If time travelled backwards

nature-images-86Sometimes I get weird ideas, so weird that they qualify to be labelled as thought aberrations rather than ideas. But the mind refuses to be reined in and continues to run amok. One such thought aberration was what if time travelled backwards? Now Einstein would be surely turning in his grave saying it’s all relative and there is no such thing as forward or backward. However, with my current frame of reference and the way my mind is programmed to think, “clockwise” is time travelling forward and “anticlockwise” is travelling backward. With that issue settled, let’s embark on a journey “back in time”, literally.

I would start my life as an 80 year old, with standard complement of medical complexities, whiling away my time, cursing others, creating occasional nuisance and ogling at women third my age, boys will be boys! Not a bad start, considering the fact that I would already be retired and the onus of my responsibility (actually burden) would be on my immediate family rather than other way round. After spending couple of decades, I would have gradually regained my health and would be about to join the workplace.

The medical complexities would have ebbed and I would be joining the workplace at the pinnacle of my (erstwhile) career, with its full baggage of pressures, responsibilities et al. It would be cool to have all the knowledge and the experience prior to joining the workplace. No interview, no tests. Over a period of few years, I would gradually “move down” the corporate ladder.

Though I may have a settled life, the customary midlife crisis would make it appear as if I am the most unsettled and the most unfortunate of them all. While desperately trying various options for course correction including retirement, I would essentially stay on the same course just procrastinating. While the midlife crisis would die down, I would still be doing the tight rope walk trying to balance my personal and professional life.

Meanwhile my full grown, full-fledged family would be progressively getting younger each day. The kids who had just got a job and were independent would now be attending college and then “graduate” into school. While in school, wouldn’t it be amazing to show them their own photographs and videos when they were older? Same would go for me and my wife when we would look at our photographs and videos when we were old and have a hearty laugh. One immensely satisfying thing would be to lose the flab around the waist and get the foliage back on the head.

As I would progress back in life, one day I would get married and the next day I would be a bachelor! Oh how I yearn to be a bachelor….if my wife reads this, am sure to get killed or maimed. Subsequently, it would be the good old college, sun in my eyes, wind in my hair, no studies, no worries….just friends, fun and movies. Next, it would be time to go to school. The energy, the insatiable desire to learn new things, the innocence and excitement would return. I would find joy in small things like jumping in puddles, playing in dirt, chasing insects and butterflies, making paper boats and airplanes.

Getting younger and younger, I would lose weight and height, would start wearing colourful clothes with images of cartoons, slowly losing my vocabulary. Instead of saying full words and sentences, would start blabbering in monosyllables. My routine would now be eating, sleeping, crawling around and again eating and sleeping. The diaper would take care of the rest. Finally it would be time to say goodbye to the world and get into my mother’s womb!

 

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Walk in my space

IMG_20160308_104835852_HDRIt has been a few months now that I started my early morning walks. Well, at 10am, it is not exactly early morning when most of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood are well past their early morning chores, having reached respective schools, colleges and offices while some are on their way. Thanks to my work hours, which allow me to call it a day not before 12:00am and my inefficiencies which allow me to wind up only at around 12:30am and the icing on the cake is provided by the 1 hour commute time from office to my abode.

Once at home, my confused body clock still thinks it’s too early to sleep and then my newfound hobby(?) of reading a book or freshly published blogs takes over. I manage to barely get past few lines when the eyelids revolt and begin dropping down. I do offer a symbolic resistance by reading next few words even though they appear like some smokey figures and before long, am knocked out.

The next thing I remember is getting up bleary eyed at around 09:00 am in the morning. By this time my daughter is already halfway through with her morning school and my wife after having despatched our daughter to school tries to make the most of the ‘space’ she gets subsequently. However, we do exchange customary updates over piping hot tea which I call my turbocharger, that carries me through at least in the morning.

Another thing I do religiously is read the newspaper. However, even after reading it regularly every morning, I find my general knowledge and awareness going down. I have no qualms about blaming it on the lack of genuine news and the burgeoning advertisements. The habit persists, though it is not adding any value.

After devouring the breakfast, I am ready for my morning walk. Isn’t that what I started talking about at the begining of the post? Glad that I came back to it, thought I almost forgot!! Well, my morning walk is what I call ‘my space’. That’s because this is the time am on my own, all by myself, esconced in my thoughts. The weather is usually pleasant at that time in the morning though the sun does make an effort to make it difficult for me. However, its efforts are thwarted by the multistoried building where I live and the adjacent trees.

The walkway encircles the housing society and is lined with well grown trees. The gentle breeze creates a rustling sound as it blows through the trees which has a soothing impact over the frayed nerves battered by the previous day’s travails. The trees are home to a good number of birds and squirrels. The chirping of the sparrows and the cooing of the cuckoos is pure music to ears. The squirrels too descend down from the tress to nibble at anything they find interesting and scurry around from one place to another which is nothing short of poetry in motion.

These morning walks have now become ‘my space’ where I can take stock of my life, gather my thoughts, try to think something new (though I haven’t had my eureka moment yet) or just observe the surroundings and watch life go by.

 

Expectations

 

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The word ‘expectations’ like the meaning suggests is pregnant with expectations! All kinds of expectations, without limits, no boundaries, adjust themselves according to the context, are situational and are potentially infinite. It is like the universe, ever expanding, infinite and unbounded. Expectations are all pervading and no one can escape from them. Everyone has all kinds of expectations from life, from their partners, friends, job, society and ultimately life. It is one of the most basic instincts in all living things even animals and insects. Just look at a spider waiting in its web expecting a prey to pass by and get trapped. Look at the crocodile waiting in water, with just eyes out, expecting a calf or a deer to stop by for a gulp. It is amazing how it is built into our psyche, we don’t need to be trained or instilled with it.

Expectations start right from infancy and keep growing as we grow and later assume unexpected proportions so much so that they start driving our life. The nature of expectations too changes as we grow. During childhood, they are innocent limited and most flexible. The child of a beggar on the streets is happy with an odd snack or a broken toy. However, a kid from a well to do family expects a pizza or a burger for a snack and a remote controlled toy or a tab to play with. Here the situation has shaped the expectations. However, expectations have an uncanny ability of growing exponentially. As we grow, the expectations start growing like water hyacinth, slowly but surely until the entire lake or pond is covered. Just picture this, in school, we expect our parents to buy us a better school bag, better compass box, better stationery, better tiffin box, better story book etc. In college we expect better clothes, better accessories, better shades, better bike, better girlfriend etc. Further in life, when we start earning, we start expecting a better job, better pay, better car, and better house and now we find ourselves completely trapped in our own and others’ expectations! That’s right; now others also start expecting from us, our boss, our spouse, our children, our colleagues and even our friends. Day in and day out, we are under the spell of expectations. Our boss expects us to perform better at workplace, put in more hours, more effort and more innovation. Even the team that rolls up to you starts expecting you to fulfill their expectations!

After a hard day’s work, when you come home to relax, you face the brunt of your spouse’s and children’s expectations. Just when we expect the expectations to reduce, they bounce back with even greater force and on a larger scale. However, they are not always bad. If they are nurtured and handled properly, can have a positive influence on the situation. God forbid, but if you find yourself in a bad situation, expecting the situation to improve can help in cultivating a positive outlook in that situation. It is kind of a double edged sword, you have to do a tightrope walk if you want to come out unscathed. If you drill down a bit, expectations are results of attachment. Our attachment to things, our near and dear ones, places and situations triggers expectation. Humans by nature are selfish and they expect a reciprocal gesture for every deed, feeling and action. Being part of the society, we are all caught in the web of expectations, all the time. Even God has not been spared of our expectations. Don’t we always expect good health, wealth and life from him irrespective of our deeds? This becomes the cause of our misery. Now we cannot get rid of all the expectations but can certainly keep them minimum and in proper perspective. Not expecting at all or expecting the unexpected seems to be the mantra here. I can’t help but quote Alexander Pope:

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”

 

Our Origin and Purpose

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About twenty odd years back, I vividly remember sitting idle in my house, just brooding over something when suddenly, I had this strange feeling. For a few moments, I was no longer thinking like ‘myself’. My mind seemed to detach a bit and asked “who am I and what am I doing here?” It was kind of losing my identity and questioning my existence. Well, I came back to normal and again started thinking like ‘me’ or not thinking at all! Not that it was a profound life changing experience but that question does keep coming back to me. I am sure many of us are also plagued by the same question. What is it that got us here, in this form, in this time. What is the purpose of our existence and what difference does it make? I was born like millions of others, grew up to adulthood, got a job, started a family, got about with my daily chores, got through mental and physical upheavals etc.. But does it make any difference to this earth, the solar system, the galaxy or the Universe as a whole? Is the Universe affected by me being a CEO or a beggar or me committing a crime or a good deed? Now that is not exactly an ethical question but let us just consider it for the sake of argument.

We are much too insignificant in the larger scheme of things. The earth is not even a spec when it comes to our Galaxy, leave alone the Universe. And there are theories that there are parallel universes!! So why are we really here and what is our role in this universe? On the face value, our existence seems entirely inconsequential, devoid of any meaning except for the fact that we are too tied down with our own lives, our relations, things that we own and above all our identity.

With my limited 3-dimesional intellect, there are two ways to address these questions. First, through science as we know it and second through spirituality which also is a science but NOT as we know it. As we are all aware, conventional science has and is still trying hard to answer these questions. Genetic engineers have decoded the human genes and mapped our DNA and one day might be able to produce human clones. Haven’t they done the same with sheep? Astronomers and physicists have been trying to calculate the age of our Galaxy and the Universe and how everything came into being. New theories are being propounded almost every year and the old ones are being discarded. But they remain just that, theories with no definitive proof. And we have not got any closer to the question of why and how the nature got created the way it is and what we should be doing to have any discernible impact on the Universe as a whole. Clearly, conventional science has extremely limited capabilities. What is needed is something really out of the box, literally.

That brings us to the other side, spirituality. Neale Donald Walsch has tried to answer the question in his book “Conversations with God“. According to him, God, the super entity wanted to experience “itself”. Since God was all that was and there was nothing else, another reference point had to be created to experience “itself”. A simple example, if I want to experience myself, I would have to be someone else, another reference point, to really know or understand what am I like. Similarly nature, which we are a part of, got created through which that super entity is trying to experience itself. Drilling down further, the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedanta and the Upanishads have detailed explanations of this. Particularly interesting is the Samkhya philosophy of creation quoted below from the book “Meditation mind and Patanjali’s yoga”.

IMG_20160130_124248942It says, there are two types of super entities called ‘Purusha’ which is pure consciousness or pure sentience, uncaused and eternal and ‘Prakriti’ which is unconscious primordial matter. Though Prakriti is uncaused, it is the cause of everything in this universe, the matter, the energy or even the mind. Prakriti has three constituents, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas also called Gunas. Needless to say, all these exist at a very subtle level which we cannot perceive. These three Gunas have their own characteristics and are in perfect harmony and equilibrium before creation. The process of creation starts when Prakriti borrows consciousness from the Purusha and begins acting like a conscious entity. At this juncture, the equilibrium between the Gunas is lost and as a result Prakriti starts evolving and changing. The gradual transformation of Prakriti leads to the formation of manifold universe. According to this philosophy, there are as many Purushas as there are conscious beings. So the conscious beings are a combination of matter and consciousness.

Prakriti’s first evolved state is ‘Mahat’ or cosmic intellect. The next evolved state is ‘Ahankara’ or cosmic ego. There are three kinds of cosmic ego or Ahankara:

  1. Ego with preponderance of Sattwa.
  2. Ego with preponderance of Rajas.
  3. Ego with preponderance of Tamas.

The Ego with Sattwa or Tamas cannot evolve by themselves, they borrow their energy from the Ego with Rajas. From the Ego dominated by Sattwa evolved the Jnanendriyas or Sense organs, the Karmendriyas or the Motor organs and the Mind. From the Ego dominated by Tamas, evolved the five subtle physical essences or Tanmantras. The Tanmantras are the potential elements or the Generic essences of sound, taste, colour, smell and touch. From the Tanmantras evolved the five gross elements, Akasha(space), Vayu(air),  Agni(fire),  Ap(water) and  Kshiti(earth). The five elements mingled together following certain permutations and combinations to become the manifold tangible universe as we know it.

It is all very interesting and intriguing when we think that we are a part of the same super entity, only in a gross form, trying to ‘experience itself’. All the Vedas, Upanishads and religions constantly exhort us to be one with God or that Super Entity and the cycle of birth and death is merely a journey towards that goal. So right now am pretty happy to be a part of that Super Entity!

 

The “Routine Wave”

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It has been four months now since I sat down to write. Amazing….considering the fact that just about an year ago, I was churning out, if you may, atleast one post a month and was very upbeat and confident about my writing. I reminisced about the past few months and soon found out that nothing significant had happened that would have prevented me from even trying to write something.

I had been busy with my work and played my part in delivering a project as per the “SLA”, meeting client expectations, no issues/defects in production blah blah blah which incidently most of us do, so nothing to shout about there.  Travelled to my native place to celebrate diwali with my family and then travelled again to the same place for getting my driving license renewed. The icing on the cake being the fact that my driving licence had expired 3 years back but I found out about it a few months back and on top of it, was lucky enough not to get a traffic ticket. Also, I drove back from my home town to Pune, a decent distance of 750km with a slightly damaged engine crankshaft bearing, without an incident. Guess I was too charming for Lady Luck! However, this misconception was quickly dispelled when I had to shell out 40,000 bucks to have the engine overhauled. Innumerable mails to the General Manager-Service and fights with the technicians to get a discount bore no fruit. There was no doubt left in my mind that my charm had dried up.

I continued riding the “routine wave” for the next forty five days, visting friends, attending family functions, getting some repairs done in my house, taking the family out for dinners which every ordinary householder does. In between, there was a team event wherein I went out with my colleagues to a nearby beach resort. Everybody had a hell of a time since the event took place after almost an year. Even though I enjoyed it to the hilt, I was completely exhausted, sleep deprivation being the culprit. The body gave ample indications that I was now on the “other side” of the hill. Getting back to work was not easy and took another day to recover from the after effects. Soon it was “appraisal time” and the pain started. Even though it is one of the occupational hazards, the process of judging people, pointing out mistakes and discussing them at length is particularly stressful. It takes up hours of slander, mudslinging and lots of bad blood to arrive at a mutually agreeable(mostly it is agree to disagree) list of top and low performers. But hold on, the pain is not over yet. Putting across the negatives, “areas of improvement” being the sugar coated term, to the affected ones is the highlight of this process. I am particularly bad in this area. No matter how well you put out the facts, the human tendency of not accepting the improvement points starts another round of angst, protests, unwanted comparisons and sometimes tears!  Incidently, this is marked as an area of improvement for me!! Well, this is part and parcel of the brutal corporate life.

So looking back, it has been pretty much “business as usual” but here I am, trying to break that “routine wave” that is always taking me for a ride but in few hours from now I would be back at work. Unlike the wave surfer who catches the wave, here the wave never fails to catch me and never lets me go.

The Writer’s Block Conspiracy

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One of the many creative urges, it’s far from many though, that I started getting lately is writing. People usually tend to get creative under extreme pressure, exceptional circumstances, a flash within or pure in-born talent. However, for someone like me who is exceptionally sedate, laid back, perpetually short of ideas and with a distinct lack of initiative, it’s a kind of mystery. Nevertheless, I sat down to write and that itself was an achievement. But that’s how far I went! Suddenly the enthusiasm, thoughts and ideas(as if I had many) went dry like a solitary tap in the middle of Sahara. But I was not giving up so easily. My mind frantically scrambled to look for ideas, past experiences, my interests, trending topics and anything under the sun! I closed my eyes trying to summon the thoughts within, then looked here and there and finally burned few calories pacing up and down the house. But all I got was vast emptiness, like deep space, finite but unbounded. Like a car with critically low battery, the thought engine would just not kick in.

writers-blockFinally I decided to take recourse to what else, Google! I searched for topics to write and was flooded with hundreds of topics, techniques and writer’s block. What I was experiencing was essentially a writer’s block. At some point of time or the other, every writer had or still has writer’s block. So now I gleefully shifted the blame on this phenomenon and restored my self-esteem. Usually am not inquisitive, but decided to take a deep dive. Soon I found out there was tons and tons of data or research on writer’s block. There are thousands of pages written about what are the common blocks and how to overcome them. The more I searched, the more I started getting lost. I kept opening new tabs and windows for different blocks and the ways to overcome them. The RAM on my laptop was now getting suffocated and my head was getting hazy.

There were so many types of writer’s blocks like not being able to come up with an idea, not able to build upon that idea if any, you have an outline but cannot get started, you are in the middle of a plot and don’t know what happens next, you simply get bored with your characters, you keep imagining that people would not like your story, you can’t think of right words to convey the idea, you have a great story lined up but suddenly go numb, you think you are good in a topic of your interest but just can’t write anything significant about it, you are revising your work but can’t seem to get past the blocks, phew!! The list goes on and on and there are equal number of ways listed out to get past them. From the search results and the amount of content written on this phenomenon, am smelling a conspiracy to blow the problem out of proportion and prevent budding writers like me to write. Even there are forums where people are ever ready to dish out advise on how to overcome the block. The more you search ways to get around the problem, the more you get entangled and finally after sometime you forget what kind of block you had and end up getting totally disillusioned.

They have created a whole industry out of this writer’s block with many books, articles, blogs, support forums and what not. Am all the more convinced about the writer’s block conspiracy but hey, I just got an idea to start a conspiracy theory series similar to what Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota had.

Failure……Really???

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While going through the newspaper today morning, I stumbled upon an article “Bolster your CV with a failure”. Wonder why, of all the news and the articles I chose this one to read. The article was about entrepreneurs who did not succeed in their first shot at what they wanted to do. They initiated startups but due to some reasons did not work out the way they wanted it to. They would be branded as ‘failures’, until now! Like Bob Dylan would say ‘For the times they are a-changin’, times are surely changing and for the better. Some of the big corporate companies are hiring these very people! The reason being, they have been through the rough and tumble of the game. They had the guts to dream and give it shot. They toiled hard with blood and sweat. They’ve seen it and did it all. Do you need any better reason? Remember, things we learn in a ‘failure’ stay with us for the rest of our lives. These corporates want to use precisely this experience and insight in their ongoing battle to gain an upper hand in the market. They feel that these battle hardened men and women are better equipped to handle real world situations than the number crunching wiz kids who have fancy MBA titles. So times have really changed and it is no longer a taboo to fail.

We just keep forgetting the famous examples of people who never gave up. Abraham Lincoln was unsuccessful as a businessman, as a lawyer and even as a politician. Edison’s teachers in school considered him incapable of learning anything! He was fired from his first two jobs and he tried close to 1000 times before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb. Einstein could not read until he was seven. One of his teachers described him as mentally slow, unsociable and forever lost in foolish dreams! Steve Jobs’ attempts to get HP and Atari interested in his personal computer were rejected. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking imagination and good ideas. In 1947, a certain Norma Jean Baker was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because the producer thought she was unattractive and couldn’t act. Amitabh Bachchan was rejected for having a deep baritone by All India Radio and was considered too tall by earlier film makers. Mahatma Gandhi was not successful as a lawyer. One thing is clear from these examples, all the great mean and women had much greater vision, wider horizon and a bigger canvas to paint. Their talent and creativity did not fit into the conventional mold that time. It would be interesting to know what all these men and women who rejected the famous personalities, thought at a later stage once they found out you know what………

After all what we perceive as failure is just something that did not work out as expected or the way we thought or perceived it. Something that did not fit in our narrow conventional frame of mind. Something that did not meet the expectations. So it’s all relative, perceived, not conforming to a set of human made rules. Our society and education has instilled a deep embedded fear of failure in all of us. Or maybe the devil in us derives pleasure in others’ failures. Failures have so far been stigmatized. No credit is given for the intention and the effort. Instead, the focus is on the result. But that should hopefully be changing now. With the society and the corporate world recognizing the intent and the efforts, this could have a positive multiplier effect and people would be encouraged to come up with groundbreaking ideas, innovations and processes, ultimately resulting in a better world. Who knows, the word ‘failure’ may one day be removed from the dictionary.