What’s in your mind, #1

We live in a world that is devoid of privacy. You don't need to be an expert to tell you that nothing you do is hidden anymore. The adrenaline rushes now for things that were once considered laissez faire, like the sparkling stream of water in a little brook that dreams of tasting brine of a vast ocean, only to find out once it leaves the blessing of the mountain that there's a steel and concrete dam waiting for it to lash onto and fade. But we are not as vibrant as a river. Or we are, maybe, maybe I'm too cynical to see the warmth. But there has been a fundamental shift to the way we operate, if I'm allowed to say the word operate at all. Human beings in general love to gloat in the pointlessness of superiority, and hence the fancy terms are reserved for only them – thus behaviour becomes religion, operation becomes characteristics, and lust becomes

Love.

The sneaky ways of love; the pleasure of holding hands during a public ceremony; the quick sweep of eyes with a single second or two of overlap between all four; riding the same bus, amidst a sea of people, standing or sitting a few paces apart – nervous smiles if a parent is nearby, telling all sorts of creative excuses to bunk school or college (one of my excuse-friends would have built at least ten computers with the parts he supposedly bought during those two college years that he, again, supposedly, had to be accompanied to buy them from Chandni Chawk- the sprawling electronics ghetto of Kolkata. What I would invariably end up doing is to swap trains at a junction, wrestle in the queue to get a subway ticket, ride the metro and then arrive at another Mecca of getting spotted by our relatives – Exide More), these things are rarities these days. People thrive on revealing their personal lives- vlogging is in rage, you Snapchat every moment of your existence, and in an especially morbid example a woman videoed an accident and her sister dying, without any remorse whatsoever. There is an almost alien nonchalance rampant in us these days. Like we don’t care. People are happy to let go of life’s tiny surprises, just to check another box that doesn’t mean anything in the long run. Dumb nostalgia it may sound like, but during my initial struggling days in office, my respite used to be the faint tolling of wind chimes from a dark,obscure, sleeping balcony – in a sweep it used to take my mind off the grueling day. I used to write a lot of poetry back then, a lot of nonsensical hapless romantic stuff : stuff I realized came from my innate longing for love.

The 'Knight in Shining armour' syndrome in me had made me a magnet of sorrows, I told to a dear friend of mine, and she shuddered with the thought that her plight would make me slip a few more steps in that endless spiral that I've been climbing all my life. I saw a warmth that was unmistakable, since during my life of continuous good-boy struggles I had received quite a few jar-fulls of them. These are those little wind chimes now that I seek after every crushing blow to the gut, after the panic attack I thought I had conquered decides to come back one day unannounced, wrecking an otherwise perfect afternoon. Movement has been limited for me; I can’t go to a movie theatre, I can’t go on long drives – the list is endless. The fear in the unconscious is relentless. As much as my distractions work, there’s a feeling inside me that this comes from a very different, primal place, that somehow saps the juice from my little stash of happiness. It’s a different beast.

A monster that I need to subjugate.

Welched in a bog, our feelings of togetherness is a rotten memory. The civilization is too fragmented to stand together, and the only bond is nature. Not just any nature, our nature. We seek comfort in each other. We seek validation from others. This inner feelings need to come forward to sew this planet together. Before it all falls apart. Before everybody goes to the rapture.

We must try.

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Rust

Lacquered in a comatose white and gray, the auburn thatched mud houses look like the ruins of a terracotta army, battered by time. But they stand hollow, their windows stolen, their doors eaten by nature.
When the vicious jungle wind blows from the dry riverbed and passes through this necropolis, a howl ensues that tears open the naked breast of the rainforest.

Guineafowls peck little mites from the bones scattered across the plateau. Skeletal hands holding rifles, books, bags.

Or other hands.

A century ago, this patch of dense green had leopards, lions, tigers, elephants, wild buffaloes. Trapped between the bullets of sixty years of ferocious monarchy and the peculiarity of human masculine pride, the animals have traveled to become busts, adorned in the living rooms of the richest.

Time has crushed the biggest of kingdoms. The Kings and Queens have died. Revolution had taken place.

Then the rebels became rulers, and the first thing they did was to put every opposing butterfly to the waiting guillotine. Carnivals were named on dead men and women, their blood gushing through the river. That river has dried up into a valley of rust, where souls without salvation wander.

This used to be a good world. But then good worlds barely lasted.


He loved light. Like the flicker of sunlight that fell on his eyes, making their way between her flowy hair and salwar-clad shoulders, while he fiddled with poetry, lying on her lap.

This city of broken bridges ate small-time love like theirs, people said. They didn’t pay heed. Reckless as the monsoon, their love was devoid of any measured steps.

Five years later, the light had returned in his life. As he was slowly watching her body being engulfed in the pyre, he thought why he loved light so much, only to realize that it wasn’t light that he loved.

On that cold November night, two souls had melted into the darkness.

Only the city remained, ravenously waiting for its next victim, throwing poetry in the air as lures.

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The Art of Caring, or the lack thereof

The definition of a New World notwithstanding, there’s a distinct lack of care in today’s planet blue is alarming. Back in the days, I fondly remember the caress of people living in our community, be it a pat in the back or a stern look if you were returning home late, something that is missing like a sore void; like the potholes in roads that get filled up by rainwater during monsoons and look like extensions of the road as the reflection of a gray-ash sky, the problem presents itself in camouflage. You never get it until you have experienced it, on one hot summer noon when you come back home and don’t find the old lady hanging out in the balcony by your place, asking you about your health, or what time it is, or just asking how you have been – you realize that it isn’t the city you hate. It’s the devolution that strikes you.

I whine a lot for a guy of my age. I complain about almost everything, because in these years I have grown cynical of our species. I see humans butcher other animals. Recently in Bihar, I saw trained hunters kill more than 300 Nilgais, the largest Asian antelopes, just because they had become a nuisance to the local farmers. Without going back to the root cause of why these animals were coming out from the jungle in the first place, the local government happily gave permission to these killers who made this occasion look like a festivity. A few weeks later, another post covered how in the name of a Pegan ritual, hundreds of lizards, snakes, squirrels and birds were captured, killed and cooked – all in the vicinity of a particularly busy railway station in Bengal. Nobody batted an eyelid. Every year, thousands of rare species of birds, animals, reptiles, fishes are being killed for apparently no reason at all. The peak of these stupid activities are in the form of ‘pleasure hunting’ – a passtime for millionaires and spoilt brats toting guns and shooting hapless animals who have been bred for this circus.

This lack of respect for others has manifested itself viciously in our ability to curb violence as well. It feels like nowhere is safe anymore – you point a place in the world map and it is seeping with blood. Innocent people are dying, and men and women and children are being pushed into an atmosphere of hatred where they are being told and taught that theirs is the only way. The lack of compassion is astounding, and yet nobody raises their voice.

I come from a very humble background. My family used to be a joined one – an amalgamation of happiness and sadness. Sure, there were big fights every once in a while, but I couldn’t see myself growing up to be like this had I not been part of a big family. My family extended beyond relations of blood – from the old man who used to call me Captain Green to the lady who used to take me to school for twelve years of my life, from the shopkeeper who used to tell me and my sister if our mother had arrived from office, to the uncle who used to sell electronic items to an inquisitive, eleven year old me – they all became my family without me knowing. And today, when I look back at all these memories, the immense pleasure I get from them can’t be described in mere words. I owe everybody my sincere gratitude, and even more than that I want to share similar passion in everybody that I meet.

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The culture of not-caring has been growing like a plague. That is mostly because people do not understand the difference between privacy, or space, and the blessing that is caring. Nuclear families; pigeon holed existences; communities without any sort of communication – these are the traits of modern society, eating it from inside like maggots. A Durga Pooja a year doesn’t make you know thy neighbor. Empty houses in Jodhpur park are flanked by swanky skyrisers in South City, where nobody knows each other. Like the anonymous public lives of the celebrities, the common man (and woman) has adorned the mask of nonchalance. This arrogance is a propaganda like no other : spreading into young minds as a penchant for coolness. Forty years down the line, the generation X/Y/Z will lament that their kids are too progressive, yet they are as blind as the government I spoke earlier of. Without going to the root cause, we will be bound to our everyday cotton candies – Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat/Instagram, or even Pokemon Go.

The art of caring is learned, not something that is inborn. It needs practice; it needs enthusiasm and helping hands. If we continue to disrespect each other, if we continue to disrespect every other being, there won’t be any next generation after a certain point of time. This blue planet will become another speck in the universe, another dead rock – another ball of dust and rubble.

There’s still time.

 

Ahalyā

There are things stone sculptures evoke in you. Some look at them and bow their heads, chiselled effigies of god-kings and queens, incarnations and manifestations of the omnipotent. Others make you lustful – the ones vividly describing mating rituals like the hymns of a Sloka, sex carved in stone, moans imprisoned in mausoleums of basalt and granite.

I am neither of those stones. Like Narasimha emerging from the pillars upon hearing Hirankyashipu’s roar, I await another avatar to say the magic words that would unshackle me. Make me whole again, out from this cements of patriarchy.

But I am to be freed by the blue-king, the eldest Dashartheya, the Raghav. Legends say he will become a legend. They sing of him breaking a bow of a blue-throated god.

I am not old with age, but experience. I know men are treacherous beasts. All they need is a woman with riper breasts and even the gods become puppets of their own desires. Even Gautama cannot fend the demons off when they come like soaring waves from the ocean.

Gautama – the man, the vicar, the holy one!

My husband, a suspecting old Maharishi. Aren’t Rishis omniscient? Didn’t he know who entered me that day? Didn’t the gods speak of his arrival?

The dazzling light told me his name after he carved me with his boundless hunger – Śakra, the one who wields the thunder and rides the skies with a mastodon.

Yet my husband failed to see through the veil, cursing me to become a sentinel of nothingness, awaiting another man to break the chains. He could very well do this forever.

After all, what good is a monk if he can’t curse someone? Who better to practise the lovely ways of Durvaasa than on his own cheating better half?

God-King, King-God, they’re all the same. I know this blue-bodied king will abandon his love for something someday.

They all do.

 

Glossary: In the Hindu Epic Ramayana, Ahalya was the wife of the wise sage (maha-rishi in Sanskrit) Gautama, and was tricked by Indra (Sakra), the leader of the Gods, or Devas, to commit adultery with him. Enraged, Gautama cursed her to be petrified (turned into stone). Eons later, the God-King Raam (or Rama) undid the curse and restored her back to life.

Depression

Do we understand depression? In our mind we have a picture of a depressed person, and we stick to it – media plays a big role in keeping this idea alive. The idea of shallowness is bred inside us slowly from childhood, so we tend to believe if a guy or a girl ‘looks’ normal, he or she is normal. That’s a lie that people with depression have to endure.

There is no perfect life. We always tend to think somebody is living a better life than ours. More often than not, the measuring stick is money. A rich person is happier – that idea comes naturally. Then why does Japan, a country with far greater per capita income than India has more depressed people than anywhere in the world? The answer is simple – money can never buy complete happiness, neither can it give you perfection. Those terms are relative, that means they always change. Whatever you thought would make you happy when you are ten years old won’t make you happy anymore. Money can buy materialistic parts of happiness. Sure, shiny gadgets, a swanky house, a trophy partner, deformities fixed with generic doses of botox and silicone would make you covetable to a large part of the society, but in the end, it never takes you closer to the perfect life. It just creates a bigger bubble. When it bursts, you are left with your showpieces that laugh at you.

Depression comes in many forms, but expectations are by far the biggest cause. Our society has reached a point where the load of expectations that come with your status are manifold – some apparent, and some hidden. To keep up with those expectations push us to the brink of sadness, and depression, because those expectations do not honour a person’s existence. Regardless of what or who you want to be, you are burdened with things. A big list of things. And then one morning you wake up and you realize how stupid you have been following the norm, trying to be perfect in the eye of the society. Only the society doesn’t care. Like a well oiled machine, it continues rolling. Faces and identities and existences and souls are words that poets and writers write and singers sing about, but in reality, all that matters is your mask, and the list written inside it that you see every time you put it on.

A perfect guy or a perfect girl can be a victim of depression, because he or she never talks about it and people don’t come to know of it. Deepika Padukone, a celebrated Indian actress have been vocal about her depression. I had a chance to talk about this to a couple of my friends, and we all knew what she was referring to – to the masses, she had a perfect life : she was beautiful, successful, rich, had a great boyfriend (who’s also an actor). Why would she be depressed?

Why wouldn’t she be?

I have been battling my depression for quite some time. It has never reached its peak, but at times the pressure is overwhelming. I can understand it slowly eating me from inside, because depression gives rise to anxiety, and anxiety soon turns into panic. I first experienced my panic attack three years back. I thought it was another health issue altogether, but when it happened a few more times, I made a point to go and see the doctor to have my body scanned. Nothing was found, and the doctor gave me some anti-anxiety medicine. Dumbfound, I asked him what these were for, and he told me not to panic much and take the meds till the issue went away.

The issue really didn’t go away. It was subdued for a moment, and crept back in again next year, and then the same pattern continued. I had to convince myself that my life wasn’t in shambles; that I wasn’t falling apart or going insane. That the existential thoughts that popped up in my brain every now and then weren’t signs of my gradual rejection of society. The doctor also asked me if I had any suicidal tendencies off late. No, I answered. I never had the thought of ending my life. But the panic attack that started as a result of my overthinking about my life, and depression, made me reflect on my life a lot more. I saw people around me battling depression and PTSD as well, some winning, some losing, some stuck, and it gave me hope. There was a way to fight this. I understood Deepika’s condition perfectly because I heard the same phrase from many of my friends, that I had a ‘perfect life’. Because I had a good job, I could scribble, sketch and sing (?), looked decent enough (read moderately fat), and had a stable relationship. Why was I depressed, why was I talking about a disease that the World Health Organization said would be the biggest epidemic in the world in 2020? They didn’t understand. People still don’t understand depression very well.

Depression is not what TV shows and movies tell you. It has many roots, and can happen to anybody, regardless of their faith and origin. There are many ways to battle depression. Some go to the doctors for help, others turn to spirituality and religion for solace. But the best medicine always lies in you. My depression came into existence because of expectations as well : I wanted a happy medium between being an introvert and being an extrovert. Only there wasn’t any. I lost friends along the way, and gained no new ones. People were there around me, but they only befriended me for their own reasons. The lack of people with whom I could speak my heart to dwindled. Even when I had a bad day, I had to come and swallow my feelings. Writing helped for a while (and it still helps a lot!), but in the end the burden started to overpower me and things started to overflow.

I made new friends now. A couple of very good young kids have formed a group around me, and some old friends have reestablished connection with me. Pleasant surprises are always welcome, because it keeps the depression away for quite a while. Like meeting my ex. Though we never had the courage of discussing our past, the meeting was good enough to keep my mind away from the depths of darkness, because I talked and talked and let my heart out with her. It felt like a big rock had been taken off my chest.

One thing I’ve understood is that the power lies within us. Everybody doesn’t get to do everything. Where’s the fun in doing everything? But nobody’s live is worth giving up, no matter how bogged down he or she is. And nobody is perfect. The beauty of life lies in its imperfection. Everyone’s life should be different, and we should accept and manifest that difference in us. Therein lies our greatest asset – diversity. Depression is a disease that needs our attention, but the root causes of depression should go away first. We should stop worshipping the ideas of perfect lives, the notions that money can buy everything. Mass depression is very hard to control. Japan has a proof in Aokigohara. We surely don’t want jungles to be famous for suicides now, do we?

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Jar of fireflies

The weather is pretty volatile here these days. After the thunderstorm last week, the clear blue sky and the paintbrushed clouds on it are a regular sight; so are beautiful afternoons with golden rays reflecting on the glasses of the Randstad building. But then there are moments of windy, cold inclemence that reminds us all that the winter is here, and she’s nobody’s to control. The last couple of days of subzero mornings are a clear indication of what’s to come. Frosted dew atop car roofs bear the sign.

It is often interesting to see how nature evolves with its fauna. We change the course of nature, building cities and railroads and the proverbial juggernaut rolls on – yet the little dandelion peeks from the foot of the art installation, or mosses start to climb the television tower. Birds nest on air condition vents.

Life finds a way. We only leave memories, imprints in time that like footsteps on sand, ebb away as the cycle rolls on. I can’t remember all my days as a child. Heck, I can’t even tell details about every Durga Pooja, every Deepavali, every Christmas I ever had. It is there somewhere, jumbled like a cat-mangled ball of wool, too indistinguishable from each other. Sometimes we don’t want to remember certain memories, or certain people. Even those who cared about you at one point of time. It’s that bitter pill that we hate to swallow every time. Those wounds, they heal really slow. The embalming of seconds minutes hours days years and eons hardly help. Because our mind is portal. You don’t need to open a thousand doors or request for approval. You want to access a memory, and poof, you’re standing there in your college hall, embarrassed because a girl snuggled with you during the exam, or you are standing in front of your friends and being the butt of their fat jokes, or you are crying on the night of Deepavali for silly reasons like how perfectly radiant the diyas are compared to the tiny lights you spent so much time setting up around the house. You relive them, everything, every good and bad and awful and ecstatic memory. I see myself with my parents and my sister, walking down a lightless road to visit my aunts after Dussehra. I remember tiny lamps lit atop every house in remembrance of the dead, and thinking ‘do they ever see those lights from above?’ I remember watching fireflies like a fool during our weekly power-cuts.

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I remember a lot of things, but then I have forgotten a lot of things as well. I remember the first time a girl said that she loved me. I remember the shivering me hugging a girl that I loved (and still love), and the first sloppy kiss I planted on her. I remember lying on her lap and looking at the sky, and looking at my watch, because I had to keep a tab on both, and I had to catch the five forty gallop train to reach my home at sharp six thirty. I remember deaths as well, the burning of bodies, the short-lived sensation of futility of everything. Charred lives and harrowing cries, I have endured them as well. I remember old friends coming back, and new friends becoming old friends, and then some old friends not coming back and things getting sour. I also remember a few fond memories like a girl telling me that I should write about the people I care about and the people that care about me, and that guy who despite me not answering every call of his still treats me like his own brother. I cannot express in words how much I owe them.

There’s a certain brilliance in remembrance. People want to remember things a certain way, just like old emperors wanted their lives to be told in tales of grandeur. We all want our memories to be shiny trophies, and our beautiful mind often fabricates its own yarns and slowly wraps on the reality. The fainter the memory, the generous the coating gets. In the end, we end up with a lot of stories to tell; some true, some not, both equally fascinating.

As I stood in a parking lot on a beautiful afternoon by a laundry waiting for my roommate to return, I was looking at the marks that jet planes were making on the blue palette of the sky. The straight, tight lines were slowly disintegrating into white pillars of smoke. Golden leaves were falling everywhere, like abandoned memories. Only we didn’t abandon memories, we abandoned people.

I wish I don’t end up forgetting more than I remember.