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?

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. 

Looking through the rear-view mirror

Hindsight is a bitch. It has convinced me that the present has severe eye-sight issues. Logic helps act as a poor replacement for spectacles. But it rarely gets the timing and mind-speed right.

And that’s why, hindsight!

Imagine if we were to drive with a muddy front glass, and exceptionally clear rear-view mirrors.

I often feel my glass is muddier than average. I call it the anti-climax phenomenon.

My mind is forever in that mode, even during normal conversations. Remember, the dialogue in the movie ‘You’ve got mail’ where the female protagonist complains that she never thinks of appropriate responses at the spur of the moment, but much much later? Yep, that’s me. Except, this happens all the time, and not just when I’m angry.

It’s like my mind goes into mute mode the moment I have company. It doesn’t shut off, but its input process overtakes the output process. Like your mouse and keyboard are working, but you see the reaction of clicking or typing hours later on the screen.

I know it means my mind needs solitude to process thoughts. But, even day-to-day conversations? That’s taking it too far.

As a result, I not only have thoughts in my head during my me-time, but continuous relays of past conversations, their thousand possible responses and the repercussions!

Where’s my pensieve?! (Heck, that spelling looks incorrect. Hmpf!)

And to add to all this, there’s hindsight, churning out smart little observations, pointing out missed opportunities and mistakes.

What’s the point! It’s not that I can go back in time and change things, can I? Yes, I know I’ll learn from it, but how often do we have the exact same situation repeat in life? The next lesson is always different? There’s no point.

It’s like we are simply moving in circles!

P.S.: This post itself is an example of the delays in my mind and the effects of solitude. A lot of thoughts have burst forth in one day. Ergo, three posts! Who knows, maybe I will end up writing another before hitting the bed!

On dealing with jealousy


I’ve loved writing, since school. I remember eagerly looking forward to the essay-writing assignments. All the other students used to copy from ready-made essay books available in stores; not me.

In school we had to write essays from the perspective of an inanimate object. I chose a flower and wrote a love story. In sixth standard. My professor was decently surprised and commented out loud in class. When I was asked to read it out openly, I blushed to no end. I felt exposed. It was as if someone peeled a layer of my soul and bared it to the public.

Till date, writing is my go-to form of expression. And dance, of course, but writing more so. Which is why I wanted to be a journalist, and a writer later on in life, after I have had sufficient experience, stories and observations to write about.

In school, I was proud of my writing prowess. English language did not come as easily to my peers, and even when it did, it rarely appealed to many. Being introduced to reading English and speaking it at home right from childhood, I loved the language. Naturally, I assumed I was good at it.

I was not. Not as much as I would have liked to, at least.

The same continued in college. I knew where my commas were supposed to lie. That’s all. Maybe I had a slightly more extensive vocabulary than my peers, but that was it. I had no other edge other than the want to write. I still thought I was a good writer.

In 2007 and again in 2010 – two of the most influential and important years in my life, which helped shape my person, I was forced to look at myself and face my flaws. The reality was not in the least good. My confidence sunk. But, life is about picking up your pieces and moving on. So did I.

In 2011, I got a job as a sub-editor for the website of a business news channel. At first, I flourished under my first editor. He was polite and patient to teach me the ways and hows of writing professionally. When I revisited my previous works, I could not help cringe in disdain. Just when I thought I was improving again, my new editor voiced her criticisms. It was hard to hear, but she showed me the reality of my writing.

Since the time I realised my writing was not as good as I hoped it would be or wanted it to be, I spend more time reading than writing. I spend time admiring other works and being jealous.

No, don’t get me wrong. I am not jealous of the success of the writers. I am simply jealous that it was not I who produced those beautiful strings of words. I see so many beautiful writers around me that I wonder at the stupidity of my assumptions of the self. It is hard to see past the beauty of their words to mine.

I am told I set too high standards for myself; that I indulge in self-flagellation often. But, it is hard to get past this jealousy. Once it sets its claws on your heart, it never lets go. Inch my inch, you may loosen the grip, but you can never free it entirely.

I have definitely come a long way since the time I was told to “go read Wren and Martin” and brush up my English. Many have told me time and again how well I write. But it seems untrue. The satisfaction is missing – not the kind that comes from penning my thoughts, but that which is derived from the simple knowledge that what I write is good. My kind of good, whatever that may be.

I want to be special. I want my writing to be exemplary. In this life teeming with billion lives, who does not want to stand out, be valued for their sheer genius? Even this blog is a deranged effort at trying to make a mark.

All I can see, though, is futility. If you ask me, I would not even be able to tell you what makes my writing me; what is my style of writing. At this moment, it only seems be copies from the writers I have read. I guess it is time to accept that we are after all ‘average’. I, not we. It is hard.

No wonder then that jealousy seems to be the only constant.

The Spider’s Web

Source: http://atomiccircus.deviantart.com/art/Spider-web-Girl-273742363
Source: http://atomiccircus.deviantart.com/art/Spider-web-Girl-273742363

This was published on The Unknown Pen last month. Thought I should republish it here. (Here’s the link)

***

A spider spins a web – both to capture its prey and also to build a home for itself. Depending on your perspective, the web could thus signify a comfortable home – a den where you’re in your elements, or it could be a prison from which only death can help you escape.

Just like your mind.

We all have demons in our minds. There are dark crevices in the limitless space called ‘mind’. Those crevices are either never-ending, bottomless Tartarus-like pits, or are deep trenches with monsters hidden in the shadows.

Depending on your birth place in the landscape of your mind – either the green pastures of fertile, productive thoughts; the vibrant and colourful Aurora Borealis-like areas, or these dark crevices, your mind would either be your home or your prison.

In the latter case, how much ever a person may thrash around, lash at the webs holding him, all efforts will be futile. It would be like you are suddenly stuck in a bunch of wild weeds under-water. The more you struggle, the more energy you lose. And all this while, you are slowly suffocating.

It hardly needs to be stated what it would be like if your mind is your peaceful den. Some call it the state ‘zen’; some call it peace; some others, happiness.

For many, however, it is not to be. They languish with a decayed mind, often their whole life.

“God helps those who help themselves,” or so goes the old adage. But what of those who know not how to help themselves? These are often people who cannot accept or react positively to any ‘external’ help offered too.

Their basic response is also to suffocate their saviour. Case in point – the drowning man who chokes his helper through his panic.

So what of those then? Do they ever feel the beautiful warmth of sunshine on their skin? Do they ever live to witness the shooting star? Is there ever an end to this punishment?

Perhaps, yes. But more often than not, no.

After a while, these ‘prisoners’ savour the darkness, the pain, the utter hopelessness of unending misery. Not just savour, they bask in it.

For them, even a tiny pin-prick of light becomes blinding, for those eyes have been unused to light for eons.

For them, a break in the continuous ache, isolation, melancholy and wretchedness, is a pregnant pause that gives birth to hope; not just hope, but also all the buried needs of peace and happiness. It is a glimpse of memory to those who have forgotten – tantalising, and also frustrating.

For them, hope is dangerous, as it may force them to try to help themselves out – again. And that means getting further entangled in the spider’s web.

Some – the lucky ones – manage to escape.

Escape either to life or to death.

The Unknown Pen

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The Unknown Pen is a youth-based art platform that publishes poems, articles, pictures and other forms of art from artists all over the world. Here is a message from the founder Syed Amaan Ahmed:

We publish interviews of artists, photographers, writers, poets, change-makers in our The Uncut Diamonds Section. We pick up people whose work is incredible, as per the standards of The Unknown Pen (TUP). We focus on the less-known artists who deserve the place. However, we also focus on genuine people who already are well-known/famous and also the people who are known in some parts but not in other parts of the world: this also includes various social organizations, NGO’s, groups, and so on. We pick up the best. We publish excellent work only to maintain high quality, but we do not give a damn about spelling mistakes, grammar, rules, etc. An artist is free! Sometimes we even publish unedited and raw work with mistakes. For us, high quality means originality and unique imagery. Previously published on TUP in The Uncut Diamonds:

1) Akash Kankaria (India): Poet/Writer (Age: 20s)
2) Minhaj Jahan (India): Poet (Age: 20s)
3) Zsa-Zsa van Zyl (South Africa): Artist/Painter (Age: 20s)
4) Caroline Cecile (USA): Poet (Age: 50s)
5) Don V Standeford (USA): Writer/Poet (Age: 50s)
6) Moupriya Das (India): Change-maker/Social Activist/Feminist and founder of SlutWalk Kolkata. (Age: 20s)
7) Jazba Theater Group (India): Theater/Street Plays/Art/Drama/Change

We have selected some of the following people for our next interviews, which we will publish soon on our The Uncut Diamond Section

1) Sandhya Kannan (India): Writer/poet (Age: 20s)
2) Sara Gilchrist (USA): Writer/Poet/Artist (Age: 20s)
3) Raven Drake (USA): Writer/Poet (Age: 40s)
4) Sue Das (India): Poet (Age: 20s)
5) Brandon Diehl (UK): Poet (Age: 20s)
6) Laurie Smakal (France): Photographer (Age: 18)
7) Pranaadhika Montenegro Sinha Devburman (India): Social Activist/Rebel and founder of Elaan (Age: 20s)
8) Anjali Pathak (India): Singer (Age: 20s)
9) Alina Tarabarinova (Russia): Photographer (Age: 20s)
10) Michele Montedoro (Italy): Photographer (Age: 40s)

Note that we embrace all nations, all nationals, anyone, whoever, from whatever background as long as they meet our standards. If you think and feel that your work is different, then do send us. And even if you think it is not different, then also send us and we will check and get back to you! Also, you can send an email requesting an interview and if we think you fall under The Uncut Diamond category, you will be interviewed. Email: theunknownpen@gmail.com or FB Message me. Please, please and please in subject line write: Submission/Poetry (or story or anything) and for Interviews, write “Interview”.

Let’s Revive the Spirit of Art!

PS: Spread the word, if you want to.