Stop all the Clocks

Today’s prompt is the perfect excuse for me to catapult myself back to blogging. Sadly, I have been ignoring this project of mine for no apparent reason. I cannot explain my sudden sabbatical from writing; I just got a little distracted I guess. Each day, I went over the emails for daily prompts and ignored them with an inexplicable indifference, giving half-baked arguments to myself that I did not have much to contribute towards the topic. I am sorry to say that albeit briefly, I missed the point that the motive was to find a way to relate to these prompts and express myself.

Today, there is no room for unconvincing defenses. This prompt is a godsend as there is no reason to be restricted to any thought or an idea; instead it is time to plunge back into my blog and let my fingers do a freestyle dance over my keyboard. I do often go through phases when words just abandon me. Thankfully sooner or later, something happens which prod them to rekindle their friendship with me.

Having said all that, I do admit that it is very annoying to write when one eye of mine is firmly set on the clock. I like to leave my love for deadlines at work. But at least I am back on the blog and I am feeling happy. I wish that this marks my re entry into my blogging phase because I have a blast during that time. Actually at this moment, a wish to halt time would be more practical. But as Marquez said, wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good!

Written in response to Daily Post – Ready, Set, Done

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No Tolerance for Intolerance

I have always thought of sin as an interesting word. Merely three letters long, it seems so innocuous but in fact conveys a meaning of grave consequences, a cornerstone of one’s moral compass. Despite pondering over the deceptive nature of this word, I have never given much thought to the act of sinning itself. I am not very religious by nature and often wonder if I will ever be. However, I do try my very best to be morally sound with my thoughts and actions. Just like most of us, I was raised to stand by “right” and abhor the “wrong”. Now that I have grown up, I have come to realise that there is often a thin line that separates the right from the wrong and choosing between them is not as easy as I was told. We have to choose nevertheless; how we choose defines our character.

Sinning has various repercussions. But in today’s day and age, how do we decide what is sin and what is not. Today, diversity has far greater significance in the society than it had at any point in the past. Be it religion, race or sexual orientation, we are gradually moving towards an era of unprecedented integration that calls for great tolerance and respect. And I think this would be the greatest legacy my generation can leave for the future. At this point, in my opinion, intolerance would be the least desirable trait we would want to see in a person.

I have always had very little respect for intolerant and apathetic people. Empathy for the fellow humans is a virtue I greatly value. Be it everyday situations like helping out a neighbour or standing up for greater causes, we all wish that others show a little understanding towards us. I believe that empathy is a sign of a highly mature character who wants peace and happiness among people. One of my biggest takeaways from my life so far is that there is no one right thing. What is right from my point of view may be shady from someone others. It all depends on a person’s beliefs and values. However, being intolerant towards others’ points of views creates more problem than it solves. Instead of thriving on our diversity, most people end up nursing wounds for being different and powerless. It promotes an environment of profound distrust and fear.

I am familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and if I were to induct an eight one, I would definitely pick intolerance. It is one of the greatest vice that is threatening the world today and needs to be addressed immediately. One of the purposes of our life is to be a channel of hope and happiness for others around us; it should be everyone’s endeavor to root out intolerance make the world a better place.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Eight Sin

 

Reading the Old Fashioned Way

As tech savvy as I am, I find myself frequently embarrassed by my level of dependence on technology even for trivial matters. Technology is definitely a boon, especially to our frenetic, time pressed generation. Sadly, this boon comes with a price; it is making our lives somewhat bereft of charm. When I was younger, I was under the impression that automating our daily lives was a good thing, scoffing at adults who chose to slave away, go that extra mile to ensure that things were perfectly cooked or cleaned while the same or perhaps better results could be achieved by machines. But as I grew up and was introduced to the realities of automation, I understood that mastering it would make my life easy but will not necessarily satisfy me. For, my lifestyle would be so synthetic and generic that one would think that it just hopped off a very well oiled assembly line. At times, I get amused by the desperation with which we are ready to replace all our activities and interactions with something as inconsequential as a touch of a button. What is even funnier is that we are so far ahead in the automation time line that the idea of something being hand made is now a novelty and seen as a dying art.

In most areas of my life, I have allowed myself to become a slave to technology. However, there are a few aspects which I consider too sacred to let technology invade it. Reading is one such aspect. I love to read and frankly, new developments in this area makes the act a lot less charming. I have tried reading novels on phones and tablets but like an insatiable romantic, keep returning to the good old paperback. A lot of friends tease me saying that I read the old fashioned way. To them, an ebook reader is the perfect gift technology could present to me. It does solve a lot of problems, the biggest one being that it saves space. My house would be a lot less messier if I bought myself a Kindle. But it is just not the same, is it? I love my Ipad and the fact that it is so sleek and stylish. But I hate reading on it. I read the entire Game of Thrones series on my it but the entire experience left me underwhelmed. In the beginning, I was baffled by my aversion to reading on my many gadgets. In fact, when I bought my first smart phone, I was sure that I would love reading on it. I quickly realised that I was highly mistaken.

Even after so many years of reading novels, I continue to be in awe of literature. Lately, I have come to realise that the pleasure comes not only from reading the wonderful words written in the book, but also from holding the source of the said wonder. There is a lot of magic packed in the pages of books. The smell of a new book, the pleasure of the paper brushing against my fingers, the wearing of the spine as I progress through the book; how can a gadget replace that? I love buying books and take a lot of pleasure in building my book collection. At times when I cannot sleep, I just go to my bookshelf and just gaze lovingly at my books. It is therapeutic indeed. Scrolling through a list of titles on an LED screen does not provide the same thrill. Not to mention the immense strain in puts on one’s eyes.

My books are like my friends who have joined me at various stages of life but never left me. Their pages are the confidantes of my many emotions I had while devouring them. I recently finished re reading “Love in The Time of Cholera”. The words of Marquez capture inexplicable magic but the pages of my copy of the book also capture my astonishment at his genius and sincere sadness at his death. Just as the pages of “The Great Gatsby” preserved my grudging sympathy for Jay Gatsby and the pages of “Jane Eyre” recorded my resolve to adopt a certain brand of feminism.

As much as I fight it, the process of reading is evolving with the changing time and will reach its consummation. Perhaps the next generations will see books as a relic of the time gone by. They will never know the pleasure of holding a book just we will never know the pleasure of doing so many other things. But this is the price we pay for evolution.

Written in response to Daily Post – Handmade Tales

 

 

Forever…

Until recently, large bungalows made me nervous. Having lived most of my life in the secure enclosures of flats, the individuality evoked by a mansion was lost on me. Life in a big city has a certain obscure air to itself and perhaps the flats dotting the cities are it’s most powerful symbols. A person’s house is their oasis, mirroring their deepest attributes and loves; a haven for them and their children. But from the outside, it is just a tiny little box, cramped between millions of others; all identical and soulless to a passerby.

When I was a child, my mother talked fervently of the house she was born and grew up in. She grew up in a little village, in a large family and an even larger house. Such is the pull of that house that she becomes a little girl again at the thought of revisiting her first home, even after almost three decades of leaving it. When I visited it as a child, I used to be flummoxed as it came nowhere near my urban, ignorant definition of a house. To me, it looked like just a series of rooms bordering a massive courtyard. I had never seen a house not bound together by walls or a roof and genuinely found it strange. Years later, when I stopped visiting the house and my summer memories were all I had left, I realized how beautifully the courtyard brought the house together.

That house, the sentinel of my mother’s childhood now stands in ruins; its occupants having long deserted it in search of a better, more vibrant life. Perhaps, I was too late in appreciating the charms of an expansive house in a quaint little place. I really wish for it be to be renovated for its a shame to watch it lose the battle with time. To me, that house characterized a certain kind of bigheartedness; as if the house welcomed me with outstretched arms. With a spacious porch at its entrance and an immense courtyard at its heart, that house is just not meant for a life behind closed doors. It is instead meant to host a large, boisterous family; entertain their constant chattering, capture their peals of laughter, seal the aroma of family recipes. If it were up to me, I would convert the house into a vacation home; a place where my parents would look forward to visiting and reuniting with their brothers and sisters. It would be a crime to not use the courtyard to its fullest. If I were in charge of that house, I would pass a law to always have dinner in the courtyard, under the country sky and infinite stars. I would set up a large dining table for this. I would also set up cots in the courtyard for star gazing afterwards. I would keep the rest of the place as rustic as possible, doing justice to its surroundings and my mother’s childhood. I wish I could renovate that house and convert into a fantastic getaway and a reunion spot.

I am rereading “Love in the Time of Cholera” these days and as usual being hopelessly drawn into Marquez’s eccentric and magical world. I somehow relate my mother’s first home with Marquez’s universe. For the house seems to elicit a degree of quirkiness; firmly rooted in the past and flaunting its curious hues. As that timeless edifice crumbles today, it does leave warm memories in my heart which I will remember for as long as I can. Or as Florentino Ariza said, “Forever”.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Reviving Bricks

Of Cake and Introspection

Much like the circle of life they mark, the significance of birthdays too evolve as they occur every year. For a child, they are the most anticipated day of the year; friends milling around in your house bearing shining presents, a big cake, wearing a brand new dress, mom cooking her best dishes for you, dad fussing with the camera to capture every little moment of the day. It is the annual day of exclusive attention. As the child grows, the novelty of birthdays diminish gradually. While still special, it is also a notorious reminder that they are getting older. And with that reminder, kicks in the excruciating self introspection; have I made the most of my life so far? Nevertheless, I love birthdays and I am looking forward to celebrating mine in sixteen days.

Come July and I get all excited and can’t wait for the 20th of the month. I get so excited that I start reminding everyone I meet that my birthday is coming up. As thrilling I find the countdown, I don’t plan anything special for this day. All I care about actually is eating a big chocolate cake and good food; and of course, spending some quality time with family and friends. My friends made my last birthday very memorable as we spent the entire day together and they showered me with presents. It was pouring on that day and I drove them for lunch but got stuck in a nasty traffic jam instead. But we had great fun as we were in really high spirits. We were laughing and singing the whole time. On the top of everything, my parents sent my sister and me a big bouquet of flowers and a huge cake in the morning getting the day off to a beautiful start.

I don’t have any specific idea of a perfect birthday. I just like to be busy and surrounded with people I like, eat good food and respond to birthday wishes on phone and Facebook. I have a few friends who are close but whose voices I get to hear only on my birthday. We have all chosen to build our lives in different cities and its a massive shame that I cannot see some of them everyday. So we use our birthdays as an excuse to reconnect. It is something I really look forward every year and I find it heartening that they still bother to wish me. But if I do have to plan a perfect birthday, I would like to be travelling on that day. It would be nice to celebrate it in a place I have never seen before.

As I have grown up, I have begun to see birthdays as a chance for reminiscing at how far I have come. I have a tacit understanding with myself; to get better at something every year. As my birthday approaches and I launch myself into my annual self introspection session; I do realize that I have matured a bit, although in subtle ways. I have become a bit more independent and a bit less confused. As I prepare to surge into another year of my life, all I can wish for is to keep getting better and better in as many ways as I can. And of course, a big chocolate cake.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – It’s Your Party

 

Finding the Way Back

The idea of getting lost terrifies as well as fascinates me to no ends. What alarms me is that how easy it is to get lost; one wrong turn is all it takes. A single lapse of judgement and we find ourselves in an alien territory and all our insecurities come to the fore. I never got lost as a child. I find that strange as every person I know has at least one childhood story where they got lost. The best I can do in that area is tell people about the one time my sister got lost when we were three. But I must have be an obedient kid; tightly gripping my parents’ hand, never straying away from their sights. I do have a faint childhood recollection of dreading the idea of getting lost. I remember visiting a beach once when I was around fifteen. It was night and the sea was particularly turbulent. There was a sense of menace in how the waves rose and crashed against the stark, black sky. It was a beautiful sight to my fellow onlookers but all I could think was how gut wrenching frightening it would be to get lost in that dark, choppy sea.

As I grew up, a pleasant blend of curiosity and confidence crept in. I started liking the idea of wandering in an unknown place. Probably that is just an offshoot of my love for travelling. I am perhaps at my boldest when I visit a new place. A pressing urge to explore that place possesses me and suddenly, the idea of getting lost doesn’t seem that scary. Discovering a place I have never seen before, touching its walls, strolling on its streets, taking in the sights, absorbing its story; getting lost in them is the best way to do it.

I have been lost in the literal sense a few times as an adult, thanks to my terrible sense of direction. I have taken many wrong turns while driving or given incorrect directions to cab drivers. But these situations don’t bother me any more because well, smart phones. Last January, I got lost at Ellora Caves, a series of a thousand year old rock cut caves and the most spectacular monument I have ever visited. For a very long time, I did not realize that I was separated from my family as I was so engrossed in the exquisite carvings all over the walls. I did not have my phone or money with me; I just had my camera. Surprisingly, even when the realization dawned upon me, I did not panic and somehow found my way back. Now that I am writing about it, I am wondering again how I found my way back to my family. I don’t remember exactly how I navigated through the labyrinth that was the caves. It must be quite a feat for someone like me, who took months to memorize the route from work to home. I guess this is how adversity works; pushing you to rise to the challenge.

As I have grown up and formed my own outlook towards life, I have always looked at adversities with an optimistic eye. Although I am no lover of pain or suffering, I cannot overlook the profoundness it brings with itself. I know that its not welcome but it is an excellent tool of self discovery. Getting lost is doubtlessly terrifying but making one’s way back must be equally rewarding. I certainly don’t want to be lost in that violent sea but if I do, perhaps the experience will make a swimmer out of me.

We all get lost, in one way or the other. Sometimes we lose our way while driving; some of us feel lost when in wrong company; we all at some point feel lost in our own lives, caught between the multitudes of worries and decisions. When we are lost, we are temporarily deprived of our greatest comfort – security. This is as terrifying as it is liberating. We all would go to great lengths in order to retrieve our sense of security, which is why we find a way back. This process may reveal a few things about ourselves; perhaps a skill we never knew we possessed or a hidden aspect we didn’t know about our character. As long as we have our optimism with us, we will be fine. Well, optimism and smart phones!

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Wrong Turns

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