To imperfection

In the ideal world there are no 2 a.m. dinners.

In the ideal world you eat three meals in a day which magically appear at the table, before you set off for your awesome six-figure paying job.  Of course, life being what it is, you probably had to cook them yourself, but by now you’re an expert at this game and can dish out a chicken biriyani and a Fish Moilee at the drop of a hat.

In the ideal world you fall in love at 21, get married by 27, have your first kid before 30. You probably own a car and your in-laws think you are the epitome of perfection.

Back in the real world, your bed still looks like it was hit by a tornado. Food is coffee and a sandwich and uppittu at the office canteen. But you have people who love you, and some days you do manage to get most of the things on your checklist done. And even if you fall asleep on the couch and wake up at midnight craving for hot food, you can roll up your sleeves and make yourself a mean dinner.

And some days you get to do work that you feel proud of, or to make someone happy through a simple word or action, and it seems like all this is temporary: one day, all the loose ends will tie up to form a gorgeous ball of sunshine.

Meanwhile, the mother of two whose settledness you envy stays up till 2 until everbody sleeps, to savour the only moment of solitude she can get in a long day.

She hears in the morning azaan the same calming voice you do – memories of a simpler time.

The forgotten gift

You have a gift. Use it well.

​Many years ago, when you were young and green and the world was your oyster, someone said those words to you. Oh, the innocence of youth! You believed it then. You had a gift, you thought. You had something special to give the world, something only you could create. You were a very, very special being.​​Those were the days, of heady first loves and limitless possibilities, when every plot idea you conjured had the makings of a potential bestseller. Today those storyboards sound so ridiculous. Today you couldn’t think of a novel-worthy story idea if someone put a gun to your head. That super-confident self has disappeared, buried and defeated among a pile of rejection letters and not-too-polite brush-offs.
You take to the internet to write, because on the blogosphere the rules are relaxed and everyone’s hair is down. You can be anyone you fancy, manic-pixie-dream-girl one day, activist-with-a-cause the next. The anonymity, the freedom, are intoxicating. But even here, you find minor celebrities, people who are loud and forceful with their opinions, people you will never be. Are you not good enough, you wonder. A small quiet voice tells you, but you have a gift, child. 
Each passing day, you believe it less and less.

You stop attempting poetry, because someone once thought it wasn’t worth commenting on. They were probably right, you think. Poetry calls for a kind of sensitivity and empathy you sorely lack, anyhow.
You still write, of course. Not as much as in your halcyon days, but a little bit. In the middle of a tawdry job and the daily humdrum of life, you try to do something about that little promise you held out as a child.
One day, spurred by gushing reviews from a few well-meaning friends, you enter a writing contest. You wait, days, weeks, months, thinking that somehow this could be it.  Your breakthrough. You imagine telling your friends about the victory. Guess who won the xyz award this year? 🙂 🙂 🙂 Classy was never really your forte.
And then the day dawns, and you look up the results eagerly, thinking that maybe, just maybe, you might have won something; perhaps a consolation prize or an honourable mention, and you see your name is not up there. And you labour down the list, because hey, lots of dimwitted fools like you wanted to know if they at least made it to the top 10, and the magazine obliged by publishing a list. And you slowly make your way down the list, rereading each bio carefully, because what if you miss yours? But it isn’t there. A tight squeezing feeling constricts your chest, and you struggle to look nonchalant.
You have a gift.
​Some day, you will stop believing those words, and something will die inside you. ​

Random musings on a Monday morning

So here I am, lazing in bed, writing nonsense because I have 200 things on my to-do-list and don’t know where to start. Some random observations at this moment:

1. I’ve just realised I’m not a very nice person. Now if you knew me in person you might disagree, but believe me, it’s all an act. In my head I call you the vilest of names and wish unspeakable things to you.

2. I hate my job at the moment. It sucks! Mostly it has to do with stuff I can’t elaborate on, because though it’s getting on my nerves right now, on good days I like what I do and saying anything more is a sure shot way to not get to do it anymore.

3. So I was skimming through the education supplement in the newspaper and feeling envious of all the young ducks studying hornbills in Ecuador and doing their Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, when I realised: this envy is never going to end. At some point or the other I’ve wanted to do practically everything under the sun, and the wisdom (!!) of passing years tells me that unless I can somehow turn back time and live three lifetimes in one, that isn’t happening. The other thing I’ve come to accept is that this crushing restlessness is going to last me my whole life. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s good to never settle, to always be searching for greener pastures. The whole idea of knowing your goal in life is a scam sold by puerile aunts and columnists in aforesaid education supplements, methinks.

4. These to-do lists will never end. No point stressing over them. This isn’t really something I get most of the time. Mostly I’m either frantically rushing from one place to another, or so bugged by everything I end up doing nothing. Mostly it’s the latter.

5. After staring at the screen for a good half hour, it strikes me: I’m not good at long pieces. Woe betide if I have to write something longer than 350 words. At the stroke of 350, realisation dawns about what balderdash I write and how terrible I’m at it, and how I’ll never be the writer I dream of being and how much I suck at ‘ideating’. (By the way, this is a fancy new word I learnt in office recently.) On a more positive note, I am definitely a copy-editor’s dream. I always put in less then the amount of words asked for. The moment I reach the golden number, I’m dying to hit the send button and run away.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ciao!

A little whimsy

I sat there, forcing myself into that uncomfortable space.  Putting my phone away, feeling that “incredible loneliness”, as Louis put it. Listening, really listening, to my despair.

That Crillon cake was perfect. And the tea too. It’s good to be able to feel it; that aloneness. You can almost hear them, those unhappy thoughts, wailing as they crawl inside. And all those shiny happy faces… are they looking at you, wondering what you’re doing? No, they’re living out their lives, just as you are. You’re the stranger in the window they see for a fleeting second.

A moment of sonder strikes you. You leave a note for the stranger who will take your seat. “To the person who sits here next: have a wonderful day.”

Continue reading A little whimsy

The Indian Chural Road

There used to be a large white signboard in the manufacturing plant where I worked a few years ago. It stood right outside the R & D Centre, and proudly read: INDIAN CHURAL ROAD. No one knew what it was doing in the company. It just existed, by some weird quirk of fate, an amusing interlude to the dreary business of work. In the wrong place at the wrong time.

Exactly like me.

Continue reading The Indian Chural Road

Life’s questions and the internet

The most powerful thing about the internet is the connections we make through it.

The other day, troubled by an old grudge (seriously, it just never goes!), I randomly typed a few words in a search box. Google is a good place to look for life’s answers. Well, not really. The more accurate thing to say is it’s a good place to find others looking for the same answers.

And this is what I found out:

I am not alone in my pain.

There are thousands of people who have felt what I feel and are trying to forgive themselves and the people around them.

Sharing helps, even with a stranger. Maybe more, because strangers cannot judge you.

Everybody struggles with forgiveness and acceptance. It’s human nature.

Life is hard, and a lot of people have it harder than me. Some wise soul said that if you could see everybody’s pain, you would grab your pile and hold on to it.

There are lots of fools like me, feeding their worries into search boxes around the world, and expecting an answer!

And sometimes, for no explicable reason, it helps.

First Impressions

Tada! Here I was, at the Asian College of Journalism. India’s best journalism college, according to the better informed. I stepped into the foyer of the imposing white building, and the first thing I heard was a distinctive nasal voice.

“You know what happened to me when I was traveling to Chennai?”, and so it went, in a sing-song, clippity-clap fashion, like an over enthusiastic teenager on a school trip. I looked around the reception area. On top of the stone table that filled half of the sunlit hall perched a tiny specimen of a girl, all of five feet and two inches, regaling a bunch of twenty-somethings with some shitty story. Her audience seemed to be lapping it in. Or perhaps they were being polite to her, it being Day One and all.

Then she saw me.

“Hallo there! What’s your name?”

Twelve pairs of eyes turned to me. “Um, hi, I’m…”

And then everyone else offered their names and degrees and places of origin. Pointless exercise, really. Apparently none of the authorities had turned up yet (Strike one, ACJ!), so they were lounging around and getting to know each other. I dragged my luggage to a corner and joined the group of shiny happy faces. Miss Clippity-clap had done her B Tech and worked at some brain-killing tech company before throwing it all away to come to this dump. That would make her, what, forty-five? She hardly looked fifteen, with her riotous mop of black hair and seventy watt grin. She had forgotten to bring her certificates, and for some reason it did not bother her at all.

“Really? It was written in the letter??” she asked.

No, we all just like lugging our certificates around. Damn proud of our credentials, you know.

“Duh? Of course you had to… didn’t you read the letter?” I said.

She cocked her head side ways, closing one eye like she was concentrating very hard. “Nope, I guess not carefully enough!” and she broke into a grin.

At that moment the receptionist walked in and everyone clamoured to her desk. I lost my new friend in the crowd.

The next I saw of her was late in the evening at the hostel, I was going downstairs with a couple of people I had just met.

“Hi! Come down, man, everyone’s in the lawn!”

Her smile lacked the seventy watt brightness of the morning.

“Mm… I think I’ll pass for now.”

She slipped away into the corridor, dragging her feet as she went.

PS: This was a class assignment about what I think would be someone’s first impression about me. Does it come anywhere close? 😛