Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chug Chug <0.5 selfish blog , 0.5 wanderlust>

On monday night, 9.15 pm, I embarked on what I thought would be a boring journey at best and a mindnumbing torture of a long sleepless night. Obviously, It had been a long long time since I last went on a train. As a child, I would make the 3 day trip from Delhi to Chennai on the Shatabdi with my grandmother and I would take immense pleasure in eating my fill of "goodies" everyday that my grandmother would arrange for me in a plate carefully. The trip also involved making friends with other children my age and playing card games and learning black magic (the biggest con if my life and it took me 2 years to figure out the trick!)... The highlight of the ride would be bonding with my grandmother as she told me numerous stories and played bluff, rummy and ass with me (all three card games)!

But this time, I knew my disposition. I did not enjoy being in isolation for hours on end when everybody around me would be fast asleep and by some offchance if I did not get my eyeshut I would be cranky and stoned all the day following day.

With that jaded mindset, I entered the station. THe first thing that struck me about it was the characteristic odour. A combination of urine, sweat and food, it was not a pleasant odour, but so comforting that it was not hard for me to slip into the same warm, comfortable mood that train journeys incited in me in the past. More than anything else, it must have been nostalgia but at the moment i was not complaining. Just happy to be feeling content. THe next thing that I just fell in love with were those stalls selling cheap books and magazines, water and frooti. I used to yearn for those in my childhood. I would inevitably pick up a gokulam to read on the way, something that brought me hours of pleasure with the well thought out and always entertaining articles and facts. My granny too would read out stories for me from the book and that was an absolute pleasure always!

This time, my father bought me a book on Personalities of India, with the view of benifitting my GK for the upcoming law entrance exam. The book was so cute(for the lack of a better word) in all its flaws. The tacky printing, the glaring spelling errors and the grammar, or lack thereof, were all a source of delight for my exhausted brain. As we waited for the train to come, for around 45 minutes (indeed it had been late), our backs broke but it was all worth it because we now knew Joseph Priestley's middle name and Mr Arundale's claim to fame. Finally, 5 minutes after its departure time, the train chugged into the station! What joy and pleasure it gave our broken backs to see this harbinger of good times to come.

BOarding the train was also an adventure. With our suitcases in tow, my father the brave was the first to make the ascend and with success the rest of us followed until the time came for my grandmother to do the deed. Hard as it was for her to bridge the gap between the platform and the step which exposed a gaping view of the train tracks. That was the stuff my childhood nightmares were made of. Slipping into that precious hole and the train starting. I'd spend hours wondering precisely in which position to lie so that I would not be pulped by the moving train! Finally concluded flat would be the best.

After we'd made the walk into the corridor and landed our seats, I experienced the single best feeling I have felt in the past week. That feeling of the blue leather bed as I lay down and rested my poor broken back. The catharsis of the wait and the standing and lugging, and the cool leather(or plastic as it may be) to rest on. Sigh.. that was life.

After a 30-minute wait, the train's machinery kicked into place and then it began. That absolutely irreplacable, mind-blowing, soothing sound/feeling.. Chug chug chug chug.. and the Chennai Mail chugged away into the night.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Selfish Blog - 1

Starry Starry Night - Don Mclean. The song evokes memories of road trips with my parents in the early days of my short life - ages 6-10. The sole english CD in my father's possession with the over-worked American Pie as the main attraction, this song was embedded into my mental hard drive without my cognizance. Around age 13 when I started asserting my right to CD time, Don Mclean's music took the backseat and subsequently faded from my life and maroon 5 or nickelback was the new road trip anthem.

However, a few weeks back, I stumbled upon Starry Starry Night int he soundtrack of a movie and the song just hit a nerve in some corner of my life and all of a sudden I found myself tripping on it day-in and day-out.. The song paints such a lush picture of life.. of greatness and of misunderstood artists living in repression :D

But, on a more serious note, the song just took me into a wave of nostalgia that all of us experience and that led me to wonder if I had grown up too fast for my own good. By 7th grade I was watching friends and graduating from Sweet Valleys to Jeffrey Archers

Where did all those happy, carefree days of playing hide-and-seek for hours nonstop and hopskotch and other frivolities disappear... In a flash I looked back all of it was gone. I think it was jsut me trying to be older than I was, I looked older for sure.. and did things older girls did and just tried to be precocious...

A few years down the line, when i was 16 or so.. I realized that I missed that carefree levity and I wanted to feel it again. And somewhere subconsciously I think I started to turn the wheels in that direction and over time I did become more childlike and more innocent in so many ways. I'd just behave like a complete child, and though it was a point of ridicule with many of friends I think it changed me so much for the better. I learnt not to hold on to things as much. For instance everytime I encountered what I felt was a setback I'd brood like the world was over for approximately an hour and then life was alright. It was a simple yet complicated way to deal with life but it seemed to work for me.

Even now it seems that the child-like-ness still persists and I am the better for that... Though it makes me stumble while i learn to drive at 8 in the morning, or lose my temper with my granny when I'm hot and bothered, in the end I wouldn't be me without it and I thank God for that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When I asked one of my friends what he would want if he could have any one thing in life, he told me that he wanted to make everybody happy. For reasons beyond my immediate comprehension, I was rather perturbed and frustrated by his response. After much contemplation I finally pinpointed the source of my turmoil. How could somebody possibly control another person's happiness!?

The very idea struck me as absolutely absurd. Hadn't we all heard a million times "The only person who can make you happy is YOU" and other such inspirational messages for people in darker times. Now here was my friend uttering such a noble thought which struck me as so contradictory to what I believed all along. My brain stuck and froze and for a minute I just didn't know what to do or say...

After a few days of quiet pondering I realized, what these people have preached is some idealised society where everybody internally controls what they feel and we can all pretend to be remote controls. Sadly, in a world like ours, where everything is so not-perfect, it is quite understandable that our emotions are dependent on every action that others make. Maybe it is a sad thing but I know that I've let myself be totally influenced by what somebody else says or does and just let myself fall into a total slump for something as silly as an insulting comment a friend passed.. Sheesh..

It seems rather sad and selfless of us to be so dependent on others' actions for our happiness.. I mean, how can we possibly let our feelings, the only thing we actually have control over, be taken over by others. But how we ended up like this is a question that still eludes me. At some point, we were all so independent, so selfish with everything that was ours. ANd back then, it was precious little. But somewhere down the line we lost the individual autonomy and ended up as a society, depending and being depended on in a material and emotional sense. Is that a good thing - maybe yes, maybe no...

So I guess until we become the perfect utopians that we wish and claim to be, we will forever be selfless and giving with our feelings and state of mind. And till then, my noble friend's wish will rank up there with "World Peace" and "A cure for cancer" ... the unattainable yet neccessary.

Short-comings or goings ?

compulsory vascectA recent discovery I made was that great people are not perfect. Big Surprise!

I was going through an article in Fortune magazine about Steve Jobs, a veritable God in his industry, and my gosh, he is just like the rest of us! He is mean when he's in a bad mood, he shouts at his employees, is arrogant to a fault... This article came as quite a revelation to me and at quite an opportune moment when I was grappling with the sudden and monumental realization of how terribly flawed I am, and everybody else is...

That cliche - Nobody's Perfect, finally made sense to me.. Its not the people who are perfect who become successful or content or leaders in the world, its those who pull through despite their flows. They seem to accept the flaws and leave them aside, not letting their shortcomings become them...

It might seem like I am adopting a preachy tone, though I certainly don't mean to be, but the whole event just came as a complete shock to me and I was left knocked out of my senses. Suddenly, I found myself trying to see how I should accept the fact that I tend to be self-centered at times and impatient and if I want to stay who I am, I need to just learn to live with it and, if possible, make occasional amends wherever I can to make life simpler for myself and everybody else around me.

And quite often accepting your faults and learning to live with them are far more difficult than actually deciding to change them. Because when you decide to change, it seems that it will all be better and different. In this alternate scenario, however, all your flaws will be pointed out, time and time again and try as you might to want to change, you'll know deep down that its a part of who you are and that is how it will remain till kingdom come.


Cliches in a cliche ..

Cliches are so hard to fathom. Firstly, they are true - too true in fact. Every cliche has far too many living examples to just ignore. Secondly, as the cliche goes, cliches are cliches because they are universal truths. There is practically no flaw you can find in their existence. Yet, despite all of these, you can't help but not really feel the essence of the cliche till you go through it yourself. You end up perpetually discarding it as something that people say, an annoying old custom that has been passed on for generationsm until one day, you feel it yourself. It suddenly fits into your situation to the T and in a flash - its yours. The cliche now becomes your universal truth. Countless times, I've had this happen to me and each and every time I emerge with a wide silly grin on my face and the thought running in my head would be "oh! so that's what they meant!"

Well, its an amazing experience when you discover for yourself what already exists. Its like cracking an IIT problem :D

Go Sridhar ;P

Monday, April 14, 2008

a walk on part in the war...

Wow.. these are one of those times when you wonder if anything was honestly ever worth it, if its worth the struggle to get what you want or easier to give up, sit back and enjoy life as it comes.

I am not and never was opposed to the concept of the anti-college education movement. To me, it was always a concept of personal choice. There is a way to get through life, quite happily in fact, without an ounce of college education. Examples of great people who made it big in life even without those shiny off-white embossed sheets of paper abound in every "Top ten Idols in "

But, when the onus fell on me to make that essential choice - do i need college?, every voice in my head unequivocally seemed to scream "Yes, sir!" and from there on I embarked on the long and arduous and as yet imcomplete journey of doing things well so I would find a place in an institution where I would feel proud to belong. Yet, along the way, I stumbled over and over again, found myself wasting days and weeks just carousing and lounging around in front of the miserable television letting my brain rot, slowly and systematically.

Now, when it all seems to be reaching an end, the part of the journey which matters most having passed away quite eventfully, all I wonder when I look back is - was it even worth it? ALl those days and weeks and months of irritation and frustration and just trying over and over agian to cram the same facts in my head to retain them as well as I could.

Of course, I emerged hopefully un-scarred but only time will tell what the real consequences of this war was..

Through this process I witnessed some of my co-fighters who seemed to take things with a pinch of salt, not letting themselves be truly perturbed by the enemy lines and just taking things so easy. Maybe it is a facade, but they seem to be at such ease with themselves, setting their expectations lower, and feeling the simple pleasure of spending time with friends and watching television guiltlessly... I on the other hand have wrecked many a good experiences just letting the guilt of slacking take over my being and emerged none the wiser for it. Such a shame and an honest pity.. Tut tut tut..

Now, i wish my mental makeup just permitted me to not care and take things easy. To just sit back and wish for something attainable and have it fall on my lap. Life would be such a breeze. And I would be happy too. I have got what I wanted. APplauding those who did better and consoling myself in secret saying - tis alright, I never wanted that in the first place.

But inside I know, I'm not wired that way... I'm meant to worry and be frustrated and just break my head over problems such as the board exams because that was how i've been conditioned all my life to behave ... Ah, the influences of our surroundings

Would you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in the cage...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

If everyone cared..

This Scarlett Keeling case just seems to be getting worse by the minute. Its quite evident that nobody stands to win here. The parent has shown obvious negligence in leaving her 15-year-old child behind without any consideration for her safety.

The Goan administration and Police also have shown utter lack of fulfilment of duty by neglecting to conduct a thorough examination, and for that matter, by even letting the incident occur.

The British Government doesn't want this case to be a reflection of their citizens so they seem to be trying their level best to disown the parent without seeming to be disrespectful or such..

NObody wins. Except maybe Scarlett, atleast she no longer lives in a world such as ours where we don't care to protect, we just point fingers. Or so it seems..

If only the Utopia mentioned in the song of Nickelback who, though it might seem are being influenced by pop elements to an inexcusable extent, have hit the nail bang on the head with no doubts whatsoever..

"If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then we'd see the day when nobody died

At times like there, the words ring so true and touch a nerve that needs to be alive and beating in all of us for this world to make sense again... Else, we are headed for an international genocide of proportions insane..

The hypocrisy of the west and the east respectively and when taken together is such a sad sight to see.. America trying to play mediator in the Israel-Palestinian war while they themselves cannot seem to let go of the bitterness that they show to the Islamic world. The double standards on the Iranian Nuclear situation and that shown by RUssia.

All these nations claim to be democracies, they claim to hold fair and free elections but in the end they go to extents just short of physically stuffing ballots to gain personal profit. Why? Why can't we just love and live in peace?

*Sigh* We need a cure for poverty. Socialism didn't quite work, a new world order is in the offing.

Wanderlust 1

Every one of us reaches a time in our lives when we want to feel something more, something beyond our immediate reach . Most often than not we let those feelings lead us to the inevitable wanderlust. I invariably let myself to be let astray by these feelings and find myself trying to find an unusual and exciting destination where i can spend the few short days I can convince my family to spare from their insane lives.

A few summers back we embarked on the most cliche journey that exists in the history of travel. The London- Paris route. Every ardent traveler would have been on this particular itenerary atleast twice in their lives for a variety of reasons. So I decided to the the cliche just to see what all the fuss was about. The Arc De triomph never really excited me and I had spent days comtemplating what the big deal about Montmatre was. But I told myeslf - You never know, if you try might discover something extraordinary in it.

So our plane landed in the busy Charles De Gaulle airport and we got onto our rented cab. Our apartment was in the very city centre so we had a long drive before we got there.

Tired from the journey, I rested my head on the windowsill and began my car-nap. The next thing I know, I open my eyes and all aorund me are Tamil and Bengali Shops. I couldn't believe my eyes. Where on earth had I landed up. The cab was just the same and my family was still around me. But we had suddenly been transported to some random location that I had never seen or expected to see.. If this was Paris, where were the cobblestone streets, the elegant spires and the skyline of the Eiffel. It had to be some sort of a time warp. It was the only logical explanation for this. I asked my family if they too say what I saw. I was told in hushed tones so as to not offend the Cab owner that in the suburbs of Paris there lives an infinite number of Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan tamils who set up shops selling clothes and spices which explained the strange sight I was witnessing at that moment.

I heaved a massive sigh of relief. This was just the beginning. My maiden shock in this city of contradictions. They call it the most romantic city, but I would say it was the most self-contradictory city. Everywhere I turned I saw this unique mix of the old and the new, the foreign and the native. It was a city that resisted change with all her heart, yet opened her arms to those unlike her who would come and make the city something altogether different.

It took all my preconceived notions and threw them out of the window. On the very first day I saw none of the fabled romance. It was mostly cobblestoned streets which were very hard to walk on because my heels continuously got stuck. The Louvre looked so low, so un-inspiring and so different from what we'd seen on Da Vinci Code. The Eiffel by day looked rusted, with the massive metal structure showing signs of old age and wearing. The Montmatre was just some backward city with annoying Hawkers who couldn't stop begging you to let them sketch your silhouette. I decided to relax the rest of the day and spend some time at home. Maybe the morning would bring with it some surprises and a new perspective.

With that I retreated to my apartment - a cramped one bedroom inside a quaint building with three floors of hard-core climbing to do. There were however a few books of tourist interest which i flipped through before hitting the sack.

The next morning, to my surprise and dismay, was the day of the Champions League finals between Arsenal and FC Barcelona. On stepping out of the house I saw plain pandemonium. The city was celebrating. There were people all over in their football jerseys cheering for their team and visiting the popular city sites. All the hop-on hop-off buses were crowded with fans going crazy, waving flags around. The excitement was infectious. Here again, the contradictions were born. People were so happy, so completely at ease and so cheerful. The day just lefted my spirits and Paris could now do no wrong. Visiting the Eiffel, we found the queues to be insanely wrong, but we could not care less. There were hordes of fans setting of colour bombs which spread the red and green characteristic of FC Barcelona all over the skyline. Hundreds of people thronged the streets selling and buying memorabilia. We could not grudge there celebrators their joy though it meant finding to place to sit for lunch and price hikes at all the roadside stands. The city was alive and at its best.

At nightfall, it began to drizzle and the historical Football Match was also under way. I found myself sitting, with my father in a pub/cafe watching the match on a 1-foot-by-1-foot TV and making small talk with the waiters. A running commentary ensued and the night was perfect. The slight drizzle outside just enhanced the feeling of perfection. Never has a city turned my opinion of it around like this overnight. It was the highest point of my holiday and after that things were uphill non-stop.

The louvre on further inspection proved worth its while and the roads were worth exploring. Half the fun of the holiday was in living it like the city folk. We did not stay in a hotel but instead took an apartment. So all the cooking was done at home. We walked around shopping at the traditional grocery stores, trying out our pathetic french 'fromage , pain' we squeaked endlessly, hoping to get our bread and cheese at the soonest possible.

The more we looked around, the more we saw. The city was so diverse - the peple dressed so well and you would find hundreds of people of every race walking around just belonging.

The promenades and gardens were lush with beauty. This was a city that every man and woman had to do twice atleast - the first time as a tourist, seeing all the architectural delights and then as a local, feeling the sights and smells, discovering all the unusual places to eat, learning some basic french and maybe working as a waiter or a grocer to see what life in a city as extraordinary as this could give.
Vive le France :D

scary people

people are scary. If you look at them closely enough, most human beings have the most freakish and quite detestable physical features which seldom does anything less than freak the living daylights out of you.

Take feet for instance. Have you ever really sat down and observed somebody's feeT? be it yours, or your best friend's or your brother's you'll find that the feet in question are grotesquely intolerable. Well, so i feel anyway. I seem to be wanting to barf into the nearest toilet each time i see a pair of misshapen and grossly abnormal feet. I mean, why would god do soemthing like that? Give people feet..?!

You've seen the feet of a bird right.. see they can walk just fine with their cute little semiwebbed appendages! Give me bird feet, or better still cat feet.. Have you ever seen cat feet? Those are just adorably mindblowing.. they'll just blow you away.. you won't stop wanting to touch them and feel them and just stare at them till your brain blows up or something with extreme-repeated-reinforcement of a single image.

Another thing is animal-neutering.. that is probably the coolest yet most confusing thing that takes place. my friend's cat recently got neutered. Its a good thing of course because he'll finally stop rubbing himself on all sorts of furniture and leaving trails of white goo all over the place, but its funny.. does he become a she now? its not fair to make him an it. and he cant possibly be a he cuz he doesn't have the fundamental requirement to be a he. Therein lies the paradox.

Bah.. humans should be neutered too. If one isn't married by a certain age or doens't have any partner as such.. they should be neutered. Its bound to reduce rape and pornography like crazy. Or we should have temporary neutering... Be neutered till you find a person willing to copulate with you and then get yourself un-neutered.

The Pornography industry will cease to exist! and Playboy will go out of business and Maxim owners will be on the streets. And rape lawyers too... those institutions for protecting rape victims can probably go into some other charitable business like curing poverty or something!
And the Blank Noise project will pretty much be useless..

hell, selective neutering is the answer to half of the world's evils.. If only such a thing existed..