Twenty years of magic nostalgia

The day was normal. The usual peak hour London rush. Holborn station was a mad rush this morning. The tube was more crowded than the usual. I had a book to keep me company. Lord of the files. Time flew, my eyes kept getting heavy from the drowsiness. With Ralph and Jack picking on poor little piggy, SNORE and a YAWN! The plot is yet to thicken.

A slow crawl towards the station’s exit and it was then I noticed the familiar bird of red. The phoenix. THE Phoenix, if you know what I mean. Doodled were the lines, Celebrating 20 years of wizardry! It took me a while to soak in the information. Has it really been twenty years? There are so many folks out there who aren’t even 20 yet. I let the information slip into my things to remember and wonder about repository and went about the actions for the day.

I checked. And yes, it’s been 20 already. That’s two decades and I saw the last 20 years of my life flash back. Since we are talking Potter, I’ll tie the memories around them.

I’ve never really enjoyed the Potter mania. I hated the world even before I had bothered reading any of the works. It was a simple choice. Everybody seemed to enjoy Harry Potter and it was easy to not like it. Stand out in the crowd, be a misfit and frankly, I wasn’t reading much anyways , back then. And just like that, I became a Potter hater. I wouldn’t read , exactly the same treatment that I gave to rest of the authors of the world. In time, in pursuit of staying in that character, I found ample reasons to justify the disgust. A lot later, I didn’t matter and my opinions didn’t matter. The world was doing quite well , all by itself. It didn’t need my profound judgement.

My first tryst with Harry potter came in the year 2000 something. I was in love. She was in love, with potter. The chamber of secrets had been opened, and the usual theatre , Sathyam, had a show going in. With the birthday around the corner, I had managed to save a bit of money and book the tickets. When you are a student and jobless, money is scarce. Not really. I wont play that card. I asked dad and only had to lie about the ‘Friends’ with whom I was going to watch the movie. Good times indeed. No guilt, not then and wont ever be now 🙂

I remember my ignorance and my status as an outsider when everybody in the movie exactly knew how that story was going to play itself out. It was a complete surprise to me. Back then, I didn’t care much a about the movie. It was a good birthday present. The smiles meant a lot more than wizards and wands. That was it.

In retrospect, I think the chamber of secrets is one of the better made Potter movies ever. Rest of them are hopelessly boring.

As the relationship turned south, so did my bond and ties with Potter. FREEDOM at last from the boy who lived. He didn’t have to live in my world from then on. Potter and I remained distinctly divorced for a while. Until the one about the order of the phoenix that is. That’s around , give or take, four years? That was an ample time to heal and brace myself for a fresh new impact and shatter something taped together, all over again. Ah the fun fortitude that is life.

New love, new love for Potter and that meant I had to play along. And play along I did. I remember reading the Order. Not that I enjoyed it. I didn’t dislike it though. And for a while , Potter and I managed to coexist peacefully. I’d still bicker and whine about him. Potter would whine quite well, all by himself on the big screen. Together, we whined into a hate-tolerate friendship.

Order changed things. This time around, the lady had branded me a villager and an illiterate for shunning books. I had to impress and hence embarked on a journey of words. I didn’t reach out to Potter. I reached out to John Grisham instead. There was a point in time, maybe it’s relevant today as well, where folks would walk up to me and proudly proclaim themselves to be voracious readers. ‘I’ve read alllllllllllllllllllllllllll the Harry Potter books’, they’d gleefully explain. ‘Sweet’, has always been my condescending , sarcastic response. Truth was, I never thought Potter was literature. Now that I’m pretending to be an adult these days, It doesn’t really matter. Literature or otherwise, there is a story waiting to be conveyed and Potter took about eight books to getting a move on his lifelong relationship woes with Voldy.

And so Order changed things. Love, lack of love, I continued to read the books. I didn’t bother advertising it, but I did manage to read the tale through. When news broke of Dumbledore’s preferences, my interest claimed that she always knew. She also claimed that she always knew how to pronounce Hermione. For me, Hermione was always meant to be called out as HER, ME, ONIEEEEEEEEE. I had a good spell laughing at the alleged truth of cognizance of Dumbledore and how the names were meant to be called. I wasn’t in a position to judge. The first time I read the word SUBTLE, I thought it was pronounced SUBLE. This happened when I was in my mid twenties. So , yeah. I’ve been a bit of a villager for most part of my life.

Looking back at the twenty fantastic years that Mr Potter has existed in our world, his impact as a cultural pop icon can not be denied. The boy who lives, continues to inspire hope and faith in many others. Potter and his buddies do represent the charm and value of a strong friendship. As I write about potter, I remember the adverts for the Deathly hallows. The scene was around Harry and Her ME Onieee smooching and my dad walked in and I felt a little embarrassed and spontaneously blushed. My dad casually said, ‘And so they have grown up now’. We had a good laugh.

Potter to me is beyond all the magic and warm fuzziness that Potter is usually to the rest of the world. Potter to me is the twenty years of my life that I’ve had. I’ve smiled through it, I’ve broken down. I’ve shown courage and I’ve cowered under the weight of the world. I’ve enjoyed the movie Chamber of secrets and have sat through reruns of Deathly Hallows part 1. I’ve also loved reading the half blood prince. Snape was the MAN.

Potter is, and Potter will be remembered for a few more years to come. So whats your muggle fascination towards Potter? What does the world of Harry Potter remind you of ? What do you associate the memories to?

Karthik

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Book Review : The first fifteen lives of Harry August

Coverpage of the First Fifteen lives of Harry August

The first fifteen lives of Harry August, Claire North.

I’m fascinated about souls, time travel, time paradox and a sweet tale of cat and mouse. The first fifteen is a story that checks all the items on that fascination list. This is a wonderful tale that spans the multiple life times of Harry August. The premise is simple enough. We are introduced to the usual world which has a few special people in them. These folks are called the Kalachakras. The world itself translates to the cycle of time. The Kalacharkras reincarnate time and again in this world. They retain their memories from their life times. There is a unique fundamental rule that governs this iteration of births, each time a Kalachakra dies, they are always born back in the same point in time , under the same circumstance and they get to relive their life all over again. There are events that change across each lifetime and there are those which do not. WW1, WW2, the Berlin wall, the revolutions, the rise and fall of dictators, none of these ‘Linear events’ usually change.

The life of Harry starts the most usual way. He’s born as an unwanted child, his biological parents decide to dump him. He finds foster care. He struggles through life , the early days. When his memories come gushing back , it opens his conscious to the many lives he has lived before. There is the usual struggle to cope up with such an overflow of information. He does what most normal folks do. He kills himself. The process resets his time. He realizes the folly and adopts a different approach to his life.

And so the tale begins. Harry, having lived quite a few life times, has the cumulative knowledge of the world that was, the world that will be. With each life, he learns how the world evolves across each lifetime. Like all sensible blokes, he memories the outcome of sporting events and makes a winning wager. Easy money. The funds secured, he goes on to observe the world around and keep track of how technology shapes the world in each of his lifetime. He eventually accepts his life, accepts the fact that he’s destined to relive the same life and that acceptance opens up options for him. He uses the time, life time to be exact, to learn and quench his thirst for knowledge. Things seem to be going good for our protagonist.

Through his lives, Harry starts to learn the dos and don’ts of his existence. He realizes the dangers of fiddling around with the natural flow of time and in the process , he gets introduced to the Chronos Club. The club is made of similar Kalachakras and Harry beings to learn more about his kind. Kalachakras have always existed. They have always observed the world, refused to actively change the linear events of the world. He also learns that information is passed down back to the generations by way of a child to the old. The children of the modern age would feed the near dying. The reincarnate would then kick start their life with the knowledge. Logistics and logistics.

The status quo changes when the Kalachakras start feeding back the news of how the end of the world is now accelerated. There seems to be a breach in the way of the world. The apocalypse rapidly accelerating, the end almost near, all of this pushes Harry to challenge the status quo and see if he can save the world.

From here, the game of cat and mouse picks up pace. When time is immaterial, immortality is the way of life, the simple task of saving the world does span a few lifetimes. It sure is not an easy task. The rest of the story is all about Harry’s quest to save the world. He does get to die a few times in the process. Does he save the world? Does he conclude that the world is not worth saving? Does he feel disgusted by humanity’s capacity to destroy itself? The immortals are posed with questions of a different kind indeed.

The book does hold a mirror to humanity. We live in a world where it’s easier to be insensitive towards tyranny and oppression rather than staying vociferous against it. We live in a world where history does tend to repeat itself, the world lets it happen time and again. We are more divided than we’d acknowledge. Given the context of the book, within a given lifetime, we grow numb to way of the world. Imagine living through centuries and centuries of the same world and magnitude of indifference towards the way the world is!

Harry goes through the same challenges that we all go through. Do we stay mum? Do we ache to change the world around us? Do we stand up and become the voice for the voiceless? Do we succumb under the weight of a messed up world? Given the fact that Harry does live on, he still makes his choices. Given the fact that we endure and survive the ugliness of the world, we also do make our choices.

The book’s central premise rests with the ability to travel back in time, the ability to alter the course ahead for humanity. Technology is a great disruptor. Imagine the course of the great wars if Mobile reception was made available during the wars. Imagine the outcome , if the nations had the capacity to make a billion calculations under a second. What if WW1 had access to nukes? The nature of what ifs, the nature of driving technological changes to alter the course of humanity is very intriguing. With the amount of technology in hand, aren’t we inching a step closer to making all the science fiction of our past into a modern day reality?

The other big theme is around immortality and the boredom that is generated by repetition. Spend enough lives, and one gets bored of living. Introspectively, lead a life doing the same set of things, life grows mundane. Insensitivity, or that feeling of staying numb, is an apt outcome of that dogmatic, narrow minded, tunnelled vision of an outlook towards life, are symptoms of a life stagnating away in front of our eyes. There is a certain helplessness to it all. We are, because we do. We are not able to break free and that’s also because we just do.

All is not super fantastic about the book. The way it ended was a colossal miss. The first two acts invest ample into building tension and the way the tale ends, did feel a bit rushed and not well thought off. The climax squandered away the emotional investment that the readers would have made to the characters.

I’d still give it a shot. If you like souls and a commercial , mass appeal view of spirituality and indulge in the act of breaking your head about lives, deaths and reincarnation, this is the right amount of palatable fiction.

Karthik

The recruit

‘Yo newbie’ I yelled loud in an arrogant displeasure. ‘Over here’ , I signalled her to come closer to where I was standing.

The day was gloomy and the clouds had claimed the sun as their precious hostage. The rays did struggle to escape from the thick density of the cover that the clouds provided. A chill wind swept through the city. The air that I exhaled, condensed into a smoke. Perfect. This was the perfect kind of a day to test the magnitude of my gracious tolerance towards newbies.

New guys, they are usually the worst. The come armed with ignorance and feel enlightened by years and years of mental conditioning that nonsensical notions provide. It’s one thing to deal with a clean slate, it’s another battle to work through concrete opinions. It was still part of the package that I call my job. The glitz and glamorous life of a babysitter, I wondered sarcastically. If only the world knew this, my job wouldn’t be a one that inspired a jealousy in many. Perfect.

The new one , with an air of indifference, shrugged her shoulders and walked towards me. For a given Friday, she was dressed in her best formals. Neat, clean and lavishly pressed to a wrinkleless perfection. I hated that too. Who in their right mind would work dressed like that, especially on a Friday. Years on the job had rendered me immune to such thoughts of compliance. I couldn’t care less. It was not like I put on one of the grandest show for the world to watch. The job required almost zero social skills. The job required almost near zero interaction. The job also mandated that the meetings with the boss was as sparse as godly possible. I didn’t like to dress up and pony up for no bloody reason. In time, I came to believe that a conviction towards such an obedience to a pointless dress code was a reflection of a feeble mind, a kind of mind that lacked ambition , drive and sensibilities to understand the grand picture of the work. Bluntly put, dorks dressed and I didn’t tolerate dorks.

I tried to ignore the young bundle of enthusiasm. I relented eventually. Boredom is a big part of the work. I was actually glad that I had company.

‘So, new around here? First day at work?’ I enquired. I guess I did manage to sound a little rough. Solitude does that to one.

She replied a polite , meek yes. There was a tinge of nervousness to her voice. It was normal. The first few weeks are meant to be that way. In fact, for many, the first few years are like that. I wasn’t the one to judge. I opted to tone down my hostilities and decided to be a better babysitter.

We both sat in silence for a while. We both were monitoring. New batch, waiting to run its course. I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. The Friday was not packed. Most Fridays are not packed. It’s funny that way. When I was younger, I had suspected a conspiracy. As I grew older, I was grateful. I stopped trying to poke around things. I had also learnt to appreciate the simple blessings. A relaxed day at work was a blessing.

She sat still for a while and then began to grow fidgety. She was struggling to find that courage to make a conversation. The monitoring aside, there was nothing but time and a lot of it to kill. She searched deep within her soul to muster that courage. She cleared her voice. The silence finally shattered through the hypnotizing rhythemic drone.

‘Do you?’, she asked

‘Do I what?’ I replied.

‘Do you, like remember. I tried to, but nothing. It’s kind of weird, but the more I tried to remember, I realized that I knew nothing’.

I paused for a second. I haven’t had this conversation in years. Maybe even decades. The dumb perks of doing the same job for a very long time!

‘It’s like this sweetheart. The universe is vast. Both on the outside and on the inside. It’s so vast that you’d go blank and numb trying to understand it all’

She took a moment to process the things I had said. ‘ Doesn’t made any sense. I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand’

I liked that. Meek and yet outspoken. She showed potential. She showed integrity and a spine.

‘What that means is that when you sign up, they wipe your slate clean. I’m afraid that’s how it is. You start new and I mean completely new’.

She shrugged her shoulders again. We both let the droning noise take over. I pretended to check the time on a watch that wasn’t there on my wrist. Habitual residue , is what I called it. I knew it that it was going to be a wrap soon. I didn’t realize that she had observed the nuance.

‘If they wipe it clean, it doesn’t explain why you did that. Why did you stare at your wrist? What does it mean? It feels like a memory to me’.

She was right though. The process, as dictated and mandated by the company, did wipe things clean in the ‘proverbial’ head. While it works for most. There are a few who do manage to retain bits and pieces. That doesn’t make us special, it just makes us miserable. There are things that I see. There are things that I feel. It always haunts me like an ugly ghost. It reminds me of what a pain is. It reminds me of what an experience used to be. Misplaced functions. Much like a glitch in the system. Nobody does anything about it though. There is nothing much to do anyways. No matter where you are, when you are a freak, you aren’t taken seriously. Make enough noise and you are silenced. Those among us, who are such anomalies, we do tend to shut up.

The incessant rising beeping sound yanked me away from my thoughts.

‘It’s time’ I signalled her. ‘What to do the honours?’, I asked.

Her nervousness was visible now. It was the moment of truth. What does one tell ? How does one handle such responsibility? Why is it so much pressure? The whole deal of playing out a role was an accepted norm, but no one spoke of the effect that job had. It was , both, the most important role and at the same time, the most pointless thankless job.

She walked away from me. She walked closer to the bed.

Friday, 11:11 am, October 2017. The date was scribed somewhere. Automation had it’s perks.

‘Don’t be scared’ her soft tender voice carried. ‘You are no longer going to be in pain. Here, hold my hand’ . The rest was a practiced script executed to flawless perfection.

***********

I sat by the terrace , looking at the sun peering through the clouds. She was back after a while. She sat beside me. We both sat in silence for a while.

‘Is it true?’ she broke the silence.

I said nothing. I was waiting for her to quench her curiosity.

‘That , an angel gets its wings , each time a bell chimes?’

I laughed out loud. ‘Is that what the others say these days’ I teased her.

‘Angels, us, we don’t have wings darling. We observe people. When it’s time for them to be born into this land, we ferry them from up there’, I said pointing towards the sky. ‘When it’s time for them to depart, we ferry them back. That’s all there is to it. We are monkeys with a torch light. We are glorified ushers. We watch humans, we watch their spirits soar high, we watch them get crushed. We work with their souls, and oddly we don’t have one ourselves. Maybe we are souls, maybe we are just empty vessels. We don’t have a conscience of our own and not having one makes it easy for us.’

‘You asked me about memories. I had one , a long time ago. I thought it made me special. I thought it bestowed me with a purpose. There came a day and I had to usher an old one back to the gate. The face was familiar, the soul felt known. I was miserable for a while. I didn’t know how the judgement went. I don’t know if she’s in heaven or condemned to hell or worst, left again on earth. These questions make me miserable. I’m scared of the answers too. I’d rather not ask them, I’d rather not have a memory of the existence of such questions. Empty vessels. Remember that. It is the grandest comfort that you’ll ever get here.’

She rested her head on my shoulder and said nothing. If we could cry, she might have shed a few tears that fine sunny afternoon. We cant. She couldn’t. We watched the sun set a few hours later.

Angels!!!! Our job is so overrated.

Karthik

Inception and the shutter island that’s my life

I know my ringtone. Gone are the days when I’d painstakingly sample the many rock songs from my collection which was titled Rocking songs, strip parts of the epic guitar solo or the chorus, rename the file a bit, load it to itunes and then sync it so that my iPhone 3 would read it as a ringtone. ACDC, The scorpions, Metallica , GNR, the tones were many and the phone would come to life when people called.

It was a time when things used to rain incoming calls. Where are you?, What’s up? Felt like hearing your voice? The excuses for receiving calls were many. The ringtones kept them alive. As time wore on, I moved to android and over the years the number of incoming calls steadily declined. With that, I lost any inclination to put in an effort to customize the ringtones. As it stands today, I have the default tune that the iPhone came with. Sober, mundane, void of emotions, and worst of it all, Efficient. I know my ringtone.

The phone buzzed. I neither could see the number calling me nor bothered with it. So I don’t know. I answered the phone. The call opened and through the speaker, I could very distinctly hear the clutter in the background. Someone had called and carried on their conversation with their environment. A minor annoyance. I waited a moment for the caller to turn their attention to me. I knew I’d wait a few more seconds before turning intolerant and terminating the call.

Hey… ‘eppidi iruka da? (How are you?)

I know the voice. I flutters my heart. A call, ungodly hour, I answer it by jumping out of my deep dead floating slumber. Before I have the time to come to terms with it, I blurt out a reply.

I’m alright. Doing good. Ne eppidi iruka?’ (How are you doing?)

And with that I woke up this morning. Two minutes later, my phone came alive to announce the dawn of the day. 7 am. As always, I had risen before the alarm. Unlike the usual, something had jolted me up today. I stared at the table that rested my toothbrush and toothpaste. I looked outside the window for the sign of a sun. Gloomy on the outside, gloomy on the inside.

Pagal kanavu da, maira pochu (day dreams don’t come alive) I gently whispered to myself. I could have thought it in my head. I chose to softly whisper it instead. I felt that the words definitely had to be said and heard. To me, it was an assurance to wake up to the reality and cut my chords away from a fantasy.

I reached out to youtube and played the one song that I wanted to listen to this morning. Maruvarthai pesadhey, the singer started. The hot water rained from the showerhead above. Water washed away the tears that might have formed in the heart. My eyes were bored of the routine.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Cobb and Mal. Cobb and Mal belong to Nolan’s world of the movie Inception. It’s about a lot of things. I’ll stick to what I want to stick to about it. Cobb recreates Mal from all of his memories. The reality of Cobb, the fictional reanimation that Mal is, their worlds collide.

There is a specific dialog from the movie that haunts me from time to time. Cobb says that it’s getting harder and harder for him to remember all the details about Mal. Her perfections, her imperfections, her subtle and not so subtle nuances. The longer one holds on to a memory, the harder it becomes to keep it alive.

I’ve always seen my words as a blessing and a curse. I’m lucky with it. Yes. Since I can tie words together, stitch sentences, narrate a tale of characters and secretly breathe life into them, as the tales start churning out and as time keeps ticking forward, it feels like a cruel torment to struggle to bring nuances of a living breathing person into lifeless characters made of words, waiting to breathe life on a piece of paper.

I refuse to forget, I refuse to stop influencing my world of fiction from my realities. I struggle to keep the memories alive. I’m not god. I’m not even a perfect human. I’m limited by my flawed, biased perception of a perspective memory to keep people alive in my mind and through my words. I’ve struggled with that for years and failure has always been a near constant.

Much like how Mal appears and wrecks Cobb’s existence, I can see my memories manifest. The harder I struggle to forget and ignore my memoires, the stronger it manifests itself into my world of real. I see the same people in the world around. Initially I thought it was a pathetic conscious effort from me to cling on to a thread of a remembrance of a memory. As days grow on, I know the difference. I see the same people in people around. It’s not a conscious choice to view the world that way. It’s difficult to explain and express because I don’t understand this myself.

Things would have been easier if everybody I saw was a replica of the people I’ve already known. It doesn’t work that way. In an ocean of strangers, there are a few drops who bear that resemblance. The locations are different. There is no symmetry or a routine that I can adopt to recreate that delusion. It doesn’t happen at my will. It doesn’t happen at a time of my choosing. It happens and when it does, I get to witness and dwell in a silent misery.

I’ve been through a lot of iterations of life experiences. I’ve not experienced a backlash of this nature and magnitude. It feels odd that of all the things , it would be my scattered memories putting on a nasty fight.

Like all things, I tag these as walking delusions, remind myself that nothing is real and all I need is a little fresh air to reset to my pretend natural self. The battle wages on. The meanings are still lost to me. I don’t want to pursue meanings anymore. It’s a thing today and hope it won’t be tomorrow. For what it’s worth, there is a solace in knowing that I share a slice of life with Cobb, from one of the greatest movies ever made.

Emancipation, Expectations and Exceptions

There is nothing as good as a little alliteration to jump start the day. The festival of lights and sound now done and dusted, the many celebratory meals gorged and regretted, a few walls of writers block rammed , the day popped in a bright ray of sunlight of thought. There is a taste of freedom when we brave the odds to dream different. There is an excitement to defying the natural order of things. There are expectations to live up to and expectations waiting to fulfil our desire for a rewrite of a said destiny.

The sweet rush to making dreams come true, the tryst with the first roadblock, that will to overcome challenges through grit and determination, the usual fork in the road; that goes by altering names of success and failure, with these the lifecycle of a dream comes to a near close. Things usually start off as an itch waiting to be scratched, the itch to achieve goes on to consume our thoughts and dictate our actions. The nature of exception is to force challenges our way. The rest of the story deals with how one manages the odds. The eulogy to the dream completes the narration.

The big question that bakes my noodle is ‘What should I expect when I harbour expectations?’. The question, itself, shares boundaries with pragmatic reality, philosophies of armchair and wisdom, the general outlook towards the way of life. Sometimes, I do feel that the entire world is brainwashed, and that certain values are ingrained into our belief system. For starters, the wise blokes have always maintained an accord of not having any expectations. Do your thing, let karma do the rest. It’s better to have lowest expectation to avoid heart attacks in the future. Shoot for the moon, to at least reach the stars. You get the gist.

I wont deny the merits to the wise words. In my personal opinion, I think they are risk-averse and have a shade of pessimism to them. It doesn’t take a lot to under promise and under deliver. In fact, that seems to be the accepted , untold status quo. Set lower benchmarks and almost meet them. Now that I say it that way, it does feel underwhelming. But ain’t that not the usual case?

The way we sell our dreams and ideas, also is influenced by what we can bring to the table. Some call it skill, some call it panache, and I usually tag them as confidence. It’s this confidence, that most of the world associates to arrogance. I can’t help it. I can’t change the views of the hundred people that my world is made of. There is a method to that confidence and that arrogance. I tend to understand my limitations and play to my strengths. What I can do, I promote and what I can’t, I articulate the limitations. This keeps me closer to selling what I can deliver and not overshooting it or undermining it.

Knowledge plays a vital role here. It’s the knowledge of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. There is also a better word for this. It goes by the name ‘ Awareness’. Self awareness to be exact.

So back to the question at hand. What should one expect when one harbours expectations?

I have a few note books and a I’m always found without a pen. Just by virtue of availability of resources, It’s almost certain that I set my eyes on being a published and possibly a celebrated author. I have a few musical instruments, I know to record stuff. It’s almost certain that I start viewing myself as a music producer. It’s not wrong to expect such greatness. I don’t usually let the world tell me otherwise. That being said, between where I currently stand and where I’d want to see myself stand, there are things that I must accomplish to bridge that gap.

This brings us to the question. What should I expect, when I have set really high expectations for my passion?

A dream can be dissected into the following attributes

1. The ideology of a dream

2. The things needed to make it a reality

3. The things that one currently has, that can bring momentum to the cause

4. The things one goes to acquire to bridge the gap

5. Delivery and eventual acceptance.

While the list above talks about the bare essentials on how to translate ideas to quantitative deliverables, there is also an underpinned factor that measures the magnitude of success to making such dreams come true. It usually rests within the confines of the answer to the question

‘Whose seal of approval does our dreams and actions need in order for us to accept our success or failure in the matter?’

The irony is sarcastic. While a dream, a goal, a passion , is all too very personal commodity, we still bank on the world to acknowledge , accept and approve our work. We wait on the world to certify the nature of our dream. That approval also has a quantitative means of getting measured. It’s measured through monetary returns. Fame and popularity are usually qualitative attributes.

Most of it ties back to the questions that I’ve always asked myself. What makes me a writer? What makes me a musician? What makes me a fitness enthusiast? Is it sufficient that I accept those traits in me, or does it take the people around me to certify the verbs that I do? Answering that usually answers the question on expectations.

Are we a product of the world’s perception of us or are we what we are forced/choose to be?

Karthik

In the grandest scheme of things to come

I’d usually shy away from expressing profanity through my words, but I am tempted to make an exception today. FUCK.  I felt better typing it. Yeah, I can be petty that way.

In the grandest scheme of things to come, I feel both fuelled towards a direction and at the same time, I find myself lost. I’m too tired to complain so I won’t. The day started by spotting a silver lining. A massive burglary later, my folks had contemplated selling off this holiday home that we have. It didn’t matter to me. I’ve never been attached to materials. I felt glad that no violence came off the invasion. Things lost and lives unhurt. Especially the lives of my parents. Spotting the silver lining wasn’t that hard.

I did stop and wonder about it though. The second time, in a lifetime, I’ve walked away from fixed assets attachment. I smiled at it and decided to not waste any more time on that. It was what it was.

The day seemed normal and my possible future wife had messaged after a hiatus of a week. It did feel nice. Felt better when she said that she had been thinking about me. The us. There was a but to that sentence. And But it was. As strangers we met and as strangers we parted. I didn’t bother with the whys. For a curious fella, I’m not really intrigued by the reasons.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean anything to me. It kind of did. I find found a wonderful person to leave behind the past and I felt eager enough to start at the present and establish a future. All of it felt like the movie bedazzled. For the longest, I had put off writing about the bedazzled status to it. While that story hinges around a bloke, going to hell and beyond, signing blood to the devil , all in the name of staying in pursuit of the heart.

That tale ends with the heart finding a new direction. It felt similar to that for me too. All tales written, most lengths covered, pacts with the devil later, the climax reached a different crescendo. I guess that’s that. There is no mulling over it or flooding the wishing well with coins.

A day, as mundane as any other, two significant lessons against attachment. I do find myself lost. I’ve always wandered in pursuit of that heart. The tales have been plenty, the words have cried rivers. The lessons have been the near exact and same. The impact, seems to be changing a bit. Far away from being crushed and devastated, I’ve come a little way in picking up pieces and resuming the road. I lack the sight of spotting the grandest scheme of all things to come.

Dangerously armed with bits and trinket of inconsequential knowledge of colossal cosmos and floating souls, the temptation is hard to resist. I feel compelled to believe that there are deeper reasons to the experience. I’d very much like, in fact I desperately seek the delusion that what I’m experiencing is a sum total remainder of a collective conscious.

I lack the conviction of a deserving spiritualist, who is awakened to the truths. I lack the scepticism to debunk all this that I feel, to embrace science and the causal analysis, whose logic and rational provides a cynical comfort. In short, I’m in a transitive state of both delusion and denial to differing realities.

I knew I’d feel better writing this down. It’s not the sympathies that I seek. It’s not the attention that I crave. In fact, it’s not even an assurance that I look for. None of that means anything to me. What I want is for me to show that courage and determination to see this journey through. See without jumping to conclusion. Experience, all that can be experienced. Stay wise enough to scribe and humble enough that I don’t lose sight of where I am.

So where am I? Lost and wandering because I’m clueless to the picture that’s called in the grandest scheme of all things to come.

Yeah, karthik.

Book review : The other hand

The coverpage of The Other hand

The other hand, Chris Cleave.

When the book’s back cover page reads ‘ We don’t want to tell you what happens.. and once you’ve read it, you’d be tempted to discuss this with your friends. Please don’t do so until they’ve read the book’, I felt compelled to buy the book. Such confidence did motivate me to grab the book. It was a blind date of sorts and yeah, I think the date went well. It had it’s moments, it felt nice and while I wont enjoy such a date again, I don’t feel cheated by it either.

This is a serious book and the book doesn’t shy away from it’s premise. This is a story of two women. Little bee, and that’s not her real name. Bee escapes Nigeria and finds herself in the UK’s immigrant’s detention centre. After a short stay of two years in that institution, Bee walks into the land, almost as a free citizen. The office doesn’t issue her papers, just lets her go. That makes her an illegal alien in the land.

Bee, fortunately, knows only one family in the whole of UK. Andrew and Sarah. The English couple , a few years ago, had managed a vacation in Nigeria and it changes their lives forever. There is something that connects Little Bee, Andrew and Sarah. As fate would have it, their lives intersect all over again. What happens to Bee, what happens to Andy and Sarah? The tale unfolds the fates of these wonderfully penned characters.

To throw in a little context, Nigeria was gripped in a chaos over petroleum. The black gold resulted in the government shaking it’s dirty hands with corporates. This leaves the natives as unwanted burden in their old land. As with money everywhere, violence is a friend that walks hand in hand with it. As resources go plundered, lives are reduced as mere perishables. Bee is a young teenager and her view of her land does paint a horror story. Bee’s narration also walks us through the differences in the human lives when they are separated by boundaries of nations and wings of development. Bee is , by far, one of the strongest narrator that I’ve ever come across. Her narration brings two distinct worlds together. She makes us laugh, she’d make you queasy.

There is a Batman in the tale. Charlie, the tiny tot of Sarah, often dresses up as Batman to cope up with his small life. What is he coping up with?, you have to read to discover that by yourself. The innocence of Charlie, the fear driven defiance of Bee, the idealism of Sarah and pragmatism of Andrew, they are all but the many sides to a life. Through them, we do see the strength of the human spirit. Through the world of politics, rules and governments, we see the might that feels forced to crush that human spirit.

The book poses a wonderful question. Should a country be permitted to refuse asylum to seekers across the world? Are there strains to the native citizens? Is the world not a big enough place to host everybody under the sun? Why cant countries protect people who don’t belong to them? As a species, do we belong to the earth or as civilised, educated blokes, do we belong to nations and governments that rule them? There is no simple answer to any of those questions. Globalization does make the world a smaller place and does make governments indifferent to one another.

I liked the book. It’s not as engaging or soul shattering as some of the other books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past few months. That being said, I think this book deserves its place in your cupboard or your kindle.

Karthik

Lights, sounds and nostalgia

And so I was standing in the rain, waiting for the bus and suddenly a sentence popped into my head. ‘Deepon ki avli hai deepavli’. That translates to Diwali is a festival that is array of lit lamps. More or less, give or take.

I think I had that lesson about the festival in the Hindi class when I was in the 6th grade. Deepon ki avli indeed. The festival of lights has always been a special one. To me, it had always symbolized things new, fun and exciting. For as long as I can remember, my mum has always slogged herself in the kitchen to dish out a feast of sorts. At one point, it was an extended family that enjoyed the meal. As years wore on, the participants were reduced to just the three of us. Mum, dad and yours truly.

That didn’t hamper or dampen my mum’s spirit. She goes all in every year. This year, its a meal for two and still all in. I had a good laugh teasing my mom about it. ‘So, are you going to shower today?’ , my mom asked her usual Diwali question. Some things never do change.

I am reminded of the time I was in my 5th grade. The usual practice was to wear them new clothes to school when they reopened after the holidays. That one year, the occasion was special enough. I had taken the liberties of extending the practice to another day , besides the designated fancy wear day. My reason was a simple enough. I had brought two! It was fun to be the only bloke in school who was not in his usual uniform. People were shook, some of the kids were jealous, most of my teachers were amused and I was a happy proud kid, dressed in a Red Tshirt that had a picture of a fancy skull on it. Red used to be my favourite color back then.

Then came the phase of ‘I’m too cool to burst crackers’. I believed , half heartedly , in the cause against child labour. The promotions promoted, the propaganda propagated, I did manage to coast through the day avoiding them crackers. Temptation sunk in by the evening. A box of rockets later, I did smile a satisfied guiltless smile. It was the last time I had bothered with the crackers. I had grown old.

Before I could realize that I was the responsible adult around the block, my folks appointed me the safety warden. My nephew was a kid back then, so was my niece. They wanted to have their fun with fire and explosives. The kid got creative and I started to worry. I remember lugging a bucket of water and bracing my heart over his adventure spells. The games had transcended time. Tying up crackers of different kind were still in fashion. Blowing coconut shells were still cool. Igniting crackers and throwing them for an Air time explosion was still awesome. As a responsible adult, yeah, it was way too much trouble to maintain the façade of being responsible. I rolled my sleeves and joined in on their fun. It felt great to be a kid again.

The kids grew up and they had their fifteen minutes of fame riding the ‘Crackers is child labour’ phase. My nephew refused to indulge in the practice. My niece was still enthusiastic. Fortunately, I made the nephew the safety warden and enjoyed ten more minutes of happy sleep. That happiness didn’t last long. Brothers and sisters are meant to fight and fight they did. My mom rushed in the damage control. I was the damage control. This time around, I was the ‘uncle’ to the kids in the apartment. Little ones surrounded me and looked up to me to inspire them into excitement and adventure.

There were the first timers, the scaredy cats who wanted to get in on the fun, but were apprehensive about how explosives worked. Their hands would tremble, the incense stick would fly all directions and manage to miss igniting the wick. They had to be directed. They had to be motivated. The first thrill of setting something on fire, the first thrill of escaping death, the first thrill of an action fuelled adventure, once they acquired the taste for it, there was no stopping them.

I remember that evening. My nephew and I decided to watch the night works from the terrace. We both decided to throw away our phones and enjoy the lights and sounds. It felt wonderful to enjoy the moment. It was the first time , in many years, where I had managed to place my mind and my thoughts on hold. I was free to enjoy the moment. The thinking would resume later. It was also the last time I enjoyed such an evening. Time and tide, you know the drill. They don’t bother waiting.

Then came the thrills of sneaking in a call to a loved one without the parents raising any alarms. The simpler joys of wishing at the stroke of mid night. The dumb satisfaction of exchanging pictures of celebrations across the households. The happiness of secrecy and jubilation of romance. Festivals were a fun time to enjoy life. It did give an excuse to stay a little more connected than usual. It did give an excuse to view the normal as something special. It did give an opportunity to view a larger than life version of the mundane.

Through the years, my folks haven’t changed. Dad still heads out early morning to burst the quintessential usi- vedi (needle cracker!!!) . He steps out before most people wake up. He gets back before most people wake up. He then helps mom with her production line of dolling out dishes. My mom would then nudge him to start the process of waking me up. 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, 8, am, 9 am.. and then my mom would adopt a different strategy. She’d remind me that there would come a day when I’d not be with them and the guilt trip was ample enough to get my day started. The irony is, I woke up at 6 today, without reminders, without much drama and too bad, I woke up to an empty room, to a land that has to wait till the 5th of November for the fireworks.

A festival becomes more than a festival. It’s not about throwing money and acquiring things. It’s not about flaunting with flashy clothes and distributing expensive and exotic sweets. It’s not about putting on a show. It’s the simpler things. It’s about spending a little time with the family. It’s about enjoying a meal together, to talk about useless things of daily life. It’s about sharing a few smiles.

Enjoy a little, much needed, family time. May the festival of lights brighten up your smiles. Be responsible, be a safety warden 😛

Karthik

Holy Christ and Strings!

I do like drama in real life. I enjoy the drama , mostly because I see them when they usually don’t even exist. This perfectly places me between two states of the mind. The one where I’m naïve and the one where I’m a suspicious skeptic. Through a few iterations, a baggage of lessons learnt, I’d like to assume that I’ve grown a bit wise. I’m not sure if I’d ever be wise enough.

The fantastic part of telling a fabricated story is the treasure hunt phase. The other beautiful part is the execution of the idea itself. I could have made this a tale. I chose a different approach this time around. Leaving this in the realm of fiction would have diluted the seriousness to the tale. When I talk about strings, what do you think of? Strings could be the ones from a musical instrument, like a guitar or a violin. Strings could be the emotional ties that keep us anchored to something. Strings are also the ones that the ‘Master of the puppets’ pulls. We’ll be talking about such masters of the universe. One sentence that pays its tribute to both Metallica and HeMan. I like that.

It doesn’t take much for one to understand the nature of written and verbal communication. Very similar to forensics, every time we leave a trail of words (written or spoken) around, we also leave behind an imprint of our truest nature. I call this a reflex honesty. There are times when our minds work faster than the speed of our thoughts. It’s precisely at these moments when people exhibit their natural self. It’s not all that very difficult to pretend and put on a show. It, however, does take a lot of effort to sustain that show. Putting on a show, indefinitely, forever, without inconsistencies, and always staying in a make believe character is hard. It takes a lot of conscious and subconscious effort to maintain that façade.

And so our tale takes us to the realm of manipulators. I find these folks interesting. They make a wonderful character to explore and add elements to a said story. Manipulators are an Archtype persona. They pull strings to either keep themselves satisfied, or do it because doing so servers their purpose. Such Archtypes are impressive because uncovering the motivations that drive them , is often the hunt that takes us, both the readers and blokes in real life, on a journey of discovery.

These Archtypes have always existed. Right from Mahabharat, the earliest known Manipulator that I can think of, the Bethal ; which also manipulated in the interest of it’s preservation and vested interests, this archtype is one that transcends time and stays relevant to the modern context. I think it’s also pertinent to note that we, as folks; as a herd; usually don’t mind the manipulation as long as we are not told that we are being manipulated. As with most things that govern life, being manipulated could be a good thing or something to regret later on.

Since manipulators are an Archtype, they do exhibit a specific type of modus operandi! I made that sound more sinister than it usually is. But , you get the general idea.

1. The Jeebus Syndrome – Or as science calls it, the Messiah complex. Most manipulators enjoy playing the compassionate god. If you remember my works on Carl Jung, the archtype personality is that of a Wise old man/Wise old woman. The underlying ploy is to fuel trust and faith in the victims, but posing as not a threat but as the designated chosen one who is put on earth to serve all humanity :)))))

2. All ears, all guilt – Most manipulators are great listeners. I’m not sure if the vice versa is true enough. Their ability to listen, to throw light on our misgivings, also feeds their status as the Wise old bloke. They are prone to deflect questions that try to expose their intent. They usually deploy guilt to sneak out of tight spots.

3. Victim card – Most manipulators , always and I mean ALWAYS, play the victim card. They exhibit a certain charm that accompanies the fact that they have been there, they have suffered and hence can understand what you are going through. If you start to connect the dots, point 3 feeds into Point 1 and therefore Point 2 is the way they run their business.

4. All in, all the time – Most manipulators go all in and all the time. It is human to have skeletons buried deep in the closet. It takes an enormous effort for us to open up and share our deeds to others. Manipulators usually rapidly accelerate that phase. They go all in. It’s a tease and a gamble of sorts. By feeding us personal , all too secrety secrets, they A : Obligate us into opening up trust B: Obligate us into reciprocating with a few nasty secrets of our own. And bada boom, feeds into the victim card

The dynamics between a manipulator and their prey is also interesting thing. It banks on TRANSFERENCE. Transference is similar to a Stockholm syndrome, just without a Stockholm in place. There is a symbiotic relationship at play here. Victims are kept in that stasis of misery and guilt so that the manipulator stays relevant and in context. Manipulators really do look for their victims to remain miserable because if folks are not miserable, they’d not go about painting their lives to such manipulators. It is a vicious cycle. They both need each other, they both feed into each other and as long as the victims and predators co-exist, neither would fizz out.

I am but amused at this cycle of prey and predation. Things used to be different before the dawn of the age of 24/7-365 social outreach program that the Internet is. We do make it easy to get manipulated. In ways, we also do manipulate/influence the course of the lives of folks that we are connected to.

Emotional manipulators are real. They walk among us, they talk to us everyday. They are not monsters who hide away in shadows. In fact , they are not monsters at all, till we start making them one. That said, it’s nice to recognize the world around us. Staying observant and staying sceptical is a survival skill that comes handy. At all times.

Karthik

A face in the crowd

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

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

Delicate little darling, that mac turned out to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karthik