Of Home and Happiness

As I stand here under the light of a fancy and retro neon lamp in our car porch, I can’t help but feel enormously happy. No, I didn’t win the lottery, I didn’t get a free ticket to Paris and I certainly wasn’t invited to dine with my favourite author ( Ooh, la la , does anyone smell hypocrisy?)

I’m happy because of the new fancy light and everything that came with it.

For 20 years, I’ve lived alongside the same switch panels, the wise old creaking fans and half plastered walls. Even the furniture, crockery, pictures, rugs, cushions, vases and door handles which were once carefully assembled by my young and hopeful parents had not budged an inch for twenty long years. They peacefully sat there, took roots and grew old with everyone else. They never begged to be moved even as they lay victims to the torture of two dogs. The charm of their newness soon wore out to give way to what we called home. There was something very kind, loving and accepting of those chipped wall paint and rusted hinges. Something that said, “we’re all flawed here, relax, you’re at home”

Our home felt dignified but approachable. Artfully sculpted in Red Bricks, the house managed to balance five lives in it. It embodied our spiritual values and merits with utter care and gentleness. Fifteen years into living very chaotically inside our home, we realized that this gentle structure whose only life was what we lent it had ultimately gone the limit. The charm of the rusting hinges were once comforting but now it irritated. The fan creaked but it no longer managed to lull us to sleep. The mysterious weeds which began to grow on the sun shade were no longer a mystery and officially a threat. But, since, life gets quite the thrill in taking us on a radically different course than what we hoped for, we overlooked attending to this aged edifice that gave us security. In short, it became quite an impossibility to continue living there. And so after seven exhausting and long months of revamping the house, it is back to good health.

Every nook and corner brims with happiness. As I run around clicking the new switches off and on, they sound overjoyed. The lights blink in confusion of finding themselves in this new place and the paint emanates the smell of bloom. Why, even the stench of the varnish has some delight to it. And now once again the process starts. Once again we get to grow older together and as I stand here under the fancy retro neon lamp, I see that some spiders have started to wrap the lamp in cobweb to call it their home. And now we are home and we are happy.

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A Favorite Proposition

 

Growing up meant always having answers to what our favorites were; favorite color, favorite book, favorite person…. But back then, we were not as complicated as we are now.  Our limited exposure to things made it cent times easier to favor a certain something. But as we grew up, we went through experiences that inevitably changed us and had the final say in who we are today. This 20 year old doesn’t remember what her five year old self felt so strongly about.  I can dimly recall that blue was my favorite color, fifteen years back, since I took a certain fascination to the calmness of the azure sky.  I can declare, without muddling up my brain, that my favorite book was Wacky Wednesday, because, quite simply put, that book got me. However, today it seems as though the only thing I carried throughout these 20 years was just my name. Everything else from perspectives to favorites were dropped on the way. Of course, this is how it is and how it should be. But, the fact that I can’t pick “one” favorite out of anything irks the hell out of me!

I used to believe that having a favorite something helps us identify ourselves and establish ourselves in the world as a stable entity with clearly chalked out opinions and ideas, but the more I’m thinking of this, the more I’m realizing that having experienced so much more than what I did at five, it will be a cold day in hell before I pick just one of the lot.  But this is just me. And so it came as quite a shock to me when I came to know a handful of adults who have perfected the art of self categorization by being very lucid about what their favorites are. But this doesn’t shock me now. After a few hours of researching and reading up on a bit of psychology, I learned that our tastes are hardwired for life at the ages 14 and 24 since this is the peak of our emotional and sexual awakening and we tend to be more open and accepting of things at these ages. And, as we grow older our personality gets more and more cemented until it gets its final and forever shape at 30.

Groundbreaking Harvard Psychologist William James had a little something to say on this topic. In his 1890 text, The Principles of Psychology, James observes that our personality settles down and stabilizes in our adulthood. He says,

“In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again,”

and Brian. R. Little agrees. He says the same in his book Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. Even worse, he goes on to laugh at the human condition and remarks,

“You’re doomed! What you’ve got now — that’s it,”

The point is, our personality gets muted after 30 and we stop changing. We will have staunch principles,strict set of favorites and a short fuse.  We will grow to become like our parents and we most certainly will attain a holier than thou status by throwing contempt at the new music and trends. ( I’m already imagining myself a stooped 163 cm figure, bitter, grumpy and worrying about where the world seems to be headed). But it doesn’t have to be that way. ( We will come back to this shortly)

The point I’m quite desperately trying to drive home has to do everything regarding the importance of resisting self-categorization. I admit, this is Science and everything seems to be drawn out for us but all this science are just more reasons as to why we should stop confining ourselves in little cages in an attempt to pin ourselves down. We should always be in a constant flux. We should be trying out new authors, movies and genres. And to the ones like me who don’t really have one favorite but many, I say, we have the right to be nonplussed by the odd question which is ” What is your favorite______?”

We aren’t five anymore. We have gone on to experience a million different colors and songs. It is impossible to pick one. Maybe making us feel less than adequate wasn’t intended but take the plot of your average Rom Com! Boy meets girl and both are united owing to their shared interest in some obscure musical band and they live happily ever after. ( This doesn’t make much sense here but garn! I’m so done with these mindless plots!)

Our favorites don’t really give enough insights regarding the people we really are. They are NOT the leading edge of our personalities and they should stop defining us. Our likes and dislikes are variable, they change depending on our mood and situation and, no, this question does not reveal the deepest mysteries of our consciousness. Coming back to, you-can’t-change-after-30, you can change after thirty but it would be harder than how it would have been when you were 21! Also, liking the same old stuff until you die is as exciting as watching paint dry. So, go out and get your hands on everything. Sometimes it’s better to be the Jack of all trades.

Nothing Matters

Having lived 20 years inside the rapture and weariness of my own mind, I can quite decisively state the importance of being left alone to nature. Heres why. We are birthed without our will and have to wade our way through a throng of turbulent and unpredictable faces. It’s on us to deal with every knot and tangle of these nerves up in our head! Funny is it not? We navigate the world with the help and decisions of a tangle of a walnut sitting at the top of our spine. While they are brilliant instruments capable of reasoning and imagining,I must say, they are deeply flawed! Our mind is terrible at knowing why it gets certain thoughts and eventually it spirals into a horde of unwanted impressions about itself and the world and before we know it, it proclaims us crazy. Something that we tend to overlook is that each of us has a journey that is quite unique to us. Each of us understands the world differently. We suffer and tolerate faulty weathers. We get shaped more by our own experiences of things over the real reality. We cause chaos. And often we get into a bit of a decline, to quote a famous depressed someone.

We are all fated to feel irredeemably alone and sad because we keep a lot to ourselves and are extremely picky of what we choose to reveal. This could all be easily dealt with if instead of spending a good amount of our time , chatting idly about this and that and a million other petty matters that would go very well either way without any of our special attentions to it, we could submit our vulnerabilities to each other and talk of how difficult things can get upstairs. Then we’d have a better chance at living what we like to call a meaningful life. Even then, our mind’s knots are rather difficult to unpick.

And that is why I firmly hold on to the skies and stars and clouds and trees. Instead of running from one thing to another we should make it a point to book a session with the quietest part of ourselves. Someone we neglect in the madness of our days. To stay sane, it is vital that we heed to the stillness of the frosty mornings and gentle lull of the midnight winds. We should understand that none of this really matters when we consider it from a sufficient distance and know that the agitations of the here and now is null when measured against the infiniteness of the world above us. We should practice mulling over the utter insignificance of our smallish lives. There is a constant drama happening over our heads and in the wilds utterly unaware of our problems. In the bigger picture, we don’t matter, our problems even less. Self knowledge might be the most profound art of living but learning to not take ourselves too seriously is the most helpful one.

Lost

As the people go about engrossed in the magnificent clutter of our world, I can’t help but imagine myself lost at sea. I guess it’s the plain understanding that in the very soil that we’ve firmly rooted our feet, shall we choose to scale forward, we will find ourselves in the Virgin lands of our planet.

The choked forests, the oceans, the untouristed valleys, they echo the utter truth and madness of the world…The truth of loneliness and the justified madness of a violence that is simply the normal survival script of nature. Of these, of the elemental nature ,we know nothing. Of the sprawling cities and chaotic charm of humanity we know everything.

What happens beyond the seven seas, what shrieks in the breathless forests, who sings at the depths of the oceans?

A billion brains on the planet cannot comprehend the vastness and the threatening beauty of our mother. Our mother, the nature that surrounds us is truly daunting. We sleep in the comfort and safety of our homes when night falls and in this we are truly archaic for we are not just turning our backs to the darkness that drops, we are turning our backs to what the darkness brings with it.

As I sit here trying to imagine myself lost at sea, I believe that the stories my grandma told me might be true after all. With so much of our world unexplored, who am I to deny mermaids and monsters?

For now, I’m just a tiny boat isolated from the raving busyness of the world.

Waiting for Future

I’ve spent a fair share of my time waiting for future to happen, waiting for my glamorous life where I can finally not worry of making it, my feet kicked up to the top of a poolside table where you may find a modern classic casually strewn about while I take in the beauty of the magnificent earth and my aviators reflecting off the sunshine of a good Wednesday.

This particular image among the many others where I’ve conquered everything has made my life extraordinarily problematic precisely because the distance between reality and fantasy is far too many miles. I spend all my time imagining and none for the hustle.

But this is not just me , is it? All of us forget about the hustle and the grind involved in actually achieving something. Rarely are we presented with the behind-the-scenes of a now successful person. We are freshly served a sizzling platter of success story and so we lie blissfully unaware of the journey leading up to success. What matters is now. After all ,what is life but a series of nows? So burn your ideal image of success this year. Stay in the present and invest in the seconds and hours that will one day draw for you that pretty image of success.

This second is all that matters. One day , I hope to find you beside a pool, a beach or a perfect vacation spot and you can say to yourself, ” I made it”

Happy 2018.

The Importance of Star Gazing

What is funny and almost criminal about human beings is that we talk far reaching philosophy and when the time comes where our philosophical admirations might truly help us we become very anthropoid. We give in to our basic instincts.

But I have come to realise that words can only do so much and this is coming from someone who aspires to be a writer one day. But yes, words can only do so much because I strongly believe that it is only through philosophical experiments that we beget tangible results that we may apply in our own lives.

And I’ve been doing one such philosophical experiment quite unintentionally for long now.

Star gazing. There is something fascinating about sitting on my rooftop and taking in the sky. It’s during that moment that poetry surges in my mind. Did god spill his ink bottle? When the sky is spectacularly studded with stars, I have an urge to sweep them together and collect them in my hands. But after some time, as the poetic fancy passes, I realize some things more profound. Here I’m bickering about how I’m in the wrong college and how things are not going my way, I look up to see that the stars are aligned…

During my philosophical meditations, I think about how many of us, strangers to each other, could be looking up at the same star, and seizing the beauty of it and a strange feeling of companionship holds me as I stand there, isolated from city lights and urban noises.

The looming figure of the sky almost engulfs me when I think of how I’m looking up at the past. Everything that I see up in the sky is only how it was and not how it is. The lights from all these stars had to leave many light years ago to reach earth tonight and I’m looking up at the past, living in the present. I think of this beautiful blend of time. The pastness of the sky meeting the presentness of the world.

And it’s only when I look for the future, that I realise , it doesn’t exist. I don’t mean this in a nihilist sort of way.

Go to your rooftop. Look up at the past and embrace the present and create with the both, the best future you’re capable of living.

I cannot stress enough the importance of stargazing and how it has helped me during all the rough times. It’s important that we look up more and look down less. We are small, incredibly small. In the larger scheme of things, we are nothing but dust. One light year is 9.46×10¹² kilometers and most of the stars you see are at least 4 light years away.

Tonight, I want you to go to your rooftop and look for a yellowish star in the sky. It’s the Betelgeuse which is 642.5 light years away! It is impossible to imagine the distance. This star will explode and the effect it creates is a stunning night sky where the result of this supernova explosion is a brilliant source of light bigger and better than the rest. Sadly, this won’t happen in our lifetimes. So, bid adieu to Betelgeuse.

Our worries are silenced and our thoughts vaporise in the bigger picture. Look up, these are balls of fire, far far away from you. Is there a greater human achievement than witnessing something you can never ever get close to?

Star gazing is a hobby you will never get tired of. The sky is beautiful. Look up more. Look down less. Both literally and figuratively.

Falling in Love with Your Periods

My mother had her hysterectomy quite some years back and whenever Aunt Flow visits me monthly, amma tells me how she misses the monthly routine inspite of all the gruesome consequences it entails. It pushed me into a spiral of thoughts. If anything, a woman without her periods is the luckiest one alive. She doesn’t have to constantly keep track of her cycle to fend off any surprises. She doesn’t have to worry about leaving traces every time she gets up. She doesn’t have to dread the unbargained for label of being an untouchable every month.And well, need I even start with the luxury of all the painless months. I wondered long and hard at my mother’s peculiar remark. Of course, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But here’s a woman who has seen her periods through summers and winters more than me.

I left, for I didn’t have much energy to argue since it was that time of the month and then it hit me.Only half the problems were biological. The rest were the culmination of regressive ideologies that has been forcefully carried into the 21st century.

Surely this wouldn’t have been that big a problem if we weren’t made to feel dirty every month. Indeed, we would have been just fine if the society was accepting enough of PMS( Premenstrual Syndrome) and the ugly reality of it. We would have been more than fine if men and women were equally made aware of the normal process that menstruation is. It would have been fantastic if blood stains weren’t stigmatized.

So I realised the problem wasn’t with how God wired the female body to be. I realised it was with the world that made our monthly routine more difficult.

As I was thinking of all this, I felt that same old pain I was familiar with since the age of 13 and for the first time in 6 years I took pride in the process. Here’s the pain. It’s my uterus twisting and turning in fury and breaking down layers,a part of a process that sustains the human race and I’m mighty proud. I’ve slowly fallen in love with Miss Red and I’ve made sure that the next time Batman asks,

“Tell me, do you bleed?”

I’ll happily say,

Yes, every month.