Jason Mraz

I believe I’ve just found an artist whose work I truly love.

He’s been around for a while, (at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me) but well, I just heard one of his songs today morning, and have been on a listening spree since then.

To be honest, this is the first time I encountered one of his songs, long back:

That is Jeanine Mason, winner of Seaosn 5, So You Think You Can Dance, performing a Travis Wall choreography to ‘If It Kills Me’ by Jason Mraz.

I don’t know how anyone can listen to this song and not want to dance. I do not how anyone watching this performance cannot cry. And I don’t know how anyone performing this cannot fall in love with Jason Mraz.

This is music like I’ve never heard before. Even the songs of his I don’t like too much, I still want to listen. And coming from someone who doesn’t give a song more than 5 seconds to prove its worth, that’s A LOT.

I believe great art is one that shows you your own reflection within an artist. Perhaps its a narcissistic point of view, but there isn’t any other way to judge art. When Jason Mraz sings it’s almost as if he’s crooning to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to romanticize unnecessarily. What I’m emphasizing, is that every song seems like a private, impromptu performance. Like you were sitting in a room along with a guy who’s got a guitar and he goes, “Hey, you wanna hear something?”

Every one of his songs that I’ve heard so far has this quality. It isn’t rehearsed, it isn’t calculated. It’s effortless. It’s completely honest, bare-naked. It’s almost as if he’s making up the song as he’s singing it. Like he has no idea really what will come next, what note he is to hit, what solo he’s to play, how long he’s to pause, or anything like that. He just knows what he wants to sing about, and the rest, he knows, is just going to flow out of his body, come from his mind – like your lungs breathe or your heart beats or your blood flows.

Because it is a default function that your body performs out of the fact of being a ‘body’. So Jason Mraz thoughts turn to lyrics and lyrics turn to music – on their own, without any effort, as a default function of him being who he is. It’s almost as if he’s the music and the music is in him.

I guess this is the reflection I love and cherish. Because that’s how I write too. I don’t really rehearse or calculate my words and sentences. I barely ever edit what write. I just start with a thought. And then words flow. Sentences are formed. Paragraphs created. A Meaning Delivered. Without any real effort. I love everything I write because it’s honest, real, bare-naked. It’s unflinchingly, un-apologetically, unequivocally ME.

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Train to Life

This kid keeps climbing up and down the seats, like he’s on some kind of eternal, endless and exciting treasure hunt.He pauses to look at me from time to time, as if he knows I’m writing about him.  He’s climbed the same bench 5 times now.

He climbs with his entire being. He probably doesn’t get get much to nourish that apology of a body, definitely not enough to match the appetite of his curiosity, but that’s not stopping him. Single-minded dedication towards the aim getting the right leg up, after the left. He lies prostate, belly down, on the bench for about 3 seconds after he’s up; summoning strength, or perhaps deciding upon the best strategy possisble to tackle his next objective or maybe just to bask in the glory of a task successfully completed. And then he climbs down. This entire process is repeated 8 odd times, before he’s found a loose screw somewhere.

My heart skips a beat as he reaches out and fondles it. I want to grab him and pull him back; and explain to him in some form of baby-talk that he’s not to touch the big, bad screw. But I know the effort would be futile. There’s no deterring a kid who’s got his mind set on something.

I look around, hoping his mother is around somewhere, so that I might catch her eye. But on second thoughts, (and the hundredth look) I know this kid has been through worse; and, more importantly, survived.

For sometime he disappears from my sight, seemingly to conquer another innocent bench. 5 minutes later, he emerges from under mine, mildly astonishing me. He pauses to look at my rather attractive pink, frilly umbrella. For a minute, I think he’s going to latch onto it, and we’re going to have a grand old tug-o-war, right here in the middle of the train compartment. Thankfully, my umbrella is nowhere as exciting to him as the bench.

Finally the mother appears. I heave a sigh of relief. Unattended children climbing benches in fast-moving trains make me uncomfortable. Lost childhoods holding onto innocence in an attempt to feign reality, even moreso.

Clad in her burkha, the woman seemed every bit as experienced as the child. Thankfully, she’s at least smiling as she picks him up. He doesn’t seem too happy about leaving his beloved bench, that he has so eagerly conquered about 10 times in a row by now; but thankfully, he doesn’t cry. The train stops. They get off.

I’ve seen so many such kids on trains, so many times. They are almost a part of the utility – like the ticket windows, the subways, the skywalks, the tracks – omnipresent & inconspicuous. In sight but out of mind. Everywhere and yet, nowhere.

So why this kid?

Most of these kids die within the first few years in the system. What’s left is just a zombie. A hollow shell. An emtpy glass, broken long before it could ever hold anything. They lose before the fight could begin.

This kid was different. He was not lost, not broken. He was going to climb every other hurdle with as much gusto as he climbed the benches. He wasn’t going to lose. This was just his playground, his training camp. and he wasn’t done yet.

The Sweet Sound of Noise

It isn’t the obvious items that make the loudest sounds. Not those loudspeakers during Ganeshotsav or Navratri. Not your neighbour’s TV. Not the stray dog’s howl.

The most deafening kind of sounds are the ones that come from the least expected sources. Like the sound of heavy rain, or thunder. Ever spent a weekend by the sea? The waves roar and crash inside you, throughout. Visit a waterfall and feel it drown out every single other sound. Just like wind on a mountain top that renders your ears helpless against any other sound.

These sounds don’t just deafen, for the time that you are exposed to them, they somehow make you immune to every other sensation, every other thought. It’s almost as if along with not able to hear anything, you are not able to see, touch or even feel anything else. The rain, the wind, the waves fill you, completely. Soaked in their abundance. Until you cannot take in anything else, at all. And in this moment, you feel peace.

Writing

The beautiful thing about writing is that I can do it anywhere. I can’t dance everywhere, I can’t sing everywhere. There are very few things one can do everywhere.  But writing is always a part of me, it is with me, wherever I go, whatever do, it remains with me.

I once wrote in my sleep. I typed out entire paragraphs, created a story in my dreams. Of course I couldn’t remember most of it upon awaking. Except that it was an erotic story. Soft-core Porn.

The wonderful thing about writing, about all art, is that anything can get you going. Absolutely anything. Words from a mouth or in a book. Leaves rustling on trees. Shadows of raindrops across your window that the streetlamps cast on your thigh  as you are driven in a car. A cool breeze that brings your attention to the sudden, chilly dampness of perspiration and gives you gooseflesh. A kid on a train. A walk. A jog. A song. Just. About. Anything. Endless possibilities. Absolutely everything has the potential to bring you joy – simply because you have the capacity to create it. I love that about it. You don’t have to wait for it. It sneaks up on you. Catches you unawares. In mid-flight. Like you were coursing through air, and suddenly a breeze jolts you up through the clouds, and you will now see things differently. It’s the most wonderful feeling on earth.

And once it happens, once you get going, it’s almost as if you would never stop. At times, when I write, I feel like my hands don’t move fast enough to keep up with the sheer speed of my thoughts. It’s as if they are racing with my mind. It is the most beautiful feeling because everything is so clear. I know exactly what I want to do next, and I’m going to do exactly that, because there just isn’t any other thing that could be done right now. There is no other word that could replace this one. No other way this sentence could be written. No other meaning than what this paragraph contains. And I know this. I know this, because I created this. And this is exactly what I wanted to create. This is the joy of certainty. The power of control. At this moment, when I write, I am invincible.

And so I love it. I love that this is something that I can do. That I am. That is part of me. That is with me, every day & every night. Like a drug that courses through one’s veins. Only you fuel the drug as much as the drug fuels you. To the point where you don’t know where the drug ends, and you begin.

 

 

Excerpts from, Thoughts about & Feelings for: The English Patient

I’m reading The English Patient lately. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve read. At all. And therefore I’m quite out of words to describe it.

I’ll just paste a few lines here that made me stop & smile:

“The shelves nearest the torn wall bowed with the rain, which had doubled the weight of the books”

“And then, as if there were someone in the room who was not to be disturbed, she walked backwards, stepping on her own footprints, for safety, but also as part of a private game, so it would seem from the steps that she had entered the room and then the corporeal body had disappeared.”

“She will stare at the word in a novel, lift it off the book and carry it to a dictionary.”

Clearly, this is no Rand. I cannot explain what about them is beautiful. But can’t you see it? I’ll try anyway.

It’s the way the words are placed, and the sentence formed. It’s the way they are thought of, in the writer’s head. A different perspective. And perhaps, a different logic (for the lack of a better word). For the first time, it’s not so much about ‘what’ the author says, as much as it is ‘how’ he says it. And this ‘how’ is different for the sake of difference, it’s not fake, it’s not pretentious, it’s not trying too hard. The uniqueness of the ‘how’ is born out of the author’s intention behind his words. In essence, out of ‘what’  he says.

I wish I could write more such examples. There are so many, so subtle, that you almost miss them. Like those invisible dust flakes that glide upon your cornea, that you see sometimes when you look into the light. There now, Gone the next second. A hidden meaning behind every line. Not reading between the lines, but beyond them.

War is an eternal theme in the book. And yet, there’s no blood. All the characters are bleeding though, profusely. All the time. It is so strange – we are so used to a certain perception of war through novels & books. We don’t really understand the extent of its calamity unless told in an explicit, gruelling, gruesome, horrifying manner. But The Eglish Patient never really talks of the violence; or the bloodshed. In fact, you almost forget that there was a war. That was survived by the characters. Except in some places where the realization sneaks up on you. And then there’s a poignant stab – as you are suddenly introduced to pain hiding beyond words that seemed so innocent some time back.

But I am not concerned with that. For the first time in my life, I’m not eager to go to the next page. I’m not so concerned with ‘what’ the writer wants to say. What’s his ‘point’? I’m not looking beyond the words I’m reading at any point of time. Because that’s the only way one can read this book. Not with the intention of finishing it – but just with the intention of reading it.

Here’s another gem:

Now, The English Patient himself is a man with no identity. Disfigured beyond recognition, he has no name, no nation, no family, no possessions except for a sea of knowledge. And silently, a paragraph about his past, a memoir narrated, hits you out of nowhere at the way ‘fate’ (for the lack of a better word, works):

“The desert could not be claimed or owned – it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names long before Canterbury existed, long before battles & treaties quilted Europe and the East. Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember. All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into the landscape. Fire and sand. We left the harbours of oasis. The places water came to and touched…..Ain, Bir, Wadi, Foggara, Khottara, Shaduf. I didn’t want my name against such beautiful names. Erase the family name! Erase nations! I was taught such things by the desert.

Still, some wanted their mark here. On that dry water-course, on this shingled knoll. Small vanities in this plot of land northwest of the Sudan, south of Cyrenaica. Fenelon-Barnes wanted the fossil trees he discovered to bear his name. He even wanted a tribe to take his name, and spent a year on the negotiations. Then Bauchan outdid him, having a type of sand dune named after him. But I wanted to erase my name and the place I had come from. By the time war arrived, after ten years in the desert, it was easy for me to slip across borders, not belong to anyone, to any nation.”

Journey to the Centre of You.

I found something infinitely interesting on the web (on, Facebook actually) sometime back. Her:

This is Ernestine Shepard. She is 75 years old. She is a bodybuilder. As of 2011, she was the Guiness Record Holder for the oldest bodybuilder int he world.

You’ve got to be effing kidding me.

As it turns out, No. Here’s her really interesting story:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18346128

So I know, there are apparently a lot of 75 year old grammas and grampas doing a lot of things and its all over the internet. But what this woman has achieved is phenomenal for the following reasons:

1. She started training at 73. She wasn’t fat or unfit or anything. Fairly slim, but even so, 2 years is a fairly short time to get into this kind of shape.

2. The human body is one of the hardest things to change. You can change everything else about yourself, but your body is one stubborn sonofabitch. In fact, for every change you’ve tried to make and failed – your body can be held responsible.

3. Summoning the kind of willpower, discipline & patience required to do this at 75 – well, wow.

So that brings me to the essence of the matter: Are old people a lot more focussed & clear about what they want?

The straight answer is obviously NO. Most old people are anything but clear. Most of them harbour some kind of ill-conceived bias or prejudice, many are rigid & inflexible. Generally all of them are bitter & angry. Clear & focussed? not so much.

BUT, when they do want something, they are fearless, without hesitation & unilaterally motivated towards their goal.

Does being close to death have anything to do with this? Is fear of death the greatest motivator there is? Far greater than the joy of living?

And what does it really mean – to be alive? When does one fully ‘feel’ it? Is it true that one truly feels alive when one is inches away from death? Like those much touted ‘near-death’ experiences that people live to tell?

I had a dance teacher once who said to us, “You are all having near-life experiences right now” (she was referring to the way we were dancing) She said, “You know how people have a near-death moment? The moment that they feel their about to die, but not quite dead? Well you guys are having near-life moments. It’s like life is about to happen to you, and you’re holding back. Life is right here, and you’re skirting around it. Why? Go for it!!”

I believe, she had, very simply, captured the essence of our existence.

Near-life moments. That’s what we’re living. Never fully alive, never really living. She sort of getting there, and pulling out.

So what would it be like, if we were to dive right into the vortex of life? Would we just drown?

No. That’s where we go wrong. See the centre of a vortex, a whirlpool, a cyclone, is always calm. Peaceful. Tranquil. It’s the periphery that is in chaos. It’s the same with life. As long as you’re on the edge, you just keep going round and round, confused & terrified, all the time afraid that you’re going to get pulled in – when in is where you should be!

In his book, ‘Consciousness’  Osho talks about this ‘centre’ being inside oneself. It is supposedly that part, which, when accessed, brings a certain depth & understanding, meaning, to existence, a calmness to action & a clarity of thought like no other. But he conveniently misses out on how to go from the whirlpool to the centre. Or rather, what he says about that makes no sense.

I believe this ‘centre’ is our raison d’etre. Quite literally, our reason to live. Knowing why you ‘want’ to live. Knowing that it is something you must ‘want’. Not just accept because you happen to wake up every morning. But actually ‘want’ to wake up. Knowing this, knowing one’s purpose, brings to one an unforeseen clarity of thought, a calmness of action, a firmness of belief that is impossible to possess otherwise.

To be, or not to be, a Roark.

Could it be possible to become a Roark?

No Silly! The moment you become something other than yourself, you’ve ceased to be a Roark. So, in essence you either are a Roark, or you are not.

So what is a Roark anyway?

Aah, now that is a question! One that’s central to understanding the book, and life too. What is a Roark?

A Roark is an Idea. An Idea that refuses to die, to lose, to be lost, to be forgotten, to be negated, to be ignored, to be anything but exist in its naked, glowing, honest entirety. And it exists because it has a concrete, non-contradicting, exacting reason to exist. THAT, my friend, is a Roark.

 

 

 

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O Come, All Ye Faithful

I witnessed something quite pleasantly, amusingly, poignant today.

I was standing outside of Bandra Stn, right outside the arches, at 2 o’clock. I need not add exactly how hot it was, but I should add how pissed I was, at the fact that it WAS so hot, that my bus seemed nowhere in sight, that the traffic and the honking seemed endless and annoying, and especially at the fact that for some reason, a good 50 odd Muslim men seemed to want to stand at exactly that same place at the time.

No, I’m not talking about the Muslims (sigh)

I generally get pissed at any congregation of men anywhere, simply because seldom do they congregate for the right kind of reasons. It means I have to be over cautious and get overtly stared at. Yet, the crowd here seemed quite on their civil behaviour, possibly brought on by the hawaldar bandobast. 

It seems they had gathered to offer namaaz. They were chattering away, the whole lot, some praying, some kneeling, some doing something that was a mixture of all three. Every now and then a slightly older man wearing a pathan-like turban would come around and tell everyone to get in place. People kept getting in place and getting out. Basically there was a lot happening, and people like me who were waiting for the bus kept waiting for something else to happen too.

Then, as expected, the azaan rang out, and the men heeded. All of a sudden everyone got in their place and then, everything went  shush. It was as if someone turned off a switch. I have never in my life seen Bandra station this quite. I was too absorbed looking at what they were doing, so I’m not sure, but I do think even traffic stopped moving for a while. Understandably, the men were engrossed with what they were doing, but even those of us who didn’t have anything to do with this, went quiet. There was no honking, no hawking, no yelling on the phone, no yelling at the hawker, nothing. There was just some annoying banter by the hawaldars (because they just have to ruin a perfectly great moment) – but other than that, it seemed like the whole of Bandra station had joined the men.

It was one of those moments that are filmed and edited to an audio of the National Anthem or Vande Mataram. For the five minutes that the namaaz lasted, pin-drop silence ruled the air. It was almost as if, despite the rush that we are in, despite how impatient we are, how irritated we get with crowds, how we regard the faithful of a different kind – despite all of this, each individual (running, walking, standing, sitting, eating, drinking, texting) knew that this was a moment not to be disturbed. This was moment to be looked at with some respect. This was a moment to feel something. This was a moment to be, even for a moment, a little better, even in the littlest way possible. Of course the hawaldars are an exception.

When it was over, Bandra station resumed its usual poise and grace. The men went to feast and the hawaldars, to fleece. I finally saw my bus snaking its way through the traffic (which had miraculously just started). But this moment lingered. Not because someone was praying. But because someone else decided to let someone pray in peace.

To Valentine or not to Valentine

Today was Valentine’s Day.

A day when lovers take the time out, to do something special for their lovers. Not that you need a specific day to do so, but this just gives us one more reason.

It is also a day when companies are laughing all the way to the bank considering the amount spent over really expensive gifts, as well as really ridiculous ones: giant hearts and chocolates, confetti, balloons and the like.

It is also a day when otherwise constantly bickering couples take the time out to not-bicker reinforce their delusion of happily ever after.

It is also a day when men can buy a year’s quota of sensitivity, understanding, respect and affection all wrapped up in a teddy bear (holding a heart shaped cushion preferably, or a bunch of red roses)

It is also a time when women can guiltlessly covet ridiculously expensive gifts their men bring, however grudgingly.

It is also an occasion which creates innumerable future occasions for men to bitch about their women, and vice versa.

And, it’s an occasion which warrants single people to pathetically display their joy and pride at being ‘single’ (Yeah like you really had to work hard for it.)

And that’s why I have always hated Valentine’s Day. The show, the charade, the gloss of it all. Ugh. Till now.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day today, for the first time ever. For 23 years, I have watched all the drama and non-sense unfold before me eyes ad nauseum; and I always wondered what I would feel like, celebrating it. Don’t get me wrong, I have always wanted to celebrate it; I was just never sure whether I would find the right reasons to, after witnessing so many wrong ones. I wondered if there’d be roses and teddy bears and romantic candlelit dinners. I wondered if all of these things would feel less ridiculous when they happened to me. More importantly, I wondered if they would happen for the right reasons.

So after years of criticizing Valentine’s Day celebrations, I finally had one of my own. And that’s when it hit me: I wasn’t really celebrating the day, I was celebrating the person I was with. 14th of February was just like an accessory — there for you to celebrate or to ignore, but that you choose to celebrate, because you have a reason to, you have a person to. Celebrate this person you are with, and everything they’ve given to you, the joy they’ve brought, they way they’ve changed you and the pleasure and pride you feel being with them. Sure, you can do it any day — but hey, today was a chance to do it — Did you take it?

I did and I felt joyous, going about it, in a way I had not felt before. Tingly anticipation, the ecstasy of knowing you have a reason to celebrate the occasion, and you’ve grabbed it! The warm assurance of knowing what you are celebrating, and why. The high of having made that person feel special, of having someone you want to make feel special and that wonderful new feeling that makes you feel. The apprehension that this person may also want to celebrate you in the same way, on this day. How wonderful.

But well, not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day on the same day. I guess sometimes what we really want out of Valentine’s Day is to have someone celebrate us, as much as we’d like to celebrate them.

MY HERO

FADE IN:

INT. LIVING ROOM – AFTERNOON

4 girls are seated randomly around a television screen. Two are lying on the floor – one on her stomach, with the hands propping her head up, and the other on her back, with a pillow supporting her head. Another is propped on a sofa, and the fourth sitting on the floor. All four are intently watching the movie ‘Batman Begins’

ZOOM IN:

We watch the last scenes of Batman Begins, where the character of Rachel Dawes refuses a relationship with Bruce Wayne until such time that Gotham no longer needs a batman. Movie ends.

BACK TO SCENE

GIRL LYING ON HER BACK

I don’t understand why she refuses Bruce Wayne. He is Batman. Batman, for chrissakes!

GIRL ON SOFA

Maybe she just wanted a normal boyfriend. Imagine Rachel Dawes sharing an intimate moment with Bruce when suddenly that damned bat symbol show up in the sky. Her date will be flying off rooftops before she knows it.

GIRL LYING ON HER BACK

Come on! Bruce Wayne slash Batman is the ultimate symbol of what a man can be. I just don’t understand why she would not want to be with a man like that. This ending makes no sense whatsoever.

ANGLE ON – GIRL LYING ON HER STOMACH

As she turns around to face GIRL LYING ON HER BACK

GIRL LYING ON HER STOMACH

What are you? Some kind of hero-worshipper?

ZOOM IN – GIRL LYING ON HER STOMACH

As she looks out the window

GIRL LYING ON HER BACK

Yes