Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dear Denver

Dear Denver,

It has been long time since we parted ways, but it took time for that feeling to sink in, and hence the delay in writing this. 

Your mention has a power to light up the beginnings of any conversation however I have been observing that the account I have to offer is weak and lacks the strength to live up to the image that you have created for yourself.

Soon after your mention people expect stories of great adventures, heavenly natural beauty of Boulder and victorious accounts of climbing the fourteeners that you are so famous for. Unfortunately I have few of the above experiences to offer - hence my account of Denver seems at best - boring  to people I encounter. 

While one cannot do much to correct fleeting impressions one creates during formal exchanges over a cup of coffee or at cafeteria , I could certainly set the record straight for both of us at least, just so you know that without experiencing any of your widely celebrated and popular aspects too - you are still the best place to live in the open wide world for me. 

I haven't been on top of the mountain - but I have been fortunate to witness the closeness you have shared with people around you, have seen a mountain from a porch of a friend’s home and have heard stories where people mark a specific spot on your wide bare back to tag it to one of their own personal memories!

I haven't seen the most beautiful of your gardens, flowerbeds or places - but I have seen the beauty created by two individuals who come together to start a new life under your ever generous, serene and caring sky. Evening walks under your sky are memories that will be forever fresh in my mind. Conversations that took place on your roadside benches or at a neighbourhood park are so close to heart - and I have no doubt that after long enough time elapses, those conversations will still be vivid in my memory. 

I haven't tried my hand at any adventure sport but I have been fortunate to witness courage to grind out routine life as well as the courage to take tough calls when time demands. I have witnessed, during my stay there, friends and colleagues who stand by your side even when going is especially difficult and challenging.

Through friends and colleagues, I have witnessed big events such as childbirth, purchase of house, marriage and relocation. I have also seen routine things like change of seasons, pleasure of discovering a new flavour of ice-cream that one falls in love with, colour of the evening sky and beauty of a full moon. And both types of experiences have been amazing in different ways!

You may say that all of them would have still happened, and yes that’s true - but believe me it would have never been the same without you! 

May be you would say that, by not doing certain things, I have not made the most of my time with you - but then that was never the point in first place!

If it’s not too much inconvenience, I would continue to recount you through these things rather than more popular ones - as these are closer to heart and hopefully more enduring! :)

As Ever,

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Who was at fault? Part-1

The humiliation of defeat had really been hurting the rabbit, why it fell asleep at crunch time in the race? Why did it let the tortoise move ahead of itself when it was clearly the more efficient of the two competitors?  Why did it not realize that the race was only for half a day and once won, it could have easily slept as much as one likes? Was it plain hubris or there was something more to it?

Forgotten to all of us at large, to rabbit – these questions were still fresh. It was a wound that is kept close to heart. Though passage of time could not completely heal it, it certainly gave a little distance, in memory –to allow a new perspective to seep in.

In telling and re-telling of the story through ages, the focus of narrative kept tightening around laziness, hubris and recklessness of rabbit. Occasionally some story-tellers also tried to build a fabled re-match which the rabbit won triumphantly! However, that fabled version could not erase the marks of an actual defeat.

A rabbit entered a competition once again after centuries – and the night before the match it sat down taking stock of its thoughts! Then came a eureka moment for that rabbit and all of a sudden it realized how every time a story of that match was told, it conveniently ignored all that had happened before the match!

It went to sleep – as the next day it had some competition. Days passed, however, the complete absence of any details prior to the match day kept bothering this rabbit! It questioned elders, read all various accounts but nowhere found anything that would satisfy its curiosity.

Having exhausted all available resources with rabbits – it started asking other animals and birds and soon the word had started spreading about this rabbit’s incessant inquiries into a long gone historical event!

All the hoo-ha eventually faded – rabbit was getting frustrated. It started thinking that this whole quest to check what had happened a day before that much talked about match was an exercise in futility! May be, it was just the recklessness and laziness of rabbits that resulted in a shameful defeat! 
There seemed no sense to spend any more energy in unearthing evidence to counter the long-held opinion. Just when it was about to draw a curtain, it got a phone call from a sparrow!

Sparrow, in a very hushed voice told rabbit, “There is something that I need to tell you. I think it may offer some relief and a sense of closure to your ongoing quest of more information into what had really happened during the run up to that match.”

Rabbit told that it would be better if they could speak in person, it took sparrow’s address and went there to talk.

Sparrow drew a long breath and started,

“The rabbit playing that match had a sparrow friend, since they did not speak the same language – there was a little bit of miscommunication between the two friends on the night before the game. I have a doubt that this miscommunication may have something to do with the way rabbit slept during the match!!”

To be continued.... :)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The last man standing

“You are an ideal mother,” I told him more than once, in a gratification of his efforts to keep us all on track!

Cook of our first meal in the US, first one to own a car that all others used to learn driving, first shout from everyone in case of any issue, first one to know when tea is light on sugar and vegetable dish is a bit too heavy on oil, first name on all our apartment leases, first one to know if any one of us was unwell in any way! And the first person I had consulted about my –then unexpressed to its recipient– love to my wife.

Four of us were sharing an apartment during our on-site stint at Denver, and Satish was from the very beginning – the provider of the house.  It was his caring attitude, culinary-skills and friendships with all the rest of us that proved to be a glue that held us all together.

Especially in the beginning of our stay in Denver, when the time was quite eventful. Starting from the struggle to know routes to matching the grocery requirements according to different colleagues who would be helping us for lifts to and fro the grocery stores. Meticulousness in payment of rent, insurance, utilities on time – and to divide all those expenses among the flatmates judiciously required close monitoring and careful execution. He did that all in starting, and then once he had known end to end – started delegating tasks to others, even after delegating – he would still keep a watchful eye over the task and ensured that everything goes smooth.

These were the tasks that could have been neglected as routine at worst - or done with a machine-like regularity at best! But Satish not only did them better than the best possible way, he did them with an emotion that was unmatched, unique and sublime. He did them in a way that our apartment started feeling like a home!! It has been over 8-12 months now, from the time we started separating from that apartment, one after the other however we carry with ourselves that feeling of home and it has never left the dynamics of our friendship ever since!

Satish was also our go-to man for any issue – be it at a household level or at a personal level. He was a sole broker of peace deals when any one of us was cross with another! Nudging someone, coaxing the other or sometimes just ordering a decision with a firm conviction – he led us through many of those complicating issues that are part of any group’s existence!

Even after we separated from single apartment to different places, as most of us moved with their families, Satish stayed a constant common factor. Be it an important event in anyone’s life, or a trouble that needs help at the stroke of a midnight – Satish was sure to be there!

As being the last one today, living in the same colony and seeing Satish move to a different apartment – I reflected on the time spent together. It feels like a beginning of a different era – one in which all of the former flat mates are now located at different places – separated by long distances.

It is an amazing joy to find unadulterated connections in one’s adult life. Satish’s friendship and the bond we built as flat-mates are constant reminders of such unadulterated connection! It has rubbed off on many other aspects of all of our lives and it would continue to serve as a wonderful reminder and inspiration of such friendships in future too!

Monday, September 5, 2016

What's in the name?

“You have got a perfect name, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Said her father reassuringly. For Aomame her name had been a constant point of botheration of her school life. Not only it always came first – as it started from A – but it also made her classmates as well as teachers burst into a fit of laughter as they tried to pronounce it.
Clearly, a name lifted from a towering Japanese author’s intriguing work of fiction 1Q84 – did not go that well for a small town girl in India. However, her father had been an iconoclast – and followed his rebel heart while naming his daughter. The fact that she lost her mother, right at her birth, also might have been one of the reasons his father could have his own way and gave her a name that she would grow to resent.
As years passed she grew more and more uncomfortable with her name. Ideas to change it several times crossed her mind but every time the effort of changing all the documents that are attached to oneself seemed too much.
“What were you thinking when you finalized my name?”  “Had you seen the movie namesake a night before I was born?”  “If mom were there, she would have never approved of such an out of place name.” Thus ran her frequent angry arguments with her dad. Her dad used to calmly reply, every time that her name was kept after the name of a heroine of a wonderful novel and that the character was very powerful. He even suggested she reads the book, however, the size of the book daunted her and she never picked it up.
Years passed, not easily for Aomame- at every juncture, every new meeting, she would feel shortchanged when introducing herself. It was as if, she was pulled back at the start of a sprint by a good few yards! Her frustration only grew with her age.
She eventually married a guy her father had chosen for her. Once during their conversation, he innocuously asked, “what does you name mean, by the way?” – She retorted harshly asking him not to repeat this question ever again. “My name is a part of my life that I don’t want to share with anyone, so please don’t ever ask my anything about it again.”
Her husband was taken aback by this vehement response, he realized that this was perhaps a result of anger accumulated over the years and needed a different treatment. He resolved that he will do something that will make her love and remember her name fondly.
Over the next few days, however, he observed she was keeping very occupied. When asked what she was busy with, she replied, “there is a lot of work at the office, and I am running on a tight deadline, so just busy with it.” He left it at that and started thinking what he can do in order to appease his wife’s long-standing grievance.
After a few days, an idea struck him – he got her name tattooed on his arm. When he came home, he told, slowly rolling up his sleeve, “I have something to show you, it has been on my mind for very long – and I wasn’t quite sure what I could do…. but here it is now. I want you to know that names in themselves have no meaning unless we give them any. And this is a small step to represent the multitudes of meaning your name carries for me.”
She looked at him in disbelief, and handed a new copy of the government issued identity card - showing her new name!

     >Concept borrowed from “Gift of Magi” by O’Henry

Book Review The course of Love – Alain De Botton

The course of Love – Alain De Botton
“Our understanding of love has been hijacked and beguiled by its first distractingly moving moments. We have allowed our love stories to end way too early. We seem to know far too much about how love starts and recklessly little about how it might continue.” That we concentrate far too much on beginning and far too little about the continuance of love is reflected in a question
the couple is bound to be asked, “How did you two meet?”
In this book, Alain De Botton takes us through the progress of love through a story of a couple.
Rabih and Kirsten are young professionals when they first met. Enamored by each other, after a brief courtship they decided to explore the meaning of a vague phrase, “happily ever after”. That’s where this story begins. The story revolves around touchstones of a marriage from infatuation, irreconcilable desires, challenges of raising kids etc. They understand the harrowing amounts of energy it takes to sustain and blossom a household through routine life. Lead characters of this story serve as extended case study for the author – who keeps up with his style of extended commentary on what is going on with his characters.
For example difference of opinion, between the two over which set of tumblers to buy for kitchen, ideal room temperature at night, how early should one leave for a party, positioning of blinds on window, etc. provide us a useful insight that these seemingly silly things are actually just the loose threads that tie back to the fundamental contrasts of their persona which requires better recognition and reconciliation.
It also brings out how crucial it is to be able to communicate better, author hints that were Rabih or Kirsten better communicators – one of them might have told the other in response to insistence for over punctuality that “Leaving early, is ,in the end, a symptom of fear. In a world of randomness and surprises, it is a technique I have developed to ward off anxiety and an unholy unnamable sense of dread. I want to be on time (in fact a little ahead of it) same way others lust for power and form a similar drive for security.”
The story moves on and we see other sides of their marital bliss, the sulks resulting out of their differences or their conjoined exploration of each other’s bodies. Here too, through an intricate example where Rabih mentioned that a particular young waitress crossed his mind while having intercourse with Kirsten, the author helps us tease out something very important about marriage. Rabih acts defensive and ashamed at a weirdness of his thoughts whereas Kirsten, furious at first and judgmental later- frowns at the presence of someone else even in Rabih’s fantasies.
In an alternative, better communicating versions of lead characters this scenario might have played out differently per author. Rabih might have been able to square up to Kirsten with his desires like a natural scientist holding up for colleague’s inspection some newly discovered, peculiar looking species which both of them might strive to understand and accommodate themselves to.  And Kirsten in response might have told “the nature of this particular daydream is foreign, unfamiliar and frankly not a little disgusting to me; but I am interested in hearing about it nonetheless because more important than my relative comfort is my ability to cope with who you are. I will never be able to do or be all that you want –and vice-versa but I would like to think we can be the sort of people who will dare to tell each other who we really are. The alternative is silence and lies – which are real enemies of love.
Sadly in the novel, Rabih and Kirsten just move on to things that give instant gratification – by going to a movie and then a dinner, rather than engaging with each other and thereby quelling any chance of understanding weird byways of their psyches.  
As we go further this book it turns to parenthood and children. What children have to offer us about understanding love is amazing. William, their son, for example- is pleased by rudimentary things that as grown-ups we have forgotten to enjoy. Author’s excellent description makes for a heartwarming reading, he writes, “William is an enthusiast of a class of uncomplicated things which have, unfairly, become boring to adults; like a great artist; he is a master at renewing his audience’s appreciation of the so-called minor sides of life.” Further, he adds for parenting that, “The role of being a good parent brings with it one large and very tricky requirement: to be the constant bearer of deeply unfortunate news. The good parent must be the defender of a range of child’s long-term interests, which are by nature entirely impossible for the child to envisage, let alone assent cheerfully. Out of love, parents must gird themselves to speak of clean teeth, tidy rooms, bedtimes, generosity and limits to computer usage. Out of love, they must adopt the guise of bores with a hateful and maddening habit of bringing up unwelcome facts about existence just when the fun is really starting. And as a result of these subterranean loving acts, good parents must, if things have gone well, end up as the special targets of intense resentment and indignation.”

De Botton excels in Montaigne-like close observations of the routine and banal aspects of life, such as lost car keys, professional anxieties, burdens and boredoms of child rearing etc. While he may not be the kind of great novelists one knows like Flaubert Gustav, Rabindranath Tagore or Tolstoy – in an age troubled with shortage of time, lack of patience and ever increasing need for speed he is surely one of the most useful ones!!   
The present book provides a useful perspective on how love is not just an emotion but also a skill that needs to be developed over one’s lifetime.

รจ Italicized portions are from the book

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Meeting with Murakami

I don't think you love me anymore, my current favourite author, Haruki Murakami told me. There was no complaint in his voice, only a bit of resignation. Similar to the one that I often saw in the copy of his book, lying next to my bed - untouched for last 6 months! Guilt of not having read it, troubled me. He kept staring at the book, and said nothing. 

Just as I was about to pick the book up with a resolve to complete it cover to cover; my flatmate shouted with frustration! “When will you ever become a regular at Gym?, because of you, even I have become irregular.” His accusation had no basis - but it still hurt. Excess fat in my body was visible. Suddenly a scene from recent cricket match came in mind, when I got run out while attempting a second run. 

There was a strong urge to run, keep running, until I became fit and fast! I told him to wait for a couple of minutes while I get ready for the gym. Not more than 15 minutes on the treadmill I stopped and returned home - tired. 

First thing to come to sight was the unopened book, and the disappointment on Murakami’s face. However, I brushed them aside and moved for shower.

After shower, as I was about to start reading, calendar buzzed - reminding me of an additional assignment I had taken at work. I snoozed the reminder for 5 minutes and picked up the book - half hoping it will never let me go back! 

Since next day was a Sunday, I thought to pull an all-nighter in order to finish the book. However, there was just one thing that I was equally resolved to do that day; it was to talk to my parents at length. Routine leaves with little time at hand and candid conversations can hardly take place - so for such personal conversations weekends are more suited. After an hour long , deeply satisfying conversation - I finally turned my mind to the book again. Shortly after, phone again buzzed - this time with an email , it was a third reminder for paying the electricity bill for the month. If I don't pay it now, it will get further delayed, I thought, and opened the computer again to make the payment.

While I was making the payment, my favourite film actress appeared and told me about her newly launched TV series being shot in US! It was exciting, so I thought to watch an episode of the show. 

When tiredness meets temptation, it is very difficult to resist. One after another, episodes kept streaming and before long, it was one hour past midnight. I finally turned the computer off. 

For the next 15 minutes, I struggled between the book and sleep - finally sleep survived.  

He waited till two of clock, then finally, walked off in anger from my room with his book! I ran behind him, asking him to forgive me and return the book.

“I just need one day, I just need one day” - I was shouting, but he disappeared! Perhaps he knew that the one day I needed might never come!

Suddenly I woke up with perspiration! This is how Murakami met me in a dream. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

If you were here today....

If you were here,

If you were here today, visiting this lake on a chilly winter afternoon, I would have told you that even when none of the trees have any leaf left on them, a park can look very serene and beautiful sometimes. I would have told you that trees, just like humans, appear to be a little tired at times,  especially after spring, and when you sit beside them quietly, they might just shed a tear or two on your shoulder too. 

If you were here, I would have told you that the way squirrel runs around, makes one think that in squirrels how does one tell old and young apart? Sure enough scientist would know of ways, but to naked eye, their agility and health seems almost same whether they are young or old!

Two people, at a distance, walking with arm in arm evokes a certain degree of warmth and happiness even though they are complete strangers to you. 

Picture courtesy - Ramchandra M S
I would have told you that though poles apart, for the differences in geography, natural scenery across the world have something common among them. Mountains always make us feel our existence and therefore, our problems are tiny compared to theirs. Sunsets always an elegant reminder of how endings can be beautiful and always followed by new beginnings.  Lakes always impart a sense of calm and collected composure, even when the water in them is frozen in patches. 

I would have told you all that and one more thing perhaps, that even in midst of all these non-human and natural elements, if there were a few humans in my thought you were one of them,if that is any indication of our friendship, in any way.  Overwhelming as natural scenery may be, we have a way of putting a human touch in it - perhaps a suggestive of the fact that we too are a part of it in a larger picture.