Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Fiction

“Truth is often vastly more stranger than fiction” – EV Lucas, Face on the Wall

I read the story as a kid and this sentence has stuck in my head ever since. Again today I found myself wondering on similar lines. I am a fiction writer. I like telling stories. I like making up things – people and situation. Today, I was wondering does a fiction writer lie for fun?

I have never lied in my life. I don’t like to. A subjective view, of course. I believe it serves no higher purpose. I don’t conceal anything about me either. So, as you would imagine, I am an open book sort of a person. People just need to ask me anything, and I have always told them the truth. Lying does not agree with me. The lengths I would have to go to protect that lie make it absolutely unviable, for me, to lie.

Being secretive is not my thing either. It just makes people suspicious, I believe and they become more nosy than I like. So I just go ahead and tell people what they want to know. I have nothing to hide. Or so I thought up until today.

I realized I am probably more of a liar than anyone of my friends and acquaintances. I lie for fun. I lie when I write. I make up characters, place and people. I write with the authority of a seasoned journalist about life after death, about things that will happen in the future and about spirituality, religion and philosophy. 

I have often said and still maintain that even while narrating incidents to friends and family, I embellish, exaggerate. I try and keep the central idea the same. That is why I never tire from repeating. Every time I narrate I take the liberty to tweak some little detail. Add more light to some other. It keeps me and the listeners engaged. It give me joy to entertain with trinkets of my imagination.
I got to wondering how and when did I start making things up. It seemed like we all have a need for a little bit of excitement, a little bit of drama in our lives. Some people get addicted to that and become compulsive liars. There are others like yours truly who become compulsive writers. We all need a dose of drama in our lives. It’s a perfect foil for the drudgery, mundane and monotonous nature of our lives. There are people who steal, cheat just for that bit of adrenalin. It keeps us going.

I'll close with a quote from self - "All good stories need embellishment."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Soul Fried Fish

It's a Sunday afternoon. I am lying in the center of a large dining hall in a five star restaurant. I suddenly realize that I am warm, in spite of the air conditioning. Too warm. My insides are burning. Seems like my soul just got fried.

Let me try and be polite, like you five star people. I am John. I know it's a common name. Could be yours, or yours, or yours perhaps? No? Well that's odd, I never thought there won't be a John in such a big gathering. But I guess, people are not named John out here in your country. I see you agree.

I get that you are interested in my story, since I am not from around here. You think I have a unique story to tell, from where I am? That my life would have been really different from yours seems interesting to you, doesn't it? I really don't think it is that different. We all take the same route in our lives, broadly speaking. It's how we observe it, how we analyze it and how we internalize that defines us. That is what makes us different from each other, doesn't it?

No, I hear you say. You still want to hear it? Well, I'll tell you then. But let me warn you, you have heard it a thousand times before. You'll all get up from your chairs at the end of it thinking "Oh, same old, John!" and I will remind again you at the end that I told ya.

I was born, like everyone has to be - to become everyone. Alright, alright I'll swear, if that is what you all want. No more attempts at that sorta' humor. As I was saying, I was really close to my parents back in the days and I remember how much they loved me. Among my earliest memories is with my parents at our home when my dad and mom would come home after a day of just loafing around with his friends. Yes, that's true they didn't work, like you guys now. There was no concept of working for 'em. They just wandered around, enjoying the fruits of mother nature. Hippies, I hear you say. It wasn't quite like that, I hope you'll realize that as I tell you more. Try not to judge.

Which brings me to an interesting theory I have had for some time now. You people are very uncomfortable with not being able to understand or comprehend something. In your mind, as any information gets processed, your head starts throwing labels. You start attaching these labels as you collect more information. Think about your friends, your brother or sister, what comes to your mind. Adjectives, that define them? To you, everyone you've met is a collection of labels. For things that you understand, you try and break it down into components on which you can attach the labels. That is the only way you wrap your head around anything new. I am not saying, it is good or bad. I am just wondering if it is the only way? It does seem rather limiting, doesn't it?

Coming back to my story. Growing up, I learned the same way of life. What to eat, how to survive. But I was always hungry. Always wanted more. My parents couldn't understand my hunger. They tried to understand me. When they couldn't they tried to counsel me. They were scared for me. Afraid that this unique trait in my personality, would land me in trouble. However, My need to do more than just hang around, eating the same food every day. Doing the same things over and over again. At one point I was convinced that there is more to life than just that. My parents' inability to understand me made me Angry.

One day, while wondering about these thing, I wandered quite far away from home. That had become very usual for me. But this day was different. I saw around me and I saw the vegetation change. I found a new fruit - that's what my parents called what we ate. I ate a stomach full. Imagine the sweetest, juiciest fruit you have ever had ever had. It was better than that. It was the first thing that I had tasted, that was different from the other things we ate. I carried as many as I could back home. My parents had never seen that fruit either, neither had my friends. They called it a Miracle. 

I knew there was more. I knew it was not just a miracle. I had believed in it. I had believed that there was more, and it had materialized in our lives, enriching all of us. I became a dreamer that day. Always looking out for more. Where my friends and family were convinced that it was a rare miracle, to me it was just another brick in the wall. Just another Brick.

I started going further and further away from home each day in search of new fruits. I was exploring a lot, but I returned home empty handed each day. I was overwhelmed with a passion to discover more riches, and it became an obsession with me. As I returned home all worn out each day, I could see my neighbors looking at me and shacking their heads. They called me an Idiot.

And one day, just like that, my perseverance paid off. I found yet another new fruit. I was overjoyed, but this  time I kept it to myself. I did not share my discovery with anyone, because I believed they were not worthy of it. They had not shown the one thing that mattered the most to me then. The one thing I needed because I felt like I was doing something different. Trust.

I stumbled upon a lot of different varieties of fruits in the days that followed, not one of which I shared with them. I did not feel the need to prove to anyone that I was, in fact, much more Intelligent.

I just needed to go on and on and On.

"I am better than those Neanderthals."

AMBITION. That is what got me here. Let me tell you the final part of the story so that you can see how it all fits together.

After having made several discoveries, as one would expect I was tired. And satisfied, mistake me not, with the progress I had managed. I was, I truly was. There was nothing more I really wanted. So one day I put up a grand exhibition of all my discoveries and invited everyone. They were all awed into shock. They tasted all the fruits, and loved all of them. It added color to their bland lives, some of them told me. They thanked me for having struggled so hard for the greater good. They said, I have taken the race forward.

I was filled with joy, as is predictable. But there was a nagging feeling in my head. If all the fruits were so great, I needed to find the most delicious of them all. Wasn't that I started out in the first place? This is where my need became a greed. I left home that day, determined to find the best fruit there ever was. 

After travelling for several days, I finally saw a single fruit hanging. There was nothing around it, no other fruits or vegetation. My eyes widened. I was convinced that this was the one. I hurried and reached the fruit. Circled around it and ascertained it was nothing like what I had seen before. It was only after I had been admiring it for quite some time, I saw there was something attached to it. A string.

I had to make a choice then. But my choice was made, even before I knew whether I would have to make it.   To hell with caution, said I as I went for the fruit. The string suddenly became taut and that was that. It pierced my cheek and I was pulled out of the water.

And that is how I am here today. And it is only today that I realized that I am no different from any of you. I am just another Soul Fried Fish.

Umm... Told ya?

Ambition is a dangerous recipe and it is overrated. It is important, but it is not what defines me. It is not what I make of myself, materialistically, that matters when I think about the end. It is a sum of the moments of joy that I have spent in this lifetime. The memories of all the places I have been and the people I have loved, each day more than I thought was possible. The strong emotions I have felt and recorded in my mind forever. These are the things I will miss leaving behind. To me, it is these little things that matter. And for that, ambition needs to be moderated with satisfaction. Today, I know, I am satisfied. And this post shall be a reminder of that.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Few Things Bright And Wonderful

Her breathing pattern changed when she saw him. If anything, it had only become more apparent than a year before. She was controlling herself then, holding on to the shards of conceived truth in her then present love. She was afraid of falling because she liked being in control. She checked herself, to prevent herself from losing what was dear to her.

To some, a few things are dear more than anything else. To some a lot of things are dear and to some, nothing is. The distinction between the latter two is rather hard because they, both of them, end up caring for nothing at all. It is very hard to hold on to numerous things all at once that are dear.

First kind of people have a clarity of thought and intent that lets them choose through an elaborate process of prioritizing, what are the few things that are precious to them. They hold on them with a fearful tenacity and they always seem to snatch them from the conniving situations and circumstances, snatching from the universe what they believe is rightfully theirs.

For some, like the woman in question here, the process is simple. It is just the ability truly feeling your emotions. Innumerable events, everyday, in their lives effect a zillion things. These people are aware of what affects their heart and soul through careful calibration of the emotion they feel when any incident occurs. Over a course of certain years, their experiences enrich them and they have clarity of what are the few things that matter to them. There is another kind of simplicity - simplemindedness - that allows people to determine the few things that are dear. They either accept what people / society tells them - for example their parents, brothers, sisters, teachers etc. They treat their words as the they were maktub - written in stone - and they follow them with a faith that is uncalibrated and blind. This is often more fierce and vehement in nature than the first category, because of its blindness. For the first category, the feelings and passions are moderated through the process of perceiving, analyzing and introspecting. The desire to hold on to something dear is very much present, but it can't compete with blind faith. Inability or blocking the ability to think, analyze, rationalize imparts suh vehemence, such force to their beliefs that they are often more tenacious and more driven by their few things dear. I would put all fundamentalists in this category.

However, the people in the second category are faced with one who is strongly opinionated and challenges their belief you will see them resort to repetition and fail at reasoning. You'll hear arguments of the nature:

"Why do you thing it (being the dear one) is important?"
"Because it is! Why not?"

You get the drift...

Another argument is that, more often than not, people calculate in their head what emotion they project. These are people who don't feel anything. I have known people who are emotionally paralyzed. One of them lost his sibling and did not know what to feel. Sometimes we block the interpretation of the true emotion from reaching our head. We then calculate "a best reaction" and superimpose it on what we actually felt but did not comprehend. It's a dilemma for these people if ever confronted with the question of what is dear to them.

I apologize for holding your thought with all the theory for so long. Returning to our girl. She held the control of her "self" as one of the few precious things in life. She had been in love. And when it broke her - I don't say her heart because that would be too frivolous- she stopped believing in love. It became a drug to her, inebriated by love, she lost herself in a world that she had created in her dreams.  A part of her was trapped forever in that dream. The dream shattered and that part of her was inaccessible to her forever. She searched for it but could never find it. So she wrote love off from her life. Oh, such a foolish thing to do.  When he came into her life, she had convinced herself that she can lead a perfectly normal life and arrange for her happiness by having a kid in the future with a man she believed to be simple, honest, kind and sincere. A harmless man. A man she did not fear. A man who would never hurt because he could never hurt her. She was immune to him. She had made a decision of self-preservation to hold onto something that was so absolutely, splendidly dear to her. Control. Not on external elements. But her "self".

It went on fine for as long as it could. It went on fine, until she was faced with a question that challenged her beliefs. It went on fine till she could ignore the question. It went on fine, until it could no longer. It went on fine, until she met him.

The impact on her heart, since she was true to it, was palpable. She felt her breathing become faster, her knees willing to snap beneath her weight. She looked down, averting his gaze, trying to avoid feeling what she felt. Trying to convince herself that this is not what she truly feels. That it is but a passing emotion.
She tried to enjoy what she felt when she looked at him. As a fascination, a passing infatuation. She let it go on for a week. After that she got scared.

She processed what she felt. Analysed and introspected. It was established, thus, that this man was dear to her. But he caused her to lose control of her self. She was faced with a traumatising decision - to let go of one thing dear for another.

Do not let that thought cheat you into believing that it's easy. People who understand what's dear to them do not let go of it so easy. She knew she had to fight to protect what's dear to her, but fight who. No matter how she chose - she would win and she would lose. How could she make peace with that.

That question begot her inaction. She resigned herself. She weighed the consequences of both decisions and calculated the amount of hurt, they would generate - internal and external.

What's sacred about that way of looking at things is the absolute renunciation of the self , of happiness. Almost saint like. Isn't it? It is also impossible for a human being. She realized after a month of travelling, meditating with saints of Aurodham, Auroville (both in Pondicherry), drunk monks of Bhutan and a monastery in Korea. This is the part of her life which she calls "Confusion". No brainer that one!

She returned to her routine life with one more understanding of her self and of human nature, if you allow for my idiosyncrasy to such generalizations. She couldn't be fair to anyone she had "Arranged" notional happiness with, for she could not spread joy/happiness if she was pained herself. If she was hurt and sad, she would just bring pain and misery, through her inability to care, upon all the stakeholders involved.

She decided if she could severe the ties with this "Arranged" man, she would in fact be doing him a huge favour. He could, after the initial hurt, move onto cherish something more than just a friend- she was giving herself and him, both, a shot as finding love. At knowing true happiness.

She traded her one thing bright and wonderful for another, opening her heart to be moved by this man who had so touched her.

She moved the curtains of her room to let the sun shine in, a drop of rain fell on her cheek and she let it roll to her lip where she licked it off. The new clouds on the sunny day gave birth to a third element of beauty that afternoon. A rainbow formed in her view from her balcony. And she sat down with her cup of coffee and her favorite novel. Getting drenched in the rain, soaked in the warmth of the sun and letting the beauty around her sink deep into her heart. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Expression Kills

I am not unknown for my conformity issues. This might seem like a desperate attempt to find another 'Road Less Travelled' and a contrived challenge to the accepted norms, but do try to look beyond finding fault in the writer and focus on the subject matter howsoever hard it may seem. Maybe it will open an eye you have shut wide thus far.

The 'accepted norm' in this case is the unflattering, uninhibited and to a large extent unconcealed attraction of the crowds, audience rather, towards the lead singer in a band. I have always felt for the drummer who sat behind his assortment or the synth player lurking deep in shadows for the entire duration of the performance stepping out for a sip of water in between songs or to take a collective bow at the end of the end of the show. All this while the lead singer and the guitarists take their numerous bows, yelling their countless 'Thank you-s'. Even the bass guitarist has his moments during the course of the night - what with the archetypal demeanor and hairstyle (what's with these guys? They seem like a common breed these days... certainly un-human-like!)

I have often thought that it is possible that guitar is a more charismatic instrument compared to its bretheren, but I have also since long discarded the idea. It can't be. Even if it is, it is certainly no deal clincher the way it is made out to be on nights like the ones in discussion.

I have also been, ever since I have found myself to be one, an ardent supporter of the underdog. I did check whether it was a manifestation of that same sentiment that was at play when I felt for the less acknowledged and less loved members of the band. I have no better explanation than - my gut tells me it's not that. I needed then to figure out what was it.

I went to a concert last night and attempted once more to get to the root of the dynamics of the elements at play during a performance, and yes, to try and have a good time too. As the night progressed, and yes, as I got more and more inebriated, I had a sudden clarity. It was expression, as the expression I hope would go, that kills.

There are those of us who are used to being the centre of attention and they love being there. For lack of a better way to put it, I feel they are maxed out. They are too exposed and reveal so much about them as they go along it is conceivable that there will be little in them that is not known by everyone. They'll make their every thought, every action and every emotion very public. They have nothing in them left to themselves and they can't cherish anything without sharing. All the elements that make a human being, for these people, are out in the public domain, open for scrutiny and judgment. They are yelling their lungs out and jumping around the jacks, like jacks for attention. For love.

Ignore the condescending tone, I really appreciate that hunger. The joy of getting that much by just being your natural self and uninhibited expression might actually be something tangible. But you have to embrace the downside of exposing your soul.

The band I had went to see perform had a sax player, who doubled up as a violinist and tripled up as a recorder player. The serenity and peace on his face, the inability to perform any antics lent him a glow that shone him more brightly than the movers and shakers of the band. At least to me he seemed to be wielding an aura of mystery that worked like magic. The enigma of his persona filled the room.

His music was soulful and I found myself waiting in eager anticipation of his solos. The music from his multiple instruments were pregnant with a charm that was characteristic of him. At the end of one of his solos, he opened his eyes only to wink at one of the girls standing in the front row, tuned into his music with rapt attention. That was the most dramatic act he dared that evening. I wouldn't be surprised if the girl was his girlfriend or wife.

To me, hence, simplicity and the quiet fashion in which people go about their work holds a charm irresistible.
As they say - Expression Kills.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It was raining very hard and he had no protection against the wrath ofnature. He was walking, drenched to his bones, on the crowded street of Daddar, lost in the in huge mass of people carrying their black umbrellas. Seems like millions of ants teeming in the rain, he thought. He closed his eyes and transported himself to the 20th floor of the building he was walking next to.

He opened his eyes and found himself removed from the street, in the balcony on the 20th floor. This is not happening, he said out loud, revealing his panic to himself. What the hell just happened? he yelled, sweating in spite of the rain.

He shut his eyes again as hard as he could. He was back on the street, when he opened them.

He found himself walking, as he was moments ago. Wow, that was a weird vision, he said to himself shaking his head atop his shaking body.

He wondered, without stopping, if he was sweating in spite of the rain all along. Weird, he thought and began theorizing whether it is possible or not, choosing the thoughts that he was more comfortable with.