Saturday, August 16, 2014

What matters most to you, and why?

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately,
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
To put to rout all that was not life,
And not, when I had come to die,
Discover that I had not lived.”

--Thoreau (also quoted in the movie, Dead Poets’ Society)

Since childhood, I have been a proud member of the secret Dead Poets’ Society. I have wandered into the woods in the recesses of my mind, and it is in these woods that words conjured by dead poets and writers transformed me into a Tom Sawyer or a Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It is these words that gave my incessant, restless yearning to constantly push the envelope wings to take flight; flights that allowed me to soar and explore, discover, and rejoice in the beauty, colors and mysteries that this world has to offer. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, what matters most to me is flying and “sucking out all the marrow of life” in order to reach the end of my own limits and that of the horizon, just to see what lies beyond. And each time I reach and step beyond that limit, I discover a new horizon and continue my quest for the absolute and apparently, infinite.

Honestly, I don’t know what that absolute or infinite is and why I pursue it, but I know that if I stalled, I would fall into an abyss of grayness and wither away. I also now understand that Newton and Leibniz both probably suffered from the same inexplicable affliction and hence, devised calculus in their attempts to reach the limit of infinity. Of course, I am by no means a genius, but then Richard Bach would say, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours.” Ha, so I might just be a genius in the making, who knows. Apologies, I digressed.

I had never quite understood what poets meant by the phrase “Love sets you free”. But as I sit back and reflect on experiences and moments in which I felt in love, it was those which truly set me free—free to fly and explore perceived limits and then move past those perceived limits to the next horizon. Pursuits, friendships and relationships in which I experienced most such moments were the ones that went onto become my passions.

It is the desire to fly which drove me to spend hours of leisure time poring over mathematics, or to wield a cricket bat and become a student of the sport for life. Cricket, apart from being a physically challenging sport, is also one of the most mentally challenging ones-- outcomes for each ball are literally countless because of the sheer number of variables involved. In those hours when I strove to prove a theorem or pitch a ball at the perfect spot, I came alive in the beauty of the struggle to push limits and step closer to that ungraspable absolute; I flew.

It is the same quest for infinity that led me to the 18th century corridors of College Hall on Penn’s campus for Philosophical Society meetings, to sit up till wee hours of the morning with my hall mates absorbed in some animated discussion, or to sift through various religious texts in the library when I should technically have been doing my homework. Oops.

It is the same desire to expand horizons that drew me to CommuniTech in undergrad, and to Echoing Green once I started working. Through both, I learnt about the struggles of my counterparts and social entrepreneurs across the world, and by doing my bit to help, I enabled them to push limits and take flight of their dreams; with them, I vicariously flew.

Forever, I shall remain a proud member of the Dead Poets’ Society dedicated to “sucking all the marrow out of life”. You may call me a fool or a dreamer, capable of doing great things or being perpetually lost, but if you’re slightly more daring, you may also call me, “O Captain! My Captain”.

Thursday Blues

A long night ahead still, and promise of another beautiful early morning at work,
As strokes of sleep jolted me to the realities of my thrilling cube…
All hopes and dreams of faraway adventures
Squealed in the quagmire of financials
Begging to be rescued, set free, and soar

In an attempt to spruce up my life,
A trip to the dentist was just the spice
That set my right cheek and grey cells to tingle
As strains of Novacane and pained dreams lingered,
I continued to hallucinate and wonder…
Stock market and thoughts flew asunder,
Alas! Wake up, boss' fire you're under!



Her flawless, wheat-hued skin that tans to syrupy honey, tempting me to
dip my lips in its blush-kissed softness... the endless meandering
ringlets of black silk that gently slip off her glowing, naked shoulder,
reminding me of my affair with moon-lit nights... the seductive hazel of
her unfathomable eyes dewed with emotion about to spill over and
submerge me... the intoxicating, misty whiffs from the recesses of her
satiny neck...delicate, distinctive collar bones... the round diamond
ear ring that sparkles with oomph and mischief in her tiny lobe... the
rustle of her deep, husky voice breathing sultrily into my ear,
transforming my stomach into a hollow...the electric touch of her skin
against mine when she plays footsy under the table, talking nonchalantly
to the rest while I'm breathless and tongue tied... the shy, flirtatious
glare that tells me I am wanted... when she complains about the 3
pimples that I gave her.

Poem for My Sweetheart

Words do not do justice to how I feel about you now,
Over the years, you have become my anchor, my rock;
I set my eyes upon you, your gaze quenches my soul,
I feel hollowness within me fill up, I feel whole.
Sureness in the depths of your voice unfailingly says I'm wanted;
You reach within through my jaded crust,
No longer am I daunted.
Rejuvenated to take on the world anew,
The scent of your soft skin lingers;
I come to appreciate being alive again,
Through the touch of your chiseled fingers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Random Happy Childhood Memory

The scorching summer sun pelted beams that penetrated right through the skin. Its accomplice, the Central Indian heat wave bellowed through the vegetable gardens where a wizened old man squatted unfazed by the harshness of nature, examining the latest watermelon crop. Excited to spot another sign of human life at siesta time when most adults were in deep slumber, I climbed down from the second highest branch of my favorite tree on which I sat perched reading Tom Sawyer. In a drab, yellow world around 3:00 pm in which even monkeys shied away from playing, I, a mischievous 10-year old tomboy was engrossed in her ever-colorful world of fantasy, adventure and explorations. I visited my uncle for a month every summer, who by virtue of being a high official in the Indian government, was posted in the remotest parts of rural India and lived in government estates from the time of the British Raj. His houses always had sprawling gardens and I often became great friends with the gardeners.

I ran over to Rahim Uncle who had worked on this estate for 30 years. Baked, dark-brown skin, kind, watery eyes and lips that effortlessly carved into a smile, he was clearly touched by my eagerness to share his passion. My questions about watermelons knew no end; they ranged from gardening techniques to grow watermelons in my tiny excuse of a garden in New Delhi, a bustling metropolis in Northern India to the number of watermelons that could fit in our suitcases if I took out all the clothes. As my reward for asking "brilliant" questions, I was actually allowed to pluck the biggest and the most precious watermelon in the garden. I remember it being too heavy for me, so we carried my prize together to the nearest mini-well and tossed it in water. Voila! it floated-- it was ripe and ready to be eaten! Exhilirated, I ran and gave his legs a big hug. He just laughed, and said, "Daughter, study hard so that you can own an estate with a big garden someday. I will pray for you." I just nodded, innocent, dreamy, blissful.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

By the riverside...

The first few lines in the movie V for Vendetta go something like this:

"Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot... But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I've witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I've seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them... but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it... ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love... And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a man... A man that made me remember the Fifth of November. A man that I will never forget."

Yesterday, I sat quietly by the chilly waterfront of River Schuylkill staring at the lights that did their little dance and at the concrete that rose sharply into the sky. There it was, my favorite bridge, the poor, hagged one heaving its last sighs before it collapsed any second; there is something so morose yet beautiful about that bridge as it rises above the dark waters and starkly contrasts the grandeur of the 30th Street Station. Yup, sometimes sad is beautiful.

There must have been many people who crossed the same bridge and sat where I did, who felt and absorbed all that I did. So many people of different colors, religions, races, ages over the course of so many decades. And they all just perished. Yet, the buildings remain standing, the bridge, the concrete...The river remains but the waters keep flowing...Ideas remain but their torchbearers keep changing...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Too much free time on my hands

All I can think of right now is the hot afternoons in a clammed, yellow school bus where a very dear friend of mine, and I used to yap non-stop for about an hour each day. Ayn Rand, Richard Bach, ideas, careers, jokes from Readers Digest, music and god knows what else... It did not matter that we were all of 15 years old, that horns used to blare perpetually and that our lungs were dying a slow, painful death in Delhi's atrocious traffic. We talked and giggled, just like that.

I clearly remember her bobbing head, "hyrda-like" hair (she was a Bio geek, and that was her joke btw) and mischievous grin as she casually quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people." Oh yeah! And then we grinned thinking how great we were (haha). She chose to pursue medecine and I'm more than certain that she will make one of the finest doctors that the world has ever seen, seriously.

I can't help but think and reflect on that quote today. How much time do we spend trying to smoothen the knots in our relationships? Talking and thinking about fleeting emotions and people? And yet, that is what makes us feel real and human, right? But is it worth it? Maybe not, coz these complications are mental speed brakers that prevent one from accelerating, from contributing to the world wholeheartedly. But can every road always be smooth? And can and should one stop flying coz of the fear of the fall? Geez, I have too much free time on my hands :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 10, 2006

I was at the Wilmington train station in the state of DELAWARE for God's sake and there was an insane amount of security with sniff dogs nd stuff.

Clueless as always, I was sleeping with my head on the laptop bag waiting to be picked up for office. First, a police officer approached me and asked if everything was all right, which I thought was sweet yet strange coz I doze off sitting in the train station all the time (Hey, I am not a bum! :). It was just too darn early in the morning!) So I beamed a reassuring smile at him, letting him know that I was not dying and went back to sleep promptly.

A few minutes later, another officer woke me up but this time I was quite annoyed. Thoughts like, "I will do what I want, this is a free country. For all you care, I will sit in the station all day long and sleep, what is your frikkin problem?!" were going through my head. He looked quite tense and asked what I was doing in the station, giving my laptop case a wary look. "What do you think people do in train stations?" would have been my usual answer, but instincts told me otherwise; I gave him a straight answer and he relaxed a bit. During the short, awkward silence that ensued, I mustered the courage to casually ask him what was going on. As one of the female species of the human race, it is quite strenuous to stay quiet for too long.

"A plan to mass murder-- by blowing 10 flights leaving London Heathrow-- has been foiled and 21 arrests have been made within England yesterday. President Bush has put the country on high alert and no passenger is being allowed to carry hand bags aboard. I am not sure if you are aware, Ma'am, but 8 Egyptian students have gone missing in Kansas yesterday and this comes soon after Al-Qaeda's declaration that their Egyptian brothers have joined them." I was in a state of shock. Like seriously? I felt fear after a long, long time. I was witnessing the global and omnipresent repercussions of terrorism first hand, for the first time outside of newspapers, that too in a small city in one of the smallest states of the US. I felt vulnerable and tiny in front of an invincible monster who, according to hear say lived in the vicinity, but seemed like a legend nevertheless. But now I had spotted its footprint for the first time in my back yard.

The irony of my immediate reaction is that nothing really had happened. And the pity is that had the carnage taken place, my reaction might not have been this severe. In some warped way, I would have been more at ease with the familiar feeling of numbness that comes while skimming over numbers on paper-- gas prices, stocks quotes, number of people killed. That's all they are, everyday numbers, aren't they?

In retrospect, I am not sure what prompted him to talk further, specially knowing now what he was going to say. His expression became grave as he continued, "It is Muslims against the rest of the world these days, just like the Crusades in the 13th and the 14th century. The bible also says that Crusades will happen again and this seems like the time." He paused for a brief second, studied my poker-faced look and continued, "You know, one should trust NO ONE during war, and yes, this is war. No, not even women or children." And he pointed at me after saying 'women'. I could have gotten angry, but I knew better than that now (ever since I heard of an incident in which someone was arrested for joking about carrying explosives in an airport). So just to keep a "good-natured conversation" going, and out of genuine child-like curiosity, I asked him if he had ever been in a war. Of course, he had! But his tone became mellow as he explained further, "Yes Ma'am, I was the captain of a unit in Vietnam War. And I had to ask my troops to open fire at the enemy, the youngest of whom was 12 and the oldest was 17. I prayed and prayed, but had to do what I did. Those kids returned fire for 2 godawful hours." Geez. I was left speechless. "Anyway Ma'am, you have a good trip. It was a pleasure talking to you". He gave me a huge, friendly smile, kissed my hand and walked off. Stunned by our conversation and his sudden willingness to trust me for no real reason, I sat in the station quietly waiting to be picked up for office...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Be the change you wish to see in this world"

"Be the Change you wish to see in this world" - Gandhi

The purpose of this entry is not to discuss Gandhi, who may or may not be a controversial figure. This post is about the quote which is so simple that ironically, we miss its message.

One of my friends said, "I am tired of being taken for granted by the whole world". But sweetheart, did you ever think that you yourself could be taking life for granted? That you may not be appreciating this life and the world enough? Be the change you wish to see in this world...

Along the same lines, we condemn the entire world for harboring hatred, waging wars etc. day in and day out. But when people like us who are privileged in many aspects can hold grudges and hate for no 'real' reason (and I include myself in there), then those who do pick up arms and become terrorists are almost justified-- coz they have real grievances. I am not in favor of taking human life under any circumstance; all I am saying is that if we consider terrorism wrong, then we, as privileged and educated people do not have any reason to hold grudges. Life is too short and there is too much love to spread, there are too many things to change (however sappy that sounds). Be the change that you wish to see in this world...

Monday, August 07, 2006

What if...

What would you do if you were a Tamil in Jaffna, Sri Lanka in the 1980s when 200-300 thousand Tamils were massacred by the Sinhalese Govt. ? What would you do if you were a Kashmiri who could not give a damn whether his land goes to India or Pakistan, but just wants to live freely and peacefully? Wants to love, be loved, go to work normally and take his kids on a 'Shikara'... What would you do if you were one of those on the execution list after the Revolution in Cuba and Iran? What if you were a dark-skinned Sudanese being hunted by the Janjaweed for the sake of ethnic cleansing? What if you you were born in Rwanda? Ahhh! What would you do...?????

A) Flight-- If possible, flee abroad and start over again (For ex, doctors take up jobs as sweepers, cleaners, domestic help etc. and SO MANY of these refugees are mistreated again by the new locals)
B) Fight-- Pick up arms... but eventually these rebels acquire the characteristics of the oppressors themselves (eg. LTTE, the Fidel Castro/Che Guevara regime)... I always get haunted by the phrase "You become what you chase"
C) Freeze-- Await the consequences, and in the meantime, escape inwardly

Whhhyyyy??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What would you do? For God's sake, we must do something... We MUST...