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The Origin Story

This is the post excerpt.

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It was a cold, wintry night in 1989. The place: Bangalore. The wind outside shrieked and howled, the room felt positively glacial at 10°C. It felt like a harbinger of the joyful event shortly to follow. It had been close to eight hours, and the woman’s brow was damp with sweat, she writhed in pain but her face was stoic, her lips drawn tightly. She was trying to think positive thoughts. Her husband was away on assignment, she clasped the cold, clammy hands of her mother, drawing no comfort from it. She looked across the room to the slightly hulking figure of her father. She found it reassuring. Everything would be okay, as long as he was there. As if he had heard her unspoken thoughts, he turned around, and said to his wife, a diminutive woman of some sartorial elegance “I will get us coffee. I pray it shouldn’t take longer.” He smiled sympathetically at his daughter, and left the room.

After many hours of torment, she was fully dilated, and her efforts were rewarded around midnight, when a loud cry was heard through the hospital floor. I had burst forth into the world.

(How do I know all this? My greatest curiosity apart from the world around me and its inhabitants is my own journey. This, I shall attempt to explore some more through this blog. It will be a collection of free verse poetry, short fiction, my musings, rants and generally everything that will make me, and shape me.)

 

Forgiveness

They say that when we are about to die, our whole life flashes before our eyes. False. Certainly not for me. For me once again, it is January 1985. The fog of memory has cleared. I am standing there, with him. His hands are behind his head, he is on his knees. Eyes closed. He has already accepted what is to come. I consider briefly, walking away. I remember my promise to him, and I raise my revolver. Then, the shots ring out. Bam! Bam! Bam! He is dead.
I woke with a start, coughing. There are concerned faces looking around at me. This is my large and loving family. Worry lines are writ large on my sons’ faces. “Same dream?” a voice asks me, placing a soft hand on my shoulder. My heart beat calms down. Yet as I acknowledge the presence of my family and reassure them I am going to be alright… I sense his presence. Why is he here? I wonder… Will I ever be free from him? For forty years since that day, I have been haunted by that memory. By his twisted smile. By his calm eyes. His question that I still don’t have the answer to. Did I lose faith in myself, or the system?
As my eyelids begin to droop, I am thankful that I don’t need to look for that answer anymore. I hear gasps around me, and flatlining. It must be me. He holds his arms out wide. As he embraces me, I think that if I could feel… I would have surely broken down. This man, the bane of my existence, the ghost of my past has now become my saviour. He has freed me. As I am walking with him, a sweet fragrance envelops us and I feel a lightness of being… like never before.

Personality tests and MBTI

Of late, I have been seeing a lot of videos on YouTube where Youtubers either take personality tests, or people debunk the myth of the MBTI. To the former, I say – Pick better links. THE FIRST LINK IS NOT THE BEST LINK! (This kind of logic simply frustrates me) it just means it is the most popular link. And, the most popular link doesn’t mean it is the most accurate link. I shall provide some links at the end of the post if you want to take it. Right off the bat, we must understand that personality is a constantly evolving thing, a subjective by-product of one’s cumulative life experiences. MBTI, or the Myers – Briggs Type Indicator is just one small facet of it.

Carl Jung put forth the idea of eight cognitive functions in his book Psychological Types, the concepts from these were condensed and then an instrument for determining a person’s type was developed by Myers and Briggs, after whom the typology instrument is named.  More information regarding the history and evolution of the MBTI may be found here. To those who believe they have debunked the myth of the MBTI, I concede their arguments. In a way, they are right if we consider only MBTI and not its Jungian origins. The MBTI does create flawed dichotomies, most notably ones like Introversion versus Extroversion and, Thinking versus Feeling. It perpetuates certain wrong notions, especially about thinkers and feelers. I see this bias most prevalent in the sexes. Especially men who are conditioned to embrace traditional beliefs about masculinity and their roles in society find themselves reluctant to embrace the idea that they could be feelers. Now, here is the thing. What decides whether a person is a thinker or feeler is simply their approach to decision making. A Feeler would rather consider the impact of their decisions on other people’s well-being, or ensure that their decision is in alignment with their personal set of value systems. A Thinker would rather look at the efficiency, correctness, objectivity and logic of their decision. Since myths are being debunked, here is another. Thinkers and Feelers are equally capable of profound thought, and feeling deeply.

As far as introversion and extroversion are concerned, most people make the basic mistake of confusing it with introversion or extroversion in the social sphere. You could therefore have an introverted bartender or someone in a similar people – oriented role coming off as an extrovert, but they would need the down time to recharge their depleted energy reserves. When stretched too far, it can result in what might be known as an introvert hangover. More information on the introvert hangover may be found here. Introversion and Extroversion simply refers to the sources that energize a person. For an introvert, it is withdrawing into themselves, and drawing from their inner reserves to re-enervate themselves; while an extrovert is stimulated and energized by the environment and people they are surrounded by. Their responses usually tend to play off external stimuli.

With Intuition and Sensing, it is a bit trickier. The first misconception that must be tackled is the prevalent Sensor bias as it is called in the MBTI community where Intuitives or N types tend to think that Sensors or S types are shallow, more concerned with the mundane parts of life and incapable of abstract thinking. The same could be said of the N people, that with poor Sensing function capabilities, they struggle to be present in the moment, or with attention to detail or being structured and organized. But even that would not be entirely accurate because parts of these are dependent upon the judging function used by the person. Intuition and Sensing are perceiving functions, which means that these are simply means through which a person receives new information and not the filter through which the information is run, before making a critical judgment or value judgment.

Everyone has a pair of judging functions, and a pair of perceiving functions. The orientation of the functions, and their natural ease of use of the functions is what determines the cognitive function stacking. This gives rise to a person’s Jungian type indicator, which is a far more accurate marker of a person’s type and how it influences his cognitive processes than reading up random online descriptions of MBTI types. Each function, be it judging or perceiving may be oriented internally or externally. This gives rise to four perceiving functions viz. Introverted Intuition (Ni), Extroverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Sensing (Si) and Extroverted Sensing (Se); and four judging functions known as: Extroverted Thinking (Te), Introverted Thinking (Ti), Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Extroverted Feeling (Fe). To put it in a nutshell, over-simplified as it may be… Sensing deals with perceiving information through the five senses, paying attention to details in the here and now and processing it by using similar information gathered in the past, as a frame of reference. Intuition on the other hand, is all about finding patterns and connecting the dots between the information either through symbolism, analogies, metaphors or making leaps between two bits of information where there seems to exist no connection at all. It is said that the world is populated with a larger number of Sensors, so that may make us the rare ones but by no means any better or more special than the Sensor types. If you need the Intuitives for ideating, it is the Sensors who are the doers, the ones who execute the ideas after discarding that which cannot stand their detail – oriented, practical scrutiny.

We HAVE to remember that type does not dictate behaviour, it merely maps out one’s cognitive processes. It is not even a predictive indicator of one’s success in life, the workplace or relationships. However, knowing type can be helpful to the extent that it can foster a greater understanding of the self and people around us resulting in enhanced decision making and improving the quality of interpersonal relationships. For those who want to find out their type, I would recommend the following links:

  1. The Similarminds Jungian Test OR The Similarminds Classic Jungian Test
  2. Keys2Cognition Cognitive Functions Test – Results provided based on usage of one’s cognitive functions, and put together by Dario Nardi, the author of The Neuroscience of Personality.
  3. Erik Thor’s Personality Test – This website has a great deal of insightful information on both, the types and the functions themselves. It looks at these systems with a fresh set of eyes. He has brought many new ideas to the table including visual typing, speech pattern recognition etc.
  4. Celebritytypes Personality Tests – This has a plethora of tests, and the fun part is that results include celebrities of your type, and quotes by them. They have a corresponding channel on YouTube, that has some great videos explaining the differences in type by using various celebrity interviews as examples. Seeing real life examples of people interacting and being able to differentiate is incredibly helpful especially when you are a beginner.
  5. Mypersonality.info and Truity Type Finder – Free Research Edition are equally good.

For those who have discovered their type, and you want to know which fictional character shares your personality traits (Hey! You could be an ENTP, but… Are you a Chandler or more like The Joker?), I highly recommend going over to funkymbtifiction, the articles here are a mix of smart, funny and sassy put forth by an ENFP mod and her talented team of co-mods.

Ultimately, the biggest difference between the Jungian system and the MBTI is that the latter assumes an all or nothing approach, which is perilous in and of itself. Jung provided these guidelines with the caveat aptly summed up by this quote “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.

 

 

When the veneer falls…

So many winters
We have endured
But we must go now.
We have worn our welcome.
Time to go! Shush! Look!
Those wooden faces contort
In delight
Free to express themselves
At last.
Their true natures revealed
It sickens us.
We must flee their wrath
Or become their prey.
Your cold hearts,
No prayer will melt
Nor words can move.
Your cheeks of porcelain,
Don’t crack when tears are shed.
Too long it’s been this way
But remember this
We only place lilies upon the dead.

The Unusual Man

Yesterday afternoon, I had a strange dream as I had fallen asleep in the recliner to the soothing ever present whirring of the fan above my head.

I dreamed of a man. Now I know, that is not unusual. But this man, he was unusual. He had straight hair that swept his collarbones slightly. He was bare-chested and wore a necklace of bones. He wore a glinting band around his forehead, indicative of his status in the societal hierarchy of his people. He was attired in a flowy garment made of animal skin. On his chest were painted strange symbols in red dye (or what I am hoping was red dye) and I was there. I stood there behind a tree, not hidden from view. I was looking at him. His eyes were resolutely fixed on the path before him, the one that led to the tree where there lay a sheathed blade. It had an ornate hilt. It was sheathed in a roughly hewn bamboo case. His eyes fixed on mine, and I felt the forest come alive around us. The birds burst into song, the colours at once seemed sharper and I was conscious of a warmth pooling in my extremities. His face showed no change in expression as he continued taking measured steps towards me. I see the burning in his eyes. I see the icy gleam of the blade in the slanting evening sunshine.

Just as we took steps towards each other, my phone rang loudly and jolted me out of this dream that left me feeling very disoriented indeed. For it did not feel like a dream, but rather like memories resurfacing, of a past long tucked away carefully.

Girl Crush of the Day

I wish I could tell you that she was one of the most charming or beautiful or intelligent in all the land, but I’d be doing her and myself, a disservice by painting her so. She is not the most anything, but I think the people in her life will agree when I say she is pretty damn special the way she is. She prides herself on a more than healthy sense of curiosity, this colours her world view and she is frequently open to new possibilities, going in with a trusting heart and a more often than not skeptical mind that wants to believe. She has a keen mind, one that is always open to learning but will not accept anything without questioning it first. She loves the energy of certain places and people, and thrives off of it. She has tight circles, woven mutually exclusively. For them, she will do anything. Her approach to comforting a friend is more along the lines of problem solving than offering empty platitudes. She has no use for meaningless words in her dictionary, or her life. She gives her heart easily, but not her trust. Nor her respect. No, you have to earn them. But once you have earned your place in her life, she will seldom let go of you. She will stick with you when nobody else will. She will stick with you when you give up on yourself. She will infuse you with hope and practical wisdom. She will care for you. She will leave her mark on your life.

She wants to do many great and amazing things. She wants to learn archery, shooting, swimming, multiple languages, chess, write, travel and never pin herself down to a life she would have to settle for. She will however willingly put down roots when it is time, and support the dreams and aspirations of her life partner, as long as they can soar together.

She hasn’t been without setbacks. No. She has been handed her fair share of bouquets and brickbats by Life. She is attempting to take them all in stride, and treat them just the same. For now though, she just does her best to look at situations with humour or in a more philosophical light, as a moment to learn from or wonder about the cause and effect nature of a particular incident in her life, and how the ripple effect spills over to other things in her life.

Another thing you need to know about her but you will never know for she won’t flaunt it, is her spiritual beliefs and the values she holds dear to herself. She does not believe in public proclamations of faith.

She is incredibly perceptive and accepting of the duality of mankind. She identifies more with the anti-heroes than the classic heroes and heroines because she too has known the struggle. She grapples with her dark side too. She sees readily and is willing to grant to people a second chance, or even a third or fourth as long as she believes in them. She will see the good in Malfoy, as she will see the callousness of Dumbledore. Oh, and did I mention that she is a huge Potterhead?

She calls herself a writer type, she would like to write some material that challenges perceptions, and informs formative minds. She is deeply interested in people, not merely as individuals but as ideas and who they are as a product of their cumulative life experiences. It is these layers that she peels back and watches in wonder. But mind you, she will tire of you or get bored if you don’t have too many layers to you. Or if she has you figured out.

You wouldn’t know it from seeing her but she is strong and fairly agile, she has a decade or more of martial arts training. She has trained in music, though not formally. She is not a morning person but when she wakes up with a smile on her face, you can almost be certain that it is accompanied by a tune on her lips. She loves a good mystery or something to ponder upon. To her though, it is human behaviour and relationships that are sort of the ultimate puzzle. She constantly seeks to better her understanding of the two. Not only this, she is tireless in her quest for evolving into a better human being. She does have momentary lapses, for she is also human but for the most part you are requested to remember that she comes with good intentions, which may end up in flawed execution. She may be a Gryffindor but what keeps her up at night is thinking about the times when she could have acted better, said something different or even wondering if she is smart enough, capable enough. To fulfil her dreams. She is. She just has to believe in herself. She can be everything she wants to be, and more as long as she doesn’t allow herself to be crushed under the weight of the expectations of family and society. She has a streak of fierce independence and rebellion; easily distractible but few can match her single mindedness when she sets her mind to something, but seldom does something retain her fancy for long enough for her to form feasible goals around it, and then prepare a plan to “go in for the kill”, so as to speak. Speaking of which, she loves metaphors and analogies, she is unabashedly wordy. She forms really long sentences, often meandering ones; each connected to a particular (related) train of thought but more often than not, they present contradictions within themselves. Much like her.

She is a bundle of contradictions most of the time. This contrarian nature of hers mostly manifests itself in an internal struggle for self expression and what is appropriate. No, she doesn’t care about what is deemed appropriate but she would rather not hurt your feelings if she has the slightest iota of care about you. Many a time, she will laugh it off or wipe the streaking tears from her eyes as they settle on her pillow, while she is unable to sleep because of something she said to you. But she would rather process her emotions by talking it through, always even if it doesn’t always come easily to her. Perhaps with the person involved or a neutral perspective from a friend which she doesn’t realise is not always the best thing to do because a friend is only getting one side of the story and she… She is big on justice and fairness. She will root for the little guy. But she is no bleeding idealist. Indeed, some may see her as a dreamer but she is far more pragmatic than she gets credit for. Except when she is in love. In love, she is giddy and excited. She is scared and doesn’t know how to process what she is feeling. She feels deeply. She trusts easily but fears just as easily too. In love, she is anxious yet confident. She wants to be adored and desired, both at once. She wants to have the charm of the girl next door, while exuding the sex appeal of a showgirl. She is a bit of an emotional exhibitionist when she is with the right person. There will be no lies, nor secrets.

She is fond of finding herself in others, parallels to her own character, she might compare herself one day to a lion, another day to an eagle. She may compare her life to a certain raga or a musical note, or even a particular Shakespearean play. She will try to fit as many labels on her as she can because those labels, according to her neither define her nor limit her. They are just facets of who she is. She is all these and more.

She is the flavour that if you taste once, you can never forget.

An evening of Kathak at the IIWC

The Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA) in association with the Indian Institute of World Culture (IIWC) treated me, and many such as myself who had gathered at the IIWC to a fine evening of Kathak, music and mystique. Let me preface this by saying that this was the first Kathak performance I have ever attended in my life. To the uninitiated, Kathak is a dance form that is predominantly associated with the Northern parts of India. It derives its origin from the word Katha meaning story. It made its first appearance when wayfarers and story tellers used to pass through towns, often accompanied by folk musicians and dancers who used to enact the tale to their audience, leaving them spellbound. Much like humanity itself, Kathak has been wrought by various influences and managed to stay the same at the core of it, even as it constantly evolved and transcended its original influencers such as the Bhakti Movement, and the reign of the Mughals in India.

Today’s performance was by Neha Sheshadrinath, a disciple of Smt. Nirupama and Sri. Rajendra. She spoke at some length about the history and evolution of the dance form, as also of Dr. Maya Rao who is a doyen of the form and known for her pioneering choreography. Dr. Maya Rao was chiefly instrumental in popularising Kathak not only in India, but also world-wide.  The evening began with the performer paying a tribute to Lord Nataraja, or the God of Dance. The composition celebrated the various attributes of Lord Shiva, and demonstrated how the spark of divinity can be manifest in Art. The second composition was titled Alankaar, written by Arjun Bharadwaj. It speaks of how Art is the ornament of society. Art enriches, and at once takes away from the mundaneness of Life as we know it. It urges the audience to reflect upon how Art is the vehicle through which a being can feel fulfilled or complete. The composition itself was in Laya Vilamba or set to a slow tempo, that laid emphasis on the technical aspects of the dance form. It was an exploratory attempt to achieve chittha shuddhi or purification of the mind. Even as my mind was completely awash in sensation, and the mystique of the evening amplified by the bluish lighting and the soft footfalls of the performer I couldn’t help but think that the bejewelled blouse she wore, was evocative of a vision of Brindavan underneath starry skies, the jasmine scented air wafting over the Yamuna river. This was indeed the perfect set up for the next two compositions, that were both centred around Radha and Krishna. The music was by Ustad Fayaz Khan, and Praveen D. Rao respectively. Each varied in their laya or tempo, and the emotions portrayed in those kathas. One spoke of the longing and excitement that Radha and Krishna felt while getting ready for their clandestine rendezvous on the moon-lit banks of the Yamuna river. The performer conveyed these beautifully with every tilt of the eyebrow, her eyes flitting about as if in anticipation, a coyness and apprehension to her gait as if it was she herself awaiting the arrival of Krishna. And why not, at one point I felt like we were watching her from behind an invisible screen erected between us, the audience and the dancer, even as she was suspended in a world beyond our reach. These two compositions made me reflect on the nature of Radha’s love for Krishna, his relationship with Rukmini and the Gopikas; and ultimately on the nature of love itself. Set to Basant and Bahar ragas, each piece showcased a different facet of Radha’s emotions. The joy and love she feels as she waits to be coloured in the hues of their love for one another on Holi; her jealousy, possessiveness and silent disapproval as Krishna celebrates the festival of colour gaily with the other Gopikas. The next composition was a ghazal, one that shows the marked influence of Mughals upon the development of the dance form. Written by Ibrahim Adil Khan and improvised by Dr. Maya Rao, it speaks of a man who is smitten by a woman in a painting. The woman’s eyes are said to be doe-like, her gait like that of a proud peacock, her fury compared to lightning and the tempest, her form incomparable, her thick locks falling loosely around her body like a swirl of vines. It ends with the man wondering about the identity of the woman in the portrait. The evening concluded with a composition by the renowned Sufi musician and poet, Amir Khusrau. The phrases contained within, we were informed, were developed as a code by the Sufi poets and saints to express their devotion.

When it drew to a close, there was a sense of gratitude for having been able to be part of the experience that was today, and an innate sense of calm and total mindfulness, which I can confidently say is much needed in these frenetic times, where we are all racing constantly towards something. Indeed, it is Art that gives life any meaning at all. It is experiences like today that fill the grey tapestry with splashes of colour.

Friends and Strangers

What? Could they return to being friends? There was this weird undercurrent of… A little something else. Like a little zap that he felt when he shook hands with her at the airport. They walked out in companionable silence. He tried to fill the silence with some insipid enquiries about her flight, the flight food and she made the same enquiries about their plans for the day. She had about two days. And then she would be gone. Back to their existence, where the words would float back and forth on a screen. It was a strange friendship between kindred souls who couldn’t have grown up more differently. Differences spanning time and distance couldn’t have erased the inexplicable similarities between them. They had rounded the corner of the airport. “We will hail a cab from around that side” he pointed across the road. She suddenly felt nervous about rhe traffic. Different city, different rules. She looked at him unsurely. He moved to her right and a bit in front of her, as he guided them across safely over to the other side. She smiled in gratitude and said “Thanks”. He teased her for being a scaredy cat, and the awkwardness melted. She laughed readily, teasing him back about his insipid remarks at the airport. Soon they were chatting like the old friends that they were. Over a slice of cheesecake as he elegantly wiped at his mouth, he observed her. Her eyes seemed a bit dilated as she looked at him directly with her honest, unflinching gaze and smiled in that lazy, lopsided manner. Her cheeks had a bit of a rosy sheen to them. Interesting, he thought. He seemed to be leaning forward completely towards, fixing her with an earnest gaze that made her ears feel a bit warm. He appeared to be taking any chance he could, for their fingertips to brush. Curious, she thought. There was a point in time where all speech was suspended, and they understood perfectly without words what each wanted. “I have to go.” She said abruptly, and got up. She paid the bill directly at the counter. They walked out, side by side maintaining enough distance for a third person to walk with them, between them. “I think there is this lovely hexagonal shaped garden you would really enjoy.” He said, in a pathetic attempt to rekindle some communication between them. “I am actually feeling pretty beat, I think I will head back to the hotel now. It was nice meeting you.” She said and waved him off, as she got into a taxi.

He didn’t know why he felt so disturbed as he sat on the steps, booking his own cab home. She thought of texting him. Deciding that it was a fruitless endeavour, she put her phone on silent. The cabbie had good taste in music; she closed her eyes and enjoyed the music all the way back to her hotel. She ignored her phone that buzzed incessantly with messages. Yep. Eight messages. All from him. Upon reaching her hotel and finally lying in bed, she checked the messages. He had sent her links to some nice places in the city for her to check out. Nothing about a second meet or asking to join her. She smirked and made a decision.

“Would you like to join me?” She texted him and smiled on seeing what he sent in reply. “Yes, we would :)”