Posted in Personal Stories

The Lone Cypress


17_mile_drive_cypress

It was a cloudy Saturday morning, with the overcast skies threatening to rain any moment. Rain and cold is not a very reassuring combination, hence we decided that a drive through the California waterfront in the protected confines of our car would be a good way to spend the 2nd day on our trip to Monterey.

So after a hearty breakfast , we packed into our six seater and started on the 17 mile drive from Carmel-at-Sea. The 17 mile drive snakes through a picture postcard vignette of the West Coast.  You can drive through the Del Monte forest, glassy green golf courses, and breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean kissing precariously perched rocks on the coastline.

Along the drive we stopped to observe landmarks of tourist interest.  Bird rock was a boulder with a mysterious attraction to birds – you could see a swathe of them swooning in and enveloping it on the foaming ocean. Ghost trees were a collection of dried out trees which have been smitten by some kind of affliction and stand out as stark reminders of their glorious past.

And among all these sights we came across this legendary landmark on Pebble Beach, the Lone Cypress tree.

So when you get down and stand at the farthest corner of land, you see this single Cypress tree standing out on a shelf separated from the mainland. Strong gusts of wind brush your face, reminding you of the harsh conditions here. A tour guide standing next to us in the crowd  observes that this tree is more than 250 years old.

We are transfixed in this powerful moment, and the symbolism of what we see.

You can see the silhouette of the Cypress leaves across the endless backdrop of brilliant blue beyond.  If you peer closer, you would be able to see a faint curvature of the earth as the ocean engulfs you on all three sides. It feels like you’ve reached a cliff – go beyond into the ocean and you’d fall off the edge of the earth.

And amongst all this is the Lone Cypress that stands out starkly,  almost with an invitation which says – “Look at me, I am still here!” . Like a Howard Roark laughing at the edge of a cliff.

What you do not see is that a few hundred years ago – a bird that plucked the cypress seed and innocently dropped it out on the rock. You do not see a tiny seedling emerging out, unaware of the  glory it would be destined to – just by refusing to give up.

What you do not observe is the furious storm that almost ripped this cypress tree away from its roots.  Lashed by a hurricane and stricken by lightning flashes, the tree has been downed once but was never out.

You also cannot see the thin transparent wires that hold it upright now.

In one picture  you observe individualism. heroism and empathy entwined together.

This is indeed a powerful moment for us!

Posted in Personal Stories

Observations on Fall


I look out into the vast stretch of green outside my patio. The colors are a dark pastel green, accentuated with tiny patches of yellow and orange creeping in . And with every gust of wind that whooshes through the trees, there is a swirl of leaves that sweep down.  Yes, Fall is here.

Slowly and steadily, these yellow patches would spread and the entire expanse would get transformed. The leaves would fall, winter would tumble in , and the woods would turn into ghosts of their past selves.  All the life that had burgeoned over this summer would be destroyed. 

I remember my snow-covered backyard from last year , with a background of bare naked spidery trees. The charm of a white winter eventually turned into a realization of the true meaning of the phrase “winter in coming”.

On especially cold days, I would watch as the water that flowed out of the air conditioning pipes snaked out on one end and congealed into ice at the other end, making me feel fortunate that I was now on the warmer side of the patio door.  One of the most frequent phrases I heard were – ‘when summer arrives”. As if all eyes were pinned on the opportunities that the warmth of summer would bring.

Slowly, the earth revolved and the season changed. Summer shone on us with its full glory, and what a resplendent glory it was! 

The destruction of winter had breathed a will to prosper even in the tiniest of shrubs. The greenery that rose from the ashes had something special about it .. a hunger of its own. I have never seen leaves so alive, and trees so lush in any other season.  It was almost as if the trees have suddenly discovered their power and are burgeoning to  grow out and vanquish everything that had stopped them before.

This incessant, inevitable cycle of nature reminded me of the important role of destruction in creating a better version of life.

The path to evolution is paved with destruction.

What has made you successful in your past might not lead you to victory in your future. You have to destroy your beliefs and learnings to pick up new ones.

To move from one level to the next, you have to unlearn all that you’ve learnt and re-learn again!

Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

Posted in Personal Stories

Five Hacks to help you Read More


When life happens, there are a million distractions coming your way. Notifications on the phone, work goals, your child’s homework, that super critical mail which came in at the last minute when you were leaving office. There is always something urgent that is screaming for your attention.. And as expectations on how soon you should respond to messages and emails grow tremendously, there is this time crunch squeezing our lives into tinier and tinier moments. One of the side effects of that has been the inability to see the bigger picture,  relish a quiet moment, or even read long books. There was a time when I couldn’t break away from “the arc of unbroken concentration” which a good book could bring.

Today,  I feel perpetually lost in this trough of shallowness.

So how do you break out of this ? How do you dim this digital hum and  develop “the willpower to focus on a sustained argument”.

Here are some of hacks to read more:

Make goals: Goals help us stay consistent, and give a constant nudge to move on to the next step. So go ahead and make goals.Long term ones in terms of books per year, or even short ones like minutes read per day. Even if you have only 30 minutes you can spare in a day – every second of it is worth being spent on reading!

Borrow rather than Buy: Counterintuitive as it may seem, abundance is one of the biggest killers of motivation. “Ah, I bought this book and it is right there on my shelf. Why spend my time trying to focus and read it when I binge watch mindlessly on Netflix?”.  As our attention spans dwindle, it is easy to discard book-worthy moments for easier options.  There is a sense of scarcity that exists with borrowed books, a deadline by which they will expire and go away.  And that can help you read more.

Begin reading new books on a Thursday or Friday: This hack words for me, because if you have a busy week , then starting to read something while you are easing into a weekend is a good way to stay motivated and focused. Weekends are great for long reading stretches, if you have the willingness to be alone.  

Disconnect from technology: When reading a book on my mobile or tablet, every tiny notification costs you minutes of lost focus. So go for low tech – the most basic Kindle or hard copy book. Even on phones, Apple has this screen time feature that shuts off my phone at 10 pm every night, and those are the most peaceful moments of my day –  when I can pick up and read a book.

Share your insights and learnings: When you’ve read a book that you liked or enjoyed, talk about it to friends, your spouse, or even write down how you felt. Sharing what you’ve learnt will help you internalize it, and also motivate you towards finding the next book. 

Well.. Quite honestly, finding the next book always makes me anxious . When I’ve finished one, and am wondering which one is going to be my next – there is an expectant longing in air.

From this vast rich expanse, which one would I  choose ?

Curiously – “Some like to believe it’s the book that chooses the person.” !

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Posted in Personal Stories

Learnings on the Highway


The black car zoomed through the darkness, interspersed with the glare of many others moving in perfect symphony across the dark highway. And I am driving inside it within my own perfect bubble. The music blares on the car audio, with a personally curated Spotify list algorithmically doling out songs for my pleasure. I am acutely focused, my mind in sync with the vibes on the road. The gray asphalt silhouettes against a dark blue and orange horizon. Night has fallen long ago, with rebellious shards of light appearing  to replace a sun long gone. I gaze at the dashboard and the traffic ahead, unconsciously looking out for the impatient lane changers who zip across lanes as they find an opening, trying to achieve a hypothetical advantage over others.

The car noiselessly glides ahead like it has a life of its own, the needle on the speedometer at a constant seventy. The entire world shrinks down to a tiny pinpoint of light ahead of me. 

In the dark confines of this shared space , there is a strange kinship that develops with all the motorists going my way. It is almost like we are some randomly distributed molecules who have been drawn by a strong magnetic force to move together in alignment towards a common destination. 

And in that moment, there is an epiphany in my mind. In today’s fast moving world, we blame so many of our problems and stresses on speed and pace at which things need to move. This is something that impacts our family, our work and friendships.  The general advice we give ourselves is to slow down. 

What I learned today from the highway is: 

Moving fast is not a problem – misalignment is. 

The highway is a perfect example of harmony – where everyone is moving at incredibly high speeds but yet there is perfect order because there are rules of the game which are followed by all travelers on the road.. Pass from the left.. Make way for newcomers entering on the right.. Stay on the left lane if you want to go faster than the rest..These elementary rules can make what seems like an impossibly dangerous commute become so simple and seamless. 

So next time you are harried with too many things moving too fast in your life – think of the Highway Analogy. Align your priorities or take the Exit.

What would you do to make Life go smooth !?

Photo by Jonas Von Werne on Unsplash

 

 

Posted in Fiction Experiments, Personal Stories

The Window Seat


man-and-woman-looking-out-the-window-at-the-sunset-over-the-sea-couple-embracing-and-watching-sunrise-indoors-in-rainy-day-boyfriend-brings-a-cardigan-to-his-girl-romantic-evening-after-the-rain_sxvlpeycx_thumbnail-full01.png

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

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 Personal Stories

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?