Why do I click a selfie everyday?

It has been so long since I returned to the keyboard for writing a blogpost that it almost seems like a new place altogether. What does not feel new place however, is the urge that pushes me to write. So, without much ado, here we go.

Recently, I did one of those AMA (Ask Me Anything) stories on Instagram. One of the questions was “What motivates you to click a selfie every morning?“. I answered “I could say it was my good looks, but it is actually the determination to not have a negative body image.“. At the time, I thought it was a pretty smart answer. When I look back at it now, I realise how unthinkable this answer would have been just a decade or so ago, and how much it means to be able to say that with complete honesty. It has been a long journey on the sands of time, and it has not always been an easy one.

When I was born, I was a premature baby who popped out to say “Hello world!” in the 7th month itself. I think that was the beginning of my habit of reaching everywhere before time. Of course, this meant that both mother nature and my mother had a lot of work on their hands. While my mother did her best and was instrumental in helping me survive (I was severely underweight and had a low chance of survival), mother nature did not seem to bother much and shipped me out on an as-is basis. I was born with unilateral grade 3 microtia (an underdeveloped right ear), weak vision in the right eye, and according to some people, an under-developed brain as well. With so many “right” parts having issues, it has been no surprise that I have ended up being left-leaning in my way of thinking and opinions.

Growing up with 1.5 ears and 2 eyes, out of which only one ear and one eye worked well wasn’t easy. I don’t mean this in the sense of physical health. Apart from the scare at birth, I have enjoyed pretty good health all my life. If you have been mocked for any real or perceived physical imperfection by anyone, you will know what I am talking about. Hearing nicknames like “one with the crooked/broken ear” or “half-hearer” is never easy on the heart, especially when you are a child. Having to hear the sniggers around makes you suspicious of anything that (non)strangers say around you, especially when you are not able to very clearly hear what they are saying. It can lead to some paranoia as well. That was pretty much what I went through almost till the 10th standard. Thankfully, and I mean this with the most gratitude I can, my teachers were particular about not allowing other kids to tease me, at least in the class. Outside class, I had a small set of friends who looked out for me. Most importantly (and I am not boasting here), being in the top 2-3 scorers in class helped shield me from some of the vicious bullying I have ever seen. Whoever said kids cannot be evil/vile was not from my school for sure.

While I got through school (and later, college) relatively unscathed, it did leave a deep impact on my psyche. I mastered the “art” of withdrawing into myself while being a part of a crowd. I could sit in a group of friends, laugh along and yet not remember a word of what they were saying afterward, because I was never really “present there”. Introversion was not even second nature to me, it became my default personality. Till this date, I do not know how I went through those years, and I do not remember much about those days. Even today, I sometimes hesitate to approach strangers in new places because the person that I left behind years ago makes his presence felt occasionally. The mirror was never my friend, used only to check if my hair was not too dishevelled and the camera was something I faced only to get pictures clicked for sticking onto application forms. I did not hate my body, I just did not like the way I looked. I felt incomplete, like a “defective piece” as one of the nicknames in school went. I didn’t look for ways to improve physically, because I didn’t feel I could.

Thankfully, though I always felt that I could not get better in terms of looks, it was never to the extent of feeling that I should not or that I did not deserve to. I have to thank the ever-present store of optimism that I have been blessed with and which I can dip into for a refill whenever needed. What I really needed was a healthy dose of “I have had enough, now I want to create a better version of myself”. This happened in 2005-06 when I left my first job and enrolled for a post-grad diploma. Being the second oldest student and being nudged ahead everywhere by my fellow classmates put me in situations where I had to interact with the professors, convince them of ideas for projects, and occasionally even convince my groupmates about the ideas the professors put forth. Though this was unknown territory for me, I decided to use necessity as a launchpad for self-betterment. It meant a lot of pain in the initial days. Anyone who has been an introvert will know of the pain involved in getting out of the shell. I had my initial fiascos and setbacks, but it was more than worth it. I am still not perfect, but I am so much better than what I was back then. From being the guy who spoke less than 500 words a day, I can yap non-stop if given a chance and an audience. I can also arrange for my own topics to talk about if you don’t have any in mind. šŸ˜›

In all this journey, my most important achievement was facing myself in the mirror and not turning away. Contrary to what one might think, there was no overnight change or a sudden epiphany that made this happen. This was made possible by years of effort, caring by loved ones, and even indifference by those around who showed me that how I looked did not matter in how they dealt with me. In a paradoxical way. their “not looking” at me helped me “look better at myself”. What also helped was the availability of smartphones around the time this was happening. I honestly don’t know how I could have managed this if it meant clicking pictures with film cameras and the process that followed it. A monthly trip to the photo studio would have been in order then, I suppose. šŸ˜€

Though I grew increasingly comfortable with the camera in the past decade, “one selfie every day” is something that has been happening regularly over the past 6-7 years. I click dozens of selfies every day, delete all but a couple, and send it to a few close friends who I trust to be uncomplaining guinea pics (that isn’t a typo, it is just my punny side). These are the people from whom I willingly accept both bouquets and brickbats, suggestions for new angles, lighting conditions etc. Most importantly, these are the ones with whom I can be vulnerable. That is one side of me which I have nurtured to what it is, almost like a parent would nurture a sick baby to health. That side is only for those whom I really trust to understand me.

So, am I completely comfortable with myself today? With the way I look? Of course not, but I no longer flinch at what I see in the mirror or in the picture. Most of the time, I like what I see. On some days, I absolutely love what I see. That, in a nutshell, is what the selfie-clicking is all about. Learning to love myself and accept myself with all things good and otherwise, a tiny bit more with every passing day. That selfie is my agreement of self-love that I renew every day, without worrying if someone else wants to be a signatory or not.

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Alvida, KK!

I wish it wasn’t a piece of such sad news that brought me back to the blog, but it can’t be helped. This morning, I woke up to the news of the passing away of KK, one of most favourite singers. It felt like losing a friend who I have known for a long time. He must have meant a million things to millions of people, and there will be many eulogies written, but I’m sure of one thing that they will all have in common – the sense of losing a part of your life.

I grew up listening to Bollywood songs from the 50s to the 70s, and happened to mostly skip the 90s when they were happening around me. My go-to voices were always Rafi, Kishore or Mukesh, with Hemant da featuring in between. In a sense, music for me began and ended with the era my parents grew up in. Though I occasionally listened to Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan (and later, Sonu Nigam) I was stubbornly (though unintentionally) retro when it came to music. KK was the one who really made me realise that the 90s/2000s can have good music, too. I still remember when I first listened to Pal at a friend’s place, the ripped MP3 softly playing through top-of-the-line Creative speakers (you will get the reference if you’re from my generation). I remember thinking to myself “This guy sings well”. What I didn’t know at the time (and what I realised later) was that this guy not only sung well, but he also made me feel.

Make no mistake, singers like Rafi et al are absolute legends, the benchmarks against which every new singer is evaluated, and for good reason. Listening to them is like witnessing divinity, which is why it is easy to get overwhelmed. With KK, you never felt like you were standing on the ground looking at some heavenly figure up there. It always felt like a friend sitting next to you with his arm around your shoulder, vocalising exactly what you were feeling in your heart. Whether you were with your gang, swaying to Pal or Yaaron, or sitting on your bed in the dark of the night, softly sobbing to Aawarapan Banjarapan or Maine Dil Se Kaha, his voice tugged at your heartstrings every single time. It was what you would have sung, had you been blessed with even 1% of the ability that he was.

For all my sunshine outlook, I do carry some blue seas within me, especially in my late teens and early 20s. His songs gave an expression to what I was feeling within but couldn’t (or more precisely, didn’t want to) express on the outside. Whether it was the mushy Aankhon Mein Teri that mirrored what I felt when I saw “that one person” or the intensely dejected pathos of Tadap Tadap, there was always a KK song which gave words to what you left unspoken for whatever reason. When you remembered the last time you saw someone as they walked away, Alvida was there to assure you that what you felt was being understood by someone. No matter how much of an extrovert one is, they carry their own private universe within them. For a painful introvert like me, this was even more of a “Outsiders not allowed” zone. His songs were the “Hey, he’s singing what I’m feeling” moments inside this zone. In that sense, he was a trusted friend one allowed into the sanctum sanctorum.

You must have realised that the word I have used most often so far is “felt”, because that’s exactly who he was. He was someone who made you feel. That’s not something everyone can do to so many people at once. It takes a truly special human being to do so.

I hope his family and loved ones find the strength to cope with this immeasurable loss. For the rest of us, he will always be with us when we hit that “Play” button, giving a voice to what would otherwise stay unspoken in our hearts. We might say our goodbyes today, but as long as we feel, you will never be gone, KK!

It’s swell to fail!

It is always good to get back to writing something which is not code or emails or documentation. Though writing this did get a bit uncomfortable for me at times, I also enjoyed it. I hope I am not too rusty.

This was inspired by a Twitter thread where someone listed all the failures he had faced in his life – an anti-resume, so to say. I liked the idea. While a resume highlights all your successes and achievements, it is your failures that play a more important role in shaping your character and keeping you humble. They ensure that your feet stay on the ground and your head stays on your shoulders, and doesn’t touch the clouds. What a pain in the neck would that be. šŸ˜‰

So, this is about me listing (literally) some of the failures in my life. Some will be known to those know me, some would be probably new. There might be some surprises and “Really? I wouldn’t have guessed that” moments in there too. While there are things that are quantifiable failures (flunking an exam, for example), I have also included some moments in my life which made me feel like I have failed. After all, successes or failures are as much about perception as they are about hard reality. So, here we go:

  1. Aimed to score 95% PCM in my 12th board exams, but didn’t study well enough and got only 85% instead.
  2. Appeared for the IIT-JEE with very little preparation and obviously didn’t get in. The papers got leaked that year and exams were re-conducted. My preparations did not change, and neither did the end-result.
  3. Didn’t take the first semester of engineering seriously enough and failed in 4 subjects out of 8.
  4. Didn’t learn my lesson from the first semester and failed 3 out of 4 subjects of the first semester (in the ATKT exams) and 4 out of 8 of the second semester. Ended up with a grand total of 7 ATKTs out of 16 at the end of the first year.
  5. Didn’t tell my parents about the second semester results for about two weeks. I went to the college and sat in the library all day for those two weeks as I did not have the courage to tell them the truth.
  6. Spent a year at home cooped up in a single room all day. I couldn’t go out as I didn’t want to face the obvious question – “Don’t you have to go to college today?”.
  7. After getting my engineering degree, I decided to appear for the GATE exam and go for post-graduation. Again, my efforts weren’t serious enough to crack the exams, and a year went by.
  8. Started looking for a job. Submitted my CV to at least a few dozens of companies and job portals, with no response from anywhere. At least a couple of trees sacrificed their lives for my job-search.
  9. In the desperation to land a job, any job, I applied to a few call-centre jobs. Since I was an introvert who froze like an ice candy in group settings, got slaughtered in group discussions and sometimes even in one-on-one interviews.
  10. When I landed my first job, I was never really happy with the working environment, the amount of corruption and the brazen “sab chalta hai” culture. It almost killed my soul, but there was no alternative in sight. I almost resigned myself to a lifetime of crushed dreams.
  11. After I did my post-grad diploma, I started applying for jobs in IT companies. In most of them, I cleared the first couple of rounds only to get to hear “Oh but we are only looking for candidates with CS/Electronics/IT degrees”. I appeared for 23 such interviews before I landed my first job.
  12. In my third year on the job, I set my eyes on the “Employee of the Year” award. Worked my backside off to ensure my team (and I) delivered the maximum output, but ended up not getting the award.
  13. Love happened, or at least I thought it did. That dream went poof in the matter of a couple of months as I got dumped.
  14. Love happened again. Popped the question and got turned down rather dramatically. The flame was still burning within, though.
  15. Popped the question again after a couple of years, and got a “Yes” this time, only to see her parents get her married off to a guy of their choice, a year down the line.
  16. Changed my career profile (within the same company), but the experiment did not prove to be a success. Almost got chucked out of the job, only to be saved because my old team/manager welcomed me back. (#15 and #16 happened almost in parallel, because of which #15 hurt even more)
  17. Met someone through a common friend to “see if you guys like each other”. After a few months, got to hear a “yes”, which was followed by a “I need to think” and later a “no”.
  18. Somewhere over all these years, I “lost” a couple of good friends, who simply ghosted me one fine day.

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Yet, I am sure I can find a few more if I look really hard. Fortunately, I tend to forget my failures and remember the lessons I learn from them. This has served me well so far, and I intend to keep doing so.

So, is it really all gloom and doom? Not at all! I know that’s what you would expect me to say, but it is indeed the truth. Every single one of those failures has either taught me something valuable or changed me in a way that left me better equipped for the challenges to come. A lot of what I am today is because of my upbringing and basic nature, but the list above has played a greater role in making me the guy you see today. I have learnt far more from my failures, goof-ups and blunders than I have ever learnt from my moments of glory.

More importantly, life has been kind enough to keep me afloat in many ways – either by rewarding my efforts most of the times, or by sending along the right people at the right moment. They often pushed me to make the right changes at the right time. Even when things have gone wrong, they haven’t gone wrong irreversibly. I have always had a lifeboat to sail on, and that is something I have always been grateful for, and will continue to be.

Last but not the least, I have come to believe that if not for my failures, I would never have succeeded at all. While my successes have kept me happy, my failures have kept me humble, which is how I intend to stay. Failures are natural and inevitable, necessary even. That’s why I say “It’s swell to fail”. šŸ™‚

In the zone!

First things first, this is not “the zone” that many creative folks (programmers, even) keep talking about – that near-mythical, yet real stretch of time where you get stuff done that would otherwise take days of toil. This is the often hated and derided “friendzone” that I’m going to talk about today.

In theory, it sounds a reasonable thing to hate on or be scared of, right? Imagine having feelings for someone and only to have them tell you that they want to be “just friends”. You cannot just extinguish your feelings for them in a moment, and are supposed to behave as if what you felt was just an aberration and then move on with life. Wouldn’t that be the perfect recipe for mental agony? A cruel joke played on you by your heart and your luck ganging up on your poor little self? For no fault of yours, you are being stuck in a place where you would never want to be, and are expected to grin and bear it. Well, like many other theories surrounding our emotions, this one too springs from a desire to find an easily digestible solution to a tricky situation. One which requires little or no introspection, and definitely no swallowing of a hard pill.

Most often, the friendzone is portrayed as this dreaded place where you are put (against your wish, of course) by someone who not only does not reciprocate your feelings for them, but also expects you to “take it on the chin” and continue being there for them. That’s exactly where I have a problem with the narrative. Firstly, just as you have the right to have feelings for someone, they too have an equal right to not feel for you in the same way (or in any way, in fact). Your feelings for someone are (sadly) not a prize you bestow on them. They are just what they are – your feelings, for someone. Secondly, no one can or should force you to “stay in the zone”. You have a right to take a step back and step away if it hurts you to listen to the “no”. What you do not have a right to is to make the other person’s life miserable or blame them in any manner for making yours miserable.

Now, I understand that it is quite painful when you want to be with someone and then they say that they don’t feel the same. I have been there a couple of times, and I know it kicks your heart’s ass (if your heart had an ass, that is). However, it’s really about stepping into the other person’s shoes and looking at the situation from there. Would it be fair to them to accept someone’s proposal just because they are a good friend. A friendship (however deep and loyal) doesn’t entitle someone to romance. Romantic love is not an obvious logical progression of every friendship. For some, it might be. For most, it isn’t. Most of the hatred/fear for the friendzone comes from this very entitlement. Though everyone can find themselves in the friendzone, this entitlement (sadly and yet predictably) is more of a male thing. One needs to get this thing clear – Nobody owes anyone love/sex/romance just because you have been a “nice person” to them. Get that thought out of your head (and ass) ASAP.

So what does one do when they are “stuck in the zone”? The first and the most essential thing to do is to accept that this is not the earth-shattering calamity that it feels like. Yes, you are hurting, and yes, you will get over it eventually. Discuss it with them and understand their point of view, too. Stay away from them if you need a break. They might ask you to stay around, but you are not needed to unless you are on solid ground. When you are hurting, it’s better to take time off and sort out your head rather than stay around and get messed up further. Whether it’s love or just a fleeting attraction, you don’t have to be a martyr to it. When you are feeling better, you can always get back and see if you can still have a healthy friendship.

Secondly, take as much time as you need to heal, but don’t expect to heal in a specific time-frame. Go by how you feel, not by how you are supposed to feel. It might take 10 days or 10 weeks, you are the one who sets your timeline. If and when you do get back, don’t try to “steer things” towards how you want them to be. That’s a jackass move, and will not do any good for anyone.

If you noticed the usage of “if and when”, I have got news for you. Yes, it is quite possible that things may never return to what they were, inspite of you trying honestly. And while that’s regrettable, it is what it is. Swallow that pill and step away while you still can. It will do you well down the line.

Ultimately, it boils down to one simple thing – nobody is entitled to anyone’s love, or friendship. Don’t be selfish, and don’t let others be that way with you.

P.S. In case you are wondering if it is ever possible to “break out” of the friendzone, it is indeed possible. I can say that for sure because I have done it once. But I will be the first person to tell you to not hang around in hope – that road leads to nothing but disaster.

 

How so calm?

“How do you always seem so calm?” was what someone asked me a while ago. I could only reply that the answer was in the question itself. I usually “seem calm”. I may not necessarily “be calm” always. To paraphrase Dr. Banner/Hulk, “That’s my secret. I always appear calm.”. At the risk of sounding boastful, I can say that I’m a pro at (mostly) appearing calm even when I’m shitting bricks within. That comes from two factors – I can keep quiet for long periods of time with little or no expression on my face, which generally leads people to believe that I am at peace within. Secondly, in almost all areas of my life, I “expect things to go wrong”.

Those who know me will be surprised at the second statement. They would not expect an optimist to expect things to go wrong. Well, there is a reason why I put that phrase in quotes. When I say I expect things to go wrong, I do not mean that I worry that they will go wrong. It only means that I believe in preparing myself for a scenario where they will go wrong. Once I have done that analysis and prepared myself for a recovery (in case things do go wrong), I sit back and focus on the present again. That way, I only need to worry about the present and things that actually go kaput, and not make a nervous wreck of myself over an imagined doomsday.

So, does this principles apply to all areas of my life? Definitely. From money to people, and everything in between, I imagine what could go wrong, prepare myself for it, and then stop worrying about what could happen it things go south. If there is an important person in my life (including my parents), you can be sure I have imagined a scenario where they are no longer around (for whatever reason) and kind of toughened myself to face that situation. It is never a pleasant thing to do, given the kind of person I am, especially with people who matter to me, but it is infinitely better than losing sleep and peace of mind every night. Like I was telling my best friend today “Everyone suffers because of what happens. Why suffer over something that hasn’t even happened yet?”.

Of course, this is not something that I have been doing for a really long time. It is only in the last 5-6 years that I have learnt to do this. Like with all new ways of life, adopting it has not been easy. It has been painful at times, traumatic even. Merely accepting the fact/scenario that someone you have invested so much into (emotionally or practically) will just not be around one fine day can move you to tears, and I am not immune to that. I get shaken by that from time to time. I still do it, only because I don’t want to be uprooted if/when it actually happens. I know it will affect me, but I don’t want it to turn me inside out. What does help me is that I work in an industry where we have to expect things to go wrong and plan accordingly. That helps me get into the right mindset better than any motivational speech or book would.

By now, if you are thinking that all this preparation helps to insulate me and stay unaffected when things actually get messed up, you couldn’t be more wrong. Things have gone wrong in various areas from time to time, and I have shed more than a few tears. The reason why most of those around don’t know about it because the instances were few and far between. Also, I recovered from the impact rapidly. Things will go wrong in the future, and I will get affected, but I know that I will be in a better shape and rebound quickly as times go by.

Last but not the least – shit will keep happening. It is up to us how long we let it stink. šŸ™‚

Dark Chocolate

Not for you the infusion of pretended sweetness to be acceptable, you are unapologetic, dark even. You are an acquired taste, appreciated more by the connoisseurs of life than by those who get easily dazzled or deterred by what they see. Not for you the chains of perception, you seek to stay close to what you were at inception.

Honest, intense, dark, happy, ecstatic, gloomy, intriguing – that’s what you are, in every living moment. Not for you the percentage-based calculations of what will get you that which you seek, you want to be valued for what you are at the core and what you do on the out.

Just like a piece of dark chocolate rests on the tongue and takes its own sweet (pun unintended) time to reach the heart, knowing you takes time and effort, and love. And just like that dark piece of heaven, you never truly leave the heart once you have touched it and made it your own. Not for you the instant dissolution and the immediate fading away, you are here to stay.

Dark chocolate is what you feel like, my dear. Dark chocolate is what you are, my love.

Don’t you feel lonely at times?

After a long time, I come back to the keyboard – not for punching out code or laying out project schedules, but for speaking about what goes on in my mind. What brings me here is the title of this post. This was a question put to me by a friend, who asked me to ponder over it. And ponder, I did.Ā What follows is the result of that pondering.

There is no easy answer to this. So I will start with a “one word answer” andĀ then try to explain it further. If you find me jumping from one topic to another, please blame my rusty brainĀ (or lack of it, if you so feel). šŸ˜€ Coming to the point, to answer this in one word – yes. I do feel lonely. Sometimes I feel lonely at times when one is expected to feel lonely, sometimes I feel so at times when one is not. I have not deeply observed when (and why) I feel lonely though, because it makes the blues even darker. Instead, I just lie back and let the feeling pass. Thankfully, I have been blessed withĀ an unrelenting optimism that has helped me the clear out the blues soon enough.

Funnily, I feel more lonely in a crowd than when I am alone. And it is not just because of a ā€œeveryone has someone to be with, and I am all aloneā€ feeling. There can be many reasons why this happens (and I admit I don’t know most of those). It is just that I feel it would have been great to not ā€œfeelā€ lonely. Contrary to what one might be thinking by now, my feeling lonely has got little to do with my being alone. Do I feel lonely because of the lack of a partner or because I donā€™t have enough to keep myself (read: my overactive brain)Ā occupied? No. Sometimes, I do, but mostly, I donā€™t. Mostly, it is a feeling whose reason and origin are something I have not yet figured out fully. Someday, I hope to.

Also, I believe that no matter how many people you have in your life, you are bound to feel lonely at times. I have readĀ articles saying how having more people in your life means increased chances of loneliness (the logic being that you form less number of deeper relations and more number of shallow ones). Though there is some relevanceĀ inĀ  that statement, it is not completely true. I do believe though that having people (who really matter to you) around helps you feel less lonely. People also say that we usually feel more lonely as we grow older. I donā€™t think so. I feel less lonely today than I felt a decade ago, and the circumstances today are not vastly different than those back then.

I must also say that I have not yet fully figured out the solution to feeling lonely (since I have not figured out the origin first). It might be a person, it might be a purpose or a goal in life.Ā It would be fun (or chaos) if it was both. šŸ˜€ Over the past couple of years, I have moved from the “seeking a person/companion” approach to fight loneliness to the “finding a purpose, and letting life take care of the person thing”Ā approach. Will I ever be able to find the answer to this question that has puzzled me for long? I do not know yet, but I remain hopeful.Ā Like always, I believe in hoping for the best (the eternal optimist that I am) and being prepared for the worst (something which life has taught me).

In summation, one thing is fairly clear. Whether I manage to not feel lonely orĀ it keeps visiting me every now and then, it is going to be a fun ride on the roller coaster of the mind. And I knowĀ that the crests will be followed by the troughs. I will try to make sure that the crests make me more happy than than the troughs make me sad. That gives me another mind worm – about the reach to the final destination. But that will have to wait for another post.

P.S.: If your brain is topsy-turvy after reading this, I really do not blame you. It is not easy even for me to figure myself out. You stand little chance. šŸ˜›

Connections!

The seed of this post was sowed when a friendĀ asked me to write something random on a piece of paper so that she could analyse my handwriting. The first couple of paragraphs are from what I wrote then. Now, whenever someone tells me to write about anything at random, the first thing that comes to my mind is what people call by various names like relationships, friendships etc. I prefer to call them “human connections” because that’s what they really are. Depending on the situation/setup in which these connections are formed, we formalise them using various names.Ā In the end though, it is just one human connecting (or in some cases, not) to another.

Humans are incrediblyĀ complex creatures (yes, even those who look monotonous and boring on the surface) with innumerableĀ facets to them. I believe that when two individualsĀ connect, these facets resonateĀ or conflict with each other. This leads to peopleĀ getting attracted to (not necessarily in the romantic sense) or repelled by each other. What followsĀ is aĀ complex (and hence interesting) mix of emotions (consciously or subconsciously), which then lead to actions and reactions, sparks (or lack or them). Having grown up as an introvert and having spent the better part of my life in the background in any social gathering, I have always loved reading people like one would read books. Hence, seeing two people interact is like reading two books at the same time, with the story of one affecting, and quite possibly changing that of the other. For a people-reader, that is nothing less than watching a journey where the path changes as the travellers walk it. ThisĀ makes it really fascinating. What makes it even more fascinating (and more intensely affecting) is when you areĀ not just theĀ observer, but also one of the travellers.

When you switch from being an observer to being a traveller, or as in my case, being both, it becomes more fun, or troublesome, depending on how it goes. In either case, it does teach you a lot, no matter how it goes. All you really need to do is to keep your mind and heart open. Yes, you do also need to keep your eyes open, as I have learnt over the years. As I mentioned above, I was largely an introvert growing up, someone you can call a “late bloomer”. So ever sinceĀ I “bloomed” (no innuendo intended), I have been compensating for both the lack of talking (much to the chagrin of those around me) and not having too many social contacts by wanting more people as a part of my life in various respects, as friends, colleagues or even just acquaintances. Out of these, friends are the onesĀ I hold closest because of three reasons. Firstly, they are connections one generally makes consciously as a choice, as opposed to relatives where you have no choice or acquaintances whom you keep at a safe, socially acceptable distance. Secondly, when they happen without you knowing how, they areĀ even more wonderful. Lastly, they are the ones whose actionsĀ affect you the most, whether it is making you happy, sad, crazy or plainĀ frustrated (when they are being asses).

Due to this, maintaining my friendships became a big priority for me, and it still is. For this, I had to transform myself from the introvert that I was to an ambivert (I don’t think I have become an extrovert yet) that I am today. ThisĀ has also helped me greatly, in the sense that I have become a lot less judgemental than I was a couple of decades ago, and a lot more accepting of people when they messed up or did something I didn’t like. This was also because I understood that no matter how good people are, they will invariably make mistakes, and should not be blacklistedĀ because of them. Unfortunately, this also meant that some people in my life gotĀ to be more of a priority than they deserved (as I eventually learned). I knew that not everyone in your life can/should be a priority, especially when makingĀ them aĀ priority meant compromising on your interests/self-respect. But yes, I did give some people the benefit of doubt (paraphrasing Casablanca – “DoĀ it again Sam, for old times’ sake”), which they eventually exhausted.Ā So, slowly and steadily, I have started keeping them out of sight (and hence, out of mind). The funny thing here is thatĀ I know that it’s the right thing to do. But with the kind of person I am, it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when you have to do it because the connection you had with that person simply withered off because the other person did not invest much into it, or maybe even I didn’t do my part. In either case, it’s not a happy thing to happen for me. It does make me feel a bit sad.

But like most things in life, you live, you learn. Whatever happens, leaves you feeling sad, but eventually does turn out to be for the best. So, no regrets. Just because some connections died, I am not going to stop investing in new ones (except romantic ones – I’m not in the space for that right now, but talking about that needs a separate post altogether). There might be a dark, gloomy night once in a while, but I am going to make sure that I faceĀ the sun with a smile when the dawn arrives. šŸ™‚

P.S.: This post was intended only to empty my mind and not to make any sense. Really. So, please don’t try to find it. If you do find any, it is your lucky day. Go buy a lottery ticket, or pick up the phone and dial the number that you have been wanting to but shying away from. šŸ™‚

You!

You are amazing. I know that “amazing” is a terribly generic and totally inadequate word to describe someone so unique, so real. In all that they are, in all that they feel, and in (almost) all that they do. I know that you are feeling tempted now to jump up, stop me right here and say that I’m wrong, mistaken, too kind or even crazy. But hold on, and read on.

I’m not saying that you are perfect. The plain fact is that you never were perfect, and you never will be. Ever. THAT is what makes you, for the lack of a better word, absobloodylutely awesome. If you were perfect, you’d be just a piece of machinery rolling off an assembly line, one among millions, made to a design which someone thought everyone should conform to. You’d be no more than a gadget, going through a life cycle from creation to disposal, based on someone else’s will. But you are not that, you’re imperfect. You’re made up of as many flaws and imperfections as you are of many adornments. That’s what makes you so real, so true and so you. I could quote a popular web series here and say “Tu beer hai b*******”, but the fact is, you are not beer. You are not beer, which excites, fizzles full of joy and then blows off to settle into a lame lager with time. You’re more like wine, which starts off as a mash of grapes, immature and commonplace, but over the years, matures into a rich, soothing mix of textures and flavours.

This is not to say that you have it all sorted out or are sailing through life. To use a cricketing analogy, life has dealt you a googly at times, a yorker at others and a sharp, nose-bleeding bouncer at yet others. You have been tricked, fallen down and hit by what you have faced. What matters though is that you have managed to go through all that, waited to catch your breath, wipe the sweat off your brow and the blood off your lips. And you have stood up back again to face the next ball that life throws at you. You’re still figuring out life in many areas, but I have no doubt you will do it some day. Maybe not immediately, maybe not at the pace you want, but you definitely will.

I know you wonder if you could have done better in the life that has passed you by. To be honest, you could have lived it differently, but then, you wouldn’t be you. You’re not a piece of coal which was born to burn away in a furnace, turn to ashes and blow away with the wind. You were meant to be subjected to immense pressure and heat and come out as a diamond. An uncut one, yes. A rough one, yes. But a diamond, an invaluable one nevertheless. Life is making you into a diamond and will continue to do so. Cut yourself into the shape that you want, the one you know you deserve. It will hurt, but it will also dazzle those who have taken you to be just another stone. Let them see the power of you! šŸ™‚

An old return. A new beginning.

Returning to writing after a long time has a charm, as well asĀ a risk of its own. On one hand, the longing to get back to the realm of words tugs at your soul. On the other, you tend to remember why you had stopped coming there and grow wistful. Be it sheer laziness to hit the keyboard for reasons other than bread and butter, or the fear of your words exposing the secrets you have painstakingly kept hidden from the world, it is always a tricky business – maintaining the balance between the urge to tellĀ and the desire to remain silent. Add to this the typical philosophical or “year in review” mode I usually find myself around this time of the year and there can either be drama or disaster – nothing in between.Ā That said, I hope my return here today will be a fruitful one.

One of the hazards of writing after a long time is to decide what to write about and what to leave unmentioned. Typically, I would write about the year gone by or something that impacted me deeply, or even the hottest topic of the day (whatever that happens to be). This time, however, I haveĀ chosen to write about how the year gone by changed me (for good or for bad) and what I would like to see myself as in 2016. It is quite possible that this post will contain too much of “I, Me, Myself”. Please bear with me (or glide away in cyberspace, if you choose to) šŸ™‚

2015 was a year where “The more things change, the more they remain the same” proved to be true, sometimes in a good sense, sometimes in a not so great one. While the career went (and is still going) great guns, a lot still remains to be achieved. The hunger to prove myself is strong as ever, and the fire of happy dissatisfaction which has always beenĀ my propelling force, still burns bright. I travelled to a new country (for work), met new people, saw places that I had always wanted to see, and all this totally on my own, without any company. For someone, who is more comfortable in company than in solitude, this was an interesting occurrence. While health was largely okay, there was a slight scare which was taken care of. Love/companionship was an area where life continued to tease (and taunt). While it was indeed disappointing to end the year with a single status, that is something I have learnt to take in my stride.

For all that it gave (and pushed on) to me, 2015 did manage to change me. I grew a lot quieter (I know that will come as a relief to some :D), more introspective and less likely to use my tongueĀ before I used my brains.Ā From being someone who used to be (mostly) emotion-driven, I learnt toĀ hide them when needed. While internally, I am still as much of a little childĀ as I was a year ago, I learnt to put up a more “grown up” (read: unemotional) face when faced with anĀ unfavourable situation. What also changed was that I learnt to better read people before forming an opinion about them or trusting them. I am still not perfect, but I am much better and hopefully,Ā this will stand me in good stead in the times to come. Last but not the least, I realised I still had the ability to make people smile,Ā even when I wasn’t exactly smiling myself. That was something I thought I had lost along the way.

So, what did not change? The undying (andĀ stubborn)Ā optimism still remains. That is something IĀ hope never changes. The ability to forgive easily still remains (though I do wish I had the ability to forget as well). The easy smileĀ is still there, though the laughter doesn’t burst like before. The desire to do the best in everything that I undertake hasn’t dimmed, and neither has the happiness when I see my loved ones happy. šŸ™‚ I can still wax eloquent (or philosophical as needed) for hours at end when I am in the mood. Oh, and the “quality” of my PJs still remains intact. Whether that is good news or not, depends on how much of them you are subjected to. šŸ˜€

All in all, 2015 did give me a lot (while taking away a bit) and I will be grateful to life for yet another worthy year. Looking at the way things are lined up for 2016, I am hoping for it to be a milestone year (in many aspects). Hopefully, I will be much more regular here to document it. Till then, here is to forever optimism and never say die. 2K16, here I come! šŸ™‚