Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pure blogging

Of course, the sky is flooded with thick clouds, threatening to open up any moment. This is a strange summer--it started earlier than expected this year, and we've already had two spells of short rains amidst thirsty dry days. Now with a cool breeze, there's the scent of a soothing downpour in the air.

It's difficult to remain hidden online and I'm realizing this slowly. Nearly four years later, my people discover that I have a blog. Younger sister stumbled upon my blog accidentally, read a few posts and announced to my parents, and of course praised. She was moved to tears by this post, probably because she was a part of that memory and now my parents seem interested. Now I have to watch out what I post, and ponder once before scribbling anything. Amazing how I kept aside this possiblity when I would post carefree, not bothering what anyone who knows me would think about what I write here.

Upheavals are occuring at an alarming pace.One moment I'm totally gung-ho, hopeful and optimistic about various things happening in my life. In no time, a wave of dejection and hopelessness clouds my awareness. I just resign to what's happening and carry on the motions. Life appears meaningless until cheer arrives unexpectedly.

New possiblities are opening up at work. I'm now a product leader, responsible for the quality assurance of one entire product, with guys working under me--and it's pure pain. Partly because I'm desperately looking to fly away from the monotony here and wouldn't like to be burdened with anything for now. And this is responsibility without rewards, a sort of thankless job. If things go wrong( as usual, they will), you're accountable, but if everything's smooth, so what? This is both a learning opportunity and a stressful occasion, so I don't know whether to celebrate or sulk.

Watched Rang de basanti, once again. Remembered what I'd written here, long back, when I first watched the movie. And you have the spectacle of the general elections, shameless politicians not even masking their lust for power, urban saviours who think that our country will be saved with everyone casting their precious vote and to top it all, the likes of Varun gandhi and a clueless media following every move of this baffoon.

This isn't depressing anymore. Because this is the last dance for all these scoundrels.

Suddenly I remember that I am a writer. A writer of short stories, as I used to answer that funny question, 'What do you do?', just a few years back. And how could I forget this? So, with this rememberance, there's a flurry of writing activities awakened. Told archana not to look into one particular notebook, because it's personal and contains something related to my creative endeavours ('Huh!' was the reply). Digging into my old diaries and writing manuals. Pursuing writing exercises. Stream of consciousness scribbles. Day dreams of published short stories and novels. Madness. With a method.

My son is in that magical phase where he finds everything, literally everything around him lively and filled with wonder. He looks up at the moon and says a word or two. Says hello to the sunlight. Falls down, gets hurt and stamps the road with anger. Saibaba isn't a long dead saint but a loving friend, who gets to share his secrets and triumphs. He holds up a glass of his favourite fruit juice to Lord Ganesha and other Gods in the photos. The toy car should listen to him when he tells it to move back. And maybe it isn't just ignorance or playfulness; maybe every child connects to the life force throbbing in every particle in creation. Only a child can see that nothing is lifeless. Expandedness is natural in innocence.

Soon he will grow up and lose this capability. We will train him to look at life through small apertures and crush everything else that doesn't fit in with that limited vision. Imagination recedes, magic fades and he will become yet another human being--efficient, wordly, mature but devoid of wonder and mystery. Of course until he wakes up once again to the mystical...

We step into Ugadhi, the Hindu Newyear day. Ugadhi means the beginning of a new Yuga--a new phase in time. You open the doors and windows and let in fresh air, allow sunshine to enter your life. Cleanse your soul of old cobwebs and dirt, awaken to new possibilities, set forth in new directions, embark on new voyages...And know in your guts that the universe is with you, all the time, like a mother.

As I begin a few voyages on this auspicious day, I wish everyone on our beautiful earth a new awakening. Let this new year bring you wonderful gifts, make you stronger against the trials of life and awaken you to your own hidden divinity.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The final scene of the movie, Cast away is difficult to forget. Tom hanks plays the courier man who's marooned on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes into the pacific ocean. He lives in that piece of land for nearly 4 years, without human contact--the memory of his wife is the only thing that keeps him alive, gives him the will to finally brave the brutal waves and find his way back. By the time he returns to civilization, life has moved on. His wife, thinking him to be dead, has remarried. He resumes his job, delivers a packet to a house which is in the middle of nowhere, and on his way back, hits a crossroad. The long roads stretch on all sides and he stands there, looking here and there, pondering... and that geographical place becomes a stunning metaphor for his life at that moment. Where do you go from here? Where have you come from? Why are you here? What's your destiny?

A moment of tremendous pathos. And also a moment of sudden illumination.

Why does illumination arrive only after loss, sadness, emptiness? Why not in the midst of joy, abundance, peace? Why should our journey always be pathos-enlightenment-bliss and not bliss-enlightenment-bliss?

Why this fixation with the positives? What is it in us that makes us scared of losing, of emptiness, of sorrow? If there is something that exists beyond these positives and not so positives, what is that?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ponder this...

'Bangoon Ophaen', shouts tejas over the phone.

'What's that?' I ask her.

'It means, I'll come to Bangalore on an aeroplane.'

* * *

I have an early morning flight to delhi tomorrow morning and a connecting flight to Jammu. Our new airport is outside the city, almost 50 kms away, which means that the taxi fares are exorbitant and people rely on public transport. Since there are no buses so early in the morning, I have to bargain with the taxi guys, so I call them up.

'750 rs,'says the guy over the phone.

'It's too much,' and the calculations begin. 'Why not go there the previous night, catching the last bus, wait in the airport and catch the early morning flight?'

'Or, why not stay at Anand's place in Taponagara, get up early and ask him to drop you to the airport. It's nearer I guess.'

'The bus service starts at 4 a.m., so why not take that bus, just take a chance, if that's okay.....'

It's hard to shell out 750 bucks on a one hour taxi ride but then I begin to wonder what's the difficulty in that. Why? Why should I start thinking about putting myself into inconvenience in order to save a few hundred rupees? I understand it if money is scarce but when that isn't the case, why do these numbers cause a flutter?

We have a couple of new guys in our team, both less experienced than I, who take up less work, lesser pressure, but take home a slightly bigger pay packet. A pang shot through me when I came to know their take-home salary. And now there's a new guy with 6 years experience whose pay packet has gone through the roof and it's a topic of discussion at times.

'You've stayed in the same place for too long,' observes Nazeer. 'Change companies, job-hop and the salary will be good.'

Cool. Numbers again. I don't deny the practical aspect of it but still, these numbers sort of dictate the course of our lives, without our conscious knowledge. They decide the quality of my work, the people I work with and the environment I work in, 9 hours a day, for years together. And I hardly notice that.

It begins to disturb when the same numbers start interfering into the relationship equations. My maternal uncle who owned a flourishing business in bangalore two decades ago, fell into bad times and had to pack everything and retire to his native village. He descended into poverty, partly by his own fault and is still struggling with an uncertain job and salary. His standing in the community and relatives circle closely followed his economic status. The same people who surrounded him, coveted his attention and paid fearful respects in his good times began ignoring him, ridiculing and even insulting him at times. And without anyone explaining the situation very clearly, it came to be accepted as a natural behaviour--you respect someone who's financially sound and don't give a shit if he's penniless. The numbers in your bank account decide your social status, decide if you're worthy of respect and affection. Absolutely no exaggeration.

Is this how the world works? Is this how society has been designed, how life operates in the modern world, everywhere? Maybe yes. Is it healthy? I have my doubts.

Dave pollard's futuristic blogpost about living a money-free, hassle-free life, full of harmony, abundance and joy makes one wonder if that's how life will gradually turn out in the coming days and years. And Ranprieur is one guy who's living such a life, right now, 'in the gift economy' as he says. His entire blog is, apart from many other things, a meditation on the 'money-economy we currently live in vs the gift economy we need to move into'.

This is a huge subject and these are my initial thoughts.

* * *

A guy who's two rungs up the ladder calls a meeting and says,'Our office time is between 9 and 6.30, with a half hour lunch. Many of us are not following it strictly, so the CEO has sent a memo. Starting today, this duration will be strictly followed. You have to be here before 9 and leave by 6.30...'

'These are signs of things to come,' says Nazeer. 'Just watch, how many terminations will happen on this account.'

Two days later, there's another meeting. 'How many in your team are arriving after 9? If anyone comes late, tell them to take half a day leave...'

The next day almost everyone's in by 9 except the rulemaker, who arrives at 9.30. The look on his face---priceless!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

When you grow up....

...what do you want to become?'

Mom wanted a doctor in the family, so I was expected to say, 'doctor'. Or, as was fashionable in those days, 'engineer,' though I never knew what the hell those terms meant. Then there was this astrologer, a friend of Dad's who'd proclaimed,'professor,'--another fancy term. So the answers would revolve around these three things although I'd whisper under my breath,'I don't want to grow up, you morons.'

These must be really stubborn questions, asked around the world of every child by well-meaning(?) parents, relatives, even strangers. A guy from Poland had come to attend our meditation classes and when I was taking him around, he caught hold of a young boy of 10 and asked him the same darn question. 'Astro-physicist!!' pat came the reply. 'Not bad. Not bad,' amidst gusts of laughter. The polish guy was a seeker, who'd come to India in search of the occult and the first thing he'd asked me was, 'Is your Guru enlightened?' What I'd have loved to ask him, me a doc-engineered-professor, was 'What was your answer to the well-meaning question, in your childhood? And have you become that?' Seeker? Not by a long stretch. What are the answers given by children in different cultures? Writer? Actor? Scientist? Businessman? Politician? Are there any cultures which don't ask these questions and don't expect any answers from their youngsters? Maybe someone should conduct a survey and find out what percentage of these predictions/aspirations have come true?

My niece is a little over 15 and her answer is 'opthalmologist'. 'What's that?' I ask and she says,'eye-specialist'. 'Why? Do you like being an eye specialist?' and she has a confident,'Yes'. Until recently the answer was 'advocate,' because her grandpa is also one.

'What about your son?' and I gnarl. 'Relax,' she soothes. 'Let them have their say'. My son has an ear for music and rythme, 'so he'll become a musician.' He whacks the ball real hard...'cricketer!' He loves to dance, ' star? Yeah, why not?'

This obsession with the material success-recognition-fame and a subtle grooming we're subjected to from a very young age, is quite amusing. And disturbing also. It's as if you're bound to fall behind and lose out in the race of life if the goal is not set at a very young age. There are off-beat answers too! 'Artist,' says my friend of his three year old. 'Parents have to watch the child and find out at a young age what her interests are. And then provide opportunities ...'

No qualms about that. A quote I still remember 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans'. And another one: 'A seeker gets only what he seeks. His choices are limited. An explorer finds much more because he has no fixed agenda.' More seekers of pretty ordinary things, many of us seem to have become. Fearful of exploring. Scared of moving out without any agenda. Without a compass. And deciding the compass beforehand for our kids too.

Scared of living. Enough if we can just make a living.

* * *

I thought I could do a lot only if I had all the time in the world. Wrong. Throw me a large chunck of time and I'll laze. The more restricted my time is, the more productively I seem to use it.