Wednesday 26 March 2014

A serene train ride

This evening after many years, I travelled in the route that used to be frequented by me. A corner window seat that was opposite to the direction of the train's journey was waiting for me and I could not be more happier. Feeling the gentle breeze on my face, I resolved to 'just' feel the present moment without resorting to sappy memories of erstwhile train rides. I did succeed albeit for three stops and almost by reflex the breeze whispered about the happy and not-so-happy moments spent in the train.

Sometimes you have so many fond memories that you literally feel them jostling with one another while one smart Charlie tumbles off and takes you on a tangent. I wonder which one it is: The train rides that patched up quarrels over long phone calls or the rides where a nagging junior would want to gossip about teachers and I would want to close my eyes to honour the lazy lull of the languid weather coupled with the slow motion of the train or the dreams of carving a teaching career while doing research or trying to rush to the one empty spot of the compartment before anyone even spots it or getting lost in the smell of food that wafts across the compartment or just trying to inhale the smell of the jasmine that a flower-seller hawks.

I smile and wonder how I cherish those moments but don't miss them. I don't even yearn for them and realise that they were wonderful no doubt, but belonged to a time then. I did fondly inhale the mixed smells of flowers, food and faint perfume and got down with a smile when the train reached my stop. I stood and watched till the train disappeared and knew that it will be a long time before I get to ride in a train again.

Readers, how long since you travelled in a train?

Sunday 23 March 2014

Changing seasons, moods and memories

I have finally discovered that it is possible to let go of memories -- to stop wallowing in them whenever an opportunity presents itself in the form of a song, a film, a smell and so on. Quite often when a particular song is played on the radio or television, the trick is to hum along without any thought of the past. I have started following this technique by listening to the song only as a song that I enjoy listening to rather than thinking of people, situations and emotions. It is easier said than done but not quite difficult. The human mind is capable of adapting itself and when an individual decides to consciously shut off memories, it is possible. With practice and determination, it is not an invincible exercise.

I also discovered that memories and seasons are linked inextricably. Changes in seasons bring about changes in moods and associated emotions. Though summer reminds one of long and languid vacations spent idly dreaming of school and friends, the constant perspiration wipes off all beautiful memories forcing one to stay focussed on the present. While a visit to Chennai in October evoked tender emotions writ large with yearning for one's home, the present visit makes me want to run away from Chennai. Whenever I sweat, I also emit the emotions that made me dislike this city in the first place. It is but natural that as I emit negative emotions, I purge myself but in this particular state, the more I emit, the more I grow irritable and morose. The city love has given way to city loathe, which is almsot like wanting to escape the boundaries set by parents to a life of freedom, only to realise that the freedome one so earnestly craved for was better off being explored within boundaries. Well, for now, I want to run away from Chennai but knowing fully well that in October, I will change my tune.

That said and done, there are some sights and sounds that seasons cannot fade. For example, the jacaranda and canna blooms that line the Mount Road are a treat that presents itself only during the summer months and so are the green-red water melons stretches that dot the road sides. The usual balmy morning and evening summer breeze, the clear blue skies and the summer goodies like buttermilk, vathal, kirni pazham are delights that make this time pleasant and lovely.

Coming back to memories, I think that they burden the self and rob the joy from the present. Limited doses at specific times is permissible but living with them is hazardous, I reckon.

Do your moods alter with changing seasons? 

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Implicit obedience versus an attitude of questioning

Today, I happened to see a poster in one of my friend's Facebook wall which went something like this, 'No matter what, my son will be the same to me as when he was a baby.' While the words revelled at the wonder of having children and marvelling at their antics, the message did send some signals to me. I read the message as, 'No matter how old you get, I will continue to see you as a baby and also treat you like one.' S. A. D. This is precisely the problem. One dimension of this 'smothering affection' is aiming at implicit obedience - An obedience which does not question and immediately doing what one is asked to. Often, I have heard this uttered by my parents, 'Just do it. Obey without questioning.' But me being me always asked, 'Why' earning their wrath and irritation. When I dwell on that 'Why,' it is not without any reason that I used to ask the question. After all, I wanted to know why I was asked to do something. This is one side of the whole matter.

Another side, children are encouraged to ask questions. To support this theory, many great scientists of the likes of Einstein, Galileo and others are cited. Philosophers like J. Krishnamurti are also famous for encouraging a questioning attitude. But somewhere parents (some parents) are lost between the encouraging-questioning-and-implicit-obedience quagmire. While questioning on the sun, moon, galaxies, solar system is looked upon with kindness and a parental glow which  seems to say, 'See, that's my daughter! How she questions everything. She is sure to become a genius and score high in her IQ tests . . . Blah Blah,' the same is frowned at while asking questions when the child is asked to do something. I guess parents are also quite stressed out by listening/reading to many free floating advice courtesy the internet, well meaning friends/colleagues/domestic help and all sundry. And like the cherry on the cake is the experience of having watched one's parents whose demands of obedience almost made one pee in the pants.

Children will remain children for many parents and even after the 'child' is no longer a child but a full grown adult, the implicit obedience tag never abandons the scenario. Phrases like, 'My son still obeys me without questioning' and 'Even today, I refuse to ask any question to my mom if she asks me to do something' fills the air of many households confusing the children who innocently ask, 'But why should I light a candle before this picture?'

Parents and children are both confused and in the end, the poster wins!

What's you take on this dear reader?

Saturday 8 March 2014

Tracing my reading timeline without success

If I have to trace my reading habit, I will be at a loss for I don't exactly know how I started to read and why. There are a few I know who will exactly tell the moment as if they forced their memory to record the significant date and episode. Alas! when I started reading, I hardly knew that one day reading would be considered such a fantastic activity and that there would be book-clubs, Facebook pages and blogs devoted to the love of reading and hoarding books. For that matter, I have never wondered to stop and think about the reading habit that found its way into my life until recently when we were having dinner with a BBC-Canada film director who asked me: So, Susan, do you read? How exactly did you start reading? Did your mom and dad read a lot? Did they ask you to read? What did you read as a child?

Well, I have to admit that I was looking at him with a blank expression for I cannot put a finger to my timeline of the much adored habit. I also seem at a loss when people gush and mush about Enid Blyton. I think that I haven't read Blyton and the much acclaimed hostel life stories. I remember having read Famous Five, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew but never cared about the author. I used to remember titles but not authors but now I know that the names should be remembered and flaunted wherever and whenever appropriate.

The reason for reading is another topic that used to confound me. When I enrolled to do English Literature, the first day of the College, one had to meet the head of the department to collect our handbooks and also the identity card. She was a splendid woman who had a fine Brit accent. She asked me (in her RP): You are Susan? and then proceeded to ask, What do you read? to which I muttered 'Fffiction.' She then responded by asking, Why Fiction? I was at my wit's end. Why fiction? Come on, how would I know why I read fiction at the tender age of 19! Those days I did not know that there should be a reason for reading something. Coming from the suburbs and reading whatever managed to catch my fancy, I did not know how to respond to Why Fiction? What I did not know then was also that there were other genres like drama, poetry and other such which people did read for pleasure. I wish I had known that then. As they say, we get to know everything at the right time. Maybe that holds good in my case.

Why do people read afterall? Why do you read? I would like to read your responses.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Saturday 1 March 2014

She could be me in another garb!

I know for a fact that each individual has her/his writing style which is unique to him/her but when I stop by at some blogs, I am reminded of the blogger ME. Yesterday, when I was supposed to be doing some serious work, I stopped at a blog for taking a wee break which extended beyond wee (that's another matter) and was astonished beyond belief that the writing was so very ME. In that blog, stood many posts which were drafted in my mind, same lines, same expressions and even same cliches. I was flabbergasted and a bit worried because the posts inflated my sense of 'uniqueness.' The topics were quite assorted but the thought process of those posts stripped me my sense of uniqueness. I guess that happens to almost most of us. No matter how much we talk of individuality and being special, some of these findings deflate our own brand that defines us.

The first post that I read piqued my curiosity because here was someone who thought and expressed things like me. I moved on to the next post and like that I would have read about ten posts or so which spoke of diverse interests and meanderings. Maybe the writer and I were some sort of joint souls who were separated many births ago but still have come together through posts in this era. As my reading progressed, I came to understand that I enjoyed those posts - the identity of the person behind those posts came alive with every post and that brought me close to the writer herself. I could see her smirk, delight, excited and morose. While she poured out her heart in her posts, I identified me. The thoughts that were a blur in my mind gained clarity when I read hers. Maybe I am exaggerating but I did feel like that when I read those posts by her.

The only thing I regret is that she had turned my drafts into delectable posts and I might not be interested in turning those drafts of mine into posts. She has already done that. Now, to prevent her turning more of my drafts into posts, I have to blog more regularly so that the girl who could be me would not steal my unwritten drafts.

This post is dedicated to her. I will not disclose her blog's name for you might land up there and exclaim, 'Really? She is not like Susan at all. In fact, she is much better!' Even though, you will not scream this on my face, the chances that you will find no similarities between us is quite high. So, I will leave you wondering about this blog I am referring to and also whether you have found any blog that captures the essence of YOU.


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