Fact – Stranger than Fiction?

The readers of this blog must be no stranger to the fact that I love books. There is something inherently soothing in the sight of a book; the enchanting scent of it’s pages drawing you towards it and its words promising to enlighten, exhilarate and comfort you. A book doesn’t ask questions, it does not judge. All it does is take you on a journey, lending you the wonderful chance to live vicariously and above all, letting you amass a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I always tell my friends that a book is the best substitute of a time machine and an excellent cure of boredom.

Ever since I started working, I have made it a monthly ritual to buy books as soon as my salary is credited. My sister and my friends have come to terms with the fact that every shopping trip of ours has to feature a trip to the bookstore. As a result, my house now looks like every bookworm’s dream and every mother’s nightmare. My bookshelf, having being crammed long ago refuses to induct any new book. Creaking repeatedly, it has made its message clear that my books can go someplace else. Hence one can find my books strewn across all the rooms, settling wherever they can, cheerfully making themselves at home and incurring the wrath of my family. However, the flip side of owning too many books is that it takes ages for me to make up my mind about what I should read. All the unread books clamour for my attention and I try not to make eye contact while deciding. I ask myself what I am in a mood for, in order to assuage my dilemma. Each time I ask this question, I come up with a different answer.

“Fiction or no fiction”, every self respecting reader has had to face this pressing question. Answering this does not seem as easy as it seems. One gives the reader a chance to forego reality and the other looks to reinforce it. I have tried but have never been able to come up with a consistent answer to this question. For, there are times when we are worn out by the world around us and immersing ourselves in someone else’s world seems to be a plausible escape. And at times, we realise that truth is in fact stranger than fiction and we do need a dose of it.

I am a great lover of fiction but have learnt far more from reading non fiction. When I was younger, I used to scoff at works of non fiction and I thought there was no fun in it. However, as I grew up, I understood that I was missing out on a treasure of knowledge. I take great pleasure in reading biographies. As a student, I loved reading biographies of business and political leaders. Lately, I have taken to reading biographies of my favorite authors (Dicken and Hemmingway are the ones I have finished) and have been staggered by the way their mind worked. Another favorite reads of mine are the works which trace the history of cities and explain how their culture came into being. I got interested in such works after I read the incredibly insightful Maximum City, by Suketu Mehta. Travelogues are another obvious favorites of mine and I particularly love the works of Paul Theroux. What really impresses me is the amount of research driving such books. I have great respect for such authors who strive hard in ensuring that the truth is presented as accurately as possible. However, few make non fiction as mesmerizing as Bill Bryson does. His body of work is awe inspiring and I admire the way he traces the evolution of mundane things with humour and insight. Brimming with trivias and anecdotes, he is by far the most engaging writer of non fiction I have had the pleasure to read.

I like to strike a balance between fiction and non fiction. However, there are times when works of non fiction really surprise me. It is enlightening to delve deeper into the world we live in and the one we have evolved from. Not to mention the trove of trivias that makes one chuckle at humanity’s quirks and be wowed by it’s ingenuity.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Great Divide

Ten Minutes of Tirade

If time were a person, he would most likely be a sadist, despotic megalomaniac with a singular agenda of controlling the world. I can picture that tyrant; incessantly cracking his whip, reminding the lesser mortals of how transient and powerless they are in his hands. I can imagine his uproarious laugh when he would trap his clueless subjects in the diabolical dungeons of deadlines and watch giddily as they scamper around to break free.

My not so benevolent thoughts towards this dimension called time often comes to the fore when I am faced with unwanted deadlines. Giving ten minutes to write about anything must be the brain child of my arch nemesis I am yet to meet. Maybe it is their way of hinting that they exist and are coming to get me. I am sure they must be enjoying watching my brain scramble for ideas and zero in on one. It is indeed frustrating as ideas for blog posts circle my mind all day long but desert me at the most inopportune time. Hence I have decided to settle for a rant against the culprit himself.

Well, I have realized one thing; I am eloquent when I am ranting on a deadline. Is that a lesson you are trying to teach me, time? Are you trying to prod me into self discovery? Wipe that smirk off your cruel face and go away. I am trying to rant!

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

 

 

Laughter Challenge

When it comes to friendship, I consider myself truly blessed. My life, characterized by persistent relocation made sure that I made new friends every three years or so. And in doing this, I realized how profoundly different we are from one another. I feel a little baffled at how different all my friends have been and how much I have reveled in their contrasts. In retrospect, it has been an excellent lesson in accepting varied point of views and finding a way to co exist with harmony and happiness.

I am not the person who likes to remember dates, partly because I don’t really believe in marking milestones. There are a few things regarding which my mind works on a highly abstract level.That is why when people ask me when or how I became friends with someone, I am at an utter loss. For, becoming friends is not a contract which can be signed after which I get a new friend with immediate effect. It is a gradual and a subtle process featuring heartfelt rendezvous; a process which ages flawlessly and which needs to be felt more than seen. I have come to realize that we can find friends when we are least expecting it, in people who seem to be the most ineligible candidates. I can never remember the exact minute I met someone or the words exchanged between us. It is a miracle if I register their face properly. But with time, what stays with me are random moments of companionship, warmth and contentment.

The best part of making so many friends is that I have the perfect person to enjoy different situations with; be it attending lit fests, watching movies, debating on the state of the world, midnight musings, blowing off steam, proof reading my writing or plotting world domination. There is literally one for every occasion. I cannot think of many traits that are common among them. Very few of my friends like to read. Even fewer share my passion for grammar. I am not sure how many friends of mine have the same principles in life that I do (which is a really eye opening experience). However, their is one attribute, an overwhelming undercurrent which runs through all my friendships, which is humour.

I am a fervent believer of the adage that a day without laughter is a day wasted. However, the more I interact with people, the more I am led to believe that we live in a largely humourless world. Maybe this is why I hold on to people in whom I can detect even the faintest sense of humour. For, humour is a gift which keeps us from being dissolved in our own egos. It brightens up mundane days and really does give us hope. I love to make people laugh and in turn love it when others make me laugh. Humour is something I refuse to part with and I like people who also do the same.

If I had to pose one question to anyone who wants to be my friend, I would like to ask them if they loved to laugh. More importantly, if they would make me laugh. If their answer is yes then all I have to say is “when can you start?”.

Written in response to Daily Post – Litmus, Litmus on the Wall

 

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

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