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!)

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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.

 

One step at a time

Dear 2017,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health, perhaps just settling into your cushioned armchair for yet another day in office. I am, I realise well, by no means the first person to send you this letter, and I certainly won’t be the last. We know for a certainty that twelve months from now, you’ll have a barrage of letters either thanking you for all you’ve done during your term or chiding you for the things you got wrong.

By today, I hope, you are done with your celebrations. It seems like you got ahead of yourself a little there during your victory gala, what with Istanbul and Bangalore, but that was before you were officially sworn in, so I guess we can let that slide. Maybe you even made some rather hasty decisions in your first two days here, but, again, we can get past that. After today, though, I hope you have gotten serious. You have had plenty of time to learn the ropes, and I hope you have gotten the hang of it.

On your desk sits a red folder labelled “Catastrophe”, which chronicles the events which occurred during the reign of your predecessor, 2016. The folder also contains a list of deaths which came too soon, or too suddenly, or just at a wrong time. You will notice that towards the end of 2016’s term, things got violently out of hand. Perhaps due to the constant berating that it had gotten throughout the year, or because it was eager to leave office with a bang, or maybe it just wasn’t ready to leave yet, 2016 lost control of what was happening. I hope, and trust, that the same will not be the case with you.

We all learn from our mistakes. Some things, of course, are beyond your control. Anyone who has ever held an office of any sort will realise that tough decisions need to be made. We will try to not begrudge you your hard, and seemingly cruel, decisions, but we are creatures of hope after all. The good thing is that your predecessor set a very low standard of how a year should progress, so there is a lot of room for you to shine. My only advice to you, and I realise that I may be overstepping my welcome here, is that you take it one step at a time.

Your office, at this moment, is probably cluttered with documents detailing the events that took place in 2016, both good and bad, large and small. All I ask of you is to not be alarmed. Glance periodically at the “Catastrophe” folder and remember that most of those events haven’t gone down in history as the best of times. Do not feel the need to catch up to 2016. Remember, fires that burn bright usually burn for a short time. Be the steadily flame that we need; give us light when we need it, and warmth when we want it. You do not need to follow in the footsteps of 2016. You are your own entity, and it is up to you to create a name for yourself.

Though, this may just be the same advice that 2016 was given when it took office. Maybe everything that 2016 has done has been its way of making a name for itself. If that is the case, then you have to be careful. It is better to go down in history as careful than fiery. Making a name for yourself doesn’t mean that you outrage against the people, for we are the reason you exist. We have defined you and brought you into existence and have chosen you to carry us through the next trip around the sun. Do not ever forget that. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

A hundred years ago, your predecessors decided that they would like to make a name for themselves, too. 1914-1918 were bad examples of how this office should be run. Learn from them, as 1918 eventually did, but do not get inspired by them, as 1939 probably did. Do not worry about oblivion, though. Just because you haven’t been exploding all over the place doesn’t mean we won’t remember you. Yours will be the term when hundreds of people are born, close ones die, great things are invented, and many discoveries made. And even if it were not so, you become a part of a chronology when you swear yourself in, and chronologies don’t exclude one of their own. You will not fade out, I promise you.

Knowing how much you have seen, you would already know this, but I feel it is my duty to remind you nonetheless: there is no such thing as universal popularity. There has not been a single year which has been liked by everyone, and, conversely, no one year has been completely hated. The best example of that is 2016. Amongst the hate mail which was sent towards 2016, a large part of it was my own, I saw a lot of fan letters. I was astounded at how many people held 2016 in a positive regard. One of 2016’s earliest judgements was the death of Alan Rickman, so my affection for it had never picked up to start with, but for millions, it was a year of self-discovery.

So you see? You can do everything right, and still be hated for it, and you can mess up on colossal scales and still have people who love you. Remember, though, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Do not let the affection of the few deter you from the path of what is right and, what is infinitely more important, what is sensible. There is no rush to prove yourself. You have been given a fixed time and no one can take this time away from you. Use it well. It just so happens that you have taken office when we have to give you one less day than we did 2016. Please don’t take that personally; it’s just the way things are done around here.

We have faith in you, 2017, please do not let us down. One step at a time, my dear, and you should be just fine. The world is caught in a maddening race, and you need to be the one who provides us with the stillness of surety. Do not get roped into the race yourself. Do not try to outrun your people, because we will keep going on even if we lose, but this is your only shot at it, and you cannot waste it running races.

One step at a time, my love, and you should be just fine.

Yours,

Anirudh

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.

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…

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.