“I don’t hate them…I just feel better when they’re not around.​”

Two nights ago, I was chatting with a friend from overseas after a brief hiatus. She was shifting cities, and it had been a while since we had last talked. Generally speaking, the deed of getting in touch with people you are compatible with, however, in once a while, has this tendency of bringing about rapid and nonstop news exchange. The fingers ballet swiftly across that chat application’s keyboard, causing a cornucopia of festive-like chatter to flow in between the friends. Flavour this with a tinge of excitement given one thought leads to the next, garnish it with involuntary giggles as instant reactions to such a conversation, and there, we have a recipe for a cherishing moment. Except, nothing of this kind became the case that late evening. When we spoke, I sensed a supercilious air about her as she sugar-coated daily happenings. Before proceeding any further, it is safe to presume we are close, and this vibe of primacy is a trait I haven’t come across in her before. Also, we have always shared things the way they are, without making an effort on caking or creaming any of it. Her element of not wanting to reveal information as-is is an alternative scenario. But I can’t help declaring here that her fancy phrases like ‘being busy’, ‘having lots of things on mind’, ‘of my never being able to catch her up since she is always occupied’, and ‘dealing with other priorities’ second-guessed my decision and annoyed me too, if a little. Sometimes, you think and analyse a specific choice to the point of letting it rub on you, not only before you leap into action, but also before you take that decision to leap into it. You take a lot of time to choose your course. No sooner than you do, you wish you hadn’t and simultaneously begin to ponder about the ‘why’. For, springing into action has only led you to second-guess your preferred choice. You feel weird, embarrassed, wary, irked, and sporadically angry, all at the same time in a phase as such.

I went through it then. I wondered as to why did I get in touch with her.

It is likely that I must have caught her while she was in a different state-of-mind I haven’t seen in her earlier. Perhaps, she is as she says, ‘rushed’ to be juggling catching-up with ten other friends simultaneously. Or, her basic nature and attitude have simply evolved between yesterday and the time we spoke last. I am okay giving all benefit of doubts here given she is a friend. But this is exactly one of the reasons I am wary of people. It’s inherent and only second to my nature that I walk in the opposite direction I see them coming in, in. I feel out of my comfort zone in the presence of people. Everything appears fine in one moment, and in the blink of an eye, I find myself either taken aback or rethinking something they might have just uttered out of nowhere. Of course, you get over it in time and are susceptible to forget all about it, but also deep down, you begin to have qualms about approaching the said individual again. You wonder if there will be a next time you will want to take that initiative to talk to them like you did this once. Unless you have an errand to run by them. For, it is your way of vocalising and demonstrating an attempt to keep things simple, to the point and not being a cause of intrusion into their otherwise ‘busy lives’.

If only, we went easy on communication contours and self-conscious confessions. If only, drawing the line didn’t mean having to feel caged.

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Artist: Praneet Soi | Source: Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2016

People’s elementary and inborn trait of unpredictability, their two-phased approach to survival based on convenience, combined with my lack of patience in understanding them makes me wary. I am conscious in and with people. When it comes to presenting myself to a crowd, known or unknown, I feel embarrassed. I am uncomfortable. I can’t hold even a one-on-one beyond a couple of minutes with someone whom I have only met. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb like anyplace else. However, usually, I ask for nothing more than the ability to camouflage myself into the hand-painted walls or floor tiles in such jiffies. If only, I were bestowed with the superpower to melt myself away into nothingness! My sensory organs fail to function in their actual capacity, and the veins in my cerebrum don’t pass any signals for me to intercept, let alone convert. My inwards fail to communicate with me, and I land up not knowing what to do, what to say or how to behave. It’s as if my intellect and torso, and I are two separate and independent entities. At such times, my state of being cooperates when I go comfortably numb within myself. When I don’t have the need to speak or approach anyone beyond the topic of my interest, for sure if it’s a word of a compliment, only to merge back into the background a minute later. My senses are more responsive to listening to someone willing to lead a conversation. I can pay attention to anyone addressing a group, as long as I do not need to pitch in or even react. Because, when it comes to being vocal, silence is my weapon of choice. When a circumstance demands a reaction, I befriend laughter. It’s easy to discover the funny side in things, after all. I bask in the ability to laugh uninhibitedly because there is only so much I can do with verballing.

And come what may, I don’t second-guess my laughter.

When I have to deal with speaking to an audience, my hands feel clammy. I sub-unconsciously wipe away those unassuming beads of sweat inlaying my upper lip now and then. My thoughts go anaesthetic, and I am at a loss for words. Despite my mouth emitting vocal sounds, my insides continuously churn with considerations of the need to be spared. Because people make me cringe. They trigger me to shy me away from myself. Their aura paves the way to losing whatever little self-confidence I possess. Their presence leads me to question my thought-process and misgive my morals. I feel intimidated by them lest they ridicule my beliefs, worse, talk behind my back. What if, something I say or declare doesn’t find a leaf in their books of superimposing intelligence, and they scoff at it? What if, I were to become the laughing stock? The cause of everyone’s mirth and a stand-up comedian’s meat? Because of the things and thinkings I shroud myself in, which in other words could only indicate what a moron and dunderhead I can turn out to be. Believing in a world of peripheral and fanciful likabilities, like that clown in the circus whom everyone shirks off with a rip-roaring laughter; a comport far, far away from the rumination of even considering such a species solemnly in retrospection.

It goes without saying that this isn’t all as melancholic as the grey overcast it might sound like. I am in the company of some beautiful and magical people by my side, no doubt. However, given the insecure cynic that I am, such traces of iridescence always accompany a nagging, amoebic thought that disperses within, rusting in the forgotten corners of my mind – I don’t know when they will leave me.

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Source: Pixabay

Hi, I am Madhvi, and I am an anthrophobic.

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Of Opinions & Indecisions, Fictions & Fables

I am not a person known for holding opinions. Because I do not have them in the first instance. This leads me to assume that I must be somewhat open-minded, for I often realise that I do not have viewpoints on a lot of doodahs. Like, what are my thoughts on the country’s current political scenario? Nothing. At what stage is someone qualified to call themselves a writer? I don’t know. When is someone’s time to make a public appearance with their performance? After preparation; lots of it. How do I react to people’s opinions about me? Barely heard them. When someone writes to the best of their abilities, why is it not okay to still refer themselves as writers? Erm…good question. What is my take on someone’s reservations about me? It isn’t until you mentioned this that I realised it exists. What do I think about my neighbour’s kid? Cute. How about their dog? He is adorable, but I am scared when he comes close. What are my thoughts about a person whom I have only met? What is there to think about it when we have only met? Would I meet them again? We’ll see. Can we go shopping? Why not? How do I feel about my bank balance? Should I? From subjects of conversations to current issues, from general knowledge to someone’s socioeconomic status, from movies to a media person’s lives, and from a person’s choice of action to the rationale behind settling for it fails to perturb me. Unless I am looking at one or more of the said points for charting the plot of a book. Such an impartial outlook is probably a reflection of the fact that none of these, except discussing things in general, interest me. If they are served on my plate, I will devour them without a second thought. However, I find there is not much I can contribute in such situations than belching a burp in the aftermath. There, I have digested your piece of conversation. I am likely to nod my head along, ‘okay’ the speaker’s facts and utterances, and add a pointer if I have one to offer.

That is all there is to it.

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Source: Pixabay

As far as I can trace my days of getting taller, I have been an indifferent person. It is only my way of expressing this indifference that has altered over the years. Think, in the flow. Walk, in the flow. Talk, in the flow. Eat, in the flow. Listen to what my well-wishers have to say, but act per my flow. Smile, despite the flow. Laugh, in the flow. And be done with it. For there is no point brooding over something that’s attended to already. What is to be gained by thinking of instances, to the extent of scrutinising, analysing and finally opining on that matter? Instead, I find it easy to be indifferent to many things. And people. Including my own. If one were to uncover a layer underneath, differences with people arise when there is a discord between our thought-processes. At such times, I go about my business without caring to look over my shoulder thereby keeping the devil, aka my opinions, on the subject at bay. Anything that I have to say on the particular leitmotif is only going to irk the other. Considering the differences in our opinions. There are no connecting dots, after all, only a parallel line. The alternative side sticking to their logic and reasoning on the subject matter does not mean I need to jump the wall to their side to agree. Lest I land up tearing down my equation with them. To be honest, if it is a relationship that matters, it must have developed over seasons of unbearably warm afternoons and chilly mornings. And with time, you only tighten the knots. Unless, we are talking about a connection that is bound on a bridge of fragility, such that a single misunderstanding can lead to fallout. Is such a relationship even worthy of being called one?

I can only wonder.

What do you do when one is unable to accept the differences and make peace with it, to the point of being adamant and influencing you over and again in their line of ideas, while veiling under ‘I am only saying this for your good? You put your thumb(s) up, mutter ‘okay’, and hope that, in the ever-churning whirlpool of fresh incidents, they forget about this one. Or better, let go.

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Keep calm & quench your thirst | Source: Pixabay

Everything materialistic defined as must-haves for one’s survival is prioritised by the survivor. It must be. Depending on their belief system, thought-process and chosen mode of lifestyle. An unavoidable ingredient often linked to the pursuit of happiness is wealth. It is elementary, no doubt, for food, water and shelter. However, it is a commodity, and can consequently, be refrained from being a priority to one and all. There rests an alternative way to live with bare essentials; the choice purely based on one’s preference. Those who want to pursue the moolah go for it, despite the cause and effects. For a few, it doesn’t top the charts. Because their lifestyle’s cookbook holds a different blend of ingredients, where a paper note is probably a condiment.

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, as long as it makes sense to its owner. The underlining fact being, to each their own.

I have been facing heat from a fair share of people since the time I quit my well-remunerated job to pursue writing and singing full-time. When Pachai and I decided to jump into it, it was an informed step we took. We had estimated the by-products that were likely to generate in the process, of which we had two options. We either deal with the arising side-effects, or I go back and find a job that would once more churn me that sure-shot salary at the end of each month. I have figured, when you choose fine arts as your mode of living, it must not be done so with the sole motive of earning. Not in the beginning, at least. Because professions in the fine arts aren’t reputed for being money-churners. The banknotes are only a corollary medium of exchange that is bound to find its course in the process.

You pursue fine arts because you want to.

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What did you see first? | Source: The Internet

Interestingly, I have faced arguments from family and friends that I articulate my opinions in an abstracted and daydreamy attitude because I am an artist. Because I write. And, sing. That, my thought-process sounds breezy and beautiful, however, cannot be abided to because it is impractical. Here I am, reduced to thinking, why cannot an artist’s thought-process be as practical as that of those logical-minded ones? When finding a job to earn money is an efficient mode of living to pay off one’s bills and loans, why can’t living in a shelter, making enough to provide for three square meals a day, and clothing one’s body with fabrics that are neither tattered nor unclean be considered practical likewise? Does my thought-process come across that fantastic when I say money is not the frontal point in my survivor’s list? Am I giving away a delusional aura to the point of seeming deranged? Is my head for real in the clouds? Believing in the existence of angels squired with halos, wings and long robes?

When I can respect someone else’s adoption of causal effects, why can’t you mine? Why is it difficult to agree to disagree with my viewpoint, and continue going on about our relationship by tightening that clump? After all, it’s only one loop that we both, as two distinct individuals, differ upon.

Only time will tell
Source: Pixabay

Only time will tell.

Just like you learn to Let Go of things over time, Stupidity is one amongst it

Travelling rations an opportunity to observe people from different cultural backgrounds, especially when it is to locations favouring tourism. Commercial vacationing spots are scattered with holidaymakers in no particular mix. Couples, backpackers, solo travellers, kids, friends, and a bunch of families touring in groups are habitual sights. When travel transpires in a cluster, a babble prevails as a side dish. It isn’t a conscious agenda but a defaulting sequence. Also, the purpose of tripping together can seem half-baked if not for that inconsequential yapping. A surge of need that’s inadvertent, haphazard and perpetual. A group of tourists traversing another gives the passer-by a chance to survey the other’s outward social facts. From the language in which their fragments of snippets take place to the garbs they don. From their food, if the occasion permits, to their eating habits. It is a sneak-peek into their world. A glimpse into their way of life.

Those residing in lands that I haven’t visited or lived in, pique me when it comes to their outlooks and mannerisms. The way their daily lifestyles are, to the approach they engage while tackling everyday errands. The food they consume, to the blend of ingredients that are infused into making them. The customs and rituals that are their part and parcel, to the reason(s) for observing them. I often wonder if one’s lifestyle could have been influenced beyond their ethnic norms had they resided in a town that isn’t their native land. Even if, a few hundred kilometres apart. That their life could have been differently lived, if only they had resided a state or a zone away. Because one of the factors India preens about often is its oneness, despite the diversity it houses. And on this account, when people travel in clusters to tourist-bound locations, unalike social backgrounds mingle. They interlude. In whichever form, despite lacing in the air. To whatever extent,IMG_20170617_124831_copy despite one’s unawareness or lack of wisdom of it. For however long, notwithstanding the briefness in time. If one were to give it another perspective, these are moments when frames, that until then could have seemed like reeled scenes in a cinema, surface. Shots that until then we probably had only seen filmed behind a lens, on a screen.

From moments of overhearing that chatty entourage of tourists, a slice of their belief system, a peek into their parenting styles, and an educated guess of their thought-processes forming the basis of everyday living come alive. Irrespective of being on the move. Irrespective of passing each other during a brief walk to a tourist spot. Regardless of the fact that the entire experience may not outlast ten seconds.

Except, this is not the case today. The prattling doesn’t fancy one’s attention but induces a ruckus. Sometimes, to the levels of instituting noise pollution and brazen stupidity. After a while, you only wish to leave (them alone) because they do not or cannot snap out of their cacophonic bubble. Such that it inconveniences the next person. Worse, at a tourist location.

Travelling with family, I have discovered over time, requires tuning to a different mindset. Not only from a planning standpoint but also from one’s mood board. A subject that’s cast aside to be explored another time. A couple of weeks ago, I visited Kanyakumari in the thick of the tourist season. Because it was a trip with the family, our itinerary included the must-cover locations. In other words, all tourist-laden spots – the sunrise point, a dip at the confluence of the three seas, a visit to the rock memorial and the impending statue in its neighbourhood.

The hustling of tourist practitioners in the town was a cornucopia pulled straight out of a kaleidoscopic sequence. Every turn yielded a different pattern, some of which pleased the senses. While others, not so.

Bubbles of crowds broke out at intervals speaking in discrete tongues. Summoning out loud their peers, blocking spots for members who were on the way to sit, random laughter, loud chatters, enthusing debates, and discussions about nothing, in particular, rented the air at once. The crowd seemed equally engaged while trying their hands in a variety of road fare. Hawkers lined the sea stretch selling ornaments assembled from shells, pearls and stones gleaned off the beach shore. Vendors calling out for peanuts, sundal, corn on the cob, tea and coffee hired a perimeter of the morning atmosphere. Cooling glasses, watches, posters of varying shapes and sizes amidst other trinkets to attract toddlers lined one side of the main market street, while street shops displaying assorted shell wares encasing mirrors, wall clocks, hangings amongst other decorative merchandise adorned the other. Smalltime bakeries, snack outlets, roadside eateries, and milk and tea parlours broke the monotony of the shopping aura at constant intervals. As an afterthought, tender coconut stalls sprinkled the thoroughfare attracting a fair share of fans. More so, for the ensuing malai after breaking open the coconut.

Trippers flailed about their arms and legs sheltering under the act of swimming in the crude, salty, crowded and unrestrainedly wavy sea. Saltwater flicked in the eyes of co-tourists as a result of their jerky and uneven movements even when they were told off not once, but twice. A group of girls clasped onto each other’s palms to form a circle in the sea, to confront the waves’ mightiness. In their ensuing unity, co-dippers were pushed deeper into the sea because they didn’t find ‘enough space’ to expand their ring. A bystander was nudged from a viewpoint, not with the touch of a hand or a word of request, but by squeezing a bunch of kids into the space for a photograph. The famed Thiruvalluvar statue that stood eminently in the middle of the sea was pointed to and referred to as Swami Vivekananda. The unperturbed Bay of Bengal was streamed live on a video chat, where the receiver was told that “this is the point where the three oceans converge“. Photobombers (in)conveniently stepped into frames yet had the chagrin to appeal to people to walk out of theirs minutes later.

The hustling of tourist practitioners in the town was a cornucopia pulled straight out of a kaleidoscopic sequence. Every turn yielded a different pattern, some of which pleased the senses. While others, not so.

When lack of judgment prevails, indifference surfaces. When contempt fails to serve as an emotion strong enough, questions about humanity loom.

What do I know? For I am still silently discerning why I feel uneasy dealing with people.

 

A Kiss of Peace even after Death Do Us Part

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Lately, my senses often pervade with thoughts about death. They bemuse my thought form. Could it be that undiscovered ghoul lurking in the neighbour’s attic? Or, a morbid phantom floating about in an invisibility cloak? Coursing its next prey, even as we fantasise about the weekend on a soporific Monday morning. Would it sweep you off like it does in the movies? Or, drop you dead when you’re in the middle of hosting a cheerful banter at the monthly kitty?

The loss of kindred has become a frequently uttered syllable under the living roof. That are residing both, within and beyond the national border. Whether belonging to the direct bloodline or further down the ancestral twine. Its revered occurrence induces an unexpected, recurrent mulling over. Beckoning me to wonder if there would soon come a time when I will be led into enduring an experience alike. The one of having a beloved snatched away. At the snap of a finger.

As inevitable, loss of life is sometimes accompanied by a preamble. And at others, unescorted by any tip-offs. The bottom line being, there is no ideal way to deal with it.

My uncle passed away a few days ago. News as such, particularly when unforeseen, reels the memory lane into an instant flashback. If spieled off over the telephone, the voice on the other end starts drowning out. Because the moment you hear that laconic choice of words, you descend into your train of thoughts. In less than a blink of the eye. It is like staring at a wall that is devoid of any artistic suspensions. You don’t know what to think. And yet, you visualise stray thoughts creating vague smokey patterns.

I tried to recall when I had last heard he was unwell. The cells in my cerebellum countered the idea. Because my memories of him are short-lived but great. And none confined to being in bed. Even otherwise, I had not known him to be a troublesome person. Or, meddlesome. Or, even a handful to tackle. His opinions were never on offer over the counter unless asked. For he was a man difficult to impress. His regards for certain somethings meant eye-tied reliability by the family. Amidst the six siblings, he was neither the eldest nor the most bedridden. While suffering from a bout of viral fever, his pulse had reached a decision. That it wanted to stop ticking. Even before the crack of a daybreak could stretch across the horizon.

It had to be coped up with. Period.

The voice on the other end of my phone fluttered in and out. Enumerating treasonous reasons of his abrupt departure. Showcasing roots and its causes. It didn’t make a difference.

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You may avoid looking me in the eye. But, how will you evade my reflection that’ll pursue you like a shadow? :: Reflection of the moon on the floor

The handset kept buzzing afterwards, and the recital of the monologic discourse continued. Priorities unbuckled. For, the rays of the sun now seemed to shine from the reverse direction. No matter how hard we tried to set our vision straight. Reasoning failed to ruminate over sense and sensibility. Kith and kin flew in on the same day. Still, nothing helped alter the matter-of-fact. Nothing could.

Amidst themselves, the siblings reinforced of all the support they had rendered. With superfluous vigour. The focal points of their chattering began to steer in an unanticipated direction. The drudgery of fulfilling the ceremonial rituals. Their resilience to the persisting fatigue since a couple of days. Lingering ailments that needed looking after, henceforth. The daily duties and chores he attended to imprinted an irreplaceable void. Hued and cried about. It could have easily been a staged avenue hosting chattering parleys. If not, these may have passed as talks that induced some warmth. Neither helped rewind the series of unfortunate incidents.

What had to be done, had to be done.

If only.

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The moon indulges its admirer in a game of hide-n-seek, leaving behind its streaks as a teaser

This eponymous togetherness also brought a version of my uncle whom I had not known to exist. Of course, it wasn’t as if he had, on a fine morning, sprouted into adulthood. His quirky mischiefs as a child were fondly recalled. The nature of which belonged to another era. The fear of their father catching him in the act was rekindled. Added to it, the terrifying aftermath of thwacking him all over, if caught red-handed. Recollections of favouring and conducive group work amidst the similarly aged siblings, when young, were enamoured. So were his telltales of naughtiness and gang-like shenanigans.

Our lifestyles today cause us to separate with families. Stitched to the tag of a promising future. Muddled and meddled with machines and technology. Family get-togethers for arbitrary prattling befall by prior intimations or appointments.

If only, there is a chance to get to learn about people. Even if, blood relations. If only, their kneading revelations are brought to the cover pages when it matters. When they are alive. Maybe, it helps minimise the leftover void. The same vanity that nags you to know someone when you have a lifetime stretching ahead of you.

Sadly, when you hit the end of the road, there beckons a designated diversion. One for each. That you’re meant to take. And when you oblige, you part with a knotted feeling in the pit of your stomach. For having known them barely all this while.

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Photographs: Perungudi, Chennai