Saying No to Comfort Zone

In all the years I have been dabbling with writing, I have struggled greatly to come to terms with the fickleness of this act. On bad days, it appears to be nothing but a cruel waiting game; when I just stare at a blank page and beg for inspiration to strike. On good days, words are the drug of my choice as I type away feverishly and with total abandon. As much as I love to share what I write with the world, the process itself is quite personal to me. I see writing as a conversation with myself. Sometimes, it is highly animated and sometimes it is relaxed. There are times when it is simply an impasse. I am at my best as well as worst while writing and abhor any kind of audience at this time.

I  normally like being comfortable when I write. It is much like meditation; I need to be focused and free of distraction. I hear the slightest noise and can feel my anger bubbling; my mind conjuring violent acts to strike down the source. This is why I cannot write in crowded places and envy those who can. It is nothing short of an art to create an oasis of your own in the midst of a deluge and thrive in it. Before I shifted to my current house, I used to love writing on my bed in my room (now my old room). It was my own warm cocoon; stimulating and soothing at once. When I moved to my new house, I was staggered to discover the impact my old room had on my writing process. For a good few months, I had lost the urge to write. I then realized the crippling nature of a comfort zone. I tested many spots in my new home as a writing zone. I finally settled on the desk in the corner of my living room.  It is not entirely free from distractions but I have decided to train myself to focus despite distractions.

I like typing my thoughts on my laptop. I frequently use my phone and Ipad when I am out but I feel that my writing is more consummate when it is done on my laptop. As of now, the laptop on my desk is my writing spot. The fan is right above it. I have a wooden plaque with and inscription of “If” by Rudyard Kipling and a coaster with “Aedh Wishes for the Cloth of Heaven” by W.B Yeats. These poems keep me company and give me inspiration. While a desk and a chair is a far cry from the warm comforts of a bed, it is a good place get some discipline.

As I settle on my desk and start typing, I often wonder if getting a comfortable writing spot is the right thing to do. I have learned that comfort is a double edged sword. While it does make you feel safe, it also ties you down. It would be an utter tragedy if my imagination could come alive only if I sat on my desk. That in fact, would be defeating the idea of imagination. As personal writing is to me, should I entitle just one place to let it flourish. An accomplished writer should be as comfortable writing in a crowded cafe as he should be in the safety of his home. Not just writing; being at the peak of your skills irrespective of the situation is what separates the greats from the good.

Honestly, I feel that this blog post is quite labored as I am writing it with the TV blaring behind me. I did struggle with the noise but I still managed to complete this. While not a drastic step, I hope that this is a stepping stone to breaking free from the comfort zone. It would be good exercise to try and write in various situations and places. That would be a good test of my ability. Hopefully you will soon see my sitting in a crowded cafe, typing away feverishly and with total abandon.

Written in response to The Daily Post – Writing Space

 

100 Followers!

I just noticed that my blog has hit 100 followers and I am overjoyed! I know that its not a huge milestone in the blogoshphere. There are plenty of blogs with thousands and millions of followers and they may sneer at this minor achievement. But to think that three weeks ago when I decided to bring my blog back from the dead, I had just 11 bloggers following me; I am feeling a bit proud.

And the icing on the cake is that my father became my hundredth follower. I had been pestering him to read my blog for a week and he finally decided to do it today and also followed it, inadvertently completing my century. Aren’t dads just the best!

At the expense of sounding sentimental, I want to say a big thanks to the ones who followed me. I don’t realize I have something to say until I start typing a new post. And I am heartened to find patient ears for them. It is really a soothing exercise and highly rewarding. It is very strange to discover the ease with which I can draw from my experiences while writing. I am fairly articulate but find it difficult to verbally express my thoughts in colloquial situations; I sound like a warbling mess. Maybe I don’t talk to the right audience. But here all those concerns don’t matter as I am assured that I will have a audience for whatever I want to say.

So, I raise my digital (also imaginary) glass and toast to all you lovely followers! And special thanks to my words for not deserting me.

 

Mango Smells Like Paradise

I always look forward to summer with an anticipatory glee. The season has a way of channeling my inner child. Indian summers are particularly cruel and looking at it through the eyes of a child is the only way I can come up with in order to enjoy it. The relentless sun, the motionless breeze, the persistent sweating, the unwanted tanning; this season is highly ruthless to us. But I still manage to think that there is a certain grace in which the sun brightens everything around me. The buildings, roads, trees, cars; everything is radiant and so jubilant.

I have a slightly heightened sense of smell. I rely heavily on scents to connect to memories of events and people.The thought of summer too brings in my mind a variety of scents I have cataloged over the years; the earthy smell of the freshly mowed grass, the sour scent of the pickles my mother laid out in the sun to dry or the fragrance of amaltas hanging heavy in the still air. Sadly Mumbai’s air does not leave much room for summery scents. The air here is an eclectic blend of sweat, smoke and dead fish. However thankfully, one of my warmest summer memories still stays alive in the sweet, heavenly aroma of mangoes.

No Indian summer can be complete without gorging on this gorgeous king of fruits. We wait all year to sink our teeth in its golden, luscious flesh. Come May and my Facebook wall is flooded with friends happily announcing about eating the season’s first mango.For three months or so, mango rules the kitchen and menus of all Indian households. Desserts are not a cause of worry anymore. We just make the best of the limited time we get with our favorite fruit. Perhaps I love smelling mangoes more than I like eating them. I especially love going to buy fruits in summer and simply smell all the different kinds of mangoes laid out in display. It just makes me so giddy. The exotic, sweet, fruity smell a ripe mango emanates is one of my favorite things about summer. And the memories of many a balmy nights spent with my family and friends, huddled around a plate of mango slices will delight my heart all my life.

A Swedish proverb goes, “a life without love is like a year without summer.”  And a summer without mangoes is unimaginable. In India, summer is already preparing to depart. It has begun to rain and I am enjoying the soothing, earthy smell the first bout of showers have brought. Thankfully, the season of mangoes will linger for a few more weeks. I better hurry to the fruit store!

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Seasonal Scents

 

Good Week for Blogging

Last week of my life was fairly uneventful; another nondescript shift clocked in life. Nothing of great significance happened. However, it was a perfectly content and pleasant week as I wrote on this blog every single day. I am not the one who dwells in the past or wishes to relive my experiences, however wonderful they may be. We should let them go once they have passed. No matter how much we try to recreate or revisit them, they can never really possess the sheen of the first time. The best we can do is carry their messages and memories for the future.

We spend our days waiting for something extraordinary to happen to us. Sometimes days turn into weeks and months but our lives are the same. No breakthrough in career, no special someone met, no stories worth saving for the future; its just the same drudgery day in and day out. Nobody would want to relive these days made up of dry, humdrum moments. But we often forget how much they teach us. There are always little moments of wisdom and warmth tucked in such days. Slow days give you time for enriching yourself. Read a good book, learn a new skill, whip up a new dish; there are always ways to spruce up times. They are also a great time for introspection and contemplation. As the previous week began, I knew there was nothing great lined up for me. Hence I decided to teach myself something new so that the week would not be a complete waste. So I tried to learn haiku. One thing led to another and I was posting something on this blog everyday. While this did not help my career or made me rich, it did make me feel worthwhile. Some posts were rather well received and I was elated at interacting with so many different people. I went to bed feeling productive.

As said earlier, I do not wish to relive the past week. But I will carry it’s spirit in the many weeks to come. Besides why stop at a good week of writing when I have the chance to have many such more.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Groundhog Week

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

As much as I love to sleep, I like to evade it as much as possible each night. It is the most curious phenomenon; I actually fight it till the very last ounce of my senses surrender. A little self introspection has led me to believe that as bedtime arrives, I go into utter panic that my day is nearing its end. I then scramble to salvage the last few remaining moments of my day to make it count more. TV shows pending to be watched, books waiting to be finished, room forgotten to be cleaned, poems neglected to be penned, they all suddenly clamor for my attention.

I don’t have a fixed nighttime ritual. However my agenda to avoid sleep for as long as possible is set in stone. I have never been the one to go to bed early. Even as a child, I found it hard to sleep at the stipulated bed time. I find nighttime very peaceful and calming. It is as beautiful as it is stark. I love it so much that I pen poems in it’s honour. It is the time when you retire to your abode and are in the company of only those people you want. I especially like to read or write something at this time if I am not too tired. If I am, then I simple catch up on the TV shows I keep downloading (these days I am alternating between Hannibal and Fargo). These days, the FIFA World Cup also keeps me up till late. If not anything, then there is always the shimmering screen of my smart phone enticing me into betraying slumber. This is also an exceptionally good time for some pondering and reflection; be it the purpose of my life, planning the next day or scheming world domination.

After my body starts giving up, I tear myself from my TV/computer/phone/book and drag myself to my bed. Despite my determination to avoid sleep, I always find myself grateful for the warm comfort of my bed. I switch off the light and grudgingly shut my eyes. The next few moments are quite fascinating as I await my mind to fall asleep and join my body. Sometime I think that I am in a Kafka novel; my mind conjures distorted images and dialogues with a fluidity I am not otherwise capable of. In due course my mind shuts down too and everything is finally still.

While I battle to stay awake, I am often reminded of Dylan Thomas and his finest poem (villanelle to be precise) “Do no go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I know that the great poem talks about fighting death but in my opinion those lines are equally fitting in this situation. If only were there a poem for the dark circles I get the next day.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Sleepy Time

Cricket is Our Religion and Sachin is Our God!

Being an Indian, it is impossible to miss the beauty of cricket. This wonderful sport is virtually unknown to most parts of the world but is akin to a religion in my country. There are as many as thirty languages spoken in India. In many ways you would be like a foreigner if you were to travel from one state to another. But cricket is the language everyone understands. It is the language everyone speaks with unparalleled zest. Ask any person of my generation about their happiest moments and 2nd April 2011 would invariably figure among them as we won the World Cup on that day. Cricket truly is the one thing that unites us all.

Growing up in an Indian household guarantees a very early exposure to cricket. Ever since I remember, I had been passively watching the sport and had already sensed that this was one of the traits of being an Indian. Right from a very young age, I could see and hear it everywhere and unconsciously started picking up the rules and terminologies of the game. However, it was on 24th April 1998 when I truly fell in love with the game and in the process found a role model – Sachin Tendulkar.

India was playing against Australia in the Coca Cola Cup Final in Sharjah. Australia, led by Steve Waugh were a formidable team back then; fierce and highly seasoned. The first innings where Australia batted is a blur to me now. All I remember is that we were given a target of 273. Sachin opened with Saurav Ganguly and as they say, the rest is history. It was his birthday and he was in the mood to party. He annihilated the Aussie bowling attack, making greats like Shane Warne and Kasprowicz look like minnows. Watching him bat was poetry in motion; boundaries and sixes gushed effortlessly from his bat as he went on to score 143 and win India the trophy. From that day, Sachin’s square cut and straight drive became one of my favorite things in the world. I was amazed at how this little man shouldered the daunting responsibility to defeat the world champion and brought joy to the billion of Indians. He was already a legend, the darling of the nation and the hero of my generation.

That spectacular victory has been etched as a milestone in India’s psyche. It was significant to the country in many ways. It signified the resurgence of Indian cricket, led by the great man himself. It cemented Sachin’s place in the pages of history and hearts of my countrymen. The baton had been passed to him, to carry the hopes of a cricket crazed nation. And he did not disappoint. It is truly overwhelming to realize what the cricketer has become to the country.Everything in the country came to a standstill when he stepped to bat. His achievements were our pride and his failures were our pain. My colleagues and I kept all our work on hold to watch him score his hundredth century. I will never forget how my office’s jam packed cafeteria erupted when he scored the 100th run. Watching him play was one of the greatest joys of my life and I wept like a baby the day he retired.

This post is just another excuse to display my obsession with Sachin Tendulkar and my love for cricket. I am terrible at remembering dates but I never forget 24th April. Not only it is the birthday of my hero but it is also the anniversary of my relationship with the great sport.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Offside Memories

Not So Summery Solstice

In India, the Summer Solstice is already on the way to its end. It is already 6:30 PM as I type this post. Particularly in Mumbai, summer is already preparing for its exit as monsoon knocked on our doors about a week ago. Since then, the weather has been an awkward competition between the blazing sun and menacing dark clouds. Today was no different.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to the longest day of the year as I had nothing planned for the day. But I imagine, the rest of the world must be happy that this day fell on a Saturday; and they would not have to spend the precious extra hours of the light slaving away in their workplace. I did not do anything special. I woke up quite late and lazed around the house until my stomach reminded me to cook some food. After having a simple brunch, I spent some time catching up with friends after which I penned a poem for my previous blog post. Post that, I watched some TV and now here I am, writing about my uneventful day. I plan to do a Fargo marathon after I finish with this post. That would be good use of the extra hours we have been gifted today.

I hope the other people of Mumbai were able to make better use of the extra hours of light today. Many offices remain open on Saturdays here but I hope they were able to get off work early and spend more time with themselves and the ones they love. Living in one of the busiest cities of the world, we often forget about the finer things in life. These days, our topmost priority is not getting the impending monsoon hamper our routines. The city is all about survival and racing against the clock. Many would have been relieved in discovering that the clock is going to move slower.

The sun has not set yet, although its not really bright outside either. I can see dark clouds gathering outside my window but I am not sure how the events are going to unfold. We are more than ready to say goodbye to the cruel Indian summer and I sincerely hope that it rains. That would be a good way to end a Summer Solstice.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Set for Solstice

 

 

My Cloudy Cloak

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I remember,

Edging towards your charming woods,

Whistling wind and swaying leaves.

Mist drifting over the trails I laid,

And nothing to be heard or said.

I am draped in the gentle clouds,

And gliding away in the breeze.

Your lushness brushes against my skin,

Reminding me this is not a dream.

My skin feels parched as I type these words,

Reminiscing in my sparse abode,

Those stolen moments of blissful oblivion,

And my cloudy cloak which is now undone.

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I thought of penning this little poem as a tribute to my trip to a charming little hill station called Parwanoo in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is situated upon a hill 5000 feet above the ground where you have nothing but clouds and pine trees for company.

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Of Ancient Temples and Crashing Waves

I have great difficulty in remembering my dreams. When I wake up in the morning, I do spare a few seconds in recollecting the dreams I have had last night. More often than not, I draw a blank. On a few occasions, I do recall a series of blurred faces and voices but sadly, they are too vague to string together into a coherent scene. However, on a taxing day, sometime when I close my eyes, I have a few peaceful retreats I can transport to. One of such places is a rock temple which is over a thousand years old and overloooks the mighty Bay of Bengal.

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Visiting monuments have always been a favored activity with me. It is a happy culmination of my penchant for travelling, history and photography. Luckily I live in a country dotted with spectacular historical sites. One such site is the Sea Shore temple which I visited in 2010. That memories of that trip have stayed with me since and visit me every once in while when I need comfort.

 I am walking alone towards the temple. Dusk is just falling. The elegant, tapered dome stands tall against the vast, vivid evening sky. The sea heaves gently in the side. The waves come crashing against the rocks lining the temple and then crawl back to meet the sea. I set foot inside the temple and can feel myself travelling back in time. The walls come alive with time honored tales and characters.The sculptures of the Gods gently draw me into their myths. At this point, the temple does not belong to an ancient kingdom. It stands there only to cater to my whims. The walls chronicling thousands of years of glory stand there only to give me some moments of peace. Under their gracious shadows, I am reminded once again what a bliss it is to steal some moments of solace from under the nose of the frenzied world. After a while I come out of the temple and make my way to the sea. I just sit on the shore, running my fingers through infinite grains of sand and watch till the sea and sky dissolve into each other.

I am never going to remember any dream as vividly as I remember this and I am thankful for that. For dreams often end abruptly; vanish into oblivion at the slightest disturbance. However, the idea of me strolling in an temple of an era bygone, beside the stunning sea will never fade as long as my imagination is alive.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Freudian Flips