Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Cross Walk


It was a bright new day in an unfamiliar country. Fresh off the boat – just a day into the United States, I stepped out with the toddler in tow for a walk around the neighborhood. There was a huge park right in front of our house, surrounded by roads and cars whizzing past. The sights and smells were new – as we were beginning to get accustomed to life in a new country. We didn’t know how long we are going to live here, nor realized what it will take us to blend into life in this habitat. All that we knew was that we are here… and let the adventure begin…

So coming back to the story –  I am taking the girl out for a walk. She is 14 months old and I am using a stroller to move her around. Both of us are soaking in the new world we are in – me being particularly overprotective and motherly about it. At that time I had moved to the country without a job – so both mother and daughter had plenty of time to kill during the day. It was lunchtime, and with the help of Google maps and some fuzzy toddler translation, we zoomed down on a local restaurant to have our lunch in.. The trek began and everything was hunky dory until we reached an obstacle that we have to cross to reach the other end – a road!

Now normally, you wouldn’t consider crossing a road a huge hurdle, right? You will say – Ah, just wait for the light to turn green, and you can cross. Yay!!.  I thought so too.. waited for the light to turn green and some pedestrian sign to show up – but it never did. The light did turn from red to green, but the cars continued to zip past.  I waited and waited.. then we got a bit uncomfortable. At this point, I am getting more and more worried – How on Earth do people cross the road in California ??

As all humans do in situations like this ( to not look foolish )  – we observe around us and try to copy what everyone else up to. And that generally helps you get to the answer to your question.  So I patiently prevail and bide my time…

The light turns green again. I see this lady in high heels hurry up and stand right next to me. The traffic is a bit slow… she furtively glances on both sides of the road and then quickly sprints across it when no car is in sight.   I’m half in a mind to follow her, my muscles tense for a split second..but I stop.  My instincts tell me that something is wrong –  That most certainly doesn’t seem to be the right way to cross the road in a civilized country! So I dig my heels to prevent myself from dashing behind her. The kid is fidgeting in the stroller — and I’m still hanging around.

A minute passes by and this dude comes along – casual jeans and hoodie, half whistling under the breath. He presses a button on the lamp post beside the street and disappears into his phone. I am observing him very carefully ( and pretending not to) – by the looks of it  – he definitely seems to be on to something. And lo and behold.. a blinking white man ( the pedestrian sign ) started flickering on the other side of the street. Today, it is a very familiar sight for me, but at that time it seemed like a sign from the heavens! A blinking pedestrian sign accompanied by an intermittent beep emanating from the lamp post across the street – and I know that we have been saved. Hallelujah… Now we can cross the road!

As I look back to this day – this was not a life-changing moment. It was a run of the mill experience – my first learning out of the innumerable discoveries to follow.

But it taught me a very significant lesson – To listen to and trust my Instincts. 

I mean – it is a marvelous thing – how the brain makes snap decisions – trustworthy/not trustworthy, good/not good, Safe/not safe… The instinct of recognizing dangers and steering yourselves into safety has been bored into our heads so immaculately over millions of years and is certainly something that the human mind can neither explain nor ignore!

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

 

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

The Non-Fiction Reader


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It is a few months since I have been stuck in this persona of a non-fiction reader.

And this turn of events surprises me because there was a time in my life when I thrived on fiction. I would read almost a book every day – and get consumed by the ebbs and flows of all the action in those pages. In my teens, it was the Nancy Drews and Agatha Christies. The twenties started with the intensity of Ayn Rand – followed by Booker prize nominees and winners – Aravind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh,  Emma Donoghue, you name it. The only non-fiction books that sneaked into my reading list were celebrity publications. One that I distinctly remember is Shashi Tharoor’s ‘The Argumentative Indian’ – that one was like a workout for my vocabulary!

And then later, as screenwriters ran out of creative ammunition and the trend of books screenwritten into movies took over – The Twilight Series, Vampire Diaries,  Game of Game of Thrones, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had always read the stories cover to cover before anyone had even heard of them on TV or Netflix.  Boy, was I ahead of the game!

But then, one fine day – the rush stopped.

It is hard to pinpoint what caused this, but there was this long phase when I didn’t do much fiction reading and the switch flipped.  I think that with time – you are more aware of your factual ignorance, and a lot of non-fiction reading I began with was to bridge that gap. Some of them – like ‘Homo Sapiens’ helped me understand my own roots.

And slowly my bookshelf filled up with the Ray Dalio, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Tim O’ Reilly and Malcolm Gladwells of the world. In fact – the last book I was hooked on to was  ‘The Society of Mind’ by Marvin Minsky  ( a friend of mine was appalled when I had tugged it along to a coffee shop – Seriously, this seems like a dense reading assignment you’d punish someone with, how can you read it for pleasure?!! )

Well honestly  – it was not an easy read. And even though the language was simple, I had to read it over, again and again, to connect the dots and get the message right.  Still, with my current frame of mind, it was easier for me to absorb than a work of fiction. Nowadays,  I pick up fiction books to read but it’s hard to follow along with the emotional threads and vagaries of a story.  I get exhausted and give up.

Surprising, isn’t it?

My guess is that after a while of practice –  facts and logic get hammered into your brain, and you almost start predicting what a logical argument will look like. There are, after all only a few ways in which you can get the logic right.  And somehow I observed that there is a lesser cognitive load in reading non-fiction- because is almost an extension of what I do in my day job.

Or… Perhaps I am going through a phase – you may say.

Whatever that is,  I would hate to lose that appreciation of fiction, poetry and intense emotions that a string of words can bring.  That’s what attracted me to the lure of reading in the first place!.

Those stories that can take you through a rollercoaster of thrill, happiness, hope, dismay, and laughter have burned timeless memories in my brain.  So many solitary, but memorable moments spent with a book – alone at times perhaps, but never lonely.

Which brings me back to the current state of things.

The long weekend is here –  I am struggling with Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ .. nursing a cup of coffee.. and fervently hoping that my Fiction reading bug comes back!

 

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Window Seat


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I am gearing up for a lonely three hours, bracing myself for the impact of this all too familiar feeling – a sinking sensation in the stomach, ears popping gently, a faint smell of invading gasoline and the gentle whirring of engines that morphs into an angry roar. Yes, my flight is about to take off. And as it is with all kinds of travel, an agonizing movement from point A to point B – I am hoping that this journey ends sooner than later!

Up.. up .. and away! We are in the air, and I can sense that tiny tilt as the wheels disengage from the runway. On journeys like this – tied to the claustrophobic confines of an ever-dwindling airplane economy seat, I always prefer the aisle. It gives you a decent (but mostly false) sense of space and control.  But today is one of those days when I haven’t been able to grab one despite futile attempts, furiously checking the American Airlines app hoping that an aisle seat opens up. So… a window it is!

Settling in – I peer out of the glass porthole that separates me from the cold, harsh yet spectacular expanse outside – and that sight almost takes my breath away.  It has been just around five minutes after takeoff, and all I can see is this mingled rush of blues, and a vast expanse of the horizon tearing the colors apart. Squinting my eyes, I try to decipher if the lighter blue is perhaps our atmosphere or the cold inhospitable outer space, trying to recollect the long-forgotten geography lessons of past. The darker shades of blue, with a garland of tiny Christmas lights, is a rapidly disappearing San Francisco Bay.  I imagine my family somewhere down there – having a quieter dinner tonight with a distant glow of the TV humming in the background. I sigh, then noticing a dozen boats circling the harbor like tiny glowworms attracted to the brilliant display of lights – each on a purposeful journey of its own.

I smile.

This thin layer of glass, delicately woven with tiny stitches along the seams and precariously placed thousands of miles up in the air takes my loneliness away for a brief moment. Ah, I hear myself saying – the Window seat is not so bad after all!

Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Mansion


Blurred poto

She started trudging across the long winding trail, not knowing how long it would take for her to reach her destination. And scurrying along because she wanted to be back home early, and in time before the sun sets. Across a lonely road, with barricades on one side where construction was in progress. And up to the steps leading to a meandering trail.

It was the first time she was walking this way, and it filled her with apprehension. Made her think about all the true crime stories she had read about women in books. But she banished all these thoughts and walked along. The long series of steps led to a bridge across two parallel hills. And crossing the bridge she moved to the trail. It was beautiful, with the setting sun casting a pale golden light on the skies, and flocks of birds flying back home in perfect formation. All this making her feel a bit sad and desolate – reminding her of her own loneliness. But then , this was not the time and place for these thoughts. She had to focus her mind on her destination.

On the winding trail, to her right was a huge mansion, with droopy trees and melancholy shadows beginning to grow ominously with fading lights of the setting sun. And embracing it a huge garden, with blossoming flowers and a mammoth tennis court. A faded board on the fence surrounding the mansion read – “No Trespassers”. The front of the house faced the bustling expressway ahead. She peered curiously. Oh, so this is where he lived – dappled in luxury and excess, enjoying his life within these walls.

Something snapped inside her. Was it a pang of jealousy. Or a plea of belonging?  She was desperate to see him now!

Posted in Random thots..

On Growing Up..


Calvin and Hobbes cartoon

There is this seemingly innocent question which has popped up in my mind:

“At what time and age do we feel all grown up and without temptation?!”

I mean, all care and caution is abandoned in the heady enthusiasm of youth. I get that.. But do we really grow up and lose that thrill of risk and adventure. Do we grow up and become model citizens and parents and hmm..well.. Grown ups!

Who knows ? Sometimes it might feel that we’ve never grown up. Or never will. There are moments when you want to slip back into the stage of life when you do everything as you wished to. To live your life without any fear. To have to answer to no one.. To be free of all the cares and responsibilities which being a grown up brings..

But then, these are ephemeral wants.

Because in the end, we wish to be tied up by our relationships. We desire to be wanted, loved and cared. We secretly hope things fall apart when we’re not around, so that we’re missed. We want someone to fall back on us.

Otherwise if I were a free bird, and no one’s life depended on me then I imagine I’d feel far worse  – thinking that I have wasted my life!

Yes. How paradoxical are these things we want. Sometimes our wishes attempt to set us free, and other times they only serve to bind us in the most irreversible ways. We are so utterly conflicted – but frankly its a bit too difficult to decide. Maybe because we are selfish and want a bit of both.

Perhaps that is what Growing Up is all about – knowing about your conflicts and developing defense mechanisms to survive them with minimum collateral damage.

What do you think?

Posted in Random thots..

5 things I discovered about myself today


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I’m certain Google is turning my brain into mush. Its shaping the way I think – putting ideas in my head and making me imagine that all of them were my own. So, every time I have to process a question that will take more than a few microseconds of thinking time, I’m tempted to turn to Google for answers. Now that’s an evil genius!

My laptop is now an extended part of my self.  Long periods of absence without using it make me anxious, and I see myself increasingly shoving mine in the back seat even on short trips. And yet ironically, we have a deep unfaithful relationship – wouldn’t mind leaving my current love if a better one comes by.

Solving problems helps me thrive. When I’m frustrated , I go solve a problem – clean the dishes, go fix the cracked dresser. That makes me feel better, every-time!

I have lost my capability to monotask.  Doing just one thing at one time makes me paranoid, with a voice screaming in my head that I’m missing something urgent. Even driving alone without the radio on makes me uncomfortable  – I’d rather not be left to my own thoughts. I’m certainly doomed. Sigh.

Sunday nights always make me think about what I’m doing with my life. And trigger random unrelated discoveries and existential questions.  Which are also entirely meaningless.

Thank you if you’ve read them so far though.  Have a rocking week ahead! 🙂
Posted in Random thots..

A Hundred Year Plan


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A hundred years from now,
What would I be?

A whiff of wind blowing through someone’s hair
Or a tiny drop of tear tricking down a cheek
A speck of sand kissing wild waves of the sea
The bright red paint on a playground’s swing
A hundred years from now, in divine merriment
Returned to Earth, element for element..

A hundred years from now,
Where would I be?

Stored as digital crumbs in dusty archives
Faded photographs in an ancient album
Fragments in a distant stranger’s mind
The sliver of an idea fueling someone’s existence
A permutation of DNA that signifies an identity
Or trapped in some words written by me?

A hundred years from now,
Why should I care ?

So affected by daily intoxications
And captured in the shards of time..
Consumed in yesterdays and tomorrows
Powerless before unknown powers and designs..
A hundred years from now might be a good plan
To face Destiny – Man to Man!