The Walking Irony

Images with a quote are all the rage these days. Every single person active on social media (guilty as charged) has liked, posted or shared at least one such image.

What started as a beautiful thing earlier, has now, according to me, gone out of control. As with everything else, a mass democratisation (as our media studies professor called it) brings down quality. In English, this means, when something becomes too popular; when you have to cater to the masses, the quality often drops.

Take this image quote for example:

shitty-quote

I call this the Walking Irony. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the meaning of the quote. The connotation is quite clearly negative. People are usually thankless and not sensitive about the effort someone puts in for them. It is only when that ‘help’ stops that people stand up and notice.

Agreed. So far, at least.

But the second connotation of this quote is that people ‘never’ notice; people ‘never’ notice. But that isn’t true, is it? Everyone, at some point in time or the other, has appreciated or noticed timely help and effort.

So, the quote essentially ignores all these times.

This means you can apply the rule of the quote to the quote itself. Hello, Irony!

Move on

“Move on.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“…..”

“Why?”

“Because it would be murder. All those memories we painstakingly collected, they will be long forgotten. No, I’d rather smile and cry whenever I remember you and our memories. Some day, the edges of these memories are going to get frayed and dog-eared like a beloved book read again and again. I’d rather our memories too die a natural death. I don’t want them to meet a preemptive end. You move on. You need to. I’m happy here.”

Why I want to be like the ten-headed Ravana

The book, ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’, says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness. He was called Dasamukha or ‘Ten-headed’ for embracing all aspects of humanity and its emotions.

Source: ReviewLeaf.com

I love to know the other side of the coin. Whenever anyone narrates any story, whether real, reel or mythological, I itch to know the point of views of the other characters involved. Sometimes I ask point blank if the other point of view tallies; sometimes though I keep my trap shut and leave things to imagination. After all, there is not just one truth. There are many truths—depending on the perspectives. (Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Gillian Flyn’s Gone Girl, anyone?)

Anyway, the point is I love reading about alternative view-points – especially when it comes to mythology. Currently, I am reading this book called ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’ by Anand Neelakantan. It tells the tale of Ramayana through Ravana’s point of view. Essentially, it is ‘Ravanayana’.

Almost every child in India knows that Ravana is the ten-headed villain from the Epic. Why he is ten-headed is not a question many thought of asking. I didn’t either. Until, that is, I started reading this book, which has a wonderful explanation.

The book says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness.

Ravana’s gurus tried to teach him how to shun all these emotions except one – intelligence or logic. They said this will help him achieve greatness. The rest of the emotions, the Gurus said, will only serve to distract him in one way or the other. By suppressing all the other ‘heads’ or ‘emotions’, Ravana will be able to achieve balance in his mind and thus achieve greatness.

“The only thing worth preserving is your mind. Your mind absorbs the knowledge you gain from your Gurus, your books and your life, and refines it to great wisdom. It is what you have to develop. Every living minute, you have to strive to feed your mind with fresh and positive inputs. This will give clarity to your vision and immense power to your action. You will make fewer mistakes and also learn faster from them.”

This is what his Guru taught him.

Ravana, of course, refuses to do so. And then he proceeds to give a beautiful explanation for the need for each and every single emotion, even if it is negative like selfishness. Here’s an excerpt below:

“The amazing speed of progress man has achieved in the past few years would have not been achieved without that small flame of ambition in the minds of a few men, which was fanned to become a huge fire by the other emotions you have urged me to shun. Pride in one’s capability gave men the confidence and ambition to grow; jealousy that someone else would achieve more prodded him to work hard and more efficiently; the quest for happiness resulted in ever-expanding ambition; the fear of sadness kept him awake at night and pushed him further; the fear of failure made him more careful and God-fearing; selfishness glued his family, city, clan, tribe and country together and made him strive even harder. Love for life and the things which made life precious, made him protect his achievements. And I am sure an undying ambition for more will lead mankind to progress. Progress, which we cannot even imagine, can never understand in our short lifetime.”

In the end, he says that he wishes to neither be a God nor achieve Moksha. All he wants is to live a fulfilling life as a human, and exactly as his emotions tell him to do. Otherwise, he would be but an empty skeleton. This is why he is called ‘Ten-headed’ or ‘Dasamukha’, according to the book.

I could not agree more. For years I have contemplated about the need to sacrifice or supress some parts of our persona for the sake of betterment. As a Brahmin, I’ve often been told to not do many things, because it apparently takes me one step closer to the perfection that is God. But over the years I have realised that life is empty without these imperfections. There are so many aspects of life which are harmful. That said, they do add some colour to life. I would rather live a fulfilling life when I am alive than worry about life after death, or worse, how I would be reborn – as an animal or human or Brahmin (believe it or not, these are some legitimate threats I’ve heard)

Agreed it is important to constantly aim to improve over time; the goal should be to do away with your imperfections, but that doesn’t mean you supress it altogether. There will always be times when you will give into your natural instincts like anger or fear.

This brings me to the conclusion that it is moderation that is important, not complete suppression. Everything is better in the right quantities. Even complete suppression could backfire – like a volcano that bursts suddenly after gaining steam for hundreds of years.

At the end of the day, I appreciate and accept my humanity. More so, I want to embrace it whole-heartedly. There will be days when I get angry, afraid, jealous, over-ambitious, proud, happy or sad. Otherwise I would be like the stone which sits in silence and observes the world, wouldn’t I?

I think the key point here is ‘limit’ and ‘objectivity’. It is ‘not getting carried away’. Any of the base emotions, when in excess, can wreak havoc; even love or happiness. The question, then, is – where to draw the line? And most importantly, who decides whether the line is correct or wrong? And that is something I have always struggled with – limiting myself and walking on the thin line that separates the right from the wrong!

Travel Musings: Layers, Finding Your ‘Self’, Silence and More

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What do you wear? Clothes, you may answer. No, I am not talking about just clothers. On a daily basis, we wear more than clothers. Even if we strip down to our birthday suits, we aren’t completely naked.

Recently, I went traveling. Slowly, one by one, I was stripped down to my bone–all without ever removing my clothes. On the contrary, the cold had forced me to pile on four-five more layers.

That’s when I realised, we wear our characters like clothes. It constitutes of many layers too. Our likes, logic, perspectives, prejudices, expectations, and yes, even our relationships and position in life; the various roles we play in our own life stories–we wear them around us as protective guards.

When you go to a far-flung place like the Himalayas, where even a glass of warm, drinkable water is a luxury, you are stripped of all these layers until you’re just another human, just another animal breathing in and out to survive, to live. When you are fighting for the basic necessities, you do not care about your worldly perspectives or that of the next person, you do not care what the person offering water is wearing, or what they think about different things in life. You are at your most vulnerable.

And yet, it is also when you are the truest. What your heart craves then is what it truly, really wants.


It is often said that you find yourself while you travel. I realised I lost myself–bit by bit, I let go of a lot of life’s baggage. You often realise the pointlessness of all that you wear around yourself, and you shed it off. Amidst the looming mountains, and often a lone, never-stopping stream, I was just another girl; not a daughter, friend, boss, employee, saviour, enemy, or whatever role I may have ever played in people’s lives. I was just ME!

There was a stillness outside of me. And there was stillness inside me. For the first time in my life, there were no voices in my head. I did not even realise or understand it. I took a while to actually realise this silence and accept it.

At first, the silence was frightening. My mind tried to initiate thoughts just to fill the silence, fill the space. Here in the city, there is so much activity and noise. There are so many distractions you do not even comprehend its sheer quantity. Even the nights aren’t still here. Amidst the mountains, though, you understand the true meaning of silence and stillness. You look up at the peaks and realise they have stood the same for eons, witnessing silently the passing of time. Made me wonder–why are we humans in such great hurry? We always scurry around, hurrying off somewhere. Life is short, agreed. But what good is the hurry? For us, even a split second is a long time. Up there, even an hour is the same as a second. Time–it is just the movement of two hands on a watch or clock, up there. Or maybe, it is the passing of the sun and moon on the blue sky.


Coming back to what I was saying about layers. Up there, you are naked and vulnerable and yet, even as you are reduced to the barest of existences, you are alive. Perhaps it is this loss of the sense of ‘Self’ that they call ‘Finding Yourself’–the idea that ‘You are Nothing’; just a blink in the passage of time. Perhaps, this is the ultimate truth? Ironically, you ‘find’ this about yourself only by ‘losing’ your self.

And yet, slowly, as civilisation neared and crowds thronged, I slowly found myself pile up my layers–first the wants, the likes and dislikes; then came the prejudices, the prespectives of right and wrong, the good and the bad, the views about the world, the sense of duty and responsibilities, and lastly, the roles I play. There, I was done doning my character suit again.

It is heavy, the suit. Perhaps, that’s why our shoulders ache, and every once in a while, we like to escape. Of course, this is only for a short time. Afterall, who likes to stay bare-naked their whole life? It is too vulnerable an existence that man left behind centuries back.

The suit is safety. It bolsters the idea that man is something; that man is not nothing; that he can hold his own afterall in this world where nature rules.

God? For some reason, I found the concept just a bleak attempt by man to understand Nature and its whims. Or perhaps, it was just I who failed to feel His/Her presence amidst the powerful presence of Nature.

Either way, we are but puny existence. Yet, it is remarkable how we manage to wreak such havoc and destruction. It is not amazing, but oddly, awe-inspiring. Not the positive awe, let me clarify. It is like a tiny ant, which can cause your whole body to swell up. Such tiny creatures causing great things in terms of sheer magnitude.


I did not want to come back. It took me a long enough time to get used to naked existence. I struggled the most with my lack of ‘self’ identity and even the constant beaitng down of my expectations.

‘Finding yourself’ sounds so peaceful, serene even. It is hardly so, I assure you. It is like being in the eye of a storm or whirlpool. The dizzy, topsy-turvy forces will ensure you lose your sure-footing. Everything you though you knew for sure about the world–your own world, especially–would be turned upside down. The ground beneath your feet would barely exist. It’s hardly a vacuum, but a roller-coaster, 100 times worse than the most-extreme rides in the world. It reminds me of the quote by Cynthis Occelli I had read:

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who does not undersatnd growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

And even after it ends, you will be unsure about things–every thing. Perhaps, that is the lesson. NEVER BE SURE ABOUT ANYTHING!

Musings of the day: Half-baked thoughts!

We often see love as a grand scheme of things. Like romance. Some larger-than-life gesture. I mean gestures; one too many. After all, it can’t stop with just one, can it?

In adolescence, love is more about the feeling of high, the feeling of being loved than about love in itself. By then, our minds are ripe with thoughts fed by media about romance; about everlasting love; about childhood sweethearts, who lived to their 90s and died together; about a grand scheme in life called love. You congratulate yourself for finding ‘The One’ during your first relationship. You feel lucky, and frankly smug for becoming one of the childhood sweethearts. In your mind, you have seen the glorious end.

But you forgot the middle. And that’s where it ends.

There are many kinds of love – the irrational love, the love at first sight, the love that builds from friendship, the love that starts as a slow timbre of spark and then buds into a roaring fire. And then there’s the calculated, controlled, practical love.

I am not a believer of love at first sight. I do believe in the irrationality of the gut feeling when you meet a potential lover. And I certainly don’t believe in the concept of ‘The One’. I am practical. Love, for me, has been a decision. It has not ‘happened to me’. I have let it happen. And that’s why I know the calculated, controlled, practical love in and out. That doesn’t mean it has no inch of irrationality in its bone.

It starts as a lurch in the gut. It does, believe me. Even the most practical of us have an instinct. Most hone it to be warned about trouble. It is but natural for it to warn about love too. After all, love falls in the list of troubles too, don’t you think?

Then starts the casual research and analysis. You scout for red flags; do a mental self-high five at the matches; a mini-jig after a splendid evening; so on and so forth. And yet, for even dance jig, there’s a panic attack. Especially when you realize you almost let your guards down and started building castles in the air. You almost let yourself get carried away with the flow, when your potential target seems cool as a cucumber, unaffected and least in the know about your mind games.

In the practical, control, calculated love, companionship and camaraderie matter more. Do your likes and dislikes match? Do your opposites clash or are they manageable? Every single step is richly evaluated.

Over thinking much? And yet, that is what you do. Every little inch of space you make for the person in your life is thought about. Every now and then, you will swing from ‘Hell, yes!’ to ‘Hell, no! I was better single’. And even this swing would scare you, because it is not logical; it is not controlled, much less rational. Shouldn’t it either be a yes or a no?

Yet, time does its magic on you. In time, you allow yourself the grace of love. It can’t be termed ‘falling in love’ when it happens over months, possibly even years, can it? It would be like watching a three-hour long movie in extra-slow motion with period reverses and fast forwards; it would last months!

And during this time, your friends would give up on you. It would be beyond them. If they are good friends, they would cheer with you every time you want to rejoice, and then, nod silently when you point out your reservations. Mentally, though, they would only be heaving a huge sigh of exasperation at your turtle-like speed.

Double the processing time if you manage to find a partner like you.

Silence

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Silences.

There are many kinds of silences witnessed in our world.

The silence of peace and quietude;
The silence of indifference;
The silence of death, war and destruction;
The silence of pain, sorrow and grief;
Even the silence of love and romance, as lovers stare into each others eyes;
The silence of observation;
The silence of a mental conversation;
The silence of quiet contemplation and deep thought;
Or even the silence of the moment of decision-making;
Then there’s the silence of companionship;
The silence of expectations—often called a pregnant pause;
The silence of nature, confident of its own ways and whims;
The silence of vacuum;
The silence of mutual understanding;
Even the silence of focus and concentration, the likes of which you see in exam halls, each to their own;
There’s the silence of meditation and spirituality;
The silence of emotions when words fall short of doing true justice to feelings;
The silence full of unsaid words and meanings;
The silence of shock,
And there’s the silence that fills you in solitude.

But there’s a silence like whiplash; if words can hurt, then this can sting, in ways unimaginable.

And that is silence that follows a death of a relationship, when two people suddenly run out of things to speak about, a blinding contrast to times when words overflew and toppled over one another like waterfall. The silence that follows then is remarkable. That, more than anything else, can break your heart into pieces.

Musings of the day

1) Life is always a work in progress. Always. Everything you’ve built to achieve needs work even after you’ve achieved it. Maintenance, that’s what we call it. And success and failure both need it. Even take a body builder for example; you first struggle to build the body of your dreams. Then you struggle to maintain it. Now replace body with anything and everything. Universal rule, aye!

2) What takes years to build only needs a short time to destroy. Especially relationships. After all, it took Rome 100 years to be built and only one to be destroyed. Destruction is simply a waste of all the patience needed for the turtle-like crawl that building needs. That’s why Death and Destruction aren’t a work-in-progress like Life.

3) When there are big changes in life, you inevitably take comfort in the small constants. The after-waking regime; the brand of eye liner you use; the favourite comfort food you’ve had for breakfast every day of your life; the 9.56am train you take. It’s the small things that remind you you are you. Especially in the face of change. Who says the anchor needs to be heavy.

4) It’s hard to remember a person’s face, person in entirety. You miss them in glances. That one glance when their eyes twinkled. The other glance when you caught them showering you in warmth. Another one when they looked to you with melting puppy eyes and your heart skipped a beat. That specific glance when they flashed their dimples. Your memory lane is scattered with such glances from all the people who once occupied your life. It is the small things that crack your walls, your guards, your reserve. And one crack is enough when the floods come.