Dual of Fates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duality exists because our mind makes it real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, the illusions have been kind 🙂

Karthik

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Autobiography of a yogi : A spiritual wilderness to wander

How do you guys manage to do it? I’d often ask. I only got a smile in response. The smile conveyed a lot.

Context is king and I’ll set the context using that question as an example. I’m a fitness enthusiast and I’ve been battling the bugle earnestly for a few years now. My trainers, they have no trouble gaining or losing their weight. They do it at will. Their smiles reveal a simple secret. Hard and smart work. A thorough understanding of how their bodies work. Sweat and Consistency helps them reap the benefits.

To me, it’s still nothing short of magic. I lack the conviction to go all the way. I have my array of excuses. It’s hard. It’s tough. I work and I don’t have the time to dedicate myself to the cause. I’m cold and sick. The well of excuses never runs dry. Long story short, ‘they’ are able to do it because they understand the clockwork better. I struggle because my efforts are scattered and so is my investment to the cause.

Autobiography of a yogi is a book that houses a wealth of spiritual knowledge. I feel compelled to soak myself with thoughts about it. I am excited to pour my thoughts about it. Honesty is the right way to make a start. With honesty, I shall.

The fact that everybody in the book seemed to live with the universe, the astral travel, the peaceful realization of oneness with the universe, the energies, the power of meditation, I believe in most of them. Some, I couldn’t. Instead of trivialising it as ‘Not possible’ or as ‘Fantasy’, I paused to ask myself a simpler question. Do I have trouble believing because I don’t understand how things can work, or is it because I don’t think things are possible? I feel fortunate to acknowledge that I lack the skills required to understand the clockwork. Just like I lacked in the scenario of the gym. I made peace with my ignorance and accepted that I still have a long way in my journey.

With my scepticism addressed, my heart feels lighter and conscience a little more clear, I can now focus on bliss of the things that I managed to learn.

Power of faith:

There are days when I question my delusion about meditation and the universe. Did I ever witness the vast universe at play or did I manage to appease my delusion. I still don’t have an answer to that question. What I have is the ability to believe. That, to me, seems to be crucial enough. A battle cannot be won when there are doubts seeded in the heart. How can one pursue the universe and experience the singularity that the universe is, if we ourselves aren’t certain about their existence. While I cannot substantiate the existence of the spiritual universe, I also don’t care if it’s real or otherwise. I’m not looking for a proof of their being. I’m convinced, beyond doubt, that there are things out there. Beyond my comprehension, beyond my reach. I’d still choose to wander. I ask for the sense to know where my delusion ends and where the truth spans. Someday, I might know that difference.

I strongly believe in this power of faith. Believing in the power of meditation and the power of a still mind. A state of mind where we can visualise the clutter of noise that sits within our minds. A state of ability where we can brave to quieten that clutter. It is only possible if we believe in it.

Karma:

For a while now, I’ve put my faith around karma. Not in the way where I obsess over good karma and bad ones that I accumulate. I don’t have sight of the ledger and how it pans to balance. I do believe that karma exists. It ties back to the soul. We birth through lives, carrying the learnings and desires of our karma. The good that we do, helps us awaken each birth. The bad karma that we have, keeps us locked in desires and misery. To simplify, when nothing matters to us, that’s the influence of the good karma. When we view life through pain and pleasure, that’s a result of karma which influences our character and the choices that we make across each lifetime. The rule of cause and effect takes precedence. We are therefore locked in a cycle of births and rebirths in effort to either reconcile or compensate the effects of choices made in the past. This also goes to determine the choices that we stand to make in the future. The linearity of time goes for a toss. Our choices impacted by the past, alters both the present and the future. The past itself is corrected, reconciled, healed in the present or the future. Everything converges to this moment. Each moment is therefore a step in a given direction. Any direction.

Contrary to the conversations that I’ve had, based on the words and lives of Baba ji, Lahari Mahasaya, Yukteshwar , Karma is transferable in parts. The masters have absorbed the effects of karma to help their followers. Why them? What makes them special? I don’t have an answer. I can speculate that help is given when help is deserved. We get to decide when we are deserving of that help.

Free will versus Surrender – The question of individuality:

I’ve always struggled to reconcile freewill and surrender. I wouldn’t surrender my freewill and my individuality in favour of unconditional surrender. Unconditional surrender is a step toward the universal singularity. I felt that I was destined to remain forever banished from spiritual progression. Based on Yukteshwar’s discussion with Yogananda, post his resurrection, there is a mention of this said individuality. We retain that version of self as we progress in our spiritual path. When we merge with the singularity, it’s a union of our individuality with the singularity. This is special to me. It taught me a simple lesson. We would continue to be our own self. As we progress, maybe there won’t be anything that differentiates that version of self and the singularity. We strip ego off as we progress. With each iteration, we distil and purify ourselves removing the effects of causes and choices made across the many lives. With each iteration, we start to resemble the singularity. The apex of our pristine pure self, therefore becomes that singularity. Harmonious and homogeneous with the singularity. Freewill and surrender are therefore illusions. There wasn’t anything to fight to hold on to. There isn’t anything left to surrender. The inertia of our life distorts that vision.

Coincidences and people:

The lives of the people called out in the book, they felt connected. It felt as if the lives gravitated towards the inevitability of crossing paths with the masters. In that sense, the lives that we lead, we are predetermined to keep meeting the same set of people, rather souls, across the many lives that we take. The reason is to help us distil the version of ourselves. We meet, not because we have learnt our lessons and healed, but because we still haven’t and are waiting to heal. That’s precisely why we keep meeting the same people. That’s precisely why coincidences orchestrate the journey of our souls. Timing is very important. Don’t get me wrong, when I said timing, I didn’t mean the right opportune moment. I meant, unless we are ready, the timing is always wrong. The minute we are ready, coincidences would direct us towards the inevitable. Healing of the soul is inevitable. It might take longer, it might take a very short duration of time, but that healing is inevitable.

This coincidence, people and karma brings me to understand the game of births. I am not wise enough to call out the reasons yet, but I can fathom a guess. The pains and suffering of this life, the wins and jubilation of this life, they are an outcome of choices made across lives. I suffer because I haven’t woken up to the realization that there is nothing here to suffer over. I rejoice and celebrate because I haven’t realized that the wins and losses are for this body. To a soul, that sees many a lifetimes, what one stands to accomplish from 60 years of a lifetime is still only an incremental step. I don’t mean to trivialise this life or this birth. All I’m guessing is that the nature of choices that we make, matter more than momentary pain or pleasure.

To put things into perspective, the reasons of our birth are unknown to most of us. Our pains and suffering are because of the choices that we’ve made in this life. The answer to the question, ‘Why me?’, ‘What did I do to deserve such a fate’? , I could manage to glimpse a response from the book.

Pain and suffering helps us move away from the inertia of this birth. The pain fuels us to reject this reality and see the illusion that surrounds us. Instead of victimising ourselves over what did we do to deserve the misery this life, it could be seen that a soul has learnt a few-many lessons and it wants us to wake up from the illusion of this life. I do not endorse misery as a way of life, it’s just that, many lives stitched together, the way this life presents; it could be a reflection of what our soul is learning and how much of itself it is healing. By virtue of calling out many lives of the past as a means to impact the life at present, I do not see it as a means to escape from the accountability of this life. All I’m saying is that, we experience joys for a reason. We experience the misery for a reason. That reason, beyond the choices made in this life, are also deeply connected to the progression of the soul.

How we treat the present life, the choices that we go on to make, determines the nature of the cycle or births that a soul is a part of. A spiritual awakening is not the first solution to a lot of us. Some eventually do so. That helps them with the healing process.

Experiencing it all:

The biggest takeaway from the book is around Anubhava. The masters speak about it. What does it mean to experience spirituality? What does it mean to experience the universe? Honestly, I don’t know to articulate it. There are moments of sublime peace that I feel during a meditation. I feel lighter for a while when I awaken. Besides that, I don’t feel anything new or anything different. It brings back to the question on delusion versus truth. We experienced gravity even before we knew what word described it and what that word meant. Similarly, we experience the universe even at a time when we do not have the necessary tools to articulate on it. I’m not talking about astral projections or telepathic means of communication. When in dire need of help, sometimes we do get it from unexpected folks. When we are in need for that strength, we do muster that courage. Somehow. A lot of life lived along the banks of Somehow. The skeptic in me has terms and definitions for them. The spiritual aspirant in me, wants to see this as that ability to suspend doubts and believe that the universe is there to help, if and only if, we are able to channelize our thoughts at it and seek its help. That sure explains how the followers of the masters were able to simplify their lives. Power of faith comes into play. How can we stand to experience in things beyond us, if deep within our hearts we are flowering doubts on the very same things that we also desire to experience? Doubts negate the process. It is one thing to question everything, it’s another to doubt. Questions have answers whereas doubts wait for our perspectives to clear before evaporating away.

The cycle:

 

The chapter on Yukteshwar’s resurrection was a revelation. It did help me with a few more thoughts on the cycles of life and death. There aren’t just 7 rebirths. In fact there are as many rebirths as required by the soul to heal and distil itself. The astral plane, to my mind, resembles the human view of heaven and hell. While alive, we create a heaven and a hell through our thoughts and energies. When we die, we head out to the astral plane where that thought and view manifests. Each time we die, we spend time in the astral plane before we are born again. I don’t know what we do during that phase.

The karmic ledger probably comes into play. We take a stock of what we still long and desire, the list of lessons that we’ve learnt. Based on them, we birth again, to satisfy the needs of both the soul and the desires carried forward from the previous lives. The popular term is karmic balance. We birth again to pay dues. I see this as a negative connotation. The universe does not want to TEACH us a lesson. It wants our soul to heal. We carry forward the traits and lessons and baggage of each life into the next life. Our ability to heal or otherwise goes on to influence the choices that we would stand to make. The cycle endures.

Another beautiful lesson that I got to learn was along bliss and the complacent nature that it warrants. Beyond the astral plane, there is the causal plane. Beyond the causal plane, there is the Singularity. Souls stagnate at each of those levels. Without reconciliation, souls are tied to physical bodies and we birth and die on Earth. Once in the astral plane, I guess there is more to reconcile. Unless we do that, we aren’t free to enter the causal plane. There, same deal. It does seem like an iterative process of cleansing of the soul before it’s ready for the big union. One thing at a time, I aint ready for any of it yet.

The road ahead is long and I’m not alone.

karthik

Kadhal Kasakudhaiyya – Love’s bitter

kka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karthik

 

Dad

Uncle!’. ‘Uncle, look at me! I can jump and touch the sky’.

I looked towards her and smiled. I gave her a thumbs up. She was a tiny little tot and was a bundle of energetic joy. She was the sunshine of our lives.

‘Way to go sweetheart’ I called out.

She had paused to see what I had to say. Happy with what she had heard, she stretched her arms wide and carried on pretending to be a bird. She soared high. Through the blue sky that was adorned by cotton grey clouds. The grass under her tiny feet was moist and pleasantly cold. Birds paused their chirping to watch her, much to their own amusement. It was a picture perfect afternoon on a quiet September day.

‘Give her time’ Radha whispered into my ear. She took my hand , assuringly and gently gripped them. She then rested her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

‘I know’ .

I guess one could call it a fairy tale of sorts. The fact that it was very much unlikely to be a fairy tale, made our story a fable of sorts. It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t boy meets girl, boy falls head over heels, girl plays hard to get and yet flirt in a disguised inviting way. We were friends. We weren’t into each other. We had never been that way, as far as I could remember. I was there when the wedding bells rang. I was there when she blushed red with a satisfied joy in her face and the usual tears of leaving behind the house she had always lived in.

Hers was a fairy tale of sorts. High school sweethearts. Love at first sight. A marriage after an uncomfortable wait. A wait that left many pails of water that refused to flow under the bridge of a bond shared by two hearts. Word became words, words gave life to fights, fights revealed facets of a life. Some faces were scary. She couldn’t deal with it anymore. Her heart crushed, her face bruised, her dreams shattered, she made it home.

Yeah. Hers, one could argue that it was a fairy tale of sorts. The kind of sort that Disney wouldn’t bother making into a movie. I was there when she returned back home. It felt weird to see their home now gripped by a gloomy silence. It felt depressing and that depression felt infectious.

I’ll do it, I found myself say. It wasn’t an act of chivalry, it wasn’t an act of setting things right. I don’t really know why I said it, but I said it none the less. Of course, I was turned down. Persistence persevered. Amidst hushed resentment, it was a discrete family affair and our lives started on a brand new page.

The brand new page indicated a whole new chapter. The new chapter had a new character. Diya. The name that meant direction. She was old enough to know what a family was and a bit young to understand the dynamics of human nature. Diya , she was the much needed direction in our life. Radha and my life usually centred on her. Yeah.

Diya’d usually address me as her uncle. She couldn’t bring herself to call me her dad. Radha would assure me that the transition would eventually happen. It didn’t matter to me. I loved her. She loved me. Ours was a happy family. It was our favorite park. We’d make an effort to spend a lot of time there. Diya would run about till she tired herself out. Her excitement was never concealed. She was never short of tall tales of birds and animals that spoke to her in the park. Her imagination was as wild as her spirit. The routine was a norm. The Saturdays were spent in the park. Our little family flourished with smiles and love.

I still remember the wonderful day when Diya called me her dad. It was a Saturday, of course it was. The little one had woken up early. She had walked to my bed. She had scaled my chest, pried my sleepy eyes open.

‘Lets go to the park Daddy’ she begged sweetly. I kissed her forehead. Asked her to get ready. Radha was impressed at her daughter’s determination to shower and dress up for the big day. Every once a while, she’d scream ‘ lets go go go daddy’. Simple words, but it warmed the depths of my soul. It felt like the most special thing that had ever happened to my life.

As we readied ourselves to leave, my phone buzzed. Against my enforced principle of leaving my work at the doorstep, I had to take that call. The two ladies of my life decided to make a start, leaving me behind. The park wasn’t that far anyways. It was a short bus ride away. Four stops and twenty minutes away. I hinted that I’d join them shortly. I knew our usual bench. I knew our usual routine. Spirited Diya would wander aimlessly. Her curiosity would know no bounds. Radha and I would sit on the same bench. We were happy with the ‘Dad’ status.

****

The city rocked from the blast. Another act that hoped to represent an ideology, a god, or whatever the demented disillusioned mind chose to believe in. My world fell apart. I reasoned with it, I justified it all, I stopped reasoning and kept myself from justifying it all. Life had happened and I couldn’t reconcile it any longer.

And so after a year, I’m back in the park again. Diya is out there, playing and running on a lush carpet of green grass, under the blanket of a blue cloudless sky. Radha’s head is rested on my shoulder. It was all happening, none of it was real or fiction. It was a moment that was trapped between a world of what if and a world of if only. My salvation was a chrome steel and a river of red crimson. The world could deal with the mess that I’d leave behind.

As I said, my life turned out to be a fairy tale after all. I would go on to have a happily forever after.

Karthik

Note: Inspired by a day spent in Kew Gardens! What can I say, I do love a good tragedy!

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 🙂