Saturday, January 19, 2013

Palace of Illusions review

This is a guest post I wrote for for my friends, Sameen and Fayesal.

This post is close to me for this is one my most favourite books of all times, and I will never, ever tire of reading it.

Here is the link to it. Please check it out:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I’m all grown up now. I think.

What is it that you always did as a kid? When mamma had gone to the market, when your friends hadn't come down to play, or on lazy afternoons? Were you dancing? Were you singing? Drawing, perhaps? Do you do it anymore? Do you have the time? Or the energy? Or the enthusiasm?

Too many questions there. Let's start with a basic one. Or two: Are you happy? Can you say definitively that what youre doing for a living is, in fact, what you were meant to do? Is there nothing you would rather be doing?

 If your answer is a 'no', you know it's time for redressal. If your tired, over-used but under-utilised mind shouted 'NO' at that previous paragraph, it's time to take a day off from work and think about yourself. Your needs, what keeps you happy.

I read a poem long back, when I was in school. I don't remember much of it, save for this line that said:

"My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation"

At the time, I thought it was disturbing that those two words were framed like opposites to each other, where your vocation is your job, that which gives you money; avocation is your hobby, your passion, that which you do when you're not at work. (Implying that these two are always different, opposite, and can never be the same thing)

Finishing college and entering the corporate world made me realise how many people slog day and night in cubicles, so htat they could afford a house they dont have time to live in, buy clothes they dont have time to shop for, afford vacations they dont have time to see where Im going with this, yes?

I was soon of the opinion that hobbies are for relaxed weekends, not all, but the ones when you DONT suddenly have to show up at work because, well, deadlines ARE, after all, deadlines. That hobbies are to take a backseat in the car called career. That THAT is what it means to grow up. To do what youre supposed to do, not what you want to.

Here is when I met him (I'd really known him for years, but this never really struck me, so technically...)

A man who, all through childhood, loved sport, would be playing most of the time, did not take too much heed to studies. He went on to do a Master's degree in Chemistry and further in Management, consequently worked with water filters for a living.

He's a nature freak, loves the outdoors and enjoys adventure sports. He could very well have taken a trek or two every month and left it at that. What did he do, then?

He joined hands with a college mate who had joined the Indian Army after graduation, to start their own venture. A venture that may not have ensured them good money, but it ensured a great time planning, executing and making a difference to people's lives.

Today, Z Bac takes school children and corporate officials away from their fancy dinners abd video conferences to nature, to nights full of darkness and insect sounds, to eating less and being more active, by using rappeling, river rafting, fire walks, etc. to make people realize what teamwork, determination and perseverance really means. Unique, brilliant concept; something I would have NEVER ever thought of.

The co-founder of Z Bac, an inspiring teacher and a towering leader, Mr. Prasad Deole taught me that my childish dreams of pursuing my hobbies as a career isn't, after all, childish at all. He taught me it IS possible in real life. He taught me how much more fulfilling life can be if you do what you love, and thereby love what you do.

And you know that feeling of getting back home from work, but where you cant wait to get back, and see if you can work today better than you did yesterday? Where everything you did counted? Where even if people didn't appreciate you or give you credit, you would still never consider leaving your job because you just love it SO much? No? I think we all have some thinking to do.

P.S.: This blogpost was revamped and posted as a tribute to Prasad Bhaiya on his birthday, 11th Jan.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Me and the dessert.

Self control. Blech. Sounds very restricting to my freedom. Let's call it self-mastery. Ah! Sounds empowering.

Everytime I have an ice cream, I know that the moment it is taken away from me, I wont think about it. I wont crave it. In its absence, I wont mess up other things I'm doing, coz I'm thinking about that ice cream. This sounds new, almost weird. 

There's that guy you hate in your class. Everytime he's absent from class, your day goes surprisingly wonderful. Everytime you see him, his 'stupid face first thing in the morning', it bugs you to no end. "But I can hate whoever I want. I'm a free person." His presence or absence decides the course of your day. Does this sound like a free person to you?

Freedom is the opportunity to make your own choices. I'm sure everyone agrees with that. By "own choices" I mean everything that YOU think is right.
Like say, I love eating. And I do it ALL the time. I dont see anything wrong with it. And I'm not hurting anybody in the process. "I like it, toh I'll do it."(Sound familiar?)

Problem is, even when you are full, and there's dessert in front of you, your mind doesnt even have a choice. Normally, the internal dynamics must go like this:

Dessert: Im right here, waiting to be eaten.
Mind: But I'm full. And dessert isnt even that good for health. Let's skip it this time. It's not like I'll never ever have dessert again, anyway.
Dessert: But...
Mind: Nope. Sorry. Decided.

But if youre in LOVE with that particular dessert, the conversation goes a tad differently:

Dessert:  Im right here, waiting to be eaten.
Mind: Oh, I'm full. But you look tempting. I just cant seem to say no!'
Dessert: (smiles smugly)

Brahmacharya or discipline is not about celibacy or not marrying, it's about knowing that you will be happy, whether a certain thing is present or absent.
About realising that your happiness isnt in fact, a function of whether the object is there or not, but of your REACTION to its presence or absence.

After a lot of thoight, I realised that restriction isn't the opposite of freedom. Restriction is the tool used to enjoy freedom better and more fully.

Without restriction, you would have gobbled up that dessert, and probably asked for more. End of that story = toothache/stomachache.

With restriction, you'd have some of the dessert and stop. Or give up the dessert, so your system stays okay. You had the freedom of choice, and exercising restriction in this case made you healthier and happier than the 2 seconds of dessert in your mouth, and the 2 days of clutching your stomach in pain.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Ant and the Bully

There’s a girl walking on the street
Who says she doesn’t need your help
And BAM! She hits a lamp-post
And down she falls, letting out a yelp.

You walk over and say
“I told you you need me
But you never listen ,do you?”
But it’s your eyes she doesn’t see.

Hurt as she is
She walks right ahead
Towards the end of the road
Ignoring what you said

You run behind her
Running as she walks
Telling her she can’t manage
There’s no end to your mocks

She tries not to listen
She tries walking faster
But you just run harder
Until you’re her master

You pin her to the ground
And she’s hopeless as an ant
And yes, you are the bully
With the taunts incessant.

And you stand up
Powerful as you are
Leave her to her fate
And simply wave from afar

And now, she sees your smile
And she sees your hand
Realises she is lost forever
And wonders who to reprimand.

- Written by me, in a state of depression over some petty issues that seemed the world to me about 2 years ago.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Everytime I enter the Siddhivinayak temple, thoughts that rarely come to me, gush into me. Deep thoughts. Frivolous thoughts. Spiritual thoughts. Worldly thoughts. All at once. And then I get a sudden urge to write it all down. So here I am.

I was in the main sanctum, where the idol is kept, being pushed around by atleast 20 odd different people. There were the young ones, who, because of their height, were struggling to catch a glimpse of the wonderful gold idol. Then there were the youths, the ones who were being pushed by their mothers ‘Jaa beta darshan toh leke aa, yahan kyon khada hai?’ and were reluctantly pushed forward into the chaos of flowers, coconuts and grass.

Then there were also the middle aged folk, the uncles and aunties praying for their sons’ and daughters’ impending board exams (Panditji, aapne theek se nahi chadhaye phool, gir gaye woh’). They take a looooong look at the idol once they manage to reach the front of the line(?) and then stay there, until the watchman says ‘tsala tsala pudhe’. (Marathi for ‘come on, come on, move ahead’)

And finally there were the really old folk, the folk praying for forgiveness for all the things they did in their lives or thankful for the wonderful grandson they got recently, and they can’t seem to stand in one place as people young and old start pushing them this way and that, because after all, everyone wants some time right there, in front of the idol, where the idol can really see you clearly.

And that’s when I thought. About thoughts itself. Each one is like a devotee. Struggling for just a minute of your time. Each one thought is a different one, so different in its nature, so different in its intentions, so different in its own way. It takes up your time for a second, or a minute, or more, depending on how long you entertain it. And then it goes away. And another thought comes in its place, again hoping you would entertain it for a while. And all day long, every week of every month of every year throughout your life, these thoughts flow like a river into, through and out of you.

Your intellect is the watchman. It must see which thought comes in, how long it has stayed, and whether it is now time to say ‘pudhe tsala’ to it, so a better, nobler thought with more integrity can come in place of it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Silent Raga

This is named so because I wrote it while watching Mani Ratnam's 1986 hit, Mouna Ragam starring Revathy Menon.

She had just entered
Her work done for the day
When she noticed that the house
Was done up in a special way

Before she could ask
Her mother swooped in
Talcum box in her hand
And yanked her into the kitchen

Her sister entered then
A beutiful saree in hand
Draping, dabbing, this and that
She thought she looked grand

"What Amma? What is this?"
She asked for an answer she feared
Cringing wouldn't make it go
The age of 24 had neared.

She peeked outside, just a peek
To see who were sitting
Did just the parents and the boy come
Or the whole family they saw fitting?

A demurely man about her age
Was sitting quietly in the side chair
So thin, so tall, so elegant
Well dressed too, and ever so fair.

"Enough looking", said Amma
So out she went with fear
Will I like him? Will he like me? 
Is this my husband-to-be sitting here?

She set sweetmeats on a table
Her wondering eyes set firmly on the ground
For that's what Amma had told her
"Eyes down, and not a sound."

But curious as she was, she looked
And their eyes met for the first ever time
And both caught themselves thinking
Oh! If only those eyes were forever in mine!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Inner peace

Our elders advise it for peace. I advise it for sanity. I know I'm not authority on meditation, I'm just eager to share a little of what I know and experienced of this one sure-shot way to recharging your mind. 

We've all seen pictures of, and heard stories about Buddha. In all the pictures, he's perennially squatted, deep in meditation. I'm not sure how he was able to muster concentration enough to sit there like that, for hours and days on end. I once heard this fable about him. His disciples and he were sitting in this forest, meditating, when a snake came visiting. It slithered all around them, hissing to announce its arrival. Terrified by its hiss, the disciples peeked to see their worst fear in front of them, and scrambled away immediately. One of them even called out to the Teacher, but he did not seem to hear. The snake eventually found his way back into a hole in the ground, and slithered away. Upon Buddha's coming to, the disciples realised he never knew of the snake.

Now concentration to THAT level seems impossible by us at this stage. But we can start out with 3-5 minutes of squatting on the floor, with a mat below us. The extremely time-conscious ones can even set an alarm on their cellphones. I had done that my first time meditating. But that's the funny thing about meditation. After all the hustle-bustly running around of the day, I find it extremely difficult to calm my mind down, and evacuate it of the constant stream of thoughts, good and bad. I find it hard to close my eyes for 2 seconds! After the initial glitches I settle into a rhythm. Breathe in, breathe out. Slooowly. And then comes the hard part. You just don't want to get back to your routine. You don't ever want to get out of that trance-like peace that seems to descend on you. Trust me, the feeling is priceless, a calm like none other.