Cracking the JEE

The admit cards, the passport size picture and the government approved ID were checked before we got into the car. These, at least would get us into the ring. The ingredient to crack the bout was presumed to be stacked in the nearest location on the RAM in the CPU of the brain for quick retrieval at the time of need.

The Google map showed a drive of 26 minutes, after its artificial intelligence consulted many more Google map users who were on the same route. Many more travelers, travelling with the same aspirations and similar apprehensions.

The FM radio employed songs of Kishore Kumar to sooth the frayed nerves. No one talked, as the soulful voice traveled across the time bridge connecting the 70s to the last of the teens of the 22nd century. As the RJ broke the spell, I realised we were not even hearing the song. We were engrossed in our own thoughts. The mind had moved ahead, pacing the unformed future.

Quite, was not the state of existence which was habitable for Anjali. She initiated the conversation, prempting my urge to revise the chemical equations and the mathematical formulae. We, instead talked of the many tips trending on the Internet, on how to crack the exam. I wondered, if there was a correlation between the people who made those blogs or the people who visited those sites with their pass results. But I guess it wasn’t something that would get a favourable result. Also, I wanted to impart the wisdom, of how it was more important to be well prepared than to rely on these ‘tricks of the trade’. But I guess our Arjun wasn’t keen on the Gita discourse while traveling towards the battle for future life.

The trip was spent laughing on anecdotes of people preparing for the battle and the pragmatism of the tips. The light heartedness was something each of us clung to. However, the upbeat mood eventually submitted to the inescapable law of “All good things must come to an end”. The gloom was thick as we cramped into the viscous traffic jam. Moving slowly through the sludge like a suspended impurity in a dense solute. As we inched closer to the collosium we could see the anxious gladiators sharpening their weapons through well thumbed notes of an year long accumulated knowledge. The anxiety spilling over to their guardians. The gloom also turned the green lights into red.

The futility of travel by the wheels was evident but people were unwilling to let go. We decided otherwise. We broke out of the conveyer belt and parked our car in a small bylane. We walked past the snail paced line of vehicles, each capable of greater potential but stuck in the rut with the bonnets cramped into the bumper ahead.

We reached the entry of the battle zone. The lines converged at the first check point. Thats where the support staff of parents, tutors and some accompanying fairy god mothers had to let go of their wards. That’s where the gladiators had to move on, into the battle space armed only with the knowledge in their minds and the mandatory material things that would ensure their entry. Now they milled together and forged ahead as one mass.

Parents were moving on to higher grounds to have one last look at their wards before they entered the arena. We were not to be left behind as we jostled competitively to find the best viewing site.

Ah!! We were in time to see our daughter emerge from the first check point victoriously. We were about to shout out to her, when we saw her making animated conversation with other co-participants of the race. Making friends with a complete strangers, related only by similar aspirations and apprehensions. There she was, sharing the infectious laughter she is blessed with. There she was, helping the other just-formed-friend, with the forms and the documents. Then, before we could shout out to her, they entered the arena together. We did not shout out her name. We just watched with a knowing smile on our lips.

The result of this exam was still somewhere in the future.

But we were happy she had already cracked the exam.

We want to be slaves

Freedom! Freedom!

Chanted the revolutionaries as they marched resolutely against the oppressors.

…And one day they were free.

That should be the end, isn’t it? But then it is not. Its a new order. But it still isn’t free. Freedom is elusive. They could not find it. They continue their struggle.

Did they really want to be free? Do YOU want to be free? Do I want to be free?

What do I seek? What is freedom?

Freedom, for me. is to do what I want to to do, whenever I want. Freedom also means that, nobody should restricts me from doing what I want to do, whenever I want to do. Therefore freedom is also equally a restriction on others so that I can be free.

Freedom is unrestricted thought and action. Freedom would mean no boundaries and limits.

Now close your eyes and think about the space completely limitless. Space with no boundaries in either direction. With no base. Yes no base!! Wouldn’t that be a boundary too? Now think of moving around in this space (I guess calling it ‘this’ space itself will be a curb on freedom). As one closes his/her eyes, the hand would instinctively go to feel the walls to walk along, a railing to place the trust on. We want to hold on to something. Cling to the certainties of boundaries.

Yes, lets face it we are clingy as a species, as a life form. Possibly this clingy aspect of ours, is the factor which has been our survival. Clinging to the land as we evolved from the hunters and gatherers to the farmers. Clinging to groups of faiths as we tread on a path with no boundaries in search of the primordial question of ‘Who am I’?

We evolved in the quest of freeing ourselves from each initial state, only to find ourselves seeking the next state of certainty as we confront the limitless uncertainty of freedom.

Deep in our hearts we want to cling to rules. We collectively agree the best ways of living which is nearest to our imagined state of freedom. Each person exerting the his own way of thinking of being free. Thus in turn creating boundaries which the other person is not expected expected to cross to allow you, the ‘my’ freedom. These boundaries jostle with each other unseen, as the beings inside the bubble pretend to be free. Gradually, the bubble are settle in a tight matrix of other bubbles encasing other free beings. This pattern of matrix now defines the set of rules which define the collective sense of freedom. These agreed pattern is defined as the culture. The rules are the ethics we bind ourselves as a compromise to be nearest to the state of imagined freedom. Each being defined in a set of parameters and predictable behaviour to maintain the harmony. The rules get edified as the Dharma. Each individual set of rule based on individual set of tendencies. Each set of tendencies expressing themselves to define the limits of the bubble trying to derive definition of free living. Each finding its place in the matrix wearing the warm cloak of certainty hiding the hideous inside fabric of submissiveness. The allure of submission leading to hierarchies and skewed privileges which form the seeds for the next set of struggle to seek the illusive freedom.

Therefore we want to remain in a paradox. Wanting to be slaves as we seek the next set of parameters, next set of boundaries for Freedom. Indulging in a continuous and unending cycle of struggle.

This set piece, remains the next state of freedom, existing and surviving only till the time it starts to suffocate the beings inside. Or when the beings realise the illusion of freedom inside the bubble of existence within the cramped matrix.

Till the time the being inside once again starts to seeks answers to the initial and eternal question – “Who am I?

The beginning of the end of this struggle is when we actually get that answer of ‘Who’ wants to be free. And possibly it ends with the deeper understanding that we are actually ‘limitless’…therefore free.

Hey Welcome!!! My dear new year

A new year

A powerful yet artificial
human construct
Seperating past from the future

A new year

an opportunity
to start afresh.
To renew our quest
for a fulfilling life,
leaving the baggage
Of the past behind.

As the year turns new

May we move forth,
enabled with pleasant memories
of the wonderful year gone by
Unshackled and free
of our limitation left behind.

As the year turns new

May we move forth
Inspired by hope
of a wondrous new year
full of opportunities
and unlimited possibilities

Welcome!!! My new year
I believe in the possibities you bring
I believe in the miracle of you
I believe in Life

Happy New Year

अपने कल का कलाकार

यादों का क्या
अतीत का आईना है।
अतीत का क्या
यादों ने ही पिरोया है।

कुछ याद रहा
कुछ भूल गया।
कुछ याद रखा
कुछ भुला दिया।

मेरा अतीत मेरा है
मैंने बनाया है
मेरा भविष्य मेरा है
मैंने बनाना है

आईना साफ़ है
कोई शिकन नहीं
कदम पे मायूसी कि
बेड़ियाँ भी नहीं

ना अतीत कि फ़िक्र है
ना भविश्य कि परवाह
आज में मदमस्त
रंग भर दिए हैं

सफर का नशा

मदहोश नशे में,
मदमस्त चल पडे़ थे
जुनून का नशा था,
हसीन ख्वाब लिए चल पड़े थे

काम का बोझ तो गहरा था
दिन-रात का फर्क भी खो चुका था
पर एक सुरूर सा आ रहा था
एक मस्ती का मंज़र था

फिर एक दिन, अफसोस
अपनी मंज़िल से टकरा गए
खुशी की उम्मीद थी
पर इस ठहाराव से मायूस हो गए

मंज़िल तो आ गयी थी
पर सफर से दिल भरा ना था
मंज़िल तो पा ली थी
पर सफर का मज़ा कुछ और ही था

एक पल के लिए
रुक गए थे
मेरे साथ शायद
ये पल भी रुक गया था

अगली मंज़िल की तलाश में, फिर एक बार
निकल पड़े हैं
एक और ख्वाब में
ज़िन्दगी को पाने,

फिर एक बार… निकल पड़े हैं

Buoyancy of Joy

Stress Ball

I hate myself!!

Mukti spoke aloud. The utterance did not even make a ripple in the green surface of the still water in the pond. She did crave for appreciation but she never expected so much hate from her colleagues. It was as if they were waiting for the opportune moment for the hate to fructify. So called friends, were exposing the cloaked fire of jealousy. The gloves were off and the fangs were exposed. Suddenly, she was amidst the werewolves. Silently gnawing away the meat from her calves as she dragged herself up from the blow of reality which exposed the masks. The real faces were gruesome.

It all started from the ‘rise’ in her popularity in office. Display of her multiple facets and new levels of performance split the people around her into the opposing camps of ‘Liking her’ and ‘Jealous of her’. As she drew her joy from the accolades of the ‘Liking her’ camp of people, she also enjoyed the misery it caused to the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was the root cause of the hatred towards her from the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was turning out to be a greater source of her joy and she thrived on it more than the accolades from the ‘Liking her’ camp.

More she relied on the misery of her detractors as a source of her joy, more miserable she felt. She, kind of absorbed their misery. She no longer felt any joy from the appreciation of her friends, rather she felt the anxiety of not scoring over her detractors, far more.

Her core was being consumed by this reflected misery and soon she started sinking in self loath. She was sinking into depression. And ironically as she sank into this gloomy depths, she saw the joy in her detractors, which further pulled her down to greater depth.

As she was in the throes of her depression, she found herself at the steps of the temple pond. The waters had become murkier as though mirroring her mind.

The stress ball, counter intuitively shaped like a smiley was being gnawed by her nervous finger nails. The smile pasted on the ball was ironically making her more irritated as it seemed to mock at her.

In a fit of revulsion, she flung the spongy ball into green thick water of the pond.

The yellow colour stress ball remained buoyant over the green surface of the pond for a while. The viscosity of the murky pond keeping it afloat. However, the jubilant joy was short lived as the spongy core of the stress ball, ill shielded by the porous skin, started to absorb the surrounding filth. It remained buoyant till its core was filled completely by the green filth. That was the time the stress ball started to sink. The essence of the bounce was lost. It sank rapidly to the slimy bottom of the pond. Deeper and deeper in the vicious depressing abyss.

As the last of the smiley on the yellow ball got subsumed by the green slime, the yellow stress ball taught her what Archimedes understood in a very different context. A lesson no self-help book or a psychiatrist would have explained or applied. She learned, or she was revealed the secret law of the ‘Buoyancy of Joy’.

Buoyancy of the stress ball, as per physics, is dependent on the effect of gravity on the water surrounding it. This differential downward pull of the gravity on the water in turn pushed the stress ball up, thereby making it feel buoyant. The fall, therefore, of the surrounding water gives the up thrust which kept the stress ball floating with joy. Interestingly, like the dead Sea, greater the density of the surrounding water, greater is the buoyancy. The starkness of the similarity with her own life was uncanny.

More the grief in the surrounding, greater is the buoyant joy one experiences. She remembered how she felt buoyant with joy as she received the positive feedback and appreciation from the people around her. So much so that, the awareness of the jealousy among the people who she lived and competed with was also a source of glee and joy. The effect pretty similar to the increased buoyancy of the murkier water.

The sight of her detractors being unhappy was the buoyant force which made her joyous as, she rose higher on her popularity. She rose higher as, she lived of the ‘likes’ and also the ‘jealous grouse’. Therefore, she felt ironically full of gratitude for her detractors to provider her the buoyant joy. She also realised that slowly she had started being affected by the crave for her detractor’s unhappiness.

She observed how the stress ball was invaded by the outside water and it lost its exclusive identity. It was filled by the similar heaviness of the surrounding. The gravity which was relatively more on the outside, was now within the stress ball. It therefore, no longer felt the buoyancy. It sank deeper and deeper into the murky depth of the pond till it settled on the mushy floor the pond. There it rested in the depression created on the floor by its own weight.

It dawned on her, that to remain buoyant, she should not have allowed others to affect her. Just like the murky waters entered the spongy core of the stress ball, the negativity had invaded her. It made her lose her buoyant joy. It made her lose her ‘me-ness’. The negative emotions outside started mirroring the same emotions within her, it replaced the happy emotions with the heavier, darker and sad emotions. These heavier, darker and sad emotion were dragging her down the murky depths towards her own created depression.

She also realised the futility of relying only on the external feedback for her joy, since it could only raise her up to the level of the external expectation. Just as the stress ball relying only on the water for buoyancy, can only rise till the level of the water. Her fate was like the floating stress ball bobing up and down at the water surface based on the expectancy of others. Her joy was hostage to others ‘likes’.

Just like the porous skin of the ball, no skin is so resistant to sustain the onslaught of this external invasion unless there is an internal pressure that keeps the water out. She needed to find her belief in the ‘me-ness’ that pervades the inside. Only her essence was capable to raise her beyond the petty level of the others ‘likes’. Our ‘self-ness’ is self-buoyant, willing to soar irrespective and oblivious of the forces outside – favourable or not. Soaring not particularly above but in the direction that is mine.

The state of the stress ball either soaring high and rising above the limits of the water surface or the stress ball placed on the mushy floor of the pond do not guarantee joy or grief. For the soaring ball, as the buoyant force propels it higher, the threat of a grand fall looms larger. The ball continuously seeks loftier heights after every rise. At the same time, the sunk ball calmly sitting in harmony with the slimy floor may find solace in the vast opportunity the state offers. Therefore, the state of joy has no relation to one’s state but is more related to one’s view towards that state.

Buoyancy and gravity, she realised, both lead to movement which were relatively opposite to each other in direction. The end state of both was subjectively judged as favourable or unfavourable.

It was her moment of realisation to perceive the joy in going beyond the forces of buoyancy and gravity.

She found herself connected to the blissful stress ball which lied calmly at the bottom of the slimy pond. She had experienced the eternal truth.

Mukti rose joyous, glowing within. Glowing with the ‘buoyancy of the real joy’.

रिश्तों की कीमत

रिश्तों की कीमत
दाम लगा के देख लो
रिश्तों की अहमियत
अनुमान लगा के देख लो

पहचान पाओगे
तो उसकी पहचान है
महसूस कर पाओगे
तो भावनाओं का मान है

नहीं तो क्या
रिश्ते तो एक नाम है
मौका, दस्तूर
या कभी, किसी का कोई काम है

सच्चे रिश्ते
रिवाज़ों के मोहताज़ नहीं
रिश्तों की पहचान
दुनिया के रिवाज़ नहीं

एक रिश्ता
अपने से भी है मेरा
अपनी पहचान
और विश्वास का है सेहरा

एक रिश्ता अब
बनाने निकला हूं
कुछ गुफ़्तगू हो जाए
आईने में उस अंजाने चहरे से

The cone of Anxiety

It was another one of the days of chasing the deadlines. The misses of the previous dates were accumulating into an astronomical wave. The baggage of the ‘Could Nots’ was weighing me down as much as the expectancy of the exit through this competitive tunnel.

The meeting tomorrow was a make or break one. I had heard myself saying this before, but this one seemed more real than the real.

My mind worked simultaneously on the multiple possibilities and worst case scenarios while remembering the previous mistakes from which I seldom learned. My thoughts,  while flipping between the two divergent ends of past and future, seldom rested on the presentation at hand. It was lonely and restless for the head that wears the crown. I was heading the marketing for the largest region in India. With great powers, I realised comes much greater responsibility. And the HR at the head office had knowingly skewed the ratio,  far in favour of the responsibility vis-a-vis the power.

I had many things to prove.

The disapproving look and the dismissive attitude of the CEO wasn’t something which escaped my empathetic eyes and the eyes of the competitive compatriots. They waited for the fall. I hung on to the cliff edge with my nails. In times such as these, even the shadow wasn’t part of the inner circle of my trust. I couldn’t rely on any one else. I had to do it myself. One thing that many of them wanted to share, and I was not letting it be shared was – The Credit.

So I remained glued to my PC in my lonely cell. The radiating illumination from my PC escaped my cabin into the dark vacant office space outside. The same office space was to transform itself into the battle space – the Kurukshetra, where my battle of survival would be raged tomorrow. The battle was part of the endless war I fought in the bid to stake my claim of existence. It formed part of the war which I raged with myself and my many contradictory roles jostling for the same click of the needle in the turning clock.

I had made my choices well, as I moved up the ladder of success.

The doting father, the romantic husband, the dutiful son and the fun-loving-butt-slapping friend were put on the waiting list as the deligent bullock went round and round turning the wheel of time. I was racing against the time. I perpetualy remained two moments behind, slowed by the baggage of the past and pushed back by the incapacitating dread of the impending future. There was so much at stake.

I flipped the hour glass over. The ritual of keeping time was being repeated. The hour glass remained the measure of time as I moved from the expectant past to an uncertain future. In this state of distress the senses were at highest state of perception, ready for the fight of flight eventuality. In this state of heightened sensory state, I noticed the sand slip down. Time moved forward.

The sand slipped in a heap at the bottom. Each grain of salt jostling with the other to cross the stem of the time. The narrow stem of the hour glass differentiates between the space above filled with sand at the beginning of the time with the eventual resting place of the sands of time at the bottom.

The benign hour glass was silently trying to tell a sacred wisdom as it emptied it’s last grain of sand into its eventual resting space. It waited to start the same cycle once more. Move the grains of sand from the upper past space to the lower future space. The combative competition keeps getting repeated in an cruel cycle. The stem dividing the past from the future. In the rush of the grains through the stem, the moments pass. The time moves a notch as each grain moves through the stem. That place in the stem is… the moment. Unnoticed, it goes through the fog of the worry. Remembered, only on either bulging sides. The worry and urgency of squeezing through and reaching the other side misses the experience of the moment.

I looked up at the pendulum as it struck midnight. It moved back and forth, back and forth…past and future. Between the swings from the past to the future, I observed, it missed the present. Swinging…swinging…perpetually in motion. As the pendulum rises from the nadir of the swing towards the zenith, the urge to return back to the nadir increases. It pauses at the zenith temporarily only to race back. However, as it races back to the place it seeks to be, the very same rush takes it helplessly past it. Never able to pause even for a moment at the moment. It moves rapidly past it towards the next high. And the cycle continues as it chases time.

Like the grain of sand, the pendulum remains precise in keeping the time interval.  However, missing the sweet spot of the moment while flitting between the regrets of the past and the worries of the future. Always anxious to move to the other side. Like the grain of sand, existing either at the top or the bottom of the cone of anxiety.

I realise we also live trapped in a similar Cone of Anxiety. Proudly carrying the cross of the privilege granted to the wise humans. The privilege of remembering the past and to imagine the future. These form the bulging sides of the cones – The cone of the future and the cone of the past. The cones intersect at the moment – the narrow stem of the hour glass. As we move into the cone of the past we are engulfed with the gloom of regret. The future cone floods our minds with the worry of imagined scenarios. As my mind moves back and forth in this cone of anxiety, I am a co-sinner with the pendulum and the grain of sand. I commit the similar unpardonable sin…I miss the moment.

I grabbed the pendulum to a pause. I placed the hour glass on its side. They resisted for a while, till the string no longer pulled, till the grains settled in stupefied motionless state. The clarity occurred. The realisation dawned. Now is the only truth. The past is merely my flawed interpretation of event that already occurred. The future is a only an abstract speculation. The only truth is in the Now. Everywhere in the cone is the source of anxiety. There is no anxiety of judgement in present moment as it lies in the future. There is no worry in the present moment as it is left behind in the past. The moment of now is pure and unsullied.

The realisation of the moment cleared the mind of worries and regrets. The vacuum created was soon filled by clarity of thoughts.

As the illuminating screen of the PC shut down, I felt radiant and sure. The past would not be allowed to sully my present. The future would not be allowed to steal the moment

I would live pure.

Gravity of Death

Someone just died.

I took the news, as just another tragic news on TV. But then, what seemed surprising, was this was the death of a colleague. It wasn’t someone who I knew personally, but stayed and worked under the same roof. We belonged to the same institution. I thought, it was reason enough to form a relationship. But my lack of true grief was surprising. The way I have wondered, on the source of my happiness, likewise, I searched for clues on the source of my grief.

If death of a human is a tragedy, it ideally should be a source of grief. But in this very case, there was no true grief. The news was discomforting and possibly could by far be judged as threatening rather than sorrowful. It was discomforting, for the fact that it wasn’t something I was accustomed to hear first thing in the morning. Threatening it was, for tbe fact that it warned of similar consequences for me too. In crude terms the death was not sorrowful but the possibilty of such an event occuring was discomforting and threatening.

The next question was whether we grieved for the death or for the deformation of the mould of life we had prepared. The mould of life we believed, was there forever. The mould of life stood for the certainty associated with the occurrence of our daily lives. The death by itself seemed to be only a cause. However, the greater influence on our minds was the effect of the cause. Greater the effect of the cause on the present way of things, far more was the grief over the cause, i.e, the Death.

It was as if the gaping hole in our fabric of life pained us more than the part of fabric which was lost. Larger the piece of fabric of present life that was lost, greater was the hole and therefore, larger was the consequent grief. The larger hole also had greater and wider effect on the connected weaves of the fabric. This analogy, explains to me, why more number of people grieved an important or an influential person’s death. Greater the influence of a person, greater is the piece of the life fabric he takes away, and therefore the grieving ones are more. It explaines the extent of influence and not the depth of influence. The explanation of the depth of influence of death is observable in the intensity of grief which is inversely proportional to the distance of the relationship. Greater the distance in a relation, lesser is the grief. Or in other words, closer the relationship, more intense is the grief. The quantum of grief is directly proportional to the size of influence of the departed soul and inversely proportional to the closeness of the relationship.

The analogy strikes me as a tragic Eureka. Grief is like gravity. The postulates are similar. Greater the mass (influence or Size of Personality) greater the grief. Farther the distance in relationship lesser is the grief.

Like gravity, grief also binds us together. The threat and discomfort related to the consequent grief of losing something or someone, make us gravitate towards those very people or things we love. The larger the mass of the personalty, greater was the effect on the fabric of life in terms of the hole created. Death is the cause of that gaping hole in this fabric of life which gives rise to the intensity and extent of grief. In congruence with the Gravity – Grief analogy, effect of death in the fabric of life is just like a the effect of black hole in the fabric of space-time. Like black hole, nothing comes back from death. The black hole has enormous gravity, likewise, death is also associated with enormous grief. Death likewise has no effect on itself but has profound effect on others around it.

I rely on the Gravity – Grief analogy to give me answers to my quest of the source of grief associated with this inevitable truth of Death.

The obvious question is what should we do about it? How do we reduce the grief associated with the Death? Well for once, as with gravity, we can do nothing about it, till we are in this world. It is inescapable. Grief is felt by those who remain in the world and not surely by the one who has left this world behind. So when we are worried for our death we are actually worried about others. It is not the occurrence of death, but the grief associated with it that worries us. The anxiety and grief associated with death is accentuated by the connections or attachments we have on people or things in this world. It has a implosive effect like the self implosion of a star as it consumes itself under the crush of its own gravity. Therefore, what we need to reduces is grief of death or in the analogy of gravity…the Gravity of Death.

To reduce the Gravity of Death we need to start by eliminating the very reason for the gravity or grief. The first factor was the mass or our own influence. It would be prudent to reduce the dependency of others on you. Empowering people around us would reduce our mass and thereby the effect of the gaping hole that we leave behind. Severing of the threads of our attachments to the objects of desire, would make us lighter. It would free us from the pull of Gravity of Death and allow us to live a fulfilling and free life.

The Spark

If its breathing its alive
If it bothers me it’s alive
If it sparkles in the darkest night
it’s alive

It carries the essence
It cannot die
It is the spark
It cannot die

Every time I look away
When I know I should not
I feel its flicker
Every time I hesitate
When the voice within says I should not
I feel its flicker

Every time I ‘do’,
irrespective of ‘why’
It glows within
Every time I step up,
irrespective of ‘who’
It glows within

The darkness will melt
as the sparks ignite,
Yes, it will continue to glow,
Till the man in the mirror
meets the one on the other side