Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why do we get obsessed?

With songs, with quotes, with books, with favorite items of clothing, with colors, with possessions, with people.
Why is the human brain so vulnerable to addiction?
What makes us want to listen to the same song again and again and again. On repeat. Ten times a day. Everyday. And then we eventually tire of it and can't bear to hear it at all. Ever.
Does the same happen with people? If we are addicted to someone's company, does it mean we will eventually tire of them and not want to see them at all?
Is that why married couples so often grow apart even if they continue to be 'together'?
What is it about people that draws us to them anyway? Why can't any one of us ever survive in isolation? Why is solitary confinement the worst kind of punishment that a criminal can be given? Why do we need a social life?
I guess the obvious answer is that other people provide the means to fulfilling our various "needs" as defined by Abraham Maslow. From a primitive one like sex to more complex ones like achievement, self-esteem and self-actualization. Nothing can be attained in isolation. Except madness, perhaps.
But then, when we are obsessed with a certain person - isn't it a kind of madness too? And by obsession I do not mean only romantic love. It is possible to be obsessed with friends or with a child or teacher. Obsession is simply craving for someone's company, all the time, every time. If you get it, you crave for more. If you don't get it, you can't focus. You feel like something's amiss, like you're sick and haven't had your dose of medicine. Or you're a junkie and haven't had your drug. Which brings me back to addiction. Both the human body and brain are so vulnerable - even susceptible - to addiction. It's insane. We are all insane. And we all have our addictions. They may be well-kept secrets or out in the open for everyone to know about, but they are always there - those precious little doses of things and people that keep us going. That keep us happy. That keep us alive. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Politics of Ideology

Ideology is a loaded word, often meaning different things to different people. To me, it refers to your set of ideas, opinions, arguments and principles about everything under the sun, basically your worldview and what you consider important/valuable. Naturally, ideology differs, even among the most similar of people, and wherever there are differences, there is politics – that complex game of imposing your own view as the ‘better’ view.
I have always disliked politics and considered myself ‘apolitical’ until recently when it dawned on me that nobody in this world is truly apolitical. If you have an opinion on anything at all, you have an ideology, and if you have an ideology, you almost certainly engage in politics at some level.
To me, the politics of ideology plays out most notably in the process of producing a campus newspaper. It is intriguing how when a reader sees the final print of a newspaper, he/she has no inkling about the games that have gone behind story selection and placement. There are so many complex issues that come up when trying to plan a paper – what is considered ‘news worthy’? What should be the ‘correct’ writing style – simple or complex language? Who decides what readers really want to read? Do we have to provide content that readers want or content that they need in order to be ‘better, more responsible’ citizens? What is an appropriate story? What is inappropriate?
I may personally think that a campus newspaper should be ‘fun’ and engaging – full of light, colouful stories that can make a reader happy, but others may find this incredibly frivolous, superficial or lowly non-serious tripe. In the quest to impose our own opinions, we often forget that when you find someone’s ideas trashy, they probably feel exactly the same way about yours. We all think our own ideology is the ‘best’ one, if not the ‘right’ one, and there is an endless tug of war involved in getting our way. This, with people who are otherwise our friends. Obviously, it gets frustrating and truly tests how thick-skinned and mature you can be.
Often, you edit a crappy story about an issue you don’t care about, and don’t get any credit for making it look good on the page. Often, you write a good story about a topic nobody else cares about and still get no credit for your hard work and time. Sure, it feels good to see your name in print when the final paper comes out but it’s a thankless job nonetheless because the politics of ideology start all over again as soon as you begin planning the next issue.
That is why I never want to work for a newspaper. Even the corporate grind seems more appealing, if not rewarding, than the endless game of whose story is better and more ‘worthy’. As for the pleasure of seeing my name in print, there are always other ways of achieving that, thank God! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Friendship and I

Sometimes, we hold onto certain friendships simply because of a misplaced sense of nostalgia. But the bond can't last beyond a certain point because honestly, we have nothing left to say to the person. Perhaps we have both moved on in life and occupy different physical/psychological/emotional spaces; perhaps we have both changed, or our circumstances have changed. Whatever be the case, when a friendship no longer gives you the happiness and fulfillment it once did, its best to just leave it be. Don't try to officially 'break' it and certainly don't try to mend it - that will only result in complications and uncomfortable feelings.
I strongly believe that old things only end to give way to the new. So the people that we lose to life and change should not be missed because we gain others instead of them.
Of course, one should always try preserve a good friendship, but the problem starts when you begin valuing someone more than they value you. It distorts the delicate balance of friendship, giving rise to inequalities that distort the bond you once shared. If you care more, you are easily hurt, let down, and may even feel betrayed - not very nice things to experience.
That is why I am sort of reserved - I take a long time to establish friendships because never for a moment, do I want to end up as the person who cares too much. I have been there before and it took a long time to get over it, so now I am more cautious about striking new friendships. I tread carefully, I wait for the other person to take initiative. Granted that this is not a very "positive" approach to friendship but it does provide protection from getting hurt later. Or so I like to believe.
This is also the reason why I am not as expressive as I would like to be at times. I keep my feelings of affection towards friends to myself so that I don't appear to care too much and don't end up being disappointed if I don't get an equally enthusiastic response.
However, in the recent company of the very expressive and outgoing S, I am beginning to change, to express more, to take initiative, to do/say whatever I feel like and not worry about the response so much. I suppose I am beginning to let go of my ego issues a little. :P
With this new frame of mind, I gave a birthday surprise to a friend for the very first time. Nothing has ever made me as happy as successfully pulling that off.
Secondly, I started actually sharing the emotionally-loaded poems on friendship that I occasionally write but keep private. I also started calling people whenever I feel like rather than first pondering over why they don't call me as often. :P
I guess we shouldn't think too much when it comes to friendships. Especially because things are ephemeral and there is no telling when you will shift into a different space and things will no longer be the same. While a friendship is alive, you should keep it alive. When it begins to die, you should try everything you can to save it, but if nothing works, you should let it rest in peace. And cherish it as a beautiful memory and nothing more. :)  

Monday, October 22, 2012

On Death

Death is the only incontestable truth of life. And perhaps that's why it is so difficult to deal with. Of all the things I have read, heard, and observed about death, the thing that stands out most is the short story from the last of the Harry Potter books, about the three bothers who conquered death.

Death is strange in its ways. Sometimes, it creeps up on us stealthily, suddenly; other times it takes a long painful time to manifest and finally claim the person it has come for. But either way, it leaves us feeling hollow and doubting the point of existence. Why must people we love have to leave us and vice versa? What is the point of forming relationships if - as Linkin Park have rightly pointed out - "in the end, it doesn't even matter"?

Why we live and die is an abstract question that perhaps nobody will ever have a clear answer to, but while we exist in this world, I guess the key is to make the most of it, to do the things that make us happy or give us a sense of purpose and fulfillment  And we have to do this without fearing death because it is an eventuality that will come to all of us, sooner or later. I know lots of people are scared of dying but somehow, I am not. I imagine my own death a countless times, especially when I'm crossing the road. I know that beyond this life, at the very least there is peace, which is surely not something to be afraid of. I try to imagine how my family and friends would react, and it makes me sad, because I don't want them to shed tears over me. I want them to be happy, always. Which is why I have learned to react to death of loved ones in a very calm way, because I am convinced that they would not want me to completely lose it and sob for them. People often perceive my reactions as cold or indifferent but they are not. I feel things inside and never see the need to make a big show of such private emotions. I will grieve in my own way, alone, I simply cannot lean on someone's shoulder and weep. I think grief or sorrow of any kind is best dealt with alone because only you can understand what you are going through and only you can make yourself come to terms with it and heal.

Of course, talking to people sometimes helps but I have never been the talking kind. I talk to myself more than I talk to others, which makes me sound like a psycho but is really not that bad. It is only through intrapersonal communication that you can understand yourself, and it is only after understanding yourself that you can attempt to understand others. When someone I love is bereaved, I really don't know what to do except be there if they need me for anything at all. I think death reminds us all about the fragility and temporary nature of life, and it should encourage us to do the things we feel like doing and not think too much about the consequences. Losing people has helped me realize that it is important to show your friends and family how much they mean to you. You never know when time runs out, so you might as well do the things that need doing and say the things that need saying. Because of all the negative emotions in life, regret is perhaps the worst one. As my very dear friend S says, "I'd rather regret having done something, than not having done it at all."

Do, pal ruka, khwaabon ka kaarvaan 
Aur phir, chal diye, tum kahaan, ham kahaan 
Do pal ki thi, ye dilon ki daastaan 
Aur phir, chal diye, tum kahaan, ham kahaan 

A song that reminds me of the transient nature of everything in life - from the movie Veer Zara, directed by the late Yash Chopra, founder of one of my favorite film production houses - Yash Raj Films.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Kyun mujhe rokte hai log, 
kyun mujhe tokte hai? 
Kyun mujhe daantte hai log, 
kyun mujhe baantte? 
Kyun karna chahte hai ked mujhe
rishto ke pinjar me, 
usoolon ki aag me? 
Kyun nahi lene dete mujhe sukoon ki saansein? 
Panchi hoon main, 
khule aasman me jeena chahti hoon
mehekti hawaon me udna chahti hoon.
Har wo desh jaana hai mujhe jahan
kuch alag dekh sakhu, seekh sakhu, kar sakhu.
Har wo shaks ko milna hai jo kuch alag
dekh paye, soch paye, kar paye. 
Kyun har koi jataye mujh par 
apna apna haq?
Kyun na sab chodd dete mujhe
apne haal pe bas?
Panchi hoon main, 
khule aasman me jeena chahti hoon
mehekti hawaon me udna chahti hoon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A recycled post: "You miss miss me not..."

This is something I had written a few years back. Yes, I was adolescent. :P Don't judge!

Missing someone can be so overwhelming. I'm not talking about the momentary feeling that comes when something reminds you of them or when you suddenly think of how long it's been since you heard from them. I'm talking about that more intense, totally arresting feeling that just washes over you all of a sudden and you can't concentrate on anything at all because you just so want to talk to/see them AT ONCE. You stop what you're doing and let the feeling overcome you. You see their face in your mind, every detail sharp and clear, right from the light in their eyes to the crook of their smile. You remember the sound of their voice, or their laugh, and how it makes your heart leap. You smile, thinking of them and how happy you feel around them. You wish you could call them right then, but something holds you back. Perhaps it's an inconvenient time, perhaps they are away and out of reach, perhaps it's something else, inexplicable. Your mind wanders back to all the experiences you've had with this person - both good and bad. The memories make you smile. You think of how you had first met them, and how your relationship has evolved since then. You wish you could be with them right then - even if only for a few moments. But it is impossible. You think of how you are probably the last thing they have on their mind right now, while here you are, lost in their thoughts, missing them so desperately  You come back to the present, feeling a familiar pang of sadness that always comes with missing them. If only. . .
Your gaze wanders to your cell phone. You could text them, just a casual message, nothing much. Just to momentarily remind them of you. You smile, imagining them picking up their phone and reading the message. You pick up your own phone, open the contact list, find them and gaze at their name. You smile at it. You read their number, something you know all too well. You smile at it too. Your thumb wanders to the 'call' button. But then you stop. Sigh. Put the phone down. You were supposed to text, not call. You get up. Pace around. Contemplate. Finally, you pick up the phone again. This time, you go to the 'create message' screen. You type. Stop. Erase. Re-type. Read it through. Tweak it. Read again. And again. Smile. You open the contact list. Find their name. Smile at it. Read the number. Smile some more. Your thumb goes to the send button. You stop, thinking. Sigh. Re-read the message. Read their name again. Smile. Press the send button. Watch the screen for a few seconds as the message is sent. You put the phone down again. Sigh. Will they reply? You get up. Pace. Sigh. Sit down. Stare at the phone, as if willing it to beep. You get up again. Pace. Contemplate. The phone beeps. You dive for it. It's someone else's message, who was probably missing you when they were the last thing on your mind. You reply, feeling a slight tinge of disappointment. You put the phone down again. Sit back. Contemplate. Perhaps it's time to get back to your work. You get up. The phone beeps. You stare at it for a moment, before reaching for it. It's THEM! You see their name on the screen. Smile at it. You read the message. Smile. Re-read it. Smile. See their name again. Smile. Put the phone down. Now, you can get back to your work. Smiling. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Of 'bhav' and 'light tisko'

Bhav is a Hindi word that has no English equivalent, except perhaps 'importance given to a person'. And 'light tisko' which I have always seen spelled as 'lite tisko' in text messages is a Telugu/Hyderabadi expression which has no Hindi or other equivalent. Literally translated it means 'to take light', which for the colloquially challenged means to not fret over something, to be cool with stuff even if it somehow bothers you.
Together, the concepts of  'bhav' and 'light tisko' fascinate me.
We all know certain people who want a lot of bhav. They thrive on their sense of self importance and love to have their egos pampered all the time. They need a lot of cajoling to do almost anything and somehow get away with this annoying behaviour because everyone around them gets so used to giving them 'bhav'. These people are usually either good looking or in a position of power or - god forbid - both!
Then there are people like me who never want any bhav. Who go out of their way to do nice things for others because that's just the way we're wired. People like me sometimes appear like pushovers but we can't help being kind and considerate. It just comes naturally. And what happens when we encounter the inevitable 'bhav' eaters? Well, I for one, am terrible at both taking bhav and giving it. I will not pamper your ego in order to get you to do something for me. I will not make you feel more important than you are. I just don't know how to do such things. Which means that if for instance, you are a newly acquired friend, I will make the effort to text message you, call you, and meet you, but only to a certain extent. The maximum number of times I will take the initiative is about three. After that, if you don't reciprocate, I will 'take light' and assume that you don't want to be my friend after all. And trust me, it's no problem at all. I don't understand why I should always be the one making the effort, treating you like you've dropped onto earth from heaven itself when clearly, you haven't. I don't understand why I should give you any bhav at all when you are so clearly not giving me the most basic of reciprocation that a new friendship entails.
The same is true with established friendships. If bhav equations change for whatever reason, I simply 'take light'. If you are ignoring me for reasons that I cannot comprehend, it will hurt me, sure, but I will not tell you and I will not make a fuss. I will simply accept it as just the way you are and devote myself to other activities and other people who are better worth my time and concern.
Of course, to 'take light' is easier said than done in most cases, especially when you are attached to people in inexplicable ways, but I think it is the only way forward. Life is too complicated and busy as it is without the added burden of playing bhav games and entertaining nonsense.
So if someone you care for is not giving you bhav or demanding too much bhav, 'light tisko' and move on. It's not the freaking end of the world.
Not yet at least!