Monday, December 13, 2010

Do not make friends.....

'Kripya anjaan logon se dosti naa karen'... 'Do not befriend strangers' blares the PA system on the Delhi metro from time to time. I registered it the first time. When I heard it for the 3rd time, it got me thinking. It does strike as odd. Since I am not supposed to befriend strangers and everyone is a stranger to me at the time of birth, that implies I will be born and die friendless. If everyone was to take this sage advice seriously, the earth would be divided into 6 billion societies constituting 1 person each. I know I may be taking this arguement too far and the intention of the person who had this message written was just to caution people against trusting someone too much. The choice of words, however, is terribly wrong, which brings me to the point of this post.

What drives messages like these? Insecurity. In other words, the concern for security. It could be the concern for someone's personal security or the concern for the security of a country/society. In the last week, I have seen a friend cancel a trip to the North East and have seen another one feeling anxious about being locked in together with 3 unknown people in the 1st AC compartment of a train. I have myself not done lots of things over my life labelling them as 'dangerous' or 'not-safe'. We do that to drinking water all the time. Dont get me wrong. I am not criticizing anything or anyone. Infact, I do understand where the concerns stem from, which is why it is even more important to consider what this leads to.

Today, as we live in a world close to the one George Orwell vividly pictured in his masterpiece 1984, our thoughts governed by the mass media, we live in constant fear. Fear of being looted, fear of being conned, fear of being fooled, fear of being killed, harmed, injured, raped, taken ill. Infact, we keep inventing new fears all the time. While the fears in themselves are understandable because insecurity is the key to survival, the question is where is the line between being insecure for survival and being insecure in general. This question is important for it determines what we do with our lives.

I dont have a big point here. I am just wondering. How many times do we not have new experiences because our insecurity does not let us do so?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Missed Opportunities

During over a year of travelling, thinking and vagabonding, I have come to realize that every time you make a choice to do something, you are also making a choice to not do many other things. The question I am faced at the end of any period is 'Did I make the right choices?' This is not an efficiency tirade. So, I am not discussing whether I made the most efficient use of my time. Its just a question of whether I did what I would have liked to do and whether I was good enough to overcome inertia and try out things I wanted to. Looking back at my 'independent life', which I would count as having started from 1999, when I was 17 and joined Bachelors in Engineering, a lot of opportunities have come my way. 11 years and counting to be precise. Each second of these 11 years, I have made choices to do something or sit idle. How have I fared? What have I missed? Below is a laundry list of things I could have done but did not do (and this is much shorter than it should be because I dont remember most of what I missed). I am sure if I think hard, I can find reasons (read excuses) to justify why I did not do these but thats beside the point. The opportunity was there, I was around, the time was right and I did not do it. This list will hopefully serve as a reminder of how much have I missed versus how little have I really done.

  1. Life in graduation - joined 1999, ended 2003 with a B Tech in Electronics and Communication
    • Missed learning French/German - course was on offer, I attended one class and gave up.
    • Missed travelling around - was young, did not care about comforts, could have seen the length and breadth of East India but chose not to. Was anyway not attending lots of classes.
    • Missed being a good engineer - poor attendance, lack of interest in general.
    • Missed playing badminton - was good at it but never did it regularly enough. Played once for college but did not follow up.
    • Missed listening to new music - had people from all states of India, all listening to their regional music plus lots of them listening to English music. I just stuck to what I liked and only added some to my PC when I liked them. Never tried anything new out of the blue.
    • Missed drinking - had a mental block (or whatever) against drinking. The one opportunity I had to try everything and be silly, I missed.
    • Missed Bengali food - had converted to vegetarianism a couple of years before I joined and continued. Missed the brilliant bengali fish preparations and lots of other non veg food.
  2. Life in Post Graduation - joined 2003, ended 2005 with a PGDM
    • Missed studies - yet again!
    • Missed drinking and non veg yet again - Lucknow had the best selection of non veg joints and the brilliant Awadhi cuisine and I had none of it. Mistake repeated from Bengal!
    • Missed learning new sports - had good sporting infrastructure, could have tried out tennis, volleyball but never did it for long enough to really learn.
    • Missed partying - there was a weekly party at the institute, drinking, dancing, fooling around et al and I had none of it.
  3. Life in Chennai - worked for Citigroup for about 21 months
    • Missed travel - hardly saw anything except local Chennai. South India was beckoning and I was sleeping.
    • Missed local food - for a while till I was veggie, I missed Chettinad cuisine. Had the sense to convert later.
    • Missed learning swimming - was earning well enough to pay for lessons but never did it.
    • Missed learning anything - outside office, I learnt nothing new.
    • Missed staying fit - transformed into a balloon.
    • Missed meeting friends - was too 'busy' with work.
  4. Life in London - worked for Citigroup for about 27 months
    • Missed travel - travelled about 4 countries, could have done much better.
    • Missed drinking - of all things, missed drinking while in London. The breadth of offering was mind boggling but my mind was closed.
    • Missed making many new friends - dont ask why, I dont know.
    • Missed historical sites - went to quite a few but missed many more.
Have you ever thought on these lines? What are the opportunities you have missed? Please feel free to post in comments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Footloose in Dilli

Its winter again. There is no trekking again. I go crazy again. This winter, its walking Old Delhi (Dilli) and learning Spanish. Its not all crazy though. Learning a language has been a long standing dream. Walking Delhi is a way of getting out of my comfort zone (again!) and doing something diametrically opposite to what I have done in the last over 1 year. It promises to be as different from mountain trekking as is possible.

All of it goes on a blog called 'Footloose in Dilli'. Suggestions and company for the walk are welcome.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

They Killed Me

I am dying tonight. I was born virgin, untouched. Virgin of body, virgin of mind, virgin of thought. The whole world was my playground. Everything beckoned me to do my bidding. Get out in the open air to walk my own path, make my own mistakes, cry over them, correct course, learn, be a better person and go on with life. Along the way meet new people, try everything there was to try, fail many times, getting up each time to walk towards the end of life. The day I would lie on my death bed, my life would be a rich tapestry of my experiences, a kaleidoscope of my many colourful adventures. I would have loved, been loved, hated, been hated, stolen hearts, had my heart stolen, broken hearts and would have had mine broken.

Before I had started, I had someone coming over to me and talk to me in hushed tones. It seemed they were telling me some secret noone else knew and I listened intently. I took it seriously. Along the way, I met others who would come to me, tell me things. Each time, I thought they were right and that I was making mistakes. They wanted me to learn from theirs. I did. I avoided paths they had taken and failed on. I treaded with caution on many paths. I looked at some from afar and remembered to not take them. I looked at some others from afar and was tempted to take them but resisted.

There were times I saw people taking the forbidden paths. Many of them fell over, had their teeth shattered, had themselves laughed at. It almost looked dark from far. Their paths were lonely, fraught with danger at every turn. It did not look like living at all. 'Surrendering to evil' is what they called it.

Looking back at what I have been, I dont see much. I just see a path which has many footsteps on it. It is hard, compacted. There are no footprints anymore. I cant see mine. I dont know who I have been. I have achieved a lot in life. I have things to show for it. I have succeeded. I have not lived. I am dying not knowing who I was, who I am, not even knowing what I could have been.

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 22, 2010

The end of a road

He was encumbered in thoughts. Thoughts circling his mind, thoughts searing his heart. Thoughts that refused to go away, thoughts that refused to let him get away. Outside, a cold, wintry rain was lashing down. The wind was howling, the thunder growling. It was violent and tempestuous. Suddenly, he got up, put on his waterproofs and walked out. Clad all in black, a hood all but covering his face and walking on a grey road, he cut a forlorn, almost a morose figure. There was no one on the country lane for miles. Two jet black crows were cawing on grey electricity wires.

As he walked a little up the lane, his feet, almost as if by instinct led him to a uphill dirt track. A grey dirt track leading through a black jungle. Two roads divulged in the wood and he took the one he had not walked on. As he walked up the road, it got muddier before culminating near two mud huts. That was when he remembered he had been here earlier. It was the road he had not taken that he had not been on. 'I really am thoughts', he thought to himself.

Scrambling down some rocks, pushing and racking through wet, spiny bushes, he found the road he had not taken. The sky was getting greyer and the day blacker. Mud was clinging to his boots, making them heavy and encumbered, refusing to go away. The rain drops were getting bigger and denser, scattering all over in no patterns. As he passed a small house, a dog started barking and kept barking long after he was out of sight. Nature seemed to talking in metaphors.

Further down the hill, other small tracks led away. He kept to the main track, it held more promise of taking him away from his thoughts. The rain was numbing only his hands. The thoughts were refusing to leave him. The heart was less anxious but the mind was still racing. He fell twice in the mud, each time picking himself up and walking on. A little further, it was the end of a road. There was a small footpath leading to a stream. He walked past the fields towards the stream. The stream had dirty, muddy water in it, dull brown and grey rocks around it.

He sat down on one of the rocks. Head down, legs crossed, a thoughtful expression on his face. The rain came down harder. Rain drops hit him hard on the chest, sending a searing pain through his body. They made a deafening noise in his ears and head, which refused to let him be. Nature was still talking in metaphors. The walk had not really helped. He got up, tried to best collect his thoughts and walked back home. He had not realized how far he had come.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Other Winner

Long ago, in one of my drunken blogs, I praised Buddha for what he was and proclaimed him 'The Winner'. It was a U-turn from my earlier stance of thinking what he was a loser. Yet another, I am drunk. Yet again, its time to write about something I have been wanting to.

There was a man called Kabir Das, lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. There has been enough written about him, including on the wikipedia link. Thats not the point though. The point is all that people say of him on the web or elsewhere is nonsense. Unfortunately, Kabir wrote in old colloquial Hindi. For a generation which does not understand basic Hindi, understanding Kabir is a chore. The result is books which attempt to translate Kabir and such pathetic attempts to translate, I have never seen.

Being drunk, I think I understand Kabir. Its as if I am a contemporary, as if he discussed everything with me before he penned it down. Kabir is not about prescription. Kabir is not about fixation. Kabir is not about conformism. He is about everything you dont associate with literature. He is about life. He is subjective. He is open to interpretation. You will read what you want to read. Its your mindset which will determine what you make of it or not make of it. Its a blank canvas. He leaves you with a thought. You paint it and come out with a picture. When you look at the picture, thats not what Kabir is. It is what you are and therein lies the beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

Kabir says on love

सबै रसायन हम किया, प्रेम समान न कोय।
रंचक तन में संचरै, सब तन कंचन होय।।

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The death of Hindi

I am no jingoistic nationalist linguist ruing what many have rued before me. I just happen to belong to a generation which I believe is single handedly responsible for making Hindi what it is today. I am from a generation which is not good at Hindi and is proud of it. We are anyway sh*te at English but like to think we know it well. I have to strain my senses to speak one complete sentence strung together with only Hindi words. I am not much better at English either. I write a blog in English and maintain a site in English, partly because I cant write much Hindi and even if I manage to, my readers sure wont understand most of it. We also live in times where people are judged on their English speaking abilities. If you are polite and speak Hindi, you have probably not made it in life and would never do it. If you speak English, courtesy does not matter. You are very likely either someone big or someone connected or both.

I wonder how it came to this. I am not one of those people who whinge at change. Its nice to see things changing, thats the way it is supposed to be. To see a language dying, however is sad. To see an entire art of expressing your thoughts wilt away? To see tons of literature, where you can learn a lot from going waste? These are just catastrophic scenarios and yet they are coming true. By letting the education system veer towards teaching everything in English (except thankfully Hindi as a language) and not do it well and then let the world buy our 'cheap English speaking skills' (which are dubious at best), I dont know where we have reached. In isloation, I dont think either of this is bad. English is the international language, no harm learning it. If you speak better English than others and can earn bread for it, thats even better. What are the fallouts though? That we are often found lacking to find words?

I dont want to cringe and whinge more. By letting it reach here, Hindi does not lose. I am the loser. Starting today, I am going to start reading some long pending Hindi books, only because there is a lot to learn there which I have been missing. I may not find all of them here. Will anybody volunteer to send me some books please? Dont worry, I will pay.