Digital singularity and the way of a cyber punk reality

I don’t think we ought to worry about a future where Digital singularity is a reality. There is no point to mull about it. That’s because it’s already here.

Singularity, the term has many definitions as it sits smug among many contexts. The crux of any Singularity is the convergence point of a collective conscious. Many , grouped and represented as one.

Lets take a look at how we’ve managed that singularity in the past. I always go back to the dude with a funny moustache. To my mind, he represented a point in time when there was a singularity. Anti Semitism, racial purity, a 1000 years of reich, they weren’t necessarily the unanimous individual voice. It was a single collective voice. The voice of the individuals were either silenced or oppressed. Murmurs were present in discrete pockets. The dude with the funny moustache had managed Singularity. For a while, it existed.

Lets rewind back to the usual modern times. Xenophobia is a collective singularity. It also does not represent individual voices. It is an accepted collective voice. The way social media reacts to many triggers also represents those many moments of digital singularity.

We aren’t talking about bits and pieces of such a singular existence. We are talking about full blown societies where natural scientific evolution would have taken us to adopt a collective conscious. We are getting there with each day passing. The trouble with such a collective conscious is that it does not take into account the individual voice. The greater good is a sentiment that directly conflicts with the most basic human need. That need to be unique. We , currently, feel offended to be tagged as average and normal. We are ok with it , as long as no body points out that mediocre existence. We are ok with ignorance.

I do think that, strike that, I do believe that we would eventually adopt a collective conscious for our society. We’d have gone through the usual iteration of corruption, oppression and politics and opt that technology ,which is both transparent and focused on delivering social good, as the right alternative. The biggest challenge that such a singularity would face would be along the lines of harmonizing multiple voices and opinion.

The simpler view of that conundrum is that in today’s world, we are not free enough to do good. There are many vested interests that deter us from doing good. Poverty and hunger. If the world wanted to eradicate them both, it could have. It exists because hunger and poverty serves vested interest. The essential conflict of interest has always shaped up the political picture of the world.

The deal with a digital collective conscious is that it would easily expose the conflict of interest. The interest would stick out like a sore thumb, the collective hive would eliminate it and plan ahead by bull dozing through it. That’s the bright happy picture.

As long as we identify ourselves as humans, we embrace disruption. The human desires of acceptance, acknowledgement, recognition, these are meaningless without an Identity. Ego, it’s not a bad word. Ego sketches an identity for us. We embrace it. Through it, we announce ourselves to the world. Resentment arises when we eliminate the need for that identity. That identity is the line that separates the men and the women from herds of sheep.

We are witnessing an interesting age of compliance. Take a good look at the usual activity. We do what others are doing. We play the same games, we forward the same posts, we voice out for the same causes, we click, like, share alike. We , as a species, are the closest to compliance. We live to standards without recognizing that we are aligning ourselves to established templates. Take a good look at your instagram photos. Same filters. Different places and yet everything looks similar to everything else.

And so, this wonderful Friday, I do sit amused at the compliance conundrum. We are a conflicted kind. We crave to be unique and do whatever it takes to fit in. Singularity is here. It’s where we all would eventually end up being a part of. It’s a scary cyber punk future and I’ve already started crying Wolf.

Karthik

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A little faith

‘And you, whats up with you? You look like shit. Feels like a truck ran over you!!’

That, to me, is a compliment of the best kind. It affirms my faith. There are masks that we wear and there are days when the face reflects the storm that’s raged within the mind. I do look like shit. It affirms my mind. It’s definitely the kind of a deal that says that there are days when words are best that will ever be. It is a reminder that words mean.

And so just like that, I found myself in the usual crowd of the train. The more I think about the morning, the more I feel amused at the irony that faith has guided me to. There was a point in time where I believed. There was a time when I didn’t anymore. And then there was a time when I choose where I got to invest my faith into. Life finds many ways to remind me that the choice wasn’t a bad one.

Words got me here. Words got me to this calm forest of faith. I jumped in clueless. I jumped clueless to conclusions. I then stopped jumping, I was still clueless. Today, I’m comfortably clueless. I’ve moved away from facts and evidences that once inspired my thirst for curiosity. I choose to experience these days. Experience without bias. Experience without exerting an effort to understand the far corners of the whys and whats to the plot. It is quite something to just experience and refrain from the desire to understand the bigger picture. It’s quite a challenge to curb that innate curiosity to judge real from delusion. For what it’s worth, I do like to believe that experience comes first and understanding of it might come someday.

The simplest example is that of coincidences. I see far too many coincidences to a lot of things. I’m surrounded by coincidences. It does place me in a tricky spot. Am I seeing what I want to see? Am I seeing something that’s not real, but does sound surreal and good? Am I seeing a lie that I’ve subconsciously made a reality of sorts? The exhaustion from wanting a proof does act as a naughty accomplice. I don’t want a validity and is that because I believe or is it because I don’t want to lose a faith? I could argue both ways.

The fact is, irrespective of the side that I choose to pick, I still end up witnessing coincidences unfold before my eyes. I couldn’t brush them away.

This morning, off the blue, I decided to shut my eyes a bit and reach out to the infinity above and the vastness below. Like a spoilt brat, I reached out to the universe and the earth. I bridged myself firm between the two extremes. The drill was usual. I grounded myself to the earth. I asked for a favour from the universe to share a bit of light. I deliberated the energies trapped within me to run down through my body, reach to the depths of the earth and neutralise themselves.

This was different from the ones I’ve tried before. I wasn’t seated in the comforts of a room. I didn’t have a music to keep me company. I was in a loaded train. I was standing and conscious of the stations passing by. I had heard a station’s name call out. I knew I had time.

And so one by one, chakra by chakra, I deliberated that transfer of energy. Despite the rushed endeavour, the experience felt similar. I had managed to jump right into the phase where I didn’t have to spell out the sentences and words in my mind. They naturally truncated themselves. There only and intent of a thought. Intent manifested.

I disconnected my chord with the earth and looked above for a light of protection. Ask and it shall be given. I asked and it was graciously granted.

Faith is a tricky and slippery business. I don’t know what worked today. Did I convince myself of a lie? I did feel fresher and rejuvenated. I could feel the strength booming back into my body.

Did the exercise really work? Did my mind trick the body and prove the mind over matter theory?

It could be anything. When you go searching for a proof, you shall find one. When you experience and don’t bother about the logistics of what, why , how and when, nothing really matters. The biggest proponent of faith is when you don’t get what you pray for. It tests you. It makes you question your faith. It doesn’t really mean much to harbour a faith when every prayer goes answered. That faith defines you as a person when you hold on to it at a time when nothing goes in your favour. I’d like to believe so.

And so the coincidences keep me assured that I have my faith in the right spot. If that aint true, I’m at least blissfully foolish.

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

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

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

Book review : The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

Cover Page of the 100 year old man

The hundred year old man who climbed of the window and disappeared, Jonas Jonasson.

Where oh where do I begin. A hundred year old man, Spanish civil war, America’s Atomic bomb, Stalin singing a song, Mao Tse-Tung’s communist ambitions, Kim Il Jong’s legacy in the making, A few presidents, a hot dog seller, an Elephant, a cop on a mission , an Einstein, a prosecutor who wished he had not been born. That’s one convoluted sentence that has way too many characters who converge and fuel madness to this fantastic tale of a warm , hilarious adventure.

Lets take a moment to let all of that sink in.

Phew.. Feeling better? okie dokie. Let us begin.

The hundred year.. is a story of Allan Karlsson. On his hundredth birthday, he decides to climb out of this room in an old age care home. That sets of a wonderful adventure that consumes you with every page that’s turned. Allan is a very ordinary bloke who has had an extraordinary life. There are absolutely two things that Allan does exceptionally well. One, he always manages to have an open mind. Two, he’s good at blowing things up.

An open mind and an uncanny ability to blow things up, these are the two things that fill Allan’s life with a million memories. As the tale continues in the present, we are introduced to roads that he had travelled in the past.

So Allan sneaks out of the old age home, he manages to steal a suitcase that is loaded with money. A mafia-ique gang is after him. A gang that goes by the name ‘ Never Again’. Allan’s escape from the house is now also a escape from the gang. The police get involved. Initially they are called in to find Allan and as the events unfold, the police now suspect Allan of murder. A 100 year old man on a killing spree!

Allan’s life is an adventure. Straight through the Spanish revolution, to America’s hunger for creating the A-Bomb, to Stalin’s desire to make a nuke for the motherland, North Korea’s war for identity, Allan finds himself participating in all these milestones that have shaped up the world. The history is something that will leave you in a sense of awe. The circumstances would leave you laughing.

Besides the adventure, this is a beautiful tale of friendship. Allan bumps into Julius, a bloke with a reputation for being a petty thief. The two become friends and they bump into Benny. Benny’s a hotdog vendor who has almost been a lot of things. The trio meet Gunnila. Gunnila’s the lady of the tale. Gunnila loves sonya. Sonya is her pet elephant.

The bonds of friendship are forged through honesty. As the tale ascends into mad hilarity, you’d grow warm reading the way their friendship evolves. The tale is also a tale of a cat and mouse chase. The inspector, Mr Aronsson , is absolutely relentless in his quest to find Allan.

The book is a light hearted read but it does nurture deeper themes within it. Each of the character , that you’d come to enjoy in time, is plagued by loneliness and solitude. The characters grab the opportunity to connect and take that leap of faith in forming ties with each other. I’d like to see them as a reflection of ourselves. We , most of us, are alienated with the world. We exist in a crowd. While a lot of us have shown that courage to take that leap of faith and invite people into our lives, there are a lot of us who are fenced up. We wait.

The book’s central theme is that of blind optimism. Allan doesn’t really worry a lot about the past or the future. He keeps an open mind and goes with the flow. Life hands him lemons, bananas, vodka, sausages and a lot many other things. He makes a good use of them and powers on. Allan is neither too ambitious nor does express a defeatist view of life. He is one of the grandest examples of living in the present. In a weird sense, he represents a zen-like peace. He remains unperturbed by most things.

The book does take a dig at two of the most influential factors that have shaped up our world. Religion and Politics. Allan doesn’t care for either. He’s not judgemental about them. His point of view offers a neutral stance on how silly that both religion and politics can be.

The book is a happily ever after waiting to happen. It’s a casual, funny breezy read. The plot might seem a bit outlandish at times, but that’s precisely the point. Strap your seatbelts, hang on tight and enjoy the fun ride that is The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

Next stop : The Handmaid’s tale.

Karthik

Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be

” Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be. “ Allan Karlsson from The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

While this is not a review of the book, the spirit of that quote was ample enough to inspire me to wing a few thoughts about it. I, for one, am conflicted about the deal of ‘Going with the flow’. To me, that approach is a little too free fall for comfort. While I’m not obsessive or compulsive about making plans and sticking to every single line item, I do find it a bit odd to completely ignore even the faintest remotest idea of a plan. I find assurance in knowing that there is a plan. What the plan stands to cover is immaterial.

Given the nature of the book and that it’s a fantastic fabulous work of fiction, I do acknowledge that in the realms of fiction, everything is possible. Real life poses certain challenges that a fictional life doesn’t have to deal with. With revered humility, I acknowledge that real life does have a capacity to throw a few curve balls that we are usually not well prepared to resolve. It’s that grasp of reality often pushes us to succumb to the flow of things and let things take their own course. In an act of part desperation and part faith, we let ourselves be willed by the way of the universe.

All of that sounds fine and dandy and that’s precisely why I can’t stomach that isolation of accountability towards life.

Given the context of the book, given the context of the movie ‘Forrest Gump’, given the context of life’s many adventures and experiences that we gather, there is a simple, subtle fact that stays hidden and yet possesses the magical charm to alter the course of one’s destiny. The underlying, undermined secret is one’s capacity to adjust and adapt to the changing course of things and steer ahead.

Yup. That’s the key. The ability to adapt to changes of varying magnitude. That ability doesn’t fall from the sky. It’s a reflection of skills possessed, strengths played to, limitations mitigated and a certain degree of faith on oneself. Give these, going with the flow does make a lot of sense. When we are better placed to deal with open challenges, the other limiting factor is in the form of how we choose to restrict ourselves because of our biases. Having an open mind helps. It’s a sign of being ready to deal with the unknowns. By unrestricting the things that we can do, we do end up doing a lot more than we initially thought we could.

That conquest of fear is wonderfully explored in the quote. ‘Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be’

Contrary to popular belief, going with the flow is not synonymous with not being ready to take on life’s many curve balls. It means having an outlook to take those curve balls and whack em up plenty. I’d like to believe that it is this spirit to life that enriches by giving us the varied experiences that go on to construct the story of our lives.

Go with the flow. It’s a bit different than drifting away helplessly.

Karthik

Book review : a man called ove

“Maybe to her destiny was “something”; that was none of his business. But to him, destiny was “someone.”

Coverpage of A man caled Ove

A man called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

I picked this book because a friend recommended it. To be perfectly honest, it was a spur of the moment decision to quench my curiosity about the book. I dived into its pages without a shimmer of expectation. When I was done with the book, something within me had snapped, there was something that I could spot as odd in the way I lived. With eyes wet with tears, my heart warm with satisfied overwhelmed emotions, it was time to move on to a different book. I did my best to savour the memories of the book and it was precisely because of that pleasure, I delayed writing about it. Words once read, words once written would probably move on to become words once cherished.

Back to the tale, Ove. Ove is an old geezer whom you’d probably dislike. He is a stickler for rules. He incessantly keeps reminding the world around that they don’t follow the dogma that rules are. He’s not much for small talk. It’s hard to enjoy a pleasant conversation with him. Ove is perceived as old, grumpy and chip of the block from a generation that’s been comfortably forgotten. That’s Ove. He’s unapologetic about what you’d think about him. He doesn’t really care. It probably wouldn’t be Ove if he did!

That’s Ove. That would probably be your first reaction to Ove.

The book is a tale of the life of the man who goes by the name Ove. As we get a glimpse of his present, we are also introduced to his past. The story of what he is now feels almost incomplete without seeing the story of what he was before. As we catch up on his past, we also find ourselves getting very eager about his present and the course of his future.

Hidden away in the tale is one of the most romantic relationship that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Far away from clichés of roses are red, violets are blue, I got a letters of love and you need a stick of glue, there is a beautiful story of romance that blossoms and grows warmer and warmer till it occupies every inch of your heart and soaks you with its warmth. Ove and his wife Sonja. Theirs is a very romantic relationship which is very far away from dramatic and cinematic romance. Theirs is a world of sweet nothings, a wonderful intersection of two people’s very distinct life that come together and form a pleasant harmony. We , as readers, witness a cute love that they both share. Theirs is a kind of love that span through health and sickness. It spans across life and death. It’s a kind of a love that refuses to die away despite death at it’s doors.

Ove does have a secret. He knows how to solve all his woes and wants to put an end to his misery. Only, it’s not his time yet. It’s just about the right time for Ove to be thrust into a world of people around him. His world is all set to explode. Cue in the people around Ove.

The secondary characters are phenomenal. They are vivid and colourful and blend blissfully into the life of Ove. Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian lady , her daughters, the Lanky one, Ove and Rune’s big conflicts, you’d fall in love with everyone in Ove’s world.

There are wonderful themes that are explored in the book. It offers us a glance into questions like, What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean when people say that lives are meant to be colourful?

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had”

Ove’s story is a gentle reminder that sometimes our lives are meaningless without our special people in it. It calls out the similarities between existing for existence sake and living void of colors and emotions. It is through Ove, we get to assess our own hues about life. Ove’s story is also a wonderful example of going with the flow and letting life take it’s own course.

We are a product of what we choose to be and the people we let into our lives.

Would I recommend his book? ABSOLUTELY. Go ahead and grab yourself a copy today. You wont regret it.

Next stop :The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Karthik

Macbeth : A curious peek into the ides of march

The mere mention of Macbeth brings out fond memories of the humour around ‘ Out damned spot’. The tragedy , till date, has transcended the boundaries of time, those of culture , has broken barriers of language. In fact, the context of the tale still holds well. I must admit that I’ve not dared reading the works. I’ve not watched the play. I settled for the second best. Vishal B’s Maqbool. It’s a take on the story and is set in the backdrop of crime family.

It’s not the tale that got me thinking. I got distracted by the sub plot that fuels the pace of the narration. The three witches got my attention. The three witches, or as I remember them, the sisters of fate are central to the plot. They prophesize the fall of Duncan and also the rise and fall of MacB. While their existence in a tale sure does authenticate the existence of a supernatural, it was not the surreal that caught my attention. There was something simpler and far sinister at play that got me wondering.

If one were to hypothesize the validity of the supernatural, accepting the existence of such powers also does acknowledge the fact that premonitions are a way of life and observed norm. If one were to dispute such an existence, it also throws the prophecy off the window. To sum that up, prophecies are either real or delusions.

With a level playing field set around the context of the supernatural, let’s now take a closer look at the man of the hour, Mr Macbeth. He bears audience to three predictions. The first of the lot occurs and this fuels him to contemplate the murder of the king. He eventually becomes a king himself. The predictions turning real, he also accepts his inevitable fall that he awaits. He does try to mitigate that and we are left with logistics and word play to usher a little misdirection to keep the plot rolling.

Is this all a little too much fantasy to trivialise and rubbish?

A wonderful argument is that Macbeth ‘did’ and acted on an impulse. His deed resulted in a murder and that resulted in him being a king. Prophecies are words and it’s the actions that determine the course of things to come. Without the act of murder, the fates would have remained the same.

Another peek into the event is the source of inspiration from which MacB drew courage. He put his faith into words, a kind of faith that helped him overcome his apprehensions and gave him a purpose to pursue. Would he have killed if not for the words of fate? Would he have killed even if the sisters didn’t mention his fate to be? Guess this swings along the case of to be or not to be.

Choices, and I smile at them today. Choices are an outcome of a determined will. The degree of determination, the grit to a conviction are both an outcome of a choice made, fears mitigated and risks weighed. Which brings the role of the sisters to a possible placebo effect.

We are all a Macbeth in many ways. We hesitate to act on days. We yearn for that word of future to assure us that our actions would yield results. We place the free will of our choices to words of fate. The contradiction is astounding. An assurance of fate warrants an action that goes ahead to alter that fate. In that respect, fate is a derivative of action.

I could argue that words have the power to change too. Words that inspire courage, which alters destinies. Words that fuel a crippling fear that renders us inactive. When that’s the case, words still do alter destinies. Such fear to such words results in us staying in a state of inertia and never quite reaching the pinnacle of our destiny.

It was this conundrum that kept me intrigued about the tragedy. Maybe it does take a little water to wash away the bloodiest of sins. More quite so when one realises that the magnitude of a sin is not measured through actions, but by thoughts that traps us in guilt.

Karthik