Turning 30

As I write this, I’m turning thirty. People say this is a milestone. People write long, lighthearted (peppered with seriousness) posts about their sombre experiences of turning thirty. Movies have been made about it. Listicles of 30 things to do, to not do, to learn, to unlearn, when/before/after turning thirty are published every day. (this is not a listicle)

In fact, I’ve been turning thirty all of this past year, and by extension, all my life. That’s the thing that people (including me) forget. When they say that age is just a number, they also mean that age is a given. It will happen. As Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I don’t mind.

I’m often said to be the youngest but one in my cousins (and their spouses). The one who’s younger… Well, she’s more mature than me in many ways. So as I turn thirty, I see the entire extended family maturing. It’s an interesting thing to watch, from where I sit.

It is also very satisfying to know that I am as normal as others. As a kid, I’m sure everyone has spun stories about their lives. Grand tales of adventure or playing the most important character in other people’s lives. It’s turning out that we’re all important characters, but in our own lives. I see the arc that has brought me here and the arc going forward, and it is satisfying to see the same dips and rises as I’ve seen and read other people have. Knowing that one’s life in extraordinarily normal removes a lot of pressure.

I love learning things. It’s not always easy, but it’s important. From my parents, I learnt that there’s no age to stop learning. I believe that’s the most important lesson they’ve taught me.

When I was younger, I used to abhor exercising. I used to think that if I stress out my brain, I’ll somehow get dumber, or lose my creative streak. I lost it for a few years by not exercising it. From my wife, I’ve learnt that exercising is good. It helps blood flow to the brain and gives it new life. Ideas flow faster, they form more easily, and I am able to push myself more to write.

I’ve always peered in at the world of critical thinking. I believe I’m a foreigner to it. I’d love to be able to do it, but till I can wrap my head around the concepts of critical thinking, I enjoy seeing it happen whenever my brother goes about his work. This is perhaps something I’d like to pick up from him someday (this decade?) .

I love learning things from people, as you’ve seen above. There’s a dear friend from whom I’ve learnt some very important things. These are small things, such as the correct etiquette while climbing a mountain, and how to correctly crush plastic bottles before disposing them off. All learning, no matter how big or small, is important.

This is not an awards night. I’m not thanking everyone I know for all they’ve taught me. That would make this a listicle.

But I’ll say one last thing. A dear friend recently said that there’s no correct age for doing things you want to do. Society may say that one is too young or too old to do something. It is up to us to ignore it and go ahead and do it anyway. It is not a contract between you and society, but a decision between you and a choice few others whose voice matters in such decisions. Well, this is a decision between me and my fate, and I’ve decided that this is the right time for me to turn thirty.

Do you know what bliss is?

Do you know what bliss is?
It’s waking up at 6:30 in the morning,
With your whole world sleeping next to you,
Her hair rustling in the wind of the electric fan,
The Sun peeping through the blinders,
Trying to pry your eyes open,
That, there, is bliss.

Soon, the Sun passes you over,
Adding you to the naughty list,
Of lazy people.
But your lover still sleeps
And you daren’t wake her,
For you love that solemn expression on her face,
And all you want is for that fleeting moment to remain,
Before the bustle of the morning begins.

Marriage

I woke up sweating three days ago. I had been having a very intense morning dream, in which I was constantly repeating to myself the following words – “I’m getting married.”

“I’m getting married!”

“I’m getting married!!”

“I’m getting married!!”

The idea had slowly percolated through my conscious to my subconscious and finally reached my dream state. I am now fully, mind, body, and soul, aware that I am getting married to Jahanvi, the love of my life.

I’ve tried to write this post about twelve times now. I’ve written something funny, sarcastic, philosophical, and even a treatise on bachelorhood as a gateway to marriage. But every time I wrote, I felt as if something or the other was missing. Deleted, revised, edited, no draft seemed to come close to the idea and tradition that is marriage. 

But when I woke up three days ago, I knew I had the instruction that I needed to begin. The final key to the puzzle, though, came a little later. When panditji sat me down yesterday with relatives, old and new, he explained what was happening here. As the mantra washed over me, the real import of this ceremony came to mind. The idea that this is a prayer, which talks about our lifetimes, which begs the blessings of everyone who surrounds us, and which includes the creation of bonds which we forge with our own hearts and minds, spoke to me of the strength of this undertaking. 

Up until it was only about the preparation of the marriage, or when I was with relatives who joked about life before and after marriage, and the effect of marriage on people, I felt closer to my community and to the power that those family ties hold. But as the venue and the occasion changed, I felt the power of the ties that I, with every offering, was creating myself. 

Marriage means in terms of the coming together of two people, two families, and two communities. But what it means to the people at the center of it is the coming together of two souls. That bond, which creates something glorious together, is what I’m feeling since the ceremonies started and which I’ll keep feeling for the rest of my life, because while I’ve seen Jahanvi as my beloved till now, I have now seen her as my self. 

On Fear

I was recently thinking about fear, particularly that fear is a genetic gift. Our forefathers instilled it into us to ensure we stay away from predators, darkness, and other harmful things. But there are two things about the nature of fear that confuse me –

  1. What about fear of our parents? Is that genetic? Is it instinctive for us to be afraid of our parents’ anger? Or is that something that comes to us after we’re born? If the latter, think about the immense sense of abandonment and betrayal a child must feel when their parents scold them for the absolute first time. At first, it may well be a very odd phenomenon for the child – an angry parent. But slowly it would dawn upon the offspring that the progenitor is expressing a negative emotion, a negativity asserted towards them and in context of something they did recently. After that, is it because of our lack of genetic fear that some children do not pick up on fear of parents, even when faced with physical punishment; while others become so afraid that even the idea of an angry parent that their tendency to do the “right” thing supersedes all other emotion.
  2. What about fire? When the flame is big enough that we feel “hot” instead of warm, we instinctively stay away from fire. But every time I see a candle flame, I feel like I must touch it. It is an enigmatic phenomenon which just be explored by touch and that urge overpowers all logic that cautions me to stay away. Is this because fire came into our knowledge a little too late to be a part of our genetic makeup? Had it been with humans longer, maybe it would have gotten stuck into our genes as something to use, but be wary of. If that is true, I wonder what other things came too early? Could a fear of large animals or snakes or cliffs be because of such circumstances and maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of them as much as we are?

I’d love some of my readers to respond with what they think about these fears. If someone has specific knowledge about fear, I’d love to have a conversation, either in the comments below, or you can email me or find me on social media. Thanks for reading.

n+1

A couple of weeks ago, I learnt an important lesson – there’s a difference between “you’re not understanding me correctly” and “I’m not explaining it well enough to you”. The former is a very Indian thing. We love passing the blame. The latter is an American (and possibly Canadian and Australian/basically First World) method of argument. I have not had the chance to test it out in public, but in online discussions, I’ve seen some success when trying to get my point of view across if I don’t try to pass the buck to someone else. That’s a testament to human behavior. But we’re not here to talk about that, are we?

It feels like almost yesterday when I was talking about rhinos and having lived for a quarter of a century. In fact, that date was 42 blog posts and 365 days ago. It’s been another year. Not a pivotal one, but there’s always next year, as they say. I’m 26 and I’ve come to a conclusion – if I live to be a 100 and more, I’ll call every year above a 100 as a +1 life. It’s a good game I look forward to playing. I know what you’re thinking – this overweight, under-active boy (Man) isn’t going far. But hey, science and technology do this thing called progress. In fact, I read somewhere that the person who will live to be a hundred and fifty years of age, thanks to medical science, was born as early as last year. That person will see civilizations change, Nations rise and fall and will put Queen Elizabeth’s view of the history of the world to shame. I look forward to not being that person.

I was reading recently, about a person named Geoff Dyer, who was explaining about his ordeal through something called an ischemic stroke, a condition which cuts off blood supply to the brain and causes things such as loss of peripheral vision and middle of the day trips to the hospital, both of which happened to Dyer. He went on to talk about his experience and his surprisingly speedy recovery (he was out the next day) as well as the absurd uncertainty that now lurks about his every day. But Dyer is a writer and as a favor to all of us, he included a quote from an old Russian sci-fi movie, something that’s become an absolute favorite for me. It says –

we never know when we’re going to die and because of that we are, at any given moment, immortal.

So yeah, that’s it. Another year’s gone by. There are things that have happened and are still in motion. I’ve been reading about the Mahabharata thanks to an amazing book on the topic of Dharma by Gurcharan Das and it’s led me to discover some amazing things about the history of India.

I feel amazingly optimistic about the future and hope to keep cranking out stuff for others to read. My regards to all those who drop by and poke around, even the hacker who loves trying to get into my blog (seriously, why would my password be ‘nitin123’??).

In other news, a funny incident happened with a good friend, Bhaskar Vaish today. But he’s asked me not to blog about it. So this is me, not blogging about you Bhaskar. :)

His Last Laugh

Khushwant Singh, noted Indian author and journalist, died last to last week. I’ve been meaning to write about it, but my memory of him is like a warm, if foggy feeling and I didn’t want to put it to paper yet. But, here we are, talking about the man, because he deserves an audience. Continue reading

The Path of the Creative person

I was talking to my friend Rahul[ADN|Twitter|Facebook] about an idea I had about ‘ideas’ and how I would represent visually the need to protect our precious idea from all the negative people around us who would rather see that idea die than to help or even support us. He captured it quite brilliantly in this sketch he made –

The Path of the Creative


Rahul does some pretty creative work on his Tumblr – LicenseToDraw

Vast

I start my car and pull on to the road. The sky is hung quietly above me. There’s a single cloud towards the west, meandering, with a pinkish hue that bursts in my mind like cotton candy. It looks soft but tomorrow it’ll have jagged edges where the wind will have tugged at it. The day after, it’ll dissipate. The Sun is low in the sky and so it’s late in the evening. Not the time to be going home, but the time to be at home. I notice a bird dive in front of the car. It maneuvers to the right quickly and flies past me. There are two planes leaving marks high up in the sky, slowly gathering distance between them, like galaxies floating away from each other. Continue reading

25

Today, I turned 25. To some, this may not seem like an amazing feat, but for me, this is a great accomplishment. Why, you ask? Because this is the oldest I’ve ever been! It’s an amazing feeling!

But more than amazing, it’s humbling. It’s humbling because while on the outset, I’m this young kid who’s got his whole life ahead of himself, inside, I am well aware that I have about 25 years of experience which, though most of it has been forgotten, dictates who I am as a person. Continue reading