Nature’s most common poetry

We spend our lives chasing things that only last for a short period of time. When that short period of time ends we continue chasing the same things in new forms.

But the question doesn’t vanish with your continued negligence – The most absurd question with no apparent answer – Why are you here?

These set of virtues; to be able to see, touch, feel, hear, respond, interact, understand, modify, calculate, read, write – what have we done with that? All these exceptional abilities don’t seem that exceptional among seven billion other creatures who are capable of doing it too, many of them much better. Where does 1 stand before 7,000,000,000?

Where does the drop stand before an ocean?

But maybe numbers don’t mean much. Does the drop know that it’s beautiful on its own too? Does the drop know better than to compare itself to the ocean? Does the drop know that the other drops are not competitors but collaborators?

So do it. Don’t just keep on chasing things that you know are ephemeral. Even if you didn’t score that high in SATs, even if you don’t work for Google, even if you didn’t go to Stanford, remember that these are not your standards, these are THEIR standards. They will tell you oh-so-politely that you don’t matter. You are not intelligent enough. You are not creative enough. You are not experienced enough. Don’t let that bother you. Don’t fall for fake social diagnosis. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Was your life really about all this?”

Surely, there’s a possibility we may never find it. But the answer must be in the attempt. This experience of how you came, and how you felt and how you went again – Nature’s most common poetry – this experience of being a part of it itself is quite amazing on its own. The world is large and you are small but it doesn’t matter. What matters more is to know that the world is huge and you are tiny and it seems that it could have very well existed without you and yet you are here.

Pause, and let that sink in.

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You don’t need to read this;

You don’t need more books.

You don’t need more clothes.

You don’t need to smoke.

You don’t need to eat meat.

You don’t need another cup of coffee.

You don’t need to check your phone again.

Those who show off are showing off the wrong things.

Those who are jealous are jealous of the wrong beings.

Social media is not equivalent to being social.

Watching pornography is not equivalent to having sex.

Real people appreciate better than a tap or a swipe.

That new tinder date is not the solution for your boredom and loneliness.

Some conversations are not scripted.

Some pictures are never captured.

Some moments are never created.

Look up.

Most discussions are limited to football, booze, sex, and drugs.

That doesn’t mean Purpose, Meaning, Morals are not important.

Humans are social animals.

If you are isolating yourself, you are more prone to mental illness.

Tranquilizers won’t cure your anxiety.

A purpose might.

A deep meaningful relationship might.

But most strings aren’t attached.

Time is a luxury.

Run, work, run.

Your job is exhausting.

Money, money, money.

Somehow you still don’t seem to have any.

Just more goods to show off,

And a guide to subtle exaggeration;

Moods, and Basics

“Random inspirational quote”.

Noise can be made.

Noise can be muted.

Look up.

 

The Rant about ‘The Long Night’

spoilers

The latest episode of Game of Thrones was stunning, yes, but honestly, judging by the way they fought I wished they had all died. I wanted Night King to die but not in a single episode, not like this. Great work, Arya, epic scene but it seems the writers only cared about you. I wished the other characters could have done better things than screaming at Viserion, discussing their marriage, and warging into crows. Bran – what the fuck bro? What is your three-eyed-raven-ness supposed to do anyway? Whatever happened to ‘You won’t walk but you will fly’ shit? The best of characters were there at the same place on the same side fighting this epic war; the greatest warriors, the greatest strategists, the greatest advisors, the smartest minds – All in Winterfell – for what?

How I wished killing the Night King would have been a bit more difficult! How I wish it was a beautiful collaboration between Bran, Arya, and Jon. How I wish, wish, wish the living at Winterfell had thought of better strategies – digging up deep trenches, lighting them with fire, setting up more traps, using the two fully grown dragons to their full potential. One could fight against Viserion. One could burn off the dead. Something, anything better than sending the whole Dothraki army on a suicidal mission, when Jon and Dany knew what was coming, what was out there, and how futile it would be. And they knew Night King would come for Bran, why did Melisandre have to put that idea in Arya’s head?

And the Night King, the supernatural, the super warg, the unburnt, the dragon slayer, the father of undead – who the fuck knows who he is? Will we ever know now? What was he planning to do with an eternal night anyway? What is this enmity between him and the three-eyed raven that he had to leave his security and kill him himself when any wight could have killed the damn cripple? I wish Night King had made it to the south, and met Cersei and destroyed her ‘Golden’ Army – just so Cersei could have known what was coming. And maybe then, all the living would have finally teamed up and defeated the Night King together. Cersei returns to being the bitch she is and the Game of Thrones continues.

Cersei is a good villain. But Night King was a great antagonist too and he deserved more victories, a harder death. I may be going too far with this but Night King was symbolic, the climate change of our reality, our DayQueen, the long boiling summer. Night king represented that grave danger that’s above politics, but far more pressing than anything else. Dead with that dagger, eight years vanished in a few seconds. Just like that. Was it really so simple?

But of course, I must be patient. I must remain calm. There are three more episodes to come. But I just had to say this.

*

The Absurd Struggles of a Writer

When I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer, I expected some kind of disagreement. She was not very delighted but she wasn’t angry either. I got a modest and an are-you-sure okay and soon we both forgot about it. Somehow, sluggishly, I finished college and I obtained a degree that said I was an Electrical Engineer.

Even though I had told a few people that I wanted to be a writer I wasn’t really serious about it. I fantasized about it yes –  Living in a big new strange city, lost and lonely among millions; I am sleeping on the pavements, cold, helpless and yet the fire in my heart kindles and I dream and I dream. Often I don’t eat, often I forget to eat, my writing is all that is and all that will be. I stay in my miserable room devouring two-three books I have, day and night, again and again. But those few books are my life. War and Peace, Madame Bovary, The Ulysses, and oh how I read! Like a demon. My room is built with bricks and rejection mails. And still, I breathe. And still, I write. No one in my family is talking to me. I have no friends. The fumes of my cigarettes and a glass half filled with cheap warm whiskey are my only companions. Yes, it is hard. It is so difficult that almost all kinds of poetry make sense to me. But I am on my way to be a great writer.

The reality, however, is that after graduating out of college I joined a company. We manufactured switchgear, did our bit in providing safe electricity to people. It was a normal 9 to 5 (or 7 or 9 or sometimes 10) job, which I grew to hate within two months. But I could have continued doing it for the rest of my life if it wasn’t for my family.

‘You don’t deserve such a job,’ my mother used to tell me. ‘You should do something else. Do you have anything in mind?’
In my mind, there was a dream that I never thought could ever come true.
‘I don’t know’
‘How about MBA?’ she asked.
Another trending degree that I am actually not interested in studying but I may get a better paying job with it so yeah why not.
A day later, she called me again, ‘How about English?’
That would be wonderful! Wait, what?

No, Ma, you are supposed to force me into choosing a ‘practical’ degree.
You are supposed to be an antagonist so that I could be a protagonist.
You are supposed to say things like – ‘Just because a few odd people praised your writing that doesn’t mean you could be a writer!’  Then I am supposed to leave home, burning with fury and ambition and say stuff like, ‘Oh but you are wrong Ma. I am leaving now. Forever.’ And out of this tragedy, a great writer shall emerge.

‘Why not study writing if you like writing so much?’, my mother told me instead.
You are supposed to resist my dream. You are not supposed to make it your own. What’s wrong with you! What kind of broad-minded dreamy mother are you who sends her daughter to study creative writing all the way to England?

They say that artists live wretched lives. They say they have the worst family. And that somehow contributes to their genius. I have a decent life, a supportive family, so does that mean I am disqualified?

And I wonder…

Do I really need to be Charles Bukowski or is it okay to be the way I am and still be a good writer? I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t drink cheap warm whiskey. I haven’t read War and Peace. And no, most poems still don’t make sense to me. Sometimes my own poems don’t make sense to me. I live in a decent apartment. I don’t have money in my bank account but I can’t call myself poor. I can afford to buy books. I have Kindle, Netflix subscription (which I just canceled), and a car to go to the nearby library (which I never drive because I don’t know how to drive). Such is my writing life – not ideal but still privileged, and the only real hurdles I face are mental. Hurdles like questioning whether I am actually a writer if I haven’t struggled enough to ‘know the reality of life’. Hurdles like – Can I ever stop wondering what life would have been as an engineer? As a management student? Can I really be at peace knowing how my social rankings have slipped now that I have switched to humanities, that I can no longer consider myself ‘smart’, that Engineering to me is just a paper in my folder, that I have no knowledge regarding that field anymore, that I never really had any, that I have no idea what I am doing right now, did I ever have any such idea, does anyone have any idea, that I am not designing any kind of artificial intelligence, but I am sitting here writing a dumb book. But I love writing that dumb book. So shut up.

*

A Brief Introspection on Blogging,

I can’t say I have not been writing. I have but not for this blog. Didn’t even invite a guest writer in the meantime – if I can’t write for my own blog, why should anyone else? The problem is not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s just that I have been thinking a lot about what this blog stands for.

This blog started because I liked to write. I had found a small audience. I wrote for them, I wrote for myself. It was an easy way to escape. Though now that I look back I can’t tell what exactly I was trying to escape. Many of my posts weren’t properly edited. After revising the same piece about fifteen to twenty times you become blind to errors, especially the most stupid ones. But that didn’t matter, those who read still read and most of them even liked it despite all the mistakes. Some of them have been corrected. Some are still there waiting to be corrected or maybe, most probably, it doesn’t even matter now. I think those flaws have become the characteristics of those writings.

There was nobody to impress, there was no “target audience”, there was no motivation to be “good”, I hadn’t started this blog to have an “online presence”, I started this blog because blogging was fun, my writing was being read by people all across the world. I had no clue how they had ended up here but they did, and some despite being from different countries, different continents related to what I had to say.

What did I have to say?

Theories? Manifestos? Propaganda? I am not that smart to call out on those kinds of bullshit. I talked about lonely parks and lonely nights. I talked about cemeteries and dumb advertisements. Head to Holland, Beer to Bees, there wasn’t a connection, except they were all written by me.

But during those days, Writing was a hobby. Now, it’s much more than that. I thought this blog should show that change. But how? I wondered. Several months have passed. I still don’t know.

I started this blog because through this I could say whatever I wanted to say. Somehow it wasn’t much of a concern that this was the internet. INTERNET. This was PUBLIC. It was stupid. It was lame. It was bold. It was fearless. It didn’t matter if this was about nothing and everything. It was okay and it was still important that I say something.

It’s been a long journey and I have lost that freedom along the way. Freedom to be stupid again. Suddenly, nothing is good enough to be here. Good enough? Good enough? Who is saying this to whom? Who is passing this judgment? Especially here? This was my space. This is where I grew. This IS my space. My old self has been invaded by the new me and today I sit here thinking of her…In doing so, I am about to do what she would have done – Publish this random musing. Who cares? This is our blog, isn’t it?

*

Should you get a Pixie Cut?

He held his scissors and the comb in the other hand and asked, “Are you ready?”

“Are you sure?” my hairdresser had asked me. This was five months ago. It was a different hair salon. My hairdresser was a trainee (read cheap haircut). My hair was almost waist length.
“Yes, actually, I want it shorter.”
“This much?” She held her fingers close to my neck.
Shorter, I had wanted to say. Like really short. But her fear was contagious. I dropped the idea and nodded yes.
“Are you sure?” she asked again.
“Yes,” I said calmly.

I had loved them once, my long hair. I used to try different hairstyles. I learnt many braiding techniques. I coloured my hair. My hair was a dream. I had sported a bob cut for most of my childhood. “Why wouldn’t you let me grow my hair?” I would ask my mother.
“You are too young for long hair.”
I was more feminine when I was a child. I wanted lipstick and nail polish. I wanted to wear saree and salwar-kameez with dupatta. I wanted bangles and earrings. But when I grew up puberty convinced me that I was ugly and no amount of cosmetics and elegant clothing could save me – in fact, it was probable that they might end up making me look uglier.

“Yeah, I am ready,” I told Frank. I wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

This was huge. There must be a piece of dramatic classical music in the background. They were playing Shotgun again. It takes courage to do something like this – one of my friends had later commented. It doesn’t take courage. I just had to turn up at a hair salon and say the two golden words, “Pixie Cut.”

Khach.Khach.Khach.

I wasn’t sure if short hair was going to suit me. But certainly, it was bound to make me look different.

Khach. Khach. Khach.

“SO, how long had you been planning this?” Frank tried to re-initiate our conversation.
“A year.”
“Well, that’s a long time…”

“What if it looks absolutely horrendous?” I had asked myself standing in front of the mirror a day before.
“Certainly we wouldn’t know unless we try,” the mirror replied.
“I don’t have the face or personality to carry short hair,” I argued.
“Are you sure?”

No mirror had been so encouraging before. It had taken me a year and an entirely different country to find one.

Khach.

Frank was already working on the last section at the front. Small pieces were falling on my forehead. They were itchy. I had closed my eyes, though I wanted to sneak a peek.

“Do you like it?” Frank asked me finally, holding my chair from the back.
“I love it,” I said looking at the mirror.

I didn’t know for sure if it was the best hairstyle for me. But it was so different that I didn’t care.  I wanted to stare at the mirror and part my hair in different ways – see what looked best but I felt too shy to do it. I stepped outside, felt the wind blowing my ultra short hair. I smiled appreciating the fact that they were not all over my face. Maybe I was just imagining it but more people were looking at me that day. I looked right back. So I did have a personality for a pixie cut all this while, I suppose.

It’s been three days. I have been touching my hair 72 hours straight. There’s heaven over my head. I have admired how surprised people have been. Some of them hate it but most don’t. I don’t. And my advice to you, if you want to get a pixie cut too, would be – Just do it. There might be some criticism. You might draw some attention. You might be a center for debate for a while. Tell them it’s just hair really – we ought to talk about better things than some dead cells growing on your head. Period.

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Featured Image Courtesy: myhoustondaily.com

When in Rome,

“To the girl sitting at the stairs,
You are a fucking goddess.”
~Anonymous


Gatwick Airport, London. A woman dressed in black was yelling at someone on her phone in Italian. I could filter out the swear words. And it appeared so could the little Spanish girl standing behind me in the check-in queue. ‘She just swore again!’ we told each other and giggled in our collective imagination. Yes, I am still eight that way.

The woman in black turned to me suddenly and said, ‘My flight got cancelled.’

‘The flight is cancelled’ is what I heard and I was jolted with a horrible flashback. No, not again, please.

The last time I had travelled internationally, I was stranded at the airport for three days. When I finally arrived at my destination, after a long struggle, the airline had misplaced my baggage and I had reached my university stinking quite literally and metaphorically with the world’s worst travel experience, the tale I would tell everyone I would meet and still do.

‘I understand sister. I understand’, I thought as I feared how I might be swearing soon too. She turned and started speaking on the phone again. Her frustration was palpable. When she finally hung up, I tried to console, ‘I got stranded in the airport once. I know how you feel.’
‘Oh, thank you. It’s horrible…My flight was yesterday and it got cancelled. This airline is the worst! The hotel room they gave me was in Brighton!’ she replied in thick Italian accent.
‘Brighton?’
‘Yes! Do you know how far it is! I have been here since yesterday.’
‘But today’s flight isn’t cancelled, right?’
‘Yes, hopefully.’
I was relieved. Her phone rang and our conversation ended.

What began as a casual remark about a book, soon became a discussion about reading, writing, parenting, politics, trade unions, love, grief and depression with a middle-aged man from Dublin named Patrick, who sat beside me waiting for the boarding gate to open, silently reading until I interrupted, ‘Kane and Abel, I love that book.’  Soon we parted ways and I found myself sitting in the plane. I had a window seat and when the plane approached Rome about an hour later I got to enjoy the aerial view of the city. The turquoise ocean, the islands, the beach, the boats, white trails behind them and the colourful small little buildings, all kissed by the sun that was caressing my face too. It was breathtaking.

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The immigration line was long. I was listening to a techno playlist and watching people around me. Most of them were Asians. I am an Asian too, I reminded myself. An hour passed slugging through the queue. The immigration officer looked at me, looked at my passport, scanned it, stamped it, I offered a weak smile, he offered none and I was in Rome. I found my way to the metro station. A friendly woman, blonde and pretty, who was also the ticket checker, guided me to the correct train. Half an hour later, I reached in the middle of nowhere.

It wasn’t supposed to be nowhere, it was supposed to be the city center. I stepped outside the station and all I could see were old, plastered, slightly vandalised Roman buildings. And they scared me back into the station.
I checked my phone, restarted it, restarted it again and still it caught no signal. I had thought UK SIM worked in all of Europe. But apparently, not in Rome.

I waited for my friend hoping that he would miraculously appear through the gates I sat facing. I knew he wouldn’t. That place just didn’t seem a right place to be and my instinct told me that he must be looking for me somewhere else.

I got hopeful when I found the station’s wifi signal. But sadly that was a hoax.
‘Ye ceiling dekho na, kitni sundar hai,’ a lady walked by admiring the interior design along with her husband. Definitely Indian. I thought and wondered asking them for help but settled for asking the man at the info point instead. After all, guys at the info points are helpful, right?
Apparently, not in Rome.

‘Excuse me, umm…I can’t connect to the wifi and..’
‘Yeah, there’s no wifi.’ he said.
‘Oh, okay. So I have a problem. I can’t find any signal on my phone. And I need to call a friend. It’s very important-’
‘I can’t help you.’
I stared at him, unable to believe what he had just said.

I braved to step outside again. I was sure I was at the wrong end of the station. I turned right and stepped further into oblivion. I expected Rome to be crowded but I couldn’t find a single soul – just distant traffics sounds, abandoned scooter under the bridge and bright yellow street lights.

‘I don’t want to be mugged. I don’t want to be raped. I don’t want to be murdered.’

Fortunately, I found a person who looked like the kind who wouldn’t commit any of the above.
‘Excuse me what’s the way to the central station?’ I asked him. I wasn’t surprised to find that I was heading in the exact opposite direction. I made a U-turn, passed the exit I had stepped out of half an hour ago, continued walking ahead. More and more people came into sight. I felt more and more relieved. And there it was, my destination – the Central station, in all its grandness and glory, holding my joyous and grateful heart. But it wasn’t to last long.

I looked around for my friend for a while. Several minutes passed by. I was panicking again. Suddenly, I caught his glimpse. ‘He trimmed his hair’ I wondered. And in a flash, he was gone. I ran to the place where he stood but he was nowhere to be seen. Did I just dream him?

Behind me stood a bored looking janitor. ‘Excuse me, I-’ He flicked his hands indicating that I go away. At least the guy at the info point SAID he couldn’t help.

Janitor’s rudeness paralyzed me. Did that just happen? Did he actually do that? I took a few deep breaths. ‘I am asking wrong people,’ I concluded. I looked around. There were many people but none of them seemed to be the right one.

Sitting in the middle of the stairs, her rucksack to her left, was this young woman with long black hair smiling at her phone.

It was love at first sight.

I went and as politely as I could, explained my situation and asked her for help.
‘I don’t have enough balance to make a call. But I can call through WhatsApp,’ she replied.
‘That would work, yes! Thank you!’
I sat beside her, told her the number, watched her saving it the wrong way – without inserting the country code. I knew what she was going to tell me in a while – ‘I am sorry. He is not on WhatsApp.’
‘Umm…can I..can I take your phone and try to call him, just once? I am sorry I am bothering you but this is really important.’

‘No’, I had once told a little boy when I was waiting for a friend at Dadar station, back in Mumbai an year ago. He had come to me and asked, ‘Didi, mujhe meri behen nahi mil rahi. Aap phone doge call karne ke liye?’ I looked at the child wondering if he wanted to steal my phone.‘Vo police mein hai. Ye hai uski photo.’ The child showed me a photograph of a girl in a police uniform claiming that she was his elder sister. Definitely a scam.‘Jaao, jaao.’ I had asked him to leave.

She took a second but she said yes.
I took her phone. I saved his number the correct way. I called him praying he would pick up. He did. I told him where I was. I saw him holding the phone, talking to me, a couple of seconds later. ‘I can see you. Just stay right there!’ I said and hung up. I gave the phone back to the girl, thanked her profusely, hugged her, thanked her again and ran towards him.

Welcome to Rome.

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“May you ask bored looking people for help.”
~A Chinese Curse