Who am I?

My photo
I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

When Consciousness Slows Down

It’s all an excuse. Yet another excuse. I am nothing but an excuse of a person, always procrastinating, always putting off what ought to be done. Although right thoughts are in place, like what my friend Prateek said the other day: “The day you feel the laziest is the day you should never give it a miss”. Like the fact that just yesterday I prioritised fitness at the top of my list – followed by reading, writing, playing the guitar and learning the flute, in that order. Like knowledge of the fact that only yesterday I covered a total of 7.10 km, around 4 km of which was covered while running. Oh yes, the right thoughts are in place. Something clicks. I walk up to my wardrobe, change into my running shorts, wear my arm band which will cocoon my iPod, and get ready. The guitar looks on, forlorn, in the corner. The tapering water bottle at my foot beckons me. Bending down to take a sip, I juggle the question whether I should turn my mobile phone on silent, lest someone calls and the ringing disturbs my flatmate. And then dismissing the question as ridiculous, I put on the songs on my “And Now Run” playlist, switch on the pedometer, and walk out. The realization that it has been drizzling hits me with full force. The biggest dampener this rain is. My biggest excuse this past month for not being regular with jogging! For about 20 seconds I stand at my place, staring at the shimmer on the glowing ball of the street light signifying a drizzle. A sharp cry by a small boy of about 7, excited on seeing his elder sister hiding behind the pillar of the gate, snaps me out of my reverie. It’s all an excuse. I descend the stairs, through the gate, and into the drizzle of Hyderabad.

Vasavi Colony, the place where I stay, is like a grid of tic-tac-toe, only a lot bigger and much more intricate with the roads cutting each other at every 30 metres or so. Not being the main road, the traffic is forgivingly sparse, but the cars in action jump at you at every other crossing, waiting in the dark stealthily under the tree for you to come running. Being a lazy, religious neighbourhood, it has habituated me to stares from children, who often pause their revelry in between and stop and consider this new thing; from aunties draped in pretty sarees who give a scared look, turn away, walk a little, then turn around and give another terrified look, just to check if I’m not running them over; from groups of youthful boys in their prime, whose expression is torn between incredulity, disgust, admiration and curiosity, distorting their visage to a jumble of crests and troughs, unreadable at best. I also get a few comments here and there, whose import I am the least interested to understand. But the dogs are the ones I fear the most, it being the most difficult to fathom their expression and anticipate their actions – either jumping away to save their lives with tails making a C-shape between their legs, or snarling like a dire-wolf from Game of Thrones and making me clock many more metres per second.

The drizzle has cooled the air, but I can feel the thick wetness of humidity on my face. Thankfully I encounter no dogs today, but a few pouncing cars is normal. I had put in some effort to look for a park, any park, nearby and was delighted to find one less than a kilometre from where I stay. On this dank but alive evening, that is where I head to. As I approach the park, a boy cycles along with me, possibly saying something which I am immune to owing to the band ‘Fun’ crooning in my ear. Trying not to encourage him by looking towards him, I jog on and after a few hundred metres, he falls back. Now a harmless pinkish, now a sinister blood-red, the flooring of red tiles assumes different shades, depending on whether a street light lightens up that part of the track or not. I keep a count of the number of laps I take of the less-than-200 metre track which works as a yardstick for me, and I aim for 25 laps today.

Initially I feel a strain on the upper part of my legs pulling me down. It is not as bad as the pain in the side of my stomach symptomatic of poor stamina, a pain that I encountered only yesterday which I slowed down my running speed to overcome. But this is an ache which signifies a scarcity in the coffers of my energy. But I don’t stop, the thought does not even enter my mind and I keep running. There’s a person who I cross at the far end of the park, sitting at the inner side of the concrete track and talking away happily on his mobile. There are a few people sitting under the shed whose faces I cannot see, their backs being towards the light source. The tiled track looks a bit slippery on account of the drizzle which has now become very mild. I gain a second wind almost after 10 laps and I feel no pain from here on. I feel myself being enveloped by a feeling of consciousness being slowed down by an irrepressible hand of nothingness. I’m into the lap 16 and I don’t feel my legs anymore - just an awareness of the number 15 which dances in huge letters in front of my eyes. This is a trick I use to remember the lap I am on, having forgotten to keep up the count many a times.

I can feel a dissonance at the rightmost corner of the ground. A strange continuous sound abuts on the rhythm of my song, and from the corner of my eye, I can see someone dancing, both hands in the air, gesturing almost like Billy Bowden. In my next lap I realize it’s a procession of people, and the sound of crackers piercing the air announces it as a baraat for some wedding. The crackers keep up for a couple of more laps till the caravan passes the expanse of the park. It is lap number 25 and rather than making a right turn at the end of the lap, I go straight out of the gate of the park, making a U-turn on the left towards my abode. By this time I feel rather tired, but I know stopping is not an option. On reaching the building which houses my apartment, I see three kids running towards me, gesturing excitedly with their hands. I try not to take heed and enter the gate of the building as I finally stop running. As I reach the first landing of the stairs and make a turn, I can see the three kids at the foot of the stairs saying something to me with their grinning faces. Not wanting to stop to entertain, being drained of all energy by now, I keep my ear-plugs on and keep ascending the stairs. How could I stop with the knowledge that a refreshing cold shower and a self-cooked khichdi awaited me?

I covered 7.61 km today in 45 minutes and I’m satisfied, though certainly looking forward for more. Running is not easy, especially when you are not a natural athlete. I believe it’s an activity that requires tremendous amount of self-discipline and sincerity. It demands a routine which is very difficult to maintain when you get home all fatigued from office at 6:30 pm, putting up in a place like Vasavi Colony where I’ve never seen anyone else running, ever! It’s a challenge through which your lazy-self screams out at you, showing you the fun you could be having with friends this weekend, and the easy life of sleep and food and movies and more sleep. I can feel the pain in my calf muscles, and I know it’s going to pull me down when I try to stand up tomorrow morning. But I know one thing that this pain is just the beginning of the everlasting pleasure of being proud of yourself.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's the Simple Things, Silly!

As we swim through the phases of our life – the exhilarated phase, the drudgery phase, the jumping-up-and-down-happy phase, the heartsick phase, the sad-like-never before phase, among others – we realize that there is a common light whose glimmer can be seen all along. These small events bear no importance to the direction our life takes, but they always form a part of the whole, giving realism to the phantasmagoria of make-believe called life. I would like to recount some of those events that I had to notice hard to see.

As my day begins, I go to the kitchen, and put 4 eggs to boil – two for my flat-mate and two for myself. This routine, ossified in the realms of everydayness, stands by me as a silent spectator, not making even the slightest movement for fear of making me realize its presence. In almost the same way, the guard of our building comes out and stands outside his room to watch me leave as I open the lock of the gate to go out. He has this annoying habit of standing right by you and pretending to be invisible, irrespective of the fact that you might be discussing life and death matters with your postman or your maid.

About a month back, the following incident took place. As I stood at the location where I board the morning bus, and tried to immerse myself in the book in my hand or in the song on my ipod, there is this shared-auto rickshaw that turned right from the crossing where I stood. I had not noticed it for almost a month, when that day I heard a voice followed by a cackling noise which can only either be produced by a mob of excited tiny chickens on a rampage or by a group of small girls poked about 4 inches below their armpits all at the same time. As I looked up at the source of the outburst, I saw some hands waving towards me while some making the tip of their thumb touch the tip of their index finger. It was only the next day when I heard a clear voice saying something to the effect of “Bhaiyya, nice hairstyle!” Caught off-guard as I was, all I could do was smile shyly in return. Since then, I regularly get wide smiles and enthusiastic wave of hands, to which I happily wave back.

The return journey from the office is typically characterised by a sincere effort on my part to make progress in reading whichever book I’m in the middle of. The first fit of drowsiness acting as a signal, I hastily put the book back in my bag, and doze off, before asking somebody close by to make sure that I’m up when my stop comes. After the short nap, which can be best described as head-banging in slow motion, when I get down from the bus, it typically becomes difficult to gather my bearings. The semi-sleepy walk that I have back from the point I alight from the bus to my apartment is something which typifies my everyday life.

These events easily become a part of my routine, and sadly the events which I would have loved to put here as daily occurrences, like a daily workout, or a regular jog, or an evening writing session, followed by some practice on the guitar, could not form a part of this enviable list. It leads me to believe that these daily transactions form the bulwark of our existence, and cannot be controlled, however hard we may try. By giving a sense of regularity to our lives, they make one realize that life is made of these simple things which don’t get much credit, as much as it is made of the highs which we remember fondly in the twilight of our years. We can do well to pause a moment, look around and breathe in these simple pleasures of life.