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

 

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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 🙂

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