Category Archives: Things that confuse me

The Absence of Happiness

They say:
It’s all in your head
That you’re merely overthinking
That you must at least make an effort.
They think that you chose this.
That’s not okay.

It’s bad enough that your brain
repeats the same words,
till you’re defenseless
and huddled in a corner,
yearning for a moment’s solitude
from your maddening thoughts.
But the well intentioned people
that surround you don’t understand.
That’s not okay.

They won’t understand
that sometimes breathing
is all you’re really capable of.
They won’t understand
that sometimes, even that feels pointless
and like too much effort.
They won’t understand
the emptiness that’s gnawing your insides
and eating you away,
one happy moment at a time.

We’re conditioned to think poorly
of the people fighting
the demons within their heads.
To ignore their suffering,
pretend it isn’t happening.
That’s not okay.

But perhaps they’ll understand
if you give them a suitable metaphor.
That you’re being chased by a Dementor
and your Patronus, or theirs,
cannot cannot chase it away.
No amount of chocolate will revive you
from the havoc already wreaked.
That this absence of happiness
is not by choice.

And maybe then,
instead of badgering you…
they’ll help you practice your spells
so that in the future, you’ll be okay.
And that, is so much better than just okay.

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Filed under Inspired by other creative works, Introspective, klash, Poetry, The world around me, Things that confuse me, Uncategorized

Homesickness

Homesickness.

Everyone says it can happen quite frequently in the first couple of months that you live away from home. It’s almost a rite of passage when you move away. I guess, even more so when you leave the country. The better part of the past two years of my life have been spent in the UK. It’s been a marvelous experience but I haven’t really missed home. Apart from an initial bout of homesickness when I first moved here in 2013, I haven’t had this incomprehensible surge of irrationality that eviscerates all logical thought. Sure, I’ve missed home and my family and friends. But I haven’t wanted to just drop everything and run home. And now, when I’ve had this persistent feeling for two days…I don’t really know how to deal with it.

Nothing’s changed. And yet, I feel completely different.

I know that a huge part of this yearning is because I’m missing out on my annual feast of literature. Every January, as a new year present and a pre-birthday celebration, my city transforms from a historical and tourist destination to a destination for art, culture, language and most crucially…literature. For five days, people with a deep-seated love for language come together under one massively overpopulated roof and celebrate everything it can possibly convey. Within the stuffily overcrowded halls, we huddle together and converse on every aspect of languages. Literature, fiction, journalism, poetry, forklore and social commentary – we have it all. It’s like we take a hiatus from our preoccupation with existence and focus on living.

My yearning for the festival isn’t blinding me to the social drama that plays out simultaneously. Nor am I forgetting the bitching, author tantrums, political drama and the constant one-upping of the program coordinators. Even with the incessant commercialization of the festival and its transformation into a page 3 carnival, the Jaipur Literature Festival is essentially a celebration of knowledge and culture. It really did feed my soul and provide me sustenance. Not being able to attend it isn’t as excruciating as not being able to spare a few hours to catch up on what’s been discussed. Perhaps I’d be less wistful if I could take a moment and just listen to the speakers. Perhaps I could even be happy with the content and ignore the joy of experiencing the event.

I guess it doesn’t say anything appreciable about me when I feel more yearning towards a literature festival than the possibility of spending time with my family. But that is a demon for another day. Today, I have to contend with this ache.

And I don’t know how to do that.

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Filed under Introspective, Life at University, Things that confuse me

Old Tales

There’s this tale one of my grandmothers would often reiterate. She’d say that whenever we ask a question of life; the answer comes to us in our sleep and stays by our side till we figure it out. As a young girl who obsessed over fairy godmothers and guardian angels, I found it soothing. I embraced the idea of having a clearer line of communication with life than just hindsight. So none of this was new to me or surprising when my meditation teacher reinforced the same belief. She as well as my grandmother however, failed to inform me how annoying it could become when you don’t comprehend the message.

For a while now, there’s a song that will pop into my head completely unanounced. I could be completely immersed in whatever I’m doing and before I know it, I’m humming. I could be walking about aimlessly, and there it is; acting as my most faithful companion. There I am, talking to someone and it’s twirling around in my head. I hadn’t heard it in forever and then one day, when I wake up in the morning, it’s all I can think of. And I don’t remember having asked a question of life. So it’s akin to you seeing a big red circle around the date on the calendar and having no recollection of why you put it there. But you know it’s crucial…that’s what the red circles are for. So you think, really hard about everything that you possibly could have found urgent. And then you ask all the people who you think might have an inkling. When no answers come forth, your search becomes more frantic, less effective.

So before I became completely inefficient, I took a breath to ask for the message to come to me in another way. For life to atleast give me an additional clue. But I don’t see it coming, and I don’t know if the song will somehow abate. What I do know is that when I tell my young ones the story of how life communicates, I’m going to emphasize on how much of it feels like a puzzle. I’m going to reiterate that when you’re not completely ready for the answers you seek, they do come to you, but perhaps they’re in a language you are yet to learn to speak.

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Filed under Childhood, Introspective, The world around me, Things that confuse me

“Turn me over”

Kindle with books - graphite

[Not my shortest post, but very close to my heart.]

Today, I wanted to choose an ebook over a paper copy of the same novel.

With paper books, I have always been loathe to highlight text or comment on a passage because I didn’t want to sully the pages and I am firm believer of always having a “new book” experience. I love knowing that when someone in my circle of booklovers will pick up the book, they will have the joy of reading a book unhindered by my personal opinions. I don’t like any interruptions when I’m reading and a note in the margins is akin to a person poking you, while you read, to discuss how they felt about this line. If I can’t stand a human interrupting my reading, I certainly don’t want someone’s thoughts interrupting me either. And sometimes, if I’m reading the book a long time after the first read, I come very close to the experience of reading a story for the first time. A re-read which feels like a new read is priceless. It’s like meeting up with an old friend after years of no contact and realizing that the relationship is every bit as good as your memory serves you. And so,  I keep my paper-books in a pristine condition. I will read a book any number of times but the spine will never be broken nor the pages stained or dog-eared. The only acceptable writing in a book is a personal message to me by the person gifting me the book or an author-signed copy. The possible exception to this is if someone hands me their copy of a book which might be spine-broken. I still don’t like any highlights or marginalia.

I want to keep my books well-preserved for my way-in-the-future children. Books essentially, are my legacy to them. They are a guided tour through the nooks of my mind and a detailed description of the phases of my life and how I transitioned from one to another. Sometime’s I’ll write short letters for each book and how it affected my life and hide the scrap of paper amongst the words which spurred those thoughts. And when I come across these thoughts later, I smile at my memories and the development of my thought process. I reacquaint myself with the person I used to be.

My books have been passed down from my bibliophile family and I have felt no shame in stealing my aunt’s battered copy of illustrated bedtime stories when she was getting married. I believe my first words to her were “yay! all your books are mine now.” I was barely a teenager but I knew I wanted that book for my children. I wanted them to connect with the little girl I used to be who oooh-ed and aah-ed at every one of those stories.

My love for literature in it’s paper form is well established. I will always read the book before I watch the movie (unless I find out that it was based on a book after I’ve seen it). I rarely find the movie better than the book and if you want to woo me, just find me a forgotten, under-tasted work of fiction. Poetry, written on a scroll and tied with a string is such timeless beauty. A collage of your favourite literary quotes, on a beautiful backdrop is just reassuring. A shelf [or a few] of books around you can be calming.

And now that you know how utterly dependent I am on books and more specifically, paper-books you’ll probably understand when I say that a cavernous pit opened up in my stomach when I stopped reading today and thought “I need an e-copy to highlight that and preserve it.” I felt almost as if I’d lied to and cheated on the one person who had loved me unconditionally. I felt like the worst kind of betrayer. I felt like I’d strung paperbooks along while I flirted with ebooks.

There are a few plausible explanations. The most obvious ones being – I’ve evolved as a reader, I’ve just been reading a lot more ebooks or even that because of a MOOC I took at Coursera where I had to quote from the text to support my analyses, I’ve begun enjoying the crutches of highlighting instead of relying on my memory to guide me back to a specific page. Or maybe I no longer see the point in meticulously writing down every quote that made me think when I can highlight them on the book and have all of them transferred to a word document, with little effort, to be preserved for posterity. It’s true that I will probably lose the document in the unending labyrinth of computer backups and information dump that is a computer; whereas having one big notebook with treasured quotes is like Dumbledore’s pensieve which can be visited with far more ease.

But none of these explanations, on themselves or as a whole provide me with the assurance that I haven’t outgrown the comfort of a paper-book.

I thought of myself as a paper-book lover who enjoyed the freedom and mobility of an e-reader alongwith the availability of a more varied buffet of literature. But today, I’m choosing to read an e-book over a paper copy and it doesn’t sit well in my heart. It feels like I’m giving up a good, solid, loving relationship for a temporary, toxic and possibly damaging relationship.

E-books aren’t books. They are stories told over an electronic medium. They are convenient and a joyous way of story-telling. They might try to substitute for a book but they fall short just like an audiobook – another brilliant form of story-telling – cannot recreate the joy of grandma’s storytime. E-books aren’t the comfort of a book or the thrill of touching a perfect quote and letting the ink darken the fingers. They can’t fill your nostrils with the scent of a story lingering in the air as every page is turned and breathes. They can’t replicate the granular feel of paper or the sharp edges of the pages we turn.  A paper-book is  an experience like a full bodied wine with nuances and layers while an e-book feels much like a cool glass of fizzy cola on a hot summer day.

I love both – the wine and the cola. I’m bothered by how I came close to chosing to read a literary piece without the absorption of a paper copy. But I guess, if I’m to continue enjoying fine wine, then I need to do it like wine. I can’t expect to get the experience of wine with the sugar-high of cola. They are both great for satisfying different thirsts and until I accept that, I will not be able to move forward.

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Filed under The world around me, Things that confuse me