Spread a little sunshine

A wise bloke once told me to keep my charities secret and stupidity published. I concur. It makes sense, on most days. Call it CSR, call it a charity drive, call it what ever you may, I choose to call it a satisfaction of spreading smiles.

I don’t think I have a bone that’s dedicated to an Altruistic cause. I don’t spend time wondering about it. I pick dates and make choices. It started with my mom’s birthday. One morning I decided to help a cause to celebrate that day. It felt good. Actually, it didn’t feel any different from normal mundane existence between Monday to Sunday. I did it nonetheless. Then I’ve been doing it for a few years now.

Then I decided to spread smiles around for my birthday. I figured that the world has had enough crying over spilt milk. 34 years of existence later, there is very little that the world can do to alter that outcome. I’m here. One way or the other. So I added that date to the cause of spreading smiles. Then added Diwali to the list. Odd enough, I don’t do anything special for my dad’s birthday. I get him a watch. Then I get him a pen. Then I get him a lame T-shirt and he pretends that he enjoys getting them 🙂

It all dawned on me this morning. I had set up a meeting and was later told that I had set one up on the Diwali day. The day of lights and I had intended to turn it off for poor blokes. I apologized for my ignorance of the date. I also realized that it was the time to pass a few smiles across again.

So the wise bloke did tell me to not flaunt my good deeds. I still respect that. This is more of a challenge. I remember running one last year too. I challenge you to put a smile on a stranger’s life. Go ahead, brighten up the world around you. I’d like the sense of playing a teeny tiny insignificant superhero. It doesn’t enrich my life with purpose. It doesn’t make me feel great about myself. It doesn’t magically transform my life.

It does offer me a sense of satisfaction. The satisfaction that I could help someone forget about the bum chances and lousy cards that their life might have dealt them with. Cheating the sourness that life can provide, even it only lasts a minute, is a good victory that I’m proud of.

I don’t believe in appealing. I don’t like to appeal to the sensibilities in people. It’s not my place to promote or advice. I challenge you. That’s in line to my way of life.

A brand new day, a wonderful colourful festival of lights and laughter. I challenge you to add more decibels to that laughter.

On that note, Spread a little sunshine, darling. It’s the world’s way of telling you that you are capable of spreading that sunshine.

Karthik

Advertisements

Kadhal Kasakudhaiyya – Love’s bitter

kka

Ilayaraja got it right a long long while ago. Live long enough and Love starts to turn sour. This is most definitely not a rant about how love hurts or why relationships turn sour. It’s a casual observation of how life facilitates all, in good time.

2000. That was a beautiful year. I was 18, I was in a band, it was the age of dreams and life was waiting to unfold. I also happened to be in love. Like most things stereotyped, my folks wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense. It was apparently my first serious venture into falling in love. Scandalous by the standards back then. I had found love in a girl who was a bit older than me. Mom and dad threw in the ‘Sort your life first’ card. As I sat down to sort my life, dad had asked me , in a not so subtle way, to find someone who was more age appropriate.

Now that I look back, my folks have been scandalized and rather open minded about most aspects of my life. They were opposed to all things love, like most folks. I wouldn’t really blame them. I would have been worried or spoilt epic had they not had their apprehensions. The initial disruption aside, they would eventually give up and put up with my choices. They are sweet.

So fast forward to a few more years. Only this time, I had managed to fall in love with someone younger. My parent’s did muster a shining smile. A happy check against their compliance. They were even more pleased to figure out that she was more or less the same , when it came to religion. The subtle difference between horizontal lines and vertical lines didn’t bother them too much. They were happy as long as lines were there.

Fast forward a few more years. After a few years of bummed outlook towards love and world around, after growing tired of not shaving and needless to say , the incessant itching that accompanies the endeavor of growing beards, I sobered up and realized that I was done searching for love. The transition was near cinematic bliss. With my interest on love fading away, I had also managed to delegate the head hunting (aka bride searching) to my folks.

It was a fun era. From opposition on moral, ethical, logical and social norms, Love started to appear like a better prospect to my folks and my wider relatives. My extended family had always maintained that I was a gem of a bloke and would not dare tying a knot over a story of love. With ample time, the conversations did prompt towards , ‘why don’t you fall in love Karthik’. My folks , for quite a while now, have maintained a similar stance. We are ok, as long as you bring home a girl!

It’s funny , the way the cycle of time has inspired a better outlook in my folks. Call is anxiety or sheer desperation to get rid of me, my folks have evolved to accept anyone into my life. The irony has been ridiculously funny. The folks are in for it and I find myself rather bored of the adventure.

Falling in love is not magic. It’s a byproduct of People, Place and Time. Force a subset sample of people into a routine and sooner than later, you’d find yourself a relationship blooming. When the conditions are right, bada boom, you have a story. That’s usually the long and short of any tale of a boy meets girl. The factors , themselves pose a challenge when the parameters are challenging. There is that simple window of time when the factors align. You skip the window, People , place and time are rendered useless.

I think one of the fair advantages of a progressive timeline is the fact that most people are not afraid to fall into relationships, fall out of them and wise up and kick start the iteration all over again. For starters, it challenges the status quo defined by people and place. It inspires folks to improve upon their sample sets and expand upon the choices.

I recently had the opportunity to challenge the status quo myself. I did manage to find someone interesting. The odds were stacked sky high. I had , in fact, checked a lot of items to were engineered to send shivers down the parent’s spine. I had breached their expectations in most ways possible. It would have been fun had the stint continued. It didn’t! My folks din’t approve of me wanting to settle down with a divorcee. Her folks thought that I was way too goofy to be taken seriously. It was good fun to see how the society crumbled.

While nothing significantly lost and nothing significantly gained, I did extend my thoughts around the Love thingy. Love is magical and beautiful when it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It leaves lives fractured, it leaves a big shoddy mess that is not easy to clean. It leaves us with doubts about self and questions over esteem and worth. The first time I was in love, I was both innocent and naive to realize the extent of what Love can do to a person’s life. A few decades later, I’m quite happy to have survived it’s warmth and the coldness that it leaves you with.

All said and done, I’m a bit jaded when it comes to love. There is this aversion to repetitive routines of practiced courtship , that is almost a mandatory phase when it comes to arranged marriage. The same questions on what does thou like, what color does thou liketh, what do you do… and so on and so forth. I can almost imagine the day in the life of an HR. You get to meet far too many people, ask them the same round of questions and then quickly opt to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with them.

I do sound like a grumpy old git now! I think there is a certain charm to the innocence of love. It’s not that I’m an advocate of one life and one love. Clearly , that’s not the road that I’ve taken. It’s just that, it’s not the same adventure if you embark upon it for a few times. The roads aren’t new, the dragons aren’t a surprise, heck in fact the feeling itself seems to be manufactured rather than something natural.

What the bleep would I know? The world is loaded with people who are interesting and it’s a life of limitless possibilities, only if you let it be. On that happy note, Kadhal indeed kasakudhu aiyya. Sometimes the best one can do is run wild with an open heart. 🙂

Karthik

 

Book review : a man called ove

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

Coverpage of A man caled Ove

A man called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karthik

Book review : memoirs of an imaginary friend

My name is Budo.

I have been alive for five years.

Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.

Max gave me my name.

Max is the only human person who can see me.

Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.

I love Max’s teacher, Mrs Gosk.

I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs Patterson.

I am not imaginary.

Coverpage of Memoirs of an imaginary friend

That’s what the preview of the book in Amazon read. On an impulse, I hit the click to buy button. The book came and along with it came a wonderful journey of words. Memoirs of an imaginary friend is a cute teddy bear with a bright pink heart that you hug tight to feel warm and fuzzy. It is a kind of a book that leaves you feeling warm, nice and happy. It’s a Disney movie that you watch by reading a book. I think this is by far the most ADORABLE thing that I’ve ever read.

Memoirs of an imaginary friend , Matthew Dicks is a fantastic fantasy-adventure of Budo. Budo is an imaginary person. He is very much real as he is not. Max, an autistic child , imagines Budo and Budo has now been around for five years. Given the world of imaginary friends, five years is almost a near impossible lifetime for an imagination to stay alive.

Budo understands the world that Max tends to skip at times. Budo never sleeps and has a curiosity of a child. At five, Budo is torn between the world of adults and children. He’s too mature to be a child and a product of a child’s imagination to be an adult. Budo’s view of the world is often perceived as an outlook of a child.

The story picks speed as we soon realize that Max is a special child with special needs. Max and Budo’s conversations are a bliss to read. There is innocence sprayed all over the book in vulgarly copious amounts. Nuances and mannerisms of an autistic child are beautifully portrayed in the book. We , as readers, soon associate ourselves to Max’s strengths and limitations. We cheer him for the things he does. We feel bad for the things he does differently. Max’s challenges become our challenges.

While innocence does remain cemented throughout the journey of this tale, it’s Budo’s curiosity, his self awareness of being an imaginary being , and his questions on life and death; the difference between existence and fading away into oblivion that offsets the childlike tone of the book. Thankfully , Budo does not go Gung-Ho and spew philosophy. He has simple needs, simple wants and it’s that pursuit of needs and wants that drives the themes of existence and purpose of life in this book.

Budo would ‘Die’ if Max stopped believing in him. As boys grow older , they do grow out of the ‘having an imaginary friend’ phase. Max’s direction towards a better , fuller, normal life also means Budo ceases to exist. It’s this conflict that is so wonderfully nurtured through the book.

One fine day, Max goes missing from school and it’s up to Budo to embark upon a fantastic adventure in finding Max and saving the day. A challenge which would have been easier had Budo been a real bloke! The rest of the book is all about this excellent , heart warming adventure. The pace is perfect, it gives us beautiful moments to pause and absorb the adventure. The story doesn’t feel rushed.

I couldn’t help but draw some connections out of the plot. I imagined Max as the transient point in time. Max was a summation of the past, the present and the future. I imagined Budo to be the self. Budo’s status quo changes with how Max grows in time. Aren’t we like that. The best days of our lives, always tend to be in the past. We coast through the present, we exist. The unknowns of the future probes fear into our hearts and we do tend to worry about our existence.

“It’s very strange to be an imaginary friend. You can’t be suffocated and you can’t get sick and you can’t fall and break your head and you can’t catch pneumonia. The only thing that can kill you is a person not believing in you.” Budo

I refused to let myself wander away in thoughts. I enjoyed the story narrated. Far away from the land of murders, crimes, deaths, contemplations about life, this felt like a breath of rejuvenating fresh air to read.

Make time for Budo. Give his story a shot. You wont regret it.

Next stop, A man called Ove.

Karthik

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

A story of tales.

Dear Diary

I guess , after these many decades, I finally do understand the subtle difference that’s love. Live long enough with an open mind, I bet one stands to grow wise.

The many years we spent waiting, the payoff had finally come. It wasn’t much of a payoff as it was the satisfaction of seeing our kid again. I belong to the old world where a man doesn’t emote. I’m used to the code of a stiff upper lip. I appeared normal. I felt elated within. My excitement was contained and it took a tremendous effort to keep the blazing fireworks under wraps.

She was as much of the old world as I was. Her happiness was on a constant display. Life had found her again. It breathed energy into her old bones. Her movements quickened, her pace picked speed, she was no longer an old grand ma of sixty. She appeared to be thirty again. She managed to make a list of things to buy, things to cook, places to visit, people to meet. As the day approached, her spirited frenzy enthusiastically escalated. Mother’s pride , that’s exactly what it was. It was on abundant display.

‘So tell me again.. when is his flight? What time will he be out? When do we finally get to see him?’ she’d ask me from time to time. She knew the details by heart by now. The information didn’t matter to her anymore. It was the sheer joy of hearing the news that brought a smile to her face. The weeks leading up to the day, I guess I’d have answered her sequence of questions, which never changed their order, a few hundred times. I played along. It was nice to see her happy and alive again. It felt good. I didn’t mind the questions.

Now that I take a moment to reflect, I think I’ve had a reasonably decent middle class life. Born into a family of four, I had the luxury of pursuing my education. I didn’t have to worry about shouldering responsibilities. I found myself a job and there was nothing special about it. I was happy staying employed. The time had come for me to take the next step. Ironically enough, it was a step that was taken on my behalf. That’s what it was. I didn’t complain. I didn’t know if there was an option to even complain. It was just the way things were. It wasn’t a bad marriage. She was a quiet girl. She has always been quiet.

There were times when her enthusiasm for life trumped the moment. Her childlike conviction to a cause was a sight to cherish and behold. I did my best to bring that side of her out as much as I could. Her moments of sublime bliss was a challenge worth spending a lifetime to work towards. Unlike the new brave world that expresses itself out on every given minute, ours was a world with few words and fewer expressions. We worked on a simple routine of care and questions. With money tight, surprises were few and scattered away. It’s been a life no different than the usual norm.

In time, we soon had a common dream. An American dream to be precise. We skimmed through our needs, we skipped on pointless comforting luxuries, we saved ample enough for that ticket. Our son did the rest. He studied when he had to. Poor kid, he barely complained. He had inherited his mother’s smile. when the time came, we bid our goodbyes in the airport amidst hugs and tears.

With our dreams now vacant, going back to the life we had felt different. The boulders of responsibilities had waned thin. We were again thrust into a world that was constituted by only the two of us. We found a routine. She took it upon herself to feed stray dogs, tend to birds that nested around our house. She had things to do. I enjoyed watching her go about her life. It was almost like the old days. I was happy watching her childlike conviction to her causes.

We had not seen our child in two decades now. He was no longer the little kid that we sent away to the land of dreams. Work, life, promises to keep and commitments to meet, the time had flowed forward without much dissent. She cried when our kid announced his marriage. She didn’t mind the merger of cultures, she missed being there , watching them make a new start. She cried when our grand daughter made it to this world. It wasn’t the birth of a girl child that bothered her, she missed being there, watching the new one. In time, her tears had dried up. She didn’t cry any more. The kindness and care that were within here were reciprocated by the society that surrounded us. We weren’t the grumpy old couple. Kids enjoyed our hospitality. animals found shelter in our old aged home.

The call brought a change in us.

All of this was new. All of this was exciting. The day had arrived. A son met his mother. A mother met her son. A hug that took decades in the making. All the love in the world that had the power in them to stop time.

Well, that’s the story if you asked my wife.

My son started off the usual way. He couldn’t understand the economic divide that kept me from being a provider that he wanted me to be. I tried. I had failed. My son vowed to change his fate. He’d never allow his kids to undergo the same fate. The ferocity in his determination was a testament to a man who had made up his mind to change his destiny. The last of the hurdle were the tickets to his land of dreams.

He had distanced himself from his former world. He wanted nothing to do with it. He was now a part of a new world. A world that he fought hard to keep away from the one he had left behind. He had orchestrated his own life. I was happy, as long as he was happy. I didn’t have a say in what transpired. I didn’t want to have one either.

The day had come, he had arrived. Just him. He saw his old frail parents. As he hugged his mother, he shot his glance towards me.

‘Appa, hope you’ve considered my offer to sell that house and move to a care home.’

One story. Two tales. I finally understand the difference between a mother and a father today.

Cool.

Karthik

Inspired by watching this old couple stand an hour in the tube station. I hope they had a better story of life.

Under the same sun

French, German, English, Indian( throw in a few languages there), African, European… the list goes longer and I’m limited by my ability to spot the subtle differences in ethnicity of the world. London , to me, is a wonderful city of sights , sounds, people and life. Commuting in the city is a big part of the life here. It is through such mundane , sober daily toils of a journey, where I’ve come to realize the simplicity of context of my existence. We are, more or less, same under the same sun.

The day started early. I had to find my way to a place where I’ve not travelled before. A friend had called in a favour and I felt obliged to help. This commute took me places. A walk, a bus ride, an over ground rail , an underground tube, a bright sun in the sky, a Friday to appreciate the little things of life, a cup of coffee in hand, a soul that felt rejuvenated from the experience.

I do like to view myself as an observer. I enjoy the state of feeling insignificant in a world filled with people. People who mind their own business, carry out their set of chores , connected and yet disconnected from the world around. This morning was special indeed. A little girl, probably around 4-5 years of age. Could be younger than that. She was a little talkative lady. Innocence had a voice. Beauty had a form. Angels had a face. It was all evident in the little one. She spoke her magic words, she smiled her lovely smile, her mother tried to wash her hands using a mild alcohol rub and the little one played along by not bothering to put up any resistance.

It was a warm fuzzy experience , watching her rub her hands and talk to her mum in a language of her own making. Words spoken. Words that conveyed sincere meanings. Words that needed no translation to transcend the human made boundaries of comprehension or bias. I found myself lost in the moment of sheer bliss. I stood watching the mother and daughter go about their business.

The mother spoke in cuddly cooish French. Ca – Va was all I could comprehend. Ca va , the child acknowledged.

I couldn’t help but reminisce over the nieces and nephews that I’ve had the pleasure of building conversations with. The words have always been similar, the enthusiasm has always been similar, the arguments have always been cute and pointless. There was a sense of familiarity to the whole episode. The angel in that one kid was the ever present angel that I got to see in all the kids that I’ve ever seen.

My undivided attention was soon divided. German this time around. Another mum, another infant. This one was a lot younger than the French little lady. Talkative too. I was surrounded by innocence. I felt relaxed in such a company. The writer in me, the deluded voice in my head , found this to be sigh from the universe that would stand to remind me to embrace the truth. We had the capacity to remain innocent. We all do have the capacity to resist that erosion of moral fibre. We have it in us to remain brave, grounded in principles, surrounded by goodness. Yeah, the writer in me wanted that, Desperately.

The months where I’ve lived in this wonderful city, I’ve seen many cultures. I’ve observed many good people who earn an honest day’s living. The kind of goodness that defies the world plagued by fear. The kind of goodness that reminds all of us the meaning of being human. Mind your business, help those who are in need to be helped, spread the joy through smiles. Face life as it comes. I’d very much like to believe in that version of life.

I’ve also seen violence. Interestingly, in stark comparison to events, it’s not the abundance of violence that overwhelms me. It’s the abundance of love, care and staying human that overshadows the sceptical world of my making. For every act of impolite rudeness, there are ten more that bestow kindness. For every act of deception, there are ten more that remind me the value of honesty. For every sin against the fabric of human, I see a hundred more that sing the gospel of how wonderful it is to be a human.

We are divided by borders, we are divided by beliefs and belief system. There are gods, there are big data data centres, there are folks who believe in either options as the one that would take us to sublime salvation. There is hate and there is love. These two are not engaged in an eternal conflict. Ironically, they both exist. They both are in place and they do leave us with the choice to rest our faith in either of them.

As far as the day is concerned, I feel happy knowing that we are born innocent, we are nurtured to the way we are. Which also implies that common sense dictates that , we as a species, are quite capable of staying human. Kids are a wonderful example of how one stays immune to the pollution that corrupts the fabric of staying a human. It would be childish to say that we can learn a lot from the kids. It would be unwise to discount the simpler truth that kids do lead a simpler , easier life. Not because they have nothing else to do, or strings that don’t mandate their motives. It’s because they have a simpler understanding of the world around. They do what they have to, they learn, adapt and are yet to see the world through filters of bias , fears, insecurities and prejudice.

I think it’s not a stretch to assume that there would come a day, where we’d feel saturated by pointlessness to ideologies of faith, text, cultures that don’t hold water given the context of life. I’d be more than happy should that happen in my lifetime. But it’s coming . It’s inevitable. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

The innocence is proof enough that the future is safe. After all, aren’t we all the same under the same sun!

Karthik

Dad

Uncle!’. ‘Uncle, look at me! I can jump and touch the sky’.

I looked towards her and smiled. I gave her a thumbs up. She was a tiny little tot and was a bundle of energetic joy. She was the sunshine of our lives.

‘Way to go sweetheart’ I called out.

She had paused to see what I had to say. Happy with what she had heard, she stretched her arms wide and carried on pretending to be a bird. She soared high. Through the blue sky that was adorned by cotton grey clouds. The grass under her tiny feet was moist and pleasantly cold. Birds paused their chirping to watch her, much to their own amusement. It was a picture perfect afternoon on a quiet September day.

‘Give her time’ Radha whispered into my ear. She took my hand , assuringly and gently gripped them. She then rested her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

‘I know’ .

I guess one could call it a fairy tale of sorts. The fact that it was very much unlikely to be a fairy tale, made our story a fable of sorts. It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t boy meets girl, boy falls head over heels, girl plays hard to get and yet flirt in a disguised inviting way. We were friends. We weren’t into each other. We had never been that way, as far as I could remember. I was there when the wedding bells rang. I was there when she blushed red with a satisfied joy in her face and the usual tears of leaving behind the house she had always lived in.

Hers was a fairy tale of sorts. High school sweethearts. Love at first sight. A marriage after an uncomfortable wait. A wait that left many pails of water that refused to flow under the bridge of a bond shared by two hearts. Word became words, words gave life to fights, fights revealed facets of a life. Some faces were scary. She couldn’t deal with it anymore. Her heart crushed, her face bruised, her dreams shattered, she made it home.

Yeah. Hers, one could argue that it was a fairy tale of sorts. The kind of sort that Disney wouldn’t bother making into a movie. I was there when she returned back home. It felt weird to see their home now gripped by a gloomy silence. It felt depressing and that depression felt infectious.

I’ll do it, I found myself say. It wasn’t an act of chivalry, it wasn’t an act of setting things right. I don’t really know why I said it, but I said it none the less. Of course, I was turned down. Persistence persevered. Amidst hushed resentment, it was a discrete family affair and our lives started on a brand new page.

The brand new page indicated a whole new chapter. The new chapter had a new character. Diya. The name that meant direction. She was old enough to know what a family was and a bit young to understand the dynamics of human nature. Diya , she was the much needed direction in our life. Radha and my life usually centred on her. Yeah.

Diya’d usually address me as her uncle. She couldn’t bring herself to call me her dad. Radha would assure me that the transition would eventually happen. It didn’t matter to me. I loved her. She loved me. Ours was a happy family. It was our favorite park. We’d make an effort to spend a lot of time there. Diya would run about till she tired herself out. Her excitement was never concealed. She was never short of tall tales of birds and animals that spoke to her in the park. Her imagination was as wild as her spirit. The routine was a norm. The Saturdays were spent in the park. Our little family flourished with smiles and love.

I still remember the wonderful day when Diya called me her dad. It was a Saturday, of course it was. The little one had woken up early. She had walked to my bed. She had scaled my chest, pried my sleepy eyes open.

‘Lets go to the park Daddy’ she begged sweetly. I kissed her forehead. Asked her to get ready. Radha was impressed at her daughter’s determination to shower and dress up for the big day. Every once a while, she’d scream ‘ lets go go go daddy’. Simple words, but it warmed the depths of my soul. It felt like the most special thing that had ever happened to my life.

As we readied ourselves to leave, my phone buzzed. Against my enforced principle of leaving my work at the doorstep, I had to take that call. The two ladies of my life decided to make a start, leaving me behind. The park wasn’t that far anyways. It was a short bus ride away. Four stops and twenty minutes away. I hinted that I’d join them shortly. I knew our usual bench. I knew our usual routine. Spirited Diya would wander aimlessly. Her curiosity would know no bounds. Radha and I would sit on the same bench. We were happy with the ‘Dad’ status.

****

The city rocked from the blast. Another act that hoped to represent an ideology, a god, or whatever the demented disillusioned mind chose to believe in. My world fell apart. I reasoned with it, I justified it all, I stopped reasoning and kept myself from justifying it all. Life had happened and I couldn’t reconcile it any longer.

And so after a year, I’m back in the park again. Diya is out there, playing and running on a lush carpet of green grass, under the blanket of a blue cloudless sky. Radha’s head is rested on my shoulder. It was all happening, none of it was real or fiction. It was a moment that was trapped between a world of what if and a world of if only. My salvation was a chrome steel and a river of red crimson. The world could deal with the mess that I’d leave behind.

As I said, my life turned out to be a fairy tale after all. I would go on to have a happily forever after.

Karthik

Note: Inspired by a day spent in Kew Gardens! What can I say, I do love a good tragedy!

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