Do I Know You?

Familiarity is a wonderful thing; the perfect eraser of imperfections. All lasting relationships culminate in familiarity; in inadvertently finishing sentences, laughing at worn out jokes and reading each other’s thoughts. It is the blissful phase when little flaws become inconsequential and anecdotes are in profusion. Be it family, close friends or long time colleagues, their reassuring presence has comforted me in many situations.

There have been many times when I feel baffled with the friends I have accumulated over the years. Some of my friends are wildly unlike me and the contradictions are uncanny. Not just my friends, even my sister who was born just a minute before me is the polar opposite of me. Reaching a level of harmony with them seems impossible. And yet somehow, we hold on to each other; embracing each other’s qualities and accepting each other’s quirks.

I often wonder if my sister were not my family and we would just chance upon each other at a random situation, would we become friends? I asked the same thing to my sister before I sat down to write this post. Without missing a beat, she replied that we would definitely be friends because both of us are crazy. So that settles that.

I also ponder the same about my friends. Had I met some old friends now, would I still like them? Would I still adjust with the one who is never on time for a movie? Would I still like the friend who conveniently forgets to return my books? Would I still take kindly  to them if they did not return my calls? Would I still patiently counsel them after their latest bout of uncertainty?

However hard I think about it, I can never reach a conclusion. Primarily because this is an exercise in futility. Why question the events which have already transpired? And especially the ones which have brought great people in my life and given me great joy? Why tinker with this delightful balance my wonderful family and friends have knit into?

Written in response to Daily Post – Delayed Contact

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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

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

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

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