Thursday, March 6, 2014

The one thing

Is there one thing for which you will fight;
Summon the last drop of courage, that last ounce of might?
A dream you've dreamt every other night,
Where you shone as bright as the blinding light.

Is there one thing that you could name,
A victory that you're yet to claim?
What brings you to the top of your game,
Pride and glory, or mere cheap fame?

You know it now, how it makes you feel;
An arduous yet worthy ordeal,
Your head held high as you kneel;
Prepare yourself for the final kill.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Diving into 2014

2014 is here. My exact feelings at this moment are jumbled, but I can think of a metaphor for my perspective.

2013 was like the ladder I would climb over to get to the top of a 20 ft. diving board at the swimming pool. It looks scary at first, but with each rung you scale, you grow. You try not to look down. Once in a while, you tend to do that, are scared and want to quit half way. You think about those stooges at the side of the pool, who would laugh if you quit right now. You think about quitting anyway. Somehow, your voice within doesn't heed that. It just keeps powering your legs for the upward motion. You're finally up the ladder, and the last few rungs were especially difficult. The board is a little slippery, and the scene looks scary from up there. Looking down, you see the year 2014.

You're shit scared. There are an infinite number of things that could happen. 2014 looks inviting, but you're scared it's going to hit you hard, for about a second as you dive into it with full force. However, dive into it with the right technique and enough gusto, and you won't feel the water hitting you on the sides. C'mon you know that much. 

Will this be any different, you think? What if I don't jump from the top, and just go into the pool from the sidelines instead? How would it be different? I would still swim, right? Isn't that what matters? Swimming, not drowning? How does the dive matter?

You can't lie to yourself. You know the dive matters. Not how you do it, but the fact that you just do it. 

You think a few more times. You hesistate. Climbing down wouldn't be worthy, but certainly would be easier.

You have to make a choice. And make it fast. Not quite your forte, but that's the point of the exercise. You're learning to do things that are uncomfortable but will help you grow. You make up your mind, still with a tinge of doubt, and finally decide to take the plunge.

You turn around, bring your hands close to your sides, close your eyes, pray and jump.

The little voice in your head sounds like Buzz Light Year saying " To Infinity and beyond!"

Best feeling ever? We shall know :)

Happy 2014, people :)

P.S. This year, I am grateful for the gift of writing. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The toothless smile

It was a dull, late Friday evening. A young engineer dressed in jeans and a polo shirt boards the transit rail from the airport to get home to the suburbs. There's a weary look on his face as he curses his decision of parking his car at the train station instead of parking at the airport. He's passively looking into his cellphone and setting reminders for next week's work and travel, as he settles down in the the half full train car with one seat occupying his luggage, and him on the other.

A few stops down, he looks up from his cellphone screen and gives a sheepish smile to the man sitting across him on the train, waiting to get down on the next stop. He looks like another young professional, just a little older than him, impeccably dressed, with his overnight bag showing a flight tag. Both of them are weary and ready to go home for the weekend, and get a break from their frantic work weeks.

They exchange a smile that barely veils their mutual boredom and fatigue associated with business travel.

"Two more weeks of travel, a meeting late next week, and a gazillion emails to catch up on. Phew! Not really the weekend I was looking for", thinks the young man to himself .

Two stops down the line, he looks up from the cellphone screen and looks around. He sees an old man in a bright orange shirt, a hard hat and worn out shoes standing by the corner of the train.For all his rugged looks and ragged clothes, the old man wore a bright smile on his face. He shuffles his bags around and offers his seat to the old man.

"Thank you, son! Thank you very much.", said the old man in his hoarse voice.

"Anytime, Sir! Do you work in construction?", asks the young man, signaling at the hard hat and his clothing.

"Yeah son.. Been workin' since a long time. 77, and been working since I be 16. How old' you been? 23? Whaddya do? Appreciate you givin' me the seat, son".

"Not a problem. I'm an engineer. Got my hard hat packed in here too.", said the young man, signalling at his bag.

"Ahh! You an engineer... you're smart people... you make them blueprints and drawings we work with, don't ya? You smart folks.. you makin' big money.. but you smart.. you really smart folks."

"Thank you, Sir. It's very kind of you to say that.", says the young man with a sheepish smile. "Are you returning from a job site?"

"I ain't workin' today, son...worked at a recycling dump. Worked long.. worked at a lot of places, for years. Can't be working long now... came out today to get some parts for my wheelchair. It's broke and needed fixing. Gotta get the parts for it, right?".

"Hmm..", he replied, as if lost in some thought.

All through the conversation, the old man had a peculiarly pleasant toothless smile. A smile that would overpower the limp in his walk, the hunch on his back and the wrinkles on his skin.

Something within the young man clicked.

In all his travels, this was one of the few times he was talking to a fellow passenger instead of being buried in his phone or a book, and it suddenly gave him a different perspective about his otherwise busy, frantic life that he sometimes complained about.

The conversation wasn't stimulating, but the little experience was. The old man had a certain enthusiasm about his life. Even if it was about buying parts for his wheelchair.

"That's my stop, son. God bless ya!", he said as he departed.

Quietly, the young man thanked God for this little lesson in life, and smiled to himself as he remembered the words he once read on his mentor's desk:

"I had the blues, 'cause I had no shoes; Until on the street, I met a man who had no feet".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mountains, beaches, peoples and conversations

The two small and different vacations, one in the mountains and one on the beach, that I took over the span of the last three months have been nothing short of amazing. Great people, great places, and great fun!

Mountains, for some reason scare me. As beautiful as the view is from the Grand Canyon, it makes me feel a little frightened and a lot nervous. I think back to those times as a child when I wasn't an acrophobe as I am now, and think what changed. The mind draws a blank. Planes don't unsettle me, but mountain peaks and tall buildings do. Beaches, on the other hand, bring out the child in me. Flowing water and waves in the ocean, in general, always makes me feel good. I attribute this it to the fact that it gives me a sense of continuity,which, ironically enough, gives a calm feeling to the restlessness that is me.

I'm unsure if alcohol is reactant or a catalyst for conversations to be interesting, but it sure makes conversations fun. I have always liked what a very good friend of mine once said about people drunk talking- " If you say you talk more freely when you're drunk, it unsettles me. I'm not sure who you actually are. The person you become after a few drinks, when you loosen up, and talk freely about your dreams, and mostly anxieties, or the one you actually are when you're sober, for the large part of your life? Did you remove your mask just this once, or do you always wear another one? I don't really know which one to trust?!"

Whatever be the pretext, I felt I had a few good, genuine conversations this time around. Some gave a sense of closure and taught me to let things be, some made me burst with anger, some gave me a deeper insight about people I genuinely love.

All in all, grateful to have spent some amazing time away from the rut.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just a bloke on the bench

There are some days like these.

Days when I feel like the new bloke sitting on the bench at game day for a top-notch football team.

The coach knows you've got something in you to go out there and do it, and expects you to be at practice daily. There you are at practice, every single day, rubbing shoulders with the seniors and other newbies alike. You try and pick up a few tricks of the trade from the club legend, but you're still awestruck at the thought of playing side by side with him, on the same wing.

You take one look at the other blokes your age who joined with you, practicing as hard as you do. Some of them are pedigree players, who worked their way up the club and were stars of the junior squad; some worked their way to the team playing in the dusty streets and grounds of a South American country until the scout spotted in them what he saw in you. Neither a club junior, nor a sweaty player, you were one of the regulars with a genuine love for the game, and some decent statistics in the local league to back it up with.

In the midst of all of this, you pause, take a deep breath, and think how you ended up here. You always wanted to play for this club. The moment you enter the stadium on a match day, even on the bench, the roar of the audience gives you an adrenaline rush like never before. The day you got your kit and uniform, you kept it on the same bed as you would, as a child, keep your new cleats, and slept, surprised and with a little disbelief.

Fast forward to the present. It is match day, and here you are, on the bench. Sure, you've had your moments of glory earlier on in the season, with some good performances, especially when standing in for the injured player and scoring that goal which led to a crucial draw. Deep within, you still feel that you're not being given a chance to compete for the full length of 90 minutes. The coach knows you're good, but he needs to test you more. For each little splendid moment you spent on the field, you had a few fumbles too. Some weak passes here and there, a missed free kick, and a scuffle on the field that earned you a yellow card and a little reputation. You know the coach hasn't given up on you, and he won't. But you know he's watching you keenly. He wants you to grow, learn and be the man who can play those ninety minutes in keeping with the standards of the club.

You're frustrated waiting for those ninety minutes. You're frustrated because you want to go out there, be tested, be tired, and get the fame and glory that comes with being a top notch player with a top-notch team. You're afraid of wasting your potential with rookie apperances on the field, and are afraid of being a flash in the pan.

This is where you fail.

The part where you go for glory, for your name to be chanted by the crowd, for people and other young footballers to be able to look at you like they look at the 15 year club veteran when he takes ground. This is where the hunger for glory takes over the passion for the sport, and it hunts down every good reason you had to be what you are today, and makes you insecure and worrisome.

Today, break that dream of false pride and fear. Pray, not for glory but for victory. Play hard, fair and smart. Play, as a wise man once said, for the name on the front of the jersey and for the love of the game, and they will remember the name on the back. Count your blessings, remember why you love the game, remember the people that always love you, and carry on. One day, your name will shine as bright as the silverware that your club has won a record twenty times. Till then, all you can, and must do, is strive.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Angel eyes

On a rainy day, your smile is bright;
The brilliance in those eyes, is sheer delight.
After a hard day's night, you're my shining light;
You're the girl with angel eyes.

There's a twinkle in the corner of those shiny eyes,
One part mischievous, two parts shy.
Curious yet always surprised;
You're the girl with angel eyes.

Coy at times, you're a femme demure;
The one I love, with a heart so pure.
Those eyes indeed, are a window to your soul.

You make me happy, I wonder why?
You bring me to life, so please stay nigh;
You're my girl, the one with angel eyes.

Monday, March 18, 2013

24 and a quarter

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."
-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

I came across the mention of  quarter life crisis a few years back, on a fellow blogger's blog. I wasn't even 21 then. I was naive enough to think that this was another grown-up/growing old rant, and some smart person just decided to give it a fancy name so that more people would identify with what he felt. On one level, I did empathise with a few things on that list, but I was pretty skeptical about most parts of it until quite recently. 

Introspective abilities are a gift, and much like any other gifts that nature bestows on you, should be used sparingly and with the utmost care. As I found myself in one of those introspective moods today, I thought about the quarter life crisis again. Did that whole thing just start making more sense now? 

These are interesting times.

On the bright side, it would be fair for me to say that the early twenties haven't been as harsh on me. With a decent graduate school education, friends that would last a lifetime, and a tonne of good memories, lessons and experiences, there is little room for complaints. In addition to that, it is a boon to be blessed with a job that lets me do what I like doing and pays me for it. Every part of me, everyday is really grateful for that. Sure, there are ebbs and tides, but it is good to be with a group of people that encourage learning and give you a chance. 

As you get through those nasty teenage years, you grow up to understand that things change. That is the change everyone knows about, and everyone talks about. The change a person experience in outgrowing his/her teenage self. However, change also happens as you transition through your twenties. Subtle, and in some cases, minimal; it is this change that no one talks about. Finding yourself in a place where you decide ( or in some cases, are forced to decide) what you stand for. You have to pick a side. In moments like those, all of a sudden, you realise that the choice that seems the most rational is the one that a younger version of you would have vehemently argued against. 

The beauty of it is that these situations can be of two types. The frequent and relatively insignificant ones like deciding on whether you should blow your hard earned money on a gaming machine or save that money and put that gaming machine on a wait list until your tax returns show up. It may even be something as insignificant and immaterial as thinking of going back to your old college hairstyle and a hippie beard, but waiting out until you get that important meeting with your customers done. These are generally the easy choice situations.

There are other significant, rare ones, which may impact you for the rest of your life. For instance, accepting the fact that things may not work out with that one person you like, and moving on, having cut your losses and learnt your lessons, albeit the hard way. Conversely, you may decide to stick it out, fight it to make it right, and win your way through it. 

At some point in time, you are faced with more choices than you want, and you think they're more than you can handle. While you would happily choose a class in college that all your friends were taking so that you could all study as a group, you are now faced with a career choice that places the mantle in your  hands. You  see people around you settling down,  and it unsettles you to even think about what qualities would you want in a person you'd want to spend the rest of your life with. You grow up to understand that compatibility on an emotional level trumps every other requirement.

Sometimes, and in some situations, you may end up with diplomatic solution to a problem that a younger, more opinionated version of you wouldn't have supported. You learn that picking a battle is more important than blindly fighting every one of those. 

The best thing about all of this is that when you introspect, you end up understanding that it is these moments of discretion and decisions, made at the threshold of manhood, that would really go on to define you as the person you are, when you were to look back. 

Hence, viewing it a quarter life opportunity or a crisis, is a weighted average of the choices you decide to make. 

One can't always KNOW EVERYTHING that is worth knowing. After all, information theory states that quantity of information is inversely proportional to its predictability. Taking that logic further, I like to believe that it means that the more we knew, the lesser fun we'd have! As with magic tricks, so with life. Not knowing is part of the fun.  

Having said that, I'll play along! :)