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

Advertisements

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.

Karthik

Book Review : Atonement

Coverpage of the Book : Atonement

Atonement by Ian McEwan

There is something so familiar in this book that struck a chord. It’s a tale of an affair with words, the world of imagination , the choices made and consequences eventually atoned for.

This is a story of Ms Briony Tallis. She’s a bored little teenager who dreams big of being a writer one day. A summer that changes her life and the lives of people around her. The story is set amidst the boredom of this girl, her way of coping up with the boredom by imagining a world of drama and thematic challenges. With her brother Leon returning back home from university, it presents her with a wonderful opportunity of hosting a play to entertain the guests.

Briony’s world is her home, her sister Cecillia , Robbie; who is the son of the housekeeper who helps around the Tallis household, Lola and the twins who are her aunt’s kids and are guests in the house. Briony engages Lola and the twins to take part in her play. Briony has a change of heart and decides to call off the play.

She also happens to witness the raw and crude strained love that Cecillia and Robbie share. Her age of ignorance and naïve innocence, her lack of understanding of young blossoming love, her pampered outlook towards life, all of this results in her bearing witness to Robbie assaulting Lola. Briony’s testament , her dedicated unwavering conviction to her testimony seals Robbie’s fate.

The story then branches out to its next two acts. Set in the backdrop of Dunkirk, Robbie is now a man, a solider who has one and only reason that drives him to survive the war and return home to his one true love Cecillia. Robbie , of course, is innocent of the crime that he was charged with, finds it hard to forgive Briony but also wants Cec to unite with her family and sister again. The incident had fractured the family and the lives of its people. Forgiveness becomes a commodity that is not easily exchanged.

Act three revolves around Briony’s penance. In time, she realizes the magnitude of her childish act. Now fully aware of the consequences of her actions, the striking difference between words of fiction and words that are stated in the real world, Briony is plagued with the knowledge that her thirst for fiction and drama in life had resulted in fractured lives. Briony decides to face the consequences of bearing the truth.

Atonement is a book that bored me to hell. The pace was slower than a dead horse trying to drag itself from point a to b. While the premise was promising, the execution lacked drama and was far away from it’s potential. Briony’s atonement was barely a crescendo. It fizzed away and drowned in distracted narration , much like a sound of triangle getting lost in a blaring orchestra. By the time one reaches the end, we don’t feel Briony’s burden, we don’t share her guilt, we remain unaffected by the choices of the characters.

I’m glad that this was the last of the 5 that I picked up. Another day, another book read, another lessons learnt and a few ones skipped. I wish I felt inspired to explore the themes that the book covered. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with it to bother that effort.

If you have the time to kill, if someone gifted you this book and you feel compelled to not cheat, not sneak up the plot in Wiki, then have fun reading the book.

Karthik

Eyes out : A rear window story

Rear window is a brilliant movie. It’s a fantastic tale of a broken leg, binoculars, rear window, deceit , murder. It’s a movie that screams of the advantage of an voyeuristic outlook to life. The movie made in 1954 did not have the foresight to imagine how it’s theme would go on to shape the world in the decades to come.

Lets take a deep breath and acknowledge the fact that we are an voyeurism obsessed society. With most notifications that I get , which usually are spying on the lives of others, I view them as an irritant rather than a fodder to my curious eyes. Linked and face book have always been excited in keeping me informed on whom my friends connect with. Goodreads does that and also keeps me posted on what my friends are reading and what their friends are reading as well.

As the wings of this social voyeurism spreads, the social media also wages a battle of privacy to bridge that gap. It is a cycle of sorts that results in stagnation. The social media thrives on reducing the degrees of separation between people. The relaxed privacy norms facilitates that random connection across people. This relaxed nature also leaves us exposed to insidious minds and sinister intents. A quick tweak of privacy to keep ourselves protected also results in a bottleneck of people that we find ourselves connected to. The net result is a mind numbing number of avenues where we get to connect with the same set of people that we are surrounded by.

While that stagnation doesn’t really matter to us much, after all we enjoy the company of our friends and why would we worry about having a lot more of them a lot more of the time all the time? Narrow vision , for starters. There is a reason why we connect with people. Either they think the same as us, or they are equally crazy. When there is a hive of like minded people, the existing biases get fortified. When we connect with crazy minds, there is too much crazy with little ventilation. That leads to saturation. So the obvious conclusion is that we are stuck with the same set of predictable opinions and thoughts, which get fed to us every single day.

How does this feed back into the voyeurism ?

Oh that’s rather simple.. We share and share unceremoniously. The hive does rob us of the simpler ability to realize the dependence or the risks of opening our minds to a world that is far away from being moderated. This leaves us with a weak outlook towards fencing our mind. With minds exposed, exposed to the same old same old every day, it feeds back into the stagnation that I spoke about. The closed claustrophobic circle , the daily feeds of tiny details of life , they all feed our hunger for voyeurism. We get exposed to the lives of others, we expose our lives.

Does such a lifestyle come with a price?

One word. Hollow. The lifestyle does leave us hollow. We are already leading a life as an advert to events that unfold around us. We advertise our lives for likes and amusement of our world. We crave the attention and there are times when that attention span means the most to us. Substitute this addiction to any other substance abuse and we’d probably be tagged as a junkie.

I’m in no way immune to the charm of such an hollow advertised life. In fact, I am all the more guilty of the charges levied on me. It’s fun to reflect the addiction and acknowledge the things that are at stake. What got me into such a thought process was a discussion on perspectives.

‘Dude, that’s the image you are portraying’ an observation was made.

I didn’t see a point in a rebuttal. The moment we are on display, we also lose control over what the world makes of us. The simple pleasures of a vicious cycle 😉

So what’s the verdict ? Does it make sense or does this leave me as the guy who cried wolf? I’ve stayed clear of depriviation that’s caused by a digital avatar of the self.

Karthik

In pursuit of closure

Must be a Murakami thing. The themes of closure always feature in all of his works. I reckon the process of hurting oneself, the building of walls to cope up, the loss of faith in the goodness of humanity and emotions specialize in fracturing the heart, the big wide gape ; that life on hold and all in the name of not finding Closure. That quite nicely and accurately sums up the turmoil that Murakami’s characters usually go through. The plots focus on complicating life and each character struggles with finding a closure.

Closure, or as Rachel from Friends called it, CA LOOOOW SURE, is the process of making peace with the dealt hand. There is a wiki page on the matter and it describes closure as an individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity. Psychologically and otherwise, since there is an established pursuit of an answer that pampers the ego, justifies the misery, it also reflects the journey one embarks upon in trying to arrive at the answer.

The funny irony to the tale is that as an outsider to the tales, we as readers do find it easier to think and understand the course that life has for the characters. The skills are there and it’s usually a question of reading and comprehending that read. The challenges exert a certain control over us when we move away from pages of fiction to pages of our own lives.

The journey seems to be the same. It’s always been the same. The lifecycle of such a process can possibly be outlined as

1. Acknowledgement

2. Awareness of the current self

3. Introspection and RCA

4. Awareness of the changing self

5. Acceptance

6. Acknowledgement

From a theoretical stand point, the lifecycle is both symmetric and cyclic. As with the tales, the absolute starting point is around the awakening of the fact that there is unpleasant unhappiness to deal with. Beyond denial, once the characters acknowledge the state of misery, the journey towards that holy grail answer becomes the sequential next step.

As one strolls around that road , one starts to view oneself through a pristine mirror that is free from the biases of denial and fears. The character learns to call a spade a spade rather than adopting a disillusioned view of what things are. As the characters start viewing their real self, they start spotting the trends that shaped the course of their life. It helps draw a neat RCA of all the whys of their decisions. It also serves to remind the reasons to all the reasoning made.

In Murakami’s world, this phase is the most crucial phase which alters the future of the given character. It’s a phase that shows the strength and courage of the characters who embark upon such journeys. The introspection offers a lucid vivid realization which is almost cathartic in nature. That view usually is free from clutches of how we wanted things to be, distanced from a future that we wanted to exist. This phase divorces the character from the past and the future, leaving the character free to alter the present.

Quite interestingly, closure comes in two parts. The easy bit and the harder bit. The easy bit, yup hear me out, is the one where we find the answers from folks we are connected with. The harder bit is the one where we accept the answers and make that choice to deal with it. I am a little intrigued by the fact that we lead ourselves to believe that we’d find comforts in knowing the thought process and justification of the thoughts that reside in people’s mind. In fact, that’s the beauty to a Murakami’s book. The long journey , the mental distress, the tsunami of emotions and end of the day, the justification from the people connected to the character does not really have a lasting effect on them.

For what it’s worth, wanting people to call out their thoughts; wanting them to explain their decision to us, is an elaborate excuse of delaying and delegating the choices that we struggle to make. It’s inevitable. When push comes to shove, we are left to make sense of everything that refused to make sense to us when our journey began. The beautiful irony to this truth is the fact that unless we embark upon that tumultuous journey, unless we walk alone along that road of uncomfortable thorns, we’d never find ourselves reaching the conclusion that all the misery was just in our mind.

The payoff , to the reader , is beautiful when the characters come full circle and left at a point where there are choices waiting to be made.

It’s no wonder that I love Murakami’s works. Just like happiness, the pursuit of closure happens in our mind. A million steps and a distance later, one wakes up to the blaring reality that one really didn’t have to walk the distance. Could have been done at the comforts of the chair at home.

Guess there is one question begging to be asked. Is Murakami’s world of words very different from ours?

Karthik

H for Himmel

"The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better.
What good were the words?" – The book thief

Oh but when it comes to rules, I do find myself breaking most of them from time to time. However, there are those rules which I wouldn't dare challenge. One such rule is the one about not writing a book review without actually finishing a book. Bound by this innate compulsion, I put a brave fight to not write a review today. Well , almost. Rules are meant to be broken. I do love the loopholes. I found one today. Conformance meets rebellion. Win-Win.

Himmel. The word means heaven in German. There are times when I wonder about the heavens. There were many times when I had teased my mum about her theory of finding peace in the Himalayas. 'Why go all the way there to find peace? Why cant you find it here, in our house?'. Our arguments would reach a stalemate and we skip to other things to fight about.

The word of the day is Himmel. I want to talk about it. Himmel is also the name of a place where the story of the book unfolds. But enough about that book. I've treaded far enough already. The restless curiosity in me at the verge of eruption. If only I could fake an ailment, scuttle back home and find comforts of my bed and continue reading the book. If only!

How would you describe a Himmel? Is it the land of clouds, harps, angels, grass and greenery, scenery that would gather a billion likes on instagram if shot and uploaded without filters. 2 billion likes with the filters used. What does heaven sound like? Is it a land of serenity , far away from the reach of the common bloke. Is death the only eligibility criteria to enter the gates?

The answers could be as diverse as possible. The answers would only be limited by the imagination of folks responding to the question. Heaven is all set to be whatever we choose for it to be. There are ideas of rules and imposed ideologies that surround it. What can I say, rules… what good are they if we don't dare breaking them from time to time. The purist version of heaven is in place to keep most of us away. The classification of life, the nature of life lived, the acknowledgement of living by a given code, yadi-yadi-ya… in the modern age, it's called discrimination.

Similar to the thought along Himmel, what does it mean to have a happy life? Happiness is a lot to a lot of people. Unlike heaven, the description of happiness is not limited by the creativity or insanity of the mind of the responder. This is limited by wistfulness. Happiness , that happy life is everything that we currently lack. It probably would be a precursor to all the things that we'd have robbed away from our own selves. Sad and true and inevitable. By virtue of reasoning, that places happiness as one of the most lucrative sour grape. There, and just a whisker away from reach.

I asked myself a question today. In fact, I asked my self a question that was asked to me yesterday. Do we need an adversity to appreciate the valour in us? Do we need catastrophe to realize that there is a hero in us? Do I need to lead a miserable life to acknowledge what it means to be alive? The answer is an assertive NO. I realized the celebration of life through tears.

As the book went on, in a random instant, I felt overwhelmed emotionally by what I had just read. Instinctively and subconsciously, I shed a few tears. I stayed aware of where I was and realized I had a stranger staring at me. He looked at me, he looked at the book and I guess he wondered what the hell wag going around. I felt a little silly , weeping like a little ducky and a little flushed embarrassment later, I closed the book and decided to read it later. Two things happened then.. actually make it 3.

1. I wanted to cry freely , to my heart's content, in the safety and privacy of my house, till I could vent out the sadness from the book.
2. I realized that the book was more about a celebration of life. It was not a death that brought tears. It was a fond cherished memory of the characters lives that broke me down.
3. I felt super satisfied at accepting the humanity in me, to feel comfortable enough to cry a little. I felt alive.

Life without acknowledgement of life is barely a life at all. Yes, just like Himmel, we'd want to paint a million shades to our definition of happy. If this.. If only that.. Had I had that….. All I need is that…. and Cut the EXCUSES. We feel comfortable refusing to accept that we are capable of being happy the way we are. We refuse to acknowledge the little things that we achieve and accomplish each day. We refuse to let our smiles live in dignity, without fear of being compared to a imaginative figment of happiness whose only purpose is to keep us in a state of stasis, acting as a carrot at the end of a long stick. There are a lot many days where we can be happy with what, where, when, who and hows of being ourselves.

I guess celebration of life is not meant to follow once the curtain falls and the actors disappear into obscurity. Everything is just a state of the mind. Except Poverty.. take that Mr R G!

Karthik

All about the one 


The one. The quest for 'The One' is as elusive as it can be. There is a keen sense of contradiction to that quest. Set the aspirational bar way too high and that quest never ends and set the bar too low and find yourself in compromiseville. I'm not sure if a compromise is a bad thing anymore. The one, also happens to be the title of the book that I'm currently reading. Far away from supernatural, cosmic or otherwise, this seems to be a book draped in Hollywood-Science and runs wild with the premise that it offers. The One , by John Marrs

For a moment, if one were to skip the parts that concern the logistics and rational behind soul mates and assume that science did have the key to solve that puzzle, what would one do? I've not finished reading the book yet so I really don't know how that story unfolds. The premise did inspire a few thoughts along the lines of soul mates and the world's seamless fixation towards 'The One'. 

Given the context of the book, all it took was a swab sample of the DNA to find the perfect match, soul mate ie, using the unlocked secrets revealed by the DNA. There is a firm that offers this premium service. It would probably be a tinder of sorts which is backed by data mining algorithms that are driven by the DNA of the participants. Interesting enough. To draw parallels between real life and fiction, there are a few influencing factors that one must consider.

The social mix : 

Without science, without a space for a personal life, the whole bandwagon of finding 'The One' is pretty much a derivative of chance and luck. Think about it, the lesser folks one knows, that data set of people one can associate to being 'The One' also runs a little dry. Fewer people in the social circle results in limitation of choices and hence the imbalance in supply and demand leads to viable compromise and done deal. Most of the romance in real life is a lift and shift of this model. We have high school sweethearts, and then college sweethearts and finally romance at workplace. Skip all these convergent points of melting hearts and boom, we are no longer spoilt for choices. 

Ask and thou shalt receive : 
One of the pivotal factor called out in the book was the validation and affirmation that science could provide in zooming in on 'The One'. Ask, wait and thou shalt receive happens to be the working model described. With the science of DNA playing the match maker, this leaves the participants with fewer doubts to question or reason with the final conclusion. Odd enough, real life is not very different from the idiosyncrasy noted in the book. The foundation block of many a relationships are forged by reasons that defy logic and rational thinking. We like and hence we like. We don't and therefore we don't. During the formative phase of a relationship, should we subject it to a barrage of doubts and twenty questions; it would be a miracle if the said relationship survives! The underlying simplicity comes to the rescue. Forging relationships is a tedious task , considering the odds usually stacked high up against it. 

What's in a phrase anyway :
'The One', a soul mate, a perfect match, while the plot of the book exploits the emotional draught that is experienced by the characters, real life , at times, is also not very different. There are good marriages and there are just marriages. There are compromises that nurture the relationship and there are deceits that keep whatever is left of a relationship alive. There is warmth and there are those stoic cold numbness to it. Bottom line, most of us are insecure of a life lived in solitude. Most of us are subjected to social pressures to 'settle down'. There is a profound fear of dying alone. We fear that loneliness that prevails. 
Given the time, given the context, 'The One' is a phrase that stands to get diluted. We downgrade it from the holy pedestal it occupies. We subject the phrase to realities and practicalities of life. 

The book plays to the vast expectation that it's characters carry for the spot of 'The One'. Time is all I need to see how that story goes. Is there 'The one' for the characters? Is there a price to pay? Does the one live up to expectations? or will it all be the case of too good to be true and a fool's errand for a false gold. 
Life has been a different beast altogether. Iterations and lessons after, I'm still at the right enough mix of clueless and ignorance to make a sensible judgement. 
So what's your take on the notion of 'The One'. Is it just about a person or is it a framework that defines the character and traits that one expects from a person? 
Once I'm done with the book, I shall follow this blog with a review of the book and tell you how that story went 😉
Karthik