Calcutta is Love!

Yes it is.

And what a feeling it is, to be writing this from my second home, my Calcutta, my room in the city which is witness to a version of me that only I had the privilege to see. A version that I saw through the 85 years old yet “shiny-as-new” mirror in an equally old, “built during the British times” building that still stands, a little less strongly, but in well-preserved pride and glory.

Such is the Calcutta I know. It stands tall on its heritage, it takes pride in the era gone by. The city breathes its past to sustain its present. It keeps you bound to your roots, while giving you all the chances in the world to fly. We Calcuttans have a saying – “Once a Calcuttan, always a Calcuttan”. I have found it to be very true. Calcutta is love. The essence never goes out. Any walk in any part of the world, reminds me of my Park Street strolls. Any bookstore anywhere, reminds me of College Street. Any boat ride anywhere, reminds me of Dakshineshwar, Belur Math and Princep Ghat.

Any happy conversation anywhere with a friend, reminds me of the conversations I have had with some of my most favorite people in the coffee shops of Calcutta. Some I don’t talk to anymore. Some don’t talk to me anymore. What would I not give to talk to some of them again! :) … A city is all about the people you have memories of in the streets of the city, don’t you think?

I know, not many people enjoy the slow, laid back Calcutta, the Calcutta that holds on to its roots so strongly, the city that is still neck deep in its past stories. Probably they are right. But I am not concerning myself with Economics (ironical, given my profession). It’s the poetry in the city that makes me fall for it every single time. Speed is thrill. Slow is peace. That’s the kind of poetry I enjoy… With a slow rhythm, a beautiful meaning. Something you can hum along while a tram crosses by with its ‘tan-tan’.

This city sings to you, a tune that only you can understand – while you are walking on the howrah bridge, or sitting on the banks of the mighty Ganges. While you are having a quiet breakfast at Flury’s or while standing at the edge of the local train compartment to feel the wind in your hair (and dust in your eyes!). This city sings to you while you live in it. I think every city has a song. Calcutta has Nobel price winning “Rabindra Sangeet”. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who get it never find anything more soothing that could talk to their souls.

I don’t know about the people of Calcutta in general. They are okay I think. My two and a half years of doctoral studies have taught me not to generalize without concrete proof and rigorous validation. But I know about the specifics. And they are brilliant! Calcutta and the people it gave me, have made me who I am.

Like the old British building I live in. It keeps you bound to your roots, but also nurtures you. Like grandparents do. It is not a backward city. It is a city that knows speed is not everyone’s answer. It is a city that loves you like your nani. While giving you history lessons, it teaches you to learn from the past, and grow with the realization – “home is where the heart is”.

Calcutta steals not the easy hearts, but the difficult ones, I guess. It keeps those who know how to rest. Maybe it’s not good for the city. But I don’t think Calcutta has ever cared about opinions. And that’s the kind of people it breeds. Carefree and beautiful. That’s the kind you find in the city of Joy.

Thank you second home for all the love and lovely memories, for the literature and the books, for the losses and the lessons, for your sheer yet subtle beauty. You heal me a little every time I step in. You are love!

(P.S – I have lost count of how many times I have written and deleted this post in my head. Finally, it’s up.)

Writer’s Block

I am choosing to write about “Writer’s block” because had I had a topic to write about, I would have written one in the last 15 months. It has been that long since I wrote something for myself!

calvin n hobbes writers block

And I am writing this out of my nothingness on agenda (although, I would surprise my own self if I look at my mental list of To-Dos right now. You know, those lists that you make when you are fed up of your oh-so-many To-Dos?).

And I am writing this from a lonely corner in the library, with an antique, musician kinda ceiling fan for company. And dear reader, you are forewarned – this is probably just going to be a long ramble about how and why I have not been writing. Although, none of you have ever pointed out how I suck at writing so I would take my chance. And the last tit-bit about my rendezvous with my surrounding situation (i.e. the secluded corner of library) is that I actually came to work on my dissertation, the deadline for which is looming large on my head and needless to mention, I have miles to go before I sleep; and I am taking time out for this blog from my warm-up period before I actually get down to serious (and for want of better word: dirty [my scholar friends would sympathize]) work of model building and hypothesizing.

Can you blame me for not writing? A PhD beats that out of you probably. Or maybe I am just lazy. Although, my forgetful tiny little brain remembered the blog’s password. I am surprised at and impressed by my own self. (Trivia time – did you know your brain is the size of your fist? I have small hands…. Oh wait! That’s the heart. Too lazy to google brain trivia right now! No wonder I have writer’s block; the worst I have seen in my 6 years of blogging existence so far.

But I have given it more thought than my decision of making a pathetic attempt at humor above. I tried thinking at all the places I could imagine. Inside my own silence, outside in the din of the traffic, in the hustle bustle of the student’s mess, between the droplets of rain (and once in a hailstorm too), among the desolate, beautiful orange night lights of Lucknow while the windswept hair kept getting into my eyes along with the polluted air particles, effectively forcing me to wear goggles at 11 pm in the night – everywhere. And what I have found is -

It is not that I don’t have inspiration to write. And it is probably also not true that I am out of ideas. I have had hundreds which I did not jot down somewhere. And the reason is not laziness. The reason is – I probably didn’t want to write. The reason is – that the reason I started enjoying writing in the first place is now lost somewhere. I always thought I was writing for myself. But during these 15 months I have realized that I was wrong. It was not me. Or was it?

writers block

But the truth is, writing doesn’t wait for anyone. And words don’t have time for this confusion. Words, have a world of their own which does not run on the whims and fancies and troubles of a 26 yr old who cannot put them on paper. Words don’t care what you are feeling. Words won’t bother themselves with your fear of letting too much on. What is it to words, if someday, you are too scared to choose them in such a manner that your deepest secrets come tumbling out to people you don’t want to share those secrets with?

What do words care… If not you, someone else will keep making the choice. Someone else will keep writing. People will keep writing. Because no matter whom you write for, in the end, the love for writing will catch up with you. Your writer’s block won’t last for long (I say this because I have one draft ready and one WIP. So convenient! :P ) … Let the writer in you win, even if you write crap. Let the writer in you win, even if you write in a locked diary in the dead of the night. And write, because it will keep you sane.

Write when you can and when you can’t. When you want to and more importantly when you don’t want to. Because when you sit back and look at your choice of words, they will always tell you what you were going through and how far you have come!

Write. For the love of writing. And in the process, if you can also manage to write for yourself – nothing like it!

Silhouette Memory

A little background:

It’s a poem that I came across while taking a walk down the memory lane. In a not-dusty corner of an old drawer (because, you know, mothers clean everything :P ) back at home, I found my dusty, yellowing old diary. It smells of old pages and childhood stupidities. And it also looks like my progress report, from literature that has appealed me as a naive kid to literature that has appealed me as a useless teenager :D

Not much progress, if I must say.

I found this poem among those pages. It was written in 2004 on a train journey back from a one day school trip to Bhubaneshwar (a luxury and a delight back then). The idea of listening to the ‘discourse’ of teachers back then somehow appealed to me a lot (kind of explains the career choice I have made for myself). And that’s why, one would have found me on that cold winter evening sharing a coop with a few teachers and some unwilling, reluctant friends whom I dragged along with me. Best 3 hrs of my life!

It was in this time, this era, that this poem was written. Patro Sir (our Odiya teacher) wrote this, in what seems like a thoughtful, ephemeral epoch which was inspired by an undisturbed seating beside the window with the cold winter wind stirring those deeply settled emotions. He retrieved it from the fathoms of his thoughts on paper in Odiya. And then Mishra Sir (English teacher) translated it for the benefit of the less able like me. I am having to assume that he knew Patro Sir fairly well (they are neighbors, till date) for the remark that “It’s almost as if I have written it.” had been made after he went through the translation. For only the one who knows the poet well can translate poetry with such accuracy. Rest is just speculation.

As for me, I quickly copied the poem because I knew there will be a day, far away from that day, when I would understand the poem. I am just glad I had access to paper that day. Needless to say, this was the best part of the trip.

Enough with the background. Here’s the poem:

Perhaps thou…
To this unification of time
These ecstasy and sensations
In this eternal kingship
Of rope
Will tie

Or

Being selfish
To the ingredients of solitary progress of longings
Gathering & gathering
Will wipe it out.

Today’s memory within
Tomorrow’s
Self centered endless deeds

But,

I will store in my mind
With secret care
In an iron box,
Or made of silver
In a gold covering
Today’s memory.

If I get relaxation,
From the materialistic world’s
Fixed routines
I shall open
Very often
In solitude,
When you will come
To my memory
In your present
Or past.

Your silhouette memory. 

~ U. C. Patro (Translated by Sribatsa Mishra)

P.S – For the ones with a challenged vocabulary, Silhouette [sil-oo-et] means an outline or a shape (for e.g. taking a picture against the sun would give you a beautiful silhouette. For reference, check the blog header.)

The Night. Tonight.

The night is cold.
Kind of bitter. I don’t know why …

Probably it has lost its warmth.
Probably it is in pain, of something slipping away.

As if, trying to search for a lost treasure,
A treasure that’s worth more than constellations,
A treasure that’s worth nothing to anyone else other than the night.

The night is silent.
Kind of like a lament. For having become the night.

Probably it misses being the morning,
Probably it needs to mean the same dawn to someone’s eyes.

As if trying to stash away all the hurt,
In a dark, empty corner.
As if trying to keep all those words on bay, that mean everything yet nothing…

The night is solemn.
Waiting to be the morning again. Waiting to be itself again.

Probably it wants to hold on to dawn, but doesn’t know how.
Probably, it wants to love the dawn and its skies, in it’s own twisted, selfish, dark way.
And it doesn’t know how.

Probably the night, the silent, dark, cold night – wants too many things.
And doesn’t know how to get any. That’s why it is silent.

The night is lovely too.
And kind of ordinary. Among the more extra-ordinary nights.

Like every lover, it believed it is extra-ordinary. But it is not.
Today it has shattered its own reflection.

Cold. Solemn. Silent.
The night is, tonight.

perfection

The ‘Wanting More’

There are various kinds of ‘wanting more’. While we all agree that aspiration is great, the kind of ‘wanting more’ that I am talking about is the expectations we have from people. The problem is that it is never ending, that we always want more.

And the real problem is not even about wanting more. It is about wanting what someone else has because it looks so good from a distance.

Regardless of what we say or make ourselves believe – we always want someone else’s life. We want to be friends with someone like they are with someone else because what we have is not enough. We want to be loved by someone in a way we think is perfect because we have seen someone else through the perfection setting of our lenses. The word here is, ‘OUR’.

We want things that we think are perfect in other people’s lives. Because we can’t make peace with what we have. We want to be in people’s lives in a way we want. We forget that it is their life and their right to decide who is going to be in it in which level of importance.

We basically lack the courage, to let people have their own way of being with us, of loving us, of being friends with us, of being there for us. Not everyone’s way is our way. We lose our peace of mind when we forget that. We should never forget that.

Find that courage. Make that peace with your own self, else it will meddle with many other important things. Because, people are always irreplaceable. You can’t really judge them on a scale of importance.

We struggle all our lives to keep it simple. The key probably is – not fighting for the most important place in someone’s life. Rather, creating your own small place that is irreplaceable, however small. Aim for a unique place, not necessarily the top most. Besides, topping every list could be a daunting task!

Let me share a small story with you, mentioned in the book ‘Adultery’ :
story
Wanting more is great. But, in the process, we shouldn’t forget that we can change our circumstances, the ways in which we can improve and be our own version of perfect rather than being someone else’s perfect. There is no use chasing perfection. Because, perfection, like truth, cannot be absolute. Not when nothing else is absolute.

“There is your truth and there is my truth. As for universal truth, it does not exist.”

Our perfections and our truths – and our perception of someone else’s perfections – all exist in our psyches only. These are all benchmarks. And benchmarks, like opinions and time on our wrist watches – are relative, different, unique.

Want more – but want more in terms of your own reference points. Chase your own perfection, not someone else’s.

 

Blog-gone-with-the-wind-image

Gone With The Wind

… We will all be. One day. Everyone knows that.

But we don’t see it even if it keeps staring right at our faces, day after day, year after year. We forget.

I lost 4 family members in the last 2 months. 3 of them, unexpectedly. 2 of them on the day after the auspicious ‘Diwali’. That was my hard fall to the ground. And a bitter yet important standing up.

We all know we need to live everyday to the full. Blah! We are probably even bored of it.

But, if we know that we’ll probably be gone with the wind in a swoosh, why not make the most of it. By maybe having to do a few unwanted things everyday. But definitely by doing some of the things we love doing daily. With all our heart.

From our jam packed calendars, let us find time everyday, even if just for 5 minutes, to do something that gives us joy that money can buy, lesson that a classroom can’t teach, peace that nothing else can give. Read, dance, run. Write, create, play. Sing. Something. Anything.

Because sometimes you don’t get the flashback you deserve. So why not make sure you don’t need one!

You never know. When you will just be – Gone with the wind.

P.S – I wrote today. I’m going to read something everyday. Yeah, those are my things! :)

Falling Gulmohars

falling gulmohar at iim lucknow image

That is what I have been waking up to, since the last month. Everyday.

And that’s what I will probably be waking up to for the coming few years. Yes, completed a month @ HeLL (IIM Lucknow is lovingly known as Hell – though I do not see the point. When you choose to be in a place, be it hell or heaven, it has to become your heaven. Right?)

Anyway, I was thinking about why I notice these fallen beauties. Every morning, beside the hostel, there is a corner full of leaves, lying like dreams that fell from the branches and paid homage to the soil; the place they were destined to reach. Like all the temptations that the tree discarded because it felt smart and intelligent and knew the importance of letting the temptations go. But they came back every night. In a new shape, with new elements but essentially the same. The same flowers, the same beauty, the same temptations. The same fall.

These gulmohars are beautiful. But they are tempting. The tree sheds them everyday. Yet grows news ones. Everyday. These gulmohars are trying to teach me a few things. Or maybe I am just choosing them to learn it (or simply write it here :P ) . These beautiful little red leaves have started signifying life @ IIM L for me and this is what I have learned so far:

1. Be yourself. Whatever kind you are – just be yourself. Introvert, extrovert, helpful, shy, studious, bookworm, idiot, talkative, shrewd, outgoing, party animal, lover, philanderer – whatever. Just be yourself if it works for you. Because if you try to fake, you will end up keeping your feet on two boats. Oops!

2. There will be a lot of temptations to not study. And a lot of incentives and motivations to do so. Be like the gulmohar tree. Shed them everyday. Don’t worry about them coming back. Because they will. That’s the law of nature I guess. They will knock your doors, try to flow in through your window, honk at you, haunt you. But do not give in. Decide what you want and they get on to it with doggedness. The choice is yours. Whether you open the door or sit with earphones and your fav music and your list of most important to-dos and ignore the vicious beauty of temptations.

3. Discipline. If that’s not there, nothing is going to work for you. You could be focused, passionate, hard working and all the other awesome things. But if you cannot discipline yourself, none of those plans will fall into place. You will never wake up on time, you will never be awake in class, you will never pay attention if you do not tell yourself – I need 6hrs of sleep to function normally. (The one thing common with all hallowed and non-hallowed portals of learning is “sleeping beauties” and “sleeping Benedicts” of the batch :) ) … Point being – there is one thing you cannot compromise with and that is – discipline.

4. Eat. And don’t eat junk. Being away from family and the care you are used to, this is your only ticket to soundness. If you eat crap, only crap is going to come out of you! After the initial paneer everyday for a week, you gotta move to the daal and green veggies and fruits because – let’s face it – the body needs what it needs ( I am talking about food here!)

5. The constant reminder of “Why are you here”. Knowing that helps. A lot. During your moments of crisis. And these moments creep in everyday. There will be people who are better than you. Much better. That’s when you need to remember – your best competitor today is the person you were yesterday. And that’s why you are here. To become better each day.

Never knew gulmohars could teach me so much! But now that I think about it, you could gather cups full of knowledge from things around you or could gather buckets or tankers. The choice of the vessel, the source and the will to observe – are all yours. You just need to make your choices. Everyday.

Because here at HeLL, everything is an everyday business. And that’s why Gulmohars fall everyday!

Ciao. Study time.

I Edit. It Makes Me More Human.

The best thing about having a personal blog – you can trash all the rules of writing :)

Just wanted to add this line. Shall begin my post now. Mark Twain is God for editors I would say. Here’s why:

The time to begin an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~ Mark Twain

So how does editing make me more human? For that, let’s get to – what makes me more human? You remember the phrase “To err is human. To admit is superhuman.” Since I don’t feel like being superhuman, I will settle for human :)

Editing makes me admit my mistakes. It makes me understand – I have a long way to go. It keeps me in place, lets me know where I stand. It makes sure I don’t get complacent with my writing ever. If I were to edit my earlier blog posts again, I would probably want to stop writing altogether. So there – editing also tells me how much I have grown. As a writer. As a person.

importance of editing your work

Image courtesy: Nic McPhee)

Because when I edit, I see my own emotions. I get to figure out whether I am confused or clear, angry or calm, whether I have depression or charm. When I edit, it’s like I am looking at a mirror. And a very clean one at that (HD too if possible!).

I write to teach myself what I already know (Duane Alan Hahn) . And editing is like revision. The more you revise, the finer you become. The finer your become, the better you are as a human.

I try to write well, often. And I fail at it miserably. I am now trying to improve as a rewriter. And I know for a fact that every good writer has a lot of trouble writing. Editing is what saves them. Every time. Like the Qs and Us sticking together all the time, writing and editing go hand in hand.

Edit. If you are a writer, always edit. Skip things you know people won’t read. Heavier, high on vocab energy words are easy to get attached to. Use them well but don’t get too attached to them – My biggest lesson while editing! Even the Bhagawad Gita preaches us to not get attached. Looks like what we see in editing is just the tip of the iceberg :)

Logic, clarity, reason, purpose, brevity, direction, a new lesson in every updated draft, love for writing and much more, which my brain eludes me right now (probably editing will do the trick) – is what editing gives me.

And that’s why I edit. It makes me more human.

Ending with Mark Twain again (his awesomeness just does not end) :

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain

P.S – This is the 4th & final draft of the original piece of crap that I had written (every 1st draft is like that).

The Seductive Power of a Decent Vocabulary

It’s here! I finally dragged myself out of my writer’s block (or so I am thinking right now. We’ll see how it shapes up!)

So, the seductive power. Hmm. I would say, not just vocabulary. Decent English  grammar ( I mean in any language) too is very seductive. Probably more. Ever heard Benedict Cumberbatch speak? My God he could send you into a puddle right there just by his words. Mr. Benedict Sherlock Cumberbatch. And here comes the fangirl rant. Ignore. My friends have already mastered the art! :) [This one's for you Teddy]

english power

 

So, back to seduction. But why is it seductive? When we have blue jeans and white shirts and black converse and good perfume too. And when have all sorts of things women could do too ;) Because that could be just vanity. I know many disagree. And they have all the right. But I said ‘could be’ and not ‘would be’. See! someone with decent grammar would immediately catch that. See what I did there?

Anyway, it is like – to each his own. But every ‘each person’ ‘s heart secretly reaches out for someone who can stun them with a decent hold over language. And I mean any language. Speak immaculate Hindi and you have me hooked. Speak flawless French and you have me hooked bad (even though I don’t understand a word of it. So you could probably hoodwink me there. But don’t. Because I will end up asking the meaning).

Reason: Did you hear the phrase ‘Brainy is the new sexy’? Of course you did. You have watched Sherlock. (What! You haven’t? Please. We need to sit and talk. How many hours did you waste watching crappy Indian TV?). But to be honest, brainy has been sexy since time immemorial.

And the fact that you have decent hold over a language means that you have been reading. That you appreciate words and thoughts and their intricate, awesome connections. That you read books and you pay attention to them is enough for me. That it impacts you is very seductive for me. And I am assuming, so it is for other women (even those who themselves don’t read.) Trust me – brainy is universally sexy!

And when you use words like ‘congrates’ and ‘tks’ and ‘enuf’ and ‘noe’ and ‘eu’ (for you) and ‘ma’(for my) – I inwardly cringe. And so do my fellow members of mankind who have collected awesomeness by reading. I can vouch, at least, for some of the most awesome men and women I know! Just to create space and save precious nanoseconds of your life, please don’t kill a language so brutally. Or do it in front of people who don’t mind. Not us. We are a lot which often gets hooked on to conversations that are a mixture of crazy fun and awesome intellect.

And, when you write complete sentences in the middle of thousands who don’t because they were dreaming during their Std 2 language class, we silently worship you. We adore you and want to read / listen to more of you. We see you as unique. Don’t mistake this for a bias for English. It is a bias for language, sincerity, culture and a thirst to try and be better with each word you read.

There, I gave you a BIG secret! What seduces people :) … Go use it. But, hang on! Have you been locking it up in a book in your drawer since childhood? Because if you have – it is going to be tough. When people read- they can tell the difference between someone who has been reading books and someone who has been building his / her vocabulary through movies.

Books – anyday! Hands down! Yes. I am biased like that. And I totally give in to the seductive power of a decent vocabulary, a decent hold over the language you can speak. It shows character. That is important. Very important. And if you don’t have that even for one single language – we have some serious issues, which I probably don’t want to even sort out :P

The seductive power of a decent vocabulary. Go have that power. It also brings with itself – immense confidence. (It’s raining secrets today!)

A few pictures that I picked up from facebook :

power of speaking good english

english speaking

language fun

 

 

 

The things we don’t say.

“Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” – Mitch Albom

True isn’t it? Or rather, “Things we don’t get to say”.

I have written & deleted more blog posts in between the last post & this one than ever before. Perhaps I was failing to realize what more those posts needed. Or maybe I knew but refused to accept it.

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I came across this quote & it set me thinking. It does effect my sanity to a level, when I have been silent for a while. And this silence is not the silence of the larynx. It is more like the silence of the mind. It stems not from not thinking but from thinking too much and then exhausting the thinking strength.

The haunting feeling shouldn’t be there. You could write.  But if you write to express, you would know it doesn’t work like that. You would know that there are a few conversations that need to happen between people, not visual editors of wordpress blogs :) . And problem arises not when there are no people with whom you can have those mind boggling conversations where great works of wisdom get transferred; but when the very few people with whom you can have those endearing conversations – make one way, incomplete conversations.

Incomplete conversations. That are left midway. Without so much as thinking that the other party to the conversation had to say something valuable. These are one sided conversations. Someone comes, talks, says a customary ‘Good bye’ & before you know it – it is over. It is true that sometimes people just want someone to listen to them, at the end of a grueling, exhausting day. But you know, if you are the one doing all the talking, maybe you should also remember that the one listening to you, might also have stuff to share with you.

And, if by any chance, the two of you are best friends, then it becomes a responsibility to let the other person have their say. If you cannot lend a ear everytime, you should at least, try to figure out the wrong times to ‘not lend a listening ear’. Because when communication becomes repeatedly one sided due to prolonged, one sided listening (done by the other person), that’s when ‘the things that we don’t say start haunting us’ thing happens. And sadly, not everything can be blogged / written and deleted / torn just to vent. Sometimes, people are crucial for conversations. And the right people (read : the only people we want to have the good conversations with). And conversations are things that keep every relationship going. Next time you wonder what’s wrong with that best friend who always used to listen to you; think. Did you make one sided, incomplete conversations, for too long a time? Probably yes.

No wonder I hate incomplete conversations, especially when they come from people who are very important to me. And more especially, when they keep coming.

You may not always get to do much about it, while being at the receiving end. Because it soon starts haunting. Because there are things you do not blog about. There are things you do not write and scratch. There are things that you cannot keep in your head for long. There are things – that you need to say. Out loud.

I wonder why conversations are so important for us. They keep us sane. They keep ghosts away from our mind. And most of these ghosts are very very stupid. Mitch Albom is very very right. Never let unsaid things nag you. They cause the worst kind of inertia. The inertia of silence.