Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Into Some Love

I had been researching for an article on Leap Years and Leap Days, when the beauty of the concept struck me. Leap Days are days which exist lesser than the other days. These are days which go unnaccounted for. If you're working today, you're working without pay. If you were born today, you'll have to bank on either 28th February or 1st March as the official day you came into existence. Facebook will have nothing to show you today, unless from a really far off past.

And best of all, if you're forming memories today, you cannot mark an annual anniversary for them. Which makes the nostalgia invisible, or eternal.

Think about it. Today is a day you must obviously try and live more than the others, because, like I said, it will exist lesser than all the other days on the calendar. The scientific reason, of course, is to take care of the anomaly which arises between the calendar year and the solar year, but that reason makes no difference to my life. Despite this adjustment, there is still an error of timing left, which is adjusted by not counting multiples of 100 as Leap Years, unless they are multiples of 400 also. Too many numbers in there, and they still do not guarantee precision. Again, precision makes no difference to my existence, but reasons for forming formless memories do.

If you've seen the (quite disastrous) movie Leap Year, you would be aware of the Irish tradition where women could propose to men on a Leap Day, and fear no refusal. Some say, it is a day when no man is safe, because his denial may cost him a kiss, a silk dress, or a pair of gloves to be given to the lady who popped the question. This latter tradition, arguably, started in 13th century Scotland, when Queen Margaret decreed that on 29th February, a lady may unabashedly propose to any man she fancied. Rest assured, she won't go home empty handed.

It is quite apt, then, that the extra day be added to the month of love. No one really knows for sure why February was left with only 28 days in a calendar where all the other months boast of far more. There are legends, none with a strong grounding though. Leap Day gives this pretty month a chance at equality, just short of it though. And the more I think about this day of fleeting importance, the more its importance becomes apparent to me.

Even though modern existence robs most of us off the luxury of time, I'll still have a plan to utilise this extra day for moments, tasks and conversations which are too important to be archived. February 29th, in the modern idiom, should become the day where we all say out loud those things we've held onto for too long, without the fear of listener's judgement, or retaliation, or condescension. All those three are contemporary malaises, which deserve at least a day's bravery to cure. And if your brave admissions of love or longing (or desire, or any curbed feeling) are met with unpleasant reactions, there is always a kiss, a silk garment, or pile of books to ask for (because gloves really make no sense to our times).

There are times we push hard to make a moment happen, and then we wish it away because it turned out to be too unpleasant for our heart to digest. Congrats, here you have a day which you won't have to wish away, because it will not hit your calendar till it becomes a long lost memory, which, a leap of years later, you would only smile back with fondness over. At least I would. I like prolonging intense moments, by forming calendar memories of them. Today, I won't get to do that. It's my day to be brave, and yours too. If you've withheld a sentiment from me - inbox it right in! I have my most nonchalant self waiting to hear.

I really hope we make a tradition out of it. I would. In the personal utopia I have constructed with some kind people and kinder words. May Queen Margaret's decree be followed - a moment of love, or a bar of Silk, find your happiness either way, and then, if needed, forget the day ever existed :)

Live and let go, I believe, is a lovely motto for our age.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Soulmates - Guest Post by Prateek Pandey

That dreamy look you get when someone walks into the room can mean only one thing. Your soul mate has arrived. The way they smile, the way they shift their gaze down and left with that reflective look before they answer, or the way they throw their head back when they let out a hearty laugh leaves you weak at the knees. Carefully caressing every movement of theirs with your gaze, their sigh becomes your sigh and their embrace becomes your completion.

Such deep surrender can only be possible with a soul mate. It cannot be explained any other way, right? Of course it can, but in that moment of desire, logic escapes us and the loins take over where love pretends to play. But it’s not a singular desire that drives us to lose sight of reality and suddenly abandon our faculties in favour of love, sweet love. That would be far too simple a neanderthal response to explain why such sophisticated beings as ourselves suddenly drool with desire when the brain fog sets it.

We go through life savouring successes, even tiny ones, bravely rising from each setback that befalls us. With each rising we muster a portion of renewed hope, a smattering of new wisdom, and a lowly regret that we tuck away neatly because it doesn’t quite complete the picture that we now present to the world. That’s the image of composed resilience that won’t be stifled. It would be fantastic if that cycle came around only once, but it doesn’t. It comes around more often than we’d care to remember, or even less than we’d care to admit. And so with each cycle we grow weary, but continue to exude hope and optimism, because all the fairy tales in the world cannot be wrong. My soul mate cometh, and I shall be ready and waiting to meet her at the door before the threshold, so that we can trundle in together, or not.

The reality is closer to the truth of us spending our lives seeking avenues of expression so that we may be able to reveal ourselves to the world without feeling vulnerable in the process. Striking that balance leads to a tiresome combination of restraint and expression, until one of the two become more dominant. That dominant disposition shapes our character to the world around us, eventually convincing even us that it is who we are, until that fateful moment when that soul mate enters. That soul mate comes in the form of one who expresses what we restrain, and restrains what we express, thereby striking a cord with a desire buried so deep that just teasing it leaves us giggling like lovesick teens who just witnessed the de-flowering of the world.

That completeness awakens us to the optimism and passion we once held dear, and with seeming abandon, we expose ourselves willingly in preparation for the embrace we yearned for since forever. Suddenly we wish to express to the world on their behalf what they restrain, trusting foolishly that they will express to the world what we restrain, and from between our loins shall spawn the perfectly balanced beauty of the sum of us.

PC -

Whether they are soul mates or not is almost entirely irrelevant, or at best, subject to interpretation. We selectively interpret life, and love, and then follow it with deliberate action that either proves our views to be true, or abandons the world for being untrue. It is what we choose it to be, but such choices have to be mutual if the outcome is to be idyllic. Sometimes we meet one whose choices are inversely mutual, thereby syncing perfectly with our own, but sometimes what appears to be an initial sync turns out to be a novelty phase of fascination and not much more. When that phase passes, some will convince us that soul mates are not always intended to stay forever, while others will suggest that they weren’t ours to begin with. Either way, the outcome remains true, and the lessons we take will either build us up, or break us down.

The amazing thing is, whether we’re right or wrong is not really what matters. That’s just bonus points. How we appreciate and grow from whatever or whoever comes our way is what peppers life beautifully, or taints it horribly. Much of life is wasted waiting for opportune moments or validation. Soul mates will be drawn towards us as kindred spirits when we live authentically and pause only for air to fill our lungs before we push on again. But authenticity is not easy to express, because we’re raised to find affection and validation as markers that determine our success. No wonder, in a world of emotionally stinted half formed adults, we wait for our soul mates to join us before we immerse ourselves fully in what is always only ever a one time offer.

Life doesn’t wait for soul mates, nor should you.

About the Author - Prateek Pandey is an idiot. He is precisely the kind of idiot I am proud of knowing and in whose presence literature, poetry and language acquire newer dimensions. He answering questions through his prose and poetry which the world is yet to learn to ask. Lampooner. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bibliophilia Revisited - Part 1


If you've known me via any medium in the past year - personal or digital - there is a good chance you know that the bibliophile in me had gone insane. I read a very proud 58 titles in the year, 18 of which, I realised, I need to sing praises of.

Quoting from an the previous post - "Books helped me discover knowledge, meaning and even balance. A  lot of time which I could have potentially spent over-thinking was spent guessing and obsessing over unfolding plotlines. My thoughts were often writing stories of their own, which were so powerful, that it impacted my actual writing styles, in a good way. I connected with people who connected with my reading list - and these, I can tell you, were the easiest people to match wavelength with. I ended up inspiring, quite happy to say this, a few to set their own personal targets and take up reading seriously in the coming year."

If your reading list is not sorted for the coming months, following are the 9 books I can safely recommend for complete satiety of the book-lover in you. I will follow this up with another post containing the remaining 9 titles, to complete the list of 18 fantastic reads. (Random fact - 18 is a really cool number. In my life, as well as in the Mahabharata.)

Here we are - leave your thoughts about the books you have already read and any further suggestions for me in the comment box please!

1. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Walker

A beautiful New Year gift by Ankita!

Romance, eternity and simplicity beautifully combine in this book. This was my January read, and the most comfortable companion for breezy afternoons with a cup of coffee.

2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Picked up a year after it was prescribed in my course on postcolonialism during Masters at Jamia Millia Islamia. Der aaye durust aaye.

Remains of the Day is a poignant recollection of the waning period of British empire, especially the manner in which it affected the British Aristocratic class. It tells the story of a Butler and his obvious confusions with the changing social relations and norms of conduct. A dash of unrequited love, and, sigh, the book manages to mark a permanent place in your heart. (You can also watch the film adaptation, equally good, I can say.)

3. Love in the Times of Insurgency by Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya

No clue as to how I came to own this. 

A translation, this one is a Sahitya Akademi winner. The plot dives into the life of Naga people, and the effect of Second World War on them. Nothing has introduced me to the local practices and beliefs of Nagas as wonderfully as this book. Then of course, the binding factor is the throbbing tale of love in the middle of all violence and mayhem.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Bought the entire set from Delhi Book Fair 2014. Just like that. Because I am crazy when I have money.

I cannot potentially dare to say anything about this saga - way too many Potterheads out there to glorify the series. However, I can safely say that I am ecstatic I began on this magical journey, even if very late in life.

5. The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple

Someone gifted this to me. Can't remember who. 

Classic. It is not a leisurely read, but has a lot to offer to anyone who is in love with the city.

6. First There Was A Woman and other stories by Marija Sres

Bought it from the Zubaan Mela, 2014. 

I pick up a lot of Zubaan books, primarily to understand gender and gendered existence. And theory never helps me, stories do, This is a fantastic book with fables, legends and myths to understand how the sociological constructions of gender came about.

7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Bought from Salim bhai's bookshop (New Book Land, Janpath). Best books, best rates. 

This is my favourite John Green, a preference which does not find favour with many. Besides having all the elements of a quintessential John Green book, it has some mathematics and formulae aimed at defining love. Also, it has an ending which, for a change, did not leave me brooding.

8. Myth=Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik

Bought from Salim bhai ki dukaan. 

Symbolism has always fascinated me, and when I discovered infinitely fascinating symbolism in my own backyard, I was dying with delight! Pattanaik offers you an understanding of much from our traditions, rituals and culture we take for granted and refuse to acknowledge. I am all set to read this book one more time.

9. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Gifted with love and a love-note by Neha Thureja. My kid. 

I do not read a lot of self-help books, and this looked like one. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the the simplicity, both, in narrative and in content. I did not learn many new lessons here, but my faith in the way I lead life got reaffirmed a great deal.

Nine more books are left to complete this list. That will happen in the next blogpost.