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.

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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.

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 Change.org 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 1

Happiness is the ability to constantly re-invent oneself. I have been thinking about the flexibility of mindsets for a multitude of reasons including creating an environment where a dialogue on #metoo can be open, constructive and not have that unfortunate and idiotic side effect where people denounce the campaign as something that goes against sexual freedoms or being used as a power play gambit by man bashing feminists. However, I am not going into that right now. The idea here is to create a sort of map of the self and see where I was, to how far I have come, reconciling the knowledge of the two to understand the factors that have and will continue to shape who I will be in the future. This is applicable not only on a micro scale, but a macro level as well. A friend and I were talking about the possibility of creating a timeline to track our past selves and the growth we have undergone to become the present selves including the impact of the good times and the crappy moments as well. And, in the hopes of not repeating one’s mistakes. So here is me doing that.

My earliest memories of childhood are less of being a human toddler and more like a werewolf cub :)) I say this with good reason. People who used to come home to see me used to bring offerings of cream biscuits and chocolates to appease so as to make sure they didn’t get bitten. I remember childhood being an energetic, frenetic blur of outings, friendships, “investigative work”, pressure to achieve academic excellence. I recollect summers spent at my grandfather’s, a person I was close to and tried to emulate for well over a decade after his passing in 2002. I remember the sticky sweet juices of the jackfruits and watermelons we used to eat together, while watching TV. The jackfruits used to grow in a neighbour’s orchard behind our house, it became a symbol of a close knit community mindedness and kindness. An era in which neighbours knew each other by name and stood by them in times of difficulty. Today’s reality though is we don’t even know who our neighbours are. The fact that I live in an old but developing part of the city resolves some part of the issue because the residents have known each other for more than three decades but the newer crop of neighbours who have moved in, we don’t know them at all. Not really. Moving on to the years spent in school, the things I remember the most are the classrooms, the dusty corridors with the narrow benches outside the Principal’s office where we used to wait, to be congratulated by her for winning some music and creative writing competitions, Olympiads etc. I remember the dark blue blouse and white pleated skirt that always remained nearly immaculate because I was never too much into sports in any case except for shotput and running. I used to prefer board games with friends so we could utilise the opportunity to continue our talks, while not being chastised for not participating in the “P.T.” period. School was a whirlwind of conversations. As thrilling as it was, neither school nor college left me with that aching sense of nostalgia on those last days. I shed no tears at the idea of not being able to meet my classmates again, I was ready to move on. I was excited even. Throughout, the years saw me transform from a bubbly, outgoing achiever to a deeply insecure, reserved, young woman who shut herself off from much of the world for reasons of her own. Part of it, and this is so important to state…is the mentality of society that tends to stigmatize people with speech impediments or other kind of issues. The other thing of course is how your primary caregiver or doctor treats you. It is not enough to be merely competent. It is equally imperative to be compassionate else you are just an asshole. An asshole who leaves the patients shaking with fright, self – doubt and has the power to rewrite the trajectory of some of the most dynamic years of their lives. In any case, my memory palace is composed of tiles stacked up with their impressionist art style of events running from side to side. Often overlapping and colliding to create a larger picture of a certain haze of colour for a particular time period.

Post-midnight ramblings

Am I child like because I believe in the magic of books like Harry Potter? Or took the Sorting on Pottermore somewhat seriously? Or the Patronus quiz(zes)? Are adults not allowed to want an escape hatch? A wonderful, fantasy land where good people triumph over more often than not bureaucracy, red tapism, sexism, nepotism and sometimes of course, downright evil? Or even a world, where the truth still prevails? Of course these are subtly woven into plots, and at other times, these themes are in-your-face. This isn’t exactly a Harry Potter appreciation post. I don’t know what this is. Post midnight ramblings, I guess. The day draws to a close, words jump and dance seductively before my eyes. They are keeping me from what I should be doing. Ideally. And yet here I am. I digress. What I want to say is, Harry Potter is so much more than a series of a fantasy world to me. I am not waiting for my Hogwarts letter. I am not waiting for any wizened old people to come and tell me I am special, and take me along on a grand, life changing adventure. How grand it would be, if that were the case but no. “Adults” swallow the reality of their existence. Therefore, shouldn’t I? All we do is to try and make things tolerable. We paint them with shades of drama, humour, escapism, even draping around ourselves tightly the satin folds of faith just to be able to not open our eyes to what states us in the face. To me, identifying as a Gryffindor itself is like a label that enables me. It is the over arching themes of these books that make them so popular. It seems open to interpretation, and that’s why every person loves it. Nobody reads the same book. Not really. Gryffindor, case in point gives me the courage to be emotionally open or vulnerable, go stand up for someone (or even myself) in small, probably unnoticed ways because these acts take courage too. It is not always all fireworks a-poppin’, all guns blazin’ and diving head first into danger. Sometimes, the courageous task can be something as simple and painful as swallowing one’s pride and admitting fault or saying sorry. Or telling someone you love them. Those words can be rusty and taste foreign on your lips if you haven’t said it in a while. Not that words mean anything, if they aren’t backed up by action. Even these could mean nothing. Words. They keep getting added to the dictionary every year. Like twerk. An unfortunate development. Then there are words like courage, kindness, honesty, empathy. Success, power, money, drive, motivation. Somewhere these two paths have to converge. May be a rainbow bridge connects these two. And I am that seeker. Eternally seeking that timeless rainbow bridge that connects these two, so that somewhere in the heart of all these I can make a place to call my own. Home.
But what is home? Is it a place to kick back and unwind? Is it something to come back to? Is it a place? Is it a person? Is it a people? The arms of a lover, or the cajoling of a mother? Where is home, in the vast expanse of this timeless, limitless universe any way? Is life a testament to the defiance of the human spirit in the face of mediocrity? An attempt to transcend the basal nature of the human race, and evolve into something else entirely? Is it an endless cycle of permits and licenses, from birth till that last breath. Whatever it is, the answer has to wait till tomorrow. My thoughts start to wander, even as the eyelids start to grow heavier. I must go now.

As I look for the perfect way to close this post, the irony of that strikes me. There isn’t a perfect closing. Not always. So here it is. The ending. The search for answers however continues…

The Window and the Great White Bird

I looked through the shimmering glass window. I saw her ornate writing desk, half opened like someone had gone through it looking for something. A lot of things I remembered placing there were missing. A few journals, I think. There were a few loose sheafs of paper. I recognised her handwriting. Those were my words, in a different time. The Sun was setting in the distance, I looked to my right side. The bed so perfectly made. Mine. But it wouldn’t be slept in, it had not been. For a long time. Briefly I considered just that. I sat there and soaked in the room. My one and only chance to see it. This wasn’t my time. I had to go back after all.
I closed my eyes. I remembered. She walked around, she seemed restless. She had never been more alone, but she had also never felt more free as she looked at the elephant that seemed to have materialised before her. The elephant didn’t seem afraid of her, she felt calm looking at it. She walked towards it. It sat down, so did she. She stroked it gently. Murmured words of comfort, and also relaying her predicament. How strange, she thought… That a creature she had only encountered a while ago should make her feel so safe, as though everything was going to be just fine. She sat down, her back resting against the elephant and closed her eyes. And waited. I felt the hours pass by. I knew what was coming. Sure enough, there appeared a white bird in the sky, the wings flapping majestically. The bird rose up towards the Sun, as though to devour it. There was a great explosion of light, like a canopy of shimmering fragments of diamonds enveloping the entire forest they were in. She rose, she was free.
She had arrived at the beach. She watched as the waters lapped at her feet gently, an ever present cool breeze playing with her curls, casting them about hither and thither. She opened her arms wide and received all of it, smiling serenely.
It was at once, the most peaceful and the most heartbreaking thing I had ever seen. I wanted to see no more, I opened my eyes. My eyes flooded with joy and envy, I know not if those tears running down my cheeks were mine or hers. It does not matter.

Here I am. Once again. Till the great white bird comes, I bid you all adieu!

Free Writing – piece 2

This was the second exercise we undertook in the writing workshop I have mentioned in my previous blog post titled “Free Writing – piece 1”. The rules remained the same for this exercise, however the interesting part this time around was that Rohini pulled out a slender, wooden box which contained a few decks of tarot cards. We were each asked to select a card, focus on a card and write a story based on that image. The one I drew was the Death card from the Rider Waite deck.

Since I have dabbled in tarot, I felt the need to inform her that I knew what the symbols meant and that an element of bias might possibly creep in. Having said that, off we wrote. The timer was set for ten minutes. Here is what I wrote:

The buildings were burning. A heavy layer of soot and smog engulfed the place. He felt a distinct sense of unease. Death had definitely visited his village, and taken many with Him. If he listened carefully, he could hear the heart breaking wails of many people trapped beneath the ruins. His heart clenched painfully, his eyes teared up but he resolutely moved forward. He ran like he never had. His boots made a dramatic crunching sound, when juxtaposed with the eerie silence all around. He stumbled over bodies of friends and people he knew, but never paused.

There, House no. 43! He had finally reached his destination. All the memories of his childhood came back to him, flooding his senses with nostalgia as he walked through the house. He looked at the charred bodies. Father. Mother. Sister. Wife. Every single one of them was lost to him. He heard a faint wail. Could it be? He headed straight for the crib where lay his boy. His boy looked at him and began crying loudly. Bless the boy, what a pair of lungs he had on him! His boy, as if symbolic of the journey that lay ahead had his face darkened by ash and soot, but remained unharmed. He picked up the child carefully and walked out, feeling a bit more lighter and hopeful than when he first set​ foot in the village.

The rays of the Sun had began to break out in the distance, enveloping he village in a sort of unearthly brightness that seemed to him, more sinister than optimistic. He reassuringly pressed his son to his chest, and kissed the top of his head.