The one where I announce my Bungee Jumping

This is the one in which I announce that I am taking a break, from work. By work, I mean the humongous and boring definition of it – you know, the kind where you go to an office, pretend to be busy while you are busy checking memes on facebook, reply to a few emails, analyze random data and manufacture a trend to impress everybody around. The kind where you pretend to be a boss and bark out orders to your juniors every two hours in the name of that fanciful word called delegation. The one where orders get barked down upon you, to continue that slavery. So yes, I am taking a break from all of that. No, I am not quitting to travel around the world by myself and no, I am not having a nervous breakdown. What I mean to do is solve my existential crisis – I want to ‘work’ on things I like, and give writing a shot (This is the new millennial trend – taking a break, by the way, although I am hardly your typical millennial). Or, you can also think of this as bungee jumping, in some weird way!

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Currently, this website looks like an abandoned haunted cottage – totally out of some sad novel with a lackluster theme. Sometimes, it looks like a place you want to check out because you think it would be cool to meet some ghosts but it turns out to be a disappointing trip. Sadly, this ghost of a writer rarely visits.

What it needs to be is a happy little home where you want to visit as often as you can, see interesting things, loll about in the gardens, read about books and maybe make friends with some birds of the same feather. So yes, this is one of the ‘things I like’ and should see a face lift soon.

You’d think it’s probably foolish – I should have tried to do all these things along with work, sacrifice a bit of sleep and then decide whether this is really what I want. Yes that would have been wise, but I was never such a wise person. What is life if you don’t take a few risks? And this is hardly a risk, I am still pretty much employable. However there comes a time when you are not happy with the status quo. It’s like wanting to take a U-turn on the road at a busy intersection but not really trying for fear of the other cars, rushing fast ahead. Do you keep waiting patiently, growing frustrated with each passing minute because you are stuck? Or do you slowly inch your away ahead, silently challenging the other cars to stop and give you some quota of the space on the road? So here I am – I have given in to this with full abandon, with a will to put my heart and soul into this. Churn out words every day with the hope of writing a novel soon.

But it’s not easy. The other day, I kept staring at a blank page for at least half an hour. My mind seemed to be blank. What do I write about, I thought? I started writing a few lines and then deleted them. I repeated that same action a couple of times and then banged the laptop shut. You’d think actions and words are the true empowering things in this world but it’s actually sleep that tops all the other empowering stuff. It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon and although I never sleep at any time during the day, except at night, I gave in to the urge to procrastinate.

Luckily, I happened to open the lock to my bookshelf. The book ‘Stuff I’ve been reading’ by Nick Hornby seemed to stare at me, perfectly at eye level. Sometime ago, the book had inspired me to start a blog with the same theme. About books I’ve bought and books I’ve read, my thoughts on how good some of them were and how some of them failed to resonate (for every book is a work of art – even Chetan Bhagat, although he belongs to the mass produced art for everyday variety – too lowly for our snobbish noses). I am no Nick Hornby but all I wanted to do was write about my favorite thing in this entire world.

I still want to do that and I’ve been oscillating with the books that I mean to start reading and writing about. I started reading ‘Yes Please’ by Amy Poehler in my kindle app, just because of the introduction – where she writes about how difficult it is to write a book, how the process is painful and not as easy as it looks. That caught my attention and I ended up reading her book till the part where the chapter on coping with divorce started. I do not understand why the chapters are so scattered, or was there a problem with the e-book? I browsed through this dump of eBooks collected by a friend and started reading the Pulitzer winning book, ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker. The punctuation seemed off, with a question mark in place of a name of a key character and I did not understand whether this was the actual text (like in Forrest Gump) or the e-book was just messed up? I felt as if I was reading a pirated copy of a book and I abandoned it. Lately, I have also been feeling guilty about downloading books for free from the internet, since now I am an aspiring writer and all that!

Quickly I subscribed to a Kindle Unlimited plan for a month, and was sorry to see that many books that I wanted to read were not included in the catalog. However, at Rs. 199 for a month, it is still a very good deal. I downloaded ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ by Amish Tripathi into my Kindle library, hoping to see whether I had missed the bus by not reading this much-hyped story when it first became a hit. And no, I haven’t started it yet because now I have ended up buying other books yesterday in a fit of reckless shopping (and got some good bargains!) from Om Book Shop in DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj.

So yes, I haven’t managed to finish a single book after The Farewell Waltz, but I hope that shall soon change. Until then, please bear with reading some boring bits about my life, which I just have to write about, nowadays. And yes, if you have a copy of The Color Purple, please be a nice person and lend it to me!

Because the sun also rises, and for Hemingway

The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway is not one of his books that he is renowned for. Released in 1926, it received mixed reviews, although since then, it has often been hailed as Hemingway’s most meaningful work. Now, I have tried (and failed) to read this book thrice. However, I have an excuse for it now. ‘I was too young, I say!’

I think one has to have a decent amount of maturity to appreciate literature which is totally and absolutely about what life in reality is, without any drama. How most things in life are so utterly mundane that you stop thinking something great will happen. The sun also rises, for the first few pages, did not seem to have the subtle profundity of A Farewell to Arms or the drama heightened by the thought of the earth moving in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Now, you’d ask me, why are we discussing this book? There comes a time, or rather multiple points in life when you start being all existential and ponder about your purpose in life and what you have done for yourself until this moment (This is suspiciously sounding like a mid life crisis, although I hope it is far from it). However all it takes, are small unrelated events that start things rolling. Something as simple as discussing Midnight in Paris and Ernest Hemingway with a stranger or a friend liking an old blog post and a trip to Goa. That is what it took to realize how neglected this space has been. The soul needs nourishment and what better way but to feed it with books, music and art!

Lately, that had gone a little missing, largely due to some misplaced priorities in life. So what does this mean? This means that I go back to reading and feeding my starved under nourished soul. This also means that I read what interests me, no more book reviews but random thoughts about what I read and what I saw and what I understood.

And this is what I choose to start with – The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, the book that I could never finish because the last thing that I want in life is regret, regret for not having read the ‘most meaningful book’ written by one of my favorite writers.

Adios, till I finish reading it, or till I find something interesting to say!

Books and a lot more in Kolkata

Lot of things have changed in the last few months…I am coming out of my rut and learning some important truths, especially because of changes on the work front, among other things and not to forget, the presence of some people in my life who have helped me do so. It is time I took charge of some things. There’s an important person that needs my attention – and that person is ME.

In my attempt to do so, I am learning to give more time to myself. And that includes travelling to new places, meeting new people, and spending time with people I love, even if it means going out of my way to do so. Mostly, I have to learn to not be too hard on myself.

Last month, I went to my friend Eesha’s wedding in Kolkata. It was a lazy weekend, spending time at the wedding venue doing nothing but looking good. Eesha made a very pretty bride and she was especially in high spirits on the night of the wedding. Having never been to a Bong wedding before, it felt like an adventure of sorts – observing and participating in different rituals and eating food I have never had before ! The high point of the holiday has to be the food – I had fish, lots of it actually, each dish different from the other. Shaileja and I gorged on the food while Riddhika sat on the side with the vegetarian fare and Anant took selfies.

The next two days after the wedding were spent in lazing around and occasionally visiting places of note. 😛

We started with lunch at a place called Mocambo on Park Street, followed by a visit to the Presidency College area where we spent a major part of the afternoon looking for second hand books.

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I ended up buying two books (Russian and Soviet Story by Dostoyevsky and Penguin Modern Poetswith poems by Kingsley Amis, Dom Moraes and Peter Porter) while Shaileja browsed through the different books trying to find something she liked. Anant was heavily disappointed as he couldn’t find a particular book on sea diving that he wanted at a book store which claimed to have all the titles possible. Amit was too busy bouncing around, very happy with a book on cricket that we found. It was such a delight looking at him, browse through the photographs like a child who’d just been given a toy. I used the negotiation skills learnt in my sales job to maximum advantage and got the book seller to give away the book at Rs. 500. Amit owes me big, for that one ! 😛

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After spending so much time in the Kolkata humidity, we went to the Indian Coffee House for a quick cup of coffee. Some cities have a distinct identity. However, Kolkata seems to have a soul.

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The day ended with a quiet dinner at Flury’s and a drive to the Victoria Memorial. I was a little surprised how most restaurants in Park Street close at 10 pm. We got a cab who was enthusiastic enough to drive us to the Howrah Bridge. It was just touch and go, but I felt like my life’s purpose had been fulfilled. 😛

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The next day, after a hearty breakfast, I made the others go to the Indian Museum, which in hindsight was not a very good decision. Although the building is quite beautiful, architecturally, the museum is quite boring. The natural history section is quite creepy. Seeing an embryo of a human child preserved was quite chilling. Somehow, it gave me the creeps.

So, after that, nobody really listened to me as to what we should do next. And I followed good advice received from others by having lunch at this small place called The Blue Poppy at Sikkim House on Russel Street. We found it after a bit of an effort but having some thukpa there, made me feel so happy and contented, as if everything was quite alright. We spent the rest of the day, lazing around at Aqua, The Park, having bloody mary’s and enjoying the beautiful ambiance of the sitting space near the pool.

IMG_20150301_180553The next morning was hard. Taking that early morning flight back to Delhi seemed like such an impossible thing to do, especially the thought of going directly to work. It was only the promise of the next weekend made me take the flight (and the money spent in booking the return flight at the last minute along with the imagined look on my boss’s face if I didn’t turn up for work :-P).

Sigh, Life is beautiful, isn’t it, when you have the liberty to do the things you like doing, visit new places and the love and company of good people?

Never say never

It’s been a tough time. I think I am having a mid-20s crisis, if there’s anything like that. Probably it’s caused by having too many expectations of what life should be. Sometimes I think the MICA hangover still continues. Or maybe there is no cure for one.
Some of my batch mates would probably scoff at me and try to reaffirm the idea that they still lead cool lives and are doing exactly what they wanted to do. Or at least keep up the pretense on Facebook.
But then I wonder, has MICA spoiled me? I find it still absolutely impossible to move on. I still want to have the same freedom of thought, the optimism of there being a world outside which was just waiting for me to step out and be conquered and the same life style, which I now realize is not quite possible. What I miss most is the time I had to do nothing but what I like. The things I love doing. I now realize that the world is not conquerable. In fact it is stubborn and difficult, amazingly selfish and self absorbed. In effect, it doesn’t give a shit.
Much of what life keeps on bringing is beyond my control.
How do you deal with the world forcing you to make decisions which you are not ready for? It almost feels like slowly sinking into quick sand.
What’s the point that I am trying to make, you’d ask now, reaching the point where you see no sense in wasting time reading this?
I guess this is a way for apologizing to myself for having stopped doing what I love. I am sorry, books and a lot more, for ignoring you since some time. I am sorry but I am just finding it hard to focus right now. Have I fallen out of love with you?
No, my dear, never. I am on my way back. I hope you’d understand.

Over and out.

But no, wait! Since I have named this post after this fantabulous and *inspiring* song by JB, here’s a youtube video of the song ‘Never Say Never‘ (:blush:, don’t judge me) featuring Jaden Smith. You need to watch it for Jaden Smith, such a kickass kid he is!

Okay, now you can go back to doing something productive like stalking people (if you’re single) or putting up Honeymoon/Karvachauth pics (if you’re married) on facebook. Bye.

Free: A Poem for Independence Day

Today is Independence Day. Time to feel sentimental and patriotic.

Blogging a poem I had written some time back on Facebook.

FREE

Yes, I am free

To roam around

Watch movies

Have a milkshake in the cafe

As long as I come back before

The sun sets

 

Yes, I am free

To wear whatever I want

Whenever I want

As long as it does not

 Show parts of me

Which make me a woman

 

Yes, I am free

To learn

As much as I can

About the world and the universe

To get an education

As long as it’s just a hobby

 

Yes, I am free

To give birth

House it in my womb

And raise a child

As long as it’s a boy

 

Yes, I am free

To care about someone

Spread joy

Make love

As long as it’s somebody

My parents chose

 

Yes, I am free

To have a bloody mary

Smoke a cigarette

Dance the night away

As long as I am okay with

Being called a slut.

 

Shame on my freedom.

Things may not be as great as we’d want them to be but yet, they are changing.

Politicians will always be politicians, touting themselves with their far fetched claims of bringing change and development. But at the same time, let us not try to justify the wrong done by the political class  by believing that it’s alright to do something unethical if you can do something for the economic good of the majority. Let us also not forget the looting of the nation.

One has to be careful and judge for oneself whether the development is only for one class, who is already born with privilege, as a result of their religion, gender and economic status or it is inclusive and takes everybody along. And development does not mean just an increase in economic wealth and infrastructure but also an improvement in social conditions and living. Progress is progress only if it affects the marginalized classes.

But the change will not come because of one leader. Let us hope for an India where we are truly free.

No Reservations- Train Journeys in India

Something that was waiting to be heard, somewhere in a corner of my laptop hard disk. After all, this blog need not always be about just books!

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NO RESERVATIONS

Train journeys are boring, especially when travelling alone. More so, when you are travelling in an air conditioned coach. The windows are closed, with dark film pressed neatly on them to give passengers some respite from people gawking at them at every station. But privacy comes at a cost. You cannot enjoy the serene countryside or marvel the beauty of the landscape. Even the passengers are not very interesting. All that people do is eat, sleep, eat a little more and go to sleep again. And snore. A lot.

I am sitting in a compartment in the Swarnajayanti Rajdhani Express. The train is wheezing past small obscure stations, showing the middle finger to them. It seeks to remind them of their triviality in this vast, seemingly endless scheme of things. This time, I have the lower seat on the side all to myself. Having finished with the ‘delicious’ dinner (Paneer, as usual) provided by IRCTC, I am calm and comfortable, with a book in my hand.

 This would be a good time to write. But I am not in the mood. Somehow, I guess I think better when the wind rushes in and fondles my skin. And also, I think there is much more to write about in an overcrowded unreserved compartment.

There’s nothing much for inspiration here. There’s a hyperactive kid constantly roaming about, climbing to the top most berth and then down again. It’s like he’s a playlist programmed to keep playing the same music over and over again. His parents are sitting near the window. They look like they could be the most boring couple on this planet. There’s a middle aged man giving advice to a younger co-passenger about job hopping and career decisions. I wonder how successful he himself is. The younger man seems to be listening patiently to him. Or, at least pretending to listen. After all, in India, we respect our elders.

There is a smart looking guy sitting opposite though. He seems to be close to my age. And looks delicious. Maybe something dramatic will happen and we both miss our trains. Since he’s the hero, he would come all the way to Ahmedabad even though he had to go some other place. And not to forget, we would discover that we were made for each other and fall madly in love.  At this point, the intelligent person in me seems to take cognizance of that undisputable fact that I am not Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met. And there are no dashing heroes in real life. So much for unoriginal day dreaming! I turn my attention back to my book. It’s a book that I always carry with me during journeys like these but never quite manage to finish because I get so distracted by my surroundings. I am not much of a talker but I like observing people travelling with me. I spin crazy stories about them as I wonder about their lives, how they are with their friends and family.  And the most eventful journeys have always been during my under grad days.

Travel was almost always spontaneous then. No reservations. The Gujarat Queen was usually the train that I travelled in. I would rush from hostel to catch the train in the nick of time, hop on into the ladies compartment. And then would start the rush to find a seat. Berth after berth would be occupied by women. Some of them fat and motherly, ready to offer you some space. Some others probably had had surgery to position a permanent stick up their behinds. They would occupy the whole seat, not nudge even a teeny little bit so that you could rest at least one part of your behind, if not the both. There would be other college girls travelling daily in the same train. They would chatter about cute professors, bitchy professors, the heavy studying that they would have to do in the next month because of the oncoming season of exams. Older ladies would talk of their domestic troubles and how their sister’s daughter-in-law’s cousin’s son married out of caste and what a shame it was. You don’t need to travel the whole of India really. To discover the soul of India, all you have to do is travel in a train.

Sometimes, there would be baggage kept on the seat where people should be sitting. If you want to learn the art of war, forget about Sun Tzu. A train journey can teach you more. You learn to stand up for yourself. I remember requesting a lady politely to remove her bag from the upper seat so that I could sit. When she refused, I removed it myself, put the heavy bag on her lap, much to her disbelief. You learn about resistance when you stand for the most part of the journey, pushed and thrown about constantly at every station when people get out of the train. You feel relief when you see so many people getting ready to get out. But then you realize that double the amount are going to get in. You learn from other people, especially how to avoid cat fights where there is a lot of scope for serious injury. The golden rule is that you should never mess with women who board the train with those big cane baskets on their heads, carrying their wares for selling them in the big city market.

I have always been entertained. I never needed a book or an ipod to carry me through those journeys. And the best time I ever had? That was on a two hour journey to Valsad from Surat in a compartment that was so crowded that I had to sit on the steps. My mother would have freaked out if I had told her where I had been sitting. But it doesn’t matter. I can still remember the wind rushing past me. Cute, dirty, half naked children would wave at me as the train chugged along the slums near the station. You could see the whole train as it would bend its spine at a laborious curve. I saw brinjal fields and paddy and some other crop that I couldn’t guess. Scarecrows standing watch and buffaloes working hard in the fields.

As I come back to the present time, I feel a strange sense of dissatisfaction. Why did I stop travelling like that? There are no answers.

I think the delicious looking guy is staring at me. He seems interested. But it no longer matters.