Sunday, November 17, 2019

Things are never just things

Clearing out a storage space is hard.
If you've been used to moving around, you already have a filter that ruthlessly throws away anything that's not needed any more, unless it has some use or sentimental value.
Things that get used, get used, wear out, get replaced.
But the ones that have an emotional connect - it's hard to see them again, because they're not just things, are they?
A little memory, a little piece of a life that once was.
A little moment in time, inconsequential but for the dreams that rode on its shoulders in the sun, laughing in delight at a bright and happy future they saw coming.
Now the moment lies still in it's bed of dust, crumpled plastic and yellowing paper, fading photographs and retro single... and dreams lie dead, incinerated in the nuclear blast of change, the hurricane winds of time. So destroyed they aren't even a memory anymore, except from the impression they left on these things.
A torn note from the back of a class book.
A receipt, a train ticket, a boarding pass, a membership card.
Things used till they were tattered and lovingly repaired.
Things pristine, never used at all, but bought on the wings of hopes and dreams, waiting expectantly in their sealed plastic covers.

Tiny little inconsequential things that can break you...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A reek of opulence

"Come, let's take a look," he says, striding up the corridor. I'm in one of the premiere, large-scale properties in the heart of the city, within an thirty minutes of most core Bombay and built for luxury. The place is huge, with multiple pools, tennis, gyms, 'library', clubs, cardrooms, restaurant, fountains, and a jogging track in the terraces. It's priced completely out of any possibility of my acquisition. This is just a visit. And though we both know this, the sheer pride and excitement of showing off this - the epitome of the high life, the measure of one's success, a chance to walk in the footsteps of the Rich - adds a spring in his step no expectation of wasted effort can dampen.

I look around these mansions of the gods, and I feel - as Arthur C Clarke said - not envy, but pity.
The track is beautifully decorated with vegetation, to hide the ranks of construction cranes standing sentinel over the coming metro trainyard. The pools are long and wide, but only four feet deep. Everywhere. There will never be a cannonball in here, no sink into skullcrushing pressure until all you hear is your own blood. The clubs are decorated with plaster cast corals and random, mismatched brass and glass. There is no story, no ratty souvenirs. I think of the thirty-kilo geode D found in the Sahyadris and carried it for a day and a half down a mountain, taxi, train, and bus back home, that can far outclass anything on display here. These aren't even someone else's experiences, memories or even statements. They're an expression of an emptiness of mind, heart and soul, filled with objects. The library has more sofas than books. The children's play area has a nine-foot ceiling and accented mood lighting, where a single little girl sits quietly with her nanny, frightened by the hushed deadened soundproofing and the random parade of workers and supervisors walking through her play. An attached gameroom has two slightly older children listlessly gunning down faceless soldiers onscreen, unsupervised. The next room is bright, open, and airy... and filled with pool tables.
The rooms are tiny, open to rows and rows of windows and balconies. A chemical plant belches effluvients on periodic gouts of flame into the sky in the near distance. drills, sanders, grinders, and hammers are everywhere, and a fine,dry, powdery white dust fills the air, even if housekeeping keeps it off the floors as fast as it settles. There will never be a pigeon nest in these kitchens, a bat flying in from the ventilator or a bandicoot in the storage. There will be no feral, friendly cats or enthusiastically genial dogs. No lizards will stalk moths around a single yellow lightbulb in the shadow of a monsoon downpour. No cramped, tiny bookshops filled with more books than physics should allow. There will never be a trash leaves bonfire in the cold autumn evening with potatoes roasting in its heart.
I wonder where the kids will be able to get covered in mud. Which of the protected, decorative trees they can climb and brave the lines of red ants to get at semi-ripe, bat-nibbled mangoes. Where they can sneak out for a smoke, a plack-plastic-bag beer, or a sizzling greasy beef roll off the coals. Breathe in the dry, dusty smell of adventure from brittle, yellowing pages dug out of a stack of decades-old classics. Where they will not be under CCTV. Where they will not be watched and judged for their clothing, behavior, words, thoughts. Where they will meet someone who thinks so differently from them that a new side of the universe opens up.

You  will learn nothing here except that the world outside is a loud, dirty, dangerous place to be despised and shut out. The emptiness will grow and hole left by where fun should have been will gradually fill with arrogance, conformity, and entitlement.

And then they will wonder where they went wrong, or mh more likely, pretend it never happened and blame the Other.

We wanted to keep them safe and comfortable, so we locked them in a solitary padded cell.

In building heaven, we have created hell. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018


Secrets are... light. Not emotionally, psychologically, but physically they have no weight at all, no matter how big they get.
That's why keeping secrets is an active task.
You need to be there, pushing them back under the black waters before the brownian motion of life jitters them to the surface, staring you silently in the face with their blank, dead, sightless eyes.
Dead men tell no tales, they said.
Dead men sing like canaries, because they lack both ability and reason to keep their secrets any more. Every misstep, foible, brutality and act of evil, big and small, surfaces sooner or later. The dead don't care. It's the living that run around pushing the tales back, carefully handcrafting that unnatural artefact of groupthink called truth.
Secrets stain the water, glow in the dark, whisper in the shadows, their odor faint but pervasive.
They are unmissable, unforgettable, immortal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A zero sum game?

There are 24 hours a day.
There are 3000 calories a day.

Within large or small variations, this is largely true of everyone.


If you spend three hours in your commute, you have 21 hours.
You could watch TV, play games, read books, travel, exercise, write.
You could watch movies while travelling, read while eating,  walk or cycle to work and combine the commute with exercise.
You still need food.
You still need sleep.

So, you compromise.
You don't read that book because you wanted to watch a rerun of The Office.
You don't hear that podcast because you were tired and groggy and just dozed instead.
You didn't go for a run to get another hour of sleep instead, because you gave up three hours of sleep last night to finish the game.

Everything costs something.

Sure, you could increase time. Be healthier, walk faster. Take a helicopter to work. Eat less, sleep more. Get more energy in each day, get more done. After all, it's not the years in your life, but the life in your years, right?

But that's hard. God, that's so hard.  Such few people can do it, and at most... another 10% out of each day? Another 20?

Or  you could be the average you want to be, doing what you want, because that is what makes it all worthwhile, that is what gives you the best feeling you can get.

Life's too short to burn on pain.
Each day's too short to burn on struggle.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Horse Latitudes


No sense of what comes next. Goals are an abstraction, an intellectual exercise to give just enough meaning to some tasks to stay ticking, but... the one overarching thing, tying it all together? Not so much.

Back then, it was philosophically easier. 'Be better'. Earn more, eat better, experiment, meet girls, buy stuff, work out. Everything was easy because it was all incremental, measurable. Windfalls and gamechanging paradigm shifts were rare but possible windfalls. The steady climb continued. 

Now, it's a zero-sum game. Better in one means worse in another. 

What do you choose, how do you prioritize? 

Maybe ennui is an easy way out, because it sets a low bar. Just survive the day. Makes the work, the commute, tolerable. Seen in the context of what Life was supposed to have been, you'd just step off the train. If there are no goals, there are no failures to reach those goals, and life in survival mode... goes on. 

Where are the grand design plans, the one thing that can tie it all together - work, family, personal, social, financial, societal, self-actualization lodestar destinations?

Is this growing up? A mid-life crisis? 

Waiting. It's hard.