The race called LIFE

He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.

“Why would anyone want to swim midday in such hot conditions?” He questioned, taking a sip of the hot water and feeling the heat down his throat. “See, that is the problem. Who gave you the freedom to judge another person so easily? So what if he takes a dip in the middle of the day? It is his choice!”. That was his inner voice.

He took another sip and his eyes moved further down to the ground outside. It was almost a square, running about a hundred meters each side. The middle of the ground had a pathway that connected the roads on either side of the park. Though the pathway was wide enough for 5 people to walk next to each other, the overhead cover was built in a corner and could only accommodate 2 at a time. There was one man walking underneath, grateful for the shade that the cover provided.

He was deep in thoughts as a result of the movie he had just watched. There was some truth in what was told. The movie had ended with a story of a robot, that did not know what its purpose was, except to run. Though the robot ran, he had no clue what his race was for. He also did not aspire to be first, or anywhere near the top. All the robot wanted to do was keep running the race and be somewhere in the middle. To be socially accepted as normal. A few years later, the robot broke down and died.

The analogy was so similar to a story he had written about eight years back. It spoke about the futility of this generation and of life itself. A man was dropped from space, in the middle of nowhere and the only command in his head was to race. Where or why, he wasn’t supposed to ask or know. On the way he meets fellow runners, some of who are in sync with him for a while, becoming his friends whereas others running slower or faster were either looked down upon or looked up to. As time flew, he realized he could not run as fast as he before and instead of slowing down, he tries harder to impress, eventually losing his life!

Maybe his life at present wasn’t so far from his story. He was here, while his heart yearned to be with his wife and child, a thousand miles away.

He got distracted by the push message he received on his mobile. It was from Urban Ladder. He had installed the app this morning, getting tempted to look at bunk beds for kids and parents to be in the same room, a fantasy that he wanted to make real in a few years. “Who gave Urban Ladder the permission to send him the marketing message just few hours since installation? What kind of maniac marketing has the world moved on to, where one is forced, tempted and sometimes bullied to buy more?” He uninstalled the app, though he liked the beds. Let some crazy analyst figure map out this user’s intent!

Looking at the man that took a swim and the other that was walking alone in the park, he was tempted to venture out. But where? There was no one in the country that he wanted to meet. It was hot outside and he already had a sour throat which he did not want to mess with further by taking a swim. With these excuses in mind, he decided to take a shower instead.

“Here’s how things panned out. About two generations back, my grandfather decided to shift bases from his village to a city. Responsible man that he is, he started his company to make sure that he was providing for his family. Since he did not have one, his life’s purpose was to build a house so his kids did not have to undergo the fear of uncertainties that he had to endure during his life. He succeeded.

However, during the next generation, society moved on and the city grew bigger. Independent houses were rare to find and in their place, multitudes of apartments sprung up. Joint families were no longer the norm and my grandfather’s house had to be split among his many sons. So my father now could not have a whole house but a part of it. And hence earning to secure a house made sense for him. What made further sense was to earn a lot more to ensure that the future generations do not have to find life as difficult as it was for him or his father.

So my father did not just stop at buying one house. He went on to make further investments. He bought a lot of jewelry and stacked up a lot of money. He ran the race and accumulated a lot of wealth. Now, when he is at the end of his working career, he would like to pass on the wisdom to me. The wisdom of doing a job that pays well, to build more houses, buy more jewels, finances and insurances to secure the future.

The infatuation with owning your own house has now sent real estate prices so high that one needs to work 20 years to own his house. But by 10 years, the house is old and so one has to buy a newer and in most cases, bigger house.

The trouble with our mentality is that we all love to add wealth. More houses, more money, more things. But we never take a step back to say enough. We also never look to reduce. Even when we were kids, we were taught addition before subtraction. We struggled with the concept of subtraction so much that we would reverse engineer the question to be an addition problem – if I had 100 rupees and someone charged me 28 rupees for a tennis ball and gave me 62 rupees, did I get the right change? Eight out of ten of us would add 28 and 62 rather than subtract 28 from 100.

But does it not make sense to just rent a place rather than tie yourself in a long term loan? Am I better off trying to do the job that I love rather than the one that pays? What if owning the house does not seem like a worthy enough goal for me? What if the goals that were right for my father and grandfather did not make sense for me? Maybe Buddha would understand me, he had a lot which he ultimately gave up. My ten minutes of shower time is over. I need to go out”

My inner voice countered. “Why should I go out? The shower is stimulating my thoughts, I am in the middle of questioning my beliefs and values and trying to figure out what is important in my life. Why am I feeling this urge to leave the shower just because it has been ten minutes? Is it the social responsibility of conserving water? Is it the social conditioning of just having ten minutes to take bath? Is it the mind playing games and ordering me to think of anything but such deep thoughts about what matters in life?”

He gave himself two more minutes in the shower just to stroke the feelings of the rebel in himself. He felt the deep urge to voice his thoughts out to the world to get their opinion on what matters in life. And so he sat himself in the couch and started to type.

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“He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.”……………………..

Hairy-Fairy

He was thinking to himself that this could be one of those moments in life where he experiences ultimate peace. He was lying on his back, in his bed, snack-bang in the middle of the day on a weekday and slowly drifting into sleep. He had been reading a novel, a damn good one at that, and yet the habit he had developed during college had returned and lulled him into sleep. The sweet, cold air from the aircon surely did its part to aid the process.

Wasn’t it great to take an off on a Wednesday, relax at home, and take pleasure about knowing that the rest of the world was slogging away at work and would give anything to be in your position?

Maybe it was the act of reading books that a strange thought occurred to him. Maybe Ellesworth Toohey from “Fountain head” had called it right when he had remarked that the act of holding one another’s hands to show that you are a couple was rather impractical. Your palms would begin to sweat soon enough and you would want to remove your hands. No matter when you did this, you are sure to disappoint your partner.

Now why was he thinking of Toohey? Oh yeah, it was because of the strand of hair that kept tickling his nostrils, making it really difficult for him to be enjoying the moment to its fullest. Surely, asking his wife to move a bit would solve the problem, however was he willing to take such a risk and disappoint her? Would she feel hurt that he pushed her away from him, (meta)physically? Three years of being married had made him wise enough to think of consequences before acting. One could be forgiven for greater crimes but pushing your wife even a square inch away during a moment of such great peace and intimacy such as this one could have disastrous consequences.

He tried to huff and puff the hair out but that only elevated the tickling. He could take it no longer. Picking up all his courage, he said in the faintest of voices, “Honey, could you move your head just a little bit, more towards my shoulder than my face?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………no response………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Suddenly the door opened, startling him back to awakening. His wife peeped through and asked him, “Did you say something coz I could not hear from over the kitchen?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

And he muttered, “Err, no. I just said I need to get a haircut soon” as he parted his really long hair away from his face!

 

 

 

 

 

#Truestory : Scroll further for action taken!

 

 

I was molested – too!

Sunday, April, 2001.

It was 4:30 in the evening. Time to pick my bat up, call Ajay and Ajit and head down for our cricket matches.

But that day was different. I felt odd. I was alone, inside my house and on my bed. I did not feel like going out. For some reason, I felt safe where I was. I was still confused by what had happened that morning.

It had become a routine for me to head to Mylapore every weekend. My cousin Aravind would take me to play with his friends and it was always fun. His friends sometimes joked about how I was younger and yet more useful for the team than Aravind himself was. Being only 14, I did not know this was all banter and not a direct reflection of my cricketing abilities.

I would leave early morning on Saturday, join his friends for the morning cricket, enjoy lunch with my aunt, join another session during the evening, enjoy dinner, stay the night & catch the morning bus at 6:30 on Sunday.

Mylapore in the early morning had a charm to it. There would be a lot of Sai Baba devotees in the bus. Having them around in the half-crowded bus made me feel calm and safe. Despite my introversions, I used to smile at some of the regulars.

When this devotee sat next to me, I had no issues with it. He looked like any of them, about middle age, fair, full shave, with religious marks on his forehead. I had smiled at him when he sat and got a smile in return. I had the window seat and was enjoying the breeze and early morning sights of Chennai.

Not even five minutes had passed when I felt his hand on my thigh. I initially thought he had kept it as support against the swerving bus. How wrong was I? For his hands then started to move up, slowly but surely. I looked into his face and he gave me a smile, as if it was OK. Thrice I pushed his hands away from my thigh. Every time he would start touching me again. Eventually, I got up and left saying my stop had come.

I did not have money to afford another ticket and I had to walk half the distance to my house. It did not once bother me, as my mind was shocked by what had happened.

____________________________________________________________________

The time was 4:35 when I heard Ajay calling me for cricket. I picked my bat up and left. It was all I could do.

 

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15 years later, I still remember……….. I think twice before boarding public transport.

 

 

Nostalgia – Celebrating ABC

It had finally arrived, the day that he would lock up the house once and for all. True, he had moved out five years back but it was still operational and he always found himself popping in and out from time to time.

His nostalgia started almost instantaneously. The familiar creek of the grill gate before he could reach the door. He could picture a younger version of him sneaking in during midnight, after spending endless hours talking with his childhood friends…There was this one night back in 2005, when he smuggled Rajath and Shankar in to watch Champions league football… Then those nights when he would call Hiresh & Prasad  and sometimes, Sid and head to “Midnight Masala” for second dinner. He felt happy they were still in touch after so many years.

As he pushed the door open, he faced the wall to the right and imagined 3 large suitcases. There was an image of his brother smiling at him. His excitement palpable, coupled with a hint of nervousness, for he was off to US of A and a new life. When was this, 2003?

To the left of this wall would be the dining table, and before that sprang the image of an eclectic mix of people.. There was his uncle, and his uncle’s cousin, his friend Kiran from college, Hiresh, Prasad, Nishanth, Ajit and Ajay… All of them going through a frenzy of emotions, watching a young team India led by some new kid called Dhoni winning the first ever T20 world cup… Nothing unites Indians as cricket does. Which year was it?

As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw the hall where he had spent countless (after) hours before the TV. He would not miss SS music at 11PM back in those formative days..

Then came the balcony.. There he was, speaking through a cordless phone with his girl.. Little did he imagine they would be married eight years later, but looking at that happy kid reassured him that life had turned out the right way… She was always one of his first contacts when dial up  happened and he could use Yahoo! Messenger.. when he got his first second hand motorola.. and his first second hand Nokia 1100.. and his first Sony, Samsung and now Nexus… As he went to close the door, he thought he saw the kid give him a wink!

He hardly spent time in the kitchen, but his eyes automatically moved towards the shelf where the money was kept. He was a good kid, but there were instances where he had indulged in taking an extra twenty.

The bedroom was his haven… No matter how hard life had been or how distracted he felt, he had this one place where he could get back and collect his thoughts. Even years after leaving the house, he always imagined himself in the room, with the air-conditioner and fan to provide the rhythm.. Looking into the room made him realize how much he missed being stress free & young.

He had to take a moment before opening the door to the other room. For he knew each square inch had a memory..

There he was, teaching Kiran math.

There was the computer, where he wrote his first blog.

There was the corner below the window where he and Aarti sneaked their first hug.

The window through which he used to stare for hours when it rained.

The memory of his exams being cancelled due to monsoons… and “Where’s the party tonight” song playing for the exact reason..

His fake attempts at studying for GRE & CFA

His friends toasting him the night before his departure to UK..

His meets for Chennaibuyz – the company he tried to build

 

…………………………………………………….

As tears welled in his eyes, he rushed out, for he could take it no more… amidst all these ever changing memories, the house had remained constant.. and with it had that one person who had lived in it..

and now she was changing too?

He could no longer bear the emotions.. he ran upstairs and gave the keys back to his grandmom, saying that he could not lock the door by his own..

“Oh you silly emotional fool… I thought my purpose of moving out is to spend time with your baby girl… Looks like there is more than one baby in the house now!”

With speed that defied her age, the women took the elevator down to close the door of the house.. and with it, multiple chapters of the book – my life.