I had written a micro fiction for the Write Tribe 100 words prompt for ‘Strangers in the night’. I did read some of contributions by the other writers, and loved how people took a dark taste to it. I was discussing this with a fellow blogger, and the idea to write a more uplifting take came forward. This is another take on it:
The celebration of their fifth wedding anniversary was a tiring one. It had soon become an occasion for the whole family to gather. While it was fun to meet everyone together, organizing the whole affair at the last minute had been hectic. He was sitting on the bed and didn’t realize when she came and sat behind him. She just sat there behind him, hugging him. He felt a familiar comfort in her presence. Without indication, she playfully bit his shoulder. He laughed naughtily and turned around. After all these years, it felt like they were strangers in the night.
The family was cheerful as the dessert was being served. Everyone had come together for the first anniversary of the couple. They had had a long day with the celebrations and greeting all the family members, but were still looked as cheerful and fresh. Once everyone had left, they went to their bedroom. He lay down on the bed after changing into his pyjamas, and she joined him by his side. Neither spoke as they stared at the ceiling, before sleep came to them. A year after their marriage they were married by day and were strangers in the night.
Dreams are such wonderful experiences. They can range from the odd funny thing you dreamt of, a surreal metaphor for something you’re going through in your life, or an experience that leaves a happy or sad impression based on who you dreamt of. Then there are two different types of dreams, normal dreams where you experience what you are dreaming of, and the other is called lucid dreaming where you can control what happens in your dreams. It can be in the manner of being in control of your actions as if you’re not dreaming, or influencing the ‘environment’ of your dream. You may or not be aware that you’re lucid dreaming, and it may seem like something out of your ordinary life.
I’d like to share some dreams of note.
In this dream I was with a female whom I did not know. The first thing I remember is jumping with said female. I felt as if I had just gained consciousness, but had been jumping with her all the while. We were jumping from one torrii to another. A torrii is a traditional Japanese gate which is generally found at the entrance of shrines or temples in Japan, and marks the end of the corrupt and start of pure from that gate. This is what it looks like.
It was a series of endless torrii as far as I could see. I looked at the woman jumping with me.
“Good, you’re finally awake.”
I still didn’t recognize her. I didn’t bother to ask her who she was, and was more bothered about why we were jumping away. The jumps were incredible. The distance between two torrii seemed to be 50 meters.
“Why are we jumping?”
“We’re being chased.”
“Chased? By whom?”
Curios, I turned my head midway in a particularly long jump to see that two people were indeed chasing us, jumping in the same manner as we were.
“How are we able to jump so far?”
“If we are using telekinesis why don’t we fly away instead?”
“Because we can’t use it in continuous flow, only in bursts.”
We kept on jumping. It was a series of endless torrii, as I wrote before. I then realized that if we could use telekinesis in bursts, then why just use it from our feet to jump. I stopped on the next and torrii and aimed a burst of telekinesis from my hand at the top of the torrii where my chasers were about to land on. The torrii was destroyed, and with nothing to land upon they fell through and crashed on the ground. I felt a momentary sense of elation before I realized that it was all too easy.
Then it dawned upon me that I was dreaming. This meant that I was sleeping, and it was a morning that I had planned to not sleep (on account of the need to be somewhere early) and woke up. Sometimes I think a lot in my dreams, and when I come to the conclusion that it is not in the waking world, I either wake up or am able to take control of the dream. In this dream, as you can see, I was able to think and process information, and control my actions long before I realized I was dreaming.
There is another dream that I had quite a few months ago that had a huge impact on me. It was a mid-week holiday, and I had slept late. I dreamt that I was at work, and everything was going wrong. One after the other, things were falling apart and I was telling people to do something. No matter what I told them to do, and how much I yelled, they were doing something else. I started to become frustrated. It didn’t matter what I said or did, things started to fall apart and soon the walls around me started to crumble.
I couldn’t take it anymore, and closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was in the Ahmedabad house. A moment later mom walked in through the door and asked me something. Then there was someone else who walked in through another door and asked me another question. Soon there were people who were coming out of the walls and ceiling, started asking me questions. All these people were asking me why I was doing something, and why couldn’t I do something like what they said. Soon it became too much for me and began to realize that it was just a dream. I woke up to find myself in the Baroda house. I was lying on bed, and saw a man comforting me. He told me to relax and take it easy. I was looking at things as another person in the room.
I realized that I was still dreaming and finally woke up for real. I was a nervous wreck. I was shivering and sweating heavily. My body was aching, I had a temperature and when I could muster enough strength, I had to visit a doctor to get medicines. This was the dream that had the most physical impact on me.
As Jim Morrison once crooned, people are strange. There have been times when I have found it easier to understand Thermodynamics (and I had failed it in my first attempt), but have not been able to understand people, and how or why they could do what they did.
I remember one of my job interviews in which I was asked which according to me would be my most important resource at work. I took a moment to think and said that people would be my most important resource. When asked to explain why I thought so, I said that I could be face with a simple task but if my team mates didn’t come through, it would be extremely difficult and frustrating. On the other hand, if I had an extremely difficult task, the struggle and pain would be reduced on account of the help and guidance from the team. My opinion on this still holds true, however I have experienced more of the former scenario than the latter.
As much as people’s motives are interesting to think about and understand, it is their faces that sometimes give things away. You can mask your motives and thoughts and once can’t ‘read your mind’, but can observe/notice your face and its expressions. One passage from Fountainhead gets it right. It is a conversation between Ellsworth Toohey and Kiki Halcombe, when Kiki has a party at her home.
“There’s nothing as significant as a human face. Nor as eloquent. We can never really know another person, except by our first glance at him. Because, in that glance, we know everything. Even though we’re not always wise enough to unravel the knowledge. Have you ever thought about the style of a soul, Kiki?”
“The … what?”
“The style of the soul. Do you remember the famous philosopher who spoke of the style of a civilization? He called it ‘style.’ He said it was the nearest word he could find for it. He said that every civilization has its one basic principle, one single, supreme, determining conception, and every endeavor of men within that civilization is true, unconsciously and irrevocably, to that one principle…. I think, Kiki, that every human soul has a style of its own, also. Its one basic theme. You’ll see it reflected in every thought, every act, every wish of that person. The one absolute, the one imperative in that living creature. Years of studying a man won’t show it to you. His face will. You’d have to write volumes to describe a person. Think of his face. You need nothing else.”
“That sounds fantastic, Ellsworth. And unfair, if true. It would leave people naked before you.”
“It’s worse than that. It also leaves you naked before them. You betray yourself by the manner in which you react to a certain face.”
Before reading this book, I had seen a video of Marina Abramović and Ulay. Marina and Ulay are performance artists who had been in a relationship before calling it off. Later when the relationship became too tense to continue, they took a journey to the Great Wall of China in 1988. They decided that both of them would start from the opposite ends, and would meet at the midway. It was there they would bid goodbye after having walked about 2500 Kms.
Marina put up a performance titled ‘The artist is present’ in 2010, where she would spend one moment with the people who would walk in. She would close her eyes, and wait for the person to take their seat across the table and then open her eyes and share a moment of silence with them. This is a video of the reaction she had when Ulay happened to sit across the table, and she opened her eyes.
Some of my most comfortable travel trips have been by train or bus. Not that I have not travelled by an air plane before, air planes are quick and cover the same distance covered by trains in ten hours in one hour. However I don’t get the same sense of joy from them. Train rides are a different experience in to them.
I generally plan a train ride with at least two books, of which I am likely to read only one. One can also read a book in the flight, but the duration of it so small that one cannot read much. A typical train ride for the places I usually visit is 10 hours or so. So I can spend at least 3 hours of it reading. I like to sit with me back to the back rest, leg stretched out in front of me and a book in my hands while the wind blows in from the window. The wind blowing on my face is such a comfortable feeling, which is another reason why I am partial to trains and busses. I read a little, and sometimes pause and look out the window and enjoy the changing landscape from city to fields and city. This also one reason why I don’t finish my reading as I tend to engrossed in the changing views and the cool breeze lulls me to sleep. It is much more comfortable to sleep in a train or a sleeper bus than an airplane seat.
Another aspect of train travels that I enjoy is the food. I had taken mom to Jaipur just before Diwali. Mom lived in Jaipur before getting married, and her brother and sister still live there. We had gone for some Diwali shopping this year. I was excited about the Palanpur Railway station to have its famous Puri-sabji when the train would stop there, and the rabdi at the Abu Road Railway station later. There’s tea and gajak at Ajmer, bhajiyas at Mehsana, and so on. Each state has its fair share of the local food that one gets on the railway stations, or from the sellers who board the train.
I haven’t been to many road trips myself. The few that I have been to were so long ago, that I was too young to appreciate them and have any memorable experiences. But I do know of friends who would rather a car down to wherever they plan to go. It gives you a more interactive experience, where you can choose to stick to the highways or try and go through the cities as well. You’re closer the local flavor and stop to eat the highway dhabas.
Sometimes I tend to think, what does it mean to travel? I don’t remember when I last travelled. If you look at the definition of the term, then it means to move from one place to another. By that definition, I had travelled to Jaipur this year to help mom in shopping, or to Pune earlier for work. But Jaipur also had me going to my family’s home (mum’s side) and Pune was a business trip. I have begun to associate travel with leisure. So while I may have travelled in the technical sense of the term, it was not a leisurely or vacationing manner.
I know people who are serial travelers. They undertake a leisurely trip at least twice a year. These include some blogger friends, and a colleague from work who makes at least a small trip every three months. These are people who have itchy feet, and like to visit new places, marvel at the sights and sounds of a new place, and absorb the culture over there. Travelling to a different city or country can be such an enlightening experience, where the people, food, smells and culture are far different from where you live. It seems at time like an entirely different world to learn from.
I have been meaning to travel to escape for some time now. A travel to escape, albeit temporarily from the drudgeries of everyday life and routine. I understand that vacationing with family and friends is fun, and will do that as well. Mom for instance had a wonderful time in Jaipur this year. But this a trip I would want to make alone or with a select friend or two. I don’t plan to do much. I think some days might just have me lazing around in the room, or be in a garden or on the beach with my book reading something at peace. I would love to sample most of the local cuisine. The street food appeals to me as much as fine dining in a different city. I even consider visiting a place where I have blogger friends who are very close to me, but whom I have not in person (yet or for a long time).
A travel where I am myself and in the company of those whom I enjoy to be with.
I was relatively not concerned about music till my teens started. I used to stay with my uncle in Bombay for schooling, and we moved every 11 months to a new rented place (if we couldn’t get the contract extended). The previous tenant had left some of this belongings in one of the drawers of the table. There were some joke books, and audio cassettes. One of them had Guns ‘n’ Roses. That is how I started to love music.
In the free time I had post shifting, I spent time listening to GnR and then Bon Jovi. Quite naturally, I had to keep the volume low on the cassette player because all that was being played was ‘people yelling and screaming themselves hoarse’. A cousin sister of mine introduced me to old Bollywood songs. Now you might ask me, why one needs to be introduced to said songs when one is already in India where such songs are aired aplenty on the radio waves? The answer is simple, that I took it for granted and didn’t appreciate them. I was particularly indifferent to most of them, but did enjoy some of the romantic ones. We did have a station on the FM frequency back then that aired English songs, but I remember very little of it. Some songs by Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, N Sync were on loop when they were new on the scene, but there was no love for them.
For quite some time, there was nothing of note about for my love for music as I stuck to mainstream Indipop and Bollywood. Come college, and I heard friends rave about the music video of Linkin Park’s ‘In the end’. While the video itself didn’t catch my fancy, I was in awe of the lyrics and music. I had found a band that finally ‘got me’. I listened to more of their songs, and I formed a routine with them. Every day, I would plug in my earphones, turn on my LP playlist while we took the bus to college. My friends had grown accustomed to me nodding or shaking my head as I would get lost. I have since moved on from LP, and have even stopped listening to most of their old tracks. It’s just that I have lost that connection.
Now that we have earphones, let me tell you that they are mortal enemies of most parents I know, my mother. I don’t entirely blame her for that. You see when I leave the house for a walk, or to buy groceries, I plug in my earphones and become oblivious to everything that is behind me. I am bothersome of what is there in my line of sight, but should something happen from behind, or someone calls my name out…I don’t even know that is happening. A couple of times mom has had to chase me and grab my shirt to get my attention and then give me something that I forgot. In my defense, I do tell her to call me on the cell instead.
A friend of mine asked me to check Pink Floyd out. After listening to some of their tracks, and hitting random on his player my love for rock came back. Soon I was listening to Pink Floyd, AC DC, Iggy Pop and much later Bob Dylan. Do you watch Supernatural? Apart from being a wonderful show which had story arcs across seasons, about a family of hunters who hunt down monsters. That show is also responsible for introducing me to different artists and their tracks, as it uses them in the first sequence. House M.D. is another show which I love, not just for House and how it has parallels to Sherlock Holmes but also for using the song ‘Baba O’Riley’ which had me listen to more of The Who. Two Bollywood songs of late that have been on repeat on my playlist are Yaaram from Ek thi Daayan and Mann Marziyan from Lootera.
Since I listen to Eminem as well, I leave you with this song by him. Lyrics of note are:
Or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in they lives
‘Til they sit and they cry at night, wishing they die
‘Til they throw on a rap record, and they sit and they vibe
We’re nothing to you, but we’re the fuckin’ shit in their eyes
That’s why we seize the moment, and try to freeze it and own it
Squeeze it and hold it, ’cause we consider these minutes golden
And maybe they’ll admit it when we’re gone
Just let our spirits live on, through our lyrics that you hear in our songs
And we can
(Come on) Sing with me, (Sing), sing for the years
(Sing it) Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears (Come on)
Sing it with me, just for today,
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away
(Come on) Sing with me, (Sing), sing for the years
(Sing it) Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears (Come on)
Five years of my schooling life were spent in Bombay at my uncle’s, so that I could get a better education in Bombay. There were other reasons too, but that is for another blog. I was put up in St. Gregorios High School, and those are one of my most memorable times I have had. One of the two life changing classes that I had over there was Library. Like all other subjects, we had a ‘Library’ class once per week. During this period we were to sit in the library, and return the book we had previously issued so that another one of our choice could be issued to us. Quite simple actually.
I was indifferent to reading books before that, and didn’t bother much except for the text books or the mandatory book we had to issue every week. Our librarian saw this, and I will be ever so thankful that she started recommending books. It started with ‘Great Illustrated Classics’, which are classic books like Oliver Twist, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Frankenstein, Black Beauty, Alice in wonderland and so on. These have a large font print one side and an illustration on the other. They soon had my attention. Once I had exhausted the entire series, I was told to select other books myself. When our names were called, we were encouraged to spend time in front of the books, read their jackets and pick one that we liked.
As we got into higher classes (standard 6 and above, I think) the books we could choose from increased to include Goosebumps, and Shivers. They were such a wonderful read. However the incident that made me passionate about reading took place soon. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were popular in our school, and the library had a huge collection. Generally boys read Hardy Boys, and girls read Nancy Drew. As part of a bet I had to take up Nancy Drew. The librarian saw my sheepish look when I asked for a Nancy Drew, and asked me what was going on. When I explained, she just laughed and told me that for a good book, it doesn’t matter if the characters were male or female. She put me at ease and I started with ‘Nancy Drew and the secret of the slumber party’. I was hooked. I was now issuing books by the day instead of the regular weekly Library period. Every day, I would come back early from the evening games and finish my studies so that I could read Nancy Drew. The next day I would finish lunch quickly so that I could exchange the book for another.
And then Harry Potter happened. My friends were already into it. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is book 3 of the series was already out. I started with that, worked back to book 1 and then read the lot in sequence. I was hooked. We would spend our day discussing the book, challenging each other with trivia questions, or who could remember more spells. Newspapers were hounded for any news of the release dates of the next book. Since the school library would get limited copies of the book, we had a waiting list which went across classes. The list was public, and it was common knowledge as to who was reading the book and the next person in waiting would be after them to read it faster. We were playing a Harry Potter Trivia session in the bus, when we had gone to Bangalore for an interschool event. (We had gone by train, and the bus was for travel within Bangalore.) The principal happened to hear us go at it, and told us that if read our syllabus books with even fifth of this much devotion we would all be getting full marks.
We were encouraged to write reviews for the books we read, and the better of the lot were put up in the bulletin board. It was not an official contest or event, but we felt a pang of pride if our review was put up on the library bulletin board. We had classes only weekdays, but were allowed to come to the school library and read periodicals, Nat Geo, encyclopedias and other books that were not issued to be taken home.
As I grew up, many people told me that Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are two books which are a must read. When I asked them why, nobody could give me a satisfactory answer but just said that these were mind blowing books. Why and how the books did blew their minds, they didn’t know. Their minds were blown because they were told that was the reaction they were supposed to have. When I was doing my internship at General Motors (where I work now), my mentor told me that I remind him of Howard Roark. When I asked who, he told me about the Fountainhead and offered to loan me his copy. I said no. With the limited pocket money I had, I purchased a second hand copy of it for myself.
Reading that book for the first time had been an interesting experience. There were times I was nodding in agreement at what I read, there were lines which I had said myself. Same in essence, and a little different in the choice of word. There were also things that I only hoped I had the courage to do should the time came. Quite naturally Ayn Rand had my interest and I read Atlas Shrugged as well. It was an experience similar to Fountainhead, only more profound. Soon I had a job, so I ended up with all of her books that I could find. If you do want to read her fiction works, then read them in order of Anthem, We the living, Fountainhead, and finally Atlas Shrugged. It makes for an interesting study in not only the objectivist philosophy, but also in Rand as a writer. With each book you can see how her characters evolve, how the plot has more depth, and how the plot arcs reach out and meet each other.
Sometime last year, I was re-reading Atlas Shrugged. I had a strong reaction and felt like hurling the book across the room. I was going through a particularly difficult time, and was reading how the characters were dealing with their own lives in the book. Part of me thought that how could they manage to hold through through much tougher things when they only had themselves. The idea that they’re fictional characters and not real also came to me, at which I was about to throw the book. However I also thought that it was not who I was, and the characters were the kind I always wanted to be. Even before I had read or even knew of the book. Better sense prevailed.
As practice, we never called the librarian in school by name or as a librarian. She was to be conferred with as much respect as we gave our class teachers. Which is why we addressed her as ‘Ma’am’. In retrospect she has taught me as much, if not more, as any other teacher I have ever had. It is she who gave me the love for reading.
Food has always been something that makes me happy. Some of my favorite memories are associated with it. I think I have now come to a level where food is something beyond the daily nutrition a body needs. It is a spiritual experience. Food is something that can make you salivate as you look at it, a mere whiff of well-made food can give you goose bumps, while taking a long slow bite will have you close your eyes and just get lost and the juices flow down your throat.
This post is about one of my favorite place to eat: Barbeque Nation (Vadodara). While I have been living in Baroda since 2009 started, and kept hearing rave reviews of the place I could only eat there a year after in 2010. It happened as a spontaneous decision, when I was discussing with a friend where we could get to eat some wonderful chicken. Twenty minutes later, we were giving out orders for juice at the place.
Let me tell you how the place works. You select one complimentary drink from the menu (and can order more that will be charged extra), while they start serving you starters on your table. The center of the table has been cut out to make place for a mini barbeque, where skewered foods will be placed with red hot coals below the grille. Let me tell you that their food is wonderful. One of the best I have ever had. My friend and I literally hogged our way through them. When we were about to be feel full, we asked for the bill to be brought in. The server who came asked if enjoyed our main course, which made my ears twitch and ask him where the main course was, followed by asking him if we would be charged extra for it (sheepishly so, I might add).
The main course you see, is part of the package. It is not served to you at your table, you have to go take what you want in your plate instead. There are salads, soups, daals, sabjis, some pulav or biryani of some sort. Rotis and naans are served at your table though. Yes, both veg and non-veg options are available in the main course as well. I had my second emotional surge when I saw that there was a big assortment of desserts as well. Belt loosening, salivating and becoming a poster boy for ‘kid in a candy shop’ later saw me eating even more. This is how it is at all barbeque nation places, and how I am each time I visit them.
I have been to this particular Barbeque Nation many times, and once to a different city as well. While the food was awesome at both the places, I have a soft corner for this on account of the fondness for the staff here who are ever so courteous and happy to serve you. No matter how packed the place is, their service and quality doesn’t go down. I have pictures of one such time spent there with friends, which I will share with you now.
Which is the earliest memory that you have? Which is the clearest memory that you have? Which is the memory that moves you to tears, or manages to bring happiness? While you may or may not agree that these questions are important, you will agree that you can answer them. All of us have memories. Memory is the act of storing and retrieving information. This information can be what we have read, heard, seen, or gone through. It could something emotional like the time spent with a loved one, or something like the process of riding a bike. In each case, memory is important.
No matter how old you grow, certain aspects of your life get etched in your memory. The highs and the lows, the moments of joy and sorrow. The more intensely you feel something, the more likely you’re going to remember it down the line. I remember most of the lows, and some of the highs.
I remember clearly when either of my parents have been angry at me, or scolded me. I remember when I first fiddled with my dad’s shaving blade and bled after I cut my finger. I remember an accident I was in as a kid, when I had a collision with a scooter after I let go of dad’s hand to run across the road. I remember the color the scooter, and how I was bleeding with blood running from head onto my shoulders. I was scared that mom might freak out, and had to be cajoled by dad to come with him. He was a doctor and wanted to take care. I remember getting jaundice and when my parents took me another doctor, I kicked him and they had to hold me down because I was scared of injections. I remember the toy gun they got me after I got well. These are just the memories of before I was even 6 years old.
There are clear memories of other times which were not joyful or sad, but made me feel a strong reaction. I was at my uncle’s and was to change into my pyjamas. Instead of have mom change me (I was less than 4), I tried to do it myself and ended up with both feet in one leg sleeve of the PJ and the other as a tail. I had to hop my way into another room to get mom to free me. I remember playing and dancing in the class with a girl while the class teacher had been called down, and the punishment that followed. A particularly strong and clear memory is that of a class in which we were taught about honesty, and how it is the best policy. Someone passed a joke at another and a bunch of us laughed. The teacher, who had been writing something on the board turned around and asked who cracked the joke. Then when she asked who laughed along, I found myself raising my hand. I was promptly sent to stand out of class. I remember clearly how I felt, and what I had learnt.
Which is why I like to associate memory with experiences. I am a big Harry Potter fan. I started reading the books however after Azkaban had come out, and my class mates were raving about it. Curiosity got the better of me, and I read the book. Yes, the third book was read first, and then the second and finally the first. It was such a wonderful experience. I remember taking up my entire weekend reading them in order of release then. While mom later purchased books 1-4 (4th I had read after issuing from the school library, there is a story for that sometime later), I started to pre-book my copy of books 5-7. I still remember how I left at 6 in the morning on the day of Half-Blood Prince came out, so that I could catch the first bus. I reached the bookstore (Crossword at Mithakali, Ahmedabad) and found a small bunch of other fans like me. We spent the time discussing our favorite moments from the previous books, and speculating what would happen in this book.
I have left out some of my most memorable moments, and could go at lengths about more memories but I would like to sum up with this quite apropos quote by Subject 16 from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
“What is a man but the sum of his memories? We are the stories we live! The tales we tell ourselves!”
Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – 2. Day 1 prompt: Memory/Memories
The idea of a standalone music player has always appealed to me. Apart from free time, I like to listen to some of my favorite music when I go on the occasional morning runs, the commute to work, and while cooking.
While my smart phone is perfectly capable of playing music during all these times, I have my own peeves while using it so while running or commuting. You see whenever I get a call, an sms, a ping on one of the messengers, a facebook pop or any other notification, the music stops (even if so for a brief moment). This lead to the idea to get myself a standalone music player.
Before I could buy one for myself, her Cracked-ness asked me if I liked listening to music. The conversation ended with her telling me that she is sending me an iPod via the sister who was in her vicinity.
Thank you 😀 It is being putting to good use.
Written for Day 5 of Write Tribe Festival of words