Monday, October 31, 2016

COURSE CORRECTION

Image courtesy: https://devomania.com/tag/course-correction/
I used to be an avid blogger. I say this in the past tense because with the many professional & personal distractions (the most addictive & notorious being Social media), the focus & patience required for writing longer posts seems to have dimmed. Six posts in January alone & then absolutely nothing till August! Ergo, writing in long hand has taken a backseat. But as people who know me closely will agree, I express myself best in writing. And while it can never lose its relevance, the written word sure is getting rarer by the day for me. So nowadays whenever I really feel like writing something, I put digital pen down to virtual paper as soon as I can before that feeling begins to ebb. So here we are, on the “same page” again. Once begun, it must be seen through to the end. Or so I tell myself.
On the surface, I’m itching to tell you about two fantastically satisfying journeys of detail & discovery I’ve made to Italy & Himachal Pradesh this year. However, deep within, what really occupies the throne of my mind this very moment is the reality check that we need every now & then to hold up a mirror to ourselves, to get us back on the right track. This isn’t some philosophical mumbo-jumbo and I’m not the monk who sold his (non-existent) Ferrari. I’d rather keep that monster of a car if I had one, but I digress. Perhaps the toughest thing to do is to realise what you’re doing wrong when you’re doing it, accept it and course-correct yourself. That is the basis of our evolution, it is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Now, the definition of right or wrong is a subjective matter dictated by internal & external influences but there are certain universally standard precepts which are the embodiment of good. One doesn’t necessarily need to be a philanthropist to be a good person. Rather, that desire to change oneself and/or the world for the better, to live a life of purpose must surface organically and can in itself elevate one to a higher purpose. However, that desire is often lost in the blindfold of complacency, resignation or pure hubris.
Let me give you my very own example. I have strived to be a better person, friend, son and I'll be the first to admit that it hasn't always been enough. Am I a better person with that realisation? Perhaps. I am more sensitive to the world around me than I was before. I sense the countless things we need to be thankful for. I always try to put myself in the shoes of others before forming an opinion but every time I think I’m a better person than my fellow man or woman, I surprise myself with the cruelty, indifference and judgmental attitude that I can be capable of. I complain about things but am rendered mute when I realise I’m equally responsible for what plagues me by either contributing to the malaise or by not preventing it in the first place, even if it is beyond my control.
I tell myself on such occasions that it’s never too late to learn, accept and change for the better. To not only help myself & my close ones but also my fellow men & women, absolute strangers if the occasion presents itself. To not be a sermonising goody-two-shoes, but rather a person who leads by example without having to prove anything.
Thoughts equal actions, and actions will always speak louder than words. If we can be better people, then why shouldn’t we invest in it? I hope I’m listening, and so are you.
*****
In a similar vein...
"What do you really want to be? Famous for the good work that you do, or famous for the sake of being famous?" A friend once asked me, and it got me thinking.
Singer, actor, host. These are titles that I have today. But it wasn’t always so. I had an aptitude for some of these skills from the beginning (singing & illustrating, thanks to Dad). The others (hosting & acting) were embraced as opportunities presented themselves & were honed over time. But complacency set in and impeded the once rampaging, Juggernaut-like thirst for knowledge & self-improvement. Some long term interests like writing & illustrating were relegated to the background once the more public aspects of the job started taking precedence. Somewhere, the growth-rate slowed exponentially and the radiance of creativity diminished.
I am good, but I should have been better.
Am I overthinking all of this? Perhaps, because the yardstick is very relative. Set the bar high enough and you tend to undervalue your own efforts, mighty as they may be. Practice Makes Perfect, and if what I do is my passion, then that will have to be the inexhaustible fuel that occupies every nook & cranny of my mind, body & being and negates any obstacle & distraction that life can throw at me. There is much to learn & much to be, and that realisation is what keeps me hungry, antsy, insecure even, and on my feet.
So what do I want to be? Why, famous for the good work I do, of course. I’m greedy like that.

Friday, October 14, 2016

THE EARLIEST BIRTHDAY MEMORIES


According to NASA , a person now born on the 6th of October (me) is no longer a Libran but a Virgo. Bollocks! As far as I’m concerned, I love to nap & that’s kind of a Libran trait, so pfffft to you, world’s top scientists! Never mind them, the nights leading up to the 6th last week were sleepless ones owing to one thing or another and my intentions for the birthday were simple; sleep in! That was before my friends “surprised” me with cake, and more importantly their company & love into the wee hours of the morning. But why such a boring lack of plan to bring in my birthday, you ask? Well, blame my life before Mumbai for that!

As long back as I can remember, my birthdays have always been spent far away from home & family. The only one that I do remember at home at an early age had me prancing around in a Superman bodysuit all day; that’s how far back my love for superheroes goes. (Of course, Batman is my favourite but no one should have to be a brooding loner on their birthday. That would come later). The subsequent birthdays would fall during curriculum year in boarding school (Dehradun, Mussoorie) and smack in the middle of final exams in college (Bangalore) where my friends’ enthusiastic query of how I was livin’ it up was always met with a killjoy “Dude, I have exams tomorrow.” And ever since I moved to Mumbai, I’ve almost always been working out of town on the day (including a one 3 years ago in Sydney, sharing cake with a certain King Khan & Dhak-Dhak girl). But let’s proceed chronologically, shall we? There is so much that we take for granted on a birthday today that it’s tough to imagine a time when the regular tropes weren’t so regular. Being in a residential school meant no cake, no blowing of candles, no gifts (except for handmade cards; remember those?) and initially, no friends either. My parents would make it for my big day in the beginning in an attempt to slowly ease me into life away from home But it was never going to be sustainable in those days of protracted train journeys & exorbitant airfare. Thus my birthdays would be low-key affairs, characterised by lack of fanfare, enthusiasm & loved ones. The emptiness would make me miss home all the more & somehow, that emotion stayed with me over the years. Birthday became just another day.
And yet, those school birthdays stay steadfast at memory’s door. In spite of being minimalistic & celebrated with people I barely knew, there was always an air of excitement around them. The reason can be summarised in two words: Birthday Treat! It was an unsaid rule: if it was your birthday, you had to treat your batchmates. Our paltry pocket-money couldn’t buy much in school and depending on how you look at it, we were all equally rich or poor inside the premises, undivided by class or status. Nothing special happened on the big day. You’d still wake up at 5 AM, slog in the morning P.T. and attend regular classes & sports hour. There would be no brand new clothes; you’d wear the same uniform you’ve had had on you the entire term. You were an average Joe amongst 400 other Joes. You could still tell the birthday boy apart though, by his bag of candies which served as appetisers. The honor of the first pick would go to the teachers, the rest would be ravaged by batchmates & seniors. The most awaited main course would happen at Lala ki Dukaan: a dark, dank, tuck (slang for food) shop with an overpriced stock of virtually nothing. The Lala, that crafty but gentle businessman would carefully count & handover the soft drinks & pastries, not a one more or less, and in a few famished gulps & bites, we’d polish them off. Momos (dumplings) replaced pastries when I changed schools & our gastronomic lives changed for ever. A mini-riot would break out for them at every treat & it was survival of the rowdiest: eat ‘em or get out of the way. Being the mild-mannered one, I’d get few or none at all. I quickly realised that time & momos wait for no one and soon became an expert at snatch ’n’ grab. Hungry boys will eat anything, but momos had a special place in our hearts. Still does. However, when our late Principal decided that they weren’t healthy snacking & replaced them with a bland substitute, he broke our hearts. School birthday treats were never the same again.
Celebrations in college & working life got fancier with more money in hand and the freedom to choose the venue & menu. They got populated with more friends, some acquaintances, unhealthy food that our late Principal would have disapproved of, liquids of both the sweet & intoxicating kinds, accompanying music, bright lights and extended deadlines. And yet, none of these quite had the charm & little pleasures of a more innocent time, where less amounted to a lot! With every occasion becoming an event in itself, each subsequent celebration is expected to be bigger & better than the last. But can they, like more modest times, leave an ingenuous, indelible impression on the mind? I doubt it. In this self-inflicted race of expectations, I’d rather keep mine simple & snooze. Unless someone springs a good surprise on me. Now who wouldn’t love that?
Wake me up when this is all over.
Oh, and thank you for the birthday wishes :)