Sunday, September 7, 2014

Strangers on a train

I travel a lot from Bangalore to Vellore. I usually take the train which connects Bangalore and Chennai. Vellore is somewhere in the middle of this train route. I usually love these train rides. They are peaceful and I like the rhythmic movement of a train which can rock you to a kind of sleep you usually don’t get.

So, on a seemingly normal day, I got on a train, which was on its way from Bangalore Cantonment Station to Vellore. As I was walking and searching for my seat, I saw a woman struggling with her luggage. She was a little plump and had glasses on, but I thought she looked pretty. I stood there contemplating for a second if I should offer my help to lift the luggage and put it on top. Before I could ask, she turned towards and me asked, “Would you help me with this?”. I was spared the need to ask and I obliged her request. It turned out her seat was right beside me. And she had the window seat, which kind of dissapointed me. That childish instinct of wanting the window seat never goes away, does it?

Once we were settled in our seats, I took out my mobile phone and earphones and started listening to music. Music was my most trusted companion during these travels. After a while, I opened my eyes and saw the chaiwala selling Chai and coffee. Their distinctive “Chai, coffee, tea” shouts never ceased to amaze me. The woman next to me called the chaiwala. She tapped my shoulder, I removed my earphones, she asked, “Would you like Coffee? It’s on me.”. I smiled and said, “It’s okay, I’m fine”. “I insist” she said and bought two cups of coffee from the chaiwala. “I have an addiction for coffee, and I like company whenever I am having it” she said smilingly and took a sip of the coffee. To me, this was a slightly surprising scenario because as far as I’ve experienced, people almost always keep to themselves during my travels. So, when a woman almost ten years older than me, offers me coffee, I was a bit skeptical.

She introduced herself. She was apparently a doctor and her parents were living in Oman. And her hometown was…Vellore. I was surprised when she mentioned her hometown. Never met a native from Vellore who spoke such fluent English. So, for a while we talked about Vellore in general and she spoke about her work. She explained how her work never allowed her to have a great social life and how she would make up for it whenever she got even a little free time. After a while, my skepticism had faded. She was like an open book. One could ask her anything and she would reply without hesitation. I admired her confidence.

At one point we were having a discussion on the topic of marriage. She was 29 years old and she wasn’t married(quite unusual in India). She acknowledged that fact(that it is unusual) and started explaining how it shouldn’t be unusual. However, her parents were insisting she got married before she reached 30. Apparently 30 was a magical number that women should be afraid of. She had been looking at prospective grooms for around six months. One among them stood out. So, this guy agreed to the marriage on one condition — that he be allowed to have girlfriends after the marriage. Her reply was a quick “If you are willing to be kicked by me every day, then I agree”, and she hung up. Both of us burst out laughing. The audacity that guy must have had to put up such an offer.

The above incident brought to light a stigma older women face when the question of marriage is put up to them. To me, it raised more questions about the institution of marriage itself and more especially on the system of arranged marriage. I was provided a perspective on life by a random stranger on this random train journey.

It is rare that you come across a stranger who you can talk to about stuff in such depth. Train journeys provide that opportunity. I haven’t had a decent conversation with any other stranger after that day although I did travel a lot on the very same train. Most of us tend to be lost in our own worlds I guess. I am also guilty of that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Manifest of Contemplation

I want to write a story. A touching story.

Let's take a topic. Nihilism maybe? Existentialism

Cool.

We need characters don't we?
Let's see. Let's focus on the first character. Male or female? A woman with an existential crisis? That would be tragic as hell. I like it.

She should have a name. Ananta sounds nice. Ananta means 'Without end' it seems. Deep.

Ananta is a wonderful singer. She sings so well. A free spirit. College has dampened her spirit. She has stopped giving a shit about a lot of things. Because she doesn't care. Like that protaganist's sister from 'About Time'.

Does she have ambitions?
A job in the IT industry? No. Doctor? No. Actress? No. Singing as a profession? She considered it, but she wasn't good enough. The problem is, she is average. What is she good at? Writing? No, a decent writer she may be, but she has no interest in doing that.

That is the major problem in her life. A person who lacks ambition doesn't deserve to live, don't they? Don't say that. She's figuring things out. But the clock is ticking. College is going on and is about to end.

What to do...what to do.

She is exploring.

Maybe she wants to become a wife, have a baby and live a peaceful life with a peaceful husband. Hell no. She doesn't want that. But that is her backup in life. If nothing goes her way, that is the final death knell.

Fine, so we know a little about Ananta.

Does she have a boyfriend?

Yeah. His name is Kranthi Kiran Rao. Random. I know. They are on the verge of break up I heard. Not like a girl can't get another guy whenever she wants.

What kind of a guy is he?
Supportive. But narcissistic. Is that cliched? Okay let's see. He never asks what's wrong with Ananta even though she looks distressed. He keeps talking about his problems. And that guy does seem to have his own set of problems.

But sometimes he says stuff like this.
"I have a dream. That one day we will dance to a song. Even though we can't dance for shits. We will dance. Alone. Just for us. I have a song in mind. It's called Shadows by Lindsey Stirling.
We will practice. We will dance with synergy. It will be beautiful."

What does he want in life? What all men want. No not that. Yes, that too, but he wants more. A safe job. A nice house. And all that schpeel. So what? He's boring. But he's a nice guy. Alright?

But she's gonna break up with him anyway. She wants her life to be interesting. What does she want? She's still searching.

Her spirit has almost died out. She stops understanding the world. She goes into a shell. Kranthi realizes the mistakes he made. He tries to talk to her. She gives him the cold shoulder. (I want to picture with that actual ice on her shoulder, hehehehe)

She tries painting. She's horrible. She actually tries coding. She's horrible at it. She gives up. She gives up on
searching for the thing she wants to do.

She shuts out the world. She stops attending calls from her friends.

Now what?

I've written myself into a corner, haven't I ?

Let's do this. I shall make the corner my armour.

One day Kranthi finds Ananta sitting in class alone. She is sitting there staring at nothing. The class had ended five minutes ago. Kranthi sits near her and starts the conversation.

"Hi"

"Oh. Hi"

"What's up? I've been trying to call you. You don't attend them. It's fine. But for a while I thought you had
completely vanished from the face of the earth. Even your friends are worried about you"

"Oh. It's nothing. I just...Its just I've been trying to figure out things for myself."

"What things?"

"You know. What I should do in life." And she gives a faint smile.

"You always had that question on your mind. But I've never seen you this way. All cut off and depressed"

"I don't know. I guess it's the cumulative stress weighing on me. I'll be fine. Trust me."

"You know you can always talk to one of us right? You may not want to talk to me, but you actually have caring friends. How about them?"

All he got was silence from her.

"What's going on? Tell me. Seeing you like this is making me more depressed."

"I'm fine. Just leave me alone for a while. I'll be okay." She sounded a little rude.

"Fine...fine. If you feel like talking, you know I'm there too."

"Yeah" Again that faint smile. This time it looked fake.

Kranthi gets up and walks out.

As soon as he leaves the class room, Ananta starts sobbing. Then she stops abruptly and walks out.

Does that work out as a good ending to a story? Or do I have to explain that this is just a slice of life. And life goes on no matter what. What, no? You want a monologue from her explaining why she's being all broody and stuff, huh?

Let's see. Maybe I'll elaborate the story with good incidents and the story won't require a cop out like that.

The end :P

***

I was planning on writing a good story. I like making short films and I thought I should come up with a story for the short film. And voila, above is the manifestation of the thought process. Let's see if I make that short film any time soon. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What makes us move?

It is to my understanding that nothing in this world would work for mankind without society and its constructs. We ache to survive in this world. Everything else is next. Why survive when we know we have to die someday? Why do all this work? We all have reasons to go on with life but ultimately, the question is never answered. We are just a blip in the universe.

 We all find reasons to go on. Some find enough strength in themselves to achieve great things and others take pleasure in the small things in life. My sometimes nihilistic attitude makes me wonder why achieve at all when we know it is going to disappear? Why bother? It is the context in which my thought process works which makes me asks these questions. The universal context. Remove this context and replace it with a context which resonates with you. Consider you want to become an astronaut because you saw astronauts on TV as a child. You will know becoming an astronaut is an achievement and you may strive to reach this particular goal. This goal means the world to you and once you reach this goal, you are ecstatic and push forward from the achievement. Now, your perspective is that of a person whose life is consumed by his goal and nothing else. Would that person have achieved whatever they achieved if they had stopped and thought “Hey, whatever I am doing is pointless. I’ll stop doing this!”. I believe natural selection must have wiped out every living being with that thought process. Then there are people who live for the almighty or devote their life to a certain religion. 

As you can see, there are a lot of things which give us motivation to survive. But underneath all that facade, survival means nothing in the context of the universe. Billions and billions of stars in hundreds of billions of galaxies, Supernovae, Quasars, Pulsars, nebulae and everything else that makes up the universe will move on with or without us. Once you see the world in the context I am trying to show you, every problem in the world pales in comparison. Every quarrel, fight or argument you might have had will seem dumb and pointless. No one knows why we are here and we might never know why we are here. So, whatever fraction of the time in the universe we do get to survive, I feel like I should be making the most of it. 


In conclusion, I would like to leave you with this quote
“...Hmm? How peaceful life would be without love, Adso, how safe, how tranquil, and how dull” - Willaim of Baskerville, The Name Of The Rose

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Longing

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I always wondered if the above statement is true in every case. I can't help but feel that a lot of deserving people meet failure everyday. When you think about it logically, we are just a collection of atoms held together by a complex balance of forces. So, when a human(collection of atoms) does a bunch of stuff, is nature supposed to know that this  "human" is doing something that is useful for itself and reward this "collection of atoms" with a certain action or item in the future which would provide this "collection of atoms" a sense of fulfillment and achievement?

Load of bullocks.

The complexity of our universe is so huge that every human action may not get its equivalent karmic reaction. So many factors weigh in - Butterflies have to flutter, the chaos of the world has to be made sense of and hopefully, the universe follows the laws of physics at every continuous moment without fail. After all these variable factors are taken into account, it is with wonder I look upon the fact that if humans (and not any other animal, mind you) get what they deserve. So, I guess when a human does get what (we think) they deserve, it is something to behold.

If you noticed, I did not take one other factor in my above paragraphs - God. Oh, how I wish an all knowing omnipresent God existed and would give people what they deserve.  It would make the world so much easier. Everything would be black and white. Every decision would be easy. What you do is either right or wrong. No shades of grey in between. Oh, and how astoundingly boring such a world would be.

I guess I am writing this because I want something in my life right now. And I don't know what it is and don't know what to do. Oh well, I know I cannot depend on the universe to help. It seems to be quite a moody thing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Need for a Hero


As a child, I enjoyed cartoons like any self respecting pre-teener. You know which cartoons caught my fancy? Yes, cartoons with heroes in them. I would imagine myself in the shoes of Batman and superman(sometimes, I still do) and save the world. Other times, I just sit and watch the world being saved. They were infallible. They would rise from the dead. They would plan for everything the villain had in store for them. They could almost never lose. Even if they lost, another hero would emerge to take the mantle. These heroes gave me a sense of security and hope. I'd like to imagine that some of you also felt the same way.

As my childhood unraveled and I realized that there are no superheroes. The heroes you saw on TV, read in comic books and books as a child would lose some of the magic it had on me. But I craved for heroes. Someone I could depend on to swoop in whenever I was in trouble. As the train of life kept chugging along, the craving turned to desperation and then, to a strange sense of serenity. The logical part of me had known all along, but the child in me still thinks there's a hero somewhere out there, infallible, and saving people.

What about heroes you see on the news you ask? Real life heroes who are actually doing(or did?) real life work. Yes, they are inspirational. But the cynical in me destroys the human hero. A small failure, a mistake here or there would reduce the real life hero to an ordinary human who makes mistakes.

The media doesn't help matters though. Take for example Raghuram Rajan, the new Governor of RBI. `The man who could do no wrong` as one of the news outlets so eloquently put. He is the man who stopped the free fall of the rupee. We want him to be that hero who saves the rupee.We want him to make the rupee better than the dollar. We know he might never do it. But I want him to do it. I want to believe that he is that hero. I believe some of you do too. Some of you might want to be that hero.

Sachin Tendulkar used to be my hero. Don't mistake me, I'm his biggest fan, but I realized he was nothing but human in recent times. Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar used to make me believe I could do everything he did in his movies. But then, I grew up. I realized he had superpowers only in movies.

I don't know if my thoughts above resonate with yours. I hope some of you could at least relate with it. But I know for a fact that I am not alone in the endeavor to find that hero, however illogical it may seem.

I believe the dictionary definition 'hero' allows for human heroes. Hopefully, the definition of 'hero' in my mind allows for humans in mean time. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Da Vinci's Demons

Da Vinci's Demons is a TV show I got to watch recently. It is a different spin on the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. The critics say that the show has many inaccuracies. And from what I have seen of the show, it does seem to be inaccurate, but it seems to revel in its inaccuracies. The show takes place during the Medici's rule of Florence during the 1470s. The Pazzi conspiracy of assassinating the Medicis is also major story arc. However, Da Vinci's role in these story arcs are fictionalized and brought to light. Reading some of the Wikipedia entries of Da Vinci, Count Riario and the Medici's showed that the show is following the major story arc accurately enough, but straying wherever it can, creating a kind of alternate history. The show brings some of its own elements to the fore like what the plot of the game Assassin's Creed II did, which also took place in the same time period.

To be honest, if it were not Assassin's Creed II, I would not have been as interested in Da Vinci's Demons. Interestingly, there exists another show called The Borgias. The Borgia family also played a major part in the plot of Assassin's Creed II. What fascinates me is the mixture of real history and conspiracy theories which throw up some intriguing possibilities and ideas. I owe my (little)knowledge of Renaissance Italy and Rome to the games Assassins Creed II and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

What is really interesting is that, even with it's inaccuracies and fallacies, I enjoy the show for what it is. Occasionally, I read the Wikipedia entries to know what actually happened so as to not disillusion myself.

---

They say one's roots are important. They identify you. I do not know what to feel when I say that my knowledge of India's rich history is not that great. From the Pandians, Cholas to the Mughal Empire, I do not know a great deal about them. I sometimes wonder how a show involving the Mughal empire would be. The invasion by Babur, the intricate politics of Akbar's court, the fall of Aurengzeb and there are many more stories which can be told in a very interesting way. Maybe include Birbal as a lead character like Da Vinci? Explore the secret world of the Mughals? Or even why restrict ourselves to the Mughals, we can explore the other kingdoms of India too. Maybe create an alternate world like Game Of Thrones? I see so many possibilities. We can take a leaf out of the European/American TV show model and create wonderful shows with history and fiction mixed in the right amount. I would watch that kind of show. And yeah, help me be aware of Indian history by forcing me to read Wikipedia entries about it whenever I suspect inaccuracy which would in turn benefit me, although in a convoluted way.

That is me just dreaming there.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Cynicism of Adulthood

I remember this old interview. I watched it when I was a kid. In it, Harsha Bhogle was interviewing Sachin Tendulkar. Harsha asked this question about experience, about whether it matters or not. Sachin replied by saying that with experience, you start to know the ways things can go wrong and with inexperience, you just go and do your stuff without much thought. I remember it in a little jaded way but that was the gist of the interview.

When I was young, I used to think I could change the world. Don't get me wrong, I still think it is possible. But I don't have the same enthusiasm about it. Where did I lose this enthusiasm? As life tends to kick your ass in its own way, you learn that people don't change as quickly as you thought. Frankly, movies and TV tend to create false hope that things can change, for a fleeting moment. Then you realize things aren't as rosy. If you think about it, we always descend down the stairs as we grow up.

Recently, I learnt that a debate is of no use if people are not ready to change their mind. It becomes a quarrel and then before you know it, it becomes a full blown hate/revenge story.  When you are a child, your opinions are not considered. During teen years, your opinions are considered hazy and foolish. And when one becomes an adult, one just stops having opinions because they know it is dangerous. When you do have an opinion, you are expected to stand up for it. If you don't, you are considered spineless. And if you do stand up for something, you bloody well make sure there are people standing behind you because if you do stand alone, you are sure to become a martyr for a cause that might be forgotten after a while.

I maybe wrong, but hey, it is an opinion. My cynical side has shown up I guess.

****
I am sometimes pessimistic. I like tragic stories. I must have been Greek in my previous lifetime(No, I don't believe in reincarnation, but you do get my point, don't you?) .

Even through all my pessimism, I still believe that change is possible when enough work is put in. It just takes enormous strength. Oh, how I wish listening to "Eye of the tiger" refilled your virtual strength "meter". As you gain experience, I am sure you'll learn of ways how many ways you can fail. Just don't let it bother you.

By the way, those Rocky movies were damn inspiring. Seriously, if you are looking for inspiration, even for a little bit, watch the original Rocky. It will give you hope.