A four Kilometre life lesson on a sunny afternoon

What does three seconds mean? Probably  one twentieth of a minute, if not anything significant in particular. Well that is how much it meant for me as well, till today’s afternoon. I was zooming past at 72 kmph to work- when in a matter of few seconds,three to be precise -the speed went from that to zero. I had driven without petrol for the past few days. And my Pulsar- older than sum of all my functional relationships put together -diplomatically protests in these kind of non verbal ways. Especially in routes with no semblance of a fuel station for the next few kilometres from all four sides, to gently remind me to not take it for a ride.

So here I was with a bike with a vapid tank, weighing just the same at the Madhya Kailash to Tidel Park stretch. For the uninitiated non-Chennaites, this particular stretch is notorious for its stagnating traffic. If that opening scene from La La Land was to be recreated, this stretch would be a top contender, notwithstanding Bangalore and Mumbai. And did I mention it was in the afternoon? A humid, sweaty one. With the pores in my body over-timing to compensate for the lack of dampness in the air. And it really didn’t help that I was wearing a white translucent shirt.

And like that, the afternoon’s journey had passed from warm wind blowing against the face to trudging in search of the nearest fuel station. And to add salt to the wound, the Talaash songs were still playing on my earphones. Karma’s a bitch.

It was not until I was at the end of a two kilometres dead rubber walk, did I get my first rendezvous with humanity. There was this gentleman, in cheap clothes, on his bike who seemed to be stalking me from a few metres on his bike. I stopped. And he came from the side and offered to toe my bike to the nearest station; still a kilometre and a half away.
Wow! I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the gesture for a moment. To actually offer a ride to a sweaty stranger while he pulls his bike from the side is no mean thing. One, it’s inconvenient. Two, it makes you look silly. And three, I wasn’t even his friend for him to go through the inconvenience or silliness. Yet he did. I certainly wouldn’t have, not even to a friend had I seen him drag along on a Thursday afternoon. I profusely thanked him and continued to drag along.

By now, bathed in my own sweat, I was beginning to vicariously go through Christ’s last moments uphill; just that I was dragging a bike instead of a crucifix with absolute certainty of not turning God to a new faith. That’s when the second intervention happened. The station though not in the viewing perimeter was under a kilometre away, when an auto slowed on my side to offer to toe till the station. The driver was a dark man, with a stern but kind face. He had a passenger, yet he offered to chip in. I politely refused his generosity and thanked him. Not someone to take a “no”, he insisted again and I thanked and continued to drag. Disappointed he drove past. He must have thought of me to either be high handed or a masochist. Rightfully, so. To me, this was as moving as the former gesture. Actually, a little more considering the fact that he had a passenger and was still willing to do this. Guilt was eclipsing me as I thought of the number of times I’d condescended auto-drivers for the low lives they were on road.

I’ve fed pets, given money to homeless elders and sometimes even offered them a ride on my bike. I’ve always thought of myself to be a good person on the basis of these rudimentary acts. Yet there I was stranded, ego crushed, never having felt smaller. These men who stepped out of their comfort zone for an absolute stranger, were way better men than me. Maybe the rights and wrongs I was seeing from the high horse of my moral compass were ill founded from the vantage of my comfort zone. While I’ve frequently chipped in for someone from the warmth of my comfort, not once have I left it to lent a shoulder to someone outside of it. Maybe I needed to come down, introspect, learn and more importantly unlearn from better people like them.

Reality had dawned upon me before the fuel station could. Coming to think, the entire afternoon was after all not about getting petrol alone. Obviously, I’ll be more vigilant over the fuel meter. But that was just a ruse to a more pertinent internal journey. A reality check of sorts to become a better person. Baptism under the sun if I may.

Together & Apart

 

Born in the dichotomy of inhaling and exhaling is life. For how would intake of oxygen seem relevant, without the punctuated venting of carbon dioxide. A bonding is as special as the tenure of separation that preceded it.

Our times seems to be characterized by the epidemic of overdone togetherness. where we see a couple invade righteously into each other’s personal space in the name of love. Ironically, love stories of the yore that happened over correspondence with civil wars at the back drop,seemed to have endured the test of changing times more resiliently in comparison to today’s Whatsapp relations,set in a world with a rapidly shrinking radius,

That was an era when platonic was revered fervently, a time where the lover’s picture in the wallet was solace enough unlike our Instagram times.There is something magical about separation in a relation. It makes you miss the aura of your partner, long for their body’s warmth, vicariously live those cherished moments in the mind while realizing the way they completed you.

While the time together might tempt you to take your partner for granted, the time away would more often than not make you realize their value. Togetherness might breed complacency, while solitude would lend respect to a relation.

Move a foot away from a tree, you would see the tree better. Move a few more feet,you may see the garden it is a part of and move a few more feet, you would see the entire house it belongs to.

The figurative distance from your partner lends objectivity to your relationship. You tend to appreciate facets in them, which you might not have been able to with the forced proximity. We are what we dream of, what we aspire and what we stand for. One’s individuality is his signature.A relationship is nutrition for his soul, for it inspires him to look up to another day with purpose.

A relationship born on the death of one’s individuality can be likened to the predicament of a person so overwhelmed by his vehicle to embark on a journey with it.

With most people around submitting to romance or marriage, timing difference apart, we are going to be no exceptions to the eventuality. So neither would we be the first or the last to be in a relation with a person we love. The lure to over-sanctify the institution of marriage or romance from being a designation in the visiting card, to our visiting place itself would naturally inundate us. Just remember when you’re together, it’s love for each other. When apart, that’s love as well, for yourself. It’s always the case of self love activating love beyond self and not the other way around.

Luck by chance

A couple barely familiar to each other- “barely” only if knowledge of names,horoscope compatibility and positive sign off on conduct by respective households alone doesn’t constitute familiarity – decide to give a shot at matrimony.So life started like that, out of a chance taken three decades before. XY it was, a guy I was.

In hindsight most things in life- both,fascinating and commonplace have happened, because of chances I took and chances that were taken with me. Something as rudimentary as my alma mater happened because the cousin I absolutely loathe now, passed by it when the applications were flying out for admission. My education was cultivated from a premier institution because my mom took a chance, when she stood in the beeline. What about my ability to sketch well? It was born from a moment of utter insignificance. I was a three year old intrigued by the sight of a brass elephant. I had to recreate it on paper. I just had to. That urge lead to my first sketch and a bunch of baffled adults who flattered incessantly. Had no one been around or the ones who were there, turned out to be grumps like me, the flattery wouldn’t have happened. The artist in me wouldn’t have as well.

An ex-girlfriend was the first girl child in ages in her family. Again, a case of a close call between X and Y. Had it been Y, I wouldn’t have stalked her in the first place- I’m straight -leave alone send out a request. Still we had a lot of mutual friends, maybe we would’ve been good friends and played a lot of gully cricket. But it was X, she was dusky ,unconventionally beautiful, from the same city and took a chance with me. And I found love in her, made love to her, took her love for granted and in the end, fell out of love with her, actually with love itself.

Every event in life, every bit of our identity now has been a culmination point of a chance  taken. It’s laid out like a board game, life, with every decision point born out of a chance taken. While that chance takes you down a certain path, it takes you away from another, probably less risky, had the former not been taken. With time, what happens in these respective paths- the dividends earned, opportunities lost, relationships made, wisdom accumulated – fashions our appetite for peeping beyond conventions. In the end, we are product of the chances taken.A number where the dice stopped. Sometimes the dice. Sometimes the hands that rolled the dice.

Ari Gold cravings

I’m seeing someone“, Melissa blurts coldly.
Ari breaks down to tears instantly.
Aren’t you going to  say something?
What is there to say?

Well, for the uninitiated Ari Gold‘s a character from the series, Entourage and Melissa’s his wife. The above is an excerpt from their conversation, when their wedlock hits a roadblock. Entourage’s a vivid fly on the wall account about Hollywood actors, their shenanigans, the psyche of the entourage that sticks to them, the men who run the showbiz and the hardball they play to levitate their image.
Ari rates amongst my most favourite men, alongside Kamal Haasan and Chandler. This notwithstanding the unabashed bastard he is. Foul mouthed and irreverent, he would be Osama if political incorrectness was terrorism. But there’s something endearing about all this. Below all the pungency, the pompousness, he’s a nice guy.

Maybe there’s more to my adulation. I identify with him or immodestly put, he’s a lot like me. I’m aware and have been told when I haven’t been, what a human repellent I’m. All my life, I’ve barely been the guy to be found kind or considerate at first sight. Just like Ari, I’m a jack fruit kind of personality, with my thorny exterior being a red herring to the sweetness within.
It is quite fascinating when a favourite character and alter ego merge. Even more, when he goes through the same things you’ve been through once. The fourth wall breaks. You just don’t root for him to be alright. You emote with him; actually like him after a point.
This is exactly where I found myself through the final season of the entourage.

Ari’s wife leaves him over his incessant cussing and mercurial temper.Suddenly his trigger mouthed persona is reduced to a moping bundle, who seeks solace in mediocre gatherings. It took me back to days when I was going through the motions in life post my break up, with every iota of desire sucked from within. She told me about how embarrassed she was before her friends, every time I would use cuss words. Embarrassed?!
Wasn’t she supposed to embrace me for the foulmouthed asshole I was. It stung. I could empathize with him, when he got dumped. The vantage point we gave to our sweethearts, only to be shot from there.

She needed a break from me to discover new things, when I begged her to take me back, months after my break up. I couldn’t believe the low hanging fruit, my self respect had turned in the name of love. My king sized ego, self respect…whatever had become a luxury I couldn’t afford anymore. Beggars couldn’t pick.  Just like me, Ari too was left high and dry.
Bitch found some one else! I’m sorry. But I couldn’t see the man I revered, shrink in humiliation. God, at forty something he’s still quite the women killer and yet he had to go through all this. I remembered the shame I felt to my very soul when I came to know from her, my sweetheart of five years, that she was considering someone. Apparently he was an antithesis of the aberration I was. Fuck, has her lips that belonged to me been tasted by another man? Has her beautiful body made love to another man? The very thought was reducing me to an insecure shadow of myself. I knew logically that we weren’t working, this had to happen and we had to move on, but this was insulting and I just couldn’t swallow the bitter pill life was shoving up my throat.

Like Ari’s wife she was the calmer person between the two of us. All the years, I didn’t know about the implosion happening beneath that calm demeanor, much like him. The break-up, brought out years of pent up anger from their system.The roles reversed, it was our turn to bear the brunt. If he was asked to stay away from their house, I was kicked out of her church in public display.
It was strange to see a character in a TV show, going through his break-up, beat by beat, just like me. Worlds apart, we were the same lines dipping southwards in the graph of love.

What happened in the final episode put a tear or two under my eye, drew a wide grin across my face. He was heard, she took him back.  Notwithstanding the fact that it was a rerun, I was as affected by the magnitude of that moment, just like the first time. Unlike me, Ari wouldn’t become cynical about love. Unlike me, he got another shot. It was magical to vicariously live a different outcome to a similar story through an alter ego. If only, life was written by TV writers.

The curious case of human kind

I was returning home, from yet another late nighter at work. The moon followed me solicitously from the night sky. The wind that blew on my face was calming enough to be a zephyr, rough enough to unsettle the bristles of my beard.If only wisdom came to me in the same quantity or even the same frequency as epiphanies do.

My ears were in service of Amit Trivedi‘s open throated rendition of “Zinda Hoon Yaar…Kafi Hain…..”. My state of mind, at that moment, felt like the love child of a benevolent breeze and the cadence of an inspired composition. Coming to think of it, most pleasures in our lives exist in this dichotomy. The wind might be the nature’s, but I needed to ride on my fifth gear to let it hit the sweet spot. The song could’ve been rendered in a remote studio, but for it appease my sense in a different time and place, it had to be on my phone. The same one on which I spoke to my mom about being late, a while ago. The creator might’ve painted a world, beautiful with broad strokes; but it is- his creations – us, who rendered it palatable. The sky might be his, but the audacity to fly an aluminium vessel,leveraging gravity is our making. Inventions are often born out of the constant need to bridge the divine and desire.

Going back to the phone and the song that was playing, how long have we come from the rudimentary beginning. A million years before, gesticulating was communication. A little after that, sounds and modulation. And much later than that languages were harnessed. In due course, messages were sent through men, birds and animals. Though man has forever been grappling with the simplification of communication, it’s not till the last century or so, that he came up with the telephone.Over the years, like any invention its relevance has gone from being an inaccessible luxury, a luxury, a necessity to a necessity with luxuries.
Curiosity has and continues to be the gliding flame to most human endeavors.

Take the being of a song for instance. Its syntax exists in the symbiosis between voice, music and lyrics. Singing is an extrapolation of voice; music is an extrapolation of sound and lyrics come from the extrapolation of grammar in words.

How fascinating is man’s endless pursuit. God left us with a barren planet filled with wild vegetation, rocks and beast. Every time man went head first with God’s design , he either came back with a swollen forehead or an eureka moment. Latter made the former worthwhile. Every breakthrough we ensconce on, has infinite head bangs behind it.

It’s feral to man’s nature ; the constant urge from within to keep simplifying processes, to decode myths, to deconstruct magnificence and expand frontiers.Look at any bike’s meter these days; it’s like an ersatz ECG to the vehicle reading distance travelled, trips taken, fuel quantity etc. It’s not far before it begins to show weather bulletins and bank balance.

And make no mistake about this urge to get to the bottom of everything, to be extramural to him. He isn’t an exception to his curiosity. He first deconstructed himself to his body, the organs it held. Mastered the mechanism, but something was amiss. He needed to put a name on his curiosity and the things he did to satiate it; he deconstructed himself further into intellect.Still he felt the lack of something. A void so unsettling. He had to label his intent and the discretion it brought to his actions; he deconstructed this manifestation to be his mind. And to regulate his body, intellect and mind, he deconstructed himself to his last identifiable speck- the soul. The soul needed governance. He devised an assumption that the creator resides in this particle, thus in him. In the process bringing godhood to his race  and chaos to the world.

To be or not to be

The movie was to begin in a few moments. I was ensconced in a seat by the wall corner, all by myself, relishing the comforts of the recliner with my boneless under. No wonder wall corners are the most bidded parts in a theatre once the reservation opens, for if you’re someone who’s looking for an experience beyond the movie, then they’re the designated parts for salacious crimes or narcissistic indulgences.I was there for the latter. A loner by choice, left to myself to pick, I would any day pick a night by myself over hanging out with a bunch of friends. My alone times are special for they let me peep into myself for a start. Another reason is I get to walk the entire length of an experience till its last inch – be it great food, movie or a long drive – without having another person to partake in its pleasure. I wanted to be alone this Saturday and decided to go for a movie. The movie was quite engaging and I was liking it even more from the from the vantage of the theatre’s balcony. There are few things that come close to the escapist peace the experience of watching a good movie from a good place in a good theatre-  while gobbling along some sinful butter popcorn -brings with it. I was paying obeisance to the god of small things as I left my seat during the intermission. So far so good.

This particular theatre is notorious for its overstretched intermissions in which it tries to cramp in as many advertisements as possible, to an extent that the jingles from the ad films go on to subconsciously register in that  part of the head hitherto inhabited by three tables and alphabets. As I was returning to my seat with more things to make my waist thicker, my eyes befell a seat behind me that was unoccupied. Maybe it was taken and its rightful owner was stuck in the beeline before the food counter. The movie had started. A song came few minutes into the second half, that was enough for me to check my phone and the seat behind to see if it was occupied. It wasn’t.

And just like that, my well assimilated peace tumbled in a restless rubble as I sat there discontent. There I was in one of the best seats in the house, with an amazing view, fingers greased from the butter on the popcorn. Yet the empty seat behind was teasing my imagination. I was in B row and if I had learnt anything from a lifetime of systematic conditioning to grading system, A was greater than B. My seat had lost its charm, for it was B grade after all, despite being behind twenty rows before me. Like an unfaithful man nitpicking on his wife’s cooking to validate his infidelity, I was starting to notice things about my seat that were not right- like how I had excess leg space and the hairy hands of the old man next to me were touching mine. By now, I was too distracted to watch the movie and started picking on it. I was having issues with the facial hair of the hero, couldn’t he buy a trimmer when he could go on to buy an Enfield, despite the entire village being under 5 km radius.

I was facing Hamlet’s conundrum albeit under different circumstances, “To be or not to be.”

I was positively itching to go. I knew I had to go past the seven gentlemen in my row, while almost smudging their faces with my bottom. God, these wall corner seats are such a pain in the ass! From love to hate, my love affair with wall corners had come a whole circle .
I was sugarcoating my shallow pursuit as an antidote to restore my equilibrium, that had gone down the drain long before. Lord of the rings started making sense to me more than ever. I exactly knew what was running in Gollum‘s head over the centuries of separation from “his precious” and why he did the things he did to get to it. Wait! Why was I empathising with Gollum?Hmmm… a new low by my fairly low standards.

I dropped anchor and decided to watch the movie from where I was. It was really hard not to succumb to the lure, but I chose the comforts of my home to the mistress’s.
Like the eclipse lifting off the moon, my evening’s peace was restored as rapidly as it was taken. I became invested in the movie again, despite having missed a good twenty minutes. The hero’s extensive facial hair felt like a favour, for he would’ve looked quite pathetic without it. The movie got over and I rose from my seat to leave.

There’s a certain charm that accompanies things that we don’t have. It’s not innate necessarily, its just the elusiveness the mind craves to conquer than the eluding object itself.

As I was making my way out I turned to look at the empty seat that had almost managed to possess my soul.  We exchanged cold glances at each other for one last time. No doubt I had had the better of the empty seat this bout, but only by a whisker. Yet another empty seat awaits in another circumstance to tantalise. Let’s see how that one goes.

Twenty Sixteen- bookmarked chapters

Unlike last year which had things like floods to wax eloquently about survival instinct and the spirit of Chennai, albeit at a cost tad too high, this year has been quite tranquil as far as the city is concerned till December. It started with the news of the CM’s death, I thought that this would be the equivalent of last year’s floods in terms of being a logistical nightmare or at least cause a small amount of law and order ruckus, given our tendencies to vent emotions by taking to the streets. But to my utter surprise it was the most well behaved funeral mourning in recent times. So much so that the only breakage in the city  during this period came from households with mischievous kids or butterfingered adults.  Just when I thought that, it was pretty much the length and breadth of the excitement for the year, a cyclone tore its way into attention. If last year, the nature’s fury resembled overflowing water, this year it looked like howling wind.

Hmmm..since this is meant to be more about myself, enough about Chennai for now. Moving on to some developments in my life over the last dozen months or so.

Found a new god in Woody Allen to prostrate before. I figured how delicious sarcastic depictions of follies in human relations can get in the hands of a great auteur. Learnt the extent of leverage available to be drawn from seemingly commonplaces. Sad that Kamal had no releases this year. But Bhai made up for it with Sultan. Had a whale of a time in the theatres screaming to his shenanigans in baby ko base pasand hai.

On the writing front, the work on the manuscript seems to be never ending, but at least I now know how the skeleton looks. Writing feels therapeutic and almost flows like second nature. From being a cool thing to flaunt, it’s increasingly starting to feel like an expression of my ungarbed soul.

The nihilism within, which was lurking passively is slowly starting to percolate into words and action.  Even as a child I’ve always been selective about fashioning my inner circle, friend by friend. I’ve always known an acquaintance from a friend, courtesy from care. But off late I’m able to look through a person; through a conversation right at the intention underneath. Often than not what I see there is not what I heard or saw.   Probably I’m slowly tilting towards misanthropy, OD-ed on Woody Allen movies. But few things come close to the hilarity of people with 897 friends on Facebook making sincere attempts at sending wedding invitations to all “friends”, on the eve of their wedding. Probably a group of friends checking in from a restroom of a multiplex on the weekend of a popular release beats that. But the sunny side to all this social condescension is the predictability that it lends, bringing patience when dealing with people. When you know the where-they’re- headed-to part, the what-they’re-getting-at part starts to make sense.

Was almost on the verge of finding love, but backed out intimidated by the proximity.Felt guilty about kind of leading on a close one. Yup, did that hideous act of crushing someone’s heart. Earned myself truckloads of bad karma in the process. Towed the route of promiscuity for a brief detour to distract, to only find myself on the threshold of love, yet again. Somehow in the most unlikely of circumstances, either I’ve found love or been found by it. This time around, it started platonic to grow into something more significant, more passionate than any relationship I’ve found myself in. There’s something about corresponding in love; you express with words and find yourself getting entangled with each other over every anecdote exchanged, every thought provoked. It’s the purest form in my opinion, given the entirely nonphysical chemistry stimulated. All the more for someone like me who believes strongly in the physical expression of love or attraction.
Touch wood.

This year is the first time in the last decade I’ve not lifted a dumbbell or anything that resembled it for more than six months. I read somewhere about how a trainer stopped his training and diet for six months to see how much he could push his limit, to get back in shape in under three months. So gave it a shot and the results were beyond just physical. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fit into my muscle fits and slim fits; but what I didn’t know was I wouldn’t fit into the cordiality of some people as well.
After this phase I can safely say, “Grow a few pounds thicker around your waist to figure the decent from the rest.
Now that the social experiment’s done, I’m in the process of getting back in shape by the end of year. This abandon of something as personal as gyming, did bring with it, its share of side effects. I stopped going to the temple I’ve been since the last twelve years. I let go off my faith, took a holiday from the display of gratitude. Here too, like fitness I was trying to push the ambit of my faith, to see as to what kind of a person I would turn into in the process. Through this phase I saw my compassion dry barren as I stopped caring for close ones beyond my comfort zone. My selfishness just shot up and I found myself high. Probably these were the things the stone statue and the sanctum sanctorum were keeping at bay without me being aware all these years.

And the biggest of them all, my baby sister got engaged this year. I tried my best to dissuade, but in vain. She’s not been in a relation of any kind all her life and the first one she’s going to get into comes with a promise of lasting a lifetime. I’m anxious and excited at the thought of her first adult endeavor. Since I’ve not known a life without her since childhood, the coming months without her are going to be interesting. Over the past few months have figured one thing; that I absolutely suck at this In-Law dynamic.
But if there’s a moment that’ll stay on with me, it’s that of seeing my grandpa breakdown into tears as she exchanged garlands with her fiance. He had held my mother as a cotyledon of life, then given her away in marriage and here he was seeing his grand daughter on the verge of marital bliss in his second childhood. Life had a come a full circle.
Probably Woody Allen wouldn’t endorse such thoughts, but people aren’t so bad after all.   Ditto about relationships.

That’s as far as I can remember from the top of my head. Let’s see how 2017 pans out.