Lost and Found

Arunima

You know – every crowded place has this section. They don’t put a noun behind it. Just adjectives – lost and found. For it keeps a track of lost and found things and people.

It is specially interesting to observe that places of worship with a lot of belief, have elaborate lost and found sections. Albeit, only literally. Not figuratively.

For thousands throng those floors and doors – but they only go to the lost and found section for their shoes or kids, never for their souls. That’s not what temples are for. Probably.

Dakshineshwar, Calcutta – is my all time favorite. I just love that place. It is not just a tranquil place but a deposit box of memories for me. And every time that I have been there, I have found myself more at peace by the ghats than while at the line for Deity Darshan. The divine feels more around on the solitary banks of the mighty Ganges than the hustling, bustling, jostling line for the temple.

Come to Banaras (Varanasi). I have found myself more on Shiva while sitting on Assi Ghat, than I have inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. I am not saying darshan is not great. But the true meaning of Darshan is to realize the divine in you. How will that happen when you are being kicked from all sides inside the Bihari temple in Vrindavan, that too if you choose to go there during Holi :)

You know – we are the biggest lost and found items on earth. If you go into flashback and rewind mode you can count – the number of times you have lost yourself and found yourself. Sometimes the alleyways are huge and it takes times to come out. But you invariably, mostly do.

My campus did that to me. I see most people coming here and losing themselves. The environment does that to you – the parts of you that you were pretty sure you will never lose – you do. But if you try hard enough, they also come back to you. For this place has a lot of silence – within the lot of noise that is there on the surface. It takes away, but it gives back a better version of you – if you give yourself an opportunity.

Guess – life is the same. A series of lost and founds. Every time you lose something of yourself, you realize the parts that you can do away with and should do away with. And every time you find yourself – it should be a slightly better version – a good repair work that you do on yourself.

But I think what’s really important is – to not lose it twice in the same dingy by-lane of life. Not twice. Once is enough. Why be stupid enough to get lose twice on the same road?? And the question is – where do you find yourself really? Where is that lost and found section of life?

It is inside you only. When you look for answers all around but you don’t find them – you know the last place is where you will find it. And it is within your stupid little soul only :) … It always tells you deep down – whenever your detours are not right. But you shut it up. For you want to enjoy the detour, even though you know it will later bring you misery only.

Amidst all that chaos inside, deep below there is silence. And that is where the ‘found’ part is.

Guess what I am trying to say is – no matter how crowded a place you lose yourself into – you will find yourself only in silence. And it is the quietest inside you :)

 

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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! :)

“All that Matters” – INK 2013

There is so much I wanted to write about, when I thought that I HAVE TO write about my experience at INK 2013, Kochi. But now that I sit to do it, nothing comes to me.

Or, to be honest, so many things come back hurtling – that I cannot decide which part of it moved me most. Not to mention the beautiful town of Kochi & the amazing people who live there. (Btw – Did you know? Kochi (Dist – Ernakulum) has 100% literacy rate? Brilliant. Ain’t it?)

Whether it was the fact that I actually got to be a part of the Social Media team & live tweet the conference, or how grateful I am to Vaibhav (Social Media, INK) for making it all much easier for me, or how much fun it was to live through all the mayhem & chaos backstage because the beautiful show that we put up at the end of the day made it all worth it, or how awesome it was to meet old friends from last year’s INK & relive memories & make new ones, or how I met some wonderful new people who are going to be a part of my life for coming many days (Kayalyn aka Kalyani, that’s for you!), or how I realize how there are miles to travel & lots to learn before I come somewhere even close to the sheer awesomeness that emanated from each INK Speaker & Fellow.

Having had the opportunity to sit through the whole conference, I heard people who have aced their respective fields. And all I take back is – be it Art, Science, Education, Innovation, Literature, Social Work, any field; the only thing that matters in the end is – You & your heart’s calling. We had Blind Educationists, 17 year old artists, Graphic Designers, Tea Sommeliers, Musicians, Film Makers, War Photographers, Water watchers, Space scientists, Innovators and many more; all bound together by their passion for life & courage to step on to the ‘Road Less Traveled’.

While closing INK 2013, Lakshmi (Host & Curator) said something I knew always (I think we all know what’s best for us most of the times) but often used to ignore. (I bring you the gist. Was a bit short of hands to be taking notes :P ). She said – It is also important to be like the fallen flower, to not know things, to not be sure yet keep following the path. It is sometimes important to lend a deaf ear to your critics & admirers alike & only believe in what you truly believe. And then go do it.

INK. Helped me find ‘What Matters’ to me.

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The stage at INK 2013 : ‘All that Matters’

“We may not always be good, bad or nice. But if we do what we believe, we will all find what matters to us.” … and perhaps, that’s what matters most. Finding what matters to you most.

 

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Which Sadness is Sadder

Is something I can never decide upon…

I am someone who gets all sentimental during movies and books. I cried while reading the ‘Kite Runner’, I cried for an hour when ‘Sirius died’, then Hedwig, Fred, Dobby & so many more. When I reached the point in ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ where Sati was about to die, I actually had to shut the book because I was not in a place where I could shed a tear (inside the metro). Senti much! And don’t even get me started on movies. Three Idiots gives me a constricted throat even today. Who else can cry in that movie! It was comedy no? I cried when I was watching ‘The Bucket List’. That one too :/

But today, I saw ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ (written by Jodi Picoult, now a motion picture) & I had to pause the movie where Kate walks up to her father before leaving for prom. I had to. You would know why if you watch the movie. (Do watch. Amazing it is) … This movie reminded me of a friend of mine, Akankshya. She was my junior at school. And she is someone I look up to because she is one of those who braved Leukemia with a smile and a maturity that people thrice her age do not possess. After watching the movie, I wrote to her:

Saw My Sister’s Keeper. Beautiful! At one point had to pause. I was crying so much. It reminded me of you.
 
There is so much more in the world that is heart breaking, painful, sad yet beautiful. And we cry about stupid things and useless stuff.
 
Sometimes I find it difficult to categorize grief. It’s like – No one can ever decide what problem is big enough to cry about… For how long! Is someone’s death the pinnacle of grief? Or simply breaking up is enough to keep crying. It is like- I can’t decide which sadness is sadder.

Everyday a 1000 thoughts and more run a marathon in my mind. Some run a 400m race, some do a 100m sprint & some have made a permanent home. Not all of them are happy thoughts (that’s okay! You gotta have balance in life). And the newspapers don’t help the cause either. Everything adds to the sad thoughts. I have not yet reached a stage where I can deeply contemplate the not so happy happenings of the world & end up being sad with all the problems around me; the issues of women safety, world poverty, ruthlessness etc etc.

I see people crying over broken relationships, things not happening the way they want it to be, their careers not working out, their plans not working out, their love lives not working out. Some are in grief because they cannot be with the person they love, some are in grief because they do not have a job & their life has come to a dangerous standstill, at the edge of a cliff from where a free fall could happen anytime, some are in grief because a lot in their life depends on how they fair in an exam, some are lamenting the loss of a loved one, some are fearing the loss of a loved one, some are in grief because they are suffering from financial or health problems, there are whole countries which are in grief… from where I see, everyone has some or other kind of grief in life. I belong to these ‘some people’ too.

I am wondering whether we can categorize it, or measure it? I am befuddled – how much grief should attract how much sadness? Which kind of sadness is more sadder? Can we really compare the griefs of two people? Losing a loved one hurts the same as having a break up or is it different? The realization that you will never have the ‘forever together’ thing with the person you love is more sad or knowing that a you need to give up and move on is more sad? Looking at all the pain and hurt in the world – should you be depressed or should you look at the happy moments and smile and be happy about it? This is one question to which I have never had the answer. But for now, and for always, I am going to believe the following :

I read somewhere that a loss is a loss. It does not matter whether you lost it to life or death, it would hurt equally. Why, then, is it said that – if everyone keeps their problems on a plate, you would withdraw yours very fast because you would realize that others have had it much harder? Maybe because it is all about – the place from where we see it. Maybe it is the magnitude and the number of people who suffer along with us – that is different. Maybe we need to see the whole picture. I know I am not saying anything new. I am just re-affirming my own belief by putting it in writing. But you know … it always works. Looking at someone else’s suffering when you can’t bear your own, makes your own grief seem kinda small in value. And this helps you overcome it.

But most importantly because, maybe it is true. So, while every grief hurts equally, I think that believing that others have had worse, or are going through worse, somewhere gives us the power & courage to face our problems; because this realization makes our problems look smaller in our own eyes. It makes us feel small for having cried over stuff that was absolutely capable of having moved on from. It makes us realize that – in the end, we are not alone. That there are millions who have suffered this along with us. That someone must have written about it, found a solution even if it is not one that soothes our heart most. I think categorizing or comparing is unjust. But we may make an effort towards overcoming it – even if we have to believe that we are better off. Someone else had worse.

And above all, I do believe that it is not really difficult to find rainbows in life. We just need to allow sunlight through those drops of grief and sadness that we mostly lock away in the darkest chambers of our heart. Because, it always could have been much worse than it already is. But it is not.

This is Akankshya’s post after I wrote to her today (This & more about how she braved Leukemia, her thoughts and life post cancer can be found on her blog. Do read..) – “My Sister’s Keeper & I”

P.S – Getting senti on not so senti movies and books is okay right? Can’t help it though :P  

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My Box.

I logged out. Then logged in. There are a few things which you need to make a note of. And I just happen to have a blog!

Visiting Quora when you have a lot of work to do is a really bad decision, yet one of the best things you could do to lift your spirit up. That’s what I did. I could not have made better use of those hours; I invested in collecting inspiration. And then one thing led to another. And now I have a list of things in my inspiration box that put me in a better place instantly:

1. Follow this question on Quora. Or better, read the first few only. They will move you like nothing else. The question is : What is the most powerful / inspirational quote you have ever heard?

There are many wonderful answers to this one there. Trust me they will all work. But this stole my heart:

“I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.”

2. Read stuff about the most amazing science inventions and discoveries. You will end up feeling small and insignificant and the realization that “you are nothing” will dawn on you. And maybe that’s when you will realize how you are stuck with pettiness and how you need to put a real, honest, wholehearted effort to make this insignificance & minuteness get counted in some way. This might help you : We were here

3. Watch the last 15 minutes of the movie “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”. I perhaps do not even need to elaborate on why, how and how much it will stir you up; every damn time. You could go for the whole movie (I did not have time)

4. This one is something very very personal. A choice not many would make. But this video never fails to give me goosebumps. Atheist or devout, I am sure it will stir an emotion. A dance that could make you close your eyes & pray, even if for just a moment :

5. Not worrying about whether this post is good or bad, but simply writing it. Not worrying about feeling afraid about anything, but just saying “Bring it on!”. Not being wary of not having things my way, but just simply moving on. Not thinking. Simply doing.

Your inspirations could be different. But have a list anyway. Something you can go back to. Something that will fix you like an invisible hand. Read a good story, see a moving photograph, read a good excerpt, think about doing something that cannot be paid back, even if it is for a friend you know. If it moves you today, it will always move your soul somehow. Would like to end with another quote from the same Quora page :

“I start early and I stay late,day after day,year after year. It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”. – Lionel Messi

Pettiness.

Means : little or no importance or consequence.

We have surrounded ourselves with so much pettiness. Petty feelings, petty emotions, petty lethargy, petty conversations, petty issues and so much more…

For instance, I get a message from someone I know after a very long time and all that person talks is crass. There is nothing in that conversation that could be relished or taken forward. Here’s something to think about – why do we waste our time in talking about things that won’t take us anywhere? Not indulging in small, petty talk – is maybe one awesome way to grow in life.

The time that we invest in pettiness, is never going to get us any good returns. It will only bring back more pettiness. When we replace our desire to grow, to achieve more than we could have possible imagined for our own self with the temptations of doing ‘nothing’; this pettiness becomes life. Rather, it slowly decays whatever little chances we might have had of doing something great with our self.

While having that conversation, I also realized that – great conversations, which add value to your thoughts, which are based on knowledge sharing and which goad you to do something extra-ordinary – are very rare. And can happen with very rare people. Maybe we need to choose our conversations well.

Pettiness is emotions would be – being so sentimental that we start becoming menti-sental! If your emotions do not buttress your goals in life, those emotions deserve to binned. Nothing more, nothing less. Being over emotional is having pettiness in emotions. Isn’t it very exhaustive? Then we have to think about so so so much more than we need to. All that thinking could be utilized in doing something good with our lives. That would be a much better option.

Having thoughts that are pure; so pure that merely sharing them with others makes them smile – is one of the most awesome things we could inculcate. Don’t we love being around people who have interesting stories to share, who have a brilliant thought process, who do not indulge in ‘choti baat’, who give us amazing insights to life, who make us feel grown up, learned and good?

Abstaining from petty issues and emotions would give us so much more leeway to make good progress in life. Then, whatever little we do, would mean so much more. We would grow so much more :)

I think, the word & concept of petty is best when used in accounts. It should have no room in our lives!

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Shades of Grey

A friend asked me to write about this long ago. And obviously I forgot about it. But the reminder came in this form:

“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” ― Lemony Snicket

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As in Salsa!

So in life!

That’s what my awesome salsa trainers say. (Yes! I finally started learning it. One down on the bucket list)

That salsa is a dance as natural as breathing could be. That you have to do the steps in a way which takes the minimum effort. True it is. We find the easiest way out to complete a step and go the next one. We try to use the least amount of energy. And we rely on simple physics to guide us through our moves. Guess, dance and physics have a high correlation. Or so Sovit says (he knows everything about everything and everything about dance too!). Drop in at Mambo City on a fine Sunday afternoon in Kolkata and see for yourself, how we dance like we breathe.

We are always walking on an incline (salsa people will know what I mean), we are always climbing, we are always moving up. As in salsa, so in life. Told ya! Doing salsa is so much like living. Rather, doing salsa is so much like living in a way you really want to – being natural, doing stuff that you want to do. In salsa, as I am told every Sunday, there are a few basics but no rules. It has come from the streets where people just did it as a celebration. Like life should be a celebration.

We just need to follow the beat and we can do our own stuff! The best salsa is the one that isn’t really choreographed, that which comes with the moment, that which comes straight from the heart. Again, lifelike. Even when I can’t do it, I feel the same when I watch Sovit & Satyaki (my trainers) dancing. As if, it is the most natural thing they do (which is true!). Maybe dancing is like living. Because, dancing (and other things you really really love doing) is what you do when you do not have to worry about things which you think are important but are not as important as you think they are. Makes sense? Maybe! :)

It is the same with all dance forms. For me, it is salsa.

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The beauty of Conversations

conversationIf you have a person, with whom you can keep talking about ‘any topic under the Sun’ and it is not generally bullshit that girlfriends do with each other, NEVER let that person go. Because, a good conversation is like a replenishment for the soul! Like a self filling glass of drink that keeps your evening going. And maybe nights too!

There is a basic necessity of a conversation. Intellect. You feel good after a great conversation. Like you have read a good book, albeit at a much faster rate.

Even as I type this, I’m having a moving parallel conversation with a brilliant friend of mine who is not only an intelligent IITian but also an awesome connoisseur of books, music, films, philosophies.  As she slaps me out of my dream men who are all unreachable, I tell her about a song from the 90s which has a brilliant shayari. And just like that, the conversation moves from worthless relationships to awesome shayris. Then somehow we land onto Khaled Hosseini’s ‘Mountain Echoed & Chitra Bannerjee’s ‘The Palace of Illusions’ and Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Shiva Trilogy’ (has to be there no? :) ) and why the hell is PC being cast as Sati in its motion movie version. The conversation meanders through different realms of life that commonly affects both of us and we learn so much from each other in the process. From scolding each other to feeling ecstasy on discovering songs we both love – it is a plethora of emotions in an hour. And a lot of lessons. Rajshree! You rock girl :)

Not only am I sure, that this is one company I will always cherish, but also I know – that everytime we have such a conversation, I will only come out as a better person, that I will learn – that life is like a great conversation and you keep shifting between phases like moods in a conversation. That as much as you talk, you have to listen also – because that’s what enriches you. That, in this one small little minuscule life,  sometimes it is important to let go, to go with the flow!

There are conversations with self. And there are conversations with people. In all cases, it is the conversation that matters. It could become your music, your turn on aphrodisiac, your food for soul, your necessity for being with people, your way of learning. Let it be something in your life. Don’t let the value of ‘conversations’ go away. Don’t just stagnate. You may not have really lived, if you have not read good books, traveled well, heard good music, did something for someone which they can never pay back and never indulged in heart-centric, moving, awesome rendezvous with awesome people, be they known or unknown!

As they say, “Oh man! A Good conversation is a Rare and a Beautiful thing.”

 

“I failed to become a Space Engineer”

I always wonder what it takes to be a good researcher, considering I want to be one. Is it intelligence or knowledge? Or strength of character?

Sourabh Kaushal has some answers for me :) … He is a Space Debris Researcher. And he is NOT a space engineer. He obliged me with the story of his journey and lessons so far. And I couldn’t keep something so good to myself. The beauty of simple stories – they never fail to inspire. Read on!

Sourabh’s Story

I am Sourabh Kaushal, a 22yr old engineer – Bachelor of technology (Hons.) Electronics and Communication Engineering from Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, Haryana, India. And I hail  from a small district of Haryana called  Yamunanagar.

I spent my childhood in a small village of Himachal. When I was in school I was an average student in class and sometime I was made to sit at the back. So you can say that I was a  backbencher boy.

When I was in class  12th  I developed a bit of  interested in Space Science and Technology. I really wanted to become a space/aerospace engineer but My Dream  is lost now. Read and you will know why!

I failed….I failed many times in my life…

I really wanted to become an IITian when I was in class 12th but I  failed to qualify for it.

I failed…to become a space engineer.

When I was in college I proposed to a girl but she rejected me :) Again I failed.

After engineering I took GATE exam. Again I failed..

I have failed a lot of times in my Life but I have also learned a lot from all these failures.

I believe that” Success consists of going from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm”

So, I could say I really achieved a lot in my life after all these failures. When I was in class 12th I was a bit interested in the topic of human life in space and I used to always wondering about the questions of possibility of existence of human life in space.

In 2008, I got admission in engineering college but not in space engineering(My dream). One day while sitting in the laboratory, I came across the topic of space debris and found it to be very interesting. I wanted to learn more about it and started to dig out its history and recent growth.

When I spoke at events, many student asked me the question -  ‘how to start the research work’ so I would love to share my experience:

First thing is that you should be passionate about your topic, about your subject or work. I am an  electronic engineer by profession but space researcher by passion…I know more about space than electronics even after having spent 4 years in engineering. :)

If you are passionate about something then you will easily achieve it.

I choose the subject i.e. space debris when I was in the first semester of my engineering  and started learning all about it.

Sometime students asked me : how did you manage your schedule when you were a student as you had a lot of semesters, labs, practices, sessionals, exams etc..

I told them to look at all the Nobel prize winners, researchers, achievers. They had  to do their work within 24 hours and yet they achieved. Even you have only 24hours in a day and I’m sure you can manage your time for your dream, your passion..

When I started my research  in 2008, everyone dissuaded my work, even the Chairman of my college, faculty members and  my friends. But I was 100% concentrated on my work and proposed some new methods to mitigate space debris. I review more than 100 research papers i.e. literature survey. I know literature survey is very boring work but it’s important in order to figure out the previous work, drawbacks, missing parts etc.

After literature survey, I started connecting/linking with experts all  over the globe and discussing about my work.

At 18 I wrote my very first research paper and submitted it to ISEC, USA. My very first research  paper stood runner up for Jerome Pearson Award.

This was just the beginning of my journey. I researched a lot on space debris and wrote more research papers. Till date my research papers have got selected in more than 25 International conferences organized by NASA,ISRO,JAXA,IEEE,ISEC etc.

I also received accolades for  my work i.e. runner up “Jerome Pearson Award”, “Dr. Kalpana Chawla Young Scientist Awarrd”, “Young Innovator Award”, and I was also nominated for “Jerome Leaderer Space Safety Award” by IAASS, CANADA.

In 2012 I become an INK Fellow. INK is in association with TED. It is one of the most important and memorable days of my life. INK has given me a huge platform otherwise, coming from a small town there were no proper labs, lack of resources and many other hurdles. But really it was great and unbelievable that I was selected as INK Fellow.

All these awards and achievements have always boosted  up my morale to a great extent.

But, I had my share of  problems too during  the journey – lack of resources, fund problems, no proper guidance being some of them.

There were times when my research papers got selected in USA,JAPAN,EUROPE etc but due to lack of finance I was not able to go there.

Sometime I feel like quitting this research work. There is a lot of dilemma. Whenever I go for job interviews  in Electronics/software company,  the HR says  that you have done a lot of work in space sector so you should go for space company. Sorry there is no vacancy for you!

And when I go for Space company they say –  sorry ! you are not an aerospace/space engineer hence you are not eligible for job. To sustain myself I do need a job.

But then I don’t give up. I’m still doing research work because I am passionate about it, I live for my dream and am sure one day my dream will come true.

When I met students in events and they say that they have great ideas and technologies but no proper platform, I see my old self in them. I faced the same problems during my research work and really do not want these students to go through the same fate.

I discussed this issue with my friends and we are planning for startup. I know I am not an Entrepreneur or a business person but still I am planning for startup in the sector of aviation/space. As this will be the ‘first of its kind’ startup in India in the sector of aviation/space, we are HOPING FOR THE BEST :)

No doubt, my life has been filled with lots of ups and downs but these have given me the strength, inspiration and motivation to do something good with my life. I will always work for the development of society, humanity and nation.

Apart from these, I have  interest  in sports and I have  won few medals in athletics. I love playing cricket and travelling :)

I will just end this note by saying-The true sign of Intelligence is not knowledge but Imagination. So always live for your dream and passion and one day you will achieve them.

To be, you have got to do. And do more than enough.

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