Thursday, March 10, 2011

Death, and all his friends

“Oh shut UP, I’m serious! Goddamnit, could you for once have an objective dialogue on death without thinking I’m suicidal?” High time, he thought to himself. He’d tried the hardest ever to keep his cool.

It was slightly overcast, with faint signs of rain. It was the kind of weather where you didn’t want it to rain, for that would simply end the beauty of expectation. A book of short stories by R.K. Narayan lay on the table, half open.

“I just care about you, Dan. You scare the living crap outta me with these questions of yours, what the hell do you mean ‘right time to die’? Go catch some sleep!”

Dan had had enough of this. He had to go on talking about it. Someone would understand! “I mean come on, think about it. Attempted suicide is a crime. What justification is there to that? Once you’re an adult, why shouldn’t you be given a choice as to when you wish to terminate your life? Isn’t that messed up, on a scarily fundamental level? They talk about choice in everything else, they talk about freedom like you can buy it in dollar stores, and you don’t have the freedom to choose the point where your life ends? How does that make sense in your world?”

“And shouldn’t there be an optimum time to die? All these critical path theories of the world, they should apply to qualitative things too, right? Wasn’t there some lemma saying most things can be quantized?” He felt a lot lighter. The words were flowing now. He could feel the creases in his thought progression easing out. “Think about it this way. If you die a child, it’s still a bad thing. If you stay old for too long, you become a burden. Is there any time you can die without causing too much pain, or for that matter, without triggering a few sighs of relief around you?”

She looked at him her eyes misty with concern. “Look, Daniel. I have a very high regard for your thought process, you know that. Objective thinking is something you’re so adept at you should really read more about it and write about it too. But this is not a very happy road to go on, love. Think of happier things, will you?”

He broke once more. What was this world where a simple discussion couldn’t be had without assuming emotional involvement? He whacked the book off the table in exasperation.

“Daniel, thoughts don’t just come like that. It’s one of the many things you taught me yourself, it’s a process, remember? I know what you’ve read recently and it’s not coming from there – Douglas Adams and Narayan aren’t exactly promoters of a dystopian world.”

“So what you’re basically trying to tell me”, he was fuming now, “is that there cannot be had a discussion on death, or anything for that matter, without having some sort of attachment to it? Without the discussion stemming from personal feelings? Everyone who’s ever thought of death has killed themselves? Do you even hear yourself? What’s the sodding use of educating yourself so much, then?”

“Stop pretending. Honestly. You’re ALL the bloody same. All of you. Don’t care if you want, but don’t give me the goddamn HOPE that you do. I’m okay with living in a place where nobody cares, just don’t give me the delusions!”

She really was confused. Agreed, Daniel was quite the over-thinker, but it usually stuck to that, didn’t it? He was fiercely objective, and it never strayed to his emotions. This anger business wasn’t him, it wasn’t him at all.

“Where is all this coming from Danny? What are we even talking about? What does caring about you have anything to do with this? You really think I’m pretending to care about you? I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you understand me at all. What the fuck should I do to show that I really love you?”

Then it suddenly dawned upon Daniel. The sheer frivolity of having this discussion at all came and whacked him in the face.

“Yes I read too much into stuff I learn about. Yes, I make unnecessary conclusions, what’s your point?”

How on earth could he put that feeling into words? That place where being treasured was a happy feeling, how could he take someone there without them actually feeling it? How could he possibly tell her this, without offending her feelings? How could he tell her that if she did want to truly love him, she should try and understand him, not just tell him how much she loves him. How could he tell her that this objective discussion was so close to his heart, and her not understanding it hurt him more than so many things?

And all of a sudden, it all became clear. The world didn’t want to understand, it just wanted to go with the flow. The world didn’t want to truly love, it just wanted to lie and fool everyone else that it does. It doesn’t matter if you love, it just matters if you show you do. THIS was the flaw; this was the reason why he could never understand the world. The only thing that he knew, at that moment, is that he could never come to peace with others, and more importantly, with himself. This endless cycle would ensure that he could never be loved. He was alone. The only way out was giving up. The only way was helping the world in its cause to destroy him.

“Yeah, you’re right. I really should stop overanalyzing. Why the hell did I start thinking of death anyway! I’m sorry, I won’t talk about this kinda stuff again. Come, let’s go get coffee.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rainy Day, Dream Away

Note: This was written days after the Winter 2009 edition of Waves culminated. This was the festival where my batch was in charge, the festival that was known the most intimately by us. Ironically, life caught on and I never posted it.

The rains pelt on. The blues spread their reign all over. Something that’s been more than half a year in the making just burns itself out in three days. Like one of those quick burning cigarettes my hostel-mates tell me about.

To outsiders, it seemed like a feather in the hat of the art of organization. Yet, I find myself wondering where it all went. Waves is just a blur of damage control and crisis management. Somehow, we rescheduled and negotiated and fought our way through and made it work. And just when our worries seemed behind us, the Gods decided to have one little last laugh, and decided to make it rain. Needless to say, people went to town with jokes about Parikrama and “But it Rained”. When there’s been no sleep and substantial amounts of stress, the best bouts of humour come forth. And what better time for those scenarios than Waves! The best one I heard was an overworked coordinator saying “Parikrama’s so old, they should be called Parikra-grandma”.

In any case, the last thing I want to do is discuss shortcomings here, so I’ll leave it at that. Waves was a grand success overall, and that's all that matters.

I spent quite a while musing about weather changes and whether what we’d learnt of the timing of the arrivals of the “rainy season” and “summer” will probably not be what we teach our kids. Hell, we might not even have the same seasons. Seasons change, they say. Not so funny now is it, you metaphoring elitists.

Nonetheless, in my little world, the rains are always welcome. They slow down your thoughts, they slow down life. Somehow, they give you a license to stand and stare, to step back and look at the big picture. To stand underneath the walkway you take every day and pause to look at the leaves soaking in every bit of the rain. To sit with friends, old and new, and sip that lovely tea that warms you up. To learn to tread carefully, lest you slip in the soggy paths.

Someday, if I write a book, it’ll feature the rain. In all its glory and magnificence, in all its ability to make humans step out of the rat race, temporarily nevertheless, and examine the world for what it is.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blossoms Blooming

We’re already a month into the New Year. I read Sugar Magnolia’s bundle-of-sunshine post here, ushering in February with much joy and exuberance and it really did make my day. It’s difficult to see the bright side of things when you’re locked up in an office with practically nobody to talk to and with that messed up work culture your mommy warned you about. The big daddy of a typical core manufacturing firm. Where your card swapping in-out time holds infinitely more importance than the actual work you put in. Where you’re allowed to spend as much time “roaming around on the shopfloor” trying to “learn things”, but when you plug in a pair of earphones to drown out distractions so you can finish your work much faster, oh you are so dead with those looks you’ll get.

Every manufacturing firm has production line down-time, and every single goddamn one of them wants to reduce it. Obviously. And who best to blame for this than the maintenance guys, who’re supposed to wrap up their maintenance duties in infinitesimal amounts of time. The best part is, the boys over at maintenance couldn’t care less. They’ve gotten their minds attuned to the fact that the blokes over at production simply hate their guts and just don’t get it. The end result of this is free-floating hostility all over the place.

With the severe lack of documentation, it’s terribly difficult to actually figure out why this is happening. Enter stage left the intern, who has no regular duty and is meant for bitch-work in general. Give him a pile of 30-odd log books with utterly illegible scribbling of what are allegedly downtime reports, and tell him to sort out the data, channel-wise. Give it a fancy name, and make him document the data in the form of a soft-copy.

What the above rant essentially means is, that I’ve been entering illegible data onto an excel sheet for the last two weeks or so. 8 hours a day. My eyes, neck and other assorted body parts hurt. Which makes it rather difficult for me to see the bright, lustrous, colour-laced season of love that is February.

But what helped, was that post. It hit me in that one split-second, that however relatively dark my world has become, there’s still an insanely beautiful world out there. And the fact that it exists is enough to get me grinning through the day.

Thank you, Sugar Magnolia!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bookish Knowledge

Not too long ago, I decided to finally pick up Kafka. After enduring enough jibes and accusations ranging from elitist to you’re-planning-your-own-funeral, I finally finished a couple of novels of his. Needless to say, the latter of the said accusations seemed a much quicker reality in the beginning.

The good part about how I read Kafka was, I ended up reading in spurts. A good number of days went in between me reading every 100 odd pages, which meant enough time to ruminate over what I’d read. What ensued was that every time I was neck deep in reading one of his novels or short stories, I’d realize a new facet of the man’s work, and a new reason to like it. Every few days, I could tell people how much I love Kafka’s stuff for a whole different reason. The only common factor was that I loved Kafka’s stuff.

And finally, I realized that this is how truly good books function. If you look at it from a very macro level, this is how it generally is. Books that have been loved and adored by fans whose number goes into six or seven digits always have the external appearance of being liked only for one particular reason. . But if you think about it even a little bit and consider the enormity of the cross-section of people reading these books, this cannot possibly be true. In reality, though, they appeal to different senses and different areas of the brain of people reading it. The reason why they all seem to be appreciated for only one reason, are critics.

Critics are in no way intellectuals functioning on a higher plane, figuring out the true intention of the author behind writing the book. Hell, only the author can tell you the true intention. The only difference between book critics and us normal people is that they can express their views, which somehow leads us all to believe that they’ve understood the true essence of the book better than the common man. Not only is this very untrue, it also gives a very convenient opinion that people can flock towards and conform to. I do not claim to be an observer in this; I have been guilty many-a-times of being biased in a particular direction towards a book after reading a review. Of course, most publishers love the critics for this for boosts in sales and whatnot, but I digress.

The bottom line is, a book is meant to lend perspective. Irrespective of the genre, it is meant to add some value to who you are. Whatever the hell you do, don’t let anybody tell you what and how much value you want a book to add to your life. Because that is direct reflection of every moment you’ve passed by. I’m sure I’ve been beaten to the punch in this realization by countless people and that it’s common knowledge. But it’s a whole different understanding when it springs out on you and shows you that the culmination of your thought process has been what many before have said. And at the risk of sounding very clich├ęd and asking for jokes to be made in my general direction, let yourself decide how you want to enrich your life, not someone else!