[Book Review] : Tibetan book of the dead

If there was an illusion that could be called the mother of illusion, I think spirituality would be just that.

The Tibetan book of the dead is a fantastic book on spirituality. I’ve not read many books on the matter, so to me, it’s good enough. It just has way too much information that my jaded mind struggles to comprehend.

This review will stay away from the bias of a spiritual aspirant. This is my attempt at writing a non spiritual view of a quintessential spiritual book. Here goes. Fortune favours the brave.

Reverse Engineering : The process is a product to conception approach to problem solving. Just because all the parts and clockwork are there, it doesn’t translate to an easy approach. It does however establish the building blocks required to conjure the final finished product. Life’s biggest antonym is Death. What better way to define life than starting at death and sweeping back to the point of origin. The book of the dead does exactly just that. It’s a book about the list of things that ought to be passed on to folks who are near death. It’s still not a cool idea to say ‘ PSSST, you are gonna konk out bro’ .

Whilst the ideals are to help the near dying transition better into death and beyond, the principles work like a charm if the living were to follow it. That’s like having an issue in the production system, painful escalations and an extensive RCA later, one figures out that blokes did not bother having a review or running a unit test case.

The point is, knowing what matters in the end is a fantastic guideline to accommodate practices while we are still alive and kicking.

Fears , Regrets and messy closet! : Oh but I am trying hard to not sound like a frantic wannabe spiritualist trying to solicit the words of wisdom from a book. Through the eyes of psychology and behaviour, the message is not that difficult to understand. Bottom line, fear. Fear leads to everything else. Fear of failure results in lack of actions which results in regret. Fear of failure leads to insecurity which leads to lack of actions. Fear of failure, leads to inertia which leads to lack of actions. I think when fear paralyses the mind, we find ourselves incapable of progressing with life.

Science offers a way to confront such fears. Fish bone analysis, Root cause analysis, cause and effect analysis, they are all roads to identifying what fails and what the consequences of failures are. One can start with, I get this wrong and my entire life is wasted. By virtue of sitting down and deconstructing the effects of consequence, one might soon realise that not many things usually lead to a life getting wasted. Mess up a delivery, mess up the immediate appraisal. That’s a cause and effect. But assuming that one would always mess everything up hence forth is just paranoia taking creative control over all the choices we stand to make in life.

The worst that can happen is one can lose one’s job. The worst that can happen post that is one may never find a job. The question to ask is, why am I so unemployable? That question alters a lifetime of unemployment. It facilitates options that we had never considered before.

The road to a happy death, and a happy staying alive is taking a stock of the things that scare us crazy. It’s human to fail. It’s human to fear that failure. It’s very human to assume that there is no success ever , after a failure. It is also human to have a bit of a common sense and argue that one has to be an idiot to volunteer to carry out the same set of mistakes over and over again. That special skill is called reluctance to learn , adapt, evolve and grow. Science or spirituality can do very little to help such people from their moment of inertia.

Acceptance and denial: The big deal is, when you are about to die, would you rather accept everything that you’ve done or would you choose to die staying comforted by the talons of denial. Denial is the ability of a person to blame oneself or rest of the world in order to justify why one deserves misery.

Acceptance is the ability of a person to accept that one might have been responsible(partly or in complete) to actions that led to a failure. Acceptance leads to acknowledgement that there is something to learn and something new to adopt to. Acceptance is key to evolution and growth. Either lead a life in denial and face the moment of truth where time doesn’t really matter anymore or make that effort to accept, face your failures, make an effort to call out the different grades of consequences to deal with and live a life of choices rather than feeling helpless and saying ‘i’m going with the flow’.

Forget about the million gods and billion souls. It’s psychology one on one. One either learns or resists. Resistance is futile. Consequences are inevitable. One faces them one day.

Illusions and Illusions of illusions : The biggest take away from the book is that once we reach the choice of acceptance or denial, should one choose to accept, one also sees through the illusions that one has always been surrounded by. We are not talking about the entire world being an illusion. I’d very much like that if that were to be the case. It isn’t. Violence is real. Hunger and poverty is real. Abuse is real. Misery is real. Pain is real.

The things that aren’t real are our forced choices to stay succumbed and imprisoned to the realities. Violence is real and walking away from it is a choice. Hunger is real, but trying hard to stay away from it is a choice. Abuse is real, standing up against it is a choice. We love our excuses. We hide behind words like ‘Insignificance’, ‘Powerless’, ‘What can one person really achieve’, ‘ its my fate’, ‘Destiny’ to stay comfortably numb , connected strong to such illusions.

There is no miracle cure. There are no one stop shops. Embracing science or spirituality for the sole reason of escaping the choices that one couldn’t find the courage to make is the biggest illusion of them all. In that context, Spirituality is the biggest illusion of them all. We are so eager to surrender and embrace something divine in order to distance ourselves from the responsibilities of the choices that we’ve already made and the choices that we hesitate forever to make It boils down to acceptance and denial. We awaken from one illusion only to embrace another.

One doesn’t need to read ancient scriptures or words of the wise to know this simple truth. As kids , we were told stories about god helps those who help themselves. As adults, we hide behind convenience that words from various sources provide.

And so even from a purist skeptic point of view, I do feel refreshingly enlightened by the book. It was easier to distance the imagery and symbolism adopted in the book and associate myself with the lessons that were intended to be imparted. I see the argument of science versus spirituality as a quintessential epitome of pointlessness. They are the same, different words and both leading to the fundamental simple truth. WAKE UP , SMELL THE ROSES, and START LIVING

Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya – From darkness, lead me to light



Dual of Fates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duality exists because our mind makes it real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, the illusions have been kind 🙂


Autobiography of a yogi : A spiritual wilderness to wander

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power of faith:

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

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


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

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

Free will versus Surrender – The question of individuality:

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

Coincidences and people:

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

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

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

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

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

Experiencing it all:

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

The cycle:


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

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

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

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


Book Experience : Autobiography of a yogi

“May you find peace” – Oct 2015

It was a simple message that adorned the book when I received it. It’s taken me a lot of time to read through the book. Have I found peace? I wouldn’t know the answer for that. Have I found questions worth asking? Absolutely. Have I found answers to all the questions locked away in the universe of my mind? March 2018 is probably not the right time to assess the answer to that question.

It’s neither modesty nor humility that encouraged me to revamp the title from a book review to a book experience. I accept and acknowledge that I’m not yet ready to comprehend the book in its entirety. One also cannot deny the experience that is called reading this wonderful book. This is by no means a review. It’s a scribe of the experience that I’ve had reading through its pages.

I’m a novice at best, in the road of spirituality. I jot my experiences for two reasons, 1. To serve as a milestone so that one day I might reflect and see how far I might have travelled. 2. Blur the lines of spirituality and simple well being. This is important as the tag ‘Spirituality’ can be a bit too overwhelming to us. This is a kind of book where you get what you read. Viewing it through different eyes still offers wisdom that we stand to gain from.

I classify the book into 3 sections .

1. Where are we in the vast wideness of the universe

2. Have others been here and done that? What is so special about them?

3. Is it real? What is real?

I’ll elaborate on the second point first. It sets the context for the book.

Have others been here and done that? What is so special about them?

A considerable portion of the book accounts the experiences and lives of many people. From scientists to faces that none of us might have heard of, the book offers us a peek into their wonderful life. This aspect of the book, to me, is very important. The book is not about yogis locked away in the Himalayas, far away from the societal civilization of the modern day living. Different people from all walks of life experience a happy fulfilling life. They are awake to a wisdom beyond the books that our educational institutions cover. These folks are amongst us. Some as entrepreneurs, some as common folk, some as full time spiritual aspirants and some as skeptics. The book does not intend to have a focused target audience. It rests open to all.

The biggest takeaway is also along the much sought after purpose of life. Many people , whose experiences have been elaborated in the book, did not start with Altruistic , global peace and wellbeing in their minds. Just like you and me, they wanted something normal. They put their faith and it changed their way of life. One needn’t set their eyes on the lonely mountains to connect with this book. Have your eyes on the trinket, and put your faith and maybe you’d end up with your share of the loot.

What is so special about the people that have been quoted in the book? Apart from being normal as you and I can ever be, there is nothing special about them. And that is a level playing field. The book banks on our ability to be the best that we aspire to be. It helps along the way. I’ll get to the simplicity of it shortly.

Is it real? What is real?

Reality is a floating baseline. For some of us, reality is a bucket load of system issues waiting to be fixed by the close of play today. For some, reality is that we live in a world of illusion. We’d like to see what is real. For some, science is the yardstick that determines what is real and what is not. This book is a convergence of all the realities around. Reality is what we want it to be. Reality is challenging the status quo. When we are happy with everything about and around us, there is no further quest for reality. When we aren’t happy, our efforts to make things better, that becomes our reality. When we aren’t happy and we feel trapped by it. That also becomes our reality. All of it is real. Coincidentally, none of it has to be real as well. It’s all about perception and what we want things to be. As I said, reality is a floating baseline. It is what we want it to be. Through time, as we evolve, our understanding and our acceptance and tolerance to the said reality also changes. This explains why we constantly evolve and alter the realities around us.

Where are we in the vast wide universe ?

The answer to this question really depends on who is asking that question. The book offers wonderful, realistic examples as a response to that question. As a skeptic, what I got to see in the words were that put your faith in yourself. Do what you possibly can. Improve where you can improve. That’s precisely where you are in the vast wide universe.

To the believer in me, the tells me that there indeed is a god. One god, many faces and names. It recommends god as an idea. The book explicitly doesn’t, but it draws parallels across religions.

To the spiritual aspirant in me, it opens a million more thoughts and questions. It offers some answers.

Regardless of what you believe in, the crux of the conversation is around Experience. Anubhava. One doesn’t find the truth, or the god, or whatever. One experiences it. Most of us would have experienced love. We call it, ‘found love’. Finding love can either result in having it and holding on to it, or losing it. Experiencing love on the other hand, it stays with us. Irrespective of the outcome, irrespective of where time has taken us, One cannot un-experience what that was experienced. That is the nature of all the truths around us. We try to find it. We seldom try to experience it. The risk of finding is that by virtue of objectifying it, we also stand to lose it.

The book, in so many different ways, through so many people’s lives , explains the simplicity of our lives. We can be special, if we let ourselves experience the things that we call special and miraculous.

The book is polymorphic in nature. Based on the maturity of thoughts of the reader, the words it imparts can/will offer grander answers to some of our questions. It still is not a one stop shop for every Q that bothers us.


Disney’s silly song

The story starts in the year 2000. Ripe out of school, right into a university, there was this wonderful gestation period of a few months to acclimatise to the new way of adolescent life. The time would go on to alter my life forever. It was the time when I had discovered the musician in me. What started with a gig bag of a notebook and a pen , soon ballooned up to include an instrument of musical expression. The band knew that we had to take that first step. That step was soon taken.

Cue in my cousin. We looked up to him. A product of IIT-Madras, he had the right collection of rock in the form of audio cassettes. In fact, when I was too young to even acknowledge music, he had already curated an impressive collection of the best that 80’s bill board had to offer. From Madonna to Michael Jackson, from Judas priest to Guns and roses, he had it all. He was a musician. I guess he might be one , even today. Just goes to say that time parts us all.

Anyways, we needed a guitar and he had one to sell. Two amateur , wannabe musicians walked to his hallowed room. A sale was made. My cousin did say, at some point, that it was his first guitar. That took us by surprise. ‘Why are you selling off your first guitar dude?’ , I had asked.

‘I need the money to buy a new one’, the simplicity of his detachment was mind numbing. I couldn’t understand back then, his stoic and cold sense of business. I don’t fully understand even now. That guitar was the first of the acoustic guitars that I’ve owned. I went on to pick a few more acoustic ones and four more electric ones. One of my acoustic guitars , now sleeps happy in my friend’s place. I don’t have any of my electric guitars anymore.

Somewhere down the line, I had freed myself from the clutches of musical instrument attachment. If only I could recreate the magic across all spheres of my life.

Flash forward to 2018, Feb the 23rd. I was talking about a book with a colleague of mine. ‘Do you mind if I can borrow it once you’ve done with it’, my colleague meekly asked.

‘Negatory , dude. I don’t think I can part with it. It’s special to me’ , I turned him down. That was that.

I found it easier to buy him a new one than afford the cost of handing out my cherished possession. I nudged him this morning to tell him that I’ve placed an order for his new book. I thanked him for the valuable lesson that he helped me see.

Disney’s lousy song, ‘Let it go’, is easy to sing and enormously difficult to imbibe. I’ve not considered myself as a materialistic person and I knew the book didn’t mean much to me. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. The irony was a jibing slap on my face. The words and wisdom that it stood to impart were in direct contradiction to the actions that I was committing myself to. I acknowledged my inability to let it go. I also accepted the influencing factors. Maybe one day, I’d be ready to treat it as a book and sever the strings that it houses.

The whole exercise, the lesson that I could see, makes me believe that attachment does slow us down. We like holding on to things. Some things, because they have wonderful and nice memories tied to them. Some, because we’d like the unpleasantness that was plastered across every inch of them, to serve as a reminder for the future. By virtue of just holding on, we do risk skipping the opportunity to hold new things, explore new possibilities and try something new. One doesn’t have to be clad in orange and move to the mountains to see the benefits of keeping a free pair of hands. My rock-n-rolla cousin saw this a very long time ago. He knew what he wanted and was ready to do what it took to get him closer to his dreams. Maybe one day my hands will be free too.

The deal with letting things go is that we are comfortable with the deal if we have something else to hold on to. The challenge is to let things go, especially when we have nothing else to replace it with. Who knows, it can open doors. On the things that await behind them doors, it’s only a matter of time to see if there is a reward or another lousy lesson waiting to be learnt !


[Book Review] The old devils

The old devils, Kingsley Amis

Cover page of The Old Devils

This is a book about old timers who’d have lived all their lives in the same town in wales. Their lives take a turn when Alun and Rhiannon decided to come back to the Wales and spend the remainder of their lives there. The arrival of the couple stirs up the neighbourhood and it does for a very good reason. Love.

Alun is an established author who follows the footsteps of Brydan, a welsh poet. Alun is a celebrity of sorts. Books, public appearance and interviews for the telly and the radio are his way of life. His wife Rhiannon, she’s something else. She coexists with her husband, doesn’t really come in his way. Together, they do make an enviable pair.

Alun’s friends , Peter & Muriel, Charlie & Sophie, Malcom & Gwen spend most of their time drinking the town dry. Everyday is an occasion to bid sobriety a farewell. Alun and Rhi quicky get inducted into the drinking games. The tale picks pace in establishing the lives of the old couples. Complications arise, because they bloody well would. Alun is promiscuous. Peter and Rhi were a couple at some point in the time before Peter got her knocked up and dumped her for someone else. Malcom and Rhi were a couple at sometime too. The men in the book go around rekindling the flame that had gripped their lives in the past. While secrets are kept close to the chest, the unspoken truth grows into a white elephant that is deaf, dumb and blind. Truth becomes an inconvenience which is not worth uncovering.

The tale is a wonderful example of how appearances can be deceiving. As we continue our journey through the tale, we take a closer look at the lives of the couple. Peter, for example, was a player in his youth. He was charming , seductive and had his way with women. In the present day where he is pushing 70, Peter’s life is lacklustre. He lives an isolated , alienated life with his wife who barely even acknowledges his presence in the house. Gone are his days of love and raging romanticism. His reality is void of any emotional connect at home. The two stay clear off each other. Peter longs for companionship and Muriel resents the very existence of Peter.

Charile on the other had is a man born for drinking, He drinks and drinks unconditionally. He battles his demons in the form of panic attacks. Charlie can’t endure being left all by himself. The dark and the loneliness gets to him. Sophie , and his brother Victor, ensure that they accompany him whenever they can. While it’s not explicitly implied, but one can fathom the dynamics of the relationship that Victor and Sophie share.

Malcom and Gwen’s lives take a turn because of Alun. Gwen an Alun were a thing. Alun and everybody else were a thing. Alun being Alun, complicates Gwen’s life. Gwen retaliates vocally under the influence of alcohol in a party. The friends reduce her hateful words as booze driven rage and set things aside.

The book is painfully slow. It does offer a subtle insight into a life of regret and resentment. In the book, nobody marries for love. The marriages are for convenience. Everybody harbours a longing that goes unrewarded for as long as it can. The stark difference between life in the prime of our youth and life of old age is wonderfully drawn. The strengths that we took for granted do vanish with time. While it’s easier to live a lie when we have the energy and zeal to compensate it, when it’s the time to slow down and sit back, the lies turn around to haunt.

My biggest take away from the book is about closure. I think it’s easier to wrap up a chapter in life and move on as long as we bag and tag the past and cast it aside, beyond our line of sight and hence beyond our realm of thought. Unless we reconcile with it, we’d never find peace with it, should the past catch up with us in the future. Considering life, the past always manages to catch up. The characters in the book are both victims of circumstances, are instigators of actions made of choices, and are aloof to owning their choices in a befitting manner. They all take to the bottle to keep their demons locked. They carry on for as long as they can maintain the façade.

This book ushers us to take a good look at the lies that we tell ourselves.

This is a slow book and it lacks sudden jump surprises. This book takes its time to establish the characters really well. If you endure it, it does reward you in parts. This is not a definite must read, but there is a happy ending of sorts, should that matter to you.


It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way 😉


An ode to villainy

And so once upon a time, I was young and brash. Actually, I’m still all of that. The simpler times were a bliss. Growing up, I had a vast circle of friends. I had nominated and publically declared a few enemies. By virtue of branding blokes as enemies, I would do whatever it took to refrain from any communication with them. I still remember the joys of plotting and scheming over petty wins.

That was decades ago. A few days ago, I was in a conversation with a friend. A kind of friend who has always been ignored and kept at a very generous , healthy distance. Social etiquette was on its grandest display. We’d joke around, exchange petty messages from time to time. We would maintain a cordial public image. If one were to ask the bloke if they deemed us as bitter enemies, I’d not be surprised if they express a pleasant shock over such a dramatic conclusion.

Half way through the practiced execution of social nicety to near perfection, I sat amused wondering about the complexity of grey that is life. Gone is the time where one could enjoy the existence of enemies. Gone is the time where life’s biggest purpose was to outsmart and outplay the identified enemies. These days, the world has no place for enemies. Maybe in other words, Villainy exists only as an exaggeration. There is no room for realistic and subtle evil that we are capable of. It , mostly, goes unnoticed or overlooked.

I do find it ironic that as we age and grow wiser, our outlook and definitions grow murkier. It is convenient to blur the lines. Boundaries are a mirage. In the name of social conformity, we deter ourselves from most confrontation. Sin is branded on honesty. Honesty is an inconvenient vice. Think about it. We live in a very complicated and extremely connected world. Or make that a very complicated and extremely connected digital world. Sometimes, it becomes a paramount headache to exile a few blokes from our spheres of influence. The deeper our connection in the virtual world, the harder it becomes to lead a personal life. We are on display and all our actions are understood, misunderstood, misinterpreted, twisted convolutedly or simply put, judged.

The fear of social persecution keeps us deterred from our birth right of choosing the blokes in our life. The advent of frenemies is a testament to that shallow choices towards living. We appease and accommodate. We avoid to accommodate. We even abscond to accommodate. It takes a herculean effort to speak our mind.

That seems to be the case. Or that seems to be my case anyway. It does bug me. The knowledge that I see myself as too polite and too nice to confront people head on.

Oh by the way, such perpetrators are guilty of exhibiting passive aggression. They aggressively encroach our personal space. They are quite aware that social etiquette warrants that we don’t retaliate. Such perps bank on our silence to thrive being the way they are. Passive aggression is a social malice. It affects us , both in our personal and professional life. There are so many victims out there who find it hard to even breathe because of such passive aggressors. there was a time when people would rather quit than find a way to solve their people problems.

Here is an ode to such vile villainy. Heroes must fall in order to fell such villains. In this age of acceptance, do heroes even stand a chance !

I do miss the simpler times. It was easy to brand people in my world. The status quo was thankfully transparent.

What’s your take on Passive aggression?


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?


Silent screams

Your silence unsettles me.


Image credit : Google!

That statement is both a declaration and a confession. Silence leaves me nervous and fidgety. It kindles and stirs the insecurities in me. It breaks me down, leaves me defenceless and vulnerable. I’d be lying if I attempt to downplay the effect that your silence has on me. It puts me on a destructive path and always I find myself spiralling down into a misery.

A simple thing like silence, and I defeat the simplicity by forcing my mind to interpret that in myriad ways. How I react to your silence is a testament to how much I feel broken and shattered. It sure is funny, the way I react to silence. I can sit beside you and enjoy the silence blissfully and yet when you are out of sight, that silence consumes me.

I feel lucky. I’ve clocked mileage on the road called call. It’s helped me tag many faces to the statement, ‘your silence unsettles me’. There have been quite a few ‘Your’. There have been quite a lot of memories to those faces. I also realize the awkward truth to that realization. I feel it would be pointless to debate the existence of the many faces that have donned the role of instigating that dreadful silence. Curtailing the journey to just one person would have kept me away from being what I am today. The contradiction is ironic. Do I celebrate the diversity that my life is? Is it also not a long history of cracks that show the extent of how much broken I feel on the inside?

I can’t undo what that’s already been done. The wiser option is to assess and acknowledge my life for what it is. It’s that acknowledgement that eventually led to this catharsis. Your silence unsettles me. Your silence breaks me down. Your silence reminds me of how insignificant I feel and how I struggle to overcome my demons and pretend to smile. Your silence rips through my masks and it exposes the crippled child that I feel that I am.

The present and the future get shaped every day. While I’d pretend that I put a brave new face and meet the challenges with an open mind, an open heart and work towards a better today and tomorrow. The reality is that while I pretend a new start, I’m also battling the demons from the past. It’s a daily existence of a struggle with the past, a struggle with the fears that shape the tomorrows, a struggle to find courage to dream that one day everything will fall in the right place at the right time.

The story of what I am today cannot be told without understanding the story of how I got here. My surrender to your silence is a cumulative result of my battles with silences across time. The way I react to your silence is a eulogy to the many dreams that I’ve buried in time. Like how the world manages to get bad things move to worse by trying hard to fix it, I’ve only managed to align myself to this way of the world. My efforts of dire desperation to make my world a happy place is also one of the reasons why I could never get things fixed.

I’d like to believe that redemption is a commodity that never arrives too late. I no longer blame the ‘yours’ of my world. I no longer hold the world accountable for all its silences. I no longer yearn to burn the world to atone my sins. I wish I could say that I understand and wish I could say that it’s all ok.

It’s not. I don’t understand. It’s not because I refuse to. It’s because I don’t know how to. There might come a day where I find myself in a place where I can understand your silence. Today’s not that day. Your silence represents something else to me. It introduces me to my demons whom I’ve managed to ignore. My demons aren’t gone. They’ve not been slain. They have been shoved away beyond my line of sight. Out of sight, out of mind is how I manage to coast around the day.

With another day, another chapter in life, another silence to deal with, I did what I’ve always done. I tried to deal with it in a way I saw fit. This chapter, has been a little different than the others I’ve carried out. I learnt the distance that I can cover by having an open mind. I learnt the value of my gut instincts. I learnt how instincts conflict with an open mind. I’d like to believe that now I understand the virtue of the two vices; Instincts versus and an Open mind.

I am what I am. I refuse to change that. I am what I can be. I acknowledge the degree to which I let myself adapt. I accept what I’d always be. I’ll probably always be a little nervous around your silence. I’m learning to tell the difference between what you mean by your silence and what I think you intend to convey.