66 kilometres per second

I have found, over the years, that I am drawn to a great many things and that my interest in these varied fields is very volatile. It is as though these interests are competing for more “brain space”; trying to make sure that at any given point of time, they are the first thing on my mind. Amongst these diverse interests is astronomy, otherwise known as the science of feeling irrelevant. Astronomy recently won the Brain Space Contest, successfully managing to dominate every waking moment of mine in what can only be described as a landslide victory.

You see, the world recently played host to the Eta Aquarids meteor shower. The shower is nothing special, so to speak: it happens every year, lasts two to three days, can be seen throughout the night but you have to wait until dawn to see it properly, and each meteor streaks across the sky so fast that there is barely time to get a glimpse of it (how fast? Take a guess). And yet, for reasons I still cannot exactly recall, I was adamant to see it.

So I picked up my phone and called (I texted, really, but called is so much more dramatic) up the few people I know here who would be interested in accompanying me to a faraway spot in the middle of the night. I was not very disappointed. At three in the morning, I set off from my house with my band of followers, blindly placing their trust (and, more importantly, their sleep) in my hands. Needless to say, I had been subjected to a plentiful of threats that past evening, warning me that there had better be something worthwhile to see if I wanted to return home in a recognizable state. I was, expectedly, terrified. At around four, we rendezvoused with some more of my friends on the way and together headed off to the isolated, hopefully light-free, area which would host us for the remaining hours of darkness.

A bit more walking, mostly uphill, and we were there. I had somehow managed to gather seven eager souls, all of who were expecting the dome to come to life at any moment. Two of them, busy bees that they are, left us atop that lonely hill, but the other five resolutely stayed back, cementing their interest, and their ominous warnings, for yet another time. And then, we waited.

Speaking from a very honest, very objective, point of view, it was not a comfortable wait. The hill on which we were perched was riddled with stones and twigs, making reclining extremely unpleasant and mosquitoes had waged a war against mankind, launching the first of their attacks on us. Despite all this, I still maintain that I have rarely been more at ease than I was on that night. I frequently found myself lost in concentration with my friends, or gazing up at whatever few stars I could see (the most inopportune of all cloud covers prevailed that day).

The walk there alone had been astoundingly refreshing. We had had a run in with quite a few guards, stationed specifically to stop this kind of nighttime strolling by the students, but had found them almost compliant with the state of affairs. A pack of dogs seemed to take a particular fancy to us, before deciding that the sexual pleasures they derive from their own species are greater than interspecific, platonic love. Even the murderous glares I had received when confessing that I did not exactly know the place to which we were going seemed to accentuate the perfection of the night. And then we had reached, and the tensions which had been climbing seemed to alleviate. Breathing was easier (mostly because we weren’t climbing uphill anymore), and there was an inherent feeling of a relaxed atmosphere which prevailed.

The hour and a half before dawn passed by very slowly; the movement of Pluto across the sky was one of the fastest things in our surrounding. Complaints had started ringing through the air, accusing me of leading them on a wild-goose chase, or of wasting their time; complaints which I deftly ignored in the anticipation of the sight, I was sure, we were about to see. Harbouring blind faith, I stared eastward, glaring in the direction where I knew the Aquarius constellation hung smugly in the sky, daring it to disappoint me tonight while also pleading for it to come through. I frequently checked my phone, reassuring myself that dawn would bring with it the promised shower.

The passing minutes were dampening to the spirit, and it truly seemed as though the night would be a fruitless one. Religious, though, in my expectations of the night, I remained undeterred: the sky would blaze with meteors this morning, I knew it. And in that moment, the sheer magnitude of, well, EVERYTHING, seemed to crash down upon me. All my beliefs and opinions on the grand cosmic scale of things came to me at once(opinions which I have once spoken about at length: The Great Cosmic Dice), and I found myself staring in awe at the steadily brightening sky. That we were here, waiting eagerly for a few bright flashes in the sky, seemed to me the greatest testament to the beauty of the universe, unphased in its entirety by the existence or absence of mankind. The universe, it hit me, didn’t care. However, it also struck me just how far we had come in our understanding of the universe itself: that we were here, waiting eagerly for a few bright flashes in the sky, was the greatest testament to how well we had understood the mysteries of nature.

And in that moment, it didn’t matter if I got to see the shower or not, because we had already acknowledged the universe and the existence of a phenomenon which didn’t need to be validated by mankind’s limited observation. It didn’t matter if we got to see the shower or not, because the hours we’d spent waiting for this little display meant nothing to the universe, and would mean nothing for the years and years to come. The Eta Aquardis would happen whether we were there to watch it or not.

I have often been of the opinion that the Universe is able to hear what we say, and while I acknowledge that the opinion is very faulty, sometimes the evidence is overwhelming. Even as I thought about how it wouldn’t matter at all whether we saw the shower or not, a bright light streaked across the sky, whiter than anything in the sky, so fast and so sudden that it was barely visible, and a small smile came upon my lips.

All this, for a faint white light, moving across the sky at sixty-six kilometres per hour.


“You can’t call people fat!”

The past few weeks have been remarkably eventful, thus launching me into another spell of absence from this little corner of the Internet that I have come to be so fond of. More importantly, however, these weeks have given me a lot to think about, thus, as though by some crooked sense of consequence, a lot to write about. Dwindling between the sweetness of slumber and the cruelty of consciousness, I find myself unable to give much thought to the topics at hand, and so I’ll write about something which has been on my mind for quite some time.

Recently, in an attempt to show that we care about society as much as we care about ourselves, the institute where I study commissioned a trip to a cancer hospital and a nursing home, to be headed by the Student Council, of which I am a part. And so a meeting was scheduled by the president of our council to discuss the trip and our respective roles in the project. For reasons best left to the imagination, philanthropy isn’t my strong suit. My distaste for charitable activities is evident for the best of causes, and here I was at the centre of one of the most pretentious undertakings I had ever seen. Needless to say, emotions ran high.

Using every last device of cunning left in my arsenal (pardon the exaggeration; it was more along the lines of trading favours with the council president), I managed to get out of going to the ghastly place, while boisterously announcing my relief. As expected, tones of disapproval rang sharp in the background. People who have very questionable morals of their own started lecturing me about my heartless nature, and how I need to “get over myself” or need to “have a heart”.

And once again I was face to face with an arbitrarily defined sense of social correctness. A set of defined morals was somehow governing my life and deciding whether or not my opinions were socially acceptable. People who were vaguely aware of society’s definition of good or bad carried the license to judge me on my beliefs, while completely disregarding their own in favour of what the “world” deemed correct. Almost all the people seated in that room were of a similar opinion to mine, and yet when I voiced mine, pandemonium seemed to reign. Hypocrisy, it would seem, had once again dominated a social gathering.

It wasn’t just here, though, that I had spotted such behaviour. Every once in a while, I’d make the grave mistake of stating my opinion amongst people who, curiously enough, shared that very same opinion, and almost every time I would get shot down for being rude or uncouth or insensitive or, in the particularly amusing cases, inhuman. Not four days ago, I was given a present by a good friend of mine, and I reacted in a way which wasn’t particularly warm, but was certainly not hostile, and, above all, it was honest. From the tone of this sentence and the post in general, it is not difficult to infer the discussions that followed with my friend, who seemed thoroughly upset that I had reacted the way I had.

These examples, and so many others like them, seem to deliver a clear message: you can’t speak your mind if what you think or feel isn’t socially acceptable. Leaving personal opinions aside for a second, we are faced today with a society which condemns even the most objective of statements, if they seem to clash with social correctness. The title of this post is an allusion to the same, but it is also a small reference to something which I’ve always had problems with. I still remember being forcibly told that calling people fat was wrong, and being given no good reason for it.

Such pointless doctrine has been instilled into society so forcibly that any kind of social reform is a distant dream. We are so oblivious to the value of unadulterated honesty and so sensitive to our own insecurities that having them realised in the form of words is deeply unsettling. Instead of coming face to face with the ideas of one another, we wish to shy away from our thoughts and insecurities, because someone sometime ago decreed certain things incorrect.

The end of this spiteful posts hopes to see some kind of a social reform in the near future, so that I can speak my mind without threat of persecution.

It’s time to come out, now.

My writing desk has faced some neglect of late, for which I would like to apologise. Societal obligations have kept me both busy and uninspired, leading to a sorrowful lack in any literary endeavours I may have chosen to undertake. Indeed, even as I write this, I have a plethora of books and documents open on my computer, which is adamant to drag me to the bottom of the endless ocean that is the mainstream education system. The world, it would seem, has taken a grave disliking to my episodes of deep thinking and subsequent contributions (and here, I do take the liberty to assume that my ramblings are a contribution) that follow.

Society, as though under the obligation to maintain the karmic balance, has provided me with very many things to write about for the past few weeks. One of those fleeting moments of literary inspiration is the progenitor of this post. The conceptualisation of this post had taken place many months ago, but the actualisation is almost entirely due to a post which came out (no allusions to the title), written by my extremely talented friend. The post, cleverly titled “Closets are Claustrophobic” (the post is a great read, do check it out by clicking on the title and letting technology control your every move from there on out), spoke about much the same issue I wish to discuss here, but in what I opine as a much more refined manner.

I’ve always had trouble with the phrase “coming out”. It always seemed unfair to me that people of a certain sexual orientation were deemed living “in the closet” until such time as they chose to reveal their sexuality while their heterosexual counterparts could go about daily life in a decidedly un-Narnian fashion. It sickens me to my core to say this, but having been a homophobe for a large part of my life, I didn’t give much thought to this phrasing, something which I now sorely regret. Far more than the phrase, the actual discrimination which exists on the basis of something as deep-rooted and involuntary as sexual orientation is a cause for concern.

I have been fortunate enough to have very accepting friends (family is beautifully ignorant until this point) when it came to my sexual orientation. However, I’ve had a fair few encounters with woefully misguided people, who have been left scandalised at my “revelation”, visibly cringing away from me at times and changing the way they talked and behaved around me.  Then there are those who treat sexuality like an alien, fascinating phenomenon, mixing together their sense of wonderment and prevalent stereotypes in the crudest of ways. But of all the different reactions that people have, I find the worst ones always fall into the category of “it’s not your fault; it’s not something you choose or have any control over”.

Even though I have had quite a lot of practice dealing with these varied responses, it still takes me a few moments to calm myself down before I explain that it’s no one’s “fault”, and that there is nothing at fault in this case. Between the throng of people who pretend to be understanding of the “situation” or the “condition” and the cold-shoulder-turners, it’s very understandable why such a great number of people wish to remain “in the closet”. This is a scenario which is exceedingly seen in India, which is ironic considering that the country boasts of its diversity to anyone who can stop taking pictures of the slums for even a second, and refuses to be accepting of a whole social demographic.

It’s not that the country is vehemently homophobic, even though it may seem like it, but the people are shamefully unaware of the nature of sexuality. Yes, India has very many issues with acceptance, and that predicament is only heightened due to the lack of awareness. To many Indians, and certainly to the government, homosexuality is still a disease, something “unnatural” which must be stamped out of the population and criminalised. In many circles of India, homosexuality is an affliction which can be treated by religion, brute force, shaming, or, ironically in the more educated circles, therapy. One of the times when I have been the most taken aback in my life was when a junior resident of psychiatry at one of the most renowned hospitals in the country insisted that “reverting” to heterosexuality was better for the mental health of patients.

What bothers me the most about all of this, though, is the hypocritical nature of the Indian society. Having spent my final two years of high school in an all boys residential school, I, unfortunately, have first-hand knowledge of what usually transpires in sexually starved communities. Four classes of people seemed to exist at my school: the vehemently heterosexual, for whom any kind of homosexual contact was both unfathomable and repulsive; the ones who were exploring their sexuality and who would make sure that news of their experimentation never leaked; the ones who had been so starved of sexual contact that flesh was all they needed, be it of man or woman, but who would never let this side of their identity be seen; and the homosexuals. All these classes, however, had one thing in common: they were all very outspoken and wore their distaste for homosexuality proudly on their sleeve.

The post which I have linked covers a lot of the things that I wanted to talk about, but there is one point which I feel can never be stressed enough. Ridicule of homosexuals and the LGBT has been a long-standing cultural norm in modern society, from way before the time of “Gay Related Immune Disorder”. It is good to see how many people have undergone the political reforms which prevent them from mocking people of specific sexual orientations, but at the same time, it is disheartening to see how much abuse is still prevalent. Using words like “gay” in a derogatory context remains to this day a common practice, and it baffles me how a progress civilisation can think that this is at all acceptable. The freight-train doesn’t even remotely stop here, though. Psychological and emotional abuse, if not physical, is constantly doled out in buckets, not only to individuals of a non-heterosexual orientation but to anyone who “seems gay”.

People will spend hours of their time watching crude homosexual pornography, and then turn their faces towards the world and comment on how gross and unnatural homosexuality is, making it a point to equate everything even remotely displeasing with a non-heterosexual orientation. Yes, it was inspiring to see countless Indian take to the streets when the Supreme Court recriminalized homosexual sex in India, but if it takes gross injustice to raise a voice against such discrimination and to show solidarity for the LGBT, then it isn’t hard to understand why so many people choose to hide their identities for their entire lives.

India has a history of teaching its children to not be proud of themselves and making them understand that unless they conform to a manner that is acceptable to society, they are not worth it. As gut-wrenchingly sick as that is, it’s even more wrong in the case of sexuality. Countries across the globe place so much importance on “fitting in”, that members of the LGBT have no choice but to prevent their identities from ever being revealed, lest the predominantly heterosexual society consider them as outcasts. And no one, absolutely no one, should have to live with that kind of psychological trauma or stress.

I realise that I have made any generalisations here, and I would like to apologise for any feelings that may have been hurt. It is not my intention to cause discord, but to make sure that society acknowledges the LGBT as on of them, and doesn’t make it their mission to create a rift between two halves of humanity.

Kill it with Kindness

This post is long overdue. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a symposium on “Remembering Charles Darwin”, during which the concept of Parent-Offspring conflict was extensively discussed. One aspect of the Parent-Offspring conflict was the constant attention-seeking tactics of the child, which caused the parents to devote their attention to the offspring, thereby preventing them from having the time to create more progeny. The parents, of course, cannot blame their young one for this particular phenomenon, and so the unconceived sibling is effectively “killed” by the kindness that the parents show towards the child.

This concept sent me a long way back to when I had read “The Taming of the Shrew”, where Petruchio alleges that he is killing Kate’s spirit, but he is doing it with kindness. His definition of kindness is rather crooked, for he categorises starving his wife and depriving her of sleep as kindness. In his defense, brutality at that time was physical abuse, so this kind of psychological trauma could be seen as kindness, if only in a very screwed up way.

But the phrase has evolved considerably since the Bard used it, and today it has taken on a different meaning entirely, one which is much closer to the one referenced in the case of the Parent-Offspring conflict. Today, to kill with kindness is to shower the subject of your affections with so much kindness and love, that they (figuratively) choke on the intensity of the emotion. We see it more commonly that we assume, with couples constantly asking for “space” from each other, or children needing “time” away from their parents, or any other of the myriad of examples available.

Even literature has reflected this change. The expression of affection has become more and more superficial over the years, be it the teary-eyed romance of The Fault In Our Stars or the pseud-passionate love affair of *shudder* The Fifty Shades of Grey. Art forms, in general, seem to have taken it upon themselves to be proponents of this new form of kindness genocide, with increasing amounts of pop music reflecting sickly sweet ideas which are not only gag-worthy but also completely ineffective.

The popular song by Florence and the Machine entitled “Dog Days Are Over” inevitably comes to mind when discussing this concept. To those who may not have heard this song, there is a line in it which goes: “she killed it with kisses”, and that line, for me, is a perfect representation of this idea.

We have, in my humble opinion, lost the subtle art of expressing ourselves and our emotions effectively, without making unnecessarily overt gestures. Only the other day, I was reading something written by an acquaintance of mine, and couldn’t help but notice that a very simple (and very overused) concept had been presented with gross overuse of words and an unflattering amount of literary elements. Everything stated in that page long passage could have been better expressed in a simple paragraph by a competent writer, and, of course, got me thinking.

Is it simply an unprecedented extrapolation of the age old adage “the more the merrier” which has landed us here today, at a stage where we feel it necessary to pile things on to such an extent that we eventually end up crushing our object itself?  If so, proverbialism has done us a great disservice.

In keeping with the theme of this post, I shall stop writing here, with deep hope in my heart that the mass murder of things by kindness will cease shortly.

The Science of Cooking

For many years now, I have been dabbling in the fine arts of the culinary and, indeed, have come to associate cooking with my hobbies and, I may be deluded here, my talents. Hard as I may try to think back to my first excursion into the kitchen or my first “dish”, I find that I cannot in honest faith recollect those initial incidences. I had what would seem an Athenian birth; wielding spatulas and cooking pans as I emerged fully robed in Chef whites.

Though I cannot precisely point to the event where my journey into the world of gastronomy began, I can certainly illustrate the time period where I finally realised that there was much more to food and cooking than the utilitarian nature which I had thus far believed. Soon after indulging in the sacred practice of cooking, I began to appreciate the skill of cooking for its aesthetic appeal and its sheer artistic value. My cooking procedure, which had earlier consisted only of following the recipe to the teaspoon, now comprised the usage of the appropriate amount of ingredients and making the food look good. Of course, being all of nine years old at the time, the extent of my presentation was chopping up some coriander and sprinkling it on top of whatever it is that I had cooked.

From there on, my journey through the world of cuisine was unending and unblemished, even by the sheer number of erroneous experiences I’d had. I then started to pay more attention to the ingredients, and the way those ingredients interacted with other ingredients, and every other concept of food imaginable right down to wine pairings, but vehemently ignoring calorific content, for obvious reasons. I soon reached that point where cooking became as intrinsic a way for the expression of myself and as great a necessity to my existence as writing itself, which is saying something.

Maybe a year or so ago, some of the steps during cooking which were a given (using a cold egg for baking; marinading meats in oil; allowing butter to melt before adding in the garlic; etc.) seemed to me to stem out of nowhere, and yet they were very necessary pieces of advice. If you have tried to use a warm egg for baking, you’ll know that the result is never quite as satisfying. Being the curious little child that I am, I found myself thinking on end about the reasons behind these idiosyncrasies and realised that since all food substances were, in fact, chemicals, there must be some reactions taking place here. And thus began my journey into the scientific approach to food.

I have been berated many times for “ruining” the artistic nature of cooking by making it technical and scientific, but I see it as further beautification of an already mesmerising phenomenon. To find out why ingredients behave the way they do, and what you can do to accentuate them even further, is to me a very stimulating idea. Of course, being an aspiring genetic engineer means that the idea of manipulation of natural entities for greater output is much more romantic to me than to others, who see the calculated precision of modifying ingredients as nothing short of blasphemy.

Of course, over time I have become rather skilled at ignoring the pointless droning on and opinions of those I obnoxiously call less aware. And so bearing my scientific approach proudly upon my sleeve, I set forth on my journey to explain the unfathomable divinity that is cooking with the help of science and thereby using this newfound knowledge to excel in the field of amateur chef-ness.

And so, earlier today, The Science of Cooking was born. It is yet another blog which I have started on the very nurturing platform that is WordPress (the other one is “Archives” if ever you have the desire to delve into amateur poetry). As the name suggests, The Science of Cooking is all about the chemistry and biology and physics and math of cooking and takes an empirical spin on the classic cooking techniques and recipes, as well as bringing up new, and experimentally tried, ways of making the kitchen life easier.

Please do check out The Science of Cooking; it promises to be great.



The life of an If-You-Can-Type-In-Full-Sentences-Sexual

Sapiosexuality, it would seem, is a sin in this day and age. Apparently, to covet a beau (yes, I dare to use that word) who is able to hold a conversation for longer than ten minutes without talking about the specifications of your fun bits is a ghastly mistake. With a population that is growing exponentially and a world that is growing smaller by none too small a rate, this lack of intellectually stimulating partners is frustrating, to say the least. The Age of Idiotic bedmates is upon us, gender irrespective.

There have been numerous occasions when someone of interest has had all the necessary physical charms, is the right age and the right distance away, and is otherwise ideal for casual merry-making, but have lost their appeal the moment they spoke. Words, which so often “seal the deal” where other factors simply cannot, seem to be the downfall of these circumstances, leaving me deeply disheartened and thoroughly deprived of a good evening. Individuals with increasingly lucrative prospects have driven me to the edge of sanity in awe of their charisma, before rudely pushing me back into the heartless reality which gleefully blares that: “no one has it all”.

And so, it seems, no one does. Indeed, the time has now come when I cannot even remember the last time I was associated with a person whom I found stimulating, in the only way that really counts. Not that I devoutly search for physical attributes when looking for possible courters (not that I would ever admit to it here for fear of appearing shallow) but it would be nice if, once in a while, a pretty face were blessed with a shadow of aesthetic common sense. In fact, the physical traits may be entirely ignored in the case of a person who, as the title of this rather an age inappropriate post proudly proclaims, can type in full sentences.

Nothing, in my opinion, is a bigger turnoff than dreaming of chatting up a beautiful specimen of mankind, coming up with a witty introduction to yourself and receiving the words: “lol. hw r u” in response. There are days, however, when those not quite Adonis-like respond to messages in language to impress, but the rarity of those events compared to the frequency of the former makes the overall issue a rather solemn one. One good chat does not a satisfied teenager make.

I wish I could give mankind the benefit of the doubt and say that only the gender which I have approached with less than sandbox-playmate intentions has presented me with such sorrowful results; alas, it is not so. Adamant to find myself the perfect blend of charm and humour, of beauty and wit, of intellect and goof, and basically any other balance there is, I expanded my horizons beyond the boundaries of gender discrimination. Finally, after years of having society define me as heterosexual, and me defining myself as bisexual, I was forced to conclude that I was, in fact, a sapiosexual and that there was nothing that I could do about it.

Of course, the fact that I am distinctly unable to maintain good relations with people is one which I have conveniently overlooked more times than is healthy. Only recently, I found myself thoroughly immersed in an individual who seems to have been formulated out of the concoction of characteristics I mentioned above, with a face to put Narcissus to shame. I would like to tell you the tale of how well we resonate, and how you are all invited to our wedding, and to the high school graduation parties of our daughters Clarisse and Daniela, but then I would have to lie, and I feel we know each other too well for that by now. And so no, there has been none of that, and I am more or less to blame.

You see, I have become so unequipped with coming across a person with whom I can connect intellectually, that I have forgotten how to deal with the situation when it does arise. I find myself trying to squeeze in too many seconds into the one minute, too many minutes into the one hour, too many hours into the one day and so on in a futile attempt of getting as much out of that person as possible. Somewhere in a very deep, dark, unfriendly and decidedly asexual corner of my mind lurks a little voice which convinces me that if I don’t soak up this individual thoroughly at every chance, I shall be left to die in a miserable corner of my one-bedroom-apartment, overdosing on Class A drugs.

I don’t claim that I am superiorly intellectual (as I would like to believe) but just that it is very rare for me to find people who stand where I stand, on the Kinsey and other scales. Over time, I have come to accept that even when I am presented with such miracles of nature, I am bound to drive them away, and so the need to have an abundant supply of them in my vicinity has greatly increased, leading to my becoming more flustered and unbearable. And so the vicious cycle entraps me within its iron hold.

Just before I conclude this completely unnecessary piece of Internet space, I would like to acknowledge that this is, in fact, my first official “coming out” post of sorts, and to all those who receive great shocks at the revelation of my sexuality, I’d like to say just this: really, you should have known.

To those of you who are cursed with sapiosexual friends/relatives/children/siblings/cats: please excuse the narcissism, it’s not really our fault.

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

Why was this post not published yesterday, seconds after the news of her death rattled the world? Because there are times, albeit very few, when the mind is enslaved by the heart. The mind will know what must be done and when, but the heart will put a stop to it, it will put shackles around those thoughts and force you to just feel for a second, and that second will never end.

Barely a month after souls were ripped from their bodies across the globe at the traumatic news of Alan Rickman’s death, another grave tragedy has befallen us. Death has gotten used to the taste of benevolent souls, and has forgotten that balance must be maintained in the world. For the first time in my life, I am angry with Death for being greedy, for wanting the best for itself.

She was old. Unlike with the death of Alan Rickman, the shock factor wasn’t dominant here. Maybe that is the reason the thought of Alan Rickman only crossed my mind while I was writing this post: the emotions associated with both their deaths are so different that it makes no sense to draw analogies. And so, of course, I will be helpless in drawing analogies.

On the day of Rickman’s death, I remember feeling thoroughly cheated. I felt angry, shaken, shocked to my core, and more upset than I can explain. Yesterday, though, there was a kind of resignation in the sorrow that I felt. I knew that this day was coming, and I was prepared for the bombshell to drop, and so there was no great shock to mask the sorrow. Yesterday, I felt truly sad after a long time. I felt sad like I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was the raw force of the sadness, unmasked by any other emotion, which I think was so crippling, causing the delay in this post.

I had first read “To Kill a Mockingbird” sometime in the middle of seventh grade, and had taken an instant liking to Scout. Little did I know that Scout was more or less a spitting image of her creator. Over the years, Scout and I have come to be the best of friends, and Harper Lee was like out guiding figure, a motherly presence watching as her brainchild went ahead and made friends. Two years after reading the life-altering book for the first time, I got to know Harper Lee well, due to an assignment set to us in English class.

It was easy to get to know her. I suppose it was because I knew Scout so well by then that learning about Harper Lee was just like having another conversation with Scout. Lee was a firm presence throughout my life from that point onwards, and I was secure in knowing that a wrinkly woman somewhere in the US was alive and well.

When her book came out last year, I was nothing short of elated. Getting to see her in action again was surreal! My expectations weren’t well rewarded, however, and I decided that the only memories I wanted to have of Lee were those related to her original work. All was good yet again: tarnished memories had been forgotten, disagreements had been resolved, and Scout and I were on speaking terms once more.

Then I logged into my computer yesterday evening, and things took a turn for the worse. Amidst a horde of news items about the JNU fiasco (which did nothing to alleviate my foul mood) was a single story, saying something along the lines of: “Harper Lee dies at 89”. I don’t well recall the events immediately following this one, and I don’t think I want to. Something seemed to have slipped inside: not broken, but slipped. Broken implies shattering, or an unforeseen even causing irreparable damage. No, this was different. Something had slipped, and I still don’t know what it is, or where it’s slipped from, or where it’s slipped to. Maybe I’ll find it someday and place it back, who knows?

“Harper Lee is currently thriving at the remarkable age of 84” is how I had concluded my presentation that day in English class. Death, it seems, took my remark of “remarkable” as a challenge. Death does that sometimes, in an attempt to prove itself omnipotent, it uses our words to play with us. It’s sad, really.

And so something slipped. Something was wrong. The feeling of being hollowed out will take some getting used to, which is exactly what I say every time something disturbing happens. I don’t have a problem wrapping my head around the fact that she’s gone, as I did with Rickman. But here, there is something which I’ve never felt before, and hope to never feel again, because it’s a very permanent feeling with no end in sight. That feeling, the simple feeling which is much less insidious than others but sticks on forever, is a feeling of impending nothingness, the “what not” state if you will.

So, what now?

Death has taken a step out of line this time, because whatever may have happened, one thing is undeniable: It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

On the illusion of being well-informed

Once again, I find myself indebted to the mainstream system of education for presenting me with the opportunity, and to some extent the content, of yet another post. Instead, it is better said that the academic ordeal of which I speak wasn’t a direct contributor to this occurrence, but merely the dreaded path through which it was achieved.

Earlier this week, I was faced with the horrendous task known as “journal writing”. The task, which is a regular atrocity, entails copying content from one piece of paper mindlessly onto the other, for what I assume is the sadistic amusement of the examination board. It is, in my opinion, the most dreadful of all assignments conferred upon the students by the Indian education system, and I feel confident in stating that the Indian student body would unanimously benefit from its exclusion.

However, the extent of my displeasure with this particular catastrophe isn’t the subject of this post. No, today I wish to talk about how painstakingly putting myself through that displeasure led me to a profound realisation, albeit one which the world has made many times over already.

In a wildly desperate, yet wildly successful attempt to bring an end to the monotony of mindless copying, I put on some music from my playlist, which, by common consent, is quite distasteful. It was when one particular song was playing that my epiphany made itself apparent, and thus gave rise to this post.

The song of which I speak has now come to be one of my favourites, yet there was a time when I would very contemptuously skip that song whenever it had the audacity to play. When I’d first heard that song, and indeed for a few times after, I’d convinced myself that the lyrics of the song were not possible to be deciphered, on account of the singer’s poor enunciation. Recently, frustrated by my inability to make sense of what is an insanely popular song, and crippled by my all consuming obsession with song lyrics, I gave in and “Googled” the words.

As though a dense fog had been lifted off my mind the moment I read the words upon the screen. What’s more, whenever I had heard the song hence, including on the fateful evening of which I speak, I found myself clearly understanding the lyrics which had so far been nothing but elusive. And so while I was mechanically scribbling away into my notebook and this song played, I found myself humming along with it, whispering the words into the air, completely unaware that I now knew the lyrics well enough to sing along.

It was then that I had to pause the gruelling task which was engaging me, and think back upon the days when I had thought the song incomprehensible. The epiphany ran thus: our knowledge, all our knowledge, is an illusion, brought about by incidences of learning which we do not give due credit to. To make this rather cryptic statement clearer, I’ll take the example of what I have been talking about thus far. It is now impossible for me to think of a time when I did not know the lyrics of this particular song, because they seem so obvious in the light of the new knowledge I have acquired.

How is it possible that something which is so thoroughly apparent to me now, was so utterly elusive then? How has the simple acquisition of knowledge made me forget the sensation of being ignorant? And so I extrapolated this particular theory, if you will, onto other aspects of life and existence. I came to the rather startling realisation that a lot of the information we take for granted is actually a compilation of things we never knew, and things which we thought we never would be able to understand, until such time as we found them out.

The favourite colour of your best friend, perhaps, may serve as an example. Your favourite dish, another. A third could be the knowledge of the grammar of your first language. There is so much knowledge within us which we assume is a given, or which we take for granted, not realising that we are born with nothing in our heads, and that even things which seem like they’ve always been there, haven’t.

Of course, shortly after realising this, I saw the bulk of content before me still waiting to be written, and I left the realisation of this epiphany for another day. At this point, I’d like to end this very vague post with one question: does it count as an epiphany if it’s merely reflection upon something you’ve always known?

Food for thought, I guess, or something to distract yourself with this Valentine’s Day. Happy Loving, everyone.

To whom do we owe the pleasure?

First of all, I thought it best to state that the competition which I had spoken of last week has not yet concluded. It would seem that the dates have been extended, therefore the cunning beast that is hope still lurks somewhere deep within me. I am a child, after all, and a child liked to win. And so, as the masses say it, “fingers crossed”.

This post is related to my previous one, albeit very remotely. This post is nothing more or nothing less than my expression of gratitude to a person who seems to have made it their mission to help with the realisation of my writing dream. Though, in truth, I will never be able to thank them enough, I like to console myself in thinking that this form of expression comes a little close.

The person of whom I speak has come to be one of my favourite people in a very short span of time, which is a condition I both adore and intensely fear: it is not in my nature to bond with people I haven’t spent aeons with, and so rare exceptions such as these throw me well out of my comfort zone. This friend of mine has also, in what I believe to be heavily misguided judgement, has taken a strong liking to my writing, which I consider to be mediocre at best.

Earlier this week, while “Skyping” with said companion, I found myself victim to an unprecedented stream of compliments, and could not truthfully accept them for I knew that they weren’t strictly objective in their origins. However, those words had a most magical effect upon me, convincing me that giving up writing, as I had been planning to do for quite some time, would be nothing short of catastrophic. Armed, or rather fuelled, by the hot air which steadily replaced the blood in my body, I decided to make this particular contribution of mine a weekly affair, and am glad to say that so far it seems to be holding its own, even if it is a few days off.

Ever since that very stimulation web conversation, I have found myself deep in though about each of the things which were discussed, and have come to a rather blissful, if hasty, realisation. Every writer needs that one person who believes in them: not a fan, not even an ardent reader, and definitely not a literary critic. Just someone who knows where your writing is coming from, and would like to more of yourself expressed in words because they truly believe in your potential. Some people go their whole lifetimes without finding that one soul; fortunately, though, I can say with great certainty that I have found mine.

And so even on days when I have nothing to write about and no one to write for, not even myself, I will find myself sitting at my desk, penning something away half-consciously, just because I refuse to disappoint this one beautiful creature who has chosen to put their faith in me. I have no way to say this without sounding sinfully obnoxious, and I request that you forgive me for that, but I feel proud that I have someone of the sort, and someone who is unfathomably great in ways I can never even hope to be.

There exists between us a sort of connection which, if I am very truthful, I have never been able to feel with another. I have had friends who have been closer to me, of course, and people that I have loved more, but this connection is something entirely different. This is a connection based solely on thought: from my mind to my friend’s. This connection exists because I choose to write, and because my friend chooses to read what I write. I have an abundance of critics around me, who have helped me in ways I cannot even understand, and have helped me to grow as a writer, but the contributions of this one person will remain something different altogether.

And so the least I could do, early one Sunday morning, is take the opportunity to thank said individual, for giving me that most coveted of all offerings: their trust. Faith in a writer is, as I have said previously, an irreplaceable entity, and I am over the moon to think that I have received the same in brimming abundance from someone I myself hold in high regards.

I would be neither exaggerating nor in the wrong if I claimed today that everything I write henceforth, be it prose or poetry, has only come into existence because of my “comrade-in-arms”‘s belief in me. Ironically, it is now that I find myself at a loss for words, when words are the most important. Inept as I am at expression, I hope this will suffice as a small reflection of the deep gratitude which I feel for my dear, dear friend.

Thank you for your faith.

The woods are lovely, so to speak

In the one and a half years that I have been associated with my college, and the two year or so period in which I have been posting on this small corner of the Internet, I realised that I have never quite spoken about the wonderful institution which has offered its relentless services to me, not to mention has provided the inspiration for almost all my posts. In truth, I wouldn’t even have sat down to write this post, were it not for a brightly coloured poster displayed on the notice board of my college, announcing a university-wide competition for the elusive cult of “bloggers”.

The question, of course, presents itself: what to write about? Manipal University, and indeed Manipal, is brimming with aspects just waiting to be discussed on a worldwide forum, and I have always found myself incapable of making decisions. However, sitting on my balcony this fine evening, shamefully close to the deadline of the competition, I find myself drawn to the beauty, the sheer beauty, of this little town I have called home for so long, and hope to do for a while longer. And so, risking the outcome of the competition, I shall write today about the green woods of Manipal, in all their urbanised glory.

Earlier today, my friend and I arranged to meet for dinner, and even while taking the short walk from my house to the restaurant, I was startled by how nice the breeze felt, and how soothing the shadow of the trees was. There exists in Manipal a stretch of road, long enough that it can be called long, known as the “End Point Road”. I mention this because of all the places that there are to sit or walk or simply soak in nature in, this road is by far my favourite. Often, I can be found walking securely and surely along the road, with soft music playing in my ears, and a careless sort of smile on my lips. That’s just the way Manipal is, I suppose; it makes you feel relaxed.

I kid not, though, when I call the town urbanised. It is a small place bustling with far more activity than should be possible for a place this size. Perhaps that is why I appreciate the earthliness of Manipal even more: even amongst the throngs of colleges and residential blocks and shops and bars and restaurants and whatnot, Manipal manages to be a green place. I can walk on in any direction and still have the watchful eye of Mother Nature upon me. Indeed, there are places I have ventured out to where signs of civilisation are entirely absent, and I feel as though I have been transported to some exotic tropical forest.

Having spent a good part of my life growing up in a place with minimal commotion and abundant flora, Manipal’s offerings of trees and shrubs are nothing short of divine to me. It is this aspect of Manipal which I miss the most when I return to the busy streets of Delhi, so crawling with people and their vessels that no trees stand a chance. And so when my friends ask me why I so eagerly long to get back to Manipal whenever I am away, I have but one response: because Manipal is just so green.

Even as I write this, I can see myself walking the well known paths of the town which seems to know just what I need and when I need it. I find myself inadvertently planning my adventures for the following evening: whether to spend a quite session by the Manipal Lake, or to venture out onto the roads beyond the student haunt known as “Remix”. Indecisive as I am, I choose to leave the fate of my day up to my mood at the moment. But I am consoled by the fact that wherever I choose to go, I will have the comforting embrace of nature to keep me company, and to provide me with the feeling of contentment which I so crave, and which Manipal seems to supply in abundance.

Inadequate though I find it, I think I will end this post here. I would like to go on in painstaking detail about the beautiful hangouts of this precious town, but I must let the emotion sink in, and often we find that we convey too little by saying too much. And so I will leave it at that. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”, Frost once wrote, and I like to romanticise that had he seen Manipal, his words would have carried that much more meaning.

You see, Manipal is just so green.