Eyes lulled by the mist
of imbecile longings:
I thought I had her,
oblivious of the million miles
hidden under a veneer of lies
separating her and me.

For in that moment of delusion
she was mine, for that moment
of delusion, I’d give my eyes.
A smile is a spark that can light
the wildfire of fantasies
I was tricked so.

The fire burned and burned
me with it. Eternally swirling
on a wheel of fire screaming
words of hate that tip off
their brims and intertwine,
leaving me meaningless.

Crappy Entries

I picked up the soap from the stand, with a book tucked in my chest, went to the toilet. There is a leaky flush in our row of toilets that reverberates with an irritating and persistent drone: I decided to take a crap in that toilet. What looked irritating from the outside was strangely redeeming on the inside. The numbing drone didn’t allow me to read my book, didn’t allow me to think, and for a while there, I felt blissfully asleep.

With a tremble and a sigh of exhaustion the sound started to recede. It turned into a complaint, the water whined for a while and eventually ceased to talk. In the silence that ensued, I heard the drops I’d ignored, felt the book close to my chest, and looked down to trace the path of my shit. I suddenly felt my nose-buds tingle with the smell of my crap now- how could I not smell it before?

The smell, the clip-clap of the leaks taps, and all my thoughts were suddenly downed in another noise: of a nearby tap gushed open. It wasn’t a drone, it was very much unlike the earlier sound of the whistling flush, but again, for a while, I felt blissfully asleep.

The sound ceased soon. I washed the dirt off my ass, rose up with the book still tucked under my chest, flushed my crap down the toilet (the drone resumed, but it was no longer of any use) and came back to my room.

The Dog and the Kid

While the clouds played with the sun in the infinitely blue sky above, Billy chased the dog, mouth wide open, innocuous happiness flowing in his veins as freely as the wind in his hair. It wouldn’t be right to call it a dog: it was more of a pup, with eyes that had only recently learnt distinguishing between edges and corners. Nature allows the stupider a firmer innate sense of the environment and a sharper instinct, while their physical adeptness cannot be questioned. Thus, the pup stretched his legs and in a flourish was running the padded green ground he felt so comfortable on. Billy, however, having recently learned how to stand erect, chased the spotted pup awkwardly, unable to control his movements, but somehow managing to stay in the fray.
Billy wanted to catch the pup, as if it were the solution to the problem of his being born. He had to adjust his eyes as he went through patches of sun and shadow, but didn’t give up the chase. The pup never balked against the chase, so Billy went on believing in his infantile innocence that the dog was getting from him what he was getting from the dog, and consequently, went on chasing the dog. What goes on in the mind of the pup no one knows.
There were times when Billy wanted to and did stop. The pup, on these occasions, behaved oddly: it stopped in its tracks, gaping at Billy: maybe curious, maybe tired, maybe inviting, no one knew, least of all Billy, who, encouraged by this subtle hint at his importance to the dog, resumed his chase. Unsure of where his next foot may land, but sure of what he had to get, Billy ran after the dog.

Any passer-by could notice that they were going in circles, and by the way they were gasping for breath, both of them, that they had been doing it for a long time.

Dance with the Moon on a moonlit night

I braided the moon’s golden locks,
painted her nails and applied gloss,
blew on them till they dried,
embraced her and danced the night:
twirled her body, made her moan,
and with my fire, passionately she shone.

She hung from my neck,
naked, lustful, our eyes met.

I kissed her chin and made her smile,
wrung her wrists and made her whine,
whence her beauty flowed like wine,
I bathed that night in her dry moonshine.

I against Them

I am sure you do not know me well, but I will tell you about this party I went to anyway.

It was a housewarming party on a surprisingly warm October day in New York. The house was in Midtown, the place where you find the most nauseating conformists per square meter than anywhere else in the world. It was, as you might expect, a high rent high rise high class apartment complex made for the quintessentially simple, the smart sheep, if you will, who know enough math and algorithms to create efficient maps of the world much bigger than the world itself is, yet know not why they exist (yes, this is an intentional and self aware sentence, so save the sarcasm if you’re bringing that out).

After I arrived an hour late only to know that I was the first to reach, and the only one to care about time, I was greeted by this old acquaintance of mine, and also the host of the party, who always keeps me guessing whether what he is saying to me is because of some invisible camera staring at him, or because he actually talks like that, and showed me to the balcony of the apartment on the eleventh floor, where a couple of women and his roommate were having wine, cheese and platitudes. I hadn’t even the chance to repeat the name of the talker to myself, the sister of the roommate’s girlfriend (the other woman), before I knew how she had married a guy only for his money and was proud of their mutual and unconscious banality.

I was then taken to the roof (it was great, I was told, and I had not brought my sunglasses) where we were joined in due time by the other androids. A couple of girls showed up drunk, with their make up off and their irreverence on, confused whether they were flirting or not. They were later thrown/shown out of the housewarming party of ten people. I need not insult the reader’s intelligence here but I want to explicitly mention that in this party, there were no friends, or even merely acquaintances, but people so much in love with themselves that all they could think about was I: I on the roof of a high rise; I on the blurb of a book; I on the door of a room of a very important office; I on top of a wo/man with a nice body and blue eyes; I on a treadmill; I on the top of the human pyramid; I on everyone’s minds. They were all terribly alone, but they did not know how to write or think honestly about themselves, so they wrote books on Javascript, ASP, The Art of Attack, How to Invest like Me between putting on those expensive shoes to go to rooftop bars with expensive drinks and lights that make you look good, but only until your make up melts or you open your mouth.

Then they talked about their protein shakes, their body fascism, their latest disruptive and innovative startup ideas, exposing their ideas of life sans any vital melancholy, their thought sans any humanity, their laugh sans any sincerity, their eyes shifting furiously from one person to another seeking approval in a frenzied, desperate, relentless manner. I felt sad, and offered them some pity, but that wasn’t what they were craving, no, they were craving their mothers, they were craving that somebody love them without gauging where they would be in five years, that somebody open their embrace to them so that they can remember how it feels to cry.

The Ingrates

“I honestly hate my parents.”

“That is a very strong statement. I am sure you love them, what happened? Anything wrong between you guys?”

“My accusations are not light, man. My hate is not curable. They have made me slip into an abyss of lifetime bondage, stripped me of my freedoms throughout the time I was growing up. I wonder how much more liberated I would’ve been had they been a little better.”

“You seem plenty liberated to me, and also seem to be a very reasonable and balanced man. So much so, that this is the most absurd I’ve seen you act in a long time.”

“That is not due to them, that is despite them. They have been merely trying to raise me in their own image, I owe nothing of my character to them.”

“That’s a ludicrous statement! Surely, they could have imposed their view of the world and their expectations on you, but that does not mean that your character wasn’t shaped because of it. People are defined and made by their reactions to the constraints and assumptions laid by the environment around them. You turned out to be a rebel, sure, but you are still rebelling against them, and thus, being defined by them.”

“That’s clever… and circular. No matter what I do, I will be defined by them, right? Your theory leaves nothing to me.”

“It leaves reconciliation to you.”

“Are you saying that the only decision about myself that I can make that would be completely my own is to accept them as they are? Are we even talking about the same thing? I am telling you about the innumerable instances of repression, suppression, guilt, shame and sorrow I have felt because I couldn’t meet their expectations, because I couldn’t live up to the image that wanted I would be. Like the one instance where I misread my examination time tables and prepared for the wrong exam and scored less, and my mother called me a failure for this. I mean, it was a mistake, a small, genuine, everyday mistake.”

“To me, it only shows how emotionally invested she was in you.”

“She didn’t need to be, it was traumatizing. This is what I am talking about, this is bad parenting. This is why I wonder what would’ve changed if she didn’t make such stupid mistakes with her child.”

“I think you answered your own question. It was a parenting mistake on her part, nothing more. If you want her to have forgiven yours, I expect you should return the favor.”

“I could if it were just one. If the whole process was more mistakes than not, then I cannot forgive something that so tangibly changed my life.”

“I want to hear more. I want to hear other cases of how she or they, was it just her who did that, traumatized you. I want to know if you are being needlessly whiny or if you have any substance behind your frustrations with yourself.”

“It doesn’t have to be overt, I hope you understand that, or this conversation will go nowhere. I don’t care as much about the beatings I received as I do about the dogma and indoctrination. I borrowed their hate for Muslims, I borrowed their paranoia, suffered endlessly because of it. I also borrowed their unquestioned belief in god, their superstitions, some in the name of culture while others purely out of habit.”

“So you are blaming them for being who they are?”

“Yes. Why couldn’t they be liberal atheists, who knew what kind of books to read and what kind of movies to watch?”

“Ha! At least their behavior is justified in most instances, unlike yours in this. They hated Muslims because they were driven out of their homeland and their friends were slaughtered because of a religious movement. While it may not be best to harp upon that feeling, the resentment is still justified. Do you not remember the moments you were bullied in school? Do you still not harbor a hate for that bully, and for that matter, all bullies?
“Their belief in god remained unquestioned because they were not exposed to much science, and definitely not as much as you have been. I should also remark that it is due to them that you have been exposed to so much science, for although they might not have been the best at science themselves, they actively wanted you to be great at it. Not because you would question god for them, but because they wanted the best for you. Isn’t it so?”

“You do have a point. They were as much a product of their environment as I am of mine, and now I see why you said what you said about reconciliation.”

“I am glad you do. This is how progress happens, not because people do what they do with a clear knowledge of what they want to attain, but because they love. Your parents loved you, wanted the best for you, did whatever they thought was the best for you, and egged you on to do the things you fell in love with.

“This is the same for everyone’s parents, look at mine, for instance, they have done a lot for me. They did pay, despite not earning too much, for my swimming classes. They also paid quite a significant percentage of their monthly income to ensure I went to one of the better schools.
“They actually lived a life of extreme frugality themselves while splurging to give me the most comfortable life they could afford to give me. Now that I think about it, they rarely bought any new clothes themselves, they never bought new furniture other than the one instance when it was a table for my studies. Only the other day, I was cursing my parents’ frugality, wishing they were more intelligent with their money, spending it to increase their standards of living rather than stashing it for eternity, all the while not realizing that what was once a necessity, borne solely out of the desire to nourish me, had now become a habit.
“My father had to buy a pair of shoes for himself once. His old shoes had worn out significantly and since he avoided hailing an auto-rickshaw to save money, he needed to walk quite a lot. He needed good shoes. Paying Rs. 500 for a good shoe wasn’t that high an expense, he had bought shoes for me that were twice as expensive. But I remember him scrounging around the market ceaselessly to search for a shoe that was both good and inexpensive. He eventually settled on a Rs. 100 shoe that had a sole with holes under the insole (to save costs of by cutting down on material). I wore that to a game once and my feet killed me at the end of the day. I told him he was stupid for buying this shoe, that he was a miser…
“I haven’t been able to forgive myself for that sorrowful look he had on his face for disappointing me that day. I don’t think I will ever be able to. Why did he buy those shoes? What was the reason? It was I, dear sir, I was the reason. I was what had manifested in him this austerity. And yet, he was the disappointment. Is that fair?

“I think I hate my parents. They have stripped me of my freedom. And this is not your teenage angst whining about how they didn’t let me choose my own T-Shirt color. It is the kind of freedom that Sartre gained when he realized the frivolity of his existence and its inherent meaninglessness, the most essential of human freedoms, Freedom with a capital F, the Freedom that comes from an indifference and detachment to any purpose whatsoever. The reason I cannot have this Freedom is because no matter what I do, I can never be grateful enough. That whatever I do to repay them will fall short. The worst part is that they don’t even expect me to do anything for them. This is how they get their revenge, how they make me suffer for the sorrows I caused them because of my expectations of what they should’ve been and should’ve done.
“I probably would have been much better with parents that didn’t care, that didn’t recognize me soon after they’d given birth to me, like the cartoon ducklings that get lost and create their own father figures who give them nothing in return but a chase.
I hate my parents.”

Beating the dusty carpet

I am planning to write for a month from 12-1 every night, to get into the habit of writing. Just like at this moment, there would be moments where I would be at a complete loss to come up with anything remotely substantial or beautiful. Since I still want to publish these as a marker of my progress, I would clump them in the category: Garbage.

All this lack is not for lack of thought, distress, or discomfort. It is because I have been procrastinating, not only the things that I need to do, but also the things that I need to think. It is a mental lethargy, driven mainly by a fear of encountering a truth I might not be ready for, I assume. But this is no way to deal with a phobia, this is just avoidance behavior that lends to merely aggravate the phobia. I have to slowly familiarize myself with my fears, talk to them, talk about them (to myself of course), understand them and then either weed them out, or learn to live well with them.

We all suffer from these cycles of self-assessment, during which our self-worth is either way exaggerated, or completely marginalized. I aim to get out of this endless repetition, stop thinking of what I am worth, for it leads to nothing but misery and wasted time, and involve myself in either a fulfilling hedonism, or an equally fulfilling process of learning and creation. This is not to say that I would stop analyzing my actions or my existence and its relation to and place in the world around it, but that I would not bother to give myself a score based on this analysis. It would be an essay, with an enormous amount of editing, devoid of any assessment of the essay itself. A critical reconciliation of sorts, with ample scope for change.

Once this is achieved, or is being achieved, I believe the other forestalled items on my to-do list will start to begin and, hopefully, end.

I do feel slightly sad at finding myself at a loss of words with plenty time to spare, like a promising date with a girl that ends up in a dejected silence because you have run out of things to say and she is not bothered enough to engage.

But never mind! There are plenty of girls in the world. The next date will be great: it will have a genuine conversation, an unspoken but unmistakable romance, casual laughs, and that glorious feeling when you are sure the conversation didn’t start that night, that it had always been there, beginning again from where you left it.

The Chain

when hearts stop beating
when hearts stop beating
wonder what went wrong
wonder what went wrong
everything is still here
everything is still here
every thing will remain
every thing will remain
just joys will not
just joys will not

when hearts stop beating
you will find
all your joys are missing
since a very long time

when hearts stop beating
you will realize
the clock ate them all
every weekend and weekday

when hearts stop beating
when you live for a while
when you are unchained
when the banal is horror

you will see
you never paused
you never got out in the sun
or watched the water flow

and when your heart stops beating
and you are dead the last time
only then will the chain be broken
only then it will not matter

The Oppressive Compulsive Philistines

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

OCD is a disorder of order, of obsession with order, to maintain it, preserve it, repeat it, without much thought to any revisions to the process. The thing that skipped all of us, is that our world is an OCD, our society is suffering from it, but due to the absence of an external reference the disorder is nearly impossible to spot. There are age old customs, reinforced by glorification of atavistic tendencies, that keep repeating without reason, like the propagation of sacred myths till they become unquestionable truisms. The problem is, they are not, and more often, they are very far away from the ideal.

Imagine if a thousand years from now, the restrictions on twitter statuses were to overflow into all communication by random chance and all communication, without much reason, was happening in 140 characters at a time. It would feel stupid and inefficient, right? Yet there are societal structures in place in the world today that serve no purpose relevant to the post-modern, post-internet era we are living in. Things like religion, marriage, biased patriotism, etc are some that are consistently found across most existing cultures as redundancies that have a sanction so oppressively bold that it is nearly impossible to go against all of them all the time. But some do.

There are two types of people in the world: the Philistines (I intend a broader scope of the term than the culturally indifferent person it is supposed to mean: I intend a person that would tend to gravitate towards vindication of the things he/she’s been taught, or indoctrinated with, in childhood and selectively pick examples to curate and reinforce that worldview. The article would make it clearer what kind of person I am referring to as a Philistine), and the non-Philistines (for the purpose of this article, let’s call them the vanguard, for they are the cultural avant-garde). The vanguard is responsible for raising a hand when the OCD gets too much to justify and tolerate. Sometimes the vanguard is crushed and blown away, sometimes it succeeds a little, and sometimes the apple carts turn over (only to be replaced by another obsession). To give you some examples, feminists have to fight all the time to let others know that women are human; LGBT rights are languishing in the widespread homophobia; atheists get caught in the cross-winds of religious nutcases trying to blow each other off all the time; institutional racism prevents people of color from getting an equal footing everywhere; etc. I take it a bit further to say that the legal sanction of marriage, and the oppressively high importance placed on it in certain cultures (one of which is India’s, to which I belong), tends to marginalize the happiness of a large section of society which is not genetically designed to function in monogamous arrangements.

So are Philistines just a bother, or do they serve any purpose? Well they do. They establish order, function on algorithms, are predictable, and keep the machine running. If this compulsively established order were to disappear, inefficiencies would start to creep in everywhere, and the machine would become more local and less global (let’s just say a bad thing, in general, though a separate exposition on this complicated topic would be in order), and the progress of humanity towards removal of strife and misery would slow down and maybe stop altogether. That is why the majority must always be of the Philistines. But they need to be made aware of the minority.

Like people who fight societal structures would know, one of the most crucial elements in winning the battle and creating an equal ground is awareness. If the majority is aware of their privilege as a majority and they try not to trample too harshly the voices of the minority, the world is not insufferable. So the world needs to be made aware of the vanguard in all its forms. And a person who is a vanguard on one issue may be a philistine in the other, and it needs to be out there. Turning apple carts over shouldn’t be a violent struggle all the time, treating the OCD shouldn’t be unfathomable.

Living should be easy, compromises should be few.

The Minority Identity

Ride the New York Subway on a regular day and you would realise what it means to live in a place where everyone is an outsider. Perhaps this is the reason why New York cannot be termed tolerant, because being tolerant implies that you are aware of the other’s identity, bothered by it and putting up with it. New York doesn’t care: it is indifferent, it accepts. This idea of racial/ethnic acceptance in a multi-cultural society had been going on in my head for the past few months due to its direct relevance to India, and I wanted to share some personal insights, with a little bit of science thrown in to demonstrate the point better.

Hardly a day goes by in the Indian media and political arena without a reference to the biggest religious minority of the country, the Muslims. Even though a good portion of the online population has wised up to the silly politics of religion, most people are not sure about how to go about discussing this touchy topic in a public setting, though most of them are brimming with their opinions about it. I often wondered why this was so, why was this problem so difficult to understand, for the solution begins at understanding. It took me a good deal of bigotry, cockiness, and an overdose of self-belief to allow myself to write radical comments against “the stupidity of Islam”, and the inherent aggression in it to be humiliated later when I was to re-read them again a couple of years later. What had changed in the two years is that I had undergone a change of, or development of a, perspective. I’ll talk more about that later, I want to share a few theories with you first.

At the core of this problem are the same psychological phenomena (at the cost of being too simplistic) that are responsible for the perennial gender issues, endless wars, racism, football hooliganism, the holocaust etc. Humans are irrational animals: they are motivated and influenced more by their asymmetric and biased world view than the objective understanding of the complete picture, for the complete picture is often too difficult to comprehend, even for those with a gifted imagination. Couple these biases with the inherent needs for a self-image and belonging, and we have men that cherish nationalism, for example, as a quality that defines the highest among them.

In one of the most unsettling of psychological experiments conducted on humans by a very important social psychologist called Muzafer Sherif, a group of boys at a camp were separated into two ‘tribes’ to understand how social hierarchies evolved in a natural setting, with the eventual intention of studying the interaction of the two tribes were they to meet.

You can read the details of the experiment in the link given, but to draw the relevant essence of the experiment here, the boys separated into the tribes perceived the differences between the groups, exaggerated them, ignored the similarities, growing more hostile towards each other than accepting. They also became very competitive and their work rate towards competitive activities increased. This is reflective of human nature in general, and can be explained quite easily from an evolutionary perspective- the stronger the collective spirit in a small group, the more likely is it to survive and fend off difficult circumstances. This might result in some intra-species struggles, but as we know from examples in other species, it is not something that is unprecedented. And even though the times have changed, outdating this line of thought, evolution isn’t keeping up. Nationalism, to stick with the same example, is a modern rendition of the same bigotry. It is not necessarily bad, as it can motivate people to often work hard for their country, as evinced by the boys in the experiment, but I feel the philosophical harm it causes (that often has tangible effects in the form of wars, terrorism etc.) outweighs any positives. It should be easy for the reader to see how the same bias is responsible for strife between different religions, races, etc.

Let me elaborate this with my own example. In India, I belong to the religious majority, the Hindus. I am thus fairly certain that when it is my turn to be judged by my peers, I would be judged irrationally on one less parameter compared to someone not from the majority. In other words, my identity is not defined by my religion, it is more defined by what I do, what I wear, what I say, how I behave, etc. This is a privilege of the majority. To elaborate this further, let us take the example of how society would view my moral transgressions. If I were to commit a mild treason by, let’s say, criticizing my country, I would be judged, more or less, on the gravity of my arguments. On the other hand, if I were a Muslim, I would instantly become a representative of the views of my religion, and with each step, I would be integrating my example to the archetype that would eventually become the Muslim stereotype (assuming it is not already created and being reinforced by my act). Why does this happen?

Because we have divided our world view into us and them. The minority identity for the majority is them, and in this particular case, the Muslims. To understand the often complicated reasons behind their treasons, we take refuge in the laziest of explanations: that it has to do something with their religion. This effect is called the Realistic Conflict Theory, and the biases in this form of irrationality are supplemented by yet another of the most prevalent biases we humans have, the Conformation Bias, which is a tendency to select the examples that suit our preconceived notions and ignore the ones that go against it. It creates a skewed world view where the end result might be, in an extreme but common enough situation, to assume all Muslims to be aggressors or terrorists unless proven otherwise, a dangerous, hostile and scary world view indeed.

There is a particular political faction in the country that would have us believe that pampering the minority, treating them differently in almost every sphere of interaction, is the way to their eventual integration into the mainstream. There is another that has a reputation for being downright hostile to the minority. I refuse to believe that they do this because of their naiveté. Most of the politicians in India are motivated more by greed than by adding value to the country, and very few of them have their hearts in the right place. They prey upon the religious difference among the people of the nation to achieve their ends, effectively stepping into the shoes of the colonial powers that preceded them. It again falls upon the great people of this nation to fight their oppressors.

I apologize for the digression. I am more concerned with having this article touch the readers at a personal level. I want to offer a simple thought experiment to counter this bias when you feel yourself succumbing to it.

I have lived in India most of my life. I left my country for the first time about a year back, and have lived in a lot of different parts of the United States. It is not a country that is particularly hostile, at least outwardly, towards people of Indian descent, but something about my situation here was ominous. After thinking about this vague feeling of insecurity over and over, I was finally able to point a decisive finger at it. I was a minority, for the first time in my conscious life.

I have called myself an Indian here in one year way more than I have called myself an Indian in India all my life (even if I count the daily pledge in school). Suddenly being an Indian is my identity, although I hate Bollywood, watch more American TV than Indian TV, hardly listen to any Indian songs, hardly read any Indian authors, love Sushi more than any Indian dish, and a million other “non-Indian” things, like a lot of my other Indian friends. A lot of people I meet here have been utterly disappointed that I call Art of Living a sham. Surely a lot of things about me are Indian, but there is much more that I would want myself to be associated with first before the concept of a stereotypical Indian guy. But that is how I am being defined now. I was never approached like this in my life, and it flipped a switch in me. My radical notions about Arabs and Pakistanis suddenly started dissolving away now that I could closely feel how my remarks would sound to someone from that part of the world. I loved (and understood the reason behind) the feeling of indifference in a melting pot like New York City, compared to the feeling of being an outsider in a less diverse state like North Carolina.

So here is my thought experiment. Whenever you find yourself making sweeping (negative or positive) statements about a particular community, country, culture, colour, gender, etc., you should stop talking for a while. Recognize that you may have taken the wrong line of thought there. Place yourself in the shoes of the other (like the children in Ms. Jane’s blue-eyed/brown-eyed class do) and think how fallacious what you were saying about yourself (as you are now) a minute ago was. Maybe that would help with the perspective. With all the intelligence and information at our disposal in this age, perspective is the thing we lack the most.

Humans no longer fear an existential threat from other species: they can afford to be friendly, helpful and less hostile, within themselves and without. We are (should, rather) no longer living in small groups, other than at a very intimate emotional level, and are moving towards a society that has the perspective of seeing itself from space, as one collective species out of many, floating on top of a rock in space. Our evolutionary instincts need to shift, or at least rationally modified, and it is a process we can accelerate through language and the internet.

The tensions between the warring tribes in the experiment by Muzafer Sherif was lessened by activities that involved both the groups to work together to achieve some goals. Our globalized world is the one camp we are in now, we are all humans, and we need to work collectively to strive towards a world with lesser misery, lesser suffering, and lesser strife, with more equality, more peace, and more happiness: a world that is more understanding and more rational.