Looking up to the Self

I sometimes wish I had my own self from the future walk back into the past and become my teacher, my mentor. Oftentimes at work, and even otherwise generally in life, I have felt that I lacked that one insight into a problem, which I only gain after having battled through it. I only wish that I could have lived through life’s and work’s gauntlets in style, and I could have enjoyed the process more, had I know what I ought to have known.

For an educated person like me, who has had a decent college education, life’s quests are never about telling the right from the wrong, white from the black, yin from the yang, high from the lows. They are often about the decision of telling the more right from the less right, the more evil from the less evil, and the gray from the not-so-gray. When I look back at my life in the past eight to ten years, which is the whole of my work life, I feel the most tumultuous of times have been when I had to make such decisions – to see the one amongst the many cohorts of choices, or to see the many in that one.

It always feels like you walk several times into a stage called “life” to take a pick that will decide your fate forever or, if not forever, for the next few years, or months or weeks. You are being watched – watched by your bosses, your peers, your families, and strangers. You can hear whispers. You can’t tell if they’re telling “he will make a mistake”, or if they are praying for you to make the right choice, or if they are just gaining voyeuristic pleasure out of your helplessness and confusion. All you can hear is whispers, and sometimes nothing – just faces staring at you. You can’t say whether those expressionless faces are staring at you with a hope that you can make the right decision, or with a sense of trust and confidence that you will make the right decision, or with an unconfessed guilt that wants to admit, ‘I couldn’t make the right decision when I was in your place, I hope you too don’t and suffer the way I am suffering’.

How often have I lived the epiphany of having discovered the hidden simplicity of things around me? I laugh at my own futile attempts of over-trying and making things more difficult than they were. Life has taught me a lesson that if I am trying too hard to get something done then either I am doing it wrong or it’s just I who is doing it and no one else. Only that which is simple and ordered in its existence sustains the test of time and the wear-and-tear from human follies.

Life throws, and keeps throwing, newer challenges at me. It’s the same for everyone. And I often wonder the silliness of the utopian world I dreamt about as a boy, where I would imagine a teacher, a mentor, a guide showing you the path. I imagined that work will come disguised in many shapes, sizes, forms and lengths of time. That which appears on the outside is not what the work is about. The real nucleus, or crux, is that which the “work order” doesn’t state, or the timesheet won’t ask you to account for. It often takes a lot of demystification, analysis, disintegration, explosion, and dissection of a task to know ‘how it is to be done, and done once only so that you don’t have to do it again’. I dreamt that a mentor or teacher will show the path.

Well, much of what I imagined is true – that work does come disguised the way I have described above – but not entirely. Because there is a void in the place of the “mentor”.

If you encapsulate the entire time you spent working on a problem from the minute it was assigned to you, through the times you tried to read about it, understand it, talk to people about it, introspect, simulate it, make models of it to finally resolving it, you will realise how you have descended down a vortex of thought-webs. You traversed down all through not knowing the shortest route, but most importantly, the right route. Its only when you have finally managed to resolve it through disputes, quarrels, sweat, blood you realise something: that you were foolish. The tide has receded and you realise you have been swimming naked. Look back on your past, now. I can assure you no one is spared of this.

When I start on something that presents itself to me for the first time, I have two views. One is clear while the other one is hazy or sometimes visually unimaginable. The first view is of its physical manifestation – the way it is in its present state, untouched and unaugmented by external influences of solution. The second view is that of the “crux” – what it will become when it’s down to the bone, after all the illusive flesh and flab is taken out. That is what everyone needs to see but no one will tell, no one will describe. A problem is but a dense cobweb of unwanted perceptions, viewpoints, views, figures, charts, emotions, tears, wrath, complaints camouflaging that which is the solution – the truth. Most problems, if not all, have the solution hidden in them. We – whatever our professions are: consultants, doctors, engineers, technicians, plumbers, beauticians, or even poets, writers – spend a lifetime unravelling through all the unwanted accumulation to seek that which ‘is’.

I trust my problem solving skills; it’s just that it comes hard and comes with time. I can’t jump to the future and grab myself, have a cup of coffee while discussing the problem with my future-self, get a ‘Eureka moment’ and appear silly and over excited of having learned from my ‘future-self’ on how he solved that problem in the past or what he thought about it while my future-self chooses to ignore the frivolity of my excitement, and then I travel back in time to apply the solution to the problem on hand. I wish this were possible. But it isn’t.

Life will be a lot simpler if I am able to find that one person who is “me” but a more “learned me”. And then I can ask him to show me the path, to show me how to do it once and do it right. Books, Wikipedia, Forums – none of these can equate the efficacy of having my own future-self as my personal valet.




Post Apocalyptic World

Nov 01, 2070. 10:33 pm
There are no countries anymore. The much dreaded Orwellian prophesy has seen light of the day. Political boundaries that existed earlier have been wiped off in the wake of the last 5 decades that saw birth of coalitions that spanned continents. The world has always been in s state of war for the past 30 years. It worries me that these words I had read in Orwell’s master fiction – 1984, as a boy, are today being penned down in my diary as reality. Bullets, Guns, marching soldiers are no longer the sight of a battle or war. War of the current day comes with no forewarning. It blinds you by surprise and you don’t live to realise that. At least most people don’t. The world is being nuked. There is no US, Russia, India or China but just nameless coalitions. Common people like me don’t know who is with whom, who the good is and who the evil is. I have lost my identity. Passport, Social security numbers are all just another piece of waste paper. The Internet has been banished from the face of the world. We have gone back in time a 100 years. Books are no longer published, and what remains in print have either defaced with age or have lost relevance. It is believed, from rumours, there exist 4 coalitions now warring against one another. We don’t know who they comprise of and which one does this land upon which I stand fall under. The future, if there is such a thing as future any longer, is….
Nov 12, 2070. 05:40 am
I can say its summer because it’s bright outside and my watch says 05:40: At least the Sun hasn’t turned away from this planet. I am writing after almost after a month. The night of my last diary entry had us under attack. I left my sentence incomplete as I had to take cover. A Nuclear bomb was dropped not far from where I live. Temperatures soared high, the roof badly damaged but I stayed put here in the bomb shelter built under my house. I have been living on canned soup and dehydrated vegetables – the only investment that made sense in the past 10 years was food stock and I stocked in abundance. Barter had come back into play and food sold for almost anything you wanted in exchange and it fed you too. The radiation monitor is Red, which means the air outside is highly toxic for direct exposure. I wonder how many more days I will live this way.

Dec 01, 2070. 02:00 pm
Just woke up from slumber. Canned soups, canned veggies, sprouting potatoes – Enough food left to last me an year. Radiation monitor shows Amber. Hopefully, it’s not too longer before I get to go out.

March 01, 2071, 08:00pm
I feel sick. Last night I heard another loud thud at a distance. I am hoping it’s not another Nuclear attack. The Radiation monitor shows Amber still. Had there been another Nuclear attach, it would have been Red. It’s a waiting game now. I wonder what the neighbourhood is up to – if there is still a neighbourhood.

April 23 or 24, 2017. Unsure of the time.
The wall clock has stopped. Not sure of the date and time. Is it April 23rd or 24th today. If it had stopped 3 days ago, then it must be April 24th today. It’s not important anymore. Radiation Monitor still amber. A latent optimism within me tells me that it’s a lighter shade of Amber. But the practical self in me shouts out that it’s not calibrated for shades of amber.

Perhaps 2 months later.
Radiation monitor Still Amber. Only 12 cans of food left. If I have to die I might as well die of radiation than of hunger.
30 days later. Sometime in July.
30 days ago, I found an hour glass calibrated to record 12 hours. I have been using that to keep track of time. Its must be sometime in July. I have 5 more cans of food and some potatoes left which I can roast. Radiation monitor has started showing a tinge of Green. I hope to get out soon.

Sometime in August, 2017.
Food exhausted. Nothing left to eat. Radiation monitor is about 70% green. Its still unsafe to go out in the open. But I have resolved to step out today. It won’t be worse than rotting myself in a dark room this long.

Later that day.
I am back in my basement – perhaps, the only safest place in this land at the moment. I stepped out early today and what I saw outside sent shivers down my spine. It felt like I have been teleported to hell. It is barren, charred, not a sight of green. Carcasses lay all around. Bones scattered. I saw giant rats – almost the size of dogs – with terrifying blood soaked canines. It appears that there is animal or human life around upon which those giant rats were preying. I am not certain what they were or if I was hallucinating. My vision was blurred. I found a rabbit; its fur had gone black with soot. I took it with me and brought it here. There is very little water left so I won’t give it a bath. It sits on the cot, looking terrified. As terrified as I am but I can’t say if it’s terrified of becoming my food or of the world outside and looking at me with hope-filled eyes for solace. I am hungry and there is not a can of food left. What must I do? Where do I go? I stare at the rabbit and the rabbit back at me. The rabbit opens its mouth as if to yawn. It has canines? I saw canines. Who have I brought with me here?

Social-exile for finding oneself

This has been coming to my mind quite frequently now and has been quite unlike one of those random musings that reside in our mind momentarily and wither away in annals of memory. 10 years of work,travel and staying away from home and family has brought with it a sense of boredom and a sweet desire to break free: from mental drudgery, regular working hours, the periodic winding of key every Monday morning to live through the week and battle various onslaughts.

I lack the wherewithal to be able to quit my job on the drop of a hat. I have family to look after. But the desire to break free is becoming more pronounced by the day. It was when Shobha and I were strolling through David’s Park in Hobart last Saturday that it occurred to me that I do not have to quit my job to experience a break. I can go on a leave without pay for a few months for a sojourn in one of the hill stations of India.

Shimla is on my mind.I intend to take off from work for a few months and live in a homestay or a rented apartment on a moderate budget.

I will not plan on what I would like to do when I live there. I will wake up each day to the sounds of local life and live the day uncontested. I will go for walks, meet local people and observe daily lives in the neighbourhood.I intend to live a simple life.No, this isn’t my trying to become a hermit.I want to be anyone but a hermit.I am not renouncing the materialistic life. For the love of the science and passion to teach,I may take up teaching Mathematics and Physics in a nearby school for gratis, if such an opportunity arises. I just need a break. A break where I don’t have to look after my utility bills, tend to household repairs,have social obligations to fulfill.I will definitely use Internet and I will have with me my laptop and a mobile to stay connected with family and friends. I will want to check Facebook and read the news every day. I will want to have opinions and also write about them. I want to experience the freedom of owning my time and, with an undivided attention, writing about what I feel – be it an event, a current affair, a thought, remorse or complaint. I would like to defragment my day because it normally is split into slots: of meetings, coffee break,lunch break,personal time and other forced divisions. I want the full 24 hours of the day to be my personal time. I will watch what people do – around me, and on the social media. I will hear what people have to say. I will choose if I have to ignore or react.

In the midst of these observations, I may happen to find myself. I may see myself as one among the herd who will be my subjects of watch or I may see myself within me and be happy that I have been different from the rest. Living such a life will tell me if I like the temporary but quieter lifestyle I have chosen or if I become myself in the corporate work life that I have adjourned. Living through the self-imposed social-exile will let me find myself and appraise myself for the good and bad in me.

Southern Cross

It is only after spending nearly 5 years spent in the South Pacific that I got to spot a Southern cross. Until this evening, I knew what the constellation of stars on the Australian national flag and of Papua New Guinea signified but had never witnessed it for myself.

This could be due to the fact I never looked up in the sky in solitude on quiet, clear night skies.

I decided to go for a stroll this evening along Knolly Street and turn around at the intersection with Disraeli road to walk all the way back up alongside Victoria Sports complex. I liked to watch the Indian homes built along these roads as I walked. Not so much for their architectural elegance or aesthetics but rather I admired the air of exclusivity those homes had.

Shobha was at home resting her back so today’s was a solitary walk in lieu of a racket game.

On my way back, I happened to gaze up the sky and spotted a distinct formation – characterised by three bright starts. I only fancied that that could be a Southern Cross. For it to be a Southern cross there had to be 2 more – slightly dimmer – stars. And there were.

I knew that in the Southern Cross pattern, you could join two pairs of stars and have two perpendicular lines. I drew them with my eyes and I could spot. There was the Southern Cross! First spotting in 5 years.

It was a clear April sky and I could see the Southern cross.

As I walked further up towards my home, I gazed once again to see if I could see it again and that it was not a figment of my imagination. I had trouble locating it the second time for the sky was clear and there were plenty of stars glittering. But I managed to find it again.

The climb to my house block took me closer and closer to the constellation! And I fancied if I could also spot it from my balcony. I wish I had the company of more experienced start gazer.

Mo was missed thoroughly. I still remember his expert star gazing abilities back in December when we partied at Five Princess.

As I entered home, I removed my flip-flops and stepped out on the balcony in the hope that the constellation will be visible. I bent out from my balcony trying to gaze up and beyond the roof. I gave up when almost my entire upper body was out.

I couldn’t spot it from home.  I wish I had carried my DSLR and Tripod and taken a shot of whatever was visible through the lens.


Long weekends – Nursing weekends

downloadIt is not very often that one gets to relish long weekends. In India, there hardly are long weekends that start unwinding from Friday and continue right to the ensuing Monday.

But in the other countries I have stayed and worked in, which were mostly Christian countries, Easter weekend is a sure-shot ‘taken-for-granted’ long weekend. And then there is the lovely Christmas break at the end of year that gives you a taste for voluntarily retired life for nearly a fortnight.

But since 2011, I have started fearing long weekends and breaks. Not because of the hiatus that makes the ascent back to work more difficult than it normally is; rather because of a psychological fear that grips me when such breaks arrive: fear of the unknown that will keep me bound within the walls of the house.

I still remember. It was 2011. I was in Brisbane.

I had plans to relax, travel and do some local excursion over Christmas. Nothing defined on paper or booked really, but still the liberty of having time to my own use awarded a sense of freedom and excitement.

18 December 2011: We went to Movie World in Gold Coast. My wife had a fall while ice-skating.

That night: Inability to walk.Swollen knee. No sleep.

Following day: MRI scan done.

Diagnosis: Patella dislocation or Mild fracture. Advise use of crutches. Minimal movement for 3 weeks. Physiotherapy advised as due course for recovery.

I married my kitchen that Christmas. I spend most time with my stove top and sink – cooking, making coffee washing dishes and tending my wife. The Ice-pack became her favourite toy.

It came from my heart to care for her. But the heart was heavy as it carried the unfulfilled desires: relaxation, travelling and local excursion.

After a month the wife recovered after wearing the crutches as well as one wears an ornament. She wore it through shopping malls, restaurants and even flights.

3 years later. 2014. April. Similar feeling dawns upon me. Easter break ahead. Relaxation, Travelling, local excursion. This time it is Viti Levu, Fiji Islands.

Every resort is booked on the main island – courtesy the vacationing Strayans! Nothing booked for us yet but a day trip (at least) was the offing. Until the evening of April 19.

That evening, the squash court saw us both getting in as two archrivals, determined to squash each other to defeat. The game was aggressive. But I was leading 4 to 3. We were on the eight set.

Shobha hit a power-packed straight drive. The ball was about to land on to my side of the court but I instead chose to return a volley.

Bang! The ball left my Dunlop racket and dashed the front wall.

The re-bound off the front wall was powerful. It still carried an impressive momentum.

Shobha took a step back to let the ball loose steam after a bounce to make it easier for herself.

Her body bent back with a jerk. She punched it back solidly with a skid boast. And I heard her saying “Wait. Something happened… to my back”.

Next day: She rests on the sofa now, watching TV, with a newly bought Australian Wheat bag placed to her bag. I have heated it thrice since morning. The scent of Relispray and pain balm fills the room. It is a sprained lower back this time. I wish her a speedy recovery.

I see a Easter bunny chocolate sitting on my dining table, where I sit typing this away. I see a grin on its face. Is it trying to say something to me? Heh?