Project SPA

There is an adventure in there somewhere. There always is. SPA or as I’m now terming it, expands to Single Parent Adventures. Running this SPA is nothing short of running a huge wide project. A programme even, if one may. 

Being a single parent is a hard business. The kids, here the number being 2, always manage to ask all the pertinent questions that I’ve overlooked all my life. Is this the same ‘Waterloo’ that challenged Napoleon. Blimey, I didn’t know and the worst of it all, having lived in London for quite a number of years, I hadn’t bothered to correlate the two. Waterloo was BFI IMAX for me. I hadn’t realised the wider connotation to it. 

Then the plethora of statues. Many of known names and faces. Many that I hadn’t bothered knowing. They were all the same to me. All stereotyped to nothing. It took me an adventure ride to realise that most statues came with a verbose description of why they were in the place they were. I hadn’t read them. 

These days, I’m a proud single parent of two. My mum and my dad. Every time we step out of the house to catch a glimpse of this city, the three of us embark upon an adventure. The walk to the station inspires the many questions that my dad has for me. Where does this road lead to? Did you know that there is flight coming into the Heathrow every two minutes? How many runways do you think it has? I think it’s 5, one for each terminal. Why don’t they have many runways for each terminal. I think they must.

Are we taking the district line or is it only the picadilly line this time? Which one is quicker, and importantly, Why? 

To be honest, years ago, I’d not have had the patience to sit through the plethora of questions. In time I had changed. Growing up and looking back, I know the kind of nightmare that I was. I’ve always asked a million questions. I still do. I remember this one time when our family was travelling and the chatter box that I was , I went on and on. One of my relatives did ask me to shut up for peace’s sake. I remained quiet. For a whole few minutes and then started again. 

These days , I know that I don’t have any of the answers to the questions that my dad asks. I hear it out though. Some, I answer. Most, I make up the answers, just to toy around. We share a giggle over it. The topics change. Things go forgotten, but etched forever in my memory. I’m learning to cherish the precious moments that I’m going through. 

Recently we were at the Museum of Natural history. With the arrogance of having learnt how the world worked, I felt a bit jaded by a lot that was on display. My mum was in a world of her own. She enjoyed the way the volcanoes have shaped up the modern age. She went on and tried all the exhibits that encouraged user participation. Touch that, push that, pull this, roll that cylinder. She did it all. She read through the contents. Dad would enrich the experience with the things that he had experienced. The conversations around the fault lines that wrecked havoc in the Andamans, where he was the chief engineer at that time. The violence of the planet that was so sweetly remembered. We came upon an exhibit that replicated the earthquake experience. We stepped in and walked out excited as kids. 

The planet’s precious minerals were displayed. Gems and crystals. One more beautiful than the other. Each, spell binding in their own right. Each mesmerising. Each reminding me of my state of poverty and how I couldn’t afford many, or even any of them. None of that nonsense ran through my mom. She just loved the opportunity of seeing those gems. The many diamonds ‘Gifted’ from India left us laughing our the course of human history. 

The day coming to a close, I felt proud of being a Londoner. It’s kind of odd to associate a nativity to London. It’s not the place that I took that pride in. It was the people. No matter how crowded the trains got, there were always and I mean ALWAYS folks volunteering their seats to get my folks seated. Gentle hands ushering them to their seats. For that brief instance, my parents had a hundred kids. Each doing their best to keep the parents comfortable and safe. I do feel proud of them. Of us. 

I’ve never experienced that in India. That’s not a reflection of the attitude of the folks. Back in India, I’d drive them to their destinations. When I wasn’t around, there was always that sweet kid (of varying ages) who had helped them have a safe and a comfortable journey. Right from the railway’s friendly porter, who’d walk slow, keep them company and talk to them and get them seated on the train to strangers on the flight who did their best to help them climb the stairs and navigate through the wild that is the airport. Some days I believe in the fact that the goodness that I express, gets rewarded by introducing the good and wonderful people of the world to my parents. These good Samaritans of the world occupy that role of a single parent in my absence. A parent substitute of sorts. One good deed deserves another and that’s my motivation in wanting and trying to help at each step. Yes, I am selfish that way. It’s just that hope that if I’m good enough, someone else will not be a villain on the street. 

The other day, as the evening got dark, my folks were walking back from a temple. They were approached by a bloke. Fear gripped them but soon changed. The bloke had approached them to tell them that they were the sweetest oldest couple that he had ever seen. He wanted to tell them that and expected nothing in return. 

Ain’t that an adventure of sorts? Don’t believe in the news that you read which speaks only of the devil and destruction. There are a billion folks out there who aren’t selfish. These are the unspoken daily heroes who go beyond their call of duty in being and staying human. Irrespective of what walk of life they hail from, these are the nice folks who make an effort to keep this world a better place. I used to think that this kindness, this goodness is a product of culture. I was wrong. It’s the fabric of being a human. Humans , by default, express that goodness and help others. That message does not come out. We’ve grown too skeptic from the abundant and constant flow of destructive information. Yes, granted that some of us are capable of evil deeds. Yes. But that’s not the general reflection of the world. 

Being such a single parent, each day is an adventure. You worry about the wellbeing of the kids. You worry if the world’s cruelty will affect them inversely. You also get to experience the innocent bliss that they experience. You get to see the innocence of the world that they see. Such a wonderful adventure that rejuvenates your faith in people. May it last. 

At this juncture, I am perplexed by a dilemma. How does evil exist in such a beautiful world? Or the alternative, In such a vile land, how does this goodness survive , endure and manifest itself. Something is not right. No wonder the battle between the good and the evil is an eternal one. By the looks of it, Good does have the upper hand. It always will. I hope and wish it does. 

Karthik 

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[Book Review] : The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage , by Rachel Joyce 

There comes a point in time when one has to do what one has to do. That’s precisely what this tale is all about. Harold Fry is an old bloke who continues to lead a mundane life. One day, he gets a mail that upsets the status quo of his blank , bland existence. Reading the letter, he learns that his long forgotten colleague/ friend, Queenie, is suffering from Cancer. He writes a half baked response and decides to walk to the post box to post it. It just so happens that when he reaches the post box, he feels that he should walk a little more, a little further before posting it. 

And just like that, he decides that he would walk all the way to meet her in her hospital. Feeling pumped up by that spontaneous decision, he calls the hospital and informs the nurse to tell Queenie that he’s on his way to see her and that he’s walking it all the way there. He asks the nurse to inform Queenie to hold on till he makes it. 

With that , a wonderful journey begins. Harold believes that he can walk the many miles (600 odd, to be precise) and also that Queenie would continue to survive her battle against her terminal illness. Caught unawares because of the spur of the moment decision, Harold is not equipped, both physically and equipment wise to endure the long trek. He doesn’t let that bother him. He constantly keeps reminding himself that all he needs to do is walk. One step at a time. 

As Harold conquers each mile, we are introduced to the details of his life. Harold’s marriage to his wife, Maureen, is strained at best and is left hanging by a thread. The crux of the tension is around the fact that their only child had alienated himself from the parents. Maureen holds Harold responsible for that separation. 

As Harold struggles to fill his heart with hope that would help him fuel his walk, Maureen is annoyed by the decision. The couple drift further apart because of the walk. The few exchanges between them are strained and colder than usual. Harold steers forward. Maureen struggles to cope up. 

Along the way Harold meets many folks who are as different as different could be. He manages to see something unique about them. He is greeted by both encouragement for his courage to embark on such a journey and there are folks who express their concern around the pointlessness of the exercise. Doubts start to plague Harold. 

The rest of the tale is a warm telling of the journey ahead. Does Harold make it all the way? Does Queenie live long enough to keep her end of the bargain? Will David ever reconcile with his folks and join them again? Will the couple’s marriage survive this tug of separation? 

The unlikely pilgrimage is a refreshing read about the human spirit. We are emotional beings and not all of us are bound by the laws of reasoning and physics. We do things because we want to. We do things because we associate actions to faith. We believe in things because we have nothing else to bank on. We hope that our faith gets rewarded. We are plagued by doubts and there are days when we give up. There are those days when we conquer our doubts and march ahead. These traits make us human and it is fantastic and wonderful to remain human. 

The further Harold walks, the clearer his thoughts become and unlike ever before, he finally manages to reminisce upon the course that his life had taken. He’s a man left with regrets and has a nice line of sight of things that were. I’ve seen this phenomenon in real life. We do what it takes to cope up with events springing in our lives. What we do to cope is different but the mechanism is a standard template of sorts. Do things to distract the self. Keep at it and have a moment of pristine catharsis. The book captures this moment beautifully. 

Two thumbs and a definite read. 

Karthik 

Hey

How long must time flow before once stops calling a table the usual table’, I sat wondering. The table had always been the usual table. The brands had changed, ownerships swapped, contracts renewed, and the location of the usual table had always been a near constant. Right by the window. During the summer, the window would be left, ever so slightly open, to let the warm breeze through. The winters were no different either. Different season, the same old warm breeze to gently kiss our faces and leave behind a moist comforting warmth. 

It had been a while though. Five years to be exact. I was surprised that the coffee house was still open. I was even more surprised to find out that the layout remained the same. Some things are better left unchanged. I placed the order and took the usual table. While I was traversing through the many thoughts of the past, the present , the multiple what ifs, the order was served. I was a stranger in my own ancestral home of sorts. A new face that didn’t not attract the familiar warm welcome smile. The bloke stood around waiting to see if I’d request for any besides my order. I offered a smile to close the transaction. Without any words wasted, the event came to a finesse close. The piping hot cup of hibiscus tea was steaming in front of me. The vapours carried the pleasant smell of fruity flowers and it filled the table with its aroma. Uplifting. Yes, that’s how it felt. I sank comfortably into my chair. The train of thoughts had arrived at the station. 

All aboard, I silently screamed. 

Five years is a respectable period of time where stuffs happen in life. Five years, I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost weight. The face now is littered with wrinkles of worries and the million thoughts pondered. The hair line had fallen back by a bit. I stared into the tan exposed on my ring finger. 

Thud-Thudd.. My heart started racing at the mere thought. I still remember the day when I removed the nice silver ring , threw it as far as I could. I screamed from the bottom of my lungs and attracted quite a lot of stares from the onlookers. I distinctly remember not giving them a moment’s thought. Never did ever after either. 

Thud-thud.. The mind ushered a rushed montage of the fight that led to that action. I was surrounded by the demons of my past. The moment long gone, the memories still fresh and nearly ready to start phasing into a fade, the pain and the misery felt horribly fresh. My heart kept beating faster and faster as I descended deeper into that long isolated, distanced memory. 

Thud..thud, and just like that my mind forced me to visualise the first time we had met. The details of the world around had eroded away in time. Her and everything about her never quite did. Floral. The colour whose name I never did make an effort to learn. For me , reds are still reds. Pink is pink. Yellows and blues. Blacks and whites. Every other color is one or the other color that I knew. Everything else was a transient state on my love drenched eyes. Everything else had forever and always remained illuminated. If only there was a color to denote light, the brightness it casts upon the eyes, my eyes. The weightlessness of the shade, the brightness and luminance of the shade of sun’s honey-glazed rays. Yeah, the moment was as vivid as I had first experienced. 

Thud……………………thud. The warmth slowed the beat and filled me with a certain happy, satisfying melodic lullaby. The kind of song that wasn’t meant to put a child to sleep. But to soothe it, comfort it, assure it that it was a beautiful world and that nothing would ever go wrong. 

Five years, I had lived a life without that rhythm. The music had long faded away, the curtains had fallen, the stage cleared, the audience had returned home. I had endured and survived the isolation of an empty auditorium. I had filled myself with echoes of my making, echoes of my breath, murmurs through my silence and thickness of my isolation. The time had been kind enough to fill my world with people, whose faces I had forgotten as quickly as their names I had stored on my phone. I had lived on a borrowed time of pretend smiles and forced laughs. I longed for a moment of a sincere smile. The moment where I could be myself. The real me, without my gilded guarding walls. 

Time had made a man of me. Strong, stiffer upper lip. Poker faced. Cold at heart, colder at mind. The cynic was the last to die. The romantic had died first. The realist died later. The pessimist faded away. I remained a shadow of a former glorious self. I remained. I wasn’t a prize, but survivors aren’t often one. It was the best that I could muster. A de-stringed instrument, discarded, discorded. An instrument nonetheless. In time the anger had dissipated, regrets ignored and then forgotten. I had learnt to live with the present. I had learnt to live with myself. I had learnt to live past the longing and the eyes had learnt to look past it’s desperate desire. 

Thud..Thud… The heart picked pace at the thought of the time my eyes longed. The truth is that the eyes had never ceased to stop longing. I had pretended to stop. I had pretended a lot. As the moment approached, the Five years were now taking a toll. 

What would she say? Would she say she missed me? Would she lie? Would she pretend? Where would it leave us? Where would I be, where would we be. Would we separate again? The questions were many and the answers were scary. I could give myself a happy fate and sit with the happiest of answers. I could lie to myself. I would be happy for a moment longer. I couldn’t bring myself to it though. I could assume the worst, it wouldn’t be far away from the truth. I could, but I sat frozen in thought. Frozen in fears. Frozen. 

There wasn’t much to do but wait. I reached for the cup of steaming tea. 

My eyes strained as I tried to focus on the one walking towards the table. Tears welled up, blurring my sight. Emotions welled up , blurring my existence. A void swallowed me whole and robbed me of words or sound. A ringing sound deafened my ears in that moment of first sight. Everything felt illuminated , once again. Everything was illuminated. 

“Hey!”

I finally managed to call out. 

A silence ensued. A million paragraphs went unsaid, un-typed, unspoken. A million words lost in blackened obscurity. A few seconds of eternity, engulfed in wistful separation , distanced and held together in hopes of a reunion.

‘Hey!’

The world had sunk into darkness while I was drowning in light. 

Karthik 

Inspired by this wonderful couple that I met on the tube the other day. I reckon one was leaving and the other held on, staring into her lovely dark eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder about the million things that went unsaid between the two. 

[Book Review]: Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a fictional take of the journey of a life. Written in the 1920’s, The tale has stood the test of time and does come out shining bright as it always probably has. 

I’d brave to call this book a spiritual fiction. It beautifully marries a fictional journey of life and core principles of spirituality. The audience is neither expected nor forced to accept the path laid out in the book. It only recounts the path taken by the protagonist. Where it works is the fact that the protagonist wanders through life. He makes his own decisions, lives to deliver the consequences of his actions, learns from it, unlearns from it, and eventually manages to elevate himself through the vicious cycles of life.

Born into a family of educated , Siddhartha masters the scriptures and soon awakens to the fact that he has learnt all that he could from the books and that there isn’t much to grasp from it. He makes up his mind to leave the comforts of his house and spend the time with Samanas, who live a saintly life in the forest. Siddhartha is accompanied by his dearest friend, Govinda. 

The ascetic live teaches Siddhartha a better perspective into life. Once again, he is faced with the challenge of stagnation. He walks away from the Samanas’ way of life. The duo chance to meet Buddha. Deeply moved by Buddha’s teaching, Govinda embraces the Buddhist way of life. Siddhartha and Govinda part ways. There is an itch, deep rooted in Siddhartha’s mind that keeps him detached from embracing Buddhism. The protagonist argues that the path of the one is through discovery of self and that there is no teacher who can unlock that mystery on behalf of the pursuer of that truth. With this in mind, Siddhartha, once again, leaves the comforts of a routine. 

Life does take a turn from here on. Siddhartha meets Kamala and in order to spend more time with her, he gets into the business of making money. Caught into the cycle of wealth, wine and wonderful woman, Siddhartha evolves into a very successful business man. His midas touch is spoken about through the land. 

Rest of the tale is about Siddhartha’s quest to discover the self. Does he eventually find peace? The book has the answer to it all. 

I loved the book and mostly because I do tend to view a lot of the traits of the protagonist in myself. I like to learn through actions and experiences. I don’t enjoy the comforts of an instructor led liberation. I’d rather fail on my own accord than succeed by nodding my head and walking without understanding the way of the world in a manner that makes sense to me. 

The book presents the best example of life that can ever be expressed. In life, one thing always leads to another. There is always a path to choose. What we do with that road, often determines the kind of person that we go on to be. There aren’t good or evil folks. There are just folks. Who either carry their actions or don’t. Both , action and inaction, lead to consequences and we enter a cycle of cause and effect , action and consequence. Some of us find ourselves trapped. Some , not so much. 

Then come the multitude of spiritual philosophes throughout the book. I shall not bore you with them. The simplest philosophy that is worth writing about is probably this. 

Believe in yourself. Heed to the inner voice that guides you. Fear is a by product of comfort. When you shed your skin and walk away from your comforts, the first to embrace you would be your fears. When you let that fear go, rest of the world’s million wisdom come running to you. 

Siddhartha’s journey of life is a one with many highs and many lows. It is easy and human to let ourselves get distracted. Getting distracted is not a sin. Getting distracted is pretty much alright too. If that brings you happiness. If that brings you the kind of happiness that sustains. Siddhartha had to go through a series of character defining sins in order to break away from the traps of life and elevate himself. It assures and confirms my faith in the fact that one has to do em all, saturate from it in order to reject the illusion. The book , to me, is a wonderful reminder that salvation is not for the elite. Salvation is only one thought, action, intent away. Rest are barriers made by the mind. 

In fact the crux of the book is that even barriers made by the mind aren’t real. Matrix called it right. ‘THERE IS NO SPOON. THERE NEVER WAS’

Are you a spiritual enthusiast, or a literature buff? Either parties would love the simplicity of this book and the warmth in the tale conveyed. Give it a read, There aint much that one stands to lose by reading this ! 

Karthik 

[Book Review]: The bridge of clay

The Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. 

” What’s the point to life if there is no love in it? Importantly, Can you imagine the magnitude of life that rests beyond love? ” – Katz 

The bridge of clay is a slow burner. It’s a tale written with the sole intent of consuming your mind. As we dwell deeper into the tale, we also dwell deeper into the many billion emotions that we didn’t even know that one could express. While Markus’ previous book, The book thief was all about life, the bridge of clay is just about life. I don’t think I have the words at my disposal to articulate what that statement means. Just Life. The phrase could stand to mean different things to different people. To me, its a glance at how much life , in itself , can at times overwhelm. Life has those many moments of celebrated brilliance. It has its fair share of days when it doesn’t pay to get off bed. There are days when everything falls apart and it’s a given bonus to not sit in corner and cry. There are days when life makes us feel invincible and we feel that the moment of bliss would last forever. 

Bridge of Clay is exactly all of that. It talks about the lives of the Dunbar boys. The five brothers are the heart of this story. Each, uniquely different from each other. Each is very much in love with one another and the boys form a close knitted bond that keeps them together as one. Dunbar boys is not just their identity. It’s their collective life, it’s their struggles in unison. 

The brothers are Matthew, Rory, Henry, Clay, Tommy. The brothers live all by themselves in their house. As a reader, you wouldn’t wander too long wondering why they live by themselves. Theirs is a house that’s seen a whole lot of life. The pets, a golden fish, a mule, a cat , a dog and a pigeon, keep the story fresh. Novacs are the neighbours of the Dunbars. Clay , in his own way, falls in love with Cary Novac. The two share a very unique love story. Clay aspires to be a runner and Carey has her eyes set on being a successful Jockey. The kind of jockey who rides horses rather than bore audience over a microphone. 

The narrative is by Matthew and he carefully exposes the right bits of information in the right enough amounts. The bridge of clay is in fact Clay’s story and is told by his brother Matthew. 

Most of the book is about what happens to the Dunbar boy’s parents and how the love blossoms between Clay and Carey. Every word in the book is about the brotherly love and the bond the Dunbar boys share. The story comes alive with their rowdy behaviour. They are funny, the boys fight like boys do. The boys are as dirty and unkempt like free spirited pigs are. The boys are a product of their environment and their wonderful upbringing. As the tale unfolds, we see the peace and warmth of love and how such a love transcends the boundaries of time, age, and generation. Each generation experiences this warmth and peace. Each generation feels the power of liberation and dreams that love offers. Each generation endures and survives such a love. Each generation, has folks whose life span exceeds that love and how their lives take a turn beyond that love. 

The way the tale has been said is simply fantastic. There are a few hard hitting themes explored in the book. The best and the biggest is about the nature of love. I bet there are billion other books that explain why love is a fantastic thing and how it makes us feel a billion things while we are drunk by its presence. What stands out in this tale is the way cope up with the aftermath of love. 

The other theme that’s expressed is around how we form bonds to survive in this world. The ties we forge in order to cope up a great eternal sadness. The book explores the raw need to have others in our life to nurture the strength to endure. The book talks at great lengths about the nature of relationships. It also speaks of guilt , at varying degrees. The guilt of being alive. The guilt over enduring life. The guilt over letting ourselves smile, from once a while. 

This is not a pessimistic, depressing book. It just walks through the saddest times and expresses the way the Dunbar boys find the strength and courage to cope up and move on. 

I think the strength of the book is around the way it explains how life finds a way despite the death that surrounds it. 

The bridge of Clay will never equal the brilliance that The book thief was, but it doesn’t have to. The bridge stands on its own foot, on its own merit of being a beautiful tale that’s told beautifully. 

I liked it. In fact , through the journey I started growing fond of the tale and felt the sadness of the tale coming to a close. The bridge of clay is indeed a book that fights for Life. 

Karthik 

A tragic Greek or a pessimistic puddle?

I’ve never really struggled with the notion. I enjoy writing in a certain predictable way. The predictable way usually is the most convoluted means of connecting two points, A and B. The characters are caught up with demons of their own making. The self inflicted psychological and pathological barriers keep the characters isolated from one another. A lot gets said through unspoken words. It’s the frustration of the inability to express that drives the characters forward. And then there is the tragedy that shoves the status quo off its rocker. 

Now that’s called being predictable. I’ve been challenged numerous times on that obsession with picking this template. Isn’t it easier to write about sunshine instead? Yes it is. But that’s besides the point. In real life, Sun scorches us, rain floods us, winds blow us away. One endures the elements to enjoy a momentary bliss. One survives the odds to smile at the road taken so far. One smiles, for what ever its worth. It’s the kind of smile that laughs at the irony of being a pointless survivor. It’s the kind of smile that acknowledges the pains of the past, the present and the future to come. It’s the kind of smile that knows the difference between desperation and hope but chooses to not call out the difference. 

Historically, literature loves its tragic heroes. The tragic hero also happens to be an Archetype . The bloke who endures and rises and eventually reduces to ashes. It is the journey of such a hero that captivates the hearts and minds of the million readers who invest their time and emotions into the tale. The final pay off is rather sadistic in nature. We are amused, stirred , and pushed to absorb a tragedy. One man’s sorrow is another’s inspiration. Tragedies make a wonderful candidate for laurels of the world. There is definitely a kind of a misplaced loyalty towards tragedies. One feels compelled to reward them and celebrate them. No wonder, it’s easy to write a best seller that is rooted in tragedy. 

Tragedy, just like Comedy, appeals to our primal instinct. Crying and laughing comes naturally to us. We all find our reasons to shed tears and share those sunshine smiles. I reckon this makes tragedy and comedy a common and a widely accepted currency because of humanity’s affinity towards these primal emotions. Comedy and tragedy, they both sell really well. 

Far away from the land of fictional and sometimes forced tragedies, is the world of pessimists. I don’t know what the contrary belief is , but I’d fathom a guess that tragedy is not the same as staying pessimistic towards life. Tragedy is an outcome and Pessimism is a way of life. Tragedy need not usher a lifetime of misery and the hopelessness , the helplessness and the other million frustrations that accompany that state of misery. Pessimism leads to misery in one form or the other. 

To me, if tragedy is an outcome, it also recounts the series of choices made, decisions braved, inevitabilities challenged. In short, tragedy that sells is the one that arises from actions. Irony is the tragedy of life that springs from inertia of doing absolutely nothing at all. This is under the spectrum of eternal pessimism. The fears of many contributes towards that state of pessimism. The failures of many results in good tragedies. I guess, in short, the difference between the two can be summed up with just a single word. Action. 

Literature has a lot of examples of heroes who are thrust into action. The roads that take to the inevitable tragic ends. The bravery displayed in making choices in the face of the inevitable failure is the stuff of what make legends , legends. I don’t remember the last time I read a book outlining the tribunals of the eternal pessimist. Maybe it was written, but the author might have shied away from getting it published. Classic pessimism, if I may. 

All that’s said, we still blur the two boundaries. The tragic road ushered by pessimism is not the kind of tragedy that gets celebrated. There is no drama in it. There is no life to it. It’s possibly a long string of confessions written out of fear. It is unfortunate that pessimists believe that they deserve their tragic ends. It is misinformed disillusion where pessimists justify their misery through fated destiny of tragedy. That approach, in my opinion, undermines and in fact even insults the fabric of a tragedy. Sometimes we win. Many times we lose. Not all losses are meant to be tragic. Losses are failures that are attributed by a lot of contributing factors. Losses themselves don’t qualify to be a tragedy. 

So what’s your take.? Is it pessimistic to fear tragedy or tragic to embrace pessimism? Is there even a difference? 

An ode to tragedy. I wouldn’t be a wordsmith if not for the million tragedies that blanket this blue. 

Karthik 

Inspired from The Bridge of Clay.. Almost done with the book and still cant make my mind about it. 

Hard decisions and never made easy

I’m currently reading The bridge of clay, by Markus Zusak. MZ wrote the Book thief and I still do have certain expectations on the former. While the tale is distinctly different, I do see traces of the brilliance that was expressed in the book thief. 

As the pages turned , the plot thickened and characters established themselves, the readers get to see the history of the roads travelled by the characters. This is called the journey of the character. This is also referred as the Character Arc. Every story , worth reading, has a strong arc. There is the normal. Then there is the challenge to the status quo. Characters then falter and fall. They do recover and bounce back strong. Sometimes they just don’t. The journey then takes the character to where they presently stand. The readers either empathise with the plight or they unrelentingly hate what the character has become. Such arcs usually explain and justify the nature of the characters. Good, bad, lords of Greys. Everybody falls into one or the other bucket. I enjoy reading through such journeys.

These usually mirror life. They represent the choices that we have made, the ones we wanted to but never could make. They also represent the choices that we resent making. 

Anyways, I came across a section where a character goes through a hard phase. The road leading to the plight was ever so subtle. Two kids thrust into a world of adults. Two kids, entwined in love. A short coming of age of sorts, the two make a way for themselves in the wilderness of the real. And just like that, the two take their separate roads. What stood out was a silent scream of protest between the two said characters. One had already made a choice to separate and the other was caught clueless and off guard. The justification offered , in plenty, by one is barely digested by the other. Push does come shoving rapidly. One explores the wilderness further and the other is left behind. Waiting. 

Some how this resonated a lot with me. I’ve been in that place. In fact, if I were to be honest, I wasn’t as graceful as the protagonist. Clueless and heart broken, the protagonist barely utters a word. I wasn’t so lucky. I ushered myself into a self destructive spree. While the protagonist hid behind silence, I hid behind words and more words. The protagonist and the I , from that point in time, were fantastic examples of blokes caught in unfathomable misery. The world of future rested crumbled under the feet. Dreams had come crashing. There wasn’t much of a future that mattered. Story Arc. It builds the plot, it adds character to characters. 

As my station approached, I closed the book and secured it in my bag. I found myself transformed into that state of frustrated helplessness. Just like the protagonist, I couldn’t make sense of the state of oblivion that I had been a part of. I shrugged my shoulders in distaste for the future that I had endured. All the thinking made me wonder if I’m smarter today. I couldn’t help but wonder if the past version of myself would have managed the situation any better. Having the knowledge of life, mileage, changes in priorities, the ways of the simple world, would I have been better prepared with such vast, for whatever it’s worth, knowledge. 

Honestly, I don’t think any of this would have made a riggity rag difference in the moment.

Of course, the road to recovery would have been much easier and smoother. The moment itself, I don’t really think much would have changed. 

There are hard decisions that one either makes or endures. The perks of making such difficult choice is that we can tell ourselves that we made the said choices and that does ease us of the guilt and fears of not making them. The perks of enduring such choices is that it eases of the guilt and fear of making them. A funny, ironic duality of sorts. 

Age, mileage, borrowed ;stolen; acquired wisdom has taught me that making and enduring such choices aren’t the challenge. The fear and guilt of voluntarily altering the status quo can be overwhelming. Hence, making hard choices is tough on us. The fears of consequence keeps enduring the choices difficult. There is a misplaced guilt in both action and inaction. Action because we instigate it. Inaction leads to guilt because we keep telling ourselves that things could have, might have, would have been different, IF ONLY.

In my humble view of the world, the phrase ‘IF Only’ is probably the biggest burglar. The phrase robs us of the dignity of failing gracefully. The phrase robs us of all the infinite possibilities of that rest ahead. IF Only. 

As the day lingered on, I couldn’t help but wonder about the book or the course the author has set for his characters. I can only hope that the characters bounce and live up to their potential for the tale to remain interesting and gripping. As far as life is concerned, I’ve wandered the woods of If Only a lot. There is nothing by emptiness, sadness and resentment there. I’d rather brave a million more failures than lobby around correcting one Big mistake of life. If anything, life is a series of ‘Biggest mistake ‘ of my life so far. The further we walk the road, the more such mistakes we stand to make. I’d rather walk than stand still. 

Reading opens up the mind. The more one reads, one gets the pulse that there is nothing truly unique about an existence. There are loads who have either gone through the roughest patch that we can imagine. There are loads who come on top. There are those who succumb under its weight, every single day. Reading liberates us and offers us the freedom to choose how we’d like the future to be. 

Karthik 

Roses and gray

The morning had dawned and the birds had done their chirping. The cool morning breeze had given way to a pleasant warmth that now cruised through the open window. The sun was out and it was burning bright. I wake up grumpy and worn. I wake up grumpy on most days. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been a morning person. 

Age has a bit to do with the perpetual state of staying jaded. I am pushing 70’s and the body does show the signs. I don’t think I have it in me to transform into a morning person. 

I get off the bed to realise the calm silence in the house. It has been many a years but I can’t bring myself to reconcile with an empty house. A house is a house made of people. People are more important than marbles and bricks that litter the floor. The sound of nothing kept constantly buzzing in my ears. The hissing sound of nothingness. I shook my head in a defeated disappointment and headed to the wash to freshen up. 

The Calendar declared the day as 13th, Sunday. A nice red line circled the date. An anniversary , obviously. I do that. I like to set the time aside to call out important dates in the year. I let a wistful smile as I let the significance of the date sink in. The date took me down the memory lane. Decades of life lived, dreams dreamt and regrets accumulated over time. The thought almost overwhelmed me. 

As I look back, it wasn’t an easy marriage. She always reminded me of my ineptness. Nothing I did was ever good enough. The first months, anger had swallowed me. The first year, I had breached my tolerance and was left with nothing but contempt and spite. I remember the time she fell sick. It was the first of the times when I noticed the hissing sound of nothingness through silence. Her usual chair was empty. I missed her morning taunt. Starting the day without her reminding me of how useless I was, wasn’t something that I was accustomed to. It felt unnatural. That day, I had wrapped up work early and had gone to visit her in the hospital. She had looked weak and frail. Deep within my heart, I wanted her back in her former glorious, spiteful self. It was an evening spent praying in the hospital. A few days later , she had pulled through. A few weeks later, the chair had its owner back. The mornings returned to their normal self. The snide resumed. I saw the satisfied smile return to me. It felt good to be home. 

The incident hadn’t salvaged the relationship. It remained as volatile as it had always been. Through health and sickness, we both endured and survived. The little signs of kindness and care went undisclosed and undiscussed. In time, the spite and the anger had vanished. We were now reduced to players of an act. The deride was a routine. All bark, no bite. All snake and none of the venom. 

Our child into this world made the house better. Laughter bloomed. Happiness doubled. There wasn’t time for the silence to yelp its hissing. Silence had been replaced by wonderful chaos. The chaos kept all of us sane. The years rolled forward. There were days when we’d sit , separated of course, but sit in proximity nonetheless. We had grown tolerant to each other. As I said, it wasn’t an easy marriage. 

Somewhere down the line, she departed. The date is now circled each year. I wish , back then, there was a sign or hint of the event to unfold. I might have done something different. I didn’t. She didn’t. We had carried on with the duties of the day. Indifferent and yet connected in a special way. The news came as a message at work. I had rushed and all the rushing hadn’t made any difference. 

She had loved roses and roses ushered her to the heavens. Her death had left me changed. I missed her. The house missed her. The silence found its way back home. Sunday the 13th was her last day on earth. Every year, I pick roses and leave them with her. I’d like to believe that she’s up there, smiling and passing condescending sarcastic criticism of the roses I’d pick for her. I wouldn’t let things be anything besides that. It was our way. It was what that kept us together. 

The clock struck 10 and I walked out of the house. I stopped by the usual florist. She knew what I was there for. She handed me a special bunch that she had set aside for the cause. The comforts of a routine are a blessing. The sun shone bright. This year, there weren’t any rains. I’m a bit of a sentimentalist about a rain. The gentle shower usually comforts me. In my personal opinion, the rain adds a certain charming vibe to the meeting. It wasn’t that kind of a day today. 

The roses picked, I walked to the cemetery. I walked to the place where she rested. 

‘Hi angel’ I called out

‘You are late’ my wife replied. 

‘That’s the spirit. Your mother would have definitely reminded me of that’, I joked. 

‘Oh shut up’ and she concluded. We both stood beside each other and lost in the many thoughts of her mother. She was a wonderful kind lady. She hated me in her own way. She loved and cared for me in her special way. She was an integral part of our lives. She fortified our lives with her strength. She stood by us during the troubled times. She helped us cruise through the decades. 

The roses rested on the gray. We both stood for a while in silence. 

‘Coffee ?’ she finally asked. 

What can I say, the comforts of a routine are a blessing indeed. 

Karthik 

A password reset

I’ve never really paid much attention to an expired password before. This morning, the portal said I had 46 minutes of life left before resetting the current instance of the password. I shrugged my shoulder and I couldn’t care less. I logged in a while later. The system said I had 20 minutes left. And then it didn’t say anything. It redirected me to the change screen. 

I keyed the date and the month when I joined the organisation. I typed the current year and realised the blunder. And that was all it took to whisk me away from the present to the magical , beautiful land of the past. 

The year that I joined the company, a lot of things were going around in my life. I was glad that I was employed. Being employed didn’t actually spice up my life. To me , it meant a check in the box. Udyogam, purusha lakshanam. That roughly means, a guy ought to ought to have a job. I remember the 24 hours that I spent on the bus to travel from Trivandrum to Chennai. I had endured 24 hours of bone racketing rusty seats to spend two hours with the lady love of the day. I didn’t complain. It was fun. The anticipation of the meeting kept me motivated through the endeavour. Now that I look back, it was a silly romantic blundered adventure of sorts. The rains over Kerala. A rusty bus that stopped more than it moved. The early morning halt for tea and refreshment. The horrors of public rest room. The fresh pollution free morning. The sound of old songs blaring across the speakers. The sights of busy world buzzing around me. The world was buzzing with activity and I was lost in the nectar of love. Time meant something else to me. Time sped and slowed for me simultaneously. The trusty nokia was still charged and alive through the entire ordeal. 

All of that was on the second day of my time in the organisation. Back then, I wasn’t equipped to even remotely fathom the decade that was to come. 

I remember that cocky old me. I stood out in the class when I didn’t share the practiced queen of the world speech about how I felt when I got my offer letter. For everyone around me, that offer letter meant that their life had already changed. I’m a slow learner. It’s taken me 12 odd years to realise that my life had actually changed from the moment I signed up and picked that offer letter. 

I walked into the office as a goofy kid who was indifferent towards the world of staying a professional. In time , I had learnt to grow into an adult. In time I had learnt to accept responsibilities. I couldn’t bail out at will. I had commitments to keep and deliveries to make. I was not just me. I also happened to represent a big wide vast organisation. 

As time turned and churned, changes were inevitable. Life moved on. Through tears and smiles, I found the courage to wake up every morning and commute to the desk. Some jobs I liked, some I loved, many where I felt bored and numbed. There were days when work was my escape from life. There were days when work kept me distracted from life. Then in time I learnt to balance and see a life beyond work. In time, I had grown. 

With each phase of the change, my expectations from the organisation had changed. My expectations from life had changed. Things also worked the other way. The org wanted new things from me and so did life. The angry young man persona changed to smart Fixer. I had learnt to can the anger away. Right and wrong didn’t matter anymore. Things either worked or they didn’t. I had learnt to focus on making things work rather than fighting over for noise. 

While I was lost in the thoughts of the roads that I had taken till day, I couldn’t also help but wonder at how much I’ve changed from then. I’ve changed my ways in a lot of ways and at the same time, I’ve also remained the same in many ways. It’s a paradox nonsense when I type the sentence but it makes perfect sense. I am still what I am. Just changed and unchanged in ways that works for me. 

All that, thanks to a password reset. 

[Book Review] A cat, a man and two women

Cat , a man and two women by Jun’ Ichiro Tanizaki.

Cat , a man and two women is a tale that stays obsessively true to the title. As the name suggests, this is a story about a cat, called Lilly; A man , ‘Shozo’, and two women, ‘Shinako, and ‘Fukuko’. 

There is something about Jun ‘Ichiro that reminds me a lot of Haruki Murakami. Unlike most works of Murakami, this one is not generously littered with demented perversion. The story maintains a clean rating of G. This was my first venture in to the words of Jun and I wouldn’t be surprised if his works have had a lasting impression on Murakami. 

Besides the obvious lack of perversion, what connects this tale to the rest of the works of Murakami is the sheer indifference shown by the author towards how the tale concludes. There isn’t an explicit ending to the tale. The readers are left free to make whatever they want to make off the tale. This trait is something that I’ve always loved, admired and aspired to emulate from Murakami. I was pleasantly surprised when Jun ‘Ichiro had adopted the same style of narrating a gripping story. Both authors really couldn’t spare a damn when it came to spoon feeding the audience with a stereotyped structured way of story telling. 

The other thing that stood out was the brilliance of the simplicity of the tale. The book made the aspiring , budding author in me feel ashamed. What Jun ‘Ichiro manages in under 130 pages is nothing short of pure magic. It took the author so few pages to weave a tale around the entities in the title, build an arc around their character traits, enrich it with secondary characters, throw in some life around all the characters by giving us a glimpse of their respective backgrounds. Top that with different vested motives of all of them. WOW. The book is busy , considering it’s a short one. At the same time , the words don’t feel heavy and the mind does not feel taxed with information hitting us in bursts. The author establishes the tale at a very comfortable pace. 

The story opens with Shinako writing a letter to Fukuko, asking her to give her a cat. Shinako was married to Shozo and things didn’t pan out. She found herself kicked out of the house. Shozo goes on to marry Fukuko. Shinako is left with absolutely nothing. She pleads for the custody of the cat, Lilly. She reasons out that her empty life, filled with void, could be a little easier if the cat was with her.

Fukuko manages to get rid of the cat. While that statement is simple, it also encapsulates the power dynamics within the family. Shozo loves the cat like his own child. He pampers Lilly and spends all of his time with her. He even makes Fukuko slog in the kitchen to feed the cat like it’s Christmas every day. Fukuko weighs the options and decides that she deserves a better place in Shozo’s life than his cat. For Fukuko, it’s a win. Shozo is left heart broken. 

Then there is the ulterior motive behind Shinako’s ask. She hopes that Shozo would miss the cat and come running to her to see the cat. Eventually, she speculates, that things would heal between the two and they’d reunite. 

While the games begin, the readers are introduced to the white elephant in the room. Shinako hates the cat. Fukuko hates the cat. While the latter gets rid of the problem at the cost of breaking her husband’s heart, the former acquires the problem in hopes of regaining her ex husband’s heart. Shinako and Lilly never got along before. It was this friction that had ultimately led to the couple separating. The game that Shinako plays, it brings her up close with the cat again. Will the lady and the cat get along? What happens to either of them? Do they both manage to endure and survive together? 

Rest of the story is about the game of cat and mouse played across human minds. The schemes plotted, the moves predicted and the outcome that eventually shapes up the lives of the players. Will Shinako and Shozo reunite. Will Shozo realise his love for Shinako ? What happens to Lilly?

With each chapter, we get to uncover the character traits of the primary and the secondary characters. And boy we are in for a wonderful thrilling roller coaster ride. Our prejudice gets thwarted at every turn. We sway from the verdict of guilty to innocent, victim to perpetrator with every turning page. The grand climax leaves with life in it’s absolute purest form. We are forced to accept all the characters for what they are and along the journey, we grow warm to all of them. We end up rooting for our favourites. We are made to choose between the devil and the deep sea. We are forced to pick what we think is the lesser of the abundantly available evils.  

Aint that the grandest display of life? If this doesn’t emulate life, I don’t know what else will! 

The tale is simple, the book is short, the pace is comfortable and the narrative is gripping. I must admit, I can’t think of one good reason as to why one would want to skip reading this lovely story.

Two thumbs and four paws up. A definite read. 

Karthik