Reflection

Wake-Up Call

It was a busy morning and I had a bunch of things to do. Something that I was reminded of as I scrambled out of bed and shut the alarm down. A short while later I read the first message of the day. It was from Google. It said that I had used up all the free space, some 17 GB. If I need to continue receiving email and such else, I have to pay-up (upgrade). Or else!

I was fully awake now. This wake-up call had woken me up.

Over the next few days, I started parsing my inbox and deleting with a methodical frenzy. I said that in one sentence. Those who have trouble discarding stuff that they have accumulated over the years will know the trouble. It’s always painful for me. Gift wrappers, user manuals of gadgets that have long gone out of service, notebooks, clothes and much else pile up, until one fine day they are despatched away for want of space! The accumulation of fat on the hip is a different story.

Back to google. Within the first hour of my effort to clean up my mailbox, it was apparent that there had to be a better way of doing this. I had to make a few rules and play by them.

A few rules.

1. 25 minutes every day

2. Bunch email into a few buckets.

3. Apply filter and delete.  (Don’t look too much)

It’s not been easy.  I have been like one marauding warrior on a sea of silliness. Even as I cleaned pages and pages of emails, I was awestruck by the magnitude of the mess that my inbox played host to.

One category of news from numerous international, national, regional, local community publications from over the years. Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian, India Today, Caravan, Vikatan and the like. News that has moved past its point and sitting pretty in the mailbox!

Random newsletters from the optometrist to the car showroom attendant all announcing something new that they wanted me to open up my wallet further. ‘We have opened a new store’. ‘We have something on discount’. ‘It’s been some time, we miss you’, some screamed. Yeah right. DELETE.

The mutual funds and the banks. I think there ought to be a law that they have to pay me for the amount of storage space they occupied in my inbox! Incorrigible.

The delete button must have felt the heat as I deleted emails with more emphasis and emotion, wondering why I hadn’t done so in the past. There were newsletters from Becky, Phil, Mamta, Sapna, XYZ store. I would have identified them and deleted them, only to find that a Mamta was still sitting in my inbox, a short while later. Because she had countless other email IDs!

Mamta@abc.com. 

Mamta_123@abc.com. 

Mamta@1bc123.com. 

Mamta@i4u.abc.com.  And so on. 

Every airline I have flown, every handkerchief I have bought, every ice cream I have eaten seem to have followed me and sat pretty inside my inbox. And like a scene from a mythological story, they kept morphing their identities that destroying them has been a task. To put it mildly.

Half an hour every day has meant I have managed to cut the obvious flab. I have unsubscribed from 36,798 newsletters! Or so it seems. Most of them, I am sure I didn’t subscribe in the first place. I am reasonably sure I did not sign up to receive a newsletter explaining the virtues of settling down in a community in west Kalyan. Or of a coffee from Kumbakonam.

There was one that announced the virtues of a certificate course on world peace or something akin to that. Again and again.

Vacancies of jobs in random organisations I don’t remember ever knowing existed! The merits of being a tri-athlete. Phew. The list is never-ending. I am still at it.

And about Amazon. I realise they have emails for every move of your finger. 

You look for a product – you get an email.

You order a product. You get an email. ( and messages, but let’s stick to email now).

Your order reaches the vendor. You get an email.

Your vendor scratches the glue. You get an email.

Your product is on the way. Your product has turned the corner. Your product is in the building, where are you?

Your product has been delivered. 

Can we have feedback? 

By the way, because you ordered your product, we think you will like the exact replica of the product and we will send you emails every now and then, about the replica. 

And then, we will send you an email so that you start all over again. It doesn’t matter if what you ordered was a pen or a porcupine! Phew!

And if you take a decade of such stuff that sits in your email box, you can imagine the stack. That could easily outspan a huge Amazon warehouse! 

Its been some wake-up call.  I think it will take a while.  And I am more than determined I don’t want to be woken up this way. The other learning that many others have advocated, is this: “Reduce at source”. I have filters in place now. Plus dedicated time to clean up stuff.

The real wake-up call

This entire inbox experience also is a metaphorical stand-in for the accumulation that happens in the mind.   Accumulation happens over time. As I wrote in the OWL despatch the other day. It happens whilst we are busy doing other things. The staid interactions. The WhatsApp venom. The ridiculous expectations. And so on. In the digital world, these stay back forever. Coming back to remind and haunt.

To move on requires cleansing of the mind. Often. But better still, is the idea of using strong filters and ‘reducing at source’. I am working on setting up strong filters. Coming up soon are some exits from more WhatsApp groups and social media platforms. Pruning work areas, drawing clear lines on the ground and staying within.

The digital landscape gives a false sense of infinite space, omnipotence, and width. This wake-up call has rekindled the desire for depth and deep work. I wonder if it’s just me. Would you have a story to share?

Ok Google. Can you stand down now please?

Image Courtesy : Pixabay

Movement & momentum

There are more thousands and thousands of photographs in my hard drive.  Some that are very special. For the ‘special’ element of moment captured or more simply for the emotion triggered by a memory that lies pregnant in that image.  

Here is one such.

 

A young boy who suddenly started running, with a posture that befits an accomplished runner.  I balanced myself at the open door of a moving train to see if I could get a picture. Truth be told, I was trying to get a clean shot of railway tracks, for some reason. Through the camera lens, I saw the boy start to sprint and changed my focus! 


After about 100 meters of sure footed sprinting, he stopped and started walking. Still smiling. The train I was in, kept pulling away at greater speeds and the last I saw of the boy, he was still walking.  I hope he still is, with the smile intact.

The intensity in the stride, the surefooted in an uneven terrain and kept me captivated for long after the journey was done. . 

That is my wish of all of us this week. To run with joy. For movement begets its own momentum. With momentum you never know where you could end up at. 

Every time I look at the photograph, I get a dose of raw energy that suddenly courses my veins. Of course the boy doesn’t know. Which brings me to the other point: Do you know who you inspire to action / reflection? 

Do you realise that you may never know that what to you are ‘simple routines of daily living’ could be deeply inspirational to many. When the lens changes, the action takes a different meaning.  

“You dont have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going” said Gary Halbert. Perfection is an elusive target that will stay elusive forever. Getting going, will get us all closer to perfection

I wonder what you think of the picture. What stories come to your mind? You never know how inspiring your stories can be. Share. Somewhere! 

Have a great week people. 

The gap between the end and the bend !


We meet after a long while. After what seems like an eternity.  

He speaks of lost opportunities and missed chances. Inbetween stories of his valorous wins and overflowing juggernaut of his conquests. 

He suddenly stopped, and asked, why he hadnt seen a blogpost from me in a long while. ‘Have you given up on blogging ?’, he asks.

I tell him there is a difference between a ‘bend’ and an ‘end’ ! 

He looks vaguely. Emptily he fiddles with his brand new Rolex, which I think is a fake one, and says, I should blog about this. 

And I agree. 

Defining a state

Driving through Kerala is an experience. For starters, whats called the highway has just about as wide as for two regular trucks to go past barely scrapping each others paint on the bumper. That may not be completely accurate all points of the highway. Someplaces, its actually worse.

Yet, it is an absolute pleasure. For several reasons. For it is in such a drive that the contradictions clean out any preconceived idea that you came laden with.

One, the perpetual sea of green that adorn the sides of the road is such a soothing alternative to Mumbai. Where the roads are so seamlessly and almost by way birthright encroached upon by a builder, a hawker or a gawker. The road side in Kerala is a green.

Two, is the colourful array construction that surprised me no end. Truth be told, some choice of colour left me open mouthed debilitation of the eye. Churches , temples, mosques, toddy shops all hold your attention. Amidst them the churches predominately hold attention. Atleast they did so to mine.


Just as you are taking a turn at the road, if you need to be keeping yourself mentally alive and occupied its easy to do here. You could play simple game like betting with yourself (or with the people in the car that you are traveling with ) that the visual element that would next meet your eye, upon taking the turn, would be a ‘purple coloured spire with some connection to Jesus’.

You could be right. In most cases, I was. Or wrong. Like I was. In yet other cases I was yet to recover from the intensity of the previous sighting or the point of interest it generated.


For instance, you couldn’t think of a South Indian temple without thinking of the golden staff that adorns them. The permeability of culture to enable people to settle into a new idea or religion and help them feel at home was evident in some churches sporting the same golden staff.

But then disappointment or joy doesn’t matter. Either way, the sight is arresting with a limitlessly boundless feeling. Of either joy, wonder, curiosity or ‘what-were-they-thinking’ ! For the sight of a green coloured toddy shop or a bright yellow temple or at the least, an aesthetically constructed and ever so visually appealing to the eye kind of a house (bungalow) ensure that there just is no dearth of what the eyes can soak up.

At other times, distant cousins of Schumacher and Hamilton will shake you up as they rev the cracker of an engine in what would seem like a bus that would barely survive the corner swerve. The only warning signs are written on the sides : ‘Super Fast’ . In a rather quiet and demure way.


If you look at the shape of the bus that seemed to have rubbed its body against dinosaurs and conclude that super fast would be as glacial movement, well, let me put it this way : please be prepared for a rude awakening.

But try wrapping your arms around the state with a singular idea or a definition, and realization quickly dawns that its tough to do that.



Somewhere between all these churches and temples, communist party supporter still thrive.

Amidst all the relaxed ambiance of nature that thrives by the side of the road, the super fast buses rule the roost in the middle of the road

Wonderful stately artistic houses nestle in the midst of purple spires, yellow domes and toddy shops painted in green.

The simple pristine dhoti is the regular wear while big billboards advertise for jewelry, seemingly by the kilo, that could well have the potential of making the Reserve Bank of India feeling downright jealous.

The artistic quotient in the real movies of Kerala is perhaps the best in the country. Of the other kind of movies, that get made have an equal if not exceedingly alluring claim to fame too.

It is these contradictions that seem to have made peace with each other and thrive in a seamless ease, that make the place rich for me.

Much like a husband and wife who have a productive and harmonious marital life. Yet, he annoyed at the way she squeezes the toothpaste out, even as he gives the same toothpaste case the treatment she would give to a jewellery box.

And she perennially cheesed off by his insistent perpetual oddity of chewing dosa with loud chomps that would fit a primate even as she would insist on using a knife and fork to prise open and transport the the masala dosa from the plate to the tongue with elegance that can reach a hall of excellence in that category.

The red flag waving communist complemented by the purple church spire and yellow temple dome. The clean roads matched only by elements of nature and insistent ‘towers’ that are coming up now. The oodles of history besotted by the imminence of the present day. All of these, and much more, make what perhaps is an idea that is Kerala.

An idea that is not defined by singularly by geography or history or Economics or by this all encompassing word of ‘culture’ ! For the state comes alive in its boundless contradictions and uncanny beneficence of nature and hospitable people.

Who make some awesome boiled rice and fish curry. On that invigorating thought, I rest this post.


Previous post is here

The waves as witness

Harihareshwar is also known as the Kashi of the South ! ‘ Of the South !?!’ I sputtered, spilling coffee on a brown shirt. Wondering aloud if patriotic nationlists (sic) from this side of the country, object to this beautiful region being ‘ceded’ to the South !

That’s precisely when the missus chips in.

‘South of what ?’ She asks. And then replies with great glee ‘South of the Kashi of the North’ Ok ? That argument should have sent geography folks and such others whirring in their graves. But logical no ?

Relatives of people who are dead and gone come here. An annual pilgrimage of sorts, we are told. And others, come to immerse ashes.

Today there are fat cars. Fat filled fat bodies. Tonsured heads best complimented by a thin cloth on the upper body. Carrying flowers and some of them carrying decorated mud pots. ‘Urns’ whispers the missus. To be immersed in the grand Arabian Sea.

Their arrival gets the crows excited like school children who find that their class teacher has run away with the head master! Glee from the fact that two birds are down with one stone. A love stone of sorts.

Today, most of what is offered as part of the rituals will go to the crows. They sure do look well fed.

There is a small assortment of people.But in them, there is variety. There is one in whom there is so much teeth on display, that he could have been a model for a sundry toothpaste. Another gent in a corner stands glum faced. Yet another, loud. Another, could have been mistaken for a statue in Madame Tussads, if not for the occasional move to keep his dhoti on his waist.

I wonder aloud, loud enough for the missus to hear, if they have already read the will of the person who is dead !! What else would cause such a diversity in emotion. Promptly receiving a look of deep admonishment and an unsaid ‘Shut up’ from the missus. You sure must have seen a chastised puppy, with a curled tail, looking deep into the floor and avoiding all eye contact. Yeah. Thats the look that took me over.



In the meanwhile, the women in the group, are working away, arranging the pots in a particular order. The steps to the sea, where they do this is so picturesque and stately through the camera lens, that it seems to swallow the grief that people come here with.

One set of waves come crashing in.

We drive on.

There are other things to see. As we drive back, somewhere along the shoreline, the missus excitedly waves me to stop, pointing to two boys playing. Rolling. Running. Catching insects.



We alight from the car. Walk about. The boys are busy, throwing stones into the sea. For a minute I thought I had achieved my childhood dream of becoming ‘invisible’. The very boys that exclaim at the sight of ants and dragonflies, don’t even look in the direction of two well fed people and a Japanese engine to boot.

Not even a customary look to register presence. Nothing. A tinge of disappointment of a dragon fly holding precedence of attention over decades of conscious and unconscious building of firmly entrenched fat cells is quickly overcome by the sheer joy of seeing the boys in play !

The lungs soak in fresh air, eyes soak in the space and the ears soak in the shrieks of joy that the boys let go. Today’s urban kids raised in tall apartments cant shriek or throw stones into an ‘empty afar’ without the building’s secretary and his mandali landing up at the doorstep !

These kids throw with abandon, claiming victory with each throw. The waves swallow each stone with an ebb much like bribe money in a politicians pocket. Disappearing without trace!

Later that evening, we see a set of children. Playing. With such gay abandon, that it’s a joy to watch unfettered, innocent happiness. The waves come crashing in, almost teasing each kid. No supervision. No people around. Just the kids No Baywatch type lifeguard. No lifeguard.


The waves come crashing by. Again and again !

It’s a sight. Ordinary yet profound. I sit still. Except falling for the occasional urge to click a picture or two.

In a few hours from then, I am deep in slumber. In my dreams come the glum faced man from Harihareswar. The jumping kids chasing dragon flies the size of dinosaurs, and the evening sun urging the waves to splash some more water on kids !

One of those kids walks upto me, smiles, offers me an ice cream the size of a football and asks me ‘Why so serious?”

A wave comes crashing in. I wake up with a start.

Ah ! The waves. They are the witness to the dream. The new dream. To be a kid again.