Unlived Life

The screaming quiet
The chaos within
The joyless smile
The clock ticking

The springless steps
The tuneless song
The purposeless morning
The days are long

The faithless prayer
The lonely crowd
The wandering eyes
The nagging doubt

The meaningless hello
The heartless goodbye
The unlived life
The time to die.

~Anushree~

Little Miracles

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Ever had one of those days when even the things that are going right don’t feel that way? When the humdrum of routine life becomes too much to bear? When the presence or absence of all material benefits or loved ones doesn’t seem to matter?

And then suddenly when you’d least expect, the tiniest of things that you would otherwise ignore, would make you feel so exuberant and full of joy that it’d become impossible for you to contain that feeling. These tiny things are what we call ‘Little Miracles‘.

We pray and wish for miracles to happen; miracles that’ll change the course of our lives, make our troubles disappear and help us lead the idyllic lives we’ve always dreamt of. But while waiting for these gigantic and fate altering miracles, we often overlook the million tiny ones that grace our lives everyday. Like a cute smile on a baby’s face that fills up your heart, finding the exact thing you’ve been craving to eat all day without even realising it, coming home to a smiling and loving partner after a hard day at work, having someone come out to help you out of nowhere when you were just about to give up.

What we call happy coincidences were miracles waiting to happen on the sidelines. Our lives are made up of these tiny miracles that we either tend to overlook or take for granted as we grow up. But the more you start noticing them, the more you’ll notice them happening. Watch out for them and watch them watching out for you.

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Book Review – Bangkok 8 (John Burdett)

Bangkok 8

Bangkok 8 – the title clearly gives away the setting of the plot. But is the book as exciting as the city itself?

Bangkok 8 is a mystic murder (snakes no less) mystery with its protagonist and narrator being an eastern police officer, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Even though he follows Buddhist principles, he’s been brought up in a more cosmopolitan culture, thanks to him being the son of an erstwhile prostitute. This story is his quest for revenge for the death of his partner.

What makes Sonchai’s narration interesting is that even though he is an integral part of the infamous flesh trade of Bangkok, he despises it and chooses to view it from the sidelines. This fact gives us a very detached and objective view of the dark world and its inner mechanisms. Despite the oft held opinion, we get to know that Thai women are not forced to delve into this lucrative trade and willingly make it a career option. We also get an understanding of the Thai attitude towards sex, of how Thai women might be the most progressive among their counterparts in other countries, of how despite being in this cut throat trade, they have the utmost professionalism and camaraderie between them and that it isn’t an easy career option and requires every bit of hard work as any other career.

John Burdett shows off his knowledge about the city and its culture throughout the novel. And since he’s a westerner, we also get to view things from both eastern and western perspectives and their conflicting values and styles of working. He deftly portrays the inner workings of the city and of the police force that’s marred with corruption; and why and how this works wonderfully for them as well as for the people of the city. John successfully marries the murder mystery track with the cultural and spiritual one to give the reader a glimpse of Bangkok city beyond its attractive façade.

A good, if not a must read. Some memorable quotes:

  • The future is impenetrable, says the Buddha.
  • Hope or haste comes from the devil, slowness comes from Buddha.
  • The dharma teaches us the impermanence of all phenomena, but you cannot prepare yourself for the loss of phenomenon you love more than yourself.
  • Hit dirt with a stick and you will certainly spread it.
  • You will not make a good death is a power curse; it makes fuck you sound like a benediction.
  • I do not explain the endless cycle of life after life, each one a reaction against some imbalance from the one before, that reaction setting up yet another imbalance and so on and on. We are the pinballs of eternity.
  • Human beings are predators, we like to hunt and eat the weak so we can feel strong for a moment.
  • Magic is preindustrial. I feel sorry for the FBI and her belief that there is anything logical about human existence. It’s like choosing a ringtone, a logical labyrinth with no meaningful outcome. Logic is distraction.
  • Actually the west is the culture of emergency: twisters in Texas, earthquakes in California, wind-chill in Chicago, draught, flood, famine, epidemics, drugs, wars on everything. Of course if you didn’t believe you could control everything , their wouldn’t be an emergency, would there?
  • Everyone is dumb outside their own frame of references.
  • Gautama Buddha was the greatest salesman in history. He was selling nothing. That’s what “nirvana” means: nothing. As the cure for the great cosmic disaster most of us call life, he prescribed a rigorous course of meditation and perfect living over any number of lifetimes, with nothing as its final reward.
  • The greatest pleasure in life is to be understood, is it not?
  • The mind likes truth. It will work quite hard to make the connections, once the pieces are all on board.
  • Waiting is difficult only for those beset by the delusion of time.
  • The east has more patience, more history, more cunning, more sorcery – and gets the sun 1 hours before the west does. How could west ever win?

Magic In Mundane

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I see my goals in the distance
Taunting me to dare if I might
I exasperate, as they seem farther
Than where they were last night

Everyday is a battle I try to win
Preparing myself for what lies ahead
Living through the mundane life
Knowing tomorrow’d be the same as I get to bed

But today, today is a bit different
I feel exuberant without knowing why
Despite my To Do list full and day packed ahead
I feel happy and calm inside

Today I don’t care whether I win or lose
My exacting goals suddenly cease to matter
Happiness fills my whole being
Elation consumes me with its incessant chatter

Today even the mundane feels like magic
Making me feel jubilant just to be alive
The ordinary is a disguised blessing
Atleast I have worthy goals for which to strive

~Anushree

Book Review – The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

Death is the mother of beauty.

Death is the mother of beauty.

Whenever you pick up a critically acclaimed book, you’re always sceptical whether it’d be yet another pretentious piece of work. Thankfully this wasn’t!

I for one get excited rather than be put off by a thick book and was glad to discover that the book didn’t use it’s run time to bore the daylights out of me. But that being said, there certainly are parts that feel a little stretched and could’ve been done without, though Donna Tartt makes up for it by introducing an interesting piece of storyline every now and then that pulls you in again.

The Secret History is an engaging book to say the least. It tells the story of an elusive group of friends in college and makes us privy to their group dynamics. We see a façade that’s enchanting but mysterious; with you always wanting to turn the page to get a glimpse beyond it. Narrated by the protagonist Richard Papen, right in the beginning the reader is made aware of the identity of the murder victim as well as the perpetrators of the act, thereby making this novel more of a ‘whydunit’ than a ‘whodunit’.  What follows is an interesting set of events that make you feel like a part of the Hampden college campus life as well as each of the characters’ lives. So much so that once you get through with the book, it takes a tiny while to come to terms with the fact that it has indeed ended.

Donna Tartt beautifully narrates the story by employing wonderful words and quotes in a variety of languages like English, Greek, Latin and French. Certainly a good read for a book aficionado.

Here are a few memorable quotes from the book:

  • The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell. ~ Milton
  • “Why does that obstinate little voice in our heads torment us so? Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls – which after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? But isn’t it also pain that often makes us more aware of self? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from all the world, that no one and no other thing hurts along with one’s burned tongues and skinned knees, that one’s aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow older, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that’s why we’re so anxious to lose them, don’t you think?”
  • The Erinyes turned up the volume of the inner monologue, magnified qualities already present to great excess, made people so much themselves that they couldn’t stand it.
  • The least of us know that love is a cruel and terrible master. ~ Sophocles
  • Objects such as corpses, painful to view in themselves, can become delightful to contemplate in a work of art. ~Aristotle
  • Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.
  • Death is the mother of beauty.
  • It’s a temptation for any intelligent person to try to murder the primitive, emotive, appetitive self. But that’s a mistake. Because it is dangerous to ignore the existence of the irrational. The more cultivated a person is, the more intelligent, the more repressed.
  • To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of hiney bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstrung our bones. Then spit us out reborn.
  • Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.
  • But of course I didn’t see this crucial moment then for what it was; I suppose we never do.
  • Men have friends, women have relatives, and animals have their own kind. ~Greek axiom.
  • I suppose that when anyone accustomed to working with the mind I faced with a straightforward action, there’s a tendency to embellish, to make it overly clever.
  • What is unthinkable is undoable.
  • Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things – naked, sputtering, indelible in their horror – are too terrible to even grasp at all. It is only later, in solitude, in memory, that the realization dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself – quite to one’s surprise – in an entirely different world.
  • Any action, in the fullness of time, sinks to nothingness.
  • It does not do to be frightened of things about which you know nothing.
  • There is nothing wrong with the love of beauty. But beauty – unless she is wed to something more meaningful – is always superficial.
  • Psychology is only another word for what the ancients called fate.

100% Perfect Lovers

Lovers

While reading yet another book by Haruki MurakamiThe Elephant Vanishes, a collection of short stories; I stumbled onto a simple yet intriguing story that goes like this:

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and a 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you’re the 100% perfect girl for me.

“And you,” she said to him, “are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I’d pictured you in every detail. It’s like a dream.”

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. It was a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: was it really alright for one’s dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves – just once. If we really are each other’s 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we’ll marry then and there. What do you think?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is exactly what we should do.”

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

The test they had agreed upon, however was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other’s 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season’s terrible influenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death, they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence’s piggy bank.

They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 80% love.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send the special delivery letter, was walking from east to west, both along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in the chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fourteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.

Aren’t we all the same? Don’t we all think we don’t deserve good things? We’re forever praying and hoping for a miracle to grace our lives and when it actually does, we can’t believe our luck and try to look for the loopholes. Why is it so bloody difficult for us to accept that we can be happy, that we can actually get what we want, that we can have our cake and eat it too?

This story isn’t just a tell-tale sign of our love lives. It holds equally true for other spheres of our lives.

We reject many things thinking them results of our rose tinted glasses of youth and the naivete that comes along with it; all the while forgetting, we might not get lucky with a second chance.

Maybe we ought to believe in ourselves, have faith in the cosmic power and keep our arms open and embrace the good things that happen to us, no questions asked. THAT, I guess, what happiness is all about.

Don’t you agree?

Ladies Line

Onli Ladis Plis

Onli Ladis Plis

The best thing to have happened to Delhi since Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Janpath and the likes is definitely the Metro. And the best thing to have happened to Delhi since the Metro is the much revered and envied Ladies compartment.

For the uninitiated, the first compartment in the onward direction of every train is reserved for ladies. Apart from the obvious benefits of the move for women, men are in a way benefited too. Now they know exactly where to slyly fixate their wandering eyes.

Being the privileged member of this inner circle of first compartment, I’ve chalked out 10 categories of women who frequent the hallowed premises; for those who aren’t satisfied with observing from the sidelines.

1. Loud Talkers (Phone or otherwise)

"I'm telling this *only* to you."

“I’m telling this *only* to you.”

It’s no secret that women love to talk. But imagine the plight of others when it is at volumes hard to ignore. I’ve unwittingly been party to conversations ranging from relationship woes and in-law bitching to career advises being dispensed and shopping lists being exchanged.

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2. Bling Brigade

The word subtle ain't in my dictionary.

The word subtle ain’t in my dictionary.

A category that’s easy to come by and hard to miss. Delhi being Delhi, women love to dress up. Can you imagine the horror of the local grocer discovering your non-kohled eyes or un-painted lips? *shudders*. Look around the metro any time of the day and you’d find women from all age groups in the most garish and lurid of outfits, complemented by gaudy make-up and blingy accessories. These women surely must be the stars (literally!) of someone’s universe.

3. Goggled Girls

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This particular phenomenon must probably be as old as the sun itself but still baffles the daylights out of me. Now I understand you’d like to protect your kohl-lined, mascara replete eyes from the bright glares of the sun, but what I don’t get is why keep ’em on when there’s no sun? This category of women heroically keep their sun glasses perched up on their noses even when the metro’s running underground. Maybe it’d take a few years of scientific study to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Oh you must!

Oh you must!

4. Rule Breakers

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Being an Indian automatically grants you the license to break rules. Hell yeah! We’re risk takers that way. No wonder then, that this category (which belongs to all socio-economic classes of society) takes utmost pleasure in sitting on the floor and munching snacks from their carefully packed ‘dabbas’, when announcements to the very effect are being made every 5 minutes. It’s damn cool you know!

5. Scooch Requesters

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Anybody who’s travelled in the ladies compartment even once in her life would tell you about its unsaid rule. Have even an inch of space between you and the person beside? Well you gotta scooch for anybody who asks for it, no questions asked.

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And the worst is when a female who, well to put it delicately, would never fit into the tiny space, requests you to do so and ends up hogging all of it leaving you gasping for air or your former seat. I once had to endure an experience of a scooch requester’s half thigh resting on mine. Oh the horror!

6. Stareres

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Without a doubt women check out other women more than men do. And metro isn’t any different. You’re sometimes at the receiving and sometimes at the giving end of it.

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But there are women who’ve made it their business to unflinchingly stare at every female who travels with them. And the professionals that they are, they remain unfazed even when you catch them in the act.

7. Music Lovers

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Music is a good thing, maybe the best of things. But what happens when you have Justin Bieber or his Bollywood equivalent Atif Aslam blaring from the headphones of the person sitting next to you? Not the best of situations is it? And then there are those who rock their heads and lip-sync to whatever song they’re listening to. Well, music makes you do stupid things.

8. Bookworms

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Whenever you spot a female intently staring into a book in her hands and her mouth bunched up, you know you’ve come across a bookworm. Whether she’s standing in the crowded lanes hanging on to her dear life or sitting on the luckily found (grabbed?) seat, she’d not lose sight of her knowledge reservoir even for a second. Time well spent won’t you say?

9. Cool Crusaders

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There’s a reason why shady institutes which loudly claim “ek mahine mein angrezi speakna seekhiye” (learn to speak English in one month), have mushroomed across the country. Because talking in English is just so cool. Can’t get your work done? Shout in English. Want to clear an interview? English silly!

Students of Lady Shri Ram College for Woman in New Delhi

This category of women (mostly college girls) make sure they shout at the top of their voices in totally accented English with the words ‘dude’ and ‘like’ thrown in after every second word. Oh it’s not like they want to, they HAVE to. How else would you know they’re from the cool breed?

10. Sleepers

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The oldest and the most famous category in the world of trains. The moment they get onto any kind of moving vehicle, a fog of drowsiness encircles them and they quietly submit to its incessant clamour.

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This category is the worst enemy of the ‘scooch requesters’ and some even feign sleep to belong to this category as soon as they comfortably settle in their hard-earned seats.

So which category do you belong to?

In case I’ve missed any, please add it in the comments section.