Would you…

Would you hate someone in their presence or love/miss them in their absence?

For the truth is, you can love some people only when there’s enough space. Sometimes, getting close gets too close, like walking over people…in a stampede. And distance, well, it’s like a breath of fresh air, oxygen without which the bond can’t survive.

Tell me, would you rather like a person without loving them, or love them without liking them?

The world we live in tells us to choose the other, for what’s greater than love? Even if it comes at the cost of great strife and quarrels. Fights and insults, are but an extension of love. But tell me, wouldn’t you rather chose peace? Wouldn’t you rather want a person because you like them, because of a strong kinship, rather than be forced to be with them because of an impestuous force called love? Maybe it lacks animated passion, but it’s full of understanding and selfless empathy.

Would you rather spend nights awake in the misery of love or sleep peacefully having known none? For if you’ve never tasted it, you’d never know the high highs or the low lows that it can bring about, don’t you think?

Then why does the world tell us to prefer love over caring kinship? Except for this beautiful beautiful piece

Who do you want to be?

‘Who are you?’ and more importantly, ‘Who do you want to be?’ and ‘Can you change who you are and instead, be who you want to be?’

Who am I?

All my life, I’ve been plagued by this question. I remember, even as a child of 6 or 7, I used to stand in a corner, look up at the sky and have a conversation with an invisible entity I thought was God. Those conversations were a lot about who I was.

These days, though, the question is followed by another, almost like those after quakes that continue to wreak havoc after a big earthquake—Who do I want to be?

And instead of finding the answer to either or both, I end up gauging and valuing the merit and weight of one question against the other.

Let me give you some context—it’ll explain the connection with Friendship’s Day (celebrated in India on the first Sunday of August)


After 5 long years, I changed my job in April. For me, a lot of my identity is associated with my work. Not my designation or job profile, mind you. I am talking about my work. It consumes me, enthrals me, excites me and fulfils me in a way that few understand. It is one of the most important aspects of my life. And I realised its importance in life only until recently when I reached a cross-point.

Until then, I was a writer, an editor and then, a content strategist—someone who understands content, comes up with ideas, and a plan of action for delivery. But, I was a writer first. It was part of my identity. Words mattered a lot to me. Naturally, my blog too flourished during such a time.

Recently, it’s been a change of sorts. Am I in content? Yes. But is that all I do? No. Is that all I want to do? Am I still a writer first? I don’t know.

I am learning so many things far beyond the purview of ‘content’ or ‘writing’. I am learning so many new facets of my own being. And it’s oh-so-fulfilling!

To learn is to live. To learn and apply is to live an enriching life. To do all this with enough freedom and space is the highlight of my very existence. And luckily for me, I am in an environment that allows me to thrive.

In a lot of ways, it’s completely incomparable to the previous 5 years. Yes, I learnt and learnt and grew over the years. But did I push myself? Only to meet time-bound deadlines and deliveries. What I learnt came naturally to me. It was organic a growth.

Today, though, I completely (and have the thirst to) deep-dive into a world that is fairly alien to me. I want to learn and grow far beyond what I can imagine. And thus, I push—I push myself every day to learn more, do more and grow more. In more ways than one, it’s not organic.

So, I made a conscious choice to keep my social life at bay. I made the choice to have a single-point focus on learning and working. Anything else—dance, music, arts, parties, celebrations—can wait until I emerge from this cocoon, hopefully as a caterpillar-turned-into-a-butterfly.

From 7 in the morning to 10 in the night, I am consumed by work. It’s not always a hectic schedule at work. But I am still inhaling and exhaling work during those slow hours. Weekends go by thinking, planning and number-crunching data (another new-found love!)

The last one week has been a little bit of a break of sorts. And the vortex that used to be my brain thanks to work has turned into a calm sea—the kinds you’d gaze at for hours trying to decipher its depth and meaning. Ergo, the introspection.

Who am I?

Who do I want to be?

Do I really want to be the person who refuses to balance life and work? Who meets friends once in a month or two and turns into a recluse? If being solitary comes so naturally to me, was I always the extroverted social person who enjoyed going out?

What if this is all just a phase? What if my loved ones turn bitter and a huge chasm develops that I can never bridge? What if I come to regret the loss of friendships over the years?

One part of my mind says those who love you have already been through your cycles. They know you and accept you irrespective of your infrequent disappearances.

The other part of my mind says that it’s not just acceptance. It’s consistency that keeps a relationship alive—the shared experiences that thicken a bond over time.

And all this hits a peak at a time when I see friends and family share Friendship Day messages around me.

I can’t bring myself to wish anyone or thank them for their friendship—not when I am aware of how I pushed all this away in the past two-three months; certainly not when I plan to continue doing so for the next few months too. But all said, the pangs strike—to reach out, hug, and convey just how much my loved ones mean to me. Especially when they hold on and continue to love me despite my distance.


Amidst all this, I realise just how much writing has and used to help me.

Earlier, I had built strong, fortified walls around me that stopped me from communicating my heart’s deepest desires. Writing, then, helped me observe, process, and convey what I thought and felt.

Today, I seem to have evolved thanks to the unending conversations with few of my closest peoples (yes, peoples. Plural. They belong to different groups). Today, it’s a lot more ok for me to observe, communicate and rationalise what I feel—verbally, and not in writing. Ergo, I rarely take to writing.

This makes me wonder—was I ever a writer? Was writing merely an outlet? Or did I write because it was who I was—as a person?

Does it mean I am no longer a writer?

Who was I?

Who am I?

And most importantly: Do I want to be that person who is a writer?

Legacies of life

Man has an innate need to leave some part of him behind; a legacy of his life. He wants to remind the future generations that he existed. That he still exists—be it in memory or through art. And this can be seen in the beautiful structures, monuments, art and literature. Go back to the oldest cave paintings in the world and you’ll see a person desperately reaching out to the future with his/her hand paintings.

However, a friend of mine has an interesting theory. In India, we don’t appreciate creation as much. That’s why in the heritage places, we rarely get to see the name of the architect. No, we only know who commissioned these monuments. Contrast this to the West when you know the names of the architect. Heck, in Spain, we even knew the names of the people who melded the gorgeous wrought-iron pieces!

Don’t believe me? Ask around, who designed the Taj Mahal? Who designed the Vitthal Temple in Hampi with it’s intelligent architecture? And intelligent it is. The complex had a main building which was for performances to the God. You didn’t to carry instruments. Each pillar was designed to produce music of a particular instrument. Literally!

And then there were the side buildings like these with their intricate carvings, each telling a story and a story within a story! Take this building for example, there was a miniature carved on each side. It’s like the architect wanted to set in stone is very blue print! But the beauty is in the whole.

After all, each part—even the platforms at the bottom—have a thought behind them. One layer to hold lamps, one layer to convey how people of different regions and countries come to trade in Hampi, etc. There’s also the creative creature with parts of different animals.

This is why I love Guides and archeologists. So much gets lost in translation between the past, present and the future. Whatever little we know of, is because of the archeologists who painstakingly find meaning in dirt. And the guides who convey it to us mere humans.

They offer the spectacles you need to look around with clear sight.

Thank the butterflies

Many years back, I watched this movie called The Butterfly Effect. It was quite captivating. The premise of the movie is that, the smallest of the changes in time can cause cascading effects. Many movies and books have dealt with this aspect of time travel.

And every day, I wonder what my actions have led to or what actions of others has led to the reality as I lived it. It’s quite fascinating. I wonder if some alien is looking at the myriad permutations and combinations of events like the scene in Men In Black 3.

Of course, even if there is one, it could very well be a figment of my imagination. But what I have noticed are things that may not have happened if the event preceding hadn’t shaped up the way it was.

And boy were there many such combinations of coincidences that happened during my trip.

For example: Had my flight to Brussels not been delayed by 4 hours, I wouldn’t have been so tired in the first few days of my trip.

This tiredness got carried forward to my second stop in San Sebastian. Then, I wouldn’t have been laid back on the first evening.

As a result, I may not have bumped into two lovely ladies from UK or spent the night chatting away to glory. Nor would they have told me about the lovely free city walking tour. And had I not gone on it, my day may not have turned out the way it did—long, tiring but fulfilling.

Then, I may have woken up earlier the next morning and not faced a series of delays and missed buses/trains as I toured across the Basque County.

And if I had not missed the buses, I may not have seen as much of the county as I really did. I certainly would not have taken the bus that took the coastal route and went through many small towns and villages. The beautiful video I did capture wouldn’t have happened. Thank God!

(YouTube link here: https://youtu.be/8_lsphOCub0)

Neither would I have gone to the end of this cliff:

Oh, this series continues forward.I may have then reached the Picos earlier in the night or been less tired.

Thus, I may have woken up earlier the next morning in Picos de Europa. I may have then taken the longer trail over the Carres George as I had intended too, instead of the smaller one I took.

And I would have never met the lovely Australian gentleman, who’s now turned into a beloved pen pal (through email, though).

Barcelona would have been a different experience too, without the debilitating knee injury caused by the hike. But then, I would’ve exerted and roamed around more—making the trip more hectic.

Instead, the series of misadventures helped me slow down and take easier breaths. Quality, thus, trumped quantity.

Similarly, when I got to know Sierra Nevada would be deserted, I had to make a choice of staying back or moving on to another location. I chose to stay back.

That one decision opened the door to meeting and learning from this lovely Barista, who was originally from Morocco.

I spent the next two days with the lady. She opened up to me about her story, teaching me so many lessons about life and living. Not to mention, the wonderful hospitality that she offered.

On the second day, she directed me to another branch for better food. There, I met this beautiful Swedish couple and a German cyclist.

One thing led to another, and the next day, I found myself with the Swedish couple heading to Costa del Sol, which was my next destination. Thanks to them, I saw one extra city, got to see more of the sunny coast AND reached much earlier than I otherwise would have.

Lovely, isn’t it?!

Many such coincidences happened over the course of my travels. Not all of them were palatable. Many were most definitely not great. I’m sure quite a few people would’ve let these ruin their mood or given up.

But that’s the thing. What seems negative may just be so on the face of it. For all you know, it could be a blessing in disguise. It could be the reason you ended up with the happy opportunities. Who knows.

What I do know is this: I don’t jump the moment something seems to go off. Think, there could be another way. And this could just be an opportunity in the making.

Like the little butterfly that has to suffer and break through the shell of her cocoon to strength her muscles.

My friend calls this the Chaos theory. I call it my secret ingredient for happines. It’s easier to live and love the moment when it’s not a means to an end.

When it’s just a single moment, and you can bind many such moments to form a beautiful necklace of the jewels of memory.

The last twilight

It’s my last evening in Spain. My two weeks are up—more than up, in fact. And I find myself being asked—do you want to go back home? Would you want to travel some more?
I smile. It’s not an easy answer. My mind starts reeling with all the myriad feelings and thoughts that I can’t name or even identify.

Home has a nice ring to it. But so does travel. I’m equally at home amidst a bunch of strangers (likeable ones, of course.) So, how do I pick one over another? How do you look forward to something, while also looking back at something precious you’re leaving behind?

What I do know is that I need time and silence to meditate over what I’ve experienced. Only then will I be able to dissect my feelings and thoughts and start comprehending.

But one feeling I can identify easily—overwhelming gratitude. I almost feel physically marked by my experience. 

Weirdly, it’s not about the location or the fact that I checked a dream destination off my checklist. It’s not even about my first solo travel. 

It’s that and also much more. It’s like they say, the sum of two things is often more than what you perceive.

And I guess, the invisible addition to the mix is something more intimate. It’s what I felt, what I lived through, and what I loved. And maybe, also the unpleasant experiences too.

So, tomorrow, if someone asks me about my trip, it’s going to take a while for me to gather my thoughts and not get lost in the chaos of my feelings. And then, maybe I’ll start narrating from the beginning. 

But really, though. Did it really begin when I boarded my flight? Or did it begin after I bid goodbye to my friends at Madrid? Or did it begin when the thought of traveling germinated?

And when does it really end, too? For in the stories I narrate, I will keep traveling. And I will keep understanding more and more of my experience. 

So today, I’m more questions than answers.

And I’m more longing than thinking. 

Wish for more; wish for nothing

Have you ever had enough of something and yet wanted a bit more of it?

I never thought I did until I traveled. Until then, it was clear whether I wanted more of something or whether I had had enough. It was an ‘either or’ situation; they were mutually exclusive.

Now, though, as I hit the last leg of my journey, I find myself wanting different things that seem opposite to each other.

I can’t wait to go back home. I feel 10-13 days has been long enough. I’ve traveled enough to satisfy me for a few months.

And then, I wish I had a few months more—travel at leisure with weeks spent in one place instead of a day or two. Hang around and work a few odd jobs like the locals; backpack around for a fair bit; don’t look back at home for a year or so; maybe volunteer a bit too!

It’s weird because they’re exactly opposite to each other. I can’t eat the cake and have it too. I can’t be at home and travel too.

And yet, that’s what I find myself feeling.

As much as I love the new experiences, I’m starting to feel like taking it slow, giving a few places a miss, sit at one place for longer—few days even. And then the tiredness gives way to a craving for the comforts of home.

And yet, I find myself craving to be the person who had once wanted to volunteer and travel for months at a time; do odd jobs that earns you enough to let you travel from one place to another; get a glimpse of the local life; not be a mere traveller or tourist. Be an actual gypsy. 

But then, reality strikes. Neither am I the young gun who would’ve had the balls to do it. Nor do I have the will to actually proceed through. At best, I can buy myself travel-led freedom for two weeks. Maybe, some day, when I look back, I’ll feel it’s enough. Hopefully. Or maybe not.

I think the problem is of having had too much. An overdose of good things too can be problematic. It doesn’t give you enough headspace to appreciate, observe, feel and digest.

In a lot many ways, it’s a classic first world problem. 

Nonetheless, I count myself lucky to have been given this opportunity. And I won’t give up what I’ve experienced for anything. It’s been an amazing journey—better than I could have ever dreamt of! I’m proud of myself for having achieved this. And now, I can’t wait for more such changes and experiences. 

Until then, may be a little bit of home would be good. Or may be a little extra travel.

Storytelling 

It’s 8 degrees here in Sierra Nevada and I’m shivering in bed, unable to sleep. Perhaps it’s the cold; perhaps it’s the 4-hour long siesta I had in the afternoon. Either way, my brain is producing words faster than I can comprehend. So write, I shall.

But where do I start?

As I sift through the pictures on my phone to find a good story to narrate, I come across three interesting ones I took in the evening today.

Wondering why they’re interesting?

OK, let’s go back to my school days, especially the geography lessons I was taught. Hidden amongst the whole lot of text, I remember studying about how geography changes from place to place. The biggest notable factor for this is weather. And by just looking around, you can see the tell tale signs of the weather patterns expected in the area around you.

Notice the sloping roofs, the covered garbage can and the thick cone-shaped shrubs.

Can you guess what these point towards?

Here’s how the landscape looks like, if you want some more help:

Answer: Snow!

The sloping roof helps the snow to fall down to the ground and not accumulate much on the roof. The shrubs need to be thick to withstand the cold weather and be cone-shaped to shed snow. And well, the garbage can needs protection too. Else, it would be overflowing with snow and not garbage. Of course, there’s also the danger of the snow water and moisture degrading the garbage. Hence the cover, one that slopes too!

Had it been a rainy area, sloping roofs could have been replaced by efficient plumbing that gathers the water from the rooftop and takes it to the ground. But that can’t be the solution for snow. Hence the slope.

Even the vegetation in the area show all the signs of being in a snowy place.

And it’s amazing that my education enabled me to observe these facets of nature. To the curious, even a meagre education can work wonders.

So all those who crib about the uselessness of the subjects in school, reconsider. Our education, at best, imbibes in us the art of scientific thinking. Yes, I call it an art because science helps me look at how artful nature and life is.

It feels like everything around us is telling its story. Like this worm that ate the small leaf, but left the veins exposed.

Or these trees that announce the change in the sun’s direction of movement—the reds and yellows narrating the story of the change in seasons. 

Of course, it’s not yet autumn in Granada, where these flowers continue to bloom in full rigor. 

Or notice how this harmless snail wants to be left alone, contemplating it’s own existence. It’s shell, thus, a beautiful match with its surroundings. 

And then, you marvel at the beautiful creations around us; at nature’s perfection:

Just like the snail with its perfect Spiral, the goat manages to blend seamlessly in the background. 

I’m lucky. I’ve been blessed with teachers who helped me see that science is nothing but a language that equips you to see the stories being told around you, stories by every living organism or even a supposedly non-living object (like the flysch as below). 

And I’m lucky to appreciate at least some of the myriad stories around us. 

If you only open your eyes, ears, nose, and other senses!

Bonus pictures: This gorgeous sunset in Sierra Nevada, when the drowning sun played hide and seek with the clouds.