Monday, November 16, 2015

On Paris and Syria


So last night the French retaliated over what happened in Paris by dropping 20 bombs over the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa. It’s going on right now as well, for the second day in a row, as I write this. Air strikes over Syria are extremely common and this news normally wouldn’t be something as widely reported as it was, except for the fact that France was involved in this. For a few months now American forces have been routinely bombing oil trucks, which form the main monetary supply for ISIS forces in the region. However, the French government felt the need to retaliate, as they rightfully should, in some way against the Islamic State and hence these air raids to destroy their command centre aren’t entirely surprising, if a bit unforeseen due to the French being… well, French.

Le Rafale

I’ve seen the pictures of Paris. ‘The Battaclan Massacre’, as it will be known decades from now. Dozens of bodies strewn across the floor – men and women in bloodstained clothes with limp bodies lying in different directions, some in each others’ arms. Swathes of red sweeping across the floor from where the bodies were moved, glowing amidst bright stage lights and empty concert chairs. It was indiscriminate killing. Haphazard butchery on a level rarely seen. Truly goes to highlight the mindset of these brainwashed barbarians for whom life is simply a game, I assume. Except it isn’t.

The terrorists themselves are just bags of meat to the ISIS leaders. Their casualties don’t mean anything, and they probably shouldn’t if we’re not to idolise actions like that. I’m not eve going to talk about ISIS’s barbaric ideology because we probably share the same views, so let’s look at it from the French perspective. For five years the major superpowers of the world have pretty much let the Islamic State fester and grow, spreading their ideology through force and desultory cruelty. Now it’s a major problem, with Syrian refugees, people with jobs and families and kids, not wanting to be a part of a place ruled by these monsters being forced to seek refuge elsewhere in Europe. Obviously the conservative class in most of these countries like the UK, Germany and France won’t be very happy about hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing into their country, but that’s again a failure of their media, and politics taking advantage of this failure for far too long. Refugees are people who come to places like Paris to avoid things like Bataclan. One refugee said, “What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years…”

There are people who think refugees are the problem, and I don’t blame them for that. They’re different people from a different country, and it’s very easy to lose perspective about the atrocities committed by ISIS and other militant regimes when you see a horde of refugees seemingly invading your country. Which is what’s different about the Paris attacks – there’s been a very direct refugee crisis indicating the level of devastation that takes place daily in Syria. Just last year we had the Je Suis Charlie thing, and with 11% of France being Muslim, it’s also a very volatile place for a terrorist attack; an attack like this can easily sway public opinion into an aggressive furor at the wrong people. Refugees and Muslims aren’t the problem, or the cause of the problem. It’s the Islamic State.

So is bombing their headquarters the right move? Well, France hasn’t invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty yet, which created the NATO, which states:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

It’s a very difficult move. If France calls in the United States under Article 5 and the agreement is ratified, NATO, which includes most of the EU and the US, officially enters into war with ISIS. This, however, makes the previous US attacks on Syria illegal (as they technically were), which makes Article 5 not so insignificant. The US invoked the same after 9/11 for Iraq, and the two situations have obvious similarities.

There’s a very slight possibility that this whole thing goes nuclear, because as far as we know, ISIS doesn’t have access to nukes (they’re too busy chopping off their own heads to think about fusion reactors). ISIS will (hopefully) never big enough for countries to drop ‘cruel bombs’ on them. Which is for the better, in the long run. This situation will escalate as it always does, and insurgents will keep spawning here and there with the occasional terror attack. ISIS will fade away into irrelevancy, like most terrorist cells before them have. But these airstrikes, right after the massacre in Paris, are a sign of aggression from France that basically tells the world, “don’t fuck with us.” And I’m onboard with that.

Note: everything here is personal opinion and I’m happy to be corrected if any of my facts are wrong.

Monday, October 26, 2015



Part 7 of a series of 8 unrelated short stories, simply titled Edgar, written by me back in April 2013. I feel like releasing them now after being entirely untouched and mostly unread for two years.

Edgar and Albert were reminiscing. They were reminiscing about the amazing, heartfelt rejoice, gladness and mirth they experienced when they left their senior high school. Quite contradictory to the property of days, those days were very dark, according to them.

“Remember having to put our cell phones in a plastic bag every morning?” asked Edgar.

“Yeah, and once it started ringing, and the accounts teacher got rather exasperated trying to search for my phone. He went through the bag and eventually dropped it on the floor, causing more than a month’s salary worth of damages.”

Edgar and Albert sat comfortably in Edgar’s breakfast room, where they were enjoying dinner. Unfortunately, the sun rarely managed to stay awake at the same time as Edgar. Although they were well acquainted - the sun and Edgar - his tendency to dine in his designated breakfast room was negligible, like a writer’s true vocabulary or the happiness of a public speaker. He instead preferred to drink liquids, mostly mildly harmful in nature, in the comfort of his tables and chairs and his well adjusted curtains.

“Let me guess, it was in your pocket all along,” said Edgar.

“Naturally,” Albert replied.

Albert and Edgar discussed boundaries and limitations; how seemingly irrelevant lines are drawn across borders, between nations and teacher-student relationships, between respect, between hedgerows in a garden. Lines are arbitrary distinctions. Rules, more so. “Push the envelope and watch it bend,” Edgar would say.

“When you’re young, the consequences of breaking rules are much less severe,” said Albert.

“Agreed, my friend,” said Edgar. “Break a rule in school and the worst that can happen to you is getting scolded by a fellow human being. Or having a human being call the people who gave birth to you and explain your mistakes, or some other silly punishment of the sort. But it’s all relative, isn’t it?” he asked, leaning back his chair precariously.

Albert agreed. “To a child, the principal of an institution is this devious monster; the paragon of authority, of Orwellian proportions and distinctive hatred. Reveling in misery and fueled by sadness, like an unwilling software programmer, but less likely to bite off your head.”

Proportional with age do the consequences magnify. But even then, there’s always something worse. There’s always the next level in the video game of life. There’s always a new power-up, or a challenging mountain to climb. And once the mountain is conquered, the only way down is a fall, and the taller the mountain, the more dangerous the fall.

Albert could attest to this quite easily, as he had fallen down a flight of stairs the previous Tuesday. He attributed his sprained wrist not to his clumsy fall, but to his guitar playing, which he claimed was ‘going on quite well, except for the playing.’

Eventually the conversation blossomed into more liberating things such as involuntary imprisonment in North Korea and price increases in the local chip shop, after which Edgar and Albert retired for the night, leaving the tables and chairs and the well adjusted curtains to be. They got up, exchanged pleasantries and agreed to see each other soon, as most friends do but don’t follow through unless absolutely necessary.

Edgar joined Albert for breakfast consisting of coffee and cereal the following morning and discussed alphabetical patterns on the wings of East Asian butterflies and the viscosity of marmalade. Eventually the conversation died into a calming silence, like that of a chess match between two old people.

“Do you  remember that English Olympiad you won?” asked Edgar. I think you came first in all the country for not answering questions like the average Indian, or worse, someone from Essex.”

“Haha, yes. I remember that. The best part about that was -”

“You weren’t even there. You were in Sweden,” completed Edgar.

The two had a good laugh for half a minute or two. Edgar’s clamorous laughter hid the fact that his deep insecurities still cut him like imaginary knives everyday. He should have won that olympiad, he thought. He was the one who was supposed to be proficient in the language.

“You weren’t there either,” said Albert.

“Had I been there we wouldn’t have laughed for the better part of half a minute or two.”

Albert nodded. The nod was not a full fifteen degree nod - it stopped just short, at about thirteen and a half. He, like most of Edgar’s best friends, knew of his self approbatory tendencies and was used to leaving it at that.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Eton Mess


I stare, forlornly at my shadow,
After years of words and cups shared together,
Among other immaterial essences of life;
The flamed ochre dawn unweaves
An orange blob that rises from the west.
Tree leaves attach themselves up to their branches
And I limp home backwards.

You iron creases into my shirtsleeves
Before walking back to me, half tired
Half dressed, half calling across to me,
With that look of ravenous hunger as
Atoms fritter into formation.
Feelings flow into being – into physical existence
In the line that draws itself between us.
Ravenous hunger:
It crumbles into imaginary fragments,
As we saturate ourselves
With each other’s totality.

Insatiated nights of sweetened sunrises
Breathing darkness in daydreams​​
As I sit here clobbering keystrokes
Reminiscing infinite counterclockwise reprises
Of dreams, and dreams within dreams​;​
Of blurred past​s;​
Of concretized futures with ossified memories​;​
Of invisible humour in the seams between
The make vague mesne of our everything​.​

Your lips leave mine as you say my name​,​
It still sounds silly to you, but you like it​.​
Like my hobbies or my colourless shirts​.​
Multitudes of snowflakes stir before
lifting into the sky, unfurling, as I
pull my hands away from your hair
And allow the air
to sit still between us.

And the last time I saw you
In a faceless, branded, peach-seated restaurant
I peered into your infinite eyes.
The ones that spoke to me,
“Never leave”
I didn’t know whether I listened to them,

But for my sake, (and for the sake of this poem)​​
I hope I did.​


-Upamanyu Acharya

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chaos through Confusion


Most of our lives is drab and dreary, with the same endless rattle of railway trains, familiar squeaks of desks and chairs with its sprawling inhabitants, similar voices speaking similar words spouting similar ideas, day after day – and yet every day is a unique challenge, an anticipated undertaking, an exciting prospect. But this post isn’t about being a human thesaurus, that I am already in real life. This is about some of the little things I like to do as a human being, to while away what little time I have on this giant rock hurtling through space at many miles per hour (depending on your point of reference).

You see, the way I try to have fun isn’t by going to parties, eating ice cream for dinner, being an arts student, going to random events or doing basically anything that needs me to go out of my way to enjoy myself; I think of life as a string of experiences, with each experience being a card attached to the string. If you take away one card, it gets replaced with another. (Weird system, I know, but then again I’m a ‘writer’ so I’m allowed to be a little weird.) I’ll have the same amount of cards at the end of the day, so might as well make the most of what I have in the card I’m in. Motivational speakers and Americans would call this “living in the moment”, but I have a more cynical way of looking at it which is closer represented by the words “you’re stuck in the present, you haven’t invented time travel yet, so why not make it interesting?”

Actually my cards look more like credit cards but I'll let this one pass because I can't be arsed with photoshop. Plus no one hovers over text anymore so I can say anything I want here.

This is how writers wash their clothes. That’s right, they don’t.

There are times in your life where you will be pitted against the greatest hazard on the planet not counting literally anything found in Australia; unintelligent people. Often they will say something stupid or, better yet, misunderstand something intelligent. Just the other day I was talking with a group of people, most of them of middling intelligence, when one of them replied “Steve Aoki... oh, he’s the guy who discovered Japan, right?” Everyone in the group being a music aficionado and a champion of a bygone era known as “2012”, instantly berated him for not knowing who Steve Aoki is. But I took the poor lad’s side and argued, straight faced and serious, on his behalf, that yes indeed – Steve Aoki discovered the fuck out of Japan. “The Okinawa district is named after him, didn’t you know? It was previously called Aokinawa till 1872 when the Chinese invaded, and since they can’t pronounce ‘A’ (a fact that everyone in India will have no problem believing due to our inherent racism), they changed the name,” I said to everyone. Spouting other foolish malarkey of similar sort, eventually enough people were confused about their level of conviction that they tried to change the topic. Some of them even ended up agreeing (like I said, middling intelligence). And in that moment I had won. Confusion through chaos.

It’s very difficult to judge good versus evil on a universal level; our spirits in this material world are but fleeting slivers of rhetoric, churned and processed into bite-sized, believable packages of morality and “do this, do that” and you’ll go to heaven/hell/elysium/valhalla. Even Vlad the Impaler was loved by the Genoans for saving their 300 ships from attack. This is a guy who pointed spears up 20,000 people’s arses and had them killed. Don’t laugh, this isn’t nearly as funny as the ebola joke. He literally has ‘the Impaler’ attached to his name, and yet no objective analysis can say his soul was truly evil. Mad and cruel, maybe, but evil?

Vlad the Impaler
Insane? No way! He looks perfectly capable of logical reasoning and peaceful diplomacy

Did you notice how bad of an opinion the previous paragraph was? That’s exactly what I love to do, and what you should love doing to people on a regular basis. Just have bad opinions, but back it up with facts that are vaguely true and words that are intangibly impressive and you’ll have people agreeing with you. Of course, I’m not saying the above opinion on my pal Vlad is on the up and up bad, but it’s definitely on the unpopular side of the spectrum of approval. Of course he’s evil! He’s an impaler! I happen to believe what I wrote above, though, about not being able to judge evil objectively, and it might be a cogent thing to believe for many people who read this, but that’s up to the individual. Past experiences, family background, familiarity with things like technology, travel, and education makes everyone’s views unique – but some opinions are ‘good’ and some are ‘bad’. That’s sadly the way democracy, and most of society, works; we favour the majority over the minority, the popular over the unpopular. Funnily enough our acceptance of ideas has been democratized thousands of years before countries’ governments started doing them in the 1960s, which they did, once again, because democracy was a ‘popular’ idea. 5 people shout louder than 2, and hence the 5 will always have their voices heard.

So what do you do with a ‘bad’ opinion? Well, when you’re in the moment and you have your current experience card to go through before you move on to the next one, it’s pretty simple; confusion through chaos. Blurt it out like a retard or a Dota player, and watch the glistening embers of the aftermath.

I have a subject that I’m studying in my first semester known as Foundation of Human Skills. It sounds like a blow-off class, and since words are so good at being the instrument of their own description, that’s exactly what it is. No one really learns anything in a class that sounds like something you’d make up in 2 seconds when your mother is asking you what you’re studying and there’s a blueprint of a building along with a wax statuette of a naked human and the word SKILLS written in big, bold letters on an A4 size sheet in front of you (because that happens to everyone, right?). But since there’s nothing to learn we get to do ‘fun’ activities like what we did. In management there’s a popular concept known as Six Thinking Hats, which was actually published in 1985 as a psychological self-help book by Edward de Bono. The basic principle here is that humans think in six different ways denoted with hats of six different colours, that can be planned and hence challenged. These are:

  • Blue - what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal? (Managing)
  • White - considering purely what information is available; what are the facts? (Information)
  • Red - intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification) (Emotions)
  • Black - logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative (Discernment)
  • Yellow - logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony (Optimistic response)
  • Green - statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes (Creativity)

Except this is how it was taught to us:

  • Blue (Controlling)
  • White (Science student)
  • Red (Emotions)
  • Black (Negative comment)
  • Yellow (Positive comment)
  • Green (Arts student)

Our activity consisted of getting assigned random chits with words on them and speaking about that word on the spot for a minute or two. Then the rest of the class would unanimously decide which of the different hats they were wearing. I got the word ‘College’. It was a perfect moment to practice chaos through confusion – two minutes isn’t long enough to fully convince anyone of anything, no matter how similar your speaking style might be to Obama’s. The basic gist of my discussion was about how I believe college should be made super expensive to limit the number of graduates that pass out with useless degrees, and instead using that money to set up community colleges, vocational training institutes and subsidizing high school education to provide high-quality, almost free education to everyone. There are 10 million fresh graduates in this country every year – each with their own ambitions and aspirations, but sadly their employability is really low; a result of our weak and ineffective education system, even at the highest levels. Most of the country doesn’t need to be an engineer or know what Double Entry Accounting is. Yet all they heard was my “yes” when they asked, “do you want to make education only for the rich people?” and that was enough for them to close their ears and drop the black hat on me. I don’t think I was cautious or conservative even once in this entire thing, which I think kind of proved my point.

Milkman please! Milkman please! A glass of your least expired milk.

My expression when anyone believes anything I ever say

Chaos through confusion had failed me. It doesn’t work unless you establish a dialogue, which in a public speaking format isn’t really possible. It hadn’t confused them, merely solidified their ideals of having a vision in a country perplexed by its own backwardness and proud of its iPhone 7s and pornography prohibitions. But I’m still not going to stop offline-trolling people, because it’s fun, and I love the way human interaction is so simple yet so difficult to master. So here’s my challenge to you: Every time you internally agree with someone on something, just disagree and play out the debate. You might change someone’s viewpoint through a joke, you might have your own eyes opened, you might even start a religion like Jesus did almost 2000 years ago. Say a few unwarranted, untrue things, because that’s the essence of what we all are, in the end. An integument for our own metaphors, an instrument for our ideas, and intimaters of argument. We are what we portray, and sometimes it’s fun to portray yourself as a mirror.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Taxi Drivers Can’t Keep Refusing You Anymore


Just yesterday I had a group project for college, a presentation that we had to make on a company given to us, and I had to do one on Ola Cabs. It was great timing; I’d just recently started using the service not too long after I first heard of it two or three months ago. Ola Cabs is basically Uber, except they accept cash. You point to your location on your smart phone and an AC taxi arrives, picks you up and takes you wherever you want to go. It’s slightly more expensive, but worth it if you want a comfortable journey, or the taxis that listlessly roam around in your area still refuse to go where you want to.

Which is the biggest problem that plagues taxi drivers in the city of Mumbai.

Ola Cabs Presentation.tiff

Pictured: me, not a taxi driver. Picture Credits: Craig Sir

See, the thing is, this is 2015. Time has caught up with taxi drivers, as it tends to do with everyone. And what most of them don’t realise is that companies like Ola, Uber, TFS, TabCab, and even Meru are slowly eating into their business in a way that’s not only visibly apparent but also frightening for anyone whose means to their bread involves driving taxis for a living. If you’re a black cab driver, it’s time to buckle up, because the next few years are going to be tough.

The taxi business is a $10 billion industry in India. Ola Cabs is currently valued at $2.4 billion, and they have more than 100,000 taxis in their fleet across the country, which increases each day. Uber’s Indian valuation isn’t quite clear but it made headlines a few months back when the company was valued at $41 billion. Yes, that’s right. A tech-company in California that doesn’t own a single taxi in its entire operation is valued at over four times that of the entire Indian taxi industry. You could argue that it’s a bubble that’s soon going to pop – that the valuation is inflated, like much of Silicon Valley currently might be. I wouldn’t disagree. But the fact is, a few lines of code has enough value today, in the planet we live in, that it can make an entire means of livelihood for 95,000 taxi drivers in Mumbai irrelevant. Uber and Ola is to taxis what set-top boxes were to cable TV. There is confidence in these companies, and where there’s confidence, there’s investment. Where there’s investment, there’s power and where there’s power, there’s change.

The day before yesterday my father was coming back from work in Powai. He tried to hail one of the many taxis, whose drivers languorously peered around with their front door open. They all said the same thing; they wouldn’t go. A fare of over Rs. 250 refused, why? Because they think they can afford to do it. For many years these taxis have been an integral part of our public transport infrastructure, and society at large always sort of forgave these taxi drivers for refusing fares. They don’t like it, but it’s too much hassle to file a complaint in a country rampant in government bureaucracy and corruption. I won’t go into the legality of it either, because in whatever state of prohibition fare refusal might be in, drivers are rarely perturbed by the thought of a complaint.

He's actually remembering Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Pictured: taxi driver wondering what he has to do to not be a taxi driver, after refusing a fare to a gentleman trying to get home to his wife and kids. Picture credits: my dad

I understand why fare refusal is a thing; I understand their plight as well. They work over 12 hours a day in blistering heat in a city where traffic is equivalent to parking. But, unfortunately, the 21st century is catching up.

In our $10 billion industry, only about 10% of taxis are ‘organised’, meaning only about 10% of them know where to be at a certain time to bridge the demand and supply gap, which is exactly what Ola and Uber do; bridge the gap between demand and supply for taxis. They’re turning this rampantly disorganised and flailing market into an organised and efficient one, and they’re doing it very quickly –at over 25% growth per year. With that kind of growth, and with that kind of possibility of expansion, I find it a very logical conclusion to leap to when I say that our Kali Peeli boys have very little time to up their game. In 6 months they’ll really start to feel the wrath that’s already turned many of them into becoming an Ola or Uber driver themselves; a very sizable portion of our sample size for a survey we conducted as part of our project said they’d be willing to pay the premium if these services became more ubiquitous. Because things like dirty seats, disheveled interiors, lack of basic courtesy or safety or communication skills, and the simple lack of an AC in forty degree weather is a very easy thing to ditch when there’s a better alternative.

I’m not saying black cabs will go extinct soon. They won’t. But pressure’s already building up as more and more of them start scrambling towards more lucrative jobs under these companies, and the ones that remain, suffer due to lack of customers. One problem in this hypothesis is that Ola and Uber don’t have a sustainable business model, and as soon as that initial investor confidence runs out, which could happen for any reason – anything from burning too much money too fast, to having Bhavish Aggarwal pull a Rahul Yadav – as soon as confidence runs out, black cabs are back in business.

Still, for the next few years the onus is on the taxi drivers to prove that they’re not a relic of the past, willing to drive the force that eventually fades them into irrelevancy. They need to prove that they understand the world we live in, where an app can cause riots and revolutions thousands of miles from where the first person who had the idea wrote his lines of code. They need to prove that there is still value in on-the-spot, convenient and cheap rides in a city as complex and vibrant as Mumbai. We won’t stop using them if they start going where we want.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rising From the Ashes


The last year has been very tough for me; in many ways except the ones which ultimately matter. I have lovely friends who’d still keep my company, I got into a good college and I’m doing my first choice of course, after letting my engineering dreams burn to ash and my law dreams remain just another unread chapter in my unwritten biography. I live in a house, my parents are alive, and I have some glimmer of hope of not being a total failure, which is good enough in my case.

I didn’t post anything in the last year or so because I’d not just lost the passion to write, but many other things along with it. I became the quiet guy in class, I didn’t raise my hand to participate in things that (didn’t) matter, like MUNs or debates, things that I used to love. I failed test after test of mathematics and chemistry as my teachers futilely convinced themselves that I’d do better next time, except that time never came. I was a horrible student – I’ll admit that. I stopped trying to take care for myself and my surroundings. I didn’t work at all, slept poorly, didn’t pick up phone calls, didn’t follow up on meetings and assignments and get-togethers. Basically it was a mess; everyone but me was scared, and I wasn’t aware of the situation enough to be scared, till the clock started ticking and soon it was one month before my board exams and I realised I’d messed up the last one year so hard that only a miracle could get my life back on track.

I didn’t believe in miracles.

I suffer from Thalassemia Major and a lot of my problems originate from this one genetic anomaly; it’s like a faint white noise playing in the background of an otherwise beautiful song that is my life. It’s the paper that you bite into when eating a cupcake. It’s the hot, wet rain on a lovely midsummer’s eve. It’s basically a minor inconvenience in the least and an all-pervading ‘No Entry’ zone for my dreams and ambitions at most. Thalassemia is a genetic disorder that causes haemoglobin (an essential protein required to absorb oxygen in the blood) to be produced in very little quantity. At this point in time, and probably for many years to come, it has no cure. So once someone is born with thalassemia, unless they happen to be very fortunate and are able to receive a bone-marrow transplant before the age of 5, the chances of curing it are quite simply, non-existent. I was not one of the lucky ones. Aside from the symptoms of having a Hb count perpetually below my shoe size, and a systolic blood pressure lower than my IQ, I need blood transfusions every week or two. Long story short, if I don’t get these blood transfusions, I wither and die like a plant without water.

At some point in early 2014, this Thalassemia thing ate into my life and left me starving for motivation; I’d fall ill quite often, but not often enough to warrant my absence from everything. I started playing horrible sounding video games, and my life was absorbed by it. You might have heard of it; my friends sure have. It’s called Dota 2, and I quite like the game, even now. I enjoy it for its competitiveness and sense of teamwork and belonging – my favourite and only sports team that I follow is a Dota team, so it’s still a part of my life. But I’m not consumed by illness or video games any longer. I’d like to spend time doing the things that people my age do. Which involves formulating plans for meeting people, and then not meeting them, and ending up stuck with people you didn’t want to meet but who happen to be in your college and therefore, there.

Most people didn’t even know there was anything wrong with me – my immediate  family of course made sure to tell everyone. But aside from that the biggest impact I’ve felt is a certain desolation in character, a lack of growth. My skills are still exactly the same as it was two to three years ago. Worse, maybe, since I haven’t practiced them. I haven’t spoken in public in over a year, or written any amount of high-quality, publishable content, or played the guitar often enough to count as ‘practice’ instead of just ‘showing-off’. Have I even grown intellectually? Do I know more than I did two years ago? The answer should be yes but I don’t feel the effects of this knowledge; quite the opposite infact. It feels I’ve wasted two years of my life in front of a computer, with nothing to show for it. And that’s the most soul crushing thing of all. It’s what keeps me awake at night.

There were days when I’d just read the poems I’d written in the past, for hours on end, trying to find inspiration for writing a new one. But new ones never came. I was obsessed with my own text, because I truly believed that the stories that I had to tell were good enough and worthy enough to be told. I consider my writing elegant and my speech eloquent. I wonder why more people don’t read what I write and it’s because I’m an egotist. I’m incredibly self-absorbed to the point where if you accused me of believing the world revolved around me, I’d side with you and put the onus on myself to prove that it does not, and then I wouldn’t follow up because I’d secretly wish that the world DID revolve around me. Yes, I’m very slightly crazy.

I was really scared of writing because I did not feel that my output reflected my actual skill. I’d cheat with writing; I’d Google information and look up quotes everywhere, I’d comb through the thesaurus searching for words to use, and base my sentences around that. I’d define each and every word I used ten times, including things like “the”, because I could. This process of rediscovery of the English language inevitably took time, and is what eventually lead to the demise of my writing prowess. Once you stop writing because it’s tedious or difficult, you lose the practice of actually penning down words, which is one of the most important aspects of being a writer. Yes, write crap, that’s fine – just write something! I knew it, deep down in my heart, but I guess I’d always managed to convince myself that there was something more important to do than to hone my one skill.

In the end I guess these series of random paragraphs are quite boring. They are. I understand that. But it’s a blog, and I advertise it quite heavily in my limited circle of influence, so I’d like it to finally reflect who I am, even if that person is not someone to aspire to be. “You only live twice,” is sort of a joke at this point, but in this one very rare case I do believe it to be relevant. In the same way a phoenix rises from its ashes, reborn and rediscovered, elegant and graceful and young once again – not jaded by centuries of advice and not weathered by years of battle, just this once I’d metaphorise myself as the phoenix. Only strong opinions on controversial topics from now on. So my next post will be either about Nazis, Muslims or Reservation Quotas.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sunlight Wings


It really has been a long time.

Every wannabe blogger is going to say these words once in a while, after they’ve failed to meet their own expectations about regular posting, and their platform, like Meru Cabs or KFC, has faded into irrelevancy. Really, though, I haven’t posted in months. This post isn’t going to make up for my lack of content, but it might have a few ideas and abstractions that you like.

Since I last posted, I got my board exam results and joined a college, then left that, and joined another one – I’m now happy where I am, but of course there’s this pervading cognizance that I don’t really intellectually connect with many of the people who surround me yet. This isn’t a complaint; getting out of my comfort zone and talking to new people with enriching pasts and pretty futures is always lovely, but it takes time to develop a bond. More importantly, it takes time to find the right people to develop a stronger bond, known as friendship. It takes time to find the people who share the same taste in music or poetry or accounts as you do; it takes time to find like-minded people who prefer McDonalds to Burger King; it takes time to find that one person whose words mean more to you, just because it’s coming from them.

That’s quite a startling remark, to say that friendship is the result of a perceptible choice. Almost as if we choose at which moment we get to say, “hey, we’re friends now.” It’s like an entrance test that needs to be passed. [‘Friendship JEE’ coaching classes, now open in Vile Parle, Bhandup and Dadar!]. In my case, the first few days of college, where no one knows anyone and Jaipur is just as popular a place to come from as Thane, the entire paradigm revolves around meeting people for a few minutes, finding something interesting about them, and evaluating the situation from there. I usually ask simple, easy questions like where they’re from or how does one spell their name, before moving on to the harder stuff like “which has more power, love or fear?” or “do human beings have free will, or are we so enamoured with our own solipsism that we don’t get to express our thoughts and values to the rest of the world?”


It took me close to five months to get the courage to write a few more words, but today that changed when I was sitting in the first class compartment of the Western Railway, inhumed in the noise of steel and speed, watching an ant-like procession of commuters heading off for the day’s toil in the middle of the afternoon. A few Pink Floyd lyrics came back to me and I was reminded of what I should have done a while back; it’s not to interact with random people or score marks in exams or try to make bad jokes on the internet. It’s to write. I’m a writer, whether I like it or not. A lot of people reading this will have honed skills ‘accidentally’ – some of you will be really good at sports despite not wanting to go pro, some of you will be great at engineering despite wanting to be musicians, or the other way around (actually, that’s not possible, no one wants to be an engineer). Some of you read so many books it makes me wonder why you haven’t written any yourself. Everyone has a unique talent that they have yet to discover. Embrace that talent; embrace that skill, and one day you might have the chance to say you have hobbies other than “sports”.

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words.