Sunday, March 26, 2017

Finding the One and life's other fallacies

All of us as kids start out with a lot of fantasies. Some of us want to be wizards, some of us hope to be secret princesses, some want to be super heroes. As we grow older some geeks like me continue to believe in these fantasies, we are sort of overgrown kids actually. We like comic books, super hero movies, Harry Potter and other fantasy novels.
Rest of us graduate to a higher fantasy – finding the One. The one that the universe intended them to be with, the one they will have an earth shattering romance with, the one that will fight the entire world to be with them, the one which when they see a millions violins will go off, daisies will blow in the wind and time itself will skip a beat.

In my humble opinion you have equal chances of finding out that you can fly and finding the one. The one that you always dreamt of, the one who likes the same quaint movies that you do, the one who likes your friends but has interesting ones of his own too, the one who is good looking but not too much to attract unwanted attention, the one who is outgoing and likes to do stuff but also likes to cuddle in a blanket and watch a movie on the weekends that you don’t feel like going out. The one who swears that one cannot start his or her day without tea if you like tea or is highly knowledgeable about wines and single malts if you are into that kind of stuff. The one who is career oriented and respects yours too but has interesting hobbies and a happening life beyond work. The one who understands your passion for dubstep and your hatred for four-on-the-floor beat or is into ghazals of Farida Khanum If you are. The one who has sense to never wear brown shoes with black pants but is daring enough to wear brogues and not stick to oxfords. The one who is smooth and knows the right thing to say, the one who is never tongue tied or looking for you to show the way but is not too bossy or a control freak either and understands that in some things you know best. The one with whom you will endless conversations till morning every time you talk. The one for candlelight dinners, surprise birthday parties and romantic beach walks.

This One is a fantasy like any other, perpetrated by romantic movies and novels, reinforced by greeting card companies and seemingly realized by happy couple photographs on Facebook. And the biggest difference between us geeks watching Avengers and people watching Notting Hill or DDLJ is that we know Thor and Loki are fictional characters. The point that Anna Scott and Raj are ones too is seemingly missed by a lot of people. Those are the ones who put these expectations on real people. When (or if) aliens attack I will follow emergency evacuation procedure and will try to keep my head down. Not wait for The Avengers to rescue me. But the people searching for the one expect their date/girl or boy friend/marriage prospect to behave exactly like Jack or Rose from Titanic. And then they move on after calculating that he or she is not the one.
Sometimes I feel that these people are more in love with the idea of being in love. For them finding love is a way to make themselves complete and fulfilled. As if finding true love will solve all their problems and their life will be the ones worth flaunting where they can cock a snook at everyone else who hasn’t found their the One yet. Love is a wonderful thing, it really is, it can brighten up the dullest days, it can give you the power to fight through the toughest odds, it really is the rabbit hole that can show Alice or you a wonderful new place but it isn’t a Parasmani. So when you try to find meaning in your life by searching for the one you are putting the burden of your entire fulfillment on him or her.

Your significant other cannot take the burden of being romantically alluring and matching your every taste and being your activity partner and your friend and friend of your friends and being liked by your parents and forethoughtful providers/care givers That is, to take the burden of being the One. He or she cannot take it. No one can.
That is why you have friends. And you need to maintain those friendships even after you find the one. That one friend who can do the Govinda dance steps with you, that one friend who likes hiking as you do, that one friend who also thinks that is totally ok to travel 20 kms to eat a Idli, that one friend who can spend the entire night arguing with you if Sam and not Frodo was the real hero of Lord of The Rings.

Friendships like any plant need to be seeded and then maintained and this day and age it is become increasingly easy to stay in touch and maintain your friendships. Now it is possible to talk to your friends across continents and time zones. To drop in a line or see once in a while what are they up to. And with the internet, online forums and special interest Usenets can get you to talk with total strangers and cultivate friendships across any social divide and almost across languages as well. I argue with 882 strangers whether Stannis was right to burn Shireen on Reddit and don’t really need my One to really care that deeply about Game of Thrones. Most people around me these days keep agreeing to posts and rants that Smarthphones and Facebook are hampering relationships and getting people away from each other. I beg to disagree, I would rather stare in my phone and see photos on FB and send Whatsapp messages to people that I am actually friends with then chat idly with people that I am stuck in train with. These things make you possible to stay in touch with people that you liked and were friends with but are no longer together geographically. Blaming phones for getting people away is like saying Cars are actually hampering transportation because sometimes they run over pedestrians.
And with the aid of these friendships you can really search for the qualities in your significant other that are the most important for you. I would not try to be an expert on love and make a declaration on what these qualities should be, to each one their own. But as an observant introvert I would say this, that everyone has their own problems and solutions, emotional baggage and wisdom, shortfalls and qualities. To accept one without the other is like expecting to be a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist like Ironman and also have time to work those 6 pack abs.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Red is the colour of love


On this Valentine’s day I wish I could write you a song,
Like that guy with red guitar singing in a bar
Or at least I wish I could write you a poem,
Like that guy with glasses drinking his red wine glasses
I am trying and failing to tell you that I love you today.

The one other time I really want to tell you this,
Is when you wait for me to watch a TV episode on our red sofa.
And when you get me food with extra chilli to make it red.
Or perhaps when you would bake me a red velvet cake.
Also when you say it’s ok after a tiring day when I am seeing red.
And when you decorate the house with yellow lights and red lamps.
Or get me home when I’m drunk and can’t tell green from red.
Even when we laugh ourselves red on our private jokes.

Most definitely when you wear your cute red ninja t shirt.
When you fret yourself crazy when I’m sick or have a red nose.
When you mark your calendar red to remind me to call my mom.
Even when you empty every packet into red boxes.

The only other day that I do love you.
Is the day I breathe and my blood runs red.
Red is the colour of our love;
And will be, till the sun keeps rising red.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Growing up is funny business

Growing up is funny business. For example the whole idea of wearing ties to work is a funny thing, it is laughable to even think that we need even more ties at and to work. The work to-do list has even replaced the singing in the shower. But what is even funnier is the sight of kids playing cricket in a small open area and our hope that they will maybe hit the ball towards you today, so you can throw it back and feel like that you are also a part of their game. Like you are not playing enough games as it is. One game at work, blaming your co-workers in office in front of the boss so that ask for a better rating and appreciating the same people to their face so that you can ask for favours. The game of drinking enough coffee to stay awake through the day and enough whisky to stay asleep through the night. The impossible game of saving enough money to keep the parents happy and spending enough to keep the wife and kids happy. At this time we must remind ourselves that we are not boys anymore.

There is maybe one thing equally droll, which is browsing an electronics shop or shopping website looking for ACs and toasters when an offer on some good speakers catches your eye and you train of thought goes towards all the things your younger self wanted to buy like 350 CC bikes, iPods, gaming consoles and bean bags. It almost feels like they are desires from other life. Because this life has FDs and real estate to take all your savings, and then some more. Who the hell would actually want a guitar? And where is the time and solitude to listen to the songs you wanted to listen anyways, right? It is hilarious why we even wished those things, equally hilarious that tug on the heart still when we think of those things. Quickly now before it gets any worse - we are not boys anymore.

There are other desires as well, most of them half forgotten, fully planned and never realized. All of them are so ridiculous that they border on the farcical. Desires of bike trips, treks in Leh and going to New Zealand for bungee jumping. Side-splitting to think of all these things now, when even meeting friends for a dinner requires juggling work timings, location in the city near to everyone, deciding on which restaurant to go to, promises made to wife etc etc. Promises made to selves have been forgotten long ago though, promises that I will never ask my parents for money anymore, promise to be able to buy the clothes that you really wanted to buy, promise that we will always keep in touch with our friends, promise that one day I will spend an entire week in Goa and do whatever the fuck I wanted. But then we are not boys anymore.

Now when I think of Goa I can think of one thing even more hysterical than the last one; that is planning vacations. The thing that is supposed to make you relaxed is so stressful that I am surprised that all travel portals do not sell medication to lower blood pressure along with their usual stuff. First you have to decide a place where you and your wife want to go, then think of whether your kids will have something to do there, then whether anybody would want to go with you will the dates suit them, whether you will be able to convince your boss to grant you leaves for the vacation, whether the hotel will be good but not too expensive, are you buying the tickets for the right dates and so on and so forth. Then most of us will anyway sleep through it, apart from the time that you are on call with office people or fretting how much over budget this trip is getting on and lastly; an occasional throwback to the time where vacations were a bunch of impromptu plans, fifteen friends coming together on a whim, five minutes of packing, cheap booze and cheap hotel, a night full of antics and hilarious stories. But who would those kind of vacations now, right? I mean we are not boys anymore.

Equally amusing is the constant struggle of us aged people to try to look older and fretting about how we are looking older. We start growing moustaches and beards so as to look older, wardrobe starts seeing addition of only greys, blacks and pastels. Then there are the replacements of bikes with cars, dress watches with sports, polos with round necks and so on. That carefully rehearsed list of hobbies such as reading business magazines, watching Oscar winning movies and taking trips to culturally significant places. Even though we prefer reading Buzzfeed over Business India, David Dhawan over David Lynch and watching Big Boss over visiting Bodh Gaya.  All that is done on the passive mode. Actively we search of white hairs to be clipped from head and beards. Look for gym memberships and affairs with 20 something women. We can’t help chuckling when we think about when once age was a number we had to only calculate while filling in entrance examination forms. But we can’t afford that now, we are not boys anymore.

But the thing which is the most crazy, comical and capricious about this whole thing is the thinking of the reason we even did grow up in the first place. From the point of wanting to get away from home and be free to the point where the thought that you can’t call your dad to fix everything keeps you awake on some nights. The dream of having your own car, your own house is just that, a dream. The house will never will be yours, not at least for another 25 years, and the car is not your getaway machine, it is another thing that require money, maintenance and a constant struggle to keep up with Joneses. Or that odd realization in a lonely hotel room that why you were keeping score of how much you got you forgot to realize that what you actually wanted was something else. The whole thought that the world forced you to grow up and moulded into the thing that you made fun of as a boy is so funny that it hurts while laughing. Or the dawning of the fact that getting older consists not of Hugo Boss suits and mansions but EMIs, long commutes, tuition fees and regret of roads not taken. It is a ‘Killing Joke’. With the infusion of such hilarity in our life I am sure we all ecstatic that we are not boys anymore, right guys?



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Grow Up

Grow up. Wear formals. Act formal. Be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Cry in bathrooms. Comb your hair. Get a wig if you don’t have them. Don’t dance in weddings. Leave that to the kids. Work even late on your birthday. To make sure nobody suspects it. Don’t eat your cake. Try to just have it. Wear spects to look older. Shave every day. Don’t join the cricket game. Smile for the sidelines. Hope the kids hit the ball towards you. So you can at least throw it back. Don’t take personal calls in office. Say no to reunions to attend meetings. Don’t drink too much. Reprimand others who do. We are not boys anymore.
Give up on that cruiser bike. Get a FD for that money instead. Think of your bank balance every 6 seconds. Go for cheap furniture stores on your weekends. Download MoneyControl app on your phone. Delete Hitman: Sniper to make space for it. Don’t leave home without a plan. Check your hotel has a business center before booking. Pool is secondary. Try to learn Golf even if it bores you. Get a polo shirt. Good speakers are a useless expense. Invest that money into gold. Laugh at boys trying to skateboard. Secretly wish you had tried it too. Curse and shout at youngsters who overtake you. Try to get a look at the bike model quickly too. Cancel your subscription for AutoIndia. Get a Business Today instead. Skip the cartoon section in the newspaper. We are not boys anymore.
Abandon the idea for a Leh trip with your friends. Suggest a resort near your city instead. Grow a French beard to look older. Count the number of grey hairs in the mirror every day. Getting a tattoo is a stupid idea. Or at least keep telling yourself that. Get the ice cream flavor with discount on. Get the good liquor out only when you have guests.  Don’t call your mom when you are sick. Don’t run on the grass. Go to a gym instead. Don’t show anyone that you can cartwheel. Lament the world that is forcing you to grow up. Push the thought of your head to rehearse how you are going to bargain with the property dealer. See the reviews before going to movie and not the star cast. Leave early from the party to maintain your sleep cycle. Scowl at 20 somethings wasting their time. Convince yourself that playing cricket over the weekend was a bad idea. Doesn’t matter how fun it was. Dismiss Valentine ’s Day as a marketing gimmick. Ignore you spent your entire teenage wanting to have someone fir it.Imagine yourself with a trendy haircut. Then try to laugh it off. We are not boys anymore.
Crib about not getting the promotion. Day dream about being a pilot though. Pass by the PS4 even though you finally have the money to buy it. Look at it and want it anyways. Stay indoors on Sunday. Sleep on vacations. . Scoff at Snapchatters. Wonder how to use it when you are alone at home. Look at the new Gizmo section in airplane magazines. Try to push it out by fretting will you find a bus home at this time. Get bitter at the world that is forcing you to grow up on long flights. Get bitter at the group of friends travelling with you them. Convince yourself that they are wasting their father’s money. Know probably your college group is never going to meet in Goa. Think about getting a new credit card to finance it anyways. Scold yourself to jolt yourself back to reality. Reality that consists of EMIs, kid’s tuition fees, long commutes and roads not taken. Resign yourself to it. Try to Grow up and remind yourself that we are not boys anymore.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fuck Pakistan (and its good, sweet people)

Yes yes I know their soldiers are trying to kill ours, their entire nuclear arsenal is made to annihilate us, they send insurgents to spread terrorism and their fast bowlers have been fucking our batsmen for a longer time than I want to admit.

But try as they may, in the golden words of Ramsay Bolton “You can’t kill me, I am a part of you now”.

The funny thing is ……..that outside India and Pakistan we are not trying to kill each other, we are actually one. One army friend of mine said that even the Indian and Pakistani army officers get along well while at UN Peacekeeping missions. I remember eating in a restaurant named Kathmandu in Paris, which served Indian food, which was run by Pakistanis. I heard them speaking in Punjabi, so when the guy came to serve I asked where is he from, he said Islamabad. I asked if they speak Punjabi in Islamabad, he said Punjabi and Urdu are both spoken in Islamabad. He finally gave us 10% discount and refused to take the tip I left. He said “Arey aap aur main to ek hee jagah ke hai”. Indeed.

There is another Pakistani guy near where I stay in Madrid, he is extra warm towards me and my Indian colleagues from office. The last I went to eat at his restaurant he first refused to take money and gave us a discount and then gave three cans of coke on top of that. He works in a shop run by a Bangladeshi. I would think he would like him more than us because they are both Muslims but he doesn’t, in fact he complains of him ruining his Hindi. When we were in Pamplona during San Fermines, when the running of the bulls happens, the moment immortalized in ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’, we found only one restaurant serving veg food, a place selling Falafels and Durum kebabs, again run by a Pakistani. When I was trying to order in my shitty Spanish he interjected saying that he speaks both English and Hindi. The rest of the transaction went on in Hindi when another friend used there toilet and we got a discount. The guy made an extra effort to mark the veg rolls as Veg rolls.

We are part of them too and they are a part of us. Exhibit A – My friend saying “Saggy (another friend of us) ke to Lahore lage hai abhi”. Lahore lagna = having a jolly good time. “Lahore na dekha to kya dekha” is another Punjabi saying that he quoted.  They (Pakistanis) watch all the Bollywood movies and follow our movie stars and we all reluctantly agree their Coke Studio is better than ours.

I wonder where the blood lust comes from, the will to take lives and kill each other for losing cricket matches or lesser. We eat the same food, we like the same things, we nearly speak the same language, we were enslaved colonized by the same people, we look the same and we both swear by cricket. The Pakistanis I met in Paris asked where am I from, having no good answer I said Bangalore (I just randomly say whatever I feel like when I am asked this, see this post), when the guy brought me food he said, “arey Kumble aur Dravid wahin se hai na”. I nodded without saying we (me and Kumble) don’t speak the same language or eat the same food, in fact I am closer to you then I am to them. For a second I felt a strange kinship to him. But for a second only, then all the scenes of them invading our country filled my head. Fuck Pakistan, it’s good, sweet people and filmmakers who propagate this shit.

Why can’t we all make Peshawari Naan and not war?
P.S - By the way the photo I uploaded is a Indian restaurant in Segovia run by a Pakistani named "La Juderia" which means the 'The Jew'.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Life for rent

Have you watched Outlander? I haven’t, except for the first episode, and one scene of it stays with me. The one where Claire, the protagonist, sees a vase and has a sort of existential crisis. For that moment I felt exactly like her, she saw a vase and said this “Like the moment I realized I'd never owned a vase.
That I'd never lived any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing”.
I have no show pieces that I own, nothing that that isn’t purely functional, except maybe a few fridge magnets and gifts that I have received over the years and I carry along. I have no home so to speak of, just houses that I rent for a while. And probably no concept of one either, my parents stay abroad in a rented house, the house that they own is rented out to someone else. Also I have been staying away from them for 14 years now, cannot even call their home as mine. So where is my home?
I have lived in six different cities in the past six years. Moving everywhere permanently and staying everywhere temporarily. I gain things and friends wherever I stay and lose some of them every time I move. I attach myself to every city I move wholeheartedly, always knowing that I have to move soon. It fuels both my nihilism and hedonism every time I think about it. Nothing is of consequence because nothing is of permanence, I can make friends or be hated by my neighbors, I can buy a nice house or rent a shoddy one , buy comfortable chairs and a vase or sit on the floor; all of this does not matter because I am going to be moving soon anyways. But on the other hand it also tells me to go the extra mile to agree with people, to really try to live like a local, to see the city and try to understand it and its people, to try to grow roots; because there is nowhere else to go, no home to return to, no normal situation that I expect to come back, this is life, and right now is the only time to enjoy it.
There is perhaps no word for this feeling that I have, at least none in English or Hindi, there is one in Portuguese though – Saudade. Saudade is a sense of melancholic longing of someone or something that you liked too much and you lost, the understanding that the thing lost is permanent in suppressed but also known. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. So it is sad and happy feeling at the same time, it really is hard to describe and understand except for the people who have felt this.
Every time that someone asks me where I am from, I give a different answer, depending on what I think would be easier to explain, to people here in Spain I say I am from Bangalore because that is where took the flight to Spain from. To people in Bangalore I said I am from Jodhpur because that is where I went when I was getting married, to people in Delhi I said I am from Kota because that is where I used to go on college breaks. The people that I meet while travelling here in Europe I say I am from Madrid.  I can’t speak Spanish, Kannada, Hadoti or Marwari good enough to pass for a local in any of these places though. Every city that I go to, I am an outsider. A ship without a port, so to speak. A lot of people ask me where do I want to settle down, or they ask me don’t you want to move closer to home? And I have to reply every time, where is home? My parents don’t stay in Jodhpur anyways, Kota is a place I wouldn’t want to settle down, Bangalore is going to the dogs and Madrid is too foreign to even consider. Why would anyone want to go to the city they were born in? They just happened to be born there, there is nothing magical about it, no reason to even care. Many kids are born in airplanes, ships, military camps and soon to be abandoned mining towns. They would have turned out to be ok, right? Except that everybody wants to go home. Home is where the heart is, or so they say, so perhaps you have no heart if you do not have a home.
Of course it is not all bad, I like Samosa, Kabooli, Masala Dosa and Spanish Omelette equally and can ask you to fuck off in five languages, I have houses in so many cities where I can turn up and would be welcomed into. I have a better perspective on cultures and people than some scholars of anthropology. Unlike some people I know my life is not a constant struggle to get transferred to North India or Delhi or Jaipur or any of those places. And I do not have to spend loads of money on every Diwali to go home, I utilize that on Scotch and Seekh Kababs. There is no culture that I have to carry and uphold. No lamentation that this is good but it not like home. I know I have limited time everywhere so I try to do things today rather than later on. There is nothing so emancipating like this feeling in life, except maybe very high number of Jager Bombs.
There are others like me, I see them transiting through places and life. You learn their names, say a few kind words and then prepare for a goodbye. People who are of nowhere, like the Wandering Jew cursed to wander the Earth till the second coming. People who always stay in rented houses, look for furnished houses, try to make friends with other outsiders, who struggle for coming up with address proofs and dread things that have to be posted to their permanent addresses. People who poke fun at the things that are in the city that they live and the cities that they have lived, with very less baggage, physical and emotional. Taking up prepaid phone connections, looking out for DTH boxes with less deposit and good taxi services instead of good cars. Enjoying both the city park picnics and legendary eating places. Searching for English speaking people and depending on Google maps. But the most I identify with something is the ocean, it is all one and connected everywhere but goes by so many different names and behaves so differently wherever it goes. It is Pacific somewhere and Indian someplace else, it is hot somewhere and frozen some other place, it is teeming with life at some places and also dead some other place.
It is both a boon and bane, living without a home, an anchor, belonging to nowhere, with no one to go back to and nobody holding you back. Of short visits and long promises. Enjoying the impermanence and dreading it at the same time. The life with rented houses, coolers, TVs, cars and beds. The life, itself and wholly or partly, for rent.
P.S - This is a video of Fado music from Portugal, a music which very deeply signifies Saudade


Friday, March 25, 2016

Curious incident with two boys at midday

There is a small park in front of the hostel that I'm staying in right now in Lisbon. I was killing time yesterday, waiting for it to be time to formally check in when...... 

Two boys, most probably brothers aged around 4 and 6 were playing football. Both were running for the football and in order to get to the ball first the older one pushed the younger one away, all the while both were running towards the ball. The younger and smaller boy fell, got hurt and started crying. The bigger one got the ball. 

The younger boy stayed on the ground, he had fell face first, but got his hands down first to break his fall. I felt really really bad for that small boy, I wanted to go pick him up, ask him to stop crying, to tell him that in life a thousand times more people will push you to get some metaphorical football first and you will fall on your face and be hurt. But be strong, don't cry. You have to man up, the world is a shitty place. You have to get up again and push that boy back. I was angry at his older brother, thinking how could he push his little brother like that, I was angry at the world for being unfair where big kids push little kids, I was angry at all the people who ever pushed me, literally and figuratively. 

But there was another voice in my head, that is still to console that young boy, but to tell him that it is ok to cry. Bad things will happen in life and it is ok to cry sometimes, you don't have to be strong everytime, sometimes the football is not worth it. I wanted that boy to be protected from the world and never play football with bigger kids ever again. 

I pondered on both these choices for a second or two. I didn't rush to pick up that kid, I didn't know them and I didn't know if my talking to those kids will be ok or not. And I got my answer to the choices a second later. 

The bigger kid after seeing his younger brother crying ran back with the football, picked him up, dusted him off and gave him the football. The little kid still angry threw the ball away, his older brother got it back to him. And I realized the answer. You will fall down many a times while playing football, you'll get hurt and cry. That will happen, and that is ok. That's why you have your loved ones, your older brother, your parents, your sisters, your friends, your spouse, to pick you up and dust you off so that you can play ball again. 

So be out there, run for the football and if you get pushed and you fall, cry for a while, let your loved ones dust you off so that you can continue running for the ball. Don't be that guy who always ran for the ball and didn't care who he pushed and don't be that guy who's afraid of playing with the big kids, the best path is somewhere in the middle. 

When I started walking back towards the hostel as it was 1, I saw those two kids playing football and laughing again. The world was a alright place again