen sense of contradiction to that quest. Set the aspirational bar way too high and that quest never ends and set the bar too low and find yourself in compromiseville. I'm not sure if a compromise is a bad thing anymore. The one, also happens to be the title of the book that I'm currently reading. Far away from supernatural, cosmic or otherwise, this seems to be a book draped in Hollywood-Science and runs wild with the premise that it offers. The One , by John Marrs

For a moment, if one were to skip the parts that concern the logistics and rational behind soul mates and assume that science did have the key to solve that puzzle, what would one do? I've not finished reading the book yet so I really don't know how that story unfolds. The premise did inspire a few thoughts along the lines of soul mates and the world's seamless fixation towards 'The One'. 

Given the context of the book, all it took was a swab sample of the DNA to find the perfect match, soul mate ie, using the unlocked secrets revealed by the DNA. There is a firm that offers this premium service. It would probably be a tinder of sorts which is backed by data mining algorithms that are driven by the DNA of the participants. Interesting enough. To draw parallels between real life and fiction, there are a few influencing factors that one must consider.

The social mix : 

Without science, without a space for a personal life, the whole bandwagon of finding 'The One' is pretty much a derivative of chance and luck. Think about it, the lesser folks one knows, that data set of people one can associate to being 'The One' also runs a little dry. Fewer people in the social circle results in limitation of choices and hence the imbalance in supply and demand leads to viable compromise and done deal. Most of the romance in real life is a lift and shift of this model. We have high school sweethearts, and then college sweethearts and finally romance at workplace. Skip all these convergent points of melting hearts and boom, we are no longer spoilt for choices. 

Ask and thou shalt receive : 
One of the pivotal factor called out in the book was the validation and affirmation that science could provide in zooming in on 'The One'. Ask, wait and thou shalt receive happens to be the working model described. With the science of DNA playing the match maker, this leaves the participants with fewer doubts to question or reason with the final conclusion. Odd enough, real life is not very different from the idiosyncrasy noted in the book. The foundation block of many a relationships are forged by reasons that defy logic and rational thinking. We like and hence we like. We don't and therefore we don't. During the formative phase of a relationship, should we subject it to a barrage of doubts and twenty questions; it would be a miracle if the said relationship survives! The underlying simplicity comes to the rescue. Forging relationships is a tedious task , considering the odds usually stacked high up against it. 

What's in a phrase anyway :
'The One', a soul mate, a perfect match, while the plot of the book exploits the emotional draught that is experienced by the characters, real life , at times, is also not very different. There are good marriages and there are just marriages. There are compromises that nurture the relationship and there are deceits that keep whatever is left of a relationship alive. There is warmth and there are those stoic cold numbness to it. Bottom line, most of us are insecure of a life lived in solitude. Most of us are subjected to social pressures to 'settle down'. There is a profound fear of dying alone. We fear that loneliness that prevails. 
Given the time, given the context, 'The One' is a phrase that stands to get diluted. We downgrade it from the holy pedestal it occupies. We subject the phrase to realities and practicalities of life. 

The book plays to the vast expectation that it's characters carry for the spot of 'The One'. Time is all I need to see how that story goes. Is there 'The one' for the characters? Is there a price to pay? Does the one live up to expectations? or will it all be the case of too good to be true and a fool's errand for a false gold. 
Life has been a different beast altogether. Iterations and lessons after, I'm still at the right enough mix of clueless and ignorance to make a sensible judgement. 
So what's your take on the notion of 'The One'. Is it just about a person or is it a framework that defines the character and traits that one expects from a person? 
Once I'm done with the book, I shall follow this blog with a review of the book and tell you how that story went 😉
Karthik

And all of me…

“I still remember what you once told me Jiju” I spoke over the phone. 

It’s funny how times change and how we change along with the changing times. The city’s been the same. London. The duration has been the same, so far. I don’t remain to be the same. I’ve been wondering about the nature of evolution. Peter, a wise and thoughtful friend, once told me that we seldom notice change as it’s happening. I think I’d extend that statement and say, if you could never spot the subtle changes in you and around you, you probably are missing the point. 

The last time I was in this city, I was different. I was an aimless blogger of sorts with a massive appetite for writing. I’m not that today. While I’m addicted to words even today, I think twice before I hit that post button. There is a parallel thought that runs in my mind each time I’m set to post. What good is this going to serve, I ask myself. It’s not a wonder that I’ve stopped writing wild imaginative fiction. I guess it was a beautiful phase of my writing and sadly I’m outgrowing it each day.

The last time I was in the city, I was self destructive. I was focussed on running and it was my only source of comfort. I hadn’t subscribed to the services in a gym. This time around, I’m enrolled. I work out as often as I can. I’m comfortable taking a break. I’ve been sick for a week now and it’s been a week since I hit the holy land. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me. I still cant shake off the guilt of not hitting the gym.

It’s both deeply satisfying and a total time hog that I’ve let a few tasks eat up my time. I’ve traded in Anime time and exchanged it for music. I’ve traded off reading time and bartered it for writing. And then I hit a brick wall, void of any creativity and went crawling to the world of epic fail funny videos in Youtube. There are always lingering traces of what I’d want to accomplish with both words and tunes. They are a constant nag. My inability to articulate insults my very existence. Frustration sweeps in from time to time and there is nothing much I can do to ease myself into a state of peace. I acknowledge the things that I want to do and still cant and carry on. 
Balance is a word that comes to my mind as I type the construct of the blog. It’s not that hard to stay influenced, hooked to a feeling and embrace a narrowed tunnel vision of the world around. It’s convenient, is what it is. Balance. I think the mysticism from the elusive nature of happiness and peace is now used to describe balance. Balance, to me, seems to be that elusive commodity. The more I want to stay in balance, the harder I find myself falling towards the dark side. Balance!!! 
I think it’s rather a futile effort to assess where we stand by viewing ourselves through the eyes of the yesteryears. I had to wage a fierce battle with the me in 2014 and the current version of me. Life was much simpler in 2014. I had fewer channels to express thought. I didn’t have hobbies that consumed time. I didn’t expose myself to a world of competition. I was very content with where I was and what I could accomplish. Things are not that very different today as well. I’m still oblivious to the world of competition, yet a little cautious about putting in that little effort to make better music. I’m still content with where I am and what I accomplish, yet hungry enough to realize that I still have a few milestones to cover. I am in need for more time and yet distinctly aware of the fact that I don’t quite manage my time effectively to ration it to feed all my interests. After much deliberated thought, I came to the conclusion that the comparison of the self across two distinct points in time was not an apples to apples comparison. There are huge differences in priorities. 

In the broader sense, much of the misery that we inherit is from the fact that the present is no match for the expectations that were set in the past. That could either be a reflection of lousy planning or could hint towards skills waiting to get acquired. End of the day, that mismatch in expectation does exist and it only exists because we chose to let it be. If you think about it, anything that we wanted yesterday and don’t have today, that gap results because we gave up. There are plenty of excuses to hide behind and the mirror is privy to the unspoken realities that our eyes shy away from seeing. 

At 34, it’s fun to reminisce about the things I heard when I was in my mid twenties. Nearly a decade ago, one of the conversations that I had with my brother -in-law was around the fact that I didn’t have the time for family. I had work and then I had friends. I had music and then I had movies to go watch. My Jiju and I decided to walk along the beach and he let me in on the biggest white elephant in the room. We always have the time for everything that we want to do. We only lack the conviction to do it. We do not prioritize them appropriately. A decade later, he and I got into a conversation this noon and the whole point of priorities came up all over again. 
I started the conversation with I don’t have the time, I got busy. I paused and laughed and I said I still remember what you once told me. We always had the time to do the things we wanted to do. We just lacked the will to prioritize them. A decade later and still holds well. 

As much as I see the world around me change, I’m also starting to acknowledge the changes that I’m a part of too. My priorities are shifting. The things I deemed super important and extremely critical have had a down grade. The things I never thought I’d ever do are moving up the priority scale. All of it makes me wonder if I’ve learnt to recognize All of me? While I’d have really wanted the answer to that question to be an assertive yes, fortunately, I’m still a stranger to myself. It’s fun to figure out an aspect of me that I didn’t have the time for before. 

All of me. Yes. That’s worth the effort to understand , recognize and acknowledge. Which brings us to the question… do you know all of you? are you aware of yourself? How much of you is only viewed through the eyes of the world rather than yours alone? 
Karthik

Fries, Pepsi and God


It sure feels like a volatile time these days. Someone or the other makes a declaration. We have hash tag battles being waged. There are rebels in abundance ( causes going scarce) , protesting is the way of life. Then there are trollers, the liberals, the ‘cool’ who play devil’s advocate by not picking a side and unceremoniously criticising everybody else. There are social observers armed with their opinion. God is also dragged into the mix and the big divide and debate over religions fuelling madness and madness on the pretext of religions. Yup, volatile times indeed.

The latest in that list was about not in my name and I was both amused and annoyed by the widespread use of that hashtag. Opinions poured out and I found myself caught in a storm of arguments that were flying past me. God didn’t ask for it, one bloke screamed in caps and bold. Religion is the opiate of the masses , another articulated. Men will be men, a silent murmur. I couldn’t help but wonder about fries and Pepsi.

About three years ago, I made a conscious choice to set my life choices straight. I bid adieu to junk food and embraced fitness into my life. I made the time, altered my priorities, refused to jump companies because the other company refused to accommodate my priorities. Without care for a balanced approach, I did enjoy a nose dive to a stringent audit of what I ate and the time I invested in the gym. So what does Fries have to do with the context at hand? EVERYTHING.

It would probably be lousy bad for the business if the McDs of the world promoted the health risks along with their juice deep fried products. It would be a nightmare for the Pepsis of the world if they promoted the serious risk of excessive sugar intake and how long term exposure to its products leaves the mass in a state of malnutrition. The shortest conclusion is that these companies don’t see a need to force feed choices down our throats. They offer what they can, make a money while they can, settle disputes when they are challenged and keep figuring out new ways to sustain business. 
It would be rather foolish of the folks to say that we endured health risks because the providers didn’t bother take ownership of the mess that they were selling. 

I think a similar parallel can be reached when it comes to God and the path of religion. It is what it is. The onus rests with us. We made that choice to adopt and embrace principles. We made that choice to express faith and be fanatics about it. Hiding behind an ideology is convenient because the said ideology does not have a way to express it’s own voice and opinion. In fact, if God was to walk among us, she’d probably spend a lot of time alienating herself from the silly things that we do on a daily basis. 
I do feel amused at the amount of silliness that goes unchecked because neither god nor religion has a direct say in the things that surround us. They both have representatives and that reduces the argument to one bloke’s word against another bloke’s word. It narrows the conflict to whose side do you fancy picking. 

Choices define us. Such choices are not restricted to larger than epic issues like god, religion or outlook towards life. Choices do have a say in even the most insignificant decision that we stand to make. There are those who own their choices and deal with the consequences. There are those who wait to delegate the blame for being forced to make a choice, there are those who do what they can from making any choice at all. The recent volatile battle of opinion and ideologies does share it’s boundaries with the said accountability of choices. 

People pick their heroes. Heroes pick their options and propagate them. End of the day, you and I are left with a choice to either get swayed or make an informed decision. Next time when you face an outburst and a public spread mania, ask yourself that question. Did that bag of fries ask you to eat it? Did that Pepsi beg you to drink it? Did that gym force you to spend some time in it? While it might not solve any problem, it would be an amusing train of thought. 

Karthik

Sixty pence 

And so I stood outside the station, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, wondering how things have rapidly changed. My thoughts took me back to the many tales of bonds and emotional ties , the thread of death that separates and ironically fortifies the connection, the many roads walked and the forks that divide people in their journeys. I couldn’t help but contemplate about that age old symbiotic relationship between a wandering artist and the pain locked away in their stone hearts that burst out and manifest as beautiful , inspiring, tear jerking works of art. I stood thinking about the present. I’ve moved away from such tales. In a way I feel betrayed by this zen state of happiness. Robbed by happiness, robbed of tales and yet I barely long for that twilight of the dark to spin words.
Sixty pence please, a voice interrupted my chain of thoughts. A bloke, affected by the cold; draped in torn jeans and dirty shirt , his voice tried to appeal to my empathy and sensibilities. It wasn’t a long search for that buried goodness of my heart. I usually don’t carry cash. Digital money and spontaneous acts of kindness don’t mix well. I politely refused to spare change. I offered him a smile. Big help that might be to him, I silently wondered in a disgusted shame. I couldn’t help.
The beautiful thing about waiting for friends early in the morning is that one has nothing to do and a lot of time to kill. I continued sipping that cup of hot chocolate and continued to observe the bloke. His ask was rather strategic. Not a pound, not fifty pence, sixty was an unique ask. His luck was tested to it’s limits as he tried asking the daily commuters for a change. The sight left me feeling both blessed and depressed. Many chose to refuse acknowledging his existence. For them, he could very well be a spirit trapped in this world. He had no voice, that could be heard. He had no physical existence that people would acknowledge. He simply ceased to be recognized as someone alive, someone who deserved a denial of charity. 
There were many who continued their steps towards the station, without sparing a moment to accept his presence. Some politely refused. Some nodded their heads and walked away. 
I don’t know what poverty feels like. I’ve never felt poor. I’ve been broke a few times. I guess there is that arrogant confidence that rises its head from the assurance that help is not really too far away. I’ve never felt that rejection from the society. I take my existence for granted. I’ve never really been challenged to push myself to the boundaries of the human spirit , screaming for attention, screaming for an acknowledgement that I am indeed there! I don’t know what it feels to shred the last fading sense of dignity and self esteem and ask for help.
The thought instantly made me feel blessed for what I was and the life that I’ve enjoyed. The thought set an avalanche of depression at the mere observation of the extent of apathy that we express at times. There is no one to blame here. I wouldn’t dare blame the blokes who have and choose to deny spreading that sunshine. I wouldn’t dare blame the failures and hold competence of the blokes who don’t have as a hostage. We are driven by the choices that we make and none of the choices are meant to be generalized into the social bias of right and wrong. 
Sixty pence to me was a reminder of the quintessential craving that drives all of us. Acceptance. Campaigned, marketed causes attract awareness and that translates to better funds. The causes without a voice put up a fierce battle and there are days when there is a victory of sorts. Smiles are delivered. Dignity and the integrity of the human spirit gets rewarded. There are days when it’s a losing battle. Helpless wait on prayers and the goodness of the world. 
I did the best I could. I offered to buy breakfast and cup of coffee. The offer was rejected. Sixty pence was a better alternative. The whole experience left me feeling humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the clockworks of the big wide world. Money is not necessarily evil and basic necessities like food are not always the only things that , we as humans, are deprived of. The change in times, the constant evolution of self, the dynamic volatile nature of wants and needs, everything is subjective. Especially the generous sense of charity that spontaneously takes over us. 

And so my hot chocolate done, the arrival of my friend, the grave thoughts soon were replaced by the mundane routine of a happy obligated whine about the weather and the trains. A wandering artist turns a page, the world continues as it always has, the train of thoughts get substituted by another train of thoughts. Business as usual.

Karthik