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

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When hungry, eat fear

Stop two and three of my solo sojourn in Spain have been in the Basque country and the Asturias. And it’s everything that San Sebastian was not.
You see, San Sebastian is a beautiful European city that’s full of arts, history and culture. It’s very friendly, open and relaxing. You walk by yourself all you want. Sit wherever you want. Eat in any place you favour. For a city dweller, living here comes easily.

But the moment you step out of the city, you’re all alone with nature. The Basque country is dotted with charming little towns along the coast. But a hidden treasure is Zumaia and its Flysch. And I’m proud to have found it in my research. The Geoparkea, which runs tours in the area, had a 3-hour hiking and boat tour at 10.30 in the morning. Now the only problem was, the tour was only available for the 26th, which ate into a day in the Picos de Europa–another little gem, this time, a suggestion of a friend.

Had sanity prevailed, I would have given up Zumaia and headed straight to the Picos, which in itself wasn’t a straightforward route. I had to change buses and then catch a cab to cover the remaining 30-40 minutes of the journey.

But, the very fact that I’m writing this should indicate that sanity did not prevail. 

Headstrong I was. My heart was set on the Flysch. And on I went, deciding to reach the Picos late in the night. Fear point 1. Or so I thought.

That morning, I woke a little early by vacation standards—at 8. Quickly packed and left by 9. The train station was only 5-10 minutes away. So I thought, hey, I have enough time to reach by 10.30. It was just about 35 minutes away, after all.

What I didn’t check was the train schedule. I missed the train at 8.50. Instead, I had to catch the one at 9.45! I prayed hard that I don’t miss the tour. Even practically scrambled from the train station through the circular and confusing streets. Gmaps, wrong as often is, suggested taking the highway! But, as you can expect, I ended up missing the tour.

Of course, when you travel, missed connections are often good. Turns out, it was a Spanish tour and my payment did not go through. Plus, the lady at the tourist centre was kind enough to explain the whole tour, and enabled me with three-four maps so I could do the whole thing myself. I explained about my tight schedule and she even helped work a way around it. Yay! Happily, I set off.

First, I armed myself with knowledge at the museum so I don’t look dumb at the actual site. Then I set off to the Flysch. 

Now, this post is not about the Flysch and its geological phenomenon. But here’s a quick look at the site. 

The real story begins on the top of these hills near the small church. Here:

See the ridge that extends towards the ocean? Now, that’s a small hike. It’s fairly flat and easy. 

But, here’s the thing. I realised I am a little bit prone to Vertigo, especially considering how I have two left feet while walking. Plus, it was a narrow ridge, which frankly, made me rethink if I should go. Also, it didn’t help that I wasn’t dressed correctly, and was alone and physically unfit for any hiking excursions. Fear point 2. (Or 1, if you want to follow the correct chronology)

But, as it turns out, this was just a trailer. And the trailer ended here:

This was the easy part.

Again, I realised I overshot my time. Ran back some how to the train station to miss my express bus by 2 minutes. This meant, I would reach just 15 minutes before my first bus to the Picos. Oh boy! Never before have I tried to run so fast carrying my large, heavy haversack! Unfortunately, even though I reached on time, I had to wait in a long queue to book my tickets. Aaannnnnd the bus left. Fear point 2!

Then, I did a little bit of research (yay, internet!) and found that my second bus from Bilbao originated in San Sebastian! And that was about an hour or so later. So quickly, I booked a ticket, got the same seats and lo behold, was on my way there.

Now wasn’t that seamless! 

The tricky part came at the end of that long bus ride, that ended at 21.30—there were no taxis! How do I go from Llanes to the mountain town of Arenas de Cabrales, I wondered. I knew there weren’t any buses too. Fear point 3!

Thankfully, there was a sweet boy at the station who was originally from Mexico. He asked the locals for taxi stands and offered to walk me there. Boy, am I glad to have accepted his offer as the taxi operator was shut. We moved around a bit, asked a few more locals, until finally a lady offered to call a cabbie friend who happened to be going in the same direction. Muchas gracias, senorita!

Finally, at 10.30 in the night, I reached my hotel, tired but very much entertained by Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba music on the way.

The next day, I got ready for the mountains after lazying in the cold bed, warm bathtub, and over a hot coffee. The sweet lady at the hotel helped me narrow my list of hikes/trails that suited my time limits and fitness levels; booked me a taxi to reach the starting point, and bid me Buenos dias. I conveniently chose one that wasn’t too long or too hard. 

Or so I thought. 

The kind cab driver (whom I shall meet again, btw) explained that there’s a view point separate from the trail. And it’s ‘just’ about 1 kilometer. So I decided to start there. 

It seemed easy. It was not. Turns out, I can walk 23,000 steps seamlessly. But I can’t walk even one kilometer if it involved fighting gravity! 

It was beautiful, though. And after yesterday’s scares and consequent victory, I pushed myself to slowly climb the six zig-zag curves. One break at a time. One curve at a time. 

I think I managed about four U-bends before my mind started playing games. “What if you go back? Can you really make it? Your lungs are killing you. Please give up,” it kept whispering to me. 

And then entered my biker knight. He saw me slowly walking on and stopped to offer a lift. I look at his Ducati and my heart soared! How perfect. I really missed biking along mountain slopes and so I gladly hoped on. Within 5 minutes, we reached. 

To be honest, though, it was a little bit of a bummer. There wasn’t much of a view that I didn’t get already. So, we went back. I asked him if I could tag along with him, my heart greedy for more motorcycle ride, and less walking. He was happy with how good a pillion I was (puhlease! I am experienced enough. Pffff) and agreed. 
After a certain point, we reached the start of the trail. 

Let’s now introduce fear point 4!

Let me tell you something. I have never gone trekking. Nor did I think I’m fit enough to go on one. Especially after the climb earlier. I huff and puff even on one flight of stairs. Forget about what looked like a steep hike. It was nowhere close to the easy walk I expected!

Thankfully, J, my biker saviour, decided to go on the same route. I swallowed my fear and told myself, “you can do this!” It helped that he expected more flatter surfaces further ahead.

And finally we set on, with lovely camaraderie and intelligent conversation. What followed is history. I’ll let the pictures tell you the rest of the story. 

And here’s the Ducati I climbed on as well as it’s rider. 

(BTW, can you find the goat in the background? It may not be easy!)  

———– x ———–

When I started writing this piece, I had finished the trail and was grabbing a break at a nearby hotel. I needed sustenance before I began my return journey, safe in the knowledge that I’ll get a cab back home. Guess what happened next? 

Nope, no taxis around! 

I waited for a bit. But there was barely a soul around. So I started walking back to my hotel—about 4-8kms away. 

To be honest, I was more scared of this than any of the previous experiences. Imagine waking on a highway-like road, alone, without a path to walk on! There were a few blind bends. And a car driving past may not have seen me in time to veer away. But I had no choice. 

So I walk on, initially trying to rewire my brain into thinking of it as an adventure. 

And then, I remembered the countless movies where bagpackers point their thumbs backwards, asking for a lift. Hitchhiking! 

Never done it before. Never needed to. Until I had to. 

Few cars went by. One car offered a finger. Two scooters said sorry. Then, one couple was kind enough to stop. It was barely a fifteen minute ride. And then, thankfully, I reached the hotel. Got a cab booked for the bus stop. And met my old cabbie again. This time, he was warmer and stopped at various places to let me click pictures. He also jabbered on a bit about fields and farming. Then, he realised I haven’t seen Llanes and it’s beautiful beach. So, he took me on a mini tour free of charge to the look around in Llanes.

Here’s my now-favourite taxi driver:

In all my life, I’ve seen my parents accept fear a handful of times. And even on those few occasions, I’ve seen them eat their fear, light a fire in their bellies, and move on. Come what may, they’ve not cowered. So all I did was tear a page from their book. 

I realised today, courage is not about a lack of fear. It’s about what you do with it that counts. 

And sometimes, I guess, it also includes asking for help and support. Anything but stop and pull back!

Sound of Love

There are two halves to the one whole of a plant’s growth. 

Similarly, there can be two parts of love.

Have you ever planted seeds or a sapling and see it grow? Initially, the roots form. They grow underground, unseen and silent. Bidding its time. And then, when the roots have gotten hold, the stems, leaves, fruits and flowers flourish. Slowly, steadily. Its loud, in your face and well, communicates to the whole world that ‘I am growing; I am flourishing’.
There are two halves to the one whole of a plant’s growth. 

Similarly, there can be two parts of love.

One is loud and deafening in its sound. It’s when you feel like your heart is expanding at a rapid pace, and will soon burst out of your body to envelope the whole world. It’s when you want to climb to the rooftop and shout to the whole world about the love you’re feeling. Your body, mind and soul screams and demands a witness to your Love. 

This is akin to the stems and branches of the trees that you are trying to reach the sky, continuously, constantly. The branches of your Love want to spread far and wide, taping into different fields and regions. And then the fiery flowers bloom to attract every eye that passes by. Like the Flame of the Forest, commonly known as Gulmohar in India or the Flame Tree. Scientists, in their usual grave tenor, call it the Royal Poinciana. Irrespective of what you call it, the vibrant vivid hues catch your attention and often take your breath away. Just like your intense feelings take your lovers breath away. The emotions move outward, from you to the world.

And then there’s the quiet love, silent and contemplative. Internal. Deep. It’s like the roots that spread wide and deep within. 

This is when you quietly stand on the sidelines of your lover’s story, witness to their beauty and well, life. When you let them be the hero of their story, beaming and happy. It’s when you bask in vibrant rays of their joys and happiness, all the while glowing in joy yourself. It’s when you find happiness and contentment in their peace. And nothing else really matters—not as much as your lover any way. This Love, like the roots, does not seek to shout or even intimate you of its presence. It just wishes to live, to be. And the flow of emotion? Well, it starts from you and flows deeper and deeper, slowly spreading through the veins and sinking further into your soul.

I hardly doubt that the two Loves exist separately. They’re part of the same whole. And the chances are, at different points in life, you’re likely to have felt both. 

The 100-happy-day saga

Image

As a kid, I remember having a long list of wants in my life; things that would make me happy. I also remember feeling dejected and disappointed if I didn’t get it/them. However, I was not one to wallow in disappointment. I moved on — quite easily.

Today, I realise happiness lies in things I already have. Yes, I am never short of wants. But, I am happy and content with my situation in life.

I recently took the 100-day challenge. At the start, I wondered if I would finish it. Slowly, it became a habit. Today, when I re-read the posts, the comments and the conversations — not just mine, but others too — I feel blessed.

If Death took me tonight, I would say what Vito Corleone said with this last breath — “Life is beautiful”.

Anyway, I have painstakingly collated the posts and I want to share it to the world. I have nothing to hide. I don’t mean to be in your face and gloat. I simply want to share and shine like a beacon.

Also, apologies for the unedited content.

Here we go:


 

Day 1     Happiness is… your bestfriend’s mom calling her up and praising you.

Day 2     Happiness is … hearing a loud, exuberant “excellent” from your editor after reading your article.

Day 3     Happiness is… a heart-to-heart conversation after a long time.

Day 4     Happiness is.. your blog post getting 20 likes..

Day 5     Happiness is.. A cup of filter kaappiii after a week-and-a-half!

Day 6     Happiness is.. your train crossing serene waters lapping onto shores covered with mangroves early in the foggy morning, with a cloud-covered red-hued sun overseeing nature’s bounty.

Day 7     Happiness is… a mini reunion at home after nearly two weeks with a cup of hot filter kaapi.

Day 8     Happiness is.. A cool workplace and even cooler colleagues/bosses, where you can take a half hour break to go to the nearby Starbucks for a cuppa.

Day 9     Happiness is.. waking up to a genuine compliment about your writing, followed by another compliment when you enter your office premises. Nothing like a good start to the day and work.

Day 10   Happiness is… a new exciting story in your head that keeps you up until two in the night and even the next day, and more importantly, getting positive feedback on the idea.

Day 11   Happiness is… getting a permission easily for something you really really wanted, when you were all prepared to beg if not convince.

Day 12   Happiness is.. dancing away to glory without shoes.

Day 13   Happiness… sometimes does not require a reason Even a productive day can add to the overall sense of satisfaction.

Day 14   Happiness is.. a very good day at work despite a debilitating headache.

Day 15   Happiness is… A much needed afternoon nap..

Day 16   Happiness is.. after a long conversation with a Rickshaw driver you have known for years, you discover that broad-mindedness is not limited to those who are educated.

Day 17   Happiness is.. waking up to a significant reduction in your seemingly perpetual headache… oh and blueberry muffin! YUM!

Day 18   Happiness is … a good news after a worrying wait

Day 19   Happiness is.. Having a great day — being woken up by one of your fav people, but managing to sleep again, followed by awesome salsa class where you are complimented for dancing well, and then chilling with friends in the evening.

Day 20   Happiness is.. a heart-to-heart with two of your friends across borders and towns after what seems like ages.

Day 21   Happiness is.. a heartfelt confession and a sweet response…

Day 22   Happiness is… a good mood on a beautiful morning, which is contagious enough to improve others’ moods

Day 23   Happiness is… Not always easy. It is a state of mind. Sometimes it is finding solace even in hard situations. Solace from the support system that friends and family can be. Solace from the chance given by fate to spend some quality times before bidding adieu. Solace that the end is not full of regrets, but one that leaves at least a little scope for closure. Happiness… sometimes needs courage and grit.

Day 24   Happiness is.. Sleeping blissfully!

Day 25   Happiness is… Leisurely watch people hurry around you, while you lounge in your seat with a burger to munch on. Weekend bliss!

Day 26   Happiness is.. Often in the small things — finishing your quota of sleep, a yummy cup of strong tea, sitting idle and staring at the sky, cold weather, friends showing they care (even if it was about your hair), and the knowledge that you will be dancing in a while.

Day 27   Happiness is.. not having to go home on time… and giggling like mad over the absurd direction a conversation had taken with your friend.

Day 28   Happiness is.. waking up with a big smile (albeit late)

Day 29   Happiness is.. sincere appreciation and the excitement of travel planning..

Day 30   Happiness is… shooting an arrow in the dark, and then discovering it struck gold.

Day 31   Happiness is… A day spent by yourself, with yourself, for yourself. Who says solitude is only lonely, sometimes it is rejuvenating, and much needed for the soul. Happiness is… Being one with yourself in silence.

Day 32   Happiness is.. spending time with the ones you love and cherish.

Day 33   Happiness is… the lack of Monday blues after a well-rested weekend. Oh.. and also the news that your cousin has bought you two sexy tops ‪#‎girlpleasure                Happiness is (also)… Reliving your childhood by watching your favourite cartoon movie — The Lion King.

Day 34   Happiness is.. Doing what you love and loving what you do.. Happiness is also.. Reading some of your old works and feeling awestruck that it was written by the same person reading it… Happiness lies in you. Addition: Happiness is also listening to your friends sing and perform. Venkat Iyer Archanaa Jayaraman

Day 35   Happiness is.. getting reader’s mails..

Day 36   Happiness is.. a day-long romantic date with your bed and an extra long shower, headaches notwithstanding.

Day 37   Happiness is.. working from home while the TV plays 90s Govinda’s dance tracks like “Goriya churana mera jiya” and “Hero No. 1” that you used to dance to as a child. What thumkas and beats!

Day 38   Happiness is.. gossiping with your parents after they return from a fortnight-long holiday. Also… the weekend!

Day 39   Happiness is.. Doing the thumkas and jhatkas in front of the tv spewing cheesy club numbers. ‪#‎partyallnightandmorning

Day 40   Happiness is.. picking up a book to read after what seems like ages, and reading while travelling.

Day 41   Happiness is.. A good day. Sharing a few laughs and great camaraderie with your boss.. A great poetry session, where you meet people old and new.. Also, a good meeting, which gives hope that things will turn out well to help you achieve your dreams..

Day 42   Happiness is… a good deed. It is also excited planning for an upcoming trip.

Day 43   Happiness is.. Warm companionship in the train amongst strangers during peak hours!

Day 44   Happiness is.. simple, pure, unadulterated joy. It is a marine drive tour early in the morning. It is getting what you want. It is also in some simple words that people unconsciously shower you with. It is in singing like a tape-recorder during lunch. It is in a lot of things Ah, the small joys of life!

Day 45   Happiness is.. Alternatively curling up, stretching and being eagle-spread on a bed the whole day with a book that enchants your imagination. Weekend wonders!

Day 46   Happiness is.. a sexy bike ride!

Day 47   Happiness is.. Satisfying your bloodlust on the screen through 300! “This is spartaaaa” <insert air-kick>

Day 48   Happiness is.. when you have one more page filled up on your passport

Day 49   Happiness is.. Mind-blowing pasta!

Day 50   Happiness is.. A surprise pizza order.

Day 51   Happiness is.. When strangers play a prank to ease your tension, or bless you in a foreign tongue, or better yet, find you when you are lost and tired. Life is beautiful!

Day 52   Happiness is… Bobbing up and down on a boat sailing on pristine blue-green waters while staring at jelly fishes floating all around.. It is also soaking in a new culture..

Day 53   Happiness is trekking to a cave high up on a hill amidst strong wind, occasional droplets of rain and sand..

Day 54   Happiness is.. Making new friends from the other part of the world..

Day 55   Happiness is.. Admiring the beauty of mother earth’s mountains and blue green sea from over 100 feet in the sky, that too in total silence and with the only company of the wind blowing in your ear. #Paragliding

Day 56   Happiness is.. Being embraced by the bluest sky amidst a line of snow-glad or green mountains, all the while listening to songs by Eric Clapton, Mohd Rafi, ACDC, John Mayer, Guns n Roses, etc and slowly letting go of the hurts and wounds of the past. Shedding old skin and scabs. Happiness is getting lost in travel and finding yourself in the least unlikely of places.

Day 57   Happiness is a near perfect day.

Day 58   Happiness is.. A road trip on unknown lanes and landscapes, a private yacht ride, swimming for the first time in the middle of a huge sea and most importantly, cutting a surprise cake for your (Indian) star birthday. Happiness is when you couldn’t wipe the smile off your face the whole day.

Day 59   Happiness is.. Knowing you have a bunch of ppl who are like a family away from home.

Day 60   Today, my skin is sun burnt, my lips are chapped, my hair is in shambles, I am two shades darker, muscles all over my body hurt, and I possibly need one whole day’s sleep to rejuvenate. But, I am happy. Happy that I am going back home with a wealth of experience, a bunch of new friends and a heart full of gratitude for being blessed to have a wonderful life. Happiness is… Travel, humanity, nature. Happiness is life!

Day 61   Happiness is.. Sharing a hearty laugh after trading funny stories…

Day 62   Happiness is giving gifts and more importantly, seeing that they are warmly received and loved.

Day 63   Happiness is the simple joy of hanging out and laughing with friends.. Especially after a long time!

Day 64   Happiness is.. Sharing and day dreaming, while wearing a big smile on your face..

Day 65   Happiness is.. hitting the bed directly after reaching home from work.

Day 66   Happiness is.. the weekend! It is studying while listening to music on sexad Bose headphones!! It is also the build-up of anticipation for a dance night after oh-so-long!

Day 67   Happiness is.. sleeping for half a day. The pleasures of a weekend! It is also being happy for your brother and his friends’ TV debut. Sudarshan Varadarajan and Velmurugan Sekar

Day 68   Happiness is.. Sugarcane juice and a nice walk in the balmy weather. (Repeat: Day 68) Happiness is a new desktop computer at home!

Day 69   Happiness is… a surprise blood donation at work! Edit: Happiness is also eating Franki and not spilling it (FINALLY) on your white white dress! Mini-jig

Day 70   Happiness is.. Amazing breakfast in the morning, and an equally awesome bike ride in the evening followed by sexad cutting!

Day 71   Happiness is.. this video! Can’t stop gushing about those adorable babies.. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/baby-animals-take-first-steps-walking-video_n_5085520.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Day 72   Happiness is.. Shopping after ages.. It is also the knowledge that you will (finally) finish one CFA subject tomorrow. Fingers crossed

Day 73   Happiness is.. Dancing!

Day 74   Happiness is.. finishing a subject!

Day 75   Happiness is.. a premature birthday gift!!!

Day 76   Happiness is.. Getting exactly what you need even before you realise it.. It is also spending some quiet me-time with yourself..

Day 77   Happiness is a good deed — yours as well as your friend’s.

Day 78   Happiness is.. A birthday celebration and gifts!!! Thank you Rajas Kelkar, Namika Giddi Dhruti Shukla Veerpal Zala Amit Kaushal Dipakk Srivastava

Day 79   Happiness is… celebrating the joy of life and birth on your birthday with friends, colleagues and loved ones who make your day oh-so-special. It is being kidnapped (after you have given your permission :P) and blindfolded and taken on a hour-long bike ride at 1 in the night to be given another amazing surprise! Oh and all the lovely gifts! Time to count blessings

Day 80   Happiness is a quiet Sunday.

Day 81   Happiness is.. A day well spent.

Day 82   Happiness is.. A sumptuous Vishu feast.. Yum!

Day 83   Happiness is.. Eating six idlis for breakfast, lots of dog videos in the day and dressing up for a sangeet in the evening.

Day 84   Happiness is.. A surprise birthday gift!

Day 85   Happiness is.. enjoying simple daal chawal.. that you made

Day 86   Happiness is.. Finishing another subject..

Day 87   Happiness is.. getting published.. again even though it is just a tiny inconsequential piece. It is also a looong nice heart-to-heart with your friend.. Happiness is overlooking the tiny things and feeling happy about the overall goodness of life

Day 88   Happiness is.. The new Santacruz-Chembur link road. No traffic in Sion! It can actually feel Mumbai’s roads heave a little sigh of relief.

Day 89   Happiness is.. an awesome chat over a glass of cutting!

Day 90   Happiness is.. listening to music while working. It is also being reassured about the warmth in an old friendship

Day 91   Happiness is… singing in the office.. to this Youtube mix!

Day 92   Happiness is.. laughing crazily with your friends on old jokes…

Day 93   Happiness is… starting the preparations for a dance performance! excited

Day 94   Happiness is.. Being happy for your friend and riding the high..

Day 95   Happiness is… A nice afternoon nap!

Day 96   Happiness is.. Fun moments in the office.

Day 97   Happiness is… Meeting your dear friend after ages and laughing at nothing like old times.. Happiness is an amazing day

Day 98   Happiness is… Picking up the guitar after ages and strumming for yourself.. Happiness is also a Friday evening in your own company.

Day 99   Happiness is.. watching Dr House again.

Day 100 Happiness is… the sheer joy of penning down your thoughts. It is also dancing a new form — something you have wanted your whole life! What a way to end the 100-day happy saga (May 4)

Extras:

May 6: Happiness is.. Gorging on amazing food the whole day! Rajma, tindli, pasta, pizza, mangoes, daal and what not!

May 7: Happiness is.. Feeling satisfied with yourself at the end of the day!

May 12: Happiness is.. reading your ‪#‎happydays‬ posts and reliving the beautiful memories. #happydays ‪#everyday‬