The one with all the confessions!

(More of a personal outlet than a blog entry, go ahead if you possess the patience. Or if you are plain bored.)

There comes a time in everybody’s life, when the world makes absolutely no sense. When you are consumed with existential questions, and when you question your entire life and everything in it. When you can say that you’ve come close to living a life, because you’ve witnessed versions of yourself, more than what you thought were possible. When you find yourself surrounded by people, but deep in your heart you are alone. You’re no one. (Arya Stark, anyone?)

I have never really understood myself completely. Confession #1.

Throughout my adult life (which has actually been only 5 years), I have hopped from one interest to another, trying to figure out the perfect blend of what is it that makes me tick. I have loved music, dance, writing, teaching, math and anything creative. I was also good academically. But among all these, what was my calling? What was I supposed to do in life? These questions continued to plague me, as I sat for one engineering exam after another, always studying at the last moment, happy to be mediocre, content not to excel. To be honest, I did not completely realize the importance of those years, because my life was good! Good college, good friends, good food and the promise of a bright future! I did not stop to think.

This struggle continued to engulf me even as I gave job interviews. I thought I wasn’t good enough. But the truth is, I did all of this so halfheartedly that I don’t even blame them for not selecting me. Finally, I did manage to find the perfect job for me and it translated into a smooth ride for another 2 years. Fractal has helped me find my footing in the independent world, and I will always be grateful for the experiences it provided me with. However, notwithstanding the awesomeness of Fractal, somewhere I felt hollow. I felt like I could do much more, that my skills and abilities could be put to use somewhere else, where there is actually a need.

I love teaching, and I especially love teaching kids. Confession #2

All this while, a huge part of me was engaged with an NGO that everyone I know must have heard its name from me- Make A Difference. Teaching is that one thing which gives me immense satisfaction and joy, and I feel like I have made good use of my time. With MAD, I started to see how interested today’s youth is, in solving challenges of the country, at the same time, how much more requires to be done to enable them to do so, and to bring awareness about some of the problems thwarting our education system.

I started looking at career options in Education, and while the quintessential option of taking private tuition was always open, I wanted to do something bigger, something that would add value to my life. I also was looking at higher education in this sector, because I realized that just an engineering degree isn’t going to suffice if I am seriously considering a career in the field.

I applied to Teach for India (TFI), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Young India Fellowship (YIF).

I had no clear idea why I applied to these three organizations, at the time. Confession #3

But with time, I got accepted into all three. The toughest choice was to choose between TFI and TISS. And guess what I chose? Both.

Yes, I have undertaken a Herculean task. I am going to pursue my Masters in Elementary Education from TISS and I am going to simultaneously be a Fellow at Teach for India. Seems insane, right? It feels that way too. Everyone I spoke to has highlighted how difficult it is going to be, and how it’s going to ask for sacrifices on my personal front. But at the same time, a few have reassured me that I can do it, and I should not lose heart before starting out. How this worked out for me is the fact that my MA course is especially designed for people who work and hence has only 1 month per semester on campus, while the rest is distance. And while I am on distance learning, I can also simultaneously teach at a low income school in Mumbai and get to experience life as a teacher in so many different ways.

And yet, I have no clue how am I going to manage both these things together. Confession #4

(Let’s do a double whammy) I am not even 100% sure if I made the right decision by quitting a well paying comfortable job so early in my career. Confession #5

It’s scary. This journey is already giving me the chills. As I write today, having completed the first month at college, and gearing up for training for Teach for India in Pune, I feel myself questioning where I am in space and time. What about my family, how much will they have to adjust for me? What about my friends, I won’t be able to see them, not even the little that I did see of them earlier. I feel lost, I feel like I am caught up in a whirlpool.

What now? What next? As life keeps reminding me that the clock is ticking, I will be soon exiting the better half of my 20s, and I am still looking for something. A lot of people do tell me, ‘I hope you find what you are looking for’. And yet, I don’t have the slightest idea of what is it that I am looking for. We all do need that sense of purpose I guess, no matter how many Sartres were to take birth and theorize that “existence precedes essence”. (Yaay, my first philosophy joke!)

Since the time I graduated, I have this uneasy feeling that I can’t let go. It has taken a toll on me; the thinking, the helplessness at times, and the warping of emotions. Every time I feel desolate, I ask myself: will I be able to bounce back from here? And somehow, every single time, my heart responds with a resounding yes.

And so folks, there is still hope. Confession #6

That’s the last of my confessions. No matter where I go on from here, I know one day I shall feel proud of the steps I took. I know I am going to end up learning a lot at the end of these two years, and I also know that I will be challenging myself to push my boundaries.

If you’ve managed to stay with me till here, I thank you. For being a part of my life. For being supportive. Do stay with me, till the end.

Now that I have this out of my system, I need to start working on an assignment that’s due tomorrow. Confession #P.S.

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So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood!

Yet another post about an experience I had, this time it just happens to be an experience of reading a book- Norwegian Wood, that, if put best, deals with melancholy, mortality and uncertainty.

Before I start writing about my experience of this book, a few facts.

  • The book’s title alludes to a simple yet incredibly melodious Beatles’ single “Norwegian Wood”. Do give it a listen!
  • This is the second Murakami book I have read. The first one being “The Hard Boiled Wonderland…” The two are as diagonally opposite as possible.
  • Written in 1987, the book is originally in Japanese, and made Murakami an overnight star in Japan, much to his dismay. He moved out of Japan shortly after. That’s how eccentric he is, and it definitely reflects in his writing.
  • I got the book for reading from Clapshare, a book sharing application. They do have a decent process in place. Try if you would.

I had heard a lot about this book, and how it leaves a lasting impact on you. When I was done through some 20 pages, I was very sure this is going to be a simple story plot, but the added dimensions to the book will be provided by its characters. They are the main heroes here, second only to Murakami’s writing style.

The book is about a teenage boy- Toru Watanabe, an ordinary Japanese guy and his outlook on life, death and relationships. But the book is what the book is because of the people in Toru’s life and through his voice, we get an insight into Naoko, Midori, Nagasawa, Reiko and Hatsumi. All of them have played a pivotal role in bringing Toru to where he is, they have in a way helped him grow as a person, have led him to a self-destructive path and at the same time helped him delve into, and find himself. They all represent a certain human characteristic, I want to believe they all come together to render a complete image of Toru, they were different dimensions of his personality all along.

Every conversation, interaction that Toru has with a character is marked with a reminiscence, a memory and a ritual that Toru and the character often do together. Be it his walks with Naoko and Reiko, his lunch outings and drinks with Midori, his girl-scouting expeditions with Nagasawa. Every dialogue in the book is crisp, direct and nothing you would expect. I have certainly not read anything that digs so deep into human emotions and the living experience, but on the surface is as placid as it can get.

A major theme of the book is sorrow. Dealing with loss and the consequent battle of overcoming it. There is a lot of symbolism, especially the way the beginning of the book connects to the end. Or at least I think so. Also, the book talks openly about sex, and has a lot of influence on how the story shapes up. I was not expecting such an honest discussion and portrayal on sex. Not the way George R.R. Martin does it, that one is purely perverted.

This book is one that after reading it once, you can pick it up anytime, open any page and still enjoy that one page in its entirety. Every dialogue the characters have, every description Toru provides, can cut you off from your thought process and lure you into this poignant take on everything that is life.

Before I forget, this book also has a lot of music references. It is loaded with a lot of songs that are being played or being listened to during the course of the book.  There is a brilliant collation of his song references and a customized playlist made out of Murakami books can be found here. Check it out!

To summarize, Norwegian Wood is not enticing or gripping or adventurous or fancy. If you ask me, I did not love it as much as I thought I would. But I can certainly acknowledge this much- the book is different. It is a reflection of reality and how even the simplest of people end up drawing out the most complex emotions in life.

It only seems logical to end the post with a few lines from the song.

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.

Norwegian-Wood-Haruki-Murakami

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The one with the suburban delight!

You know one of those places your friends keep talking about? One of those famous places where everyone seems to have a good time? One of those places you always wanted to go but never could? One of those places you thought existed in Dadar but in fact was actually located in Juhu? Okay, I could not be more obvious. Yes, I am talking bout Prithvi Cafe.
I can be the most oblivious person on the planet. I can sometimes be as ignorant as the rock you see lying on the ground. I give the phrase ‘living under a rock’ a whole new meaning. So it was no surprise when I realized that in spite of being born and brought up in Mumbai, I had never visited Prithvi. My junior college was in Parle. My degree college in Andheri. And yet, I never visited Prithvi. I am a book lover, an artist and a freelancer. Yet, I never visited Prithvi. I am a foodie and drool over coffees and all stuff Irani. Yet, I never visited Prithvi. Before yesterday.

I, along with two of my friends set out to finally visit this place everyone keeps on mentioning. Co-incidentally, none of them had been there too. We had some trouble locating the place, as there is no specific turn to Prithvi but you need to enter a gate and walk around. On first sight, what you notice is the Prithvi theatre and the flock of people gathered to attend one of the events held there. As you pass clear of them, you get to see the Cafe in all its glory. The place was already packed by the time we reached. We had to wait a bit for the table, but I did not mind since my mind was occupied with observing the simple yet beautiful decorations they had. Light bulbs arranged in a spiral fashion above every table, hanging pot plants and the crimson and yellow tapestries. It looked perfect.

We had good food, good conversations and it was turning out to be one of those nice evenings out. But this was a special one, and this is why. In the middle of one of our talks, we suddenly noticed that an old man had made the area under the Banyan tree his residence. He sat there, flute in his hand. Long, white beard and a majestic personality. He had plugged in his tablet and connected it to the speakers, from which a rhythmic taal progression was being played. With his background set, he now picked up his flute and started playing. He played so melodiously, it was an incredible feeling. For a while, all three of us were silent and just listened to the soft music being played. As I looked around, many people were doing the same. While some seemed oblivious, I could not take my eyes off him. However, after a while with some difficulty, we resumed our conversation, occasionally looking at his side and smiling with awe.

I had made up of my mind to go over and talk to him. I did not know what would I say, but I had to tell him that he was amazing! My friend too had the same thing on her mind. When it felt that the time was right (since he would be in a trance like situation and we did not want to disturb), we walked over to him. I sat right beside him under the Banyan tree while my friend occupied the spot next to me.

Up close, I noticed an intensity in him that was almost radiant. Though shy, I mustered up the courage to tell him that he played beautifully! He murmured a short thanks, I had seen many people stop by and tell him that. I asked him if he was playing some Raag and his eyes lightened up on that question. He told me he was trying to play Raag Madhumati. I requested him if he could play Malhar for me. He said he was not trained, but he picked up stuff as he played. And just as he finished saying that sentence, he started playing a few notes of Malhar right there and then. He asked me to sing along, and I hummed slowly, shy of so many people being around. He also showed me the software he used for the taals. I asked him if he was a regular here. And he answered that he comes to Prithvi and plays almost every evening. “There are many things people will tell you, but the truth is, I just like this place!” he said, motioning to the view he got from sitting under the tree which was situated at the center of the cafe. I looked up and nodded in agreement. Truly, a beautiful sight. The sun had set, and the lights were on and rays of light danced and sparkled out of the bulbs, and made the place look vibrant, more than ever. He got back to playing his flute and I just let myself breathe in the moment to my fill. As I got up to walk back to our table, I told him what a pleasure it was to meet him and that I expected to see him the next time I visited. He gave a kind smile and shrugged modestly. His name is Suhas Joshi. (Prithvi regulars would know him, he was also featured in Mumbai Mirror)

IMG-20150502-WA0026

A thousand thoughts ushered in as we came back to the table and rejoined our friend. To sum it up, that is a dialogue I am not going to forget anytime soon. 🙂

Coming back to the place, you could just hop in, sit anywhere and start reading a book. And they wouldn’t mind. Grab one thing to eat and you can make the place your own paradise. This is the kind of culture they want to imbibe and it surely is a good one. Places like this one, inspire and make you think. They encourage free spirit and lively discussions. Sounds good, ha? You bet!

We started out towards the exit when we spotted the bookshop round the corner. A mandatory check in was made. We checked out the books, quite an impressive collection. I wanted to buy one, as a memento of the time I had spent here, but could not find the book I was looking for. The guy who attended us was also very helpful like all the staff we had encountered so far. Finally, we came out of the place with a bag full of memories and with a renewed plan of coming back again, soon.

Prithvi walo, you have gained a lifetime visitor. 🙂

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The one with the monologue, with myself.

Calm down. Take a few deep breaths. It is not the end of the world. You do not need to solve this problem right now. You deserve some time off. I know that spending time at a place which adds no value to your personality does not interest you anymore. Been there, done that. Haven’t we all?

There are a few things off the top of my head I can suggest to you. I am not sure if these will help you. I am not sure if these will make sense to you. But what is the harm in trying?

Start measuring your time carefully. See what activities are unnecessarily cultivating gardens from your time. Cut them down. Start cleansing your thoughts, start moisturizing your mind. Create two piles of things. Abstract or tangible, doesn’t matter. Once you have two piles- one of the things that require your time and the other of the things that are currently taking up your time, you will be able to see reality in a much better light. A thorough shuffling of priorities, that is what you need. And you have to grill down, right till the end of your very being- about the things that matter to you the most. Because in this world and culture, it is easy to lose sight of yourself, and all that you once wanted to be, and all that you have become now.

Stop. Breathe. Sing a little. Dance some more. Play with children. Draw and color the world of your dreams wild. Now think where your life is headed and you will definitely be closer to your answer.

Most of all, remember that it is okay. This is life. An enigma, completely yours to figure out, at your own pace. You are the boss. You define your own rules. But make sure, that once you make them, you live by them.

Now get back to work or you will be fired!

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Of unexpected tidings.

As I stormed off my place, to catch a train, the only thought was to cool down and find some peace. I started walking in the direction of the station. On my way, I realized that it was the eve of Hanuman Jayanti. I felt the sudden urge to visit the temple. Hanumanji always lighted the correct path for me. I made up my mind to visit the temple early in the morning, carrying forward Dad’s tradition and being there in stead of him. As the temple came into view, and I saw the decorations, a faint smile touched my face. All those fond memories. Years of growing up, with the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti being no less than a landmark. The times when I used to gape at the idol flying in the air, made that way to delight children like me, the times when I sat there with a harmonium, the times when I offered prasad to the devotees; came rushing into my head. Half of the temple area was closed down for decorations. I murmered a short silent prayer and came out a little satisfied.

I headed towards the station. I had my first class ticket, and anywhere in the Western line to go to. Checked the time, it was a few minutes to 9 pm. The train that was scheduled next was a slow train. I had hoped for a fast one. I inquired about it but the lady had no idea. I looked around to ask someone else, but no one seemed friendly enough. The train came, and I boarded it, planning to return in the same one, via Churchgate. But that plan will never see the light of the day, will it? On my way, I read A Dance of Dragons which was fortunately saved on my cell phone. As I paused and wondered on the doings of Tyrion and Jon, the railway stations flew by, one by one; unlike Daenerys’ dragons, who haven’t been described much in the fifth book so far. I decided to get down at Charni Road, since I wanted to eat something delicious, and Girgaon Chowpatty seemed like the place to be at. I got down on the platform and for a few seconds, I trotted on in the wrong direction. There was just one bridge that I could see and I was moving away from it. I turned back, came outside, started walking in the direction of Churchgate. My thoughts, along the way were confusing. Fragmented. Sooner than later, I realized that the Chowpatty was in the other direction. So little and less I know of my city!

I decided to continue to walk. I was walking along the railway tracks, and the sea front was on the opposite side. As soon as I found a Xebra Crossing, which was after I had crossed Marine Lines, I went to the other side and walked along the seafront.

It was different. My mind was silent most of the way. Random musings lingered, but the sea and the waves and the sky and the stars soon pushed them away. The water and the sky looked alike- coated with a shine that made me wonder if the sea was one giant rock of ebony. I kept on walking, looking for a familiar spot. I could find none. Tried to catch the names of a few buildings. Sonawala. Zaver Mahal. Kapur Mahal. Timecheck- 10.12 pm. I went on, looking at the large Union Bank neon sign that hovered at the top, far faraway. I spied Nariman Point from a distance and the majestic buildings that shone with golden light in the night.

At one point, a lane to the left seemed familiar. Like I had walked on it once. The next left turn proved my assumption to be correct. I was near the Pizza by the Bay. Thankful to find a landmark, I slowed my pace, picked a spot and sat on the edge. All my while there, I was trying to harness the superpower of Storm. (from X-men) I called out the waves silently, to make them splash hard against the rocks, but in vain. I tried to find a center; a center of force, through which I could channel my imagined superpower and unleash it on the waves. What happened was expected, which was nothing. During the process I had closed my eyes a few times and was unaware of my surroundings. I looked at my left, and a guy was looking at me with intent curiousity. He had a smirk on his face. Creepy. Timecheck- 10.31 pm. Time to go.

As I hopped down, a whim caught hold of me. So many times had I thought of getting dinner at Pizza by the Bay. And here I was. I could go. Alone. Checked my wallet. Three hundred plus change. Hell, I had my debit card. This was it. I could go in there, like a boss. Have the meal of my life. I even thought of asking some random stranger to accompany me, but then thought better than it. Finally, like the coward I was, I gave up.

I eased my way towards Churchgate station. Bought a pack of chips even though I was sick of them. What else could I do? I hadn’t eaten anything since morning, and townside seriously lacks all the roadside eateries you would usually find in the suburbs.

The train on Platform number 1 was a slow one, and this time I decided to let it go, despite the late hour. After a few minutes, a Borivali Fast was indicated on the board. 10.49 pm. The train journey passed in writing this.

I have no idea why I put this all down. But the truth is, I have never felt as free as I felt in those few hours. A free spirit, a vagabond. Happy.

P.S. I returned home safely, a few minutes before midnight, carrying a Cheese Pav Bhaji parcel. 😉

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Of unfulfilled wishes..

Often, in the hollows of our heart, we have wants that just reside. Painful, but true. Absolute. From what I have observed and experienced, here is my try to capture the dynamics of a parent-child relationship, from a child’s perspective; who has his wishes unfulfilled..

I wish you could be proud of me,
I wish you could irrevocably count on me.
I wish you could see how much you mean to me, Ma.

I wish you’d share your day with me,
I wish you’d call me your baby.
I wish you would tell, how much you love me, Pa.

I wish you could forget your troubles and share my joy,
I wish you would console me when I would cry,
I wish you would see through me, Ma.

I wish you would tell me ‘All is okay’,
I wish you would put my troubles at bay.
I wish you would cradle me in your arms, when I would need you, Pa.

I wish I could confide in you, when I wanted to pour out my soul,
I wish to be comforted, and want to feel whole.
I wish we could just lay in the afternoon sun and smile, Ma.

I wish to be the best daughter, turning your tears to dew,
I wish to leave no complaints or disappointments for you.
I wish I could live up to your expectations, Pa.

I wish you would try to understand my part,
I wish you would peep into my heart.
I wish you could see the pain I go through, when I see you crying, Ma.

I wish we could have that special bond,
I wish you would occasionally ask me about my favorite song.
I wish someday, I could tell you how much I love you, Pa.

parental-care

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A Rainy One!

Monsoon. Who doesn’t love monsoons in Mumbai? That splash of cool rain drops on your face, that sound your feet make when they walk into a puddle, those sprinkles of water that manage to drench you. All this combined with hot pakodas, and classic old songs, what more could one ask for?

Needless to say, Monsoon is my absolute favorite season! And my parents, find it a miracle, since they distinctly remember me being completely averse to Monsoons, as a child. Yes, I was, once upon a time. I hated everything about it. Right from the dirt puddles, to the way it made your skin moist and sticky. Strange, how the most stringent opinions that we hold, change over time!

So what was it that did change my perspective? It was this one incident that changed everything. I was in 6th grade. As I had a lot of free time back then, I usually enrolled in activities to keep the day occupied. My parents had finally listened to my grunts, and I was allowed to join a Basic Course on Computers. Since I was 11, and my parents found it ridiculous to let me travel alone that far, my Dad used to drop and pick me up.

One fine day, I stepped out of the class building, and as usual, waited for my Dad. Bubbling with enthusiasm, and fresh knowledge, I did not notice that the clouds had begun to darken, and the first rains were about to descend. I waited for 15 minutes, he was late. I checked my pockets, I had two one-rupee coins and that was all the money I had. As I was contemplating my options, a few drops of water fell on my arm. I sighed at the sight, and thought inwardly that this couldn’t have gotten any worse. Quickly, I picked out one of the coins, marched towards a PCO, and called him up. It turned out, that he had completely forgotten to pick me up!

There I was, left completely stranded in a faraway place, angry and a little afraid. It had now started to pour heavily. I stood under the shelter of the PCO shop wondering what to do. I had only one rupee left. I remembered my Mother’s advice and tried catching a rick. She had told me that during emergencies, I could catch a rickshaw, and I could then make the rickshaw-wala wait, collect the money from home, and pay him. I was unsuccessful, in getting a rick. Maybe because I was only a child, and no taller than 4’6″ or maybe because it was raining too heavily, rickshaws just didn’t stop.

Now almost hitting the panic mode, I realized I had no option, but to walk home. My geographic sense, was always a little bit amplified, and hence I knew which road I was on, and how to get home from there. I was on SV road, Malad, and all I had to do was walk straight, until I reached Kandivali station, and from there I could get a bus to home, since the cost for a half ticket in those times was only a rupee. I stepped out of the shop, let the rain soak me up, kept my disappointment in check and started walking.

As I walked, I started getting used to the cold, drenched feeling. I looked around, and it was beautiful! The trees were a lush green, the sky was a grayish blue, and the roads were getting quieter. I saw rainbow-like structures being formed in the mud puddles, and was utterly fascinated by them! When I’d covered half the distance, the rain had slowed down to a gentle drizzle, and I did not feel forlorn. I was surprisingly, enjoying myself. No one was there to disturb me, no one to tell me what to do, no one to guide me, and no one to spoil it for me. I was free, I was on my own. And that was an amazing thing to feel. My roots of independence, trace back to this particular moment.

When I finally reached Kandivali station, what did I do? I did not take the bus, but walked all the way to home. When I entered, my Mom expected Dad to follow. She asked me about his absence, and how did I get home. I was suddenly tense, afraid. I knew my Mom would certainly scold me for doing what I had done. Walked 4 km, soaked in rain, and you could have caught innumerable germs along the way! That is what she would have said. She wouldn’t have noticed my super awesome journey, or my super awesome newly found independence. I am not proud of what I did next, but I told her I came by rickshaw. She was happy to hear the answer she expected, and all was well.

Only for me, it was never normal again. My love for rains, and walking still exists. Many a times, I face a situation where I do not have enough money to travel back home, and I happily take a walk from the station, and go back to that day, and reminisce the memory and smile. No one knew about this, no one did till now. I guess it was time for this little secret, to be out of the closet. 😉

girl-dancing-rain_thumb2

Rain rain, do not go away!
Turn again, some other day!
Little Dhvani wants to play 🙂

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