Thursday, 26 September 2013

Crossroads and Dead Ends

No matter how many ultra-viral videos you see or ultra-crappy books you read, some philosophies strike home only when you have experienced it. And no, I'm not talking about life flashing back in your last moments, but a much more boring one, cited cliché: "Connecting the Dots".

I have also leant that before coming up with a theme as, well, weird; as "Crossroads and Dead Ends", I should have realised that responsibility of belling the cat lies on the mouse who proposes it. Therefore, here I am trying to recollect what came to my mind when I came up with the theme and what it means to me.

And like any populist Bollywood movie by an entrepreneur-cum-cry baby-cum-actor (in that order), this script also has a lot of flashbacks (albeit devoid of steeply inclined romantic Jesus poses). But just to hold your attention, the spoiler is, the "theme" is the link that connects mental patients, SimCity Deluxe and Bajaj Platina.

Part one, the Platina. It is a bike that can drive you home to school and back with no visible petrol in the tank. It is also powerful enough that you cannot have pillion rider unless its a stick-thin girl who calls you "brother" immediately after jumping on the seat.

Personally, the bike taught me a lot. For instance, the only way to be a petrol head in the future is to bomb middle east and acquire an oil well. That has really given me direction in life. It has taught me that if you are following a city bus (AKA mainstream life), be prepared for a lot of dust in your eyes. It has taught me that the best time to enjoy a road is in the rains, because everyone deserts it, but if you have the courage to face it, you will enjoy every meter of it and doing so will mark you either as a crazy idiot or a hero.

But the most important thing, when you are in a hurry, dead-ends are sometimes better than crossroads, because even though you face disappointment and certain panic, the only possible thing to do is to find a new way, and having the closure of knowing all a particular road holds. You learn that the glamour and chaos lie on the crossroads and memories at each dead-end.

Part two, metal patients. As a fair warning, this is a really twisted connection. So, here goes.

I have been enchanted with puzzles since a very early age. While exploring visual puzzles, it doesn't take anyone long to collide with Impossible Geometries. The most famous example of course, is the Penrose Staircase, made part of popular culture by Inception.

The interesting part about Visual Illusions is that stare at them long enough and you are guaranteed a headache. But what Lionel Penrose, the father of Penrose Stairs, discovered, is that mental patients, especially those who have grown-up with their disability, have very little problem in staring at these illusions for hours. In a way, they are actually much better in grasping them an average "normal" person. The reason, he said, was that they know how to distrust their own brains and senses.

But what puzzles and mental patients makes you understand is that crossroads and dead ends are equally confusing. But sometimes all you need, is a different perspective. You can sit with a puzzle for hours, then a friend might come up and solve it in a second, just because he had a different perspective. That's what crossroads and dead ends do, every crossroad and every dead end gives you an opportunity to think afresh.

Part three, SimCity Deluxe. To be honest, this one has no deep meaning to it. I was addicted to SimCity at that time, and a major part of your gameplay goes into laying out roads, and using Crossroads and Dead Ends to maximum use. For instance, having City Prison at a major Crossroad is not a good idea, crime rates really shoot up.

So, as a parting thought, Crossroads make you think where you want to go, Dead Ends make you think where you have come from, but the secret lies on paying attention to where you really are.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Marching through the fog

26 January approaches, or rather as it is now, sadly for most people I know, another 26 January approaches, for most except the kinds of my mom (who's a school teacher) and a section of Indian society (which isn't very small ),  for whom the day hardly means a thing, a holiday approaches, and for an awfully few people, Independence day approaches.

I remember studying about Indian freedom movement as a kid and getting the adrenaline rush on reading about our Freedom Fighters and pledging to do something for my nation too. I remember movies like Border by J.P. Dutta and Bhagat Singh and a multitude of others which used to be on every movie channel around both Independence Day and Republic Day and hurrying back from school function to see the march on Rajpath on Doordarshan, which slowly became the only time the channel was switched to in the whole year, and getting goosebumps on seeing the glory of Indian Armed forces in all its grandeur and the rush of pride for my nation.

I often used to argue with my Dad why Republic Day was celebrated with much more enthusiasm than Independence day, (my measure being the extent India flexed its armed muscles on Rajpath), saying that Independence Day was surely more important because we sprung free of bad Britishers (that's how it is in our textbooks!) and who cares when we wrote a couple of pages and called it our constitution and called ourselves republic (that was the limit of my understanding of being a republic i.e. having a constitution). Ironically, my inadequate description of constitution is perhaps exactly what quite a few people think our constitution is.

Sadly, now I understand things a little better and as a result everything has lost its charm. I still make it a point to see both the events if I can, but I realize I am now more concerned about who's the chief guest to understand India's International political stance (though I know it's absurd, the people being paid to do so don't have a clue either) or who's who is present at the event, trying to work machinations of Indian polity, and as for the main show, the enthusiastic and enthralling parade of Indian Armed Forces, to see which new weapons we have decided to flaunt this time.

I realize that this reflects the attitude of Indian media so much, who I'm afraid, midst all the frenzy of modern times, has completely lost track of its true purpose, to report to the people what really matters. There are no more mentions of gallantry award winners in Editorials or Talk-shows, neither any interview of kids winning bravery awards. A show discussing fashion statement of politicians gathers more airtime than an interview with force   chiefs.

But there's a positive side to it too, now I don't need a tax-money funded advertisement to tell me that India is shining, our generation has grown-up knowing that the world is watching, and people of the Indian subcontinent aren't the only one's interested in India's might (reasons, of course differ substantially), though Indian subcontinent is concerned about a lot more than only India's military strength now.

I usually gave a speech on Independence day in my school, I wasn't very good, but perhaps I was the only one stupid enough to do the dirty work, but I still remember a line I wrote when I was quite young.
"We have an ocean to our name, history is more or less ours, now it's time to claim the world." 

Of course, as I have learnt painfully, being optimistic isn't enough, we need to put a foot to it. Our leaders are banking on the tag line, "India can become the world's next superpower, so blah bah", but I fear that by time we are old and tired, and hence eligible for being Indian politician, we will be saying, "We could have been a superpower, because we never got to the point of saying, we are becoming a superpower"

I won't end this blog by trying to inspire you to do something for your country and blah blah... you have enough sense to know what you should do, what's wrong etc. etc... just wish you a Happy Republic Day, take it to be a early one if you read this a bit late, because sure as hell we'll have quite a lot of Republic days and hope that the oaths of our Preamble aren't forgotten on 364 days. 

P.S.: I know this is a bit too long, but hey! it feels good to write without a word  limit and thanks for bearing with the long length, and if you haven't read the whole thing, please try :-)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Voice of will

I have always heard and read and seen people talking and debating and demanding, "Right to Speech" or "Raising a voice" and similar phrases, but a small incident made me realize that all this is pointless, all one needs is strength of will.

The incident goes something like this

I was in the market parking area. The area in which I was is, by popular consensus, the busiest place in the city and the the limited parking slots are hotly contested.I could make out numerous arguments as I walked down the street. I noticed a group of youngsters arguing with the Parkingwala of the apparently largest parking sectors on the street. I was shocked when I realized that the Parkingwala was a mute. And despite his disability and estimated age of late forties, he was clearly dominating the argument against three youngsters, who soon surrendered to the inevitable and complied with the Parkingwala. 

I inquired around to find that he was one of the oldest Parkingwalas in the area and the most formidable. I was stunned by the way he managed the cramped parking spot. He blew away any arguments with his large eyes and commanding gestures. It amused me a little to think that no one could argue with him, literally. Here was not person who was disabled but not crippled, and silent appreciation of that man gave me enough to contemplate for a week.

I know nothing of him, a most ordinary looking guy you wouldn't notice in the crowd, and yet he manages his little empire with unmatched ferocity and complete silence. He doesn't talk nonsense to the crowd, and neither are people stopped from shouting at him, but in his empire, as in the world, it boils down to the simple fact, that your will can shake the world.

I have a habit of writing down quotes that I like, and due to the Parkingwala, I have written down a quote often quoted, but first understood by me that day.

"Khudi ko kar buland itna, 
Ke har takdeer se pehle khuda khud bande se poochhe,
Bata teri raza kya hai"

A sunny afternoon

My mother always complains, "You are too childish", but I often wonder how long she will be my mother if I am no more a child.

 I remember going back to the place where I grew up, and with horror I realized that my childhood dream had indeed come true, that I had grown up.

The long walk from the bus stand to home, where my whole day's plan with friends was easily whipped up, could hardly fit in my schedule, because after all, it was just a tedious 2-minute walk on a sunny afternoon.

My Spiky, my favorite tree, that I had planted, (was it so long ago?) and fed with water and food and care, and caressed him with all my love,and the one who knew all my secrets, was now large and thorny, and though my palm is no more soft, its bark now cuts my hand.

I miss being a child, because the world was then so confusing, and no one gave me answers that I wanted, and yet I was never frustrated, because my curiosity made even that a strange and funny thing to be.

I miss being able to shout out my views to anyone I felt like, and then realizing that Pa might scold me for doing such a thing, and that I should show respect to all, and to say sorry to my friend, and forgetting to say it and start playing by the time we faced each other.

I remember chasing my neighbor's puppy for the whole day, and maybe that thing hasn't changed much yet, because still I often find that when I stumble down of weariness and taste dirt in my mouth, I realize its the pup that pokes his nose in my ear as if saying, get up, and I promise I won't run this hard now.

I wish I could be as humble and brave as I was, knowing everything was big and everyone stronger and wiser than me, and that I may not be able to do all I try, and still smiling at the break of dawn, thinking, what the heck, I will grow up someday.