On Quitting your Job

It will take some time to carry out the social un-conditioning. The layers run deep. The more you explore, the more you would realize how prejudiced you are. It won’t be easy, to discover contradictory things about yourself. It may shake your confidence. It may rob you of your faith. Your insecurity may grow.

You are allowed to take a call. Mission abort! Mission abort!

But I hope you will keep going.

Remind yourself again and again – why you are doing this. You will have to. It’s medicine – you need to take it every day before breakfast and after dinner. And even then, all kinds of what-ifs will crop up each day. There is no guarantee. The roads are hazy, and from time to time, you would wonder if you took a wrong turn. Don’t worry about the wrong and the right turns. What’s done has been done. Just trust your voice and keep on going.

Sometimes you won’t hear that voice. There may be too much noise inside your head. Clear that traffic. Sit down. Relax. Breathe. Introspect. Your ego might not like it – the rejections, the un-replied mails, the criticism, the other people, the could have beens. You would be scared. Be courageous. Look up and face your fears. When you do, you would realize it’s not that dreadful after all.

fear

Of course, your Plan A won’t work. Many times your Plan B might not either. Allow yourself to be creative. You will conceive a new plan. Remember, there is always something you can do. The idea may not hit you right away, but it will. Tell yourself it will.

If you were your actual manager you would hate yourself. It’s hard to satisfy yourself, harder than your ex-boss because you know what you are capable of doing. And this is something you love to do – of course, it can be so much better! God, it will be hard. Your inner boss is a demon. But hear, hear, be assured that when he is pacified, he has brought the best out of you. He won’t let you rest for long though. Next day there would be a new project, with even higher standards. And no, he would never approve your leaves. And criticism is the only language he speaks.

The most difficult appraisals happen before the mirror. Tell the mirror about the things you did right. The journal you wrote, the little Haiku at the back of your diary, the book you read and what you learnt from it, the interesting thing you got to know from the internet, the way you helped a friend in need, the way you spent time with your family, how delicious your lunch was, how you went for a nice walk, how new ideas struck you and how you took note of them, how you worked on them, talk about your new strategies, how you searched for new opportunities and dared to apply, how the small event you organized went well, how you inspired the people you met and how you got inspired by them, how you discovered that old book in library which you wouldn’t find anywhere else, how you meditated, how you sang and learnt something new, how you enjoyed the rain, remind yourself that all of these count as valid building blocks. All of this is work. Value-added work.

Your inner boss might just scoff, but don’t take him too seriously. Don’t take any of those things seriously that discourage you. Don’t let other men and the man in the mirror validate you. You might not know the whole map, but trust yourself and keep on going the road you are on.

Yes, it’s not going to be easy. Definitely. SO think twice before quitting that job. And if you decide not to, then dedicate yourself to the job you do. Eventually, you will learn to love it. You may feel you have lost something. But remind yourself you have gained something too. And if you do quit your job and decide to follow your heart – Don’t look back. You are doing just fine. Remind yourself of the good things. Work on those good things. And just keep swimming.

*

 

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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.

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?

*

How’s life in England?

“So, how’s life in England?” My phone notifies me of yet another text bearing the same question I’ve heard daily since the past two months. And I am left wondering, yet again, how the hell do I answer this?

How’s life in England? Each day, I wake up with a slight hangover because somehow I have developed a habit of mistaking beer for water. The morning begins with me brewing a tasteless tea and slicing an apple, often along with my fingers. Then I connect my phone to the speakers as I eat my so-called breakfast and start preparing my lunch. Two months back, cooking was my least favorite task and now it is my top choice for procrastination. I chop vegetables while dancing to some 2000s rock. I still don’t know how I manage to pull that off. The day progresses as I finish cooking my lunch which is almost never completely consumed by me. I leave some curry for my flatmates. And by the evening, there’s no trace of it left. My utensils are cleaned and neatly placed back in my shelf. Cooking a little extra so that you don’t have to clean? I figure it’s a pretty good strategy to go by. But this is not what you want to know, do you?

How’s life in England? Well, mostly it’s the blue sky and chartreuse grass spread across remarkably vast stretches of land. Each day I discover a new breed of dog. Each day I come across those cars that I never thought I would see in three dimensions with my own eyes. Each day I meet different kinds of people. And almost each day, I write about them in a small cafe with a small blackboard placed at its gate happily flaunting the beautiful handwriting and the supposedly reasonable rates of different kinds of coffees. Hours pass by as I type random stuff on random things and before it gets too cold (and it’s not even Winter yet!) I return to my kitchen to enjoy a multi-cuisine dinner cooked by flatmates. My kitchen is not a particularly attractive one. The dining table is almost never cleaned. Sometimes, the refrigerators stink. Noone is ever able to find his/her plates or spoons or coffee cup on time. When one of us burns food accidentally, we don’t pray for our own safety. Instead we pray for the inefficiency of the smoke detector. I look at the small exhaust, the electric heat stove, the rarely used oven, the toaster that partially works and the silver platform that’s turning grey – This kitchen is as ordinary as it can be. I look at the people I am dining with. This kitchen is my favorite place. But this is not what you want to know either, is it?

How’s life in England? Whenever the sun shines outside my tiny window my heart swells with happiness and hope. And then I think of the pending work, my spinning head and my heart immediately sinks. My table is splashed with my clumsiness. I am running out of clean clothes to wear. The bedsheet of my bed is beginning to stink. The mattress has given me a permanent back ache but I love my tiny little corner. My cupboard is bare but surprisingly, I don’t hate my limited collection of clothes. I am slipping below the poverty line slowly but steadily. However, somehow I don’t hate my depleting financial state. I am not sure why I am here sometimes. To write life? To live life? Sometimes my room haunts me too – to make it more eerie, there are unexplained bruise marks on my limbs. My financial burden haunts me. My insecurity and uncertain future haunts me. My dreams haunt me. But I am here anyway, I guess, happily haunted.

Days in England – It was clear sky a second ago and it’s suddenly raining. And despite the unpredictable weather, I can safely predict that it would never rain when I do have an umbrella with me. The cloudy night sky is bit of a shame but at times when it is clear I can almost get lost among the diamonds shining above, along with the silhouettes of the trees caressing the edges of the river. And then there’s the moon. The same moon I wrote a letter to saying that I would do what I love to do and in some surreal way I am still keeping that promise. I like to picture myself looking at this satellite somewhere someday in the future and instead of the moon, I like to believe that I would be looking at my own present self. We would briefly acknowledge each other, smile and whisper, “It is going to be alright.” The moon is my imaginary time travelling machine. When I look at it now, I suddenly see myself searching for it through the clusters of buildings back in Vadodara or strolling under the moonlight through the peaceful beaches of Goa during my final undergraduate year or picturing nose or eyes on it during my kindergarten days.

How’s my life? Each day I am going older. Each day I am learning something new. Though I can’t specifically point out the change but I can still feel a certain kind of novelty running through my blood. Life in England – It’s the walks among the pretty homes in red bricks. It’s playing with the amber leaves lining the footpaths. It’s being marvelled by the sparrows with orange necks. It’s walking through the trails lining the river. It’s catching a brief experience of forest and making an escape from urban life during those walks. Living here is modern and ancient at the same time. I am simultaneously falling in love in Swedish beer and cutting masala chai found in the streets of India. I am simultaneously falling in love with butter croissant and Latte and also with freshly cooked potato paratha made by my mother back home. I am amazed by the quiet and peaceful locality but at the same time I sometimes miss the crowd and the cacophony as well.

It’s writing, so much writing, reading, scribbling, dancing, drinking and being terrified of the fact that these days are disappearing much faster than they should and also the fact that I would miss this more terribly than I can ever imagine. My life in England? Well, honestly, life seems to be chasing me instead of I chasing it for a change. At first it was overwhelmingly surreal. Now, it’s overwhelmingly busy. Like the gas compressed in a cylinder, it seems like a whole lifetime has been squeezed into a couple of months. Weeks are long but yet they fly by. And sometimes all I do is breathe and watch yet another sun explode into thousands of shades of Crimson and Magenta and all those hues that I can’t even name.

“So, how’s life in England?” My phone is still beeping with that whatsapp message.
“Good.” I text back.

I don’t miss home,

Of course I don’t miss home,
Though it’s cold out here but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I miss the warmth.
Of course I don’t miss home,
Yes, I confess that the green bed of my dorm,
The matching duvets and pillows aren’t as somniferous as the violet hues of my room,
The humongous pin board bears such a vast scope for creativity,
But I admit it seems that I have left it all behind on the walls of a small place that I am not supposed to think much about.
But still I don’t miss home,
Not when I look through my tiny window and remember how large it used to be.
I don’t miss home,
I am too happy to bear such delusions,
After all the beauty of my surroundings hasn’t even sunk in,
The notion that I might be sharing same time and same space as this place still lies dangling as a mad hypothesis,
I haven’t properly forgotten the crowds, the dust, the hot weather of the past,
I haven’t even forgotten the sweat, the noise, the boredom, the four walls confining my life,
I haven’t forgotten that the food wasn’t always this tasteless,
I haven’t forgotten that the water used to cheaper than alcohol,
I haven’t forgotten about the time I had to waste,
I haven’t forgotten the anticipation, the butterflies, the apprehensions,
Regarding what that could now be called my present,
I haven’t forgotten much,
Despite being here,
I haven’t forgotten anything at all.
Though the dates in my calendar keeps rapidly changing,
Perhaps I can sit here listening to the same downtrodden playlist,
With my pen and a few things in my head to reminisce,
I can sit here for eternity or so it seems,
I can sit here pretending that the time is frozen.
So I don’t miss home.
I don’t miss it at all.
When I wake up tomorrow,
It would still be incredibly hard to believe
That I am here
Miles away,
In a strange beautiful land,
With strange people,
Under strange circumstances.
Some call it bold,
Some call it cowardly escape,
Some call it love,
Some call it outrageous stupidity,
Some exclaim in disbelief,
Some silently mutter in jealousy,
Some say “You don’t deserve it.”
Some say, “You are worth every penny.”
Some, so many,
All these people in my head,
Who travelled overseas on free tickets with me,
An entire world,
An infuriating celestial miracle,
Obnoxious electrochemical reactions inside my brain,
These people and I,
My room, my pen, the blue blue sky,
Beautiful things, beautiful places, beautiful beautiful faces,
That I peek through my invisibility cloak,
That I look at in wonder,
That I look at with curiosity,
That I look at in boredom…
Happy places, laughing faces,
Of course,
Of course it’s too early to miss home,
Too early to miss the recent past,
Too early to miss the current present.

What is this?
I,
Caught up in a few fucked up tenses,
Trying to make some decent sentences,
Stringing along the pearls of words,
Trying to weave a good fabric through some odd phrases,
Living the life,
Denouncing it at the same time,
Awed, and indifferent,
Amazed and hurt.
How nice! How wonderful!
How enigmatic! How treacherous!
How confusing! How difficult!
A simple question;
A lost answer,
And all this adventure in between –
“What do you want, dear heart?”

***

A wasted vocabulary

Words give away, you know. The snitch. Ratting bastards. Force your detachment, a vehement denial or a secret acceptance for a fiction juxtaposed on a non-fiction and yet they would make the forbidden revelations anyway. Tell them not to and they would confess loudly and openly your hitherto secrets even before you could confess it to your own self.

Words give away, the treacherous cartographers! They would shamelessly plot a map of your vulnerability; leaving it for others to discover and explore. Don’t use them on drawing books. They’d sketch and re-sketch your nakedness in all its ugliness.

Words! Don’t know how to handle them! Such confused creatures! Make them too simple and they would convey your message as a cacophonous crow’s call. Coat them with luxurious vocabulary and instead of glorifying the beauty of your thoughts they would fashionably accentuate your dishonesty and pretentiousness.

Words give away! Oh dear! Don’t trust them! The ultimate occupational hazard! Once you let the valves open there is no emergency button to shut them down. Keep these deceptive creatures away – they have several pathways leading straight to your heart, welcoming everyone, sparing none.

Words give away, the misleaders, the irritating fuckers!  Once the chosen ones hit your head, no synonyms can help you. Replace them with all the fancy syllables you know and yet they would stay out of tune until you use that clichéd set of musical notes that you had meant to avoid all along. Words leave you at odd times! They wouldn’t appropriately describe that amazing moment you had so desperately wanted to capture. And yet they would perfectly document the embarrassment that you resolved to forget permanently.

Words give away, don’t trust these babies and if you can still runaway, RUN! But if you can’t. Then welcome comrade! How have you been? Lie back. What can we do? Let us write a poem together. Don’t let someone else read it though. If you do, we would forever be trapped in the act of differentiating between false appreciation and honest compliment. Nothing would ever be good enough. But nothing can be bad either. Nevertheless, stay here, don’t go! Let’s marvel at the innocence hidden behind their maliciousness instead. Let’s watch them catch our ugly truths with infinite gracefulness. Let’s bloom without wondering about the odd colour combination of our petals. Let’s watch them make way for our idiosyncrasy carefully peeking out from the blanket of our sentences. Let’s swoon to the awkwardness of the lyrics that we just penned down. Let’s dance to the sorrow it conveys. Let’s share the tears at the joy it expresses. Aren’t you amazed by these supernatural abilities? Words give away, the lovers. Once they connect with you, there’s no way to break that bond. Words give away, the interpreters, they would translate the message that can never be spoken or seen. Words give away, the saviors! Even with all their treachery, how do we learn to live without them?

~Musings from the coffee shop

P.S. You can find more posts on the musings from the coffee shop here .