Sunday, September 30, 2012


They lurk like dark shadows,
in places no one will find.
Deep within your soul,
in the crevices of your mind.

They are marred memories
and injured thoughts
that ail your heart
like little blood clots.

A familiar face
you should never have known.
Bitter words,
a sarcastic tone.

Repressed feelings,
you couldn't express
So much stuff,
you were afraid to confess.

Misdeeds and mistakes,
they plague us all.
Remember the flight
before the fall?

Dreams and desires,
they turned to mist.
For life's not a movie,
there's no third act twist.

A trove of memories
you long left behind.
Still so sharp,
when your head hits rewinds

Who are those people,
the ones you laughed with?
Were they truly friends,
or some construed myth?

Is that you,
in the fading old picture?
Funny how it's got
its own strange allure

What's it about the past
that always draws you in?
In the battle to forget,
why don't you ever win?

Indeed they stand the test of time,
like scandalous bits of news
They are insurmountable,
these clingy little residues.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Give and take is what makes or breaks?

What constitutes the formation of a new friendship? How do we know when someone who is essentially a stranger officially becomes our "friend"? Is it just an internal feeling that we have or something more concrete like the amount of conversation we have with them and what the conversation consists of? I feel that I have always been the first to jump the gun and consider people my "friends" much before they actually grow close to me. Just one meaningful exchange is enough to plant the seeds of friendship for me, but often, this is not so for the other person. I think people take time to warm up to me, and perhaps the vice versa is true too because I am such a quiet and 'closed' person, but it still hurts when you obviously care about someone more than they care about you, especially when this happens at the beginning of a potential friendship. It is as if the other person is writing you off before even giving you a chance. How are such decisions made, I have no idea. Though, contradictory as I am, perhaps I too do this very thing and never think twice about it.
Nonetheless, I still feel bad to be the lesser preferred friend. I hate it when people I want to be close to choose others over me. It fuels the inferiority complex I've had since a young age, but perhaps also feeds off this very characteristic. Like a vicious cycle that I'll never be able to break out of: I feel inferior so i get treated that way, which only makes me feel more inferior. It's maddening. And sad. And in a bid to protect myself from this, I've become weird. i have huge ego issues over calling and texting "friends". I will only text you if you text me first sometimes. I will only call you if you reciprocate properly. And if you don't, I will be miserable but won't tell you because I know it will make me look pathetic. Phew. So much complication over an arguably simple thing called friendship. Why do I find it so hard to make friends? Why am I so reserved so many times? Why do i end up shutting people off when all I want is the exact opposite? Why do I get hurt so easily?
They are questions that I have no clear answers to, but all I can hope is that the cycle will break soon enough. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Me, the busy bee.

I do not have the time to be writing this. Which is precisely why I am writing it. I need a break from all the busyness that has taken over my days to such an extent that I can't fall asleep at night because my mind is too clouded with thoughts and ideas and voices all talking at once.
As exhausting as it is, I love being busy. I love making lists of things to do and then actually doing them. I love seeing final products which I put in a lot of effort to create, whether these products are mere assignments or something more creative. Nothing is more fulfilling than learning and getting good at things that initially seemed insurmountable.
When I first began working on a page layout software called Quark Xpress, I was afraid of how I would manage to pull it off, especially when my poor eyesight makes it a pain to do precision work on a computer screen. But with practice and patience, I've discovered different features that enhance the layout and am still learning more things everyday.
Today, I thought I was faced with an impossible task when I was asked to use a 'cutout' of a photo on the page because to start with, I didn't have a clue what a cutout is, and secondly, my image editing skills are limited to using fun-and-easy options on Picasa. I was expected to use Photoshop today, a program which I had heard a lot about but never gotten around to using. With a deadline looming large, I decided to at least give it a shot and - with the help of Google - managed to make a pretty nice cutout image which is making the page I am designing look quite fancy. :)  I can't wait to try more things in Photoshop and get good at it like I am at Quark Xpress.
In other news, I am helping to lead the organisation of a fest that the media school I study at is organising. I have never led anything before, and for most of my academic career, people have admired my scholastic ability but doubted my leadership potential. Even if I wanted to lead things, I would be too afraid of other people's opinions about me to actually take an initiative. Not anymore. I am sure organising any kind of big event is a lot of hard work but hard work is something I've never been afraid of. It also requires team work, which I have always been skeptical about, but I realize that almost any job in the media world requires team effort, so it's high time I learned to work with people.
I've never enjoyed any phase of my life as much as I'm enjoying this master's programme. It's sad to know that it will be over quite soon, but I guess that's all the more reason to make the most of it and be as busy as I can until it lasts! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"But when you smile for me, the world seems all right..."

What is it about a smile that can make the world around us seem more beautiful than it is? That can make violins play in the heart and colors explode in the mind? That can put you in a happy mood for no reason at all and make you want to sing and dance like they do it Bollywood?
It lights up your life when it is on someone else’s face and lights up your heart when it is on your own. And when someone smiles at you, you can’t help but smile back and perhaps that’s why it’s called the universal language. It is the beginning of a friendship, and the symbol of pleasantry, of humor, of amicability. It is what we all look for in other people, and what gives away a lot more about us than we would think.
It is such a simple gesture, such an automatic response to so many situations, but it can hold such power sometimes, the power to shift the axis of our personal universes and send life careering in a whole different direction altogether.
What is it about a smile that can be so magical? :P 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A wish for 'the future'

They say that we should not worry about the future. We should live in the present moment for the future is abstract, uncertain, unknown. We may or may not have a future, yet the future is always there, looming over our heads, our decisions, our lives, like a constant shadow. Whether it is dark or bright, is anybody's guess. Or perhaps a matter of point of view.
Time seems to elapse faster when you are enjoying yourself, when you are happy, when you want to cling onto certain moments, and when time elapses, the elusive 'future' hovers closer, threatening to envelop us into its mysterious depths and greedily snatch away all that we hold dear in the present moment.
We are going to be in different spaces in the future, you and I. We have different lives to live, different priorities, responsibilities, loyalties, pressures, commitments. Our paths that are running so neatly parallel at the moment will soon unravel and race into completely different winding routes as soon as "the future" is upon us.
There will be no more stories shared over coffee or tea, no weekends of movies, eating out, roaming, exploring the city. No public transport rides together, no more moments to cling onto. Life will be boring. At least it seems so every time I visualize it. Our reunions - if any at all - will be few and far in between. Will our sense of friendship dwindle? Will we not have much to say to each other anymore? I hope not. I hope we manage to keep the conversation alive. I hope we keep intact the inclination to pick up the phone and call each other, to share views and thoughts and feelings, to laugh together, to argue.
The future may be uncertain, but we are not, right? We are friends for certain, aren't we? Come hell or high water? Come career or travel? Marriage or children?
Perhaps it is unfair to have such demands of friendship. Perhaps everything in this world comes with an expiry date. Perhaps everyone is right when they say 'live in the present', perhaps the elusive future will take care of itself somehow. Perhaps our friendship will take care of itself too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of clarity and certainties

Who are you? Or ‘who am I?’ are multi-faceted questions with a range of possible answers. You can be just a name, or someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, someone’s sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife. You can be an Indian or a North Indian, South Indian, Anglo-Indian, or a Gujarati, Bengali, Assamese, Tamilian, Mumbaikar, Hyderabadi, Delhi-ite. You can be male or female or somewhere in between, you can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, you can be a leftist, a communist, a democrat or republican, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew, an atheist. You can be an immigrant, an expatriate, a desi, an American-desi, an African American, a Kenyan Indian. You can be a member of a backward caste or an upper caste, a senior citizen or a child or a person with disability. You can be a student, a writer, a doctor, a blogger, a traveler, you can be black or white or brown, an Asian, a European, an Eskimo.

Or you can be a mixture. Everyone is essentially a mixture, if you think about it, though not many will appreciate this basic fact. We tend to be biased towards purity. Or clarity. Or certainty. We are either this or that and nothing in between. And those who are in between clearly have something wrong with them, poor souls. I wonder why we compartmentalize our identity – or multiple identities – this way? Why do we like to live in imaginary boxes?

When I tell people I am from Ahmedabad, I immediately get labeled as a Gujarati, though I have never thought of myself as one. What does being Gujarati entail anyway? That I speak the language, love dhokla and khakra, and do the garba dance? I do none of these and when I tell people that I am not Gujarati they go on to ask what I am otherwise, and I really have no answer. I do not identify myself with any one state of India. I identify with the country as a whole – or as Rushdie has said – the idea or notion of India – but that is only because I was born here and currently live here. When I lived in Kenya, I didn’t really identify myself as Indian then. And what’s wrong with that? Why must I be something rather than many things combined?

The professor who taught me History of Media during the first semester of my master’s programme used to say that he didn’t want us to have clarity about the subject. It is good to be confused, to not know or understand everything, because some things are not meant to be understood clearly. They are ambiguous and should be appreciated just like that, in all their ambiguity. At the time, I didn’t really relate to what he said but I see his point now. Why must we always be so clear about everything? Why can’t we just let things be complex or uncertain?

Another professor recently mentioned that certainties with regard to notions of identity are suspicious, problematic and even scary. When you are so sure of who you are and who “others” are it lays the foundation for all kinds of problems and intolerances to erupt. Our country’s history is colored – and colored rather bloodily, at that – by the whole battle of identity and who ‘we Indians’ really are. I never quite understood what the whole Hindu-Muslim clash in India is really about until today. It is all related to the obsession of defining clearly and certainly who and what we really are. And if we are one religion and one language then we certainly can’t be another. Yet we are. We have always been many things at once and we always will be. There are no clear-cut identities and no certainties. Life is best lived uncertainly, accommodating the fact that you might not be who you think you are. You might actually be a lot more. And that is surely a good thing, isn’t it? to be a lot more? I certainly think so. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The rain, the dark, and nostalgia

The rain is not so bad when I am warm and dry indoors. I enjoy watching it pour in a noisy, endless ruckus as a chilly wind blows in from my open window. The electricity goes off, like it always does at the slightest hint of rainfall, and I seize the opportunity to shut my laptop and move to my favorite spot - my bed - to sit and contemplate in the dark.
My roommate lights a candle and I am suddenly reminded of camping trips I went on a long time ago, to national parks in Kenya. Maybe it is something to do with the fact that I'd been writing a message to an old friend in Kenya before the electricity rendered me helpless in this technology-dependent world. I recall the sights and sounds of the animals and birds, especially at night, when there would be no power and we would huddle close together beside a bonfire, telling stupid ghost stories and flashing torch lights into each others eyes. I remember my terror of the creepy crawlies that would be everywhere, and the endless chatter that would successfully distract me. There would be arguments and gossip and games and fun and memories. The memories are all I have now. No photographs since those days were just before the digital-cam-phenomenon, and hardly any contact with the people who formed my world outside the home then.
Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to her friend whom she knows from first grade of school. I realized with a pang of sadness that I don't know anyone from first grade anymore, not even on facebook. Sometimes I feel perhaps it would be better to live like Benjamin Button: perhaps it would be easier to forget the old days if one was only growing younger.
And on that note, the lights flicker back on and I am pulled back into the present, another time that I am surely going to miss someday.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thoughtful on a Saturday evening

Sitting by the window of the small hostel room meant for one person but shared by two, I enjoyed the cool evening breeze that wafted onto my face, bringing with it the smell of the trees and dust. Birds cooed and a long-tailed peacock intermittently let out a high-pitched call as it strut about on the ground below. I watched it and felt a rare sense of peace that I only ever feel on this university campus that I love.
My friend was fast asleep on a mattress on the floor and I was waiting for her to wake up so I could convince her to come out to eat with me. As much as I love the campus, I am incredibly bored of the food it has on offer. My friend stirred in her sleep, unperturbed by the fact that there was a power cut and the room was quite stuffy despite the open window. I looked at her curled up with the blanket and my thoughts turned to where they so often do these days: what will happen once my course of study here is over? What will become of the friendships I have acquired which mean so much? What will the future hold? Hyderabad and this university have captured my heart; no matter where I go, a part of me will always reside here in the place that has given me so much, shaped me so strongly in such a short time. But go I will have to, because life is a river and you have to constantly flow forwards towards new pursuits. I wonder what I will feel like on the train journey back home when it finally comes around, when I won't have the comfort of knowing that I'll soon be returning (the way I do when I go for semester breaks). I can predict that feeling all too well, having felt it all too often: the desperate overwhelming longing to cling onto a time that is clearly and irrefutably over.
Not everything I experience here is positive or enjoyable - there are often long, difficult hours of alone-ness, particularly on the weekends, when I feel trapped or confined within the very campus that I love, but I feel that these periods are helping me value myself more. They make me accept the basic fact that we are all essentially alone in this world and cannot - should not - depend on anyone to bring us happiness.
Sometimes, the dynamics of friendships change. Actually, cross that, not sometimes, all the time and always. People and priorities and circumstances change and all of that is bound to affect relationships. But it need not necessarily be negative. I suppose life is all about adjusting to changing equations, finding comfortable footholds in transforming terrains. I looked at my friend and it struck me that things will change when this university sojourn of ours ends, but that doesn't need to be as bad as it sounds. For all you (and I) know, things could change for the better. We may become closer when we are apart. It may seem an overly optimistic wish, but pessimism never got anyone anywhere.
And as if on cue, my friend's mobile rang a message and she woke with a start. The spell was broken. I snapped out of my reverie with my favorite old consolation: whatever's meant to happen, will happen. And I trust that it will be for the best.

My beautiful campus 

P.S. If at all you are interested in knowing, I didn't have to convince her to eat out; she promptly suggested we order in, and we had a delicious meal of fried chicken wings.