Saturday, July 13, 2013

Coffee with Self

A flash of agitation passed through the baby's face, head leaned back and jerked so violently that its entire body shuddered. No one was disturbed, no one took notice of the sneezing baby, except for one man who sat right across the noisy room who was brought back to reality by the jerking motion that seemed to be demanding attention. As if to mirror that baby, the man jerked as well, a little nonplussed, before he remembered where he was.

Moments later, he was staring at the simmering cup of coffee in front of him. Hot beverages were always too hard for him to drink, but he enjoyed the time that it gave him; the time to savor the finer details. But he wasn't there for the coffee itself. "After all,", he thought, "rarely do people come to coffee houses for the coffee". He was there to catch up with a friend he hadn't met in a long time. "A 'girl' friend", he reminded himself. The very next instant, however, he entered a battle with himself, arguing why that shouldn't have been the thought. There are several things he hated about himself; this was one of them.

Trying to divert his attention from the argument, he let his eyes sweep the coffee house hoping that something else would catch his attention. The place was significantly more crowded and louder than the last time he had visited. No table was vacant and people seemed to be quite involved in discourse. Finding nothing interesting, he looked down at his table. "How many people did I just see?", he asked himself, surprised at how little attention he paid to the details. Disappointed with himself, he took a more deliberate look this time. "Five tables, three men, three ladies, two children and one toddler", he counted, adamant on observing the world around him. "But those numbers serve no purpose". Now, for the third time, he looked around the room halting at every table for just a while and wondering if he could imagine the story behind the occupants. "Two guys with white collar jobs, on a break", he thought while his eyes swept over two men with loosened ties over an, otherwise, formal attire. "Love-birds", he concluded when his eyes stopped over the table hosting a man and woman, both in their youth. He stopped, not to observe them, but because of his judgmental thought. He had not even considered the possibility of them being mere friends or even relatives, but had simply assumed that they were lovers. "And then you expect people to be more liberal, when it's you who is meeting a woman in a coffee shop", said a voice in his head. The voice was right, he was a hypocrite. "The voice is always right", he told himself.

Attempting to escape the guilt, he looked at his watch. "2:30. Just 15 more minutes to be by myself". He had arrived way before the decided time of the meeting to find some time for himself. But he had felt distracted today, completely incapable of following any chain of thought. His fingers circled around the rim of the cup in front of him, moved around the surface to gauge if it was safe enough to drink and then tightened around the handle. While he sipped, he noticed that it was raining outside. Until then, he hadn't heard the sound of the rain crashing outside, but now that he did, he felt at peace. "Coffee tastes better with the rain outside", he thought to himself, smiling, letting go off all the discomfort inside.

'While he sat at the coffee table, enjoying the warmth of the coffee in front of him, protected from the rain outside, she, only a few minutes away from the shop, drenched from the rain, shivered as she took shelter under a tree.'

Amused with the outcome, he thought, "It's of no use if I can't build this into something interesting. Maybe I should just give up and accept that I am no writer. I am merely a ....". He stopped abruptly. Who was he? If he were to die that day and the newspapers had a reason to write about it, they would have probably said, "An IITian Software Developer died ...". They wouldn't be wrong, but that was not who he was. But, who was he? "Finally, the kind of topic I wanted to be thinking about", he almost said out aloud, smiling broadly.

"So, are you going to greet me or should I take the next train back?", said Amie. "Yes", said his brain reminding himself of the programming jokes surrounding the misuse of 'or'; "Hi, long time. You are completely drenched! Sit, let me order a cup of coffee for you first. Excuse me, waiter!", he said out loud. 

The difficult thought had been conveniently pushed to the back of his mind. "I prefer this to the solitude", he confessed to himself, while Amie excitedly told him about her journey. The voice came back and said, "For now, I shall let you go on and have a good time, but we need to have a talk. And don't forget, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'." 

Note : I think I must mention that I seem to have taken a little too much of inspiration from On rationale and emotion by Suhail Sherif.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jolts of ... ?

They say that how you see the world is a reflection of what's cooking in your own head. Fear seeks fear, love finds love and happiness meets happiness. Is that true? If yes, what does a repetitive, unexplained, sensation of being jolted mean? Living in a tectonically active zone, every such jolt makes me stand up ready to run for safety, only to realize that the jolt was only inside my head. I look around, mystified, perplexed, only to see people carry on with their lives and tasks while I just felt a fear for life, a need to run for life, as a consequence of only my imagination and deranged mind.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Out of time

Have you given an exam where you know little? You can't say you know nothing, because you have read something, but you don't expect yourself to excel at the test.

The test kicks off and you go around fiddling with the paper; turning it over, looking for the questions that you think you can solve. You don't solve them right away, but you just glance through them to make you feel you know something, which turns out to be very little. So, you start writing; trying out the simple ones first,  trying hard not to falter. You don't want to be the loser who couldn't even get the simple ones right! You take your time, you work them out slowly, you check and then re-check. The goal? Maximize the marks you can get. While you are solving the easy ones, your brain takes the liberty to wander off. You start thinking about the fun you are going to have after the test, you start thinking of all that lies after and it lightens you up.

Half the time is up and you are barely done with the questions you truly know, when it starts sinking into you that this test is important. You begin contemplating the consequences of a low score on this one. Even the thought of the aftereffects are scary and you might actually have to live with it! Panic strikes and takes over. There's despair and few moments of self-vituperation for not being serious about it before, not being serious about it until now! You start hoping for a miracle; you hope against all hope that you come out of this test victorious and not a failure.

And the miracle does happen! You look down at the paper and the questions you couldn't make sense of start looking solvable, parts of the book and the few classes that you attended start hovering in front of your eyes and you know you can save yourself. You want to wait and smile at this sudden transition, this moment of enlightenment, but there's no time for that; you have to squeeze out every second left. You look back at the clock to see how much time is left and you can't keep yourself from silently uttering "F**k". You would like to get up and accept that you are the stupidest man in the room, but there's no time for that. You put pen to paper and start writing, writing whatever comes to your mind, stopping only to look at the clock and wonder if the clock suddenly decided to go faster.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. You can hear the clock and your pulse; are they in rhythm? Is the clock actually going that fast? You don't have time to wait, there's just under ten minutes left. If you had time, you would have wondered why a man is judged by what he writes in those 3 hours. If you had time, you would wonder why the humans didn't evolve to be able to share through electromagnetic waves; that way your speed won't limit your success. But you can't think about it because there's simply no time. Every moment spent thinking and not writing, every eye movement spent checking the time left, every moment spent turning pages and every other moment spent not reproducing your thought seems a waste.

Too much to do and too little time! Now you don't even need to look at the clock, you know it's better to just carry on writing. You lift your head up as you think and look write back at the paper as you realize that invigilators have started agitating. You catch a glimpse of your peers. Some have given up and are waiting for it to end. Some are putting down their final words. Some are going through their answers looking for mistakes. But some, like you, are furiously writing, writing as fast as their body will allow. In them, you seek camaraderie. You know you are not alone, but tremendously outnumbered.

Too much to do and too little time before the time is up! If you know how those final moments feel like, you know how I feel to have just 2 months left before my final semester ends.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pen Pal

"Pen pal? What does that mean?", I had innocently asked my English teacher. Having studied in different schools at different cities, I find it hard to remember when and where exactly did I ask this question, but I have a clear memory of coming across this term in a classroom - or a memory hardened by my belief of it being true. In any case, the answer came as quite a surprise to me. Never before had I thought of a friend whom you had not met; a friend whose face you hadn't seen; a friend whom you hadn't heard; but just a friend with whom you had shared your life and got only experience in return. At first the idea amused me. It wasn't only a 'pal' who hadn't seen you but also a pal who knew as much about your life as you told him (using 'him' as the gender neutral pronoun); who judged on the small portion of life that you showed him; who couldn't shout at you; who couldn't see you create a world that you wanted him to see. A pen pal offered a person to lead another life, probably the one he would like to have led, and still have a friend in that fantasy world.

Despite the appeal of the idea, I never felt excited enough to try to have a pen pal. It was less due to lack of motivation but more because pen pals appeared a thing of the past, at least until very recently.

Fast forward into the present; pen pals might still seem a thing of the past in this world of emails and Instant Messages. Take away the pen-paper based letters from the custom of pen-pals, the visits to post-office, the long wait for reply, and replace it with emails and a new culture begins to appear. A culture so similar to that Pen Pals, that it is hard to believe that it had ever left our side. I am not sure if it was me, who was unaware of its ongoing existence all this while or has this generation revived something that probably should never have been lost in the first place.

So, have I been able to create the fantasy world I imagined it would help me build? No. Why? Because the correspondence didn't begin with the intent of forming long term bonds the only evidence of which were words exchanged over the Internet. Even before I knew I had found a friend in the person typing in those alphabets from another corner of the world, I had shared enough about myself to keep the friendship real and not just based on the person I would have wanted to be.

However, I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself. Written (or typed) words offer the possibility of re-reading your own words - a definite advantage over spoken words. This let me, quite unconsciously, observe myself as a person I knew little of. It let me be the observer of my own life and watch myself narrate it to another. I have been amazed, impressed and even disappointed by things that I have written.

Wittgenstein equated the writing of an autobiography with self-discovery. I would state that a pen pal serves the purpose just fine and probably is easier to come by. In this world where a person sitting in another part of the world is only a mouse-click away, I would urge people to find a 'pen pal' that can help you discover yourself.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How many lives have I touched?

"The question isn't who you are. The question is : who did I turn out to be ? Who am I to you ? Are faded chalk marks and scratches on the floor the only evidence that I was here., or did some scribbled note, some fragment of a proof invert your perception of the world, even confirm it, cementing what you knew in your heart to be true with the balance of left column to right? What footprints have I left behind? Do they endure, or has the ocean of discovery washed them away already? How many lives have I touched? Have I touched yours?"
    - Charlie Eppes, Numb3rs (T.V. Series)