Summer report: the definitive text of inadequacy

This is perhaps the most personal of all pieces that I have added to my little corner of the Internet. This post has no topic of discussion, per se, nor a sense of purpose. It has come into existence solely because I sat before my computer today, with the full intention of charging into work much as a bull hurtles towards the Matador, and realised that I had not written in what I can only describe as an eternity.

And so, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am writing for the sake of writing, and already the blood feels calmer in my veins. As this post has no agenda, I fear it will tread perilously close to the realm of surrealist literature, only it will be much less pleasing to the eye. Indeed, even as I write this, I know little of the direction towards which this post is headed. Bear with me, though, my faithful reader, as you have over the past years (and here, we pause for a moment of introspection and the such), for I promise you mild, sub-par comedy at the very least.

Truth be told, it’s not that I haven’t written anything over these past months; it’s more of a case of me not having written anything. Before you (justly) call me out to be the raving lunatic that I seem to be, let me clarify: there’s a sense of satisfaction mingled with a curious tingling in the stomach and the extremities, that comes with writing something which has taken thought and some measure of literary skill. That very feeling has been missing for some time. I have been writing, yes (if my angst-ridden posts on Facebook can be so called), but I haven’t been diving into the oceans of language and selfishly picking out the words from the mouths of stingy oysters. It is something I sorely regret, and something that I would like to talk about here.

These months have not been good, my dear readers. They have been frightfully disappointing in ever sense imaginable, more so because I have been disappointing than anything else. I have been lazy, uninspired, dirty, unambitious, and, worst of all, I have been un-curious. Nothing has picked at my mind enough for me to want to delve into it further, and, again, that’s not for lack of stimulus but a personal shortcoming. I have been tired; more tired than I have ever, ever been as far as my (abysmal, truly abysmal; if only to be an elephant) memory is concerned. I remember taking to my computer time and again, adamant to spew into this little corner of the Internet the wiring of my brain, only to be distracted by the lights or the rain, or the little spider climbing up my left leg as though foraging through the Amazon thicket.

Then again, I have also found myself distracted by the sound of my own breathing. It’s a curious sound, really, not nearly as tidy or as even as it sounds on TV. It’s uneven, as though the heart is pushing the left lung upwards with every intake of breath to lighten the load on itself. Even as I sit here writing about the sound of my breath, I am curiously distracted by it, as though noticing its presence for the first time, every time. How can something that has been around for as long as I’ve been around (barring nine months; yes, my dear pro-life readers, I know you exist. I don’t agree with you one bit, but I know you exist) be so unfamiliar to me; moreover, how can it be a distraction?

And yet, irrefutably, there it is, like an obese manatee wrapped in seaweed, basking atop a rock in the middle of the sea, very much the gap-toothed mermaid to my drunken sailor’s telescope. But, oh, what a manatee, that I want to swim alongside it in the depths of the clear blue, and also tear it limb from limb and drown it in its own blood. It is almost a crooked love-hate relationship if one is so inclined: you love to hate every last bit of it. I love the feeling of loathing that overcomes me when I am cognizant of my breathing, as though it is my life’s purpose (hark! How is that for a paradox, Zeno?) to hate my breathing, and without my breathing, my life would have no purpose (and here I trump the Grandfather Paradox; quite the roll I’m on today).

I don’t wish to die, though. My intense melancholia (when one is at the point where one needs to advertise one’s own writing on one’s own blog, one has hit the rock bottom of writing; one is now free to socialise with Terry Goodking, Stephanie Meyer, and the horny, discount Stephanie Meyer) is not precipitated in my need to die, but in my need to kill myself. That I am my own master in my death is important to me because it reinstates that sense of control that was taken away by the erratic breathing. It’s a multi-part joy, if you think about it: being in control of circumstance when your breathing ends is a win that you have scored over your breath; holding responsibility for your inevitable end, something that life has always held over you, is yet another victory; and that you end up where everyone will end up someday, but you do it on your own terms, is the greatest victory of all.

Of course, now I sound like a brown-haired, pasty white bitch who slit her wrists (horrible method of suicide, by the way; very low chances of your dying that way) in her parents’ bathtub because the pasty white boy she liked didn’t want to bother her when she asked not to be bothered (and twelve other equally ridiculous reasons). Just to avoid stepping on any toes, I’d like to make it very clear that THIS IS NOT A TAPE OR ANY NOTE OF SUCH KIND because depression doesn’t work that way. Galen got it right, I think, when he prattled on about Black Bile, but what depression is and isn’t has been covered before (I’m not going to be cheap and provide two links to the same piece in one post; I have standards). This is merely me talking, more to myself than anyone else, about how shit the last few months have been, and how, despite everything, the fucking breathing goes on.

And on.

Don’t tell me what to eat!

This rather angst-ridden post comes at a time when the country I reside in (India) is going through something along the lines of what can only be described as a shit-storm. There is a reason to why I choose to call it the country I reside in and not my country, and that reason has a lot to do with my disregard for the glorified nationalism that is patriotism; but that is something I will (hopefully, if I remember and have the energy) address in a later post. Today, however, I wish to talk about the most recent malady gripping this nation: a food ban.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular atrocity, here is a brief, heavily biased summary: The ruling political party in the country, the BJP, has launched a thinly veiled communal movement against religious minorities in the country in an attempt to make the country a “Hindu” nation. The controversial prime minister recently made the appointment of an even more controversial individual, and a Hindu religious leader no less, as the chief minister of the most populous state in the country (UP); a state with a larger Muslim population than Saudi Arabia. Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of

Understandably, a host of events has taken place since then, furthering the already mammoth divide between the left and right-wing individuals. I will not go into the host of issues I have with the government, but just highlight the one that is currently on my mind: the new UP government has started a crackdown against “illegal” slaughterhouses, under the guise of which hundreds of thousands of meat vendors, the majority of them being Muslims, have been put out of business. Repercussions of this have been seen in states across the country, where vigilantes have taken to violence against even the legally operating meat vendors.

It does not take a great leap of understanding to see that this crusade against meat and meat vendors fits snugly into the communal image of the BJP. Hinduism has been mistakenly associated with vegetarianism for hundreds of years now (I say mistakenly because the archaeological and historical experts have agreed, time and again, that the oldest practitioners of Hinduism weren’t bothered about who ate what, and, what’s more, even sacrificed animals as part of prayers), and the BJP covertly seeks to make India a Hindu land, and thus a vegetarian one. The recent introduction of Hindi, a language which people, again, mistakenly, associate with India and Hinduism, into non-Hindi speaking states is a further example of how the Centre wishes to rebrand “India as is Bharath” as Hindustan.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll drop my “leftist” agenda which condemns the central government. I’ll even let slide the obvious linguistic chauvinism which is currently threatening the diversity of one of the most beautifully diverse nations of the world. What I cannot let up, however, is people telling me what to and what not to eat. We are a secular nation, which entails the freedom to be who we are, do what we want (as long as it is within the legal limits) and eat what we bloody want. Not going into the whole shenanigans about how necessary animal protein is for people, it’s a simple thing to understand: people have a right to food.

People who choose to follow religious limitations (yet again, a topic which I feel strongly towards and hope to speak about soon) to the extent of depriving themselves of certain things are more than free to do so, but who gives anyone the authority to restrict people not only from eating whatever it is that they wish, but also take away a major source of livelihood? What right does a democratically elected leader have to say that the practice of a religion should be done stringently, and to subsequently encroach upon the basic human rights of his people?

Tomorrow, if a leader is elected who bans the “illegal” sale of leafy greens, are we supposed to silently sit back and withstand the deprivation of an essential component of our diet? Fuck that, if the government decides to ban the “illegal” sale of chocolates, would we stand for it?

If yes, then, honestly, very little can be said here. People who are willing to submit so utterly to authority (authority which is barely educated, has a skewed world view, and takes religious communalism to a whole new level), then what are free-thinkers to do? How can anyone win in a fight where the other side has already decided that there is no competition.

If no, then why stop me from eating my tenderloin steak if I don’t stop you from eating whatever dismal cabbage creation you’ve concocted? Is it because my food offends you more than yours offends me? How can food be offensive to a person, unless you’re taking that offense as part of something larger, say a religion. If my food offends your religion, don’t eat my food. Why should I stop eating my food because it offends your religion? You religion is the primary religion of the country, you say?

Check again.

We live in a “secular” country where trying to get things like beef, which is now a traditional part of many Muslim households, is like trying to score drugs. I have a simple question, aimed at the prime minister and the chief minister of UP (whom I affectionately call Dhonginath; we have an understanding): if I don’t force you to eat meat as part of my religion (that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), why do you stop me from eating it?

Melancholia

A host of events have transpired to bring this post into existence; events which, if it were possible, I would choose not to dwell upon. However, choice itself is a rare privilege afforded to few of us who suffer from this ancient malady, and it is, unfortunately, not a privilege I possess.

What those events are is not of consequence, and, indeed, needn’t be mentioned here at all. Suffice it to say that those events were not of a favourable nature; my reaction to them, albeit, is a result of my pathological inconvenience, and not how one would “normally” react. Ah, yes; there I go again, characteristically deviating from the topic at hand. Today, I shall attempt to put into words perhaps the greatest evil I have come to know, and come to know more intimately than I would have cared: depression.

Many of the few people I have spoken to regarding the subject at hand seem to have rather ill-conceived notions about the malady. I shall forego the medical and psychological explanations, here, for the vast web that is the Internet would do a far better job of explaining that aspect than my little corner ever could. No, instead, I’d like to show what it means to be depressed, and how it is not, in fact, your everyday case of Monday morning blues.

Imagine, if you will, a world which is tinted brown, like a town from the old wild West movies, except the sky is constantly covered with clouds, and the sun only barely manages to shine through. This world contains nothing but a road, a single road, leading somewhere into the distance. The world is densely covered with fog, and so where the road leads, exactly, is something which you do not know. The fog is not a normal fog, however; it is a fog made of some thick, gelatinous substance which makes movement difficult, as though the mist is resisting the advances of motion. It is also impossible to tell the time of day, as there are no watches, and the brown haze constantly presents itself with the same hue throughout.

Now, imagine you are woken up every morning if, indeed, it can be so called, and forced to put a heavy bag on your back. What this bag contains; who is making you carry the load; what you are supposed to do it with are questions which you are neither allowed to ask, nor have any answers to. You are then made to walk down the single road into the obscure distance, through the gelatinous fog in a brown tinted world, with the load on your back, towards a place which you do not know.  All of a sudden, presumably at the end of the night, you are asked to stop and take rest, but you are not allowed to take off the bag. Rest comprises reading through horror upon horror, penned down by a malicious writer who knew well how to make disaster seem close to home. The next morning (?), the rigmarole repeats itself, only now the load has increased from the previous day.

That, my dear readers (the plurality is assumed), is how I view depression. In the end, it boils down to a whole lot of nothingness; there is no aim, there are no dreams or hopes, there are no goals, there isn’t even the promise of a tomorrow. There is just a long, straight road, going ever onwards. The only way out of this insane, pointless ritual seems to be an absence of existence, and it is easy to see why so many of us would rather choose that path than the brown tinted one: it may not be more colourful, but black is better than brown.

It is from this melancholy that I, and hundreds of thousands others like me across the world, seek escape. Tell us now that we are just weak, or that it will get better, or some other inane shit along those lines? The dense fog that covers our world drowns out the sound of everything other than our deepest, darkest thoughts, which seem to take a personality of their own and insist upon their presence being acknowledged. It is not about weakness, my privileged friends who do not know the true meaning of despair, and it most certainly isn’t about sadness.

The cuts on my arms are not from my inability to handle the stresses that life throws at me, or my hate for myself (though that plays a major part). The cuts on my arms are from my desire to feel something, anything, other than a gnawing sense of regret for being alive. The cuts on my arms are from me trying to take back control; from me trying to tell myself that the pain which I am experiencing is my own doing and that I have the power to stop it when I wish.

This, however, is an elaborate illusion. The cuts on my arms are lies I tell myself to make the world more bearable, prolonging my journey down the road in the process. With each cut I make, I give myself the motivation to remain in this brown, murky world; it is almost as though there is a contorted feedback mechanism preventing me from escaping this very cruel, cruel world. All forms of self-sabotaging that I do, be it in terms of my relationships or to my body or in my work, they are all forms of me clutching at straws, desperately trying to regain control, knowing that I am destined for failure even before I start.

If you resonated with this, dear readers, tell me, such that we can plan our journey through this world together, and maybe find solace in knowing that others are as doomed as we are. For the only way to alleviate suffering is to not suffer alone.

Good day (hark!)

Sanguine, not bloody

A surge of blood to the cheeks marks your elation when told how pretty you look in those new clothes you picked out for yourself. Is this the first time you’ve gone shopping all alone? Well done, my dear; you look smashing. Your cheeks are on fire today. Does my opinion really mean that much to you? I’m glad to have been of service, really, but the pleasure is all mine; the blood in your cheeks lights a fire in your eyes. Cherish that fire, my dear, for there are few things that blood does which are sanguine; the rest are all just bloody.

Your lips feel warm when my tongue runs across them, as though brimming with an urgency to escape and consume me in my entirety. Is it your blood at work again? Has the blood returned to fuel your inner fire, displaying your lust proudly for others to see, to touch, to feel? The quickening of that monotonous beat, sounding where your chest touches mine, tells me that your lips are not the only thing being singed by the ceaseless stream of elixir we’ve so come to fear. It’s really a lovely stream, my dear; most definitely sanguine, and not bloody.

Fuck! I bit you! Apologies, my dear; I was not aware that the same blood which flows in your veins also flows in mine. They’d told me differently when I was younger. My blood was redder than yours, they’d said; after all, you were green, and I was scarlet, like the aching scream of a dying sun. Look, though, how the same red that drove sense from my mind and into my loins now pools in your mouth. Spit it out, my dear, and look how it swirls. Here, let me show you mine, and we can watch them blend together, such that they might well have come from one body, one soul, one heart. The colour only brightens, my dear; even blood itself is more sanguine than bloody.

Don’t fret now, my darling. It’s only a little prick, and then you get to see the clear tube fill with a crimson glow. It’s serene, really; there is something calming about this deep, violent flood. To think, the answers to our questions lie in the scarlet depths of this tiny tube; answers to questions we didn’t want to ask in the first place. Curious, isn’t it, my dear; we would never have had to ask these questions had your blood, which really is the same as mine, not betrayed your mind, taking its body along with it? I have faith in the answers that this tube holds, but I see that you don’t. Answers are rewarding; and the blood, once again, at least for me, is sanguine. Is it just bloody for you, my dear?

Oh, the world is a horrid, horrid place. When did the red that signalled love and passion bend its will to ire? Or has it always been this way; have the two been so intricately linked, forever, that the difference only now emerges? Does knowing make you feel better, my dear, or would you much rather have lived out your days in the tranquillity of ignorance? You don’t blush like you did that first day anymore, but you bleed more. Has knowing why you bleed made you feel better, or is the blood still as bloody as it was before? Knowledge is good, they tell me; does that mean that your blood, paler now than it used to be, is more sanguine now that I know?

There is a stillness to you which I am not familiar with. In all our years together, I have never once seen you this calm, this restful, this immobile. What of your blood, I asked them; they said it has frozen inside your veins. Will it never rush to your face again, my dear? Is that why you feel so cold when I hold you? All you ever were, it would seem, was the flowing fire within you; a fire which has drowned in a frozen pool of red. There is a poetry to it, don’t you think? And yet, just this once, the blood that made you so alive is more bloody than sanguine.

You’ve been silent a long time now, my dear. When your blood froze, we tucked you into a bed of earth and covered you with the sky. Has the sky been keeping you warm? Has your blood thawed enough that your lips are warm to the touch again? I’d thought not. Nothing is warm anymore if I’m being honest. I wonder, often, if my blood too is freezing, even as I breathe? It certainly seems so. It has no reason to be warm anymore, with no one to feel its commanding heat but the inside of my skin, which is has long resigned to the feeble atrocities the crimson tyrant is capable of committing. Sometimes, I wish to see if the crimson tyrant is still crimson, or if the malaise has turned it black and sludgy; maybe that is why it hurts to breathe. Black and sludgy, yes; there is nothing sanguine about that.

I’m told the colour has faded from my skin, my dear; the little ones, whose faces fill up with fire like yours did so many years ago, or was it yesterday? They come to me often, climbing atop my thin bed in this room of white and blue, and ask me for stories of a time when things were redder. Nothing is red anymore, my dear; not crimson, nor scarlet. The faces which flush when they pant are not the right red, but a rosy pink at best. No one bleeds into their souls anymore. I feel my blood freezing too, now that I think about it. Is that why the false reds are here, to bid me adieu? I’ll be happier where you are, my dear; we’ll thaw our blood together. It’d be nice to see sanguinity again; the blood that they have here is just far too bloody.

The more the merrier

 

This post was cleverly scheduled to come out on Valentine’s day; but as those who are familiar with this little corner of the Internet will know, I am not the most punctual of people. Indeed, when asked why I do no take up writing as a profession (assuming I could write professionally), the foremost reason I cite is my inability to meet deadlines. What is life, I daresay, without a little bit of procrastination, and the gnawing regret that comes after the time to affect change has passed?

Ah, but there I go again; prattling on about something that has nothing to do with the theme of this post. Today, sitting by a steaming mug of filter coffee, I wish to talk about the nature of romantic relationships; rather, the nature of relationships in general. More specifically, I wish to present my case in favour of something we’ve come to learn more and more of in recent years: polyamory.

I have long been of the opinion that for any relationship to be truly sustainable, it needs to have a certain degree of “openness”. Relationships which are rigid in their definitions and closed off in their approach to society often find that a claustrophobic environment is non-conducive to their growth. The reason for this, to me, seems quite simple: we are complex beings with complex needs, and so we need to derive our sustenance from a host of people, and not just one person at a time.

Don’t you think it’s a little impractical, really, to assume that one person is able to satisfy all your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs? Conversely, isn’t it a little unfair that you are required to fulfil the very same needs, single-handedly, for someone else? I can, of course, see the charm in this: that one person is all you need for everything, ever, is undoubtedly a charming concept, but how much practical value does it really hold?

Humour me for a while, and picture this: you have your significant other with whom you have a blossoming relationship. Yes, there are fights, but you are able to “kiss and make up”, and you perceive things through rose-tinted glasses. Now it just so happens that you are plagued with an issue which your partner is not adept at handling, or which requires a view which your partner is unable to provide. You seek solace in another individual to whom you attach some value, and your qualms are put to rest.

Polyamory, most people fail to understand, is not just about having multiple sex partners, though that is very much a component of it; neither is polyamory a way to justify promiscuity. Polyamory is about understanding that more than one people should be allowed to influence your thoughts on love, career, sex, and all the other facets that make up life. Polyamory is about embracing the change that is brought by opening up to more and more people, instead of being confined to a box, with only one other mind for company.

Yet another aspect I’ve seen people have trouble with is that of relationships being a spectrum, and not a binary switch between polyamory and monoamory. It IS possible to sustain an emotionally polyamorous relationship without also making it physical. In fact, that has largely been the nature of my relationships for a long while now, and it has caused me little to no discomfort. On the other hand, it is also possible to have a physically polyamorous relationship without having an emotional one. There are hundreds of other combinations which abound when one truly considers the diversity of people, their needs, and the rationale behind relationships in the first place.

As is often the case with my personal posts, I shift the blame for things onto society. Society has conditioned us to make two things an integral part of our lives: labels and definitions. We spend our early years growing up in a society which has an obsessive need to label and define everything, relationships included. A couple who does not wish to label or define their relationship is still called a couple, because how else are we to attach stereotypes and conventional tropes to them. Even the most progressive of us get caught in the rigmarole that is the need to define, if not label.

There is a person, of remarkable intellect and a face which the gods must have forgotten to fault, with whom I sustain a relationship. What kind of relationship, you’d be tempted to ask, and therein lies the problem. Is it not enough that there is a relationship of some sort? That there is something physical (barely, to my displeasure), something intellectual, and something emotional in this relationship is enough of a definition. Our need to define things by assigning labels to them limits our expansion and growth as human beings; this is a belief that has only strengthened with time.

It is not as though I have taken a pledge against labelling, however; I understand the need for certain labels, such as defining certain things as harmful versus safe, or correct versus incorrect. Where relationships are considered, though, I cannot understand the obsession with monoamory, which seeks to lay possessive claim on another person. Relationships are deeply personal things; in fact, they are deeply interpersonal things, and with over seven billion people in the world, to limit the interpersonal interaction of a person to just “the one” other person seems to me inherently selfish.

Bonds are fickle things; they break and form in the blink of an eye. Bonds strengthen when they are allowed to mingle with other bonds, and form a network. Polyamory provides for that chance; the chance to strengthen not just one, but many bonds, by exposing the individual to the treasures of the human mind. Yes, there is a chance that in a polyamorous relationship your paramour would give someone else more importance than they would give you, but that is a risk you both are taking. And, in my very honest opinion, the risk and the (possible) jealousy are worth it, because at the end of the day, you are developing a more honest, a stronger relationship.

 

The inverse of sugarcoating

This post comes more than a week late, but then, I have never been known for my punctuality. Fortunately, it just so happens that the person to whom this post is dedicated understands my ongoing feud with time and deadlines, and so I am (I hope) off the hook.

This being a birthday post, I suppose timing was of the essence. Indeed, I had sat down to write this post in an alcoholic stupor last Sunday night; I soon discovered, however, that inebriated and articulation are not the best of companions. The post, as a result, came to a standstill. As anyone who has ever missed deadlines will tell you: once the time has passed, delays are easier to actualise than effort. However, I like to cling to the desperate notion that everything happens for the best; had the week not intervened between this post and the birthday itself, maybe the post wouldn’t have been as meaningful as it is now.

The title of this post is a phrase which the said person (to whom this post is dedicated) has used, often, to describe the way I express my views and opinions; implying, of course, that I use words which are too harsh to convey emotion which is, in essence, very pleasant. The original draft of this post was a smattering of powdered sugar on a mountain of maple syrup and honey, which is yet another reason this post feels more natural to me than the one which would have gone up on my friend’s birthday: it’s more honest.

Usually, when I undertake the Herculean task of dedicating a post to someone, it involves my assessment of their qualities and the subsequent zeroing in on the quality which I feel most strongly towards. This, however, is not the case today. It is not that the person of whom I speak is devoid of any startling qualities, nor that the person is burgeoning with a plethora of qualities from which it would be impossible to choose. No, the reason that this post doesn’t fixate on any one aspect of the person is because he, in his entirety, has done something for me which I value greatly: he has educated me in matters of which I was painfully ignorant.

Much of this educating took place after the rather tumultuous but exceptionally well-timed end to our brief courtship period. The subsequent friendship is something that I’ve come to cherish and learn greatly from. Wisdom, however, isn’t at the root of these teachings; it is not as though I have been specifically lectured on certain areas. This teaching comes from one of the most rewarding human experiences I have ever had. Not wisdom but honesty, I feel, drives this education home. The honesty of expression and feeling which my friend carries; his ability to wear his heart shamelessly on his sleeve, despite how much ever pain it may cause him; and his need to derive emotional sustenance from those he loves are the things I look towards when I feel lost in my own warped emotional psyche.

My friend has, on more occasions than I can count and with substantial damage to his inner peace, challenged my notions of correctness and emotional complexity. He has provided me with the perspective of diversity by showing me how powerful emotions can be, all while being highly delicate. He has shown me, time and again, what it means to be truly honest with oneself, even as I champion brutal honesty to the world. But more than anything, he has helped shape my ideas of the kind of interpersonal relationships I would be willing to have; ideas which were founded in reason, but perhaps hadn’t been actualised until the development of our friendship.

One of the greatest things which I will always be indebted to him for, though, is pushing my tolerance to limits I did not know I dared approach. I have always been less tolerant of dissent than I would like to believe, and this reflects heavily in my interactions with people. This beautiful, honest person showed me that my insatiable need for learning and growth, which I’ve always claimed was at the centre of my being, would never be realised unless I opened myself to things which I disagreed with and, far more than this, things which I had never even considered.

Even as I write this, I find myself edging dangerously close to a pit dense with the sorrows of nostalgia, which, I am afraid, is a luxury I cannot afford at the moment. However, one essential aspect of my friend remains to be mentioned, and poetic convenience has decreed it such that it be the last thing I discuss, glorifying it all the more. The aspect of which I speak, of course, is unbridled growth. It amazes me to see him growing as a person in every second of every day, but not being afraid to build again should he fall back. Whereas I take things from him and use them to further my own arsenal of introspection, he takes things from all around and uses them to accelerate in life. Indeed, it is satisfying to see that he is able to sustain his rate of growth, even as I am mine, and yet remain in tandem with both our ways of life.

Ah, but now emotional indulgence veers dangerously close to this rather well thought out, and unnecessarily long, (belated) birthday wish. Before I submit myself to the annals of sentimental gratification, I feel it best to set my (metaphorical) pen down, and wish my friend a lifetime of growth.

Happy birthday, my love.

Fuck it, cut it, bleed it, burn it, then fuck it again

“The outrage!”

“Scandalous!”

“And on a public forum like this, what does he hope to achieve?”

“We should not be exposed to this kind of content. It is shameful, to say the least.”

I acknowledge that many of you may be of this opinion after haphazardly glancing upon the title of this post. If so, I request you to kindly pen down your opinion upon a piece of paper, fold it such that it assumes a nonchalant shape, and thrust it so far up your rectum that it becomes thoroughly coated with excrement, then proceed to dispel it with your ritualistic morning bowel motion. Your cooperation is much appreciated.

What did you just read? More importantly, what did I just write? This post has been long in the making. In fact, it has been so long in the making that this is the third draft that I am working on. I needed to get this just right, however, as the subject of this post is something which has been on my mind for almost as long as I have been writing.

Those who regularly frequent this small corner of the Internet will know of my running feud with institutions of right and wrong, and arbitrarily defined social constructs. Compound that with my sexual orientation, and established codes of morality, and we emerge as sworn enemies. How could this animosity, then, not translate into the things I write and, by extension, things I choose to read?

Ever since civilisations have been around, it would seem, there have been rules that needed to be followed. On a societal level, the existence of rules makes a fair bit of sense: no matter how much sinful pleasure you derive from malicious deeds, a dystopian society would not benefit anyone. Upholding of laws and a basic moral code (again, the very nature and definition of morality are severely in question here, but fuck it) seems essential for the progress and prosperity of any civilisation. The problem comes, at least for me, when these societal constructs are extended into art.

I use the term art very liberally here (hark!), meant to encompass all forms of art, though I primarily seek to speak of the written word. Art has long been a way of escape for many, many greats. It has been a source of comfort and release for ages and has produced great works in being so. Before it was a release, however, it was a form of expression. It was meant to put before the world whatever happened to float across the mind of the artist, and the mind doesn’t think by the rules of society. Why, then, is expression confined to those rules? If the expression of an idea is merely the physical realisation of fanciful notions, why do we put limits on it?

Is it fear? Do we fear that if the sacrilegious thoughts of a radical thinker became public, others would realise their own inappropriate desires, and seek to disrupt the intricate balance of society? What a load of bull. Art is revolutionary, whether it is moral or amoral. What makes art profound and transcendental isn’t its crass deliverance, but its content. If art were to resonate with a someone and push them towards a societal reform, it would be because they identify with the artist and the emotions conveyed in the art. By hindering the full expression of the art form, we kerb the full intensity of the emotion that can be conveyed, which is an injustice to art itself.

Recently, I had shared some explicit, erotic, Harry Potter fan art with a poor, unsuspecting friend of mine, who had honestly expected more innocent content. Needless to say, she was traumatised and verging on a stroke. The art, which shows the male heartthrobs of the saga passionately consuming each others’ bodies (in graphic detail), happens to be some of the best Harry Potter fan art that I have seen, ever. My friend’s reaction reminded me, once again, of how underexposed we are to art as a whole, and to the acceptance of various art forms, and assessment of art for their objective beauty, irrespective of their subjective appeal. It wasn’t her fault for being scandalised by the art, of course; the blame lies entirely on society, for narrowing our spectrum of appreciation of art forms to what it considers appropriate.

Now, I do not advocate subjecting four-year-olds to morbid and nihilistic works, but that does not mean that you do not even lay the path for them to one day discover those works without preconceived notions. Neither do I encourage people to go out of their way to be overtly crude with their delivery of art. It is not about being profane; it isn’t about being the most scandalous writer on the block; it’s about being true to yourself, and expressing whatever you wish to express, in whichever way you wish to express it.

For too long, now, there have been limitations on the kind of thing one can write in a particular context for a particular people at a particular time on a particular forum. How is anyone supposed to express themselves wholly with such limiting shackles binding all free thought? The reason this post is riddled with “age-inappropriate” content is simply to show people that freedom of expression needs to be wholly exercised.

To all those who have taken offence to the presentation of the most more than the actual content: I hope this is the last time.

Beware the wrath of words, dear

As is the case with almost all of my posts, the inspiration for this particular piece came from a conversation I recently had with a friend (if a romantic interest with no foreseeable future can be so called). Before I can delve into the finer details of the conversation, however, I must apologise to whoever does me the great courtesy of following this blog for my rather long absence. The world seems to have taken a strange dislike to me, and nothing I do seems to set things right. More on that later, though. For now, I am back, presumably to vanish for another three months, but we should take what we can get, no?

The conversation which serves as the theme for this post is the very definition of escalation. Those who are familiar with me will know the tales of my eloquence, of the extent to which I take the expression of simple emotions. The friend whom I spoke of, as it happens, did not fully comprehend that about me at the time. In a display of endearment, I happened to use words which, by some arbitrary ruling, carry great weight. I was chided for “throwing such words so offhandedly”, with the assertion that “when you say it, you should mean it, otherwise when you actually mean it, what will you say?”

As things in this world are wont to do, this got me thinking about something which I’d already been pondering for quite a while now. I reflected back upon all the squabbles and quarrels I’d been a part of in my recent past (recall the tale of me getting a present from a friend, which I spoke of in “You can’t call people fat!”) and saw a pattern emerge: almost every fight I’ve had for a long time has been due to words being taken wildly out of context, just by virtue of their existence.

Too much importance is attached to the words that people use; not the meaning of the words, but the words themselves. It is true what they say: the pen is mightier than the sword. Words, simple in their crafting and majestic in their construction, are consuming in the hands of someone who knows how to wield them. There is overwhelming evidence of this today: poets and writers carry the capacity to reach places within you that you yourself didn’t know existed, making you question the fact of your own existence.

It has become so easy to be manipulated by people who know just what to say and when to say it, just because we put too much importance in the words that have been used. No one seems to care about the intent behind the words, or who they’re coming from, or the context in which they’re used, or anything, really. Words that have arbitrarily been assigned greater value than others are now off limits unless the situation warrants them because they can somehow lead to cataclysmic effects. Based on what, though? Who decides that certain words will hold this destructive power? As far as I am concerned, the culprit is the archaic notion of correctness. I have been trying, for a long time now, to get people to be comfortable with using whatever words they wish to use, whenever they wish to use them. Imagine if we weren’t burdened by the need to be linguistically appropriate all the time: we could explore not just language, but the human psyche itself to great extents.

The example that comes to mind is the word “love”. “Love” is possibly one of the most weighted words in the English language. Glorified by Hollywood and the like, it has become apocalyptic in its power, and all but a taboo in terms of usage, especially in interpersonal conversation. Saying that you love a person (Plato’s notions of love are being generously disregarded here) is tantamount to asking them to take a chainsaw to their families and drown in a sea of their own filth, irrespective of the intensity of the emotion expressed. “Love” is a beautiful word, and I’d like to be able to use it as and when I please, without worrying about the repercussions.

I believe that meaning comes from your knowledge of the person, not from random sounds that they make with their tongues. When time comes for me to actually mean the words that I previously used, apparently callously, I’ll do it by honest expression of emotion, not words which have been used a thousand times over. I don’t want to express my love for a person using the same words that a rapist uses to express their love for sexual abuse or even any other way that is considered conventionally correct.

I do not deny that there are times when the word itself carries the power to cause harm, but those instances are rare. Callously throwing around the words “nuclear holocaust” at a Japanese peace gathering is unacceptable, no matter what the intent, but to extend the same limitations to daily conversation, to words which form a part of our regular speech, seems to me a rather silly venture. The converse of what I say also holds true: just by virtue of using words which don’t carry as much weight as others, people cannot fully express the intensity of their emotions.

That words are a human enterprise seems lost upon people. We created words for effective communication, and it is shameful that we have become slaves to them today. Lifeless scrawls of manmade ink on manmade paper seem to control our thoughts, feelings, and eventually actions, all three of which are greater than anything anyone might have to say. I like to think that I have learned enough and seen enough to know how to express myself fully when the time comes to do so. Continuing along the same lines as the example above, I am confident that whenever, and if ever, I reach a stage where I want to translate my feelings of affection into words, I’ll have the right tools in my arsenal for the job, not because I claim to be some sort of wordsmith, but because there will be an understanding between us at that stage which will facilitate communication.

If it so happens that my particular way of expression does not translate as such to the other person, I’ll learn their way of expressing, and they’ll learn mine, and a stronger community will take existence.

 

 

 

On the flip side of obsessions

It would seem that my fidelity to this little corner of the Internet is in doubt. Once again, I have become the harbinger of neglect by staying away for so long. Thus, for the umpteenth time, I extend an apology to my readers (here, once again, I assume plurality). However, my conscience isn’t as burdened this time around as it was the past few times, as my absence has been more due to factors beyond my control as opposed to procrastination on my part.

In fact, the entity which caused said preoccupation is a huge contributor to the contents of this post. By a stroke of good fortune, and strenuous effort on my part, I managed to secure a month-long internship at one of the best research institutes in the country (bragging rights must be awarded here). Said internship was supposed to train me in basic laboratory protocol and techniques which may be of use to me later on in life when time came for me to take up science professionally. Things, by yet another stroke of luck, took a steep turn for the better. It so happens that I am now as involved in research as one could possibly be at this stage of their scientific education.

That more or less lays the background for the post (and gives me an excuse to feel better about myself), and so I feel confident when I launch into this post, which discusses one of the greatest ills which plagues me.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with “mixed obsessive-compulsive disorder”. The small black ink writing was definitive proof of a suspicion which I’d been harbouring for a few years, and it was bittersweet seeing that diagnosis officially confirmed: on the one hand, it told me that there was something the matter with me, something which would require an effort to overcome; on the other hand, it told me that a lot of my shortcomings were not entirely my fault. The latter, I think, was more therapeutic than the months of therapy that followed.

For years, the obsessive-compulsive tendencies had been getting on my nerves, and the glorification of “OCD” by western television had done nothing to help. All around me, people claimed to have, or worse – be, OCD, thinking that somehow having an all-consuming mental disorder made one “cool”. It bothered me that something which made daily tasks an ordeal for me was being mimicked and mocked around the world. You don’t pretend to have cancer to be cool, I’d say to anyone who would listen, so why OCD?

Until my internship started this Monday, I had always given a negative connotation to obsessions. Having been incapacitated by them all my life, it was only natural that I should have a sour feel about them. However, this week changed things, hopefully for the better. I realised the value of obsessions as I saw my guide poring over anomalies in the data which we had obtained from our experiment. He ran the same test multiple times, always getting visibly distressed, and intrigued, with the anomalies which repeatedly cropped up.

The following days involved me getting involved with the data analysis too, and I found myself obsessing over the data as well. There were times of introspection when I would curse my obsessive nature for causing me to get hitched on to trivialities, but then a rationalisation would intervene. I realised that this maniacal obsessing was essential for scientific advancement, and the ability to get hung up on tiny things which people wouldn’t normally give a second glance to was perhaps the greatest asset of anyone hoping to be anyone in science.

I’ve always been fond of dramatics and have been justly accused of melodrama and exaggeration of circumstance, and so maybe it’s me tapping into the inner drama queen when I say that this realisation was accompanied by the world spinning all around me.

Scientific research is inherently a slow process; it consists of visiting and revisiting of the experiments and the data, reviewing of basic principles and concepts, and so much more. Science demands reproducibility and repeatability. The simplest of experiments must be conducted over and over again to ensure that the results obtained aren’t anomalies but follow a pattern. I realised that obsessiveness plays a vital role in science (something which was reinforced today when I had to weigh out an infinitesimal amount of a compound, and obsessiveness wouldn’t let me go even a little over or under).

I have undergone many regimes to help me overcome my obsessive tendencies, none of which have had much success. Usually, I’d be awning for something therapeutic to come along and put my mind at ease. Recently, however, I’ve realised how big an asset obsessiveness can actually be. At the end of the day, it’s all about realising what you want to be obsessed with, and coming to terms with the fact that your obsession will consume you utterly.

Of course, things never really work that way. Despite this realisation, I found my obsessions just as disabling as they were before. I still spend half an hour this morning deciding what I would wear to the lab, and a further ten minutes deciding which route to take. However, these are quirks which have been an annoyance for years, whereas the positive spin is new, and by virtue of it being new and positive, it is more dear to me than the regular rigmarole. For a long time, I plan on revelling in the benevolence of my obsessive nature, and to channel as much of that obsessiveness in my work as possible.

As a poster in my lab proudly proclaims: “Research requires dedication and money”. Thanks to the obsessive tendencies, the dedication part is taken care of by itself.

 

The Proper Reader

One of the few good things, as some may argue, that have come out of this age of digitisation, is a great increase in the reader population of the planet. Be it non-fiction, fine literature, high or low fantasy, young adult or even Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (which, in fact, does merit a category of its own), reading has taken a great leap to the top spots amongst the hobbies of people today, along with masturbation and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. And so the writers are happy because they are being read more, and the readers are happy because there is more to read. But, as is the unfortunate case with the world we live in, someone is ALWAYS unhappy. So, in this day and age, WHO is that someone?

That someone is the Proper Reader. That someone is a person who understands the intricacies of language, appreciates the magnificent beauty of fine literature, and finds him or herself unable to withstand the torture being inflicted upon young and older minds alike under the guise of literature.

And why is it, you may ask, that we must conform our choices and preferences in reading to the opinions of this unknown, self-proclaimed and more or less snobbish “Proper Reader”, so to speak? What makes this Proper Reader qualified enough to tell us what literature is good and bad, and indeed what makes some things literature and other things not? Who is this Proper Reader to tell us that works such as My Name Is Red and Norwegian Wood are finer pieces of literature than, say, the atrocities of Chetan Bhagat, or the Casio scientific calculator manual which has never to this day been fully perused?

Experience is the answer, to put it rather metaphorically and in one word. It is the vast experience which the Proper Reader has which allows him or her to discern good quality writing from the hogwash which can be seen commonly floating around the Internet and in the regular columns of printed dailies. And this experience isn’t garnered by glancing over the new threads and notifications on GoodReads, though that is a great place to start. No, that experience comes from flipping page after page of aeons of the written word, learning to appreciate the finesse of a seasoned writer and acquiring the art of telling the skilled pen apart from the hastily typed up sob story written by exhausted individuals looking to kill some time.

Of course, the real question on all our minds is, how does it really matter? Through books, if indeed James Dashner authored onslaughts can be so called, we are provided with entertainment and amusement, and we get to learn something, even though it may be very, very little. So how does it matter if we only read the hogwash, and leave the most intricate works for scholars and people who don’t have to go to 25th-floor, morning jobs trampling through the subway? So what if we are content with The Devil Wears Prada and would rather read Eat Pray Love than Madame Bovary?

At this point, the Proper Reader, assuming he or she hasn’t had a fatal heart attack, would promptly rise and display before us a picture of the Eiffel Tower, and then show the image of a garbage heap in the corner of a dark alley. The Proper Reader would then ask us: “why do you gaze upon the Eiffel Tower with such awe and admiration, and not even give a second glance to the pile of garbage? If you need something to look at, something for your eyes to do while you dine or chat with friends, then why not just stare at the garbage and contend yourself?” And, of course, the Proper Reader would be right.

It is about the preservation of the unique and the brilliant. It is about appreciation of the art and talent of individuals who have given their life to creating something for the world to admire. But more than any of that, it is about exposing ourselves to that which not only makes us better individuals but also makes us a smarter and overall better civilisation. If we cannot, at this stage of brilliance, appreciate the talents of the Jules Verne and Charles Dickens above the likes of John Grisham, then what right do we carry of calling ourselves civilised?

It is our duty as men and women of knowledge to distinguish the extraordinary from the mundane, to revere the fine above the brutish and to elevate the former so high that when the oceans of ignorance sweep over our existence, we are purged of the latter. We must commit our cause to these higher beings, who have given us such treasures which we may behold, and may one day look upon and beam with pride as we recognize that we belong to the civilisation which created them.

All that said and done, HOW does one gain this experience, without spending an eternity absorbed in books? Isn’t there an easier way out, the chance to appreciate the peaks of literary perfection without having to slog through trilogies of overdone sex stories turned into catastrophic movies starring Jamie Dornan in a less than flattering role?

The answer, if not already obvious by the hinted sarcasm in the question posed above, is no. However, we don’t have to go through all works which have been deemed great over the course of history to find the epitome of good literature. All that we need to do is incorporate some of these revered texts into our daily lives and to see how much of a difference they make. Just replacing one subpar novella with a collection of O. Henry short stories will be the change of a lifetime, and from there on, the journey through the world of literature is, literally (so to speak) endless.

We only need to pick up that one literary book which gets us by the guts and drags us down to a literary Nirvana which we could never have found without the guidance of that particular writer. Sure, the first “great” book that we pick up may not do the trick for us, but we must keep trying, and therein lies the secret of the Proper Reader. The Proper Reader is relentless in his or her pursuit to find that literary work which transcends time and space, and places the reader firmly within the mind of the writer, allowing there to be flawless communication of beautiful thought and feeling.

The Proper Reader, were he or she able to address you, would surely just say this. Put down whatever insignificant story you are pretending to engage in at the moment, and ruffle the pages of history to find the writing which calls to you. Just give it a chance. Allow the timeless work of a beautiful mind to remain timeless, and prevent it from being swallowed up and buried beneath miles of neglect. The Proper Reader, and the human civilisation, and maybe even the universe, would be forever thankful to you.

In honour of the written word…