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. 

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A cuppa tea: Morning Musings

There was a challenge online a while ago which asked for intimate details of one’s morning rituals. Kind of like a sharply zoomed in snapshot of that one moment without which the day isn’t complete. Sitting on the porch with my mug in hand, I tried hard to come up with something. I wanted them to publish my piece, so I did my best to come up with a morning ritual. One that I don’t have. While looking for it though, I have realised that I do have one morning tradition. Daily musings. And no, it is not just musings on gratitude or motivating myself for the day ahead. Each new day brings with it a different set of thoughts. Today I hold in my hand, a mug that’s got cat ears, if you will. Filled to the brim with peppermint tea. I close my eyes and enjoy the sweet, fresh flavour that wakes me up with a gentle jolt.  I think of all the hands that have worked together to bring that small smile on my lips, and the contented sigh. Right from the tea plantation workers to the packaging good folk, to the suppliers, to the wholesalers and then the ultimate consumer. Then, the loving pair of hands that prepares or oversees the preparation of the said beverage. Which brings me to think of why we fight about all the ways in which we are different when we should be exploring how we can get together and make progress with the combined potential of our intellect working in tandem, providing multiple diverse perspectives. Making diversity the strength that it should be, instead of dividing a world that’s already fraught with tension, violence and intolerance. Now, I am not saying that such is the case everywhere. A couple of the people who read this, and myself could well be living in progressive, tolerant environments but that’s not enough. The voices that drown out our own are getting louder. Fingering the rim of the cat-eared mug, I think to myself “If we don’t unite now, who is going to save us when the cat overlords invade us?” Whoa, I went a little too deep there for a bit. Too deep for early morning musings anyway. So, I will go back to imagining what might happen once the cats take over. Would the dogs be their bitches? (in a sense, literally) Would the crazy cat folk be honoured for their devotion to their pets? Or in a sadistic streak, would the cats ensure that they are the first ones to go?? Their screams of anguish drowning out their feelings of betrayal? Would Grumpy Cat lead the revolution? It is far more satisfying to think of a cat overlord hostile takeover of the planet. For it is something that may or may not happen :)) Unlike the inevitable wrecking of our home, which is already happening. We have to fix this mess we have created, as an unwise man once said “We inherited a mess”… No, we didn’t. We took a beautiful plot and wrecked it in the name of flipping it. Instead we have just flipped off the next generation for no fault of theirs. Except that their predecessors happened to be careless, complacent folk who screwed them over. It is time we change that; so our next generation won’t be forced to look beyond to fend for themselves. Let them focus on fighting whatever it is they will fight. Be it cats, rogue Replicants or the first of the lab – bred monsters that someone might end up creating “accidentally”.

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…

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.

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 :)”

The Ceramic Women

“Run, Missus! It is not safe for you here any more” the boy implored. “Nonsense, Jonathan. You have a very active imagination.” She ruffled his hair, noting with a slight smile how he coloured when her fingers grazed his forehead accidentally. “Now get to work” she reminded him firmly, but not unkindly. Several moments passed with the pair working perfectly in unison. “Your Master was married twice before, was he not?” She asked suddenly. The boy nodded. “Do you know how they died? I have heard people talk. I know he can be a bit rough around the edges, but he is not as bad as they think him to be.” She continued. The boy looked surprised, peered at her from between his sandy hair. For a long time, he didn’t say anything. She watched him. He seemed to be shifting from foot to foot, contemplating and struggling with something. “He killed them, Missus! He is a bad man, he deserves to rot in Hell. You shouldn’t be here!” He burst out hotly, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. “Jonathan!” She went after him, shocked at his outburst. She was ready to reprimand him strongly for what he said. She followed him, and found him sniveling while feverishly ruffling around in the Master’s workshop. “What do you think you are doing?” She said sharply, pulling him away. “Wait, please… I want to show you something.” He pulled out miniature ceramic figurines of women, rendered so beautifully. “He made this? They are so life – like. He never told me about his artistic abilities”. She was astonished. Showing her the figurine of the woman in a bath tub, Jonathan said “This was his first wife. God bless her, she was as saintly as they come. She was his cousin. She always had a kind word for everyone.” He paused. ” How did she die? I heard that she died shortly after childbirth.” She inquired. “The Master wanted a boy. She gave birth to a girl child. The Master was displeased. He drowned them both in the tub and threatened me with the same fate if I told anybody. Besides who would ever believe that someone of his stature would do something so heinous?” His voice rang out in that shed. She shuddered slightly. Regardless of whether it was true, it was a horrible story. She was tempted to cut the boy’s pay for the day. What a horrid boy, him and his imagination! Spreading such lies! She crossed her hands, gazed at him levelly betraying none of her thoughts or emotions. “And what about this one? I am presuming this is the second one then?” She asked him as she turned around a figurine slightly more voluptuous than the first one with a sunny smile. This one looked to be in repose. “She was indeed his second wife. The post master’s daughter. We were classmates. She was vivacious and had a lovely, singing voice. I liked her a lot. You could even say, I was a bit sweet on her. And I think she knew. Which is why it came as a shock to me when the Master brought her home as his new bride.” Jonathan looked away, his eyes burning. She reached out and squeezed​ his shoulder. “She was seventeen, and with child when she supposedly fell down the stairs. I had heard them arguing the day before. He was accusing her of infidelity, and she, the same. It was true that she had taken up with a young writer at the lodge down the street and she was planning to run away in order to escape the tyranny of the master. Somehow, the Master found out. A passionate fight ensued between the two of them. She was never one to mince words. When it happened, they were the only two people in the house. Or so I am told.” The words spilled out, as if he had held them in for years. He probably had. She mused. “What makes you think I am not safe anymore?” “I found this when I was cleaning the shed yesterday.” With trembling fingers, he handed over a brown paper bundle tied in string. Puzzled, she unwrapped the bundle, and let the contents fall to the ground with a scream. There lay on the ground, fragments of what was earlier, a perfectly rendered miniature figurine of her.

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!