Memories

It’s been too long, but things have been hectic. So many times I thought of writing something but nothing felt like worth it. Today finally its desperation that is making me write this. Have you ever been just going about your merry way and then Wham! Out of the blue something hits you so strongly. Your emotions go haywire, brain stops responding. Your body freezes, senses stop working. Ya… and the worst part, this happened to me because of the most ridiculous reason.

I was walking home from work today, and out of nowhere, over my headphones I heard a bark. Call me crazy but it was as if the dog was calling out to me. I stopped turned around. I didn’t even make a sound, but that dog ran out to me. He was so happy… he was so happy…. He kept licking me, biting gently as if unable to contain his joy. And what did I do… I froze. All I could remember was Buddy. I don’t know why, but it was as if every fibre of my body accepted that this was my Buddy.

Why, I mean why, he didn’t look anything like my Buddy. And most importantly my Buddy is dead, I know that, heck I buried him myself. I know it wasn’t him! So why did could I not shake of the feeling.

I forced myself to walk away. I walked away!!!!! Literally dragging my feet away. Why you ask, because my mother wouldn’t allow us to keep another dog. That’s it, that’s the reason I fucking walked away.

He followed of course, happy to be trotting next to me, running ahead a little bit, sniffing in random places. He stayed within a few feet of me. All the while walking those few feet home, I couldn’t think straight, heck I can’t think straight now. I just kept hoping he would try to follow me inside our society compound. I prayed he would. I don’t know why, in some twisted logic, if he tried following me home he was my Buddy. I mean I know it’s ridiculous, he is not my Baby, but I don’t know why even after five years, the instinct came so naturally. I don’t know whether to be relieved or upset that he didn’t even pause. He just trotted back to his place.

He trotted back happily but I…… I don’t even know what I am feeling. I thought I was over this, I thought I had made peace with Buddy’s death a couple of years ago. But all those memories came rushing back today and I am barely keeping my head over the water.

The Thrill of watching an airplane fly

I don’t even remember the last time I posted anything, apologies up front for that. My personal life has been a little to entertaining of late, some good some bad. One of my good friends got married, and one is about to, I made some new friends, got my heart broken, assisted my brother in figuring out his next career move, closed two super big projects (I am personally proud of my performance on those), struggled with my parent’s health etc. etc. that’s life for you, and honestly, I love it. However, all this excitement also made me a little reflective, as it usually does.

As probably everyone knows by now, I travel, a lot. If you ask me, one of the things I absolutely love about travel is the taking off and landing of an air plane. Whenever I leave Delhi, on my way to the destination, the initial thrust of the take-off serves as a snooze for me- somehow it always manages to put me to sleep. Except today, I am writing this mid-flight (I just haven’t felt like writing at any other time), though I have a feeling the triple shot cappuccino has a role to play in that. But yes, back to the point, the take-off serves as a snooze alarm, the landing serves as the gun shot in a race- ready set go. That’s when Akshita the Consultant comes out to play, and Tanu, the over grown child gets put away. When taking off from Delhi I was always love looking at the city and trying to find my home- I usually can see it pretty clearly and for some reason it reassures me.

While coming back, it’s a slightly different experience. While taking off from the city, I like looking at the city- a fond good bye (well 90% of the times it is fond) and a thank you for the memories. The thrust at this time serves as the finish line- Akshita the Consultant usually goes for a break at this time. However, the best feeling in the world- touching down in Delhi. Somehow it always fills me with a sense of peace, of homecoming – and I instantly feel tired. People say you get this kind of feeling when you return home to your mother and allow her to take care of you. For all of its fault- Delhi has always been my home and always fills me with the same sense of comfort that my home does. Of course, that’s only till I hit the roads and the inevitable traffic jams.

However, the other day, I passed the airport on my way to work, and noticed something I learned to tune out as a kid- numerous people standing by the main road, waiting to watch an air plane take off. That got me thinking, they were all adults and had undoubtedly seen numerous planes in their life time,, so why stop. Why wait- sometimes as long as 30 minutes, just to see a flight take off. What is it that makes us want to show this spectacle to our kids. That is one of my fondest memories- sitting on the roof of my car, or my dad’s shoulders watching the magic of physics play out.

Is it just that – the thrill of physics? Or is it imagining yourself in one of them? Imagining what it feels like to experience it from the inside? Or maybe they are remembering their childhood memories- reliving the good ones, just like me. Or is it more philosophical? The reaffirming of the faith that we Humans; are the masters of innovation. That there is next to little that we can’t achieve if we really put our minds to it? Is it the manifestation of the whole idiom of try and try till you succeed? Though I doubt people are really thinking of the Wright brothers and other’s struggle to come up with the flying machine. Or is it the feeling of freedom, of an escape from reality and the mundane problems, while fighting everything stopping us and moving against us?

I suppose each of those people stopping there have their own reasons and it could be any or neither of the ones I thought off. I just know one thing, even after more than 100 flights in my own lifetime; I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the spectacle. When the front wheels left the ground, I had an unexplainable feeling of satisfaction. 

So here is to freedom, to having enough thrust and power within us, to defeat the odds. To overcome the hurdles life sets in front us. Leaving behind every naysayers- everyone who said (or says) you can’t do it, of conquering each and everys fear and leaving behind obstacles in a blaze of fire (Ok fine, air planes don’t have fire coming out of them in normal circumstances, but you get the meaning). Here is to each and every one of us being our own air planes.

Hunger Games: the Modern Day Gladiator Games

Disclaimer: Once again, this is something I have been sitting on for some time now, but just couldn’t find time to complete the draft. However, unfortunately in this long wait, I have managed to lose all the references I had used. Thus please keep in mind that most of what is presented here is not unique or original.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins is definitely a series that has captured the imagination of many around the world. I finally got around to reading it last year, and absolutely refused to watch the movies (I didn’t hear glowing reviews and did not want to spoil the mental imagery I had). Since then I have thought a lot about the universe Suzanne Collins set up and realised the very obvious connection the hunger games had with Rome and the Gladiator Games.

The gladiator games were formulated basically as a means of sacrificing prisoners of war through a “burial of a warrior”. The first recorded gladiator fight in Rome is reported to have been held in 264 BC in the honour of the deceased Junius Brutus. As part of that fight, three pairs of slaves had fought each other. These slaves were called “Bustuarii” which is derived from the latin expression “Bustum” which means ‘tomb’ or ‘funeral pyre’. It is reported that these Bustuarii were armed with a rectangular shield, a short sword, a helmet and greaves. The popularity of these games eventually led them to becoming a secular sport.

Some connections between the hunger games and roman gladiator games are pretty obvious, such as the use of names from Ancient Rome including Cato, Portia, Octavia, Flavia and of course, Cinna. Cinna is the name of two guys who are reported to have had connections to Julius Caesar. One was a politician involved in the assassination plot against Caesar and the other was a poet who was murdered following the assassination, after having been mistaken for the other one. Suzanne Collins is also reported to have said that Panem was supposed to be like ancient Rome, and those who have seen the movies can’t miss the similarity of the arena with the Colosseum.

Apart from this, the hunger games also resembled the gladiator games in the sense that they were games involving ‘slaves’. While yes, the hunger games did not include actual acknowledged ‘slaves’, they were picked from the 12 districts, for the purpose of entertain of the residents of the Capitol. The ones whose names were picked as part of the reaping had no right to decline, they had no rights. The games also ended only when one contestant was left standing, thus it required the ‘sacrifice’ of the other contestants, while the viewers bayed and rejoiced at their deaths. The contestants were also dressed in exotic costumes. The difference here was that while in the gladiator games, the slaves were usually dressed as barbarians, in the hunger games, it was about the absurd fashion of that universe.

The gladiator games initially originated as a means of sacrificing prisoners of war at the burial of a warrior, and to make the sacrifice less cruel, the prisoners were given a ‘chance’ of surviving by fighting. The hunger games were invented as a means of reminding the districts of their servitude and the districts ‘sacrificing’ one of their young ones. To make it seem less cruel than plain murder, it was turned into a ‘sport’ which was telecast and viewed by all. The ones who survived became celebrities, but remained enslaved to the capitol for their entire lives.

Thus it is safe to say, that while Suzanne Collins, surely painted an impressive and captivating picture, it was mostly a re-invention of the historical gladiator games!

Nepal: One Year Down the Line

Approximately one year ago a small country (approx. the size of Arkansas) witnessed one of its worst natural disasters, possibly the worlds worst natural disaster in recent history. This was followed by numerous after shocks (more than 5600 and 4312 recorded landslides till date) and finally another major earthquake a month later. For weeks the whole world rallied to help, every eye was on this small country and its people, with ‘help’ pouring in from all corners, in the shape of food, shelter, medicine, clothes and donations.

 

That was a year ago. As is usually the case, the world soon found more interesting stuff to focus on, NGOs found new target areas and objectives and slowly everyone exited the place. While last year there were more than 200-300 NGOs in a district in Nepal, now only 20-30 remain, of which not even half are actually doing work.

 

I had the privilege or fortune of being in Nepal last year in January and February and had been pained to hear that the place I had spent almost a month in was almost completely annihilated. This year I got a chance to go back again, and see first hand how everything is even after a year.

 

When we reached Kathmandu, I was apprehensive and then as the day passed on, impressed and shamefuly a little let down. Looking at Kathmandu you couldn’t say it had suffered so much. All that was visible were a few broken walls. But otherwise life seemed to have gone back on track. How I regret my thoughts now. Despite the fact that one of the primary aims of my visit was to understand how the earthquake had impacted a specific district (as usual no names or locations can be disclosed), it almost felt like nothing major had happened. As if the earthquake was no more than a bad memory.

 

How I wish I could take those thoughts back, for it is the interiors of the country that you truly see the devastation of the quakes. A year on, people are still living in shelters, their families dead, houses destroyed, livestock and livelihoods lost. while some camps are located on government land, most of the camps are established on private land, which has been procured by the local community themselves on rent. Everyone recounts with saddening clarity those first few days, where due to the nature of the terrain in the country and time taken to mobilise enough relief, they spend days on top of the mountains, injured, hungry and scared for their lives. While most injured were eventually evacuated by choppers, the healthy had to find their own way down the mountains, where no one was sure of when the next aftershock or landslide would hit. Those who passed away in this were crudely buried only to get a proper funeral weeks later when their family dared come back.

 

A year on, people are still residing in the relief shelters made, dependent on charity for food and basic supplies. While earlier most had a sustenance livelihood of agriculture and livestock, now most are dependent on a few days of wage labour for running their houses.
The people are ready to move on with their life’s, but also express apprehension over what that means. They don’t own any land in the camp areas, the land they do own may not be safe and is full of horrific memories. The government wasn’t able to help most set up their camps and now doesn’t have a clear stand on where the people should go, how they will be resettled. The INGOs working with them are ending their projects and withdrawing, the NGOs are running out of money and sponsorship.

 

Furthermore, the agreements for the land for the camps were only for a year. Thus it is possible that come June, these camps may have to be dismantled and the people forced to move to another location or worse, back to their villages. Even if that doesn’t happen, they will have to pay a higher rent, along with continued costs of electricity, food and medical bills. Add on top of this, the fact that disease, rising cost of living, human trafficking (especially of children), threats to women safety and overall vulnerability are rising, the picture isn’t pretty. And the world seems to have forgotten.

An open letter to my Uncle

I lost my uncle (mom’s brother) about two weeks ago and have been trying to come to terms with it since then. There was so much I would have liked to say to him before he left, all the more now that he is not here. So this is my attempt at doing that, something I hope wherever he is, he hears.
Mama, 

I am angry, I am hurt and most importantly I am sad. Two weeks ago on Monday morning you made my mom, your elder sister call me and tell me something she should never have had to. You left! Without warning, without a word of goodbye, you left. Did you not think of what this would do to us? To your wife, to your son and daughter! It’s your son’s birthday today, he turns 14 today. Did you care that you were leaving them so young. Do you care that your kids will have to learn how to do something that stumps people even when they are much older, that they will have to learn how to live without you at such a young age! 

It hasn’t sunk in yet, every now and then I remember and can’t help feel cheated. You are supposed to be here. You are supposed to tell me off when I do something to radical, like braid my hair pink (aunts don’t do that). You are supposed to be there when I start looking at boys and do a thorough background check to make sure they are good enough for me. You are supposed to be there when I get married, running around and making sure my big day goes off without a hitch! You are supposed to be there when I have kids and be the cool Nana! You are supposed to be there when I lose my parents to old age (God forbid) and console me! You are supposed to be here……..but you are not. 

People are saying that you were such a good soul that you attained moksha! For some reason that makes me sadder! I am glad you found salvation but that also means that I will never see you again! 

I know you didn’t chose to leave, but I am gonna use the fact that I am the younger one here and be mad a little longer please. But no matter how mad I am at you, I will also take this moment to make you a promise. While I know your wife and your kids will always miss you and think of you, I promise we will always be there for them. They are my younger siblings and I will always look out for them. They will always have someone to lean on, advice them and generally be there. We will always miss you Mama but we will also strive to make you proud. Even if you have attained moksha, I know you will always look down on us from above and we will be the men and women you would be proud to call your kids and nieces and nephews. Same for your sisters, you were a loved brother and I know how difficult they will find to just keep going. I promise you, we kids will be there for our mothers and make sure they never feel alone. 

So go well Mama, be at peace and know we will always love you and think of you and that we will always be there for each other. Go well Mama. I love you soo much. 

A short story about love 

Kevin walked home….. All of eighteen years old, he felt for the first time like an adult. The slight burn on his bicep doing nothing to dim his pride and joy in what he had accomplished. He let the white bandage shine through this short sleeved t shirt just as he would let his feelings, now etched forever on his skin. He eagerly awaited the moment when he would be able to show his mother how he had used his birthday money. 

However, all those hopes were shattered when he reached home. His mother’s eyes lit up when they fell on him, like they always did. But dimmed when they fell on the white bandage. “What did you do?” She inquired, her voice reflecting her anger and also her fear. “Mom relax I just got a tattoo… You said I could use my birthday money for anything I wanted” he replied, not quite understanding what the big fuss was. “Just got a tattoo…..What in the world were you thinking…. Do you know how dangerous it is… Where did you get it done… Was it even sanitary… What if you get infected with HIV…. And what in the world did you get done… How can you permanently etch something on your skin like that… What of when you are older and you don’t like it hunh? ” she exclaimed not quite able to believe her son would be so irresponsible. “No mom it’s not like that, I would never want to remove this, if you just see what…..” ” no…. Nothing doing, I will find out about a specialist tomorrow and we will get this removed, do you understand. Now go up to your room”. 

Kevin trudged up to his room, heart sinking with every step he took. Why couldn’t his mom understand, he wasn’t a kid anymore, he was legally an adult damn it and he knew what he was doing. He stepped into the bathroom and pulled off the bandage, the words had been put there only a few hours ago but they were not new to him in anyway. He haughtily brushed away the tears threatening to spill and nodded to himself in the mirror. He did not regret his decision or what he had tattooed on his arm and as he stared at the clean words on his arm ” I Love My Mom” he decided, he would make his mother see just that. 

 Ok, this is a short story that was in my head for sometime now, would love to hear feedback on how it was. 


I am ordinary and proud of it

An American actor, Misha Collins once said, “I want to live in a world where being normal is considered an insult.” A similar theme was adopted in the Indian movie ” Tamasha” which highlighted the importance of accepting the differences amongst individuals and not trying to fit everyone into one mold, and on an individual to search for a purpose of life for oneself without being restricted by societal standards. I think these are lovely thoughts, where difference and uniqueness would be valued and cherished.

However, these also led me to introspect a little bit today, and I found that surprise surprise; I am one of those who constantly walks the line. I am one of the hundreds who get up every morning, rush mindlessly to work, come back home and finish my day in front of the idiot box and scrub and repeat the next day.

I am not unique, I am not someone who is looking to fulfil some larger destiny. I am not destined for greatness, or even to be remembered by many after I am gone. But surprisingly I am okay with it. I am ordinary person, who will probably only matter to a handful of people. The most important work/achievement I will probably have in my life will amount only to my family.  But what is the harm in that.

Today, nerd is the new sexy. Today the buzz word is to be different, to be a rule breaker. But isn’t it more important to be happy, content and at peace with yourself. Yes, its a good thing to embrace those who want to color outside the lines so to speak, but that should not result in those who do stay within the lines being declared weak. There are some who are born to make a difference by doing amazing grand unique things. On the other hand, there are those who are meant to serve a purpose by just being ‘ordinary’.

So don’t worry if you are ordinary or unique! embrace your personality and don’t apologize. I am completely ordinary and I refuse to apologize for it.