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“I just want to this about that.”
― Steven C. Smith

Word Of The Year 2024

A Word Of The Year (WOTY) has served me useful purpose for a few years now. It has helped fix a North Star of sorts and constantly keep taking new bearing as the waves and tides of reality toss the small boat of life. WOTY 2024 got fixed sometime in early December 23. I had every intent to get it out on 31st Dec. That was not to be.

But here I am. With WOTY 24. A word that I am certain is necessary for every year that follows as well. And that word is ‘BELIEVE’.

In 2023, my WOTY was Dare. How did I fare on that?

I did dare to venture into areas where I have never done before. My eyes feasted on some amazing sights. There were incredible people who showed up along the way to help me along. And I dared to to keep going in what looked like a dark tunnel, looking for the proverbial light at the end of it. As I looked for light and ploughed on, guess who showed up? 2024!

And in more ways than one, I ventured into areas that were scary. I ended with some middling success, a few that fell far short of my target and in one case, with an one elaborate egg on my face. In all this, I am only glad that I started off and kept going. The scars remind me of my bounty of imperfection hemmed in with a silver lining of ‘dare’.

That silver is precious.

‘Believe’ as my WOTY 24

What the passing year has (not) offered and what the new year demands often blend into my word of the year. That’s how I have seen it work.

Dare has been extremely useful. This year has taught me that dare works best in tandem with belief. Bereft of belief, dare comes a cropper. A valiant one, perhaps. A foundation built on strong belief is essential for a full life!

To believe in ones own ideas. Trusting someone else that they too can come up with curve. Working with sense of possibility. Rowing hard with hope and prayer on a boat named abundance even when the sea is petulant. All of that is the stuff of ‘believe’.

No. It’s not blind belief. Or make believe. It is just belief that has been dipped in doses of reality, and coated with hard effort and courage that help take the next step, even when not knowing for sure, where that step will land.

Swami Vivekananda said, “The history of the world is written by the few who have faith in themselves”. I am writing my own history by living my life everyday. I seek to live it tall by choosing ‘Believe’ as my WOTY for 2024.

My North Star.

What’s your’s?

Teachers Make The World

I have been fortunate with winning the teacher lottery. Every year, there is a jackpot of some sort. Perhaps it is a consequence of winning an early jackpot and then enjoying the spoils year after year. With copious fresh additions! Maybe, my teachers in early life have taught me tricks to hit jackpot every year.

A quick accosting of my memory bank surfaces multiple instances where what they taught me back then stays with me and guides me. And has added on to the memory of the day.

“Be the best you can be. And remember, there is ‘better’ beyond your ‘best’. Always.” A hand written note after a play said.

“Stay kind”, another teacher had said. “Help people”. In December 1992. When he spotted me really upset on a sepulchral day.

“Stay curious. You are dead without it”. Another said.

“If I catch you slacking, I am coming after you. No matter where you are”. Said the Biology teacher after I won a quiz competition.

Time after time, they saw in me what I didn’t see. They looked at a scruffy imperfect chap but always looked beyond the imperfections. They pointed me to an eternal spring of hope and promise. That keeps me going.

And one wise lady who pulled me at the end of the year, gave me a hug and said, “Stay thankful”. I want to tell her and all my other teachers from the past and present, that I try. Every year.

The Good News

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

Thich Nhat Hanh

PS: There is good news to reach out to. At all times. A reminder to myself.

Rating

What’s common between Times Square, New York and the Taj Mahal, Agra? Well, they share a rating. 4.7 on Google Reviews!

You may be sufficiently aghast, filled with delectable glee or sufficiently nonchalant. The times we live in has scope for all three and more.

The other day, I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation in the airport shuttle as it was ferrying a bunch of tired passengers to the terminal building. It had been a long flight and two fellow passengers had forked out their phones to book their cabs on Uber. Which is when one of them exclaimed that his rating had come down in Uber.

“I have been polite, I have said Thank you. I have even tipped every idiot. Yet my rating is down”. He was almost inconsolable. Just that morning I had recalled Kiran, my regular taxi driver from a decade ago. He would always drop me off with a “have a safe flight” or something to that effect. That morning I took an Uber and the driver looked at me and said, “please give me a good rating”. That was his sign off line.

The rating tyranny has truly taken over modern lives. From expansive humans who were driven by the promise of endless possibilities we have become narrow creatures seeking precision and a performance rating.

Speaking of which, I remember that it is the season of performance ratings in many organisations and it is inviting considerable amount of heartburn and angst. An individual’s rating by itself does not mean as much as when held up against another’s! That rating somehow ends up signifying an individual’s contribution and worth. They also end up determine how much money an employee takes home.

A rating is always a measure. The goal is something else. Happiness. Good customer service. Etc. Somewhere down the line, measures have begun standing in for goals. And thus, a rating is ubiquitous in urban life.

Sunday last, I had just finished a run and was catching my breath. A young teacher with a bunch of four high school kids walked by. They were having a wonderful conversation on history and the story of the Taj Mahal. I was walking right behind them and oblivious to me, the teacher asked them a question: ‘What comes to your mind when you think of the Taj Mahal? ”

Pat came the reply from a tall kid with unkempt hair and a clumsy shirt, “If a man has enough purpose in life, he can do anything”.

I smiled.

Times Square can keep the rating crown!

WOTY 2023

Last year I had ‘Dive’ as my WOTY. Or the Word Of The Year. 2022 happened to be the year that I dived. Last month, there were several other WOTYs of 2022 announced. Interesting array here.

Oxfords’s WOTY 2022 – Goblin mode

Dictionary.com‘s – woman

Merriam Webster’s – Gaslighting

The crucial difference of course is that the above ones came up in retrospect. Each having their own parameter.

I choose my WOTY as a word that will guide my action, at the beginning of the year.

But Why?

Did it matter that I had ‘Dive” as my WOTY last year? I think so. It constantly reminded me to dive when I walked up and down the diving board.

I reminded myself of Shel Siverstein who I had quoted last year.

You’ve been up on that diving board
Making sure that it’s nice and straight.
You’ve made sure that it’s not too slick.
You’ve made sure it can stand the weight.
You’ve made sure that the spring is tight.
You’ve made sure that the cloth won’t slip.
You’ve made sure that it bounces right,
And that your toes can get a grip
And you’ve been up there since half past five
Doin’ everything… but DIVE

Shel Siverstien

So, it helped stimulate action. And thought. When I was stuck on the board for a bit.

No. It is not a resolution. It powers resolutions and other stuff.

It Is 2023

2022 is so last year. This year, I hit upon WOTY much ahead. It’s taken some time to get here.

Dare.

Yes. That’s my word of the year. It provides anchor to some of the leaps that I have to do. I have been awake for a while and the coffee has been smelling just like it should. Dare is going to be central to action this year.

This year, I hope to dare mighty things

I stumbled into Roosevelt’s speech from 1899 after NASA launched its Perseverance Rover on Mars. It is quite a story. Read if you don’t know about and refresh your memory if you do.

Dare Mighty Things is embedded in my mind and memory ever since. And on my screen as well. It encapsulates the vastness of the possibilities that lie beyond imagination and the courage to pursue them.

Dare often conjures up images of valour in the battlefield or Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Dare to me epitomises courage in simple everyday moments.

Would I dare myself to step outside my comfort zone and say ‘hello’ to someone I don’t know?

Dare is about choosing to say ‘yes’ when ‘no’ has been the default. And actively saying ‘No’ when ‘yes’ is alluring. To choose to invoke courage and go beyond is this year’s theme.

What the next moment is going to offer to us belongs to the next moment. This moment is all that we have. And to let ourselves rejoice in it requires a courage that I am invoking this year.

I hope to soak in people and places this year. Concepts, cultures, stories and much else that adult life thus far kept packing under the ‘someday’ category.

Dare Thoughts

As I kept weaving thoughts on dare together, I dipped into some of the masters and words that lend themselves to my idea of Dare well.

“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than who you are.”

Master Shifu

Dare to be free, dare to go as far as your thought leads, and dare to carry that out in your life.

Swami Vivekananda

To dare is to lose ones footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.

Soren Kierkegaard

What do you think? I hope to get lighter and easy with myself. It’s a tall ask. But hey, that’s what the dare is all about. To go for tall asks. That’s why its my WOTY!

The Many Pleasures Of Reading

Last month a dear friend gifted me a book. A physical one. With smells, sounds and good old paper. It has pages that I can dog-ear. And write my notes. Circle. Underline. Etc.  And so, have revisited the pleasures of reading a physical book. It has done wonders to my reading. 

It didn’t quite start that way. When I unwrapped the gift to see books, the first thought was, where do I keep them? Skirmishes at home about my books and the space they occupy have been persistent. Peace has been wrought by sticking to the kindle. Until these books arrived.  

So, I left these books on a side table. I had to figure out how to get back to caressing a book while devouring what it held. Perhaps in the hesitating was a fear of falling in love with the physical book again. 

One of the books seemed to tug at me.  Chandrahas Choudhury’s “My Country Is Literature”.

 The back cover had this.

“A book is only one text, but it is many books. It is a different book for each of its readers. My Anna Kareninais not your Anna Karenina; your A House for Mr Biswas is not the one on my shelf. When we think of a favourite book, we recall not only the shape of the story, the characters who touched our hearts, the rhythm and texture of the sentences. We recall our own circumstances when we read it: where we bought it (and for how much), what kind of joy or solace it provided, how scenes from the story began to intermingle with scenes from our life, how it roused us to anger or indignation or allowed us to make our peace with some great private discord. This is the second life of the book: its life in our life.”

Those lines were enough to shed my romance and dive into experiencing the sensuous pleasures that only a book can kindle. Sorry about the stupid pun.

Anyway, I have read been devouring with great relish. This book is a collection of literary criticisms on the works of an esoteric set of writers. Perumal Murugan. Orhan Pamuk. Sadat Hasan Manto. Nehru. Junichiro Tanizaki. Manu Joseph. And several others.

I have been slow reading. Rereading. Fast reading. Beginning all over again. There is no bar at the bottom of the page that tells me I have finished 43% of the book. The volume of fresh pages on my right palm are inviting by their weight and crisp edges. So I go slow. 

A Library Of Emotions For The Pleasures Of Reading

In the middle of all this, another dear friend sent this message on whatsapp.

“I think Emerson wrote somewhere that a library is a kind of magic cavern which is full of dead men. And those dead men can be reborn, can be brought to life when you open their pages.

Speaking about Bishop Berkeley (who, may I remind you, was a prophet of the greatness of America), I remember he wrote that the taste of the apple is neither in the apple itself—the apple cannot taste it- self—nor in the mouth of the eater. It requires a contact between them.

The same thing happens to a book or to a collection of books, to a library. For what is a book in itself? A book is a physical object in a world of physical objects. It is a set of dead symbols. And then the right reader comes along, and the words—or rather the poetry behind the words, for the words themselves are mere symbols—spring to life, and we have a resurrection of the word.”

Borges, Jorge Luis, from his book This craft of verse

My mind right now is like a meadow sprouting all kinds of green after a luxurious spell of afternoon rain. And as dusk falls, birds and insects chirp away. Strange calls and uncommon sounds seem to festoon the night ahead as I look at the pages ahead. A strange set of emotions that are beyond the stuff in the common library of emotions.

That’s what reading a book does to me. How I love “what have you been reading lately?” to bibliophiles like Manu!

The many pleasures of reading are best left unexplained. For explanation does it more harm than good. I can say that with certainty after writing all this.

Enough

A while ago, I was a meeting with my Financial Advisor. Frankly, it wasn’t a meeting I was looking forward to. Enough said, he was an affable chap but my finances had become a problem pile under the table. Packed away and relegated to that space every time the topic came up.

The Financial Adisor was a solid man. His affability did not come in the way of his plain speaking.  

He is a well meaning chap and he is also in business.  He told me that I have to factor for inflation, key life events and my aspirations.  And to maintain a decent lifestyle, I would have to put together a tidy sum.

It ensured sleepless nights. The tidy sum was one part. The bigger part was looking into the future and picturing how it would all be.

The whole conversation got me thinking about enough. 

Amongst all things I became present to, I could clearly see how my goalposts shifted over the years. With every passing year, ‘enough’ has hardly stayed stable. I jotted some random thoughts that morning. I pull them out now and then. Last week I was reading them after hearing Morgan Houssel speak.

Eleven reminders

Here are eleven specific points from those notes.  Syncopated. Keeping dive in mind! It’s only February. 🙂   

1. Innocuous temptations are the first steps to the grand palace of avarice. It is important to begin staying mindful to where it all begins.

2. To add is easy. To remove from the list is tough. Buying is energising. To prune, is necessary action.

3. To add emotion to a material possession is dangerous to mental health.

4. Cultivating simple habits, routines leading up to an affordable life is as important (if not more) as building a corpus.

5. Meaning and purpose that comes from service and purpose provides immense energy and push.

7. Buying for need trumps buying because it is possible to buy! Or that it will be delivered in fifteen minutes. Or ten.

8. Taking good care of material possesions is important is key. Just thinking of what it took for an object to get shaped into something of value, can be a mind boggling discovery!

9. Engaging relationships, people and community bring great joy now and over time.

10. What is enough needs an early and firm decision. Something that will not move.

11. The single most important possession is the body and mind. To keep the first one safe and the other, sane is comes before all of the above.

Rich stuff

I remember infinitely rich conversations with people who did not let their material wealth intrude their ways of life and relationships.

They were curious about the human mind and its many dimensions. The horizons they sought to discover were often at the edge of their own comfort zones. Their offices were spartan and neat.

That is my aspiration.

On a subsequent meet with my financial planner, I told him about my aspirations. It was his tun to look at me with bewilderment.

Enough has not been said about enough. Or has it been? Whichever way you think of it, enough is always enough. At least that’s what happened I learnt from my financial planner.

He never saw me again.

A Man For All Seasons

Vivek Patwardhan is a quintessential gentelman who through his life, exemplifies the phrase ‘a man for all seasons’! In a quiet, unassuming yet definitive way. He has been that way since the time I met him first.

Let me spare you the effort of looking up “A man for all seasons”. While it stands for someone who is talented and successful in many areas, the origin of the phrase interests me. Robert Whittington, wrote this of Thomas More in 1520

“More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.”

[ From that line comes the famous play (& a much awarded moved later on) on Thomas Moore, bearing the title : “A Man For All Seasons”].

Vivek Patwardhan has been many things to me over the years. I won’t write them all down here for the words do not do justice to the depth of what it means to me. Besides, this post is not about me. It is about a book Lulu Duologues. His book.

Lulu Duologues

Vivek has been an intrepid blogger (amongst other things) for several years now. Sometime in his blogging journey, Lulu started chirping in. The delightful chirping brough gave voice to silent thoughts and unvoiced questions that dont surface in regular conversation. And in doing so, Lulu has been a treat to look forward to and a treasure to cherish.

Lulu has been chirping away for 11 years now. I was more than delighted when a book emerged. A compilation of all Lulu blogposts over several years. (Re)Reading them brought both nostalgia and new perspective.

As I read the book, I realised that most events are transitory. The questions that such events evoke stay for far longer. I must say that this book has held insight way beyond its easy chirping.

I will be chatting more with Vivek Patwardhan over the next few weeks and bringing alive new insights. As a starter, I dropped a few questions into his inbox and the responses came faster than the speed of light.

Here they are. My questions. And answers. from the man for all seasons. By the way, here’s something that I wrote about him in 2009

What propels you to write and share? It is not easy to do it on such a sustainable basis?

I always wanted to write. But there were no opportunities in school where one could do it. When I enrolled for the science college, I had moved from Marathi medium of instruction to English. The college required us to attend tutorials in English. The tutor often praised me and appreciated my writing. She used to give assignments in creative writing. I used to cringe at the praise because I knew my English was poor. I mentioned it to her often. But the tutor often told me not to think of the grammar and focus on the story.

When I started editing the Company’s Marathi magazine, I had no choice but to write regularly. A few of my editorials and articles earned appreciation. The highest point of appreciation came when Dr Narendra Dabholkar (Read about him here ) called up to ask my consent to publish my article, originally published in Company’s magazine, in ‘Sadhana’ a highly reputed Marathi magazine. (I do not know whether my article actually got published, perhaps not, because another commercial magazine published it, probably before Sadhana!). Mr Suneel Karnik, who is a renowned editor of Marathi books has encouraged me time and again, and he still does!

As I moved to a new role in the company, international travel became frequent. So I wrote travelogues some of which were published by Marathi magazines. At the Rotary Club I was asked to interview and write short introduction of members. I found life story of each one interesting; the exercise gave me tremendous insights in how people handle success, conflicts and relationships in general. There was so much to think and write about. I must have read more than twenty biographies as my interest in the lives of people developed.

Experiences, our own as well as those of others, become food for thought. When I wrote, some were reflected in my writing. It is difficult to say how or which got reflected, but I know that the source of my writing was people, their relationship with self and others, and the way their lives were shaped by their relationships with the world.

I worked in Human Resource Management arena. You see how people behave individually and collectively.

I began to see so much drama in all events. Real life is unimaginably different and stranger than fiction. Art is imitating life, as they say, but not adequately enough. Let me tell you what I discovered last month. Please recall the scene in the movie Sholay. Gabbar Singh asks Hema Malini to dance over broken glass splinters and threatens to shoot Dharmendra is she stops. Now here is the true story of Dr Edith Eger. In 1944 she was a 16 years old ballerina and was sent to Auschwitz – she was a jew. She underwent terrible experiences, one of which was that she was made to dance for Josef Mengele.( Read about him here ). He was called the angel of death, he performed deadly experiments on the prisoners of Auschwitz. And Edith survived the holocaust, went to USA and became a very well-known psychiatrist. I am reading her book ‘The Choice.’

I am amazed at the people’s ability to engage in actions of extreme cruelty; and I am also amazed at people’s ability – which Edith demonstrated – to make a life-positive or life-assertive choice.

All this becomes the material from which some thoughts emerge for writing.

Now the next part of the question: you said, ‘It is not easy to do it on such a sustainable basis.’

You introduced me to blogging and that was in 2008. Blogging permits you to do ‘Self-Publishing’. You can write whatever you wish and publish it at will, of course, as long as it conforms to certain norms of writing and publishing. I retired in mid – 2009. In that one year, I realised the full power of blogging.So much so that I had five blogs running at one stage – one for my English blogs, one for HR related blogs, one on which we wrote limericks, one was a photoblog and one on which my Marathi articles were published.

If you put together all the work, and exclude Photo blogposts, I have published more than 1500 blog posts! That works out to one every three days! The count of Lulu blogs alone comes close to 200.

Coming back to what propels me to write and share? I write as I introspect. Writing is my way of introspection. I have been writing ‘morning pages’ for twelve or thirteen years. Writing is helps me take an objective view of an event or experience. And sometimes the pen takes over and writes something which you had no thought at a conscious level! Those can be epiphanies. Though it happens only once in a while, I have got ‘addicted’ to it. The probability of finding some deep meaning in an event or experience is higher than finding a diamond in a mine!

What have been some moments that stay in memory with Lulu, over the years. (When did you start out, how many have you got so far, what’s the best public response, what were you surprised by, what has not been so nice etc)?

The first Lulu blog I wrote in May 2009, on the verge of my retirement. At that juncture you look back on your life. My mother’s death, it was a euthanasia, has stayed on my mind. Time may have blunted the pain a little bit, but it still remains a bleeding wound.

I was copying Behram Contractor (Busybee who published a daily column ‘Round and About’ in The Evening News of India and then in The Afternoon Courier and Despatch)in style.) He used to speak to his dog Bolshoi. Yet Lulu was not invented. And then one day I started writing blogs as dialogues with Lulu, my parrot.

I was also inspired by VishramBedekar’s autobiography ‘Ek Zad ani Don Pakshi’. He refers to shlokas in Mundaka Upanishad, the meaning of which [as explained by Bedekar] is that two birds are perched on the tree of life. One eats the sweet fruits but is sad and weak, and the other does not eat anything but he is strong and analyzing looking at the first one. Bedekar’sautobiography is written as if the second bird is talking about the author, in other words, it is written as a third person account of the author’s life, with his thoughts and reflections on the events in his life. That was certainly another source of inspiration.

Public response has been interesting and varied. At our HR group meetings people often asked about Lulu. Some referred to me as the creator of Lulu. And believe it or not, many persons actually asked me if I kept a parrot as a pet!

I also discovered that people enjoyed a conversation or a dialogue more than an article. Perhaps they imagine they are also a party depending which side of the issue they are, or quite simply they are amused.

I have always found this interesting. For fifteen years, I travelled by Mumbai’s ‘local’ trains. The journey would take at least forty minutes, sometimes longer. I used to observe people. The number of persons who eavesdrop on the discussion between two unknown persons is shockingly high! They usually do not interrupt, but you can see the reaction on their faces when a joke or story is told.

This may be not a very respectful to my readers, but all of us like to eavesdrop on conversations. That could be a reason why a blog in conversation form is more attractive!

About criticism, many friends told me that I ‘reveal’ too much. The ‘Mother’s Day” blog, another one about my reaction when my father was leaving for hospital are some blogs where they felt so. But I write for ‘Svant-Sukhay’ as they say in Sanskrit, or my own pleasure. I feel deeply held emotions should be expressed to lighten your soul, and writing is my way.

When I published Experience and Explanation in which I mention my surprise at the surreal experience of my wife, I thought I was trading a thin line of public acceptance. It was a true experience. My wife comes from a very orthodox Brahmin family and you don’t expect her to be touched by some power in a durgah! But it happened!! I am sure it must have happened to many, but when it comes to Hindu-Muslim terrain, it takes a political turn in our country. Surprisingly nothing like that happened. A friend who is a celebrity and a devout Muslim actually appreciated and said he would discuss such experiences with me when we meet.

There is a child in me which tests the acceptable levels of boundaries of any subject. I have done it in the case of Kasab too, but not in Lulu format. What I have learnt is that individually people of all religions are magnanimous and to a large extent inclusive. But things change dramatically when they make a group!

As I mentioned earlier, I have written almost 200 Lulu blogs, and there is enough to write about.

If Lulu was to come in front of you, what would it say? What would you say?

Lulu is my alter ego, so in a way it will be like looking in the mirror. ‘Mirror Gazing’ as they call it. When we look into the mirror we rarely look in to our eyes. We see our dress, our appearance. Looking in to one’s eyes is not easy; it can be discomforting. It requires self-acceptance. Meeting Lulu will test my self-acceptance. You are asking me what would I say if I meet Lulu. I may not say anything, I may not even challenge his statements, yet it can be a disturbing and yet a revealing meeting.

In my blog on my mother, he accuses me of being a hypocrite giving ‘being busy’ as a reason for not meeting my mother often. In my blog on my father,Lulu accuses me of ‘not being authentic’ in interacting with him. I am unable to refute those allegations. Meeting Lulu is unnerving, yet cathartic!

What would you tell the average Lulu Reader about how to read the book. Especially so, because it is written for a different medium quantity of consumption (blog length) versus the chapter length in the book?

These ‘chapters’ can be read in any sequence. I have often exceeded 750 words which is the recommended length of a blog post. But those chapters are also not too long, any chapter can be finished in three minutes. A friend advised readers not to read more than five to seven chapter in one go. His point was that the issue or dilemma of discussion often touched the reader’s heart and it was godo to stop and reflect.

As much as you have shaped Lulu, I think Lulu would have also shaped you? How have you changed over the years, when you look back?

Yes. Repeatedly writing Lulu blog posts is exploring my own mind, and publicly so! I have learnt that purpose, empathy and reason are the three aspects of our everyday action. Those must be consciously practised. I am making every effort to do it. It is a process of learning. I have to discard my typical responses to any question or information. I have to check whether all my response conform to the three tests of purpose, empathy and reason.

Like all people I have changed, or so I would like to believe, and changed very gradually for people to notice. I believe that my responses today to everything have a higher ingredient of empathy, reason and purpose. My response to criticism has changed. I feel my self-awareness has gone a few notches up.

And I have to ask my wife if my statements are true!

How has the book been received?

The book is received well. Many friends called up and mentioned. Reviews of the book are also good. Some reviewers have liked that format, meaning dialogue with a parrot, a very interesting way of writing. A few friends said that the cover could have been better and more attractive. Some readers liked the wide range of subjects covered in duologues. One reader called it a mesmerising experience to read the book. I am aware of the sale of this book in UK too. All liked that idea of conversations with a parrot. So overall a happy experience.

What are your plans ahead?

I will keep writing for my own sake and use blogging with Lulu as a tool of introspection. Lulu blogs have unleashed creativity. I am dabbling in photography, street photography in particular. It is fascinating! I make one sketch a day. I am better at sketching than painting, so I intend to work on my watercolour painting too. In October 2021 I went to London and stayed there for three months. I started Travel journaling. In other words, I have lost inhibitions and I am experimenting with anything that holds my interest.

My plan is to influence the younger members of my family, my grandchildren in particular to experiment with all art forms and learn some at maestro level. And do it without any inhibitions.

I am also a trustee of an NGO called Aroehan. It works to bring about sustainable change in tribal communities. We are working to ensure all children go to school, and they are not malnourished. We want to halt migration of labour. We are working on livelihood issues. I am pained to see how society has ignored them. I intend to my little bit for the cause.

Clarity Of Distance

A photograph clicked on Christmas Eve, 1968 reminds me of the stellar virtues of clarity of distance. A clarity that helps see far more than whats on display.

“You got a colour flim Jim?
Hand me that roll of color quick, would you..”

Thats the simple conversation that preceded the spectacular snap. A conversation that was commonplace in an era preceding the digital camera era.

The result, a spectacular picture that later came to be known as Earthrise. A picture of the Earth, captured by astronauts Wiliam Anders from the surface of the moon.

Here’s a line from the wikientry for Earthrise: On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission in 2018, Anders stated:

“It really undercut my religious beliefs. The idea that things rotate around the pope and up there is a big supercomputer wondering whether Billy was a good boy yesterday? It doesn’t make any sense. I became a big buddy of [atheist scientist] Richard Dawkins.”

Over the years, the photograph has become iconic for it reminds me, amongst other things, the fraglity of Eath and the need for us to take care of it. When I see it used by conservationists, I remind myself that the picture that spurs us into action on the ground beneath is taken thousands from of miles away! In fact, it comes from the surface of the moon. Talk about disatnce!

The Clarity of Distance

The busy humdrum of everyday life gives us little opportunity to think about how we are living it! Over the last few months, one of the most imporatnt lessons I have learnt (again) is the relvance of going inwards and the power of silence. Distancing ourselves from our everyday life helps us see it in better light.

Silence.
Observation.
Reflection.
Conversation

All help. Importantly, they help bringing about clarity on the life we lead. That’s how it

Silence brings awareness of paterns. Both of the promising and the disturbing variety. Whenever I speak of silence I notice how initimadating it is for people. It needn’t be. I am not speaking of Viaasana but the act of conscious reflection by going inwards.

When we do, we become present to whats happening within. We become aware of shifting contexts.

For the last few months, I have also had other elements to help with the silence. Those have been writing, walking and pursuing activities device free.

All have left me with a bunch of thoughs and ideas. And a reinforced belief in clarity of distance.

Even as I state this, I am well aware that action is deeply entrenched in our daily life as a default preference. It is prized and celebrated and any suggestion of silence and reflection invites quizzical looks if not downright dismissal. I can unequivocally state that action guided by reflection and silence has substantially augmented strength.

Try.

Commentary

I can’t write about Earthrise, and the clarity of distance it brings to me, without Carl Sagan’s commentary on the Pale Blue Dot. By the way, If this isnt powerful enough to set context for the time ahead, I don’t know what will. 🙂

Let’s Dive Into 2022

Its been a while and this is a fresh dive. Over the last few months, I vowed myself into silence on most platforms and friendships. The focus was on how quiet I could become and stay silent. Searching for meaning and purpose as we dealt with change, losss, awareness.

Perhaps, implicit in that search was a fond hope that at the end of it, there will be a renewal of sorts. A pot of gold, if you will!

September. October. Novermber. December. Each month came. And went. Like passing clouds. Somewhere I drew a line in the sand for the silence. 2021.

Every passing day of 2021, the quiet, the work and deep private conversations have left me clutching new ideas and plans. And just like that, 2021 ended. And it is 2022.

Happy New Year

For the past several years I have put out a word of the year. Last year I sat down to reflect on the year gone by, my own aspirations for the future, talked to people and then chose one word. Adding meaning and structure to something that was more whimsical earlier. And then, the year took over. I never got to post it. So much for planning!

This year, I hope to do better. On all fronts. And perhaps there is an ounce more of energy powering that statement. (Does this count as a renewal?)

Previous posts are here and here.

Dive

Yes. Dive. Thats the word of the year for me for 2022. The dictionary states that dive is “to plunge into water intentionally and especially headfirst”.

Well thats a pretty accurate verb for my aspirations for the year.

There are ever so well made plans that need focused execution.
There is work and research to deep dive into.
Yes, the water is cold and God knows how I will land, but then, I won’t know until I dive!

Shel Silverstein is a personal favourite.

He says it like no one else.

You’ve been up on that diving board
Making sure that it’s nice and straight.
You’ve made sure that it’s not too slick.
You’ve made sure it can stand the weight.
You’ve made sure that the spring is tight.
You’ve made sure that the cloth won’t slip.
You’ve made sure that it bounces right,
And that your toes can get a grip
And you’ve been up there since half past five
Doin’ everything… but DIVE

And the little miss..

The little miss adds a twist or two that completes my thoughts. She has never failed to do so. Not this time either.

She painted those fun dolphins, when I spoke to her about Dive.

And according to her, the best way to dive is to do it with friends.
And then, you always come up refreshed after a dive!

Plus, Dolphins are fun to be with and intelligent beings. “You are intelligent, arent you?”, she asks. Some questions, I leave for another time. This one belongs to that category!

For now, I am staying focused on ‘Dive’! Thats good enough! 🙂

In the spirit of diving, I hope to be more regular here. Let’s dive into 2022

Happy New Year people.