Holy Christ and Strings!

I do like drama in real life. I enjoy the drama , mostly because I see them when they usually don’t even exist. This perfectly places me between two states of the mind. The one where I’m naïve and the one where I’m a suspicious skeptic. Through a few iterations, a baggage of lessons learnt, I’d like to assume that I’ve grown a bit wise. I’m not sure if I’d ever be wise enough.

The fantastic part of telling a fabricated story is the treasure hunt phase. The other beautiful part is the execution of the idea itself. I could have made this a tale. I chose a different approach this time around. Leaving this in the realm of fiction would have diluted the seriousness to the tale. When I talk about strings, what do you think of? Strings could be the ones from a musical instrument, like a guitar or a violin. Strings could be the emotional ties that keep us anchored to something. Strings are also the ones that the ‘Master of the puppets’ pulls. We’ll be talking about such masters of the universe. One sentence that pays its tribute to both Metallica and HeMan. I like that.

It doesn’t take much for one to understand the nature of written and verbal communication. Very similar to forensics, every time we leave a trail of words (written or spoken) around, we also leave behind an imprint of our truest nature. I call this a reflex honesty. There are times when our minds work faster than the speed of our thoughts. It’s precisely at these moments when people exhibit their natural self. It’s not all that very difficult to pretend and put on a show. It, however, does take a lot of effort to sustain that show. Putting on a show, indefinitely, forever, without inconsistencies, and always staying in a make believe character is hard. It takes a lot of conscious and subconscious effort to maintain that façade.

And so our tale takes us to the realm of manipulators. I find these folks interesting. They make a wonderful character to explore and add elements to a said story. Manipulators are an Archtype persona. They pull strings to either keep themselves satisfied, or do it because doing so servers their purpose. Such Archtypes are impressive because uncovering the motivations that drive them , is often the hunt that takes us, both the readers and blokes in real life, on a journey of discovery.

These Archtypes have always existed. Right from Mahabharat, the earliest known Manipulator that I can think of, the Bethal ; which also manipulated in the interest of it’s preservation and vested interests, this archtype is one that transcends time and stays relevant to the modern context. I think it’s also pertinent to note that we, as folks; as a herd; usually don’t mind the manipulation as long as we are not told that we are being manipulated. As with most things that govern life, being manipulated could be a good thing or something to regret later on.

Since manipulators are an Archtype, they do exhibit a specific type of modus operandi! I made that sound more sinister than it usually is. But , you get the general idea.

1. The Jeebus Syndrome – Or as science calls it, the Messiah complex. Most manipulators enjoy playing the compassionate god. If you remember my works on Carl Jung, the archtype personality is that of a Wise old man/Wise old woman. The underlying ploy is to fuel trust and faith in the victims, but posing as not a threat but as the designated chosen one who is put on earth to serve all humanity :)))))

2. All ears, all guilt – Most manipulators are great listeners. I’m not sure if the vice versa is true enough. Their ability to listen, to throw light on our misgivings, also feeds their status as the Wise old bloke. They are prone to deflect questions that try to expose their intent. They usually deploy guilt to sneak out of tight spots.

3. Victim card – Most manipulators , always and I mean ALWAYS, play the victim card. They exhibit a certain charm that accompanies the fact that they have been there, they have suffered and hence can understand what you are going through. If you start to connect the dots, point 3 feeds into Point 1 and therefore Point 2 is the way they run their business.

4. All in, all the time – Most manipulators go all in and all the time. It is human to have skeletons buried deep in the closet. It takes an enormous effort for us to open up and share our deeds to others. Manipulators usually rapidly accelerate that phase. They go all in. It’s a tease and a gamble of sorts. By feeding us personal , all too secrety secrets, they A : Obligate us into opening up trust B: Obligate us into reciprocating with a few nasty secrets of our own. And bada boom, feeds into the victim card

The dynamics between a manipulator and their prey is also interesting thing. It banks on TRANSFERENCE. Transference is similar to a Stockholm syndrome, just without a Stockholm in place. There is a symbiotic relationship at play here. Victims are kept in that stasis of misery and guilt so that the manipulator stays relevant and in context. Manipulators really do look for their victims to remain miserable because if folks are not miserable, they’d not go about painting their lives to such manipulators. It is a vicious cycle. They both need each other, they both feed into each other and as long as the victims and predators co-exist, neither would fizz out.

I am but amused at this cycle of prey and predation. Things used to be different before the dawn of the age of 24/7-365 social outreach program that the Internet is. We do make it easy to get manipulated. In ways, we also do manipulate/influence the course of the lives of folks that we are connected to.

Emotional manipulators are real. They walk among us, they talk to us everyday. They are not monsters who hide away in shadows. In fact , they are not monsters at all, till we start making them one. That said, it’s nice to recognize the world around us. Staying observant and staying sceptical is a survival skill that comes handy. At all times.

Karthik

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Book Review : My grandmother sends her regards and apologies

“The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living”

Cover page of My Grandmother sends her regards and apologies

Save yourself a little time. Order the book today. Ask your friends for a copy , if they already have one. Enjoy the ride. You’ll love this one. I really do wish that all tales were like this one. The reviews would be one liners.

And bought it already? Good . Excellent.

My grandmother sends her regards and apologies , by Fredrik Backman , is a wonderful heart warming tale. This is the same bloke who gave us A man called ove. This story is about Elsa, an almost an eight year old girl, her Grandmother and the fantastic land of almost awake. The land of fantasy has it’s knights in golden armour, a Wurse ( a massive beast) , a warrior, two princes who feud over a princess. A princess, A sea angel. There is mom , dad, George. Throw in a few neighbours and you have a fairy tale in the making.

Granny is granny and the world struggles to cope up with her. Granny was, when she was young, a very successful surgeon. She’d travel across the globe and help those who needed help. When Granny retires, she has a brand new job. She keeps herself busy by being Elsa’s superhero. Granny is full of life, she’s animated and a force of joy. She has a problem with the world around her. Dogmatic rules bore her, political correctness offends her, The whole deal of pampering in the name of safety and pointless fears disinterest her. Granny would rather break into a zoo to watch the animals sleep, get arrested for that and walk out of jail, than sit at home and imagine what it’d be like to see animals sleep in the zoo. That’s granny.

Elsa loves her granny. The two make a wonderful team.

Elsa is not the usual average seven year, well almost an eight year old kid. She’s way too smart for her age. She enjoys reading proper literature a lot. To her, proper literature constitutes of Comics , Harry Potter and most books that we’d never bother associating to a formal education system. Elsa is perceived as a bit of an odd ball and she always manages to attract the ire of bullies from her school. Elsa can hold up against anyone in an argument. When Elsa and her Granny team up, the outcome is usually hilarious.

Granny introduces Elsa to the land of almost awake. The land consists of six kingdoms. Granny and Elsa also have a secret language that they use to carry on discrete conversations. Things are good and things look promising to Elsa. Her world is all set to change with her mother looking to deliver her baby brother. Elsa calls him Halfie. She’s not sure if he’d be a boy or a girl. Half and half and so she calls him halfie All is well till Elsa accidentally discovers that her Granny’s time in this world is coming to a close.

One fine morning , Granny passes away and she leaves Elsa behind on a treasure hunt, in a quest to save the magical kingdoms. The fate of the land of almost awake rests on Elsa. And so her adventure begins.

I fell in love with this tale. The fantasy is vivid and wonderfully imaginative. As we find ourselves exploring the magical kingdoms , we also discover how the kingdoms are connected to this world. The tales are both real and fictitious at the same time. That makes it the perfect kind of a tale.

We embark upon the adventure with Elsa on her quest to keep the lands protected and safe. Each clue that Elsa receives, is a letter from her grandmother which is addressed to different people. The theme usually is the same. Grandma sends her regards and her apologies.

What does grandma apologise for? Is everything just a mere delusion of a senile lady? Does Elsa manage to uncover the clues and save the kingdoms? Is there a dragon in this tale?

The book is quite the adventure.

The book plays to its strengths; its characters. This is a book about people. This is a book about how people refuse to live their lives. It reminds us that while the dead remain dead, the living also cease to live. It talks about how people quietly succumb to the crushing blows to their heart and how they never bounce back. It talks about why we need that courage to live.

The book also explores the choices that we make in life. It talks about the things that we ignore, when we are in pursuit of glory. It talks about the effect that pursuit has on the people around us. It reminds us that all of us will find a day when we are done searching for things and when we take a good look at the things we’ve ignored and left behind in that search. Are we left with regrets and guilt? Are we left with the satisfaction of the search? Do we end up losing more than what we had bargained for? The book, in it’s own subtle way, leaves us with those questions.

Grab yourself a copy today. Enjoy the ride. You will love Elsa and her granny.

Karthik

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

 

All hail the ‘move on’

Everybody who is anybody is absolutely besotted with the phrase ‘move on’. Moving on, by definition, is the simple process of purging oneself off all the things that prevents the said person from moving on. Conveyed that way, it does seem a little silly. Why would the process of moving on face a challenge? Why would one choose to hold on to things that would keep one anchored to the same place, to the same point in time, to a state without a present and a possible stale future?

Moving on also is a process which inspires the best realist in most of our friends. It’s usually a mind over matter thingy. The woes are in the mind. The pain is not real. It usually takes a simple push to regain and reclaim life. These are but the standard templates of dealing with the not so unique problem statement.

Reading is both a vice and a virtue. Reading enlightens one’s mind. Books do tend to have that effect on me. It must be a touch of a misplaced confirmation bias which gravitates me towards certain books. I don’t think I can quite explain it any better than that. I was tempted to state the ‘destined to read these’ and celebrate the fact that nothing is a mere coincidence to an initiated mind. That would surely kindle my delusion. The easier, depreciative   alternative was to blame it all on a confirmation bias.

Okie dokie, the story so far  : Struggle to move on, books and their impact on life. How did the two manage to exist in the same sentence?

Once again, I’d take use the stick called confirmation bias instead of quoting coincidence.

Before we get there, there is something that would set a better context around the stream of my thoughts. All big bang and planning later, I bailed out the marriage plans. My reason was not that farfetched, given my capacity to dwell extremely wild around surreal tangents. We didn’t talk much and I almost could see a lifeless life together.  I had lowered my expectation and embraced an open mind approach to the whole thing. Push came to shove, I had exhausted all my reasons for all of that to really work out. A few sleepless nights later I had made my decision.

So that setting the context, the book called A man called Ove made it to my reading list. It felt like a future of sorts. Ove’s life, the initial descriptions of it, struck a chord. It was the same life , void of all colors , enthusiasm and a will to live that had gripped me when I turned the other way to the marriage. It felt as if someone had meticulously read my thoughts, read my fears for the future, pulled a list of all the things that unsettled me and wrote a fantastic story around it. The book struck a chord indeed.

The book also played a few more strings around my emotions. Given the premise of the book, the titular character, Ove, had trouble carrying on with his life without his better half. For good and worse, he had managed to marry someone who had completed him. When it was her time to depart, and when he still had time to endure and survive in the mortal plane, it was not a life that was going on. It was an existence alright. An existence devoid of any life, color, enthusiasm and spirit. Ove’s expression of how much his wife completed him was a stark realization of how much incomplete that I see myself as.

Moving on, the whole act of it, is an endeavour to replace the ones that were in our lives with new people to compensate that loss. When we can’t find people to substitute the ones that we miss, we try to fill it with activities. It’s not an uncommon or an unpopular reasoning. The ones who have lost something extremely precious have always been the ones to give a lot more back to their own community and their own society. The best of altruism does have its roots in a grave personal loss. It’s a scary thought. The best in us, the most charitable in us, if all it takes is an irreconcilable loss to be that, it’s a scary world indeed.

Another way to view it would be the whole act of pretending to invest all that energy into something better, something that generates a smile. None of that undermines the loss that one has to come to terms with.

I guess I’m stranded in that land called moving on. I pour my mind into the words that I write. I vent my emotions into the music that I make. I smile, I shoot pictures and delude myself into thinking about how expressive I can get as a hobbyist photographer. The underlying truth is, none of it means much to me. I do appreciate a few likes. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have a few people indulge into my works and encourage me by liking the works. It’s the case of a whole world of likes versus the one like that I could never get.

That’s been my constant struggle. I’m not happy with the entire world. I’m a lot happier in viewing that one person as my entire world. I’ve been through quite a few iterations of swapping my one person – world view. People have come and people have gone. The world has liked me and indulged me and has at times opted to not bother.

It’s this idea, it’s this sentiment, and it’s this trait in me that a lot have trouble comprehending. It contradicts the notion of moving on. Moving on, in effect, is an ability to look beyond just one person and give the world a chance. To me, it’s the same as looking past my entire universe and giving something else a shot.

It’s not easy. I pretend. So far, I’ve been pretending so well. There is no other way around it. Its a daily struggle to remind myself that only I can set myself free. I guess that a classic conflict with self. A part of me keeps me imprisoned and a part of me wants liberation.

A man called Ove. A man called Katz. The thing called life. I can muster a smile and hope it would be a sunny day tomorrow.

Change is inevitable and resistance is futile. It’s only a matter of time before I don’t have to pretend some more.☺️

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 : His bloody project

Cover page of His bloody project

His bloody project , G M B.

I picked this book because , 1. The cover page looked awesome. 2. It was heavily discounted. 3. I wasn’t thinking much when I picked the book.

In a short span a few months, I had comfortably moved away from comforts of reading murders and the satisfaction of accompanying a sharp mind in deciphering the twisted mind of a heinous bloke. While this was the genre that got me into reading, I had found myself moving towards other philosophies of life. I had this book for nearly six months before I eventually got to it.

I was impressed with the book. Yup, it makes for a well constructed , gripping narrative.

This is a story of a boy , Roderick Macrae. His not so simple life leads to a not so simple situation. Roddy is charged with manslaughter of not one but three people. The story is not a cat and a mouse chase of who-dun-it. With the dirty deed done cheap, the story kicks off with Roddy’s confession of the murders. Soaked in mind, Roddy goes on to getting himself imprisoned.

Now that was a twist in the tale that got me intrigued about the book. While in prison, Roddy is encouraged to write a memoir of the things that eventually transpired in the act of cold blooded murders.

The book is split into three sections. Roddy’s memoir of things that led to the murder. Roddy’s present in the prison. The retelling of the trail that decided upon his fate. I found the trial to be extremely engaging. Cheap thrills. The court room drama was both efficient and thrilling. I particularly enjoyed the sequence that the book follows. The memoir and Roddy’s time in the present are beautifully unravelled. With each page turned, one finds oneself closer to the nature of Roddy’s life.

There are brilliant questions that the book leaves us, the audience, with.

‘If an insane bloke proclaims to be insane, is the bloke really insane?’.

‘What justifies a murder?’ .

The book also explores the environment that nurtures a mind which readies itself to carry out the crime.

Are we born a murderer or do we grow into that role?

I did enjoy reaching my own conclusions about Roddy. I am intrigued by my not so ‘black and white’ outlook towards moralities of life. I’ll let you experience the narrative and form your own opinion about the curious case of Mr Roddy.

The horror that humans are capable of chilled me to the bone. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t take a lot for something within us to snap and embrace the animal in us. The book explores the simple clarity of a damaged mind’s conclusion that eventually does lead to a murder. Murders rather.

Maybe this book is not for everyone, then again, the whole act of murder is contained within a chapter. I guess in that sense, this can be picked without too much fuss.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the thoughts it left me with. The greatness of a book is not measured by the words used to describe it, its measured by the amount of thoughts it leaves , once that story is read. In that respect, this book manages to achieve just that.

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.

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

Book review : Norwegian Wood

Cover Page of Norwegian Wood, Murakami

Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami.

It is an infinitely difficult tale for me to review. It’s not because the tale is beyond a justifiable review, it’s solely because I am blinded by the emotions that I’d bring to the table when I talk about this book. I shall do my best to alienate myself from the book while I attempt to review this Masterpiece.

Norwegian wood, a song by The Beatles, also happens to be the song that the leading lady of the tale likes. Naoko. Toru Watanabe is the narrator and this story revolves around his life, how it intersects with Naoko , Reiko and Midori. The book is a testament to the predictability of how unpredictable our reasoning becomes when we face challenges that test our emotional stability. In short, Love, is the most predictable means to call out how we become unpredictable because of it.

N.W is a simple tale of love. Toru, his best friend Kizuki and K’s girlfriend Naoko are a trio. The story takes place when Toru is aged 17. Kizuki kills himself which leaves a void in Naoko and Toru’s lives. It’s a void that is beyond repair. It leaves a gaping hole in their lives. Toru and Naoko move to Tokyo, each pursuing their education. Toru and Naoko seem to find solace between themselves and Naoko , one fine day, exiles herself from Toru’s life. Toru feels the icy talons of isolation once again.

He later comes to know that Naoko , who is suffering from depression, has checked herself into an institution. Naoko reaches out to him through letters. Toru makes it a point to visit her and that’s when they meet Reiko. Reiko is Naoko’s roomie and she’s also a victim of a breakdown. There is a new trio that is formed.

While all of this happens, Toru meets Midori and finds her to be full of life, a quality that he misses both in his life and that in Naoko. She represents everything that Toru misses. Toru is in love with Naoko. Naoko is imprisoned by her depression. She’s a broken version of what she can be. She’s unable to reciprocate that love. Her solitude leaves Toru in a state of solitude. Midori start to fall for Toru and he feels the conflict.

So far the plot of the book does point towards the simple fact that love can get as complicated as one wants it to be. It’s not the mere words of love that this book represents. It is a hurricane of emotions that each of the character expresses. The volatile nature of emotions, the impact of such emotions on our lives, the way our lives affect the lives of folks around us, and this book absolutely , precisely rams the hammer down the perfect nail.

As the protagonist suffers the misery of helplessness of his love, we feel his pain. We feel the pain and misery that keeps Naoko trapped. Her inability to jolt herself off her depression, the toll and strain that has on the love, the residual sadness and guilt of Kizuki’s death, a world of walls keep the lovers apart. Toru’s love for Naoko keeps him disconnected from Midori. Midori’s solitude finds comforts in Toru.

It’s not hard to imagine the way love flourishes through pain and sadness. Each character is trapped , waiting and longing for that special attention. Each character denies that special attention to someone that desperately seeks from them. We are left with human nature in its rawest unblemished form.

What happens to the love? Whose love finally endures the test of time? Whose battle with depression, loneliness finally sees the light of dawn? The story goes on to conclude in the most fashionable way that readers of Murakami are now used to.

I loved this book. This book struck a chord and I couldn’t keep myself away from living the characters in my head. The book expresses a lot of themes.

We find it hard to accept but the under appreciated truth to many of us is the fact that we put our happiness in someone else’s hands. The tale is a testament to that fact. There is the side of love that the book ventures into. Love, while is empowering, it also has the capacity to render us helpless. There is frustrated helplessness plastered across the walls of this tale. Then comes the big elephant in the room, Depression. What I loved the most about the book is that it portrayed a picture of Love in the time of a depression. I guess it’s hard in real life as it’s conveyed in the book.

The book also explores the fact that people are drawn to certain people. Toru is broken inside, he finds himself gravitating towards Naoko, Midori and Reiko, and all of them are broken too. Like attracts like, I’d presume. There is a certain nativity in such pain. We draw and reach out to similar folks.

This book is most definitely not about giving up on life. The broken lives of Toru and Naoko represent the baggage of the past. Midori represents the present. Reiko represents the way future unfolds. It’s a convoluted thought that connects the characters to the linearity of time. But that’s how I see it. Toru and Naoko are anchored to the past and hence neither is able to move on. Midori on the other hand, represents life. She’s the one character that makes choices in the right time. It’s just a matter of time for her to realize if her choices were right or wrong. Reiko represents the future. She is both an outcome of the past, and also changes with changes to the choices that are made in the present.

For what it’s worth, somewhere , some time in the future, I’ll read this again. I love this book!

Karthik