The Crawlspace

The home I am in now, has a crawlspace in the attic. It is an old fixture in my memories. Being the tomboyish child that I was, I was frequently sent up by my grandparents to (and I took pride in doing this, this felt like a special thing that was just between my grandfather and I) ferry things to and from that crawlspace. There was a time when my grandfather stepped away for a whole ten minutes or so. I had fallen asleep there. It was roomy enough for a child, especially a feline-esque child of average build like me. Then again perhaps it could have been more than ten minutes because my perception of time was fairly skewed and it was in those times that I didn’t know to read time on watches, nor did we have smartphones like today. I often played in the attic, I would climb up the steel ladder with no significant trepidation and once in, it was like Hogwarts, Narnia, and everything enchanting thrown into one. In reality and retrospect, I realise it was my imagination that made that space so fascinating for me.

I am looking up at the crawlspace and while thinking up ideas for my next blog entry, an image started to form. Of a girl secretly living there, unknown to the residents of this house. Half way through plotting out her adventures, it dawned on me that this had already been done. Famously. By Anne Frank. The Diary of Anne Frank, published by her dad, Otto. It has been ages since I read the book or even thought about her, not since that night in 2017 whilst conversing about WWII with a friend. Bereft of plots, I sit here, looking half longingly at the crawlspace wanting to go back in there, furnish it and live there for some time. My shoulder painfully clicks into place, a reminder that perhaps some adventures are best reframed colourfully on paper, or in living on in the vestiges of memory. Of course I don’t want to literally crawl into a hole. There are days when I feel like that though, I must admit. For although I like reframing my positive experiences for the amusement of others, the criticism does cut deep. It is like taking a thin, sharp blade to my vein and then seeing how much of a spurt you get. Some people think they are so damn special that they can walk about jabbing people in the neck. Who are these assholes, these shallow shells, these miserable excuses for “humans”? Do you even pause to think about the impact of your words? Do you know that someone’s pillow might be moistened by your words, you numb skull? As self aware as we may be, this strength and will deserts us when we need it. Subject to this form of venom for long, one might go into the crawlspace in their mind and stay there but I implore of you to not push me too far because when I do come out of my crawlspace, I will emerge freshly birthed from the same flames that will lick away at the blackness of your being and raze it to nothingness.



I will start with the rating. It is a 2.75/5. You may be shocked with my rating but hear me out. This is not novelty fare, this is in fact standard fare doled out by Bhansali. I was expecting more from him. But he did just enough homework to pass. SLB with this movie is the rich kid in class, who brings a fancy project and scores with how good looking it is, than actual content or substance. Which to some people may be acceptable. He is drunk on the sensation that is Deepika Padukone but Mr. Bhansali, not all of us are intoxicated. Some of us are hungover. Her misty eyes and lithe cantering across the screen which might have once fascinated me hold no such appeal now. She is beautiful, certainly but the one who truly mesmerised me was Mehrunnisa, with an ethereal air about her. The aesthetics were appealing and I laud the efforts of the set design and technical team who have created the expansive, grandiose sets. The attention to detail is stunning. A special mention to the costume designing team, the costumes were greatly appreciated by my companions. So many elements working in its favour and yet the movie felt like a drag. The emotional range went just short of touching my heart. What did strike a chord with me and most likely would have with several movie goers is undoubtedly Ranveer Singh’s portrayal of Alauddin Khilji, and Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur. Jim Sarbh owns every scene he is in, he is a strange mix of seductive and deadly, like a snake hovering and poised to deliver its attack effectively. But Ranveer Singh’s portrayal of Khilji will go down in the annals of movie history, and Ranveer’s career as the one where he shows tremendous range as an actor. The music falls short, being sub-par as it were if not for the capricious but intensely passionate Khalibali and Bint-e-Dil; the latter shows Ranveer’s body moving with a sensuality which seems almost effortless.

Deepika and Shahid’s chemistry (if I may even be allowed to use that word) was truly deplorable. The build up of their romance seemed sudden, made no sense as did most of the arc involving them. I understand that it was not the main focus of the movie. To be honest, I don’t know what the main focus of the movie is. Is it the much talked about Jauhar scene? Again, this scene because of how much it had been talked up and about, perhaps left me with a sour feeling in my throat when I saw the actual manner of its execution. I do not think it has been glorified. And sorry Swara, I don’t think this movie reduces women to just walking vaginas. As a progressive rational feminist, I think those women were well within their rights to choose their fate than what might have awaited them if they were captured by the invaders. Indeed, their decision dealt the antagonist a blow that not even the sharpest Rajput blade could have dealt him.

For this very show of courage, She has been deified, as have been the Rajputs for the kind of values they espouse. Indeed, the movie itself draws parallels many a time between the two men, the two kingdoms even if you look at the flags. The saffron coloured flag with the Sun emblazoned upon it, representing all things good and virtuous. The dark green coloured flag with the insignia of the crescent Moon. Gee Mr. Bhansali, I don’t think some of us got that message. You may have been a bit too subtle there.

I think many of us will agree that the hungering for unattainable objects and the frustration of Alauddin Khilji renders him far more relatable than the apparently flawless and noble Rana of Mewar, Ratan Singh who is consistently beyond reproach. These human failings of Khilji underscore a seemingly terrifying portrayal of a man who seems demon-like in his hedonistic urges, battering head on in a self absorbed manner. His self absorption is naked of any consideration and guilt or obligation towards values and morals, which makes Padmavati’s Jauhar blow that much more poetic and satisfying. I agree with the renaming of the movie seeing as Padmavati had little to do, it was entirely a Khilji love-fest and an expensive, indulgent celebration of the Rajput culture. Speaking of the Rajput culture, it was truly enjoyable to watch those parts but I wish the actors had worked harder on their diction. When Shahid spoke, you could at least hear an undercurrent of it affecting his speech, which was good. However Deepika’s delivery seemed forced. The zeal with which she performs alone might be the saving grace in an otherwise not too remarkable performance. Aditi Rao Hydari shines as Mehrunnisa. There is the right amount of fear, sensuality, all of which her eyes betray in volumes. If you ask me who the best female performer was, I would say Aditi Rao Hydari.

With all this being said, now we come to the heart of the matter that had the nation divided on social media and otherwise. On multiple fronts. Ghoomar. Of the first, I think the people who wasted their time protesting for all the reasons (not talking about the supposed skin show which was reworked with the help of CGI) should have first watched the movie. I don’t know what seventy cuts were made before they were approved by the Censor Board, but barring that alleged dream sequence love scene I don’t think the Rajputs have anything to complain about. I read somewhere else that if anyone were to get offended, it has to be the Muslims which is an equally ridiculous notion. SLB is not presenting Khilji and his men as a cross section of that particular community. This movie speaks to how power hungry, mad and barbaric one man in history was. A man who is obsessed with how history will remember him. Perhaps he lacked the foresight to know that not all of us would be interested in what history speaks of him or his conquests. Indeed most of us disregard history and the lessons it offers us, choosing to indulge the present and plunge forth into the future, not heeding the past. Ranveer’s Khilji’s concerns, be that as they may… are needless. For Padmaavat has immortalized Alauddin Khilji.

Colin Singleton and musings on mattering

It is a curious thing how the character we dislike usually represents an aspect of ourselves that we have not looked into or not yet integrated into ourselves. Take for example Colin Singleton, the main protagonist of An Abundance of Katherines. It is the story of a boy named Colin who gets dumped nineteen times by various Katherines. John Green, that wizard with words takes this relatively unremarkable plot and weaves his magic around it, as only he can. Colin, former child prodigy faces tremendous pressure to stay matchless in every pursuit that his parents have him undertake. We have all been there, right? The entire character of Colin Singleton can be pretty much summed up in one excerpt of the book which starts off with a bit of a walk back into the lanes of his childhood, where his genius first begins to show. As he reads a book called The Missing Piece, he does not realise that he too is like the circle with the missing slice. This very habit of knowing but not being able to see is what causes the love of his life, Katherine XIX to part ways with him. This book follows him and his friend Hassan on a sojourn for that missing piece that will make Colin’s broken heart whole again. In other words, heartbreak followed by a road trip and then he hooks up with a girl (whose name is not Katherine, so there is that I suppose). What’s so special about this premise anyway right? It sounds so been there, done that. Indeed, John succeeds so beautifully in creating a character who constantly undermines himself and thinks he has nothing to offer to the world (and the Katherines dwelling in it) except his genius. The only problem, he is a former genius. Even as he goes on this journey to move on or perhaps due to his friend’s coercion, he doesn’t realise that he still sees himself as a former something or someone. Like, the former boyfriend of Katherine XIX, or former child prodigy. It is almost tragicomic, this narration and quite honestly, the first John Green book I was easily able to put down. Owing to its slow pace and the perceptible dry-ness of the plot, it felt like biting into an old, cold multi-grain sandwich. With the crusts not cut off. Out of sheer determination and a completely undeserved sense of optimism towards the book, I decided to trudge on and see where and how the “hero’s” healing arc would manifest within the writing. Predictably it takes a hot girl, an outlier (is it just me or are there way too many of those nowadays in YA literature?) to bring Colin to his senses, change his perception and in a way, complete his Dumper – Dumpee Theorem as well. For she may not have his prodigious skill of knowing things which most people would find utterly random (like Nikola Tesla’s romantic fascination with a white pigeon), but her gift is in seeing people. She therefore adds to his theorem, and his life the missing variables required to deem it whole again. An amusing section of the book that I liked was the numerous footnotes, which tell their own story and provide a glimpse not only into the inner workings of Colin’s mind, but also of John Green, the one who gave form and voice to Colin Singleton.

Colin reminded me of an aspect of myself that I would like to happily put behind me, one that makes me blush with mortification now. The part of me that thought I could understand love and be successful in a romantic relationship by conducting a research on successful couples and their secrets. I kid you not, I did carry out surreptitious research (using dubious techniques)  and even had a first draft of my “research paper” containing 3700+ words. It was desperate and slightly funny in a sad, oddball kind of way. Now that I think about it, I didn’t even know the first thing about love. I was going at it from an almost entirely detached angle, discounting emotional variables and how they can constantly be in flux, and therefore not predictable. I did not of course share my insights with my peers (and rightly so) because I did not want to be mocked by them. However, had they been privy to my research, I would have gotten a wealth of data from them as they frequently experienced romantic relationships of varying lengths and intensities, while I… only had my books and a theoretical glimpse, apart from the people I spoke to who were not from my generation. I often looked at my crush and wondered if there was a socially appropriate way that I could ask him what sort of biochemical reactions (if any) he had in my presence, or (like a normal person) I could simply have said “Hey, I like you. Do you like me back?” But of course, that requires guts and I…generally became a strangely unrecognisable version of myself around my crush. The version of me that shook my wrist in his face, and asked him if I had nice wrists. *cringe* You see, I was not entirely comfortable in my skin yet to be able to be myself and know that I’d be liked anyway. I remember a lengthy conversation with him when we spoke about the hormones and chemical reactions responsible for falling in love, the signs of it, while subsequently my mind raced ahead to determine if he had shown any of these signs that he was talking about, either in my presence or that of any other female. He pontificated, as only a *science student* could, and years later… I wonder now if he knew the intent of that conversation. So finally, once my own perspective on myself and certain other things changed, did things start turning around. Much like they did, for Colin in the book. After which, may be it was just me or perhaps the writing did pick up pace and start moving rapidly, that simmering bond between the two teenage protagonists coming to a boil, culminating in a night of confessions and passions in not-Katherine’s favourite hidey hole, an incredibly dark cave. As a metaphor, it makes perfect sense for how they find each other. Their series of outings and “adventures” can be likened to bumping knees turning into grazing noses as the two kiss.

I am not here to talk about this kiss, but rather for the theme this book addresses in an over arching sort of way. The importance of mattering, of our being here, of wanting to amount to something. Making an impact on the world, or at least our own society/community. These are thoughts that I have been frequently plagued by, of late. The book does not provide the answer to this all important question of course. This fear of fading into oblivion is… I think, something that all of us can relate to whether we think about it constantly and consciously, or fleetingly in moments of despair. But I think we will have had it pretty good if we choose to whom and how we will have mattered.

Musings on Morning Prayers

There are two ways to go about the morning for someone who is not burdened by the bottleneck throttling pace of being in the rat race each day. Fall immediately into the looping vortex of YouTube and Facebook, or do something else. I am choosing the second option‌, I wish to stay clear headed throughout the day and writing… I find, helps with that. First things first, what is the one thing most of us raised a certain way do when we get out of bed? Pray. As a child, I always used to recite the bedtime prayer, and morning prayers dutifully. I used to sit up and raise my hands towards eye level, close my eyes and recite as was  taught to me:

“Karaagre vasathe Lakshmi,
Kara madhye Saraswathi,
Kara moole sthithe Gowri,
Mangalam Kara Darshanam”.

Meaning – At the top of my hands resides Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity), In the middle of my hands resides Saraswathi (Goddess of Knowledge, Purity, and Learning), At the base of my hands resides Gowri (As I am not aware of a specific domain allocation, I will simply say She is pure Energy, She is Shakti.) I contemplate upon them (at which point the eyes are slowly opened) because it is auspicious to do so.”

It was not because I understood any better, or attached any particular significance. It was something my mum and dad did. And, so did I. Being the ever curious one, I did recite them only after I got to know their meaning. However the actual meaning and significance of these verses, and this ritual would take some years to be fully absorbed. At this point, I like to think that it has been so deeply internalized that it (remembering God in some form or the other) is part of my thought ritual as I rise up every morning to welcome a new day. That habit (of reciting prayers) was disrupted ever since I joined the workforce. What used to be a good five or so minutes of closing my eyes and praying was first reduced to two, and then… It stopped. For a long while. I fell into the mindless pattern of waking up, checking my phone for notifications about emails from work, creating a to-do list and setting about the day. Even if I have stepped away from that cycle, I have to make a conscious effort if I am to do it. Partly out of habit, but also because I have been experiencing a shift in how I view my religious beliefs. I am examining them, and re-shaping them not for convenience but to have an applied understanding and a more rational, pragmatic approach to it. And that is when the true meaning and significance dawned on me. That this prayer to Lakshmi was not to ask for more wealth, but rather about creating a mindset of awareness and gratitude about one’s abundance, and that wealth could be symbolic too. Or that we prayed to  Saraswathi to awaken the logical and reasoning faculties to  approach the day with a clear mind, and Shakti… I guess is the acknowledgement of our very existence, giving thanks to the Praanic energy in flow, in our bodies.

With this new frame of understanding, I don’t find it mandatory to pray using words but rather play with the sensations in free flow. The warm prickly feeling of sunlight on my bare arms and feet, the cool breeze coming in through the windows … Every sign of life out on the streets, isn’t that a nod to the Divine too? To some beautiful force, some unassailable truth that connects the whole Universe?

Enneagram Woes

Hey there denizens of the internet who happen to have stumbled on to my blog, or have subscribed to it! Phew! Lengthy greeting out of the way, I can now concentrate on what I want to talk about. My inherent mistrust of people who are alive. Wait, let me clarify. I mean theories put forth by people who are alive. Death probably lends them a certain glamour and gravitas that life sorely lacks. For context, I am talking about the Enneagram Tritype theory. While I am happy that the people who put it forth are alive… I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. You might think it is great that they are, and accessible to me with the power of social media. But I happen to think a little differently. I will tell you why. Too much accessibility kills the star quality. It kills the aura of mystery and allure, laying bare before us, the man or woman. Case in point? Like when I finished American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson. Now any time I watch his show re-runs, my way of viewing them has been forever altered. I will always have context now as to what happened behind the scenes on a particular day, and sometimes… Only sometimes… Maybe things work better interpreted subjectively. Without a whole lot of backstory. Jokes for instance. The glimmer of his humour has dimmed a little, but my admiration for him has definitely gone up.

The other reason being, social media allows us to engage in (pseudo) intellectual discourse with these experts, and most of the times the conversations had via this medium lack the depth of research that goes into a painstakingly written book or article. Before you know, a certain kinship owing to the frequency of interaction has developed creating a soft bias in the mind, making one more susceptible to  buying into their theory propaganda. Despite being a person with a general proclivity towards skepticism, even I have fallen into this trap; I have been enchanted by “experts” only to realise with some gap of time and reduction in frequency, the loopholes in their explanations and understanding. That led to the inevitable disenchantment with discourse over social media about these kind of topics and more, which require much forethought and careful research before shooting off replies. After all, my generation did project work in school going through dusty tomes and spent long hours in libraries not because of some romanticism they carry, but out of necessity.

Going back to my mistrust of alive theorists, when I was taking apart the Enneagram system to try and understand it; I came upon the tritype theory which posits that each person has a head, heart and gut approach to solving problems; and how they deal with fear, shame and anger either by denying it, expressing it or repressing it. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but Google it if you want to know more. To be honest‌, I am not sure I understood it fully myself. With every system of typology there is always the chance of fitting the fact to suit the theory and I think that might be one of my prime pet peeves about theorists alive when they apply their theories to explaining pop culture events and people. Then again, my other issue is that it wouldn’t have been in practice for long enough to have earned some modicum of respect as an established system. I am not talking about just peer approval here, but the fact that it lends the system an air of solid comfort. Like that old jumper from ten years which is soft and downy. What it might amount to is just the knee jerk response of skepticism to new theories which I must test for loopholes myself and ensure that they are fool proof. There are so many aspects added to the Tritype theory alone, that it fails to stand as an independently reliable and efficient system with practical application. A theory IMO has to be designed in an elegant and unambiguous manner that makes it easy for the motivated seeker to understand.

The Enneagram (tritype) theory suffers from a lack of consistency in that every test or  quiz online yields different results each time. These are not even results close to one another, they are wildly off and different. Given that this tests for behavioral motivation, there is no way to assess that the subject answered with a neutral frame of mind, despite their very best efforts to stay objective. Adding to this colossal pile of confusion is the fact that the Enneagram in some ways is like an invincible many headed sea serpent.  There are conflicting views, types applied with instinctual variants, phobic and counter phobic manifestations of a particular type, type fixes, and lots more… There have been times when I had to put the book away or shut my laptop down because my head actually hurt from trying to fit the pieces together in a coherent structure. Since it speaks of behavioural motivations, I think it hardly fair to limit the motivation behind the behaviour of a human being to just three aspects. This theory tries to etch out a person, creating freeze frame allowances only for the past and the present but without laying out a map for the future development of the individual. Besides, any time a supposedly scientific or even psychological theory mentions the word Holy, my skepticism just increases. Holy things have their place, and this might not be it. I may be speaking from a point of limited understanding here but if so, feel free to correct me on it.

Another explanation for why I grapple with this might be that I have a blind spot in how I perceive my Self. For unless I know myself, how can I see myself? But who am I? I am who I was, who I am and who I will be. I am also who I am not. Our cells are regenerating rapidly every single day, that we can roughly say that you are an entirely new you, every seven years. When such is the case, I think Oscar Wilde was right in saying “To define is to limit”.

Living and Existing: Morning Musings

The phrase “mere existence, or merely existing” makes me wonder if we are actually putting more pressure on ourselves when we say want to live? What does living even mean? What does Life mean, anyway? I happen to think that Life only carries the meaning that we ascribe to it, so the notion of living is subjective and indescribable. And if someone has ascribed to their life, the meaning that it is a preset existence; does that invalidate the person’s existence as having not lived? Is the pursuit of happiness detrimental, in that doing so is stressful because we have not the foggiest clue about what happiness really means? Have you thought about these things?

The pursuit of happiness, much like the pursuit of passion is like single handedly hefting a monolithic rock uphill. This is an idea that sends perfectly sensible people teetering over the edge and they view the process as the end result. This concept has even famously spawned several coming of age movies, especially of the kind directed by Imtiaz Ali and featuring Ranbir Kapoor as the solipsistic protagonist who goes away to purse his passions, only to come back and trace a redemption arc of his own. Where the moral of the story is that all things good come to the protagonist when you are willing to be impractical and take risks. But what these movies fail to focus on when they are stripped of their songs, glamour and the convenient triumphant ending for the hero, is the reality of the collapsing collateral.

Has this just become the fashionable thing to do? Are we turning into the Sids and Bunnys played by Ranbir Kapoor? Self – absorbed, entitled individuals who believe they are endlessly awesome and talented, that the world is theirs for the taking? Without making a sincere attempt to understand the foundation of the core principles and values that the world is built on, the efforts of those before them? This brings to mind a certain card from the Rider Waite deck, the Four of Cups. It depicts a man surrounded by three golden cups on the ground. Yet, his eyes are transfixed upon a fourth illusory cup that only he sees. He yearns for the cup that he does not have, instead of appreciating the cups he does have. This card best addresses the sense of ennui that plagues most of our generation. That niggling feeling of seeking something Higher and greater, to fill the void often created by a disparity (and lack of understanding of the inter-dynamics) between material and spiritual fulfilment which sends confused young ‘uns in droves to various Ashrams and “gurus”.

Every generation has their own fad. For example, there has been the famous Goa trip with friends, and posting pics on social media fad. What is our generation’s fad then? Is it white noise activism and internet activism?  Protest marches tend to attract attention but they are a distraction from the core focus of resolving issues while rarely generating any traction so far as concrete problem solving goes. Internet activism offers an inflated sense of feeling good about oneself. Of having done something, to ease their conscience as they further succumb or willingly enjoy the comforts offered by a system fuelled by a mix of capitalism and consumerism. Sign a petition on to save a local bookstore, then order a book with one click via the Amazon app. So cool and easy, right?

Even as the mind floats about in these musings detached from reality, my present reality dictates that I must go about the day, making the best of my life and existence. So off I go! The cup has been drained. Have a nice Sunday, everyone.

Disclaimer: These musings are simply that, and do not necessarily reflect my personal thoughts/opinions. 

Time Capsule – Part 5

2014/15 also marks the beginning of another phase in my life. That was the study of personality typology, which in turn led to forming some good friendships and many a great conversation with kindred spirits online. It is also when I really got into memes. Not sure it is a significant life event though. Speaking of which, 2016 had a really cool bookstore crawl event organised by the good people associated with the Humming Tree. I re-connected with old classmates and new, interesting people. One in particular who held my attention, and while leaving I thought about whether or not to let her know that I was leaving. I am so glad that I thought to myself “Ah screw it, let’s do it.” because that led to the beginning of getting to know an unapologetically opinionated, really cool person. In late February 2017, I met someone whose empathetic and understanding nature combined with the mental spark that clanged off immediately had an extremely healing effect on my somewhat malleable self. Funnily enough, this even happened because of someone I connected with on a typology forum, in Sept/Oct 2016. Despite being younger than me, this person seemed fairly sorted and we used to have some top quality conversations where I used to always enjoy being exposed to hitherto unknown ideas and perspectives. I realise now that it has been curious how I always hit it off with people significantly younger than me, or older than me. With people my age, I sometimes find it hard to relate. I am a Dinobot in some ways.

2017 was a great year as far as exploration across multiple aspects in my life go. It was a year filled with healing, self love, acceptance, unblocking my surge of creative energy and taking steps towards the kind of person I had always wanted to be. Bolder, kinder, edgier, funnier. More er.

The first week of January 2018 was kind to me in that I had a mighty fine New Year’s day, and the next two days spent in equally memorable company. This is in sharp contrast to the second week which was spent teetering between panic, cowardice, and stepping up to do the right thing in a family emergency. Just being up close with the bitter aftertaste of being in hospitals, hating them while being grateful for their existence. I have had a lot of time to sit and process my thoughts on old-age, fragility, the inevitable and even wholesome nature of death, the possibility of an afterlife, the impact of death on life etc., all of which are things I might write about at some point here. At last though, those cracked lens have started to glue themselves back together, one piece at a time.