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.

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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.”

Vision

Source: http://cs.brown.edu/courses/csci1430/
Source: http://cs.brown.edu/courses/csci1430/

In the film ‘Matrix’, we were told our idea of reality is skewed; it is just an illusion. In a way, it hit the right chords if we take into account the different perspectives of a human mind. Some of these we brush away as figments of imagination; some we celebrate as creativity; some we meditate upon as the ‘inner-eye’ or ‘subconscious’, and some, we tolerate as reality – something we are part of, but is out of our control.

To those who are aware of these, it will feel like there is a constant buzz in your head. Like a desktop window with multiple operations under process.

In reality, at the click of a button, you push one up; prioritize one—albeit temporarily—over the others.

But, what if we did not have this option? What if the default setting was that all these perspectives were constantly at work in non-hibernation mode?

Imagine a world, where you wade through every moment of life across three-four layers. Imagine if your vision was divided into four sectors (vertical or horizontal as you please) – one, where your imagination unfolds, is portraying night time; the one, which deals with creativity, is a mosaic of bright, interchanging colours; the subconscious or inner-eye, a dull throbbing gold, and the reality reflects the normal landscapes that mark your life – like a local train, your workstation, television, etc.

The idea seems, at once, enthralling and perverse. Enthralling, for who would want to not live not one, but four vibrant lives at one, especially in a state of higher awareness and consciousness? But perverse all the same, because it will make you realise how hopeless and powerless reality is; also because, there will come a time when you would want to switch off, for it would simply feel overwhelming, like your brain is about to burst.

I am sure the creative sort of people would relate to this, those who have powerful urges to step out of reality and capture their imagination and thoughts by penning down (or painting). Those whose brains are bursting with too many thoughts and feelings.

Perhaps, this is what we already do unconsciously, though, on a smaller scale. This is why we box sections of our lives into categories, and make sure they are processed in hibernation mode.

Who knows!

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

image

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!

A Bed of Memories

Memories. We collect them all our lives like roses from a bed of flowers. Like shells from the sea floor.
Usually, they bring a smile on our face. As we relive those moments, often innocuous and barely noteworthy. Yet, they are the ones that manage to fill our hearts up with emotion.
Sometimes, these very memories leave a bitter taste in our mouths.


Memories. We collect them all our lives like roses from a bed of flowers. Like shells from the sea floor.
Usually, they bring a smile on our face. As we relive those moments, often innocuous and barely noteworthy. Yet, they are the ones that manage to fill our hearts up with emotion.
Sometimes, these very memories leave a bitter taste in our mouths. We go to great lengths to avoid some memories. Even the good ones. Those hurt more.
They make you feel the magnificence of time. Throw the differences in sharp relief.
It never ceases to amaze me.
Last year, I would’ve celebrated memories with my friend or some loved one. Today, in their absence, the very same memory chokes me and fills my heart with longing and sorrow.
It’s a never ending circle.
I had mistakenly believed that it was an error on my part to make myself vulnerable with people who I knew were not trustworthy. I thought guards would safeguard me from any pain and suffering.
Today, I realised that guards only jail you inside the confines of your mind. You are never really free. And it is not about being trustworthy; it is simply a passage of time. What comes has to go.
Just because people don’t remain doesn’t mean they never were loyal, trustworthy and truthful. Their time was up. That’s all. In my life, that is.
That shouldn’t stop me from opening up, being vulnerable and making memories.
After all, when I am 80 years old, a frail lady, these memories will serve me company. They will be the stories I could tell kids and grandkids.
And thus, life goes on.