Friday, September 29, 2017

Apathy Kills

We Indians are immune to loss of lives and tragedy, especially when it happens to others. 

People die everyday - somewhere due to terror attacks, somewhere due to atrocities of armed forces, somewhere due to riots triggered by smallest of issues (religion is a small issue too in larger scheme of things), somewhere due to overwhelming debts, and somewhere due to apathy of people and government towards basic rights of the citizens.

And death, the unnatural death,  is not the only thing, we have got immune to. We are immune to squalor and poverty. We are immune to lack of civility in public places. We get used to slums around our apartments. We stop even registering them, learning to ignore them and turning a blind eye towards such issues. The list of such things is endless. And things don't change, irrespective of the political disposition in power. 

Then there is this another thing I have started hating over the years - The famous Mumbai Spirit, touted by politicians and people alike, as some form of divine strength we possess. No, it is not. It is basically our inaction and inability to change things, given a nice name, to make all of us feel less guilty. 2005 floods, we got stuck. We moved on. Bomb blasts in successive years. 26/11. Elphinstone Station Stampede. We just move on, going about our daily lives, as if nothing happened. We don't hold anyone accountable. We don't change anything within ourselves. We don't care. And, why Mumbai? This apathy is all pervasive, in each city in India, in each village. But you may not have noticed. We don't have time to notice.

We are the people who play our loudspeakers at ear shattering volumes during all festivals, not caring, that someone's kid might be sick and need rest. We are the same people who drink and drive without caring for lives of people sleeping on roads. We are the same people who find people sleeping on roads okay. We are the people who know where to fix blame, but we don't know where to fix accountability. 

Yesterday's incident is not something that shocked me. It happened few minutes away from where my office was in Mumbai till few months back. I am in Chennai. That's why it hasn't shocked me? No. Even, if I was at that station at that very time, when the stampede occurred at Elphinstone Station, and I wasn't hurt or I hadn't lost someone close to me, I wouldn't have been shocked. 

And this apathy kills me... kills you... kills all of us...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Moving and Packing

28th Feb 2017: It was the last day at my previous job. I left my earlier organization after almost 10 years. I brought home three small cardboard boxes. 10 years, packed in three boxes. I was not allowed to bring back few things from office which I thought I own. Like the awards, my campaigns won. In fact, I have not even opened those three boxes since. And, I thought I would need those items.

29th Aug 2017: We were packing (movers and packers were doing their job, quickly and impersonally) for our impending move to Chennai. Leaving Mumbai, was a tough decision. But it was made with due diligence many many months ago. The entire household stuff we took along fitted in 47 boxes - big and small. Interestingly, we left lot of stuff behind. More importantly, we packed a small handbag, which carried all things very precious to us. We didn't want to lose any of these things, so we wanted to take that small bag along with us, in person, rather than transporting it. These things were precious, not necessarily, because of its monetary value. Some items hold immense emotional value for us. Like the customized wrappers of the chocolates, we distributed on our son's birth or a letter written by a friend years ago.

As I was going through the motions, during that hectic period of moving and packing, my thoughts were all over the place. I was little sad, because I was leaving the city that has given me so much (Read here). I was happy, because after 5 months of intense travelling and staying in hotels, finally I would get to spend more time with my family and my son. I was apprehensive, because I still don't feel comfortable with culture of the new city and the organization. It will take a long time to get acclimatized to it. After all, as you grow older, your adaptability goes down.

But then your acceptance goes up, as you grow older. You become more patient with things and people. You take lot of bullshit in your stride, relatively easily. You become more aware of what you truly value. There was immense learning in this entire exercise of moving and packing. I thought I must put it down in writing. Here are some lessons:

1. You never truly own anything. Things are ephemeral. What holds value for you today, may not be that important, when the context changes.

2. Loss of things don't hurt that much. What hurts you most is loss of people whose company you truly value.

3. You can plan your life to the last detail, but you still can't control the results.

4. Invest in experiences and create memories, rather than buying things. Those fridge magnets, from your past holidays, are far more important than that costly microwave oven.

5. Let go of the excess baggage. Moving and packing takes an emotional toll on you. But then there is nothing a chilled beer can't fix.

It has been 20 days since we moved to Chennai. I am sure eventually, we will settle here as well. We will find things we love to do. We will make new friends. We will explore new places. We will buy more things. But I will never be in my 20's again. Mumbai, will always remain my pehla pyaar, my first love.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hide & Seek : Revelation

Few weeks back, I was having breakfast, in a restaurant, at the hotel I was staying in. I saw two kids playing hide and seek there. One of them had parked himself behind a column to hide from the seeker. I could sense the thrill of hiding and getting found out. 

I could remember my childhood days, when we also used to play the game of hide and seek, now and then. The 'hider' was very empowered, while job of the 'seeker' was at times frustrating. 

As I kept watching those kids, having a mouthful of pongal, a morbid thought crossed my mind. What if the seeker stops looking for the hider?

There would be no thrill in the game and in fact the seeker would be far more empowered. The hider would lose interest eventually and move away. It was a moment of reflection, a moment of revelation. That scene at the restaurant and the morbid thought has kept me haunted since.

Imagine a life, where you stop seeking! Won't you be more empowered? I know, it is simple to say and very difficult to practice. Also human race has progressed, because it looked for answers to its questions, sought solutions to its problems and seeks to do so even today. So can we really stop seeking?

But look around yourself. Somewhere we lost the ability to seek the right things. I feel happy one day, and down in the dumps the next. What brings about such extreme highs and lows? Are we looking for wrong things or are we looking too hard? Can we keep seeking, but stop expecting? Is it possible?

Stephen Hawking, the well renowned physicist, once said in an interview, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."

In this statement, he clearly differentiates between what he seeks and what he expects. His journey to unravel the universe and its mysteries has nothing to do with his expectations. Has he actualised the Geeta Saar in its most literal sense?

Another way to look at this issue is from human relationships point of view. I used to care for and do things for certain people, when they neither asked for it nor deserved it. They used this weakness of mine, without me realising it. I was like that 'seeker' who was looking for an acknowledgement. Then after a catastrophic incident few months back, when one of those beneficiaries (of my care and goodwill) questioned my motives, I realised my folly. I severed all ties from that individual, stopped seeking any acknowledgment from that person or anyone in my life like that. I have been in a happier space since then.

Don't fall in love with the idea that you are a giver. There is a supreme being who enables you to do so. Don't make idols of people who inspired you sometime in past. Everyone falls. Expect them to. Stop helping those who don't believe in hard work and learning. Those nincompoops will come back and bite you. In your butt. Stop being a seeker and feel more empowered.

But trust people. Even if you are betrayed, trust them. That's what keeps the humanity going. Keep your family and friends close. They are your ultimate support system. Seek the power to withstand all the tribulations from the inside of your mind.

'Hide and Seek' is a silly game anyways. Try 'Snakes and Ladders' instead! It always keeps you in play, despite the bites.