Archive for the It’s all about the soul Category

My Happy Place

Posted in It's all about the soul with tags on October 6, 2016 by Shry

He didn’t have one. So much so that he had stopped noticing it a long time ago. Is unhappiness a mere absence of happiness? Is happiness tangible? Could he put a label on the darkness that had consumed his free spirit, his very soul?

He went through life normally enough. Those who knew him, or thought they did, often associated grand words with him. Achiever, go-getter, confident, smart, intelligent, good looking. Basically the perfect package. He had felt gratified, satisfied, arrogant even, then modest. Until he stopped noticing it altogether. Until it stopped mattering. Until he sank back into his usual unusual existence.

But in today’s technology-driven times, how long can you stay immune from the emotions of the world around you? Not long. Those emotions came hurriedly to taunt him, mock him, demean him. They came to remind him brutally of all that he didn’t have, and never would. He had fallen off the wagon a long time ago, and getting back on it wasn’t even a remote possibility. Never a fan of TV, and an increasingly insane internet had pushed him deeper into his work, his books and his solitude. That was where he sometimes came close to that alien organism called Happiness. But that damned technology! It wouldn’t let him rest, would it? A random Instagram post about family and love and flowers and happy faces and countless hashtags had come like a thunderbolt from a perennially stormy sky. He hated thunder. He hated the one who had posted the picture even without knowing a thing about that person. He swallowed the bitterness, or was it envy, and immersed himself in his chores.

Over dinner, as someone switched on the TV, he welcomed the distraction for once. But that goddamn technology again! The screen filled with ads about the festive season, shopping offers for big happy families and what-not. He lost his appetite. Memories swamped him, his usual fortress of dispassionate acceptance crumbled and for once, he couldn’t escape. His mind was forced back into time. When was his last real Diwali? He could not remember. Perhaps nearly nine years back but he couldn’t be sure. He had burnt each and every mental bridge that could weaken him, so how could he recollect anything? A broken home, a lost sibling that made him lose so much more, an existence that had so nearly been extinguished chasing false love. The outer facade remained impeccable. Good grades, good manners, good job, good life. Just a hollow epitaph. He detested himself.

The diya can only brighten up so much. Where does the rest of the glow come from? He had stopped seeking these answers now. Not even three decades on the planet but he felt so old. So tired. Once as a young fool, he had tried to rebuild it all, not quite sure of the damage he felt, but sure that he was going to be alone. Seduced by sweet words and grand expressions, he had begun the lonely walk to Hell. He returned, but minus illusions and innocence. It had been more or less a downward spiral from thereon.

He could no longer be stable or satisfied. There is always always a restlessness within him. Like forever running after a train but never getting on, just seeing it fade away. When at one place, he wanted to be at the next. When awake , he wanted to sleep. When asleep, he struggled against the unceasing panic of missing the train. When at a party, he wanted to be alone, and when alone, his loneliness haunted him. When single, he wanted to be loved. When loved, he awaited the inevitable heartbreak. When unhappy, he wanted happiness. When happy…well that’s the problem, isn’t it? There was no happiness. He often thought long and hard, trying to pin his finger at that one moment when normalcy left him for good. He would do anything to return to that one precise moment. Could he erase the slate? His laptop had been giving him trouble and a friend had suggested he try ‘system restore.’ Did that work for Life?

He looks at the clock. Time owns him. As he writes, his mind wanders away to all the pending work. Files to be read,  letters to be drafted, notes to be studied, presentations to be made, meetings to be attended. But he already knows that he will yearn for the comfort and anonymity of sharing himself with a paper. Paper cannot hurt you. Paper cuts heal and are forgotten.

But time beckons him. His existence, devoid of any true purpose, yet governed by technology, gadgets and a hopeless pursuit of success (happiness?), that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, mocks him.

He thinks of those happy families on TV, and Insta and FB and wherever. He think of his own, the so-called. He thinks of the family he can perhaps make, but doubts.

Then, he starts shaking with mirthless laughter, shaking his head to shake of these strange cobwebs of emotions trying to creep up on him. He pushes the pen and paper aside, turns on his laptop and to feel better, clicks on ‘system restore.’

Rejection of a Woman

Posted in It's all about the soul on April 16, 2014 by Shry

Woman. Beyond the anatomy of curves lies a creature with deep emotions. With an intensity that can awe or terrify you. With a passion that can intimidate or satiate you. With a need that can build or emasculate you. Or all of it.

She can feel. She could be the clever, manipulative bitch who rips you apart or she could be the devoted, loving angel. She will always be sublime. Which is why the smallest of gestures, or their lack, can topsy-turvy a woman’s entire universe.

I saw them strolling one night in the campus. It was a balmy evening, and darkness had just descended. That those two were taking a walk was socially acceptable. Because a married couple is so completely legitimate in India. Marriage is magically expected to breed love and care and concern and a whole lot of other entities with a high nuisance value. Anyhow, they strolled on and I continued on my way to my destination on a parallel path.

I smiled when I saw her link her arm through his. I was aghast when he extricated himself roughly from that link.

And that gesture unleashed a torrent of thought and emotions within me.

Whatever it is that a woman feels, she feels with intensity. Its usually everything or nothing. I could see no harm in two people walking hand-in-hand, married or otherwise. There was no cause for any self-consciousness. And even if there was, certain things can be done gently too. Because when a man rejects a woman’s touch, it affects the woman more than just physically. It is not a mere rejection of a physical gesture but a rejection of all the emotions that formed the gesture. He didn’t just place a barrier of physicality when he dumped his wife’s hand away from himself. He rejected their intimacy. He rejected their common path ahead.

A woman’s touch on a man’s body, when it transcends lust, is rooted in some of the most fundamental instincts known to the human race. A woman holding a man’s hand, or placing her arm around him, or linking her arm through his, or leaning on his shoulder…it implies a very high degree of trust. It is a manifestation of her expectation that he will protect her. It shows that she doesn’t feel threatened and feels completely safe in that moment. That he is there.

When a man rejects that gesture, he rejects all of this, even if unwittingly.

When he rejected her that evening, he rejected her very existence.

A woman’s rejection can only be absolute. And that rejection slaughters her soul. Absolutely.

Dilemma of Emotion

Posted in It's all about the soul on April 14, 2014 by Shry

I noticed them almost 4 years back in what was then the town’s most popular bakery. For us students, it was a routine break from the day’s tedium to go there and gorge on good food. Prices were on the rise everywhere, but our young, carefree minds tended to take a lot of things for granted. A fleeting moment of dilemma on a stranger’s face gave a brief pause to life.

I stood at the payment counter, tapping my fingers impatiently. I wanted the goddamn payment receipt. A sudden gust of warm air rushed into the cool interiors as someone opened the main door to enter the bakery. I threw a casual glance over my shoulder and saw a boy of not more than 4 or 5 walk in, holding tightly onto his grandfather’s hand. The boy was wide-eyed and it was obvious that the array of chocolates, pastries, burgers and cookies had transported him to fantasy-land. I couldn’t help but be amused. Next, my eyes travelled to the old man. Wearing the traditional white cap over his head and with a  flowing white beard, the qazi’s face had a remarkedly different expression- apprehension? Worry? Doubt? He looked around, taking in the surroundings. It was evident that shops like the one we were in had not been a mainstay in his life. It was evident that he felt devoid of armour in those swanky interiors. It was evident that even the casual stares made him uncomfortable. It was evident that he would go through the same discomfiture a hundred times again for that look of wonder on his grandson’s face.

I had long been handed my payment-slip, and I was now standing at the other counter, awaiting my order. I couldn’t take my eyes off the pair. I don’t know why. I often wonder whether I was reminded of my own grandfather.

The old man gently extricated his hand from the young child’s grip and took some money out of his kurta pocket. It was then I observed the frayed collar, the sleeves that were thin enough to let threads show, the chappals which were worn thin from years of use. Money in hand, he took the child’s hand again and shuffled over to the place where an assortment of pastries was displayed. The counter-guy rattled off- vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate, blackberry, strawberry, etc. etc. I found his indifference a lot more comforting than the disdain I had been expecting. The grandfather looked down at the lad and asked him what he wanted. At being asked, his smile lit up the entire room! He looked happily at his grandfather, then at the display and pointed at a simple pineapple pastry. Definitely one of the not-so-expensive ones. The old man looked at where the boy had pointed, and also read the price-tag displayed there. The next few moments are forever etched in my mind. A look of pain crossed his wizened face. His hand closed over the money. His eyes moved to the boy next to him whose nose was firmly pressed into the glass of the display case and who was still mesmerized. The pain was overtaken by a resolute set of the mouth. He got the payment slip. Collected the pastry and the plastic spoon. Then that old back which had been bent low under the burdens of life bent down again, but this time to break a piece off the white pastry, and put it into an eager mouth of a very young child, for whom this was one of the highlights of life. The old man didn’t eat even a crumb. He gave it all to his grandson, content and happy. They left.

Suddenly my carefree spending felt like a burden I no longer wanted to carry.

In that moment, the old man and the child were a lot more richer than most of us.

Messy Affairs

Posted in It's all about the soul with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2013 by Shry

Yes that’s exactly what affairs tend to be. Messy. Affairs of the heart, that is. But in a social sense, an affair alludes to a relationship between two individuals that occurs after social and moral boundaries have been breached. They are the consequence of willful transgressions. But I am not entirely convinced with the moral (nee religious!) argument people generally advance. As a society, we tend to look at things in black or white, often ignoring the grey in the middle, the consideration of which is an absolute must. But when it comes to affairs, especially the extra-marital ones to be precise, we ignore the grey. We Need to ignore it, because examining it would throw open a Pandora’s box that would involve emotions, social mores, psychology, need, want and acceptance. And that just won’t do, would it? That won’t suit the society that thinks of an ‘affair’ only in terms of lust, sex and cheating. But the bitter truth is that when we reduce an affair to just lust or sex, we trivialize to a point beyond redemption. We lose the grey, which is so inherently required to make us more sensitive, understanding and perhaps responsible too. Because an average person doesn’t wake up one fine morning and decide that he/she wants to ‘cheat’ on their spouse! An affair might or might not have lust as its undercurrent, just as there is an equal probability that the undercurrent, the aim being sought is simply comfort, acceptance, security, perhaps love and quite certainly an ever-elusive happiness.

A married woman is ‘involved’ with a man not her husband. Call her a whore, a slut, a woman devoid of character for having desecrated the sacred institution of marriage. Oh look at her cheating! O she will rot in hell! But perhaps, beneath the obvious is a terribly lonely and broken woman. Perhaps she is battling an abusive marriage. Perhaps the man she is ‘involved’ with is not just ‘bedding’ her, but maybe he listens to her when she speaks, comforts her when she is shattered, holds her when she is crying and above all, respects her because she IS. And there is that urban yuppie with a fantastic job, married to a gorgeous goddess. His life has all the pretense of an idyllic postcard. But maybe deep within him is a vacuum that seeks not a body to satiate itself with but a soul to embrace. God forbid if this ‘adulterer’ is ‘having an affair’ with a woman who is married to! And even if she isn’t, he has already been labelled by the self-appointed feminist brigade as the typical chauvinistic pig who heartlessly cheated on his lovely wife with a woman who ‘isn’t worth it’. Nobody bothered looking into the shackles his unhappy and loveless marriage is, held together only by a marriage certificate but otherwise as empty and vacant as death. Or somebody else who is caring for a terminally ill spouse, but needs someone to take care of their own scars, somebody to go home to when it is all over.  Or somebody who simply got tired of making ‘it’ work. Or someone who is simply stuck with a real monster!

Perhaps certain transgressions are wrong, while some are not. Justifications might or might not suffice. Hell, they might not even be needed! Perhaps black is white and white is black. But to lose sight of the grey would be to lose sight of our inner selves. And maybe chasing happiness (but not skirts) is not really a crime. Judging people should be, though.

Perhaps a ‘it’s complicated’ might be the dusk before the dawn.

Thirsting for more…

Posted in It's all about the soul with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2013 by Shry

Your sojourns in far-away lands will bring you face-to-face with hundreds of people. These people will be fellow travellers, tourists, drivers, guides, kids, locals, photographers, newspaper vendors, caretakers of your accommodation, maids, street urchins, etc etc etc.  They pass by you like the gentle breeze. Unseen, but pleasantly felt. If you are a traveller, no experience of yours can be complete without such people. No matter how many places you see, or how much money you spend, none of it will matter if your memories don’t touch upon a soul that touched you in its own way. There must always be that core within you where you safeguard those cherished whispers of the world that were muttered to you through words, smiles and glances.

You come across these people. People you wish you could spend more time with. Perhaps sit down over a meal or a hot chai and talk endlessly. Hear their stories, steal a peep into their lives just as you allow them a few into your own, laugh with them about their wonders, cry with them about their sorrows, contemplate with them about the purpose of life or even why India’s cricket team lost to Australia! It is all a part of our journeys, and the journey of life. It is an insatiable hunger, nearly a lost cause, because you have to forge ahead. You cannot stay at one place for too long. Your wanderlust keeps pushing you and you keep chasing it. But none of this takes away that feeling within you that someday, you must stop and dance before the music ends. Someday, you must sit down with Tashi, your driver in a small kingdom, who drove you around with a gaiety that you are not used to in your part of the world, a hopping walk as he came to you when you beckoned him, him randomly singing along with a song on the radio, and his shy goodbye as he blushed when you gave him a hug for being a sweetheart. Someday, you must sit down with Karma, a mother of 3 working round the clock to make ends meet and to fulfill her lifelong dream of having her own small hotel. Someday, you must sit down with the old, bespectacled caretaker of a guest-house who personifies Tennyson’s “…men may come and men may go, but i go on forever…”.  Someday, you must sit down with another Tashi in another part of the world and laugh in utter amusement and merriment as you see how books and cigarettes can form a bond among strangers in the most inhospitable of terrains! Someday, you must sit down with Torton and perhaps watch him play with his colouring book, feeling your heart melt under his angelic smile. Someday, you must take a walk with the old saadhu and listen to his monologue on religion and modernism…And the list is endless. The Tashis, Karmas and saadhus of the world are many. Everyone has a story to tell that is unique and remarkable in its simplicity, and yet intriguing in its endless diversity. It is upto you to sit down with the patience that travel doesn’t permit, and enrich yourself. You MUST thirst for more.

There is so much more to a place than just the tourist spots. People constitute culture, and the culture makes up a place. And this is undoubtedly the real essence of real travel.

The thirst must remain. To seek more, to know more, about people, about places, the why and how of everything and anything. Because only this thirst can propel you forward towards new frontiers, new shores.

Only this thirst can someday complete you.

Woh canteen wala Baccha…

Posted in It's all about the soul on May 23, 2013 by Shry

He is a young little thing, not more than 10. I know nothing about him except the fact that he is a helper in the hostel canteen. It’s easy to not even notice him, lost as he is in the multitude of scrawny, barefoot kids running around the shanties of the labour which is out in full force as the construction of the campus continues. I must have seen him a dozen times handing out the dishes ordered by perennially hungry students over the canteen counter. But like I said, you can easily forget the fact that he exists.

But last night, I did manage to acknowledge his humble existence. It was dinner time and I thought that a helping of yogurt might make the tasteless food easier to consume. So I sauntered over to the small canteen nestled in a corner right outside the main mess, and without looking, asked for a cup of yogurt. Or so I thought. Because though a voice answered my query, I couldn’t see anyone. I arched an eyebrow at this divine intervention in my quest for yogurt, but just then, I spotted a pair of big brown eyes staring up at me from the other side of the canteen counter, and a sheepish smile. He was so tiny that he couldn’t even reach the top of the counter without standing on tiptoes, and then too he barely managed! I couldn’t help but smile as I repeated my query. He replied, “Haan didi, dahi hai na!” and padded over to the mini refrigerator in the other corner of the small room. If the counter had been high for him, the topmost shelf of the fridge was nothing short of the Everest summit! I watched in amusement as he stood, then stood on tiptoes and finally began hopping in an attempt to see whether there was any yogurt, though with the typical innocence and bravado of the young, he had declared that what I wanted was very much there. But I also suspect that he has been taught to Never give a direct NO for an answer, as the loss of a customer is a loss of a tiny bit of the revenue the canteen generates. For someone who is still in the single digit bracket of age, and who cannot take anything in life for granted, least of all money, this is nothing short of a big calamity. From where I stood, I could see the neat line on yogurt cups on the shelf, and I said the same to him. Upon hearing me, he stopped hopping and turned to look at me with bewildered eyes that clearly seemed to ask, “But how do I reach there?”. I took in his small frame. Big brown eyes set in a dark-skinned face, a shock of brittle brown hair running in all directions on his head, parched lips, and small limbs seeming all the more thin in a frayed maroon sweater, grey trousers and sandals, all of which had seen better days. But it were his eyes and smile that defined him in my memory. The pure innocence, not yet corrupted by the ways of the world, the easy smile, the expressions of happiness, surprise, bewilderment, confusion and concentration that went through his eyes like the ever-changing colours in a prism…

As he faced his nemesis i.e. the topmost shelf of the fridge, I could see a mix of everything mentioned above reflected in his cute eyes. Luckily for him, the man who runs the canteen came to his rescue and took a cup of yogurt and handed it to him. He again padded back to the counter where I stood, and meekly placed the cup there. I put the money in his tiny brown hands, the harshness of the winter evident in the form of dryness of skin, and he quickly brought back the change. I smiled and thanked him. Again those eyes shone and his lips broke into a merry, happy smile as his smile replied shyly. I took my purchase and headed back to where my friends were sitting in the mess. I tucked into my dinner, but my thoughts were still at the canteen counter.

I see him everyday, doing his chores, running around, getting yelled at by the canteen-man. I see him in his maroon sweater everyday. Tomorrow, I might ask him about his parents. I might ask him where he’s from, I might ask him how he ended up here. I might ask him whether he goes to school. I might even offer to help him with his alphabets and numbers.

But Today, I will ask the canteen wala baccha for his name…

Radically Insane!

Posted in It's all about the soul on May 23, 2013 by Shry

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DRACONIAN- The term Draco refers to an Athenian lawgiver from around 620-630 BCE who was noted for a very strict code of conduct, with swift and disproportionately harsh punishments. Rather fitting for the name Dracos, which refers to a constellation in the northern sky, representing a dragon.

Oh how I love this word! The sense of peace I feel when the media and civil rights groups use this word for a law is unmatched. As a citizen, I appear to be empathizing for the wrong party here i.e. the government. But I cannot deny that I hold an inherent disregard and disdain for the self appointed guardians of the moral, ethical and human rights in the society. The anti government rants which are becoming more and more anti-national with the passage of time, the high pitched shrieking of holier than thou men and women with the sole aim of enforcing their agendas, their misleading of the poor, ignorant masses that have started thinking of strikes and dharnas and blockades as some sort of a national past time- a draconian response, a legal draconian response is what all this really deserves.

The argument of democracy and fundamental rights also falls flat on its face. These are doctrines nay phenomenon that have been misused and abused so shamelessly by those charged with honouring them, govt and citizens alike, that they have been reduced to mere clichés, especially in a country like ours. Freedom of expression! Right to speech! Media freedom! Constitution! Ooooooooooooowww!! Such terrible, terrible follies of the human mind! Having been an ardent supporter of true democracy and everything which it entails, today I really cant help but wonder about the sagacity of this argument. Freedom but to what extent? Rights but where are the corresponding duties? Unabashed hunger for power and wealth but a complete annihilation of national interest. This is the corruption of present day society and that is why any absolute liberty to citizens needs to be given a raincheck. Excessive power in the hands of the not so common common man has hollowed the very foundations of this society. Common man is no longer a term used for the unheard voice, the silent sentinel who keeps doing his work with a bowed head. The true common man has been consumed by the pseudo victims. And this great opera of rights and liberty and other fancy terms that these creatures keep espousing only diminishes the idea behind these truly once-great concepts. Rightly said. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And this is why TADA, POTA (now repealed), ESMA, AFSPA, UAPA, NIA Act, MCOCA, etc (just to name a few) are amazing statutes with some genuinely strict provisions that must be enforced to their last letter. Draconian they might be, but laws come into existence only on the basis of factors existing in the society. So if these statutes exist, it is because we as a people asked for them to be brought into existence. Today, the exact conditions of their genesis might not exist and that’s why certain safeguards can be placed in the system, but to do away with a statute entirely especially without a suitable replacement is an invitation to more trouble. A draconian law is what will shut up such radically misconcept laden masses and bring them back to sanity, even if by force because that force will give way to a new dawn of logic and reason. Once the national past time shifts from crippling the administration and constitutional machinery of the state to fulfilling ones obligations and duties, we WILL start moving on a path of true development. Inclusive, holistic development. At no point of time, there needs to be a suspension of that much harped about freedom and liberty, but the fear needs to be instilled that nothing can be taken for granted and nefarious activities against the state will be met by an iron response. The slumber that we are in, well this might be the only thing left for the government to do, not that there is anything even remotely good about them. But well we put them there.

People get the government they deserve. We might as well abide.