This is the customary cliché – The New Year post. The time of the year when newspapers would carry a full-page picture collage of all the disasters, earthquakes, bloodshed, tears, and a picture of an old man with white cane evolving into a baby in nappies jumping across the horizon to grab a rising sun that supposedly symbolizes the dawn of a new year.
Television channels would run the “best and worst of the year” stories and show file clippings of terrorist attacks, presidential elections and other such disasters, followed by ten second interviews with movie stars who dash their histrionic responses wishing the “viewers” a happy and wonderful New Year – May this year bring you all things that past year did not, and all that good stuff.
And then there is the thing about taking New Year resolutions, nonchalantly joking that resolutions are always meant to be broken, and still coming up with a bunch of them only to be instantly forgotten until the next New Year. Not to forget the clich�d New Year wishes – “May this new year bring you new heights, success, health, more cheer and a lot of happiness”. (You really think I can get all of them, given that everybody in the world wants the same things on this day?).
It’s interesting to realize, that every year always begins with the New Year and ends the day before the next one (sorry, bad joke). And every time, we hope the New Year brings all the good stuff unlike the previous year, and we end up hoping the same thing again the next New Year. At times, it seems the process of New Year wishing has become so mechanical that if you just stretch your hand out to someone on a New Year’s eve and keep your mouth shut, you instantaneously get a “Wish you the same” as reply.
Well, years come and go. Some of them become those that you would look back with nostalgia, and some become the forgettable ones. And every time we secretly hope that this would be the big year when we would get all things we ever wanted, and everything goes just as we planned, and end up wishing for the same thing again the next year.
The most exciting and also the fearful facet of our living is the uncertainty about everything in life. And the biggest gift one can hope for is the ability to smile amid distress. So let this New Year teach you to smile, despite anything that life may throw your way.
And yes, May this New Year bring you new heights, success, health, more cheer and a lot of happiness.
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Filed under: Life and Living, Thoughts | 1 Comment
Four large suitcases, two carry-ons, two laptops and a near-empty house. There were just these minimal things left with us and we were all set to travel. It was three days before we were scheduled to board an Emirates flight to India. The travel preparations were done; couch, TV, TV stand, dining table, chairs, water filter and a lot of other stuff had either been returned – exploiting the 90-day return policy – or sold on the ever-dependent craigslist; and disconnection requests for cable, phone and the utilities had been placed.
That fine Friday afternoon, as I walked into what I thought was just another official meeting, I was told I might have to stay back in San Antonio for some more time, and the final word on that would be by Monday.
So there we were. Me and the wife. Surrounded by four large suitcases, two carry-ons, two laptops and a near-empty house. We asked our community leasing office to hold on to our notice for a few more days because, “We might just have to stay back and my office would let me know soon, thank you for your help today”.
A bounty of mixed feelings ran through us – we would miss the smell of the Texas air, the fragrance of what had been our home for the past six months, the nightly walk down the calm streets of our community, the pool side chairs we unwind ourselves on – or we may stay on and miss none of it for some more time. If missing was sad, not knowing if you would miss or not is awkward. Were we to board flight to India or make our weekly grocery visit to HEB?
A coffee would help, we thought, only to realize we ran out of sugar. We drove to HEB to buy the smallest available pack that would last us just a little while, trying to make optimized use of our limited resources. The hours ticked by, as we waited for the day to move over to the next. And then to the next. We walked over to the patio and kept gazing at the Sunday sun setting over the horizon oh-so-slowly until the large ball of fire sunk deep beyond the visible edge taking the trail of orange clouds along with it. Before we realized, it was dinner time. A limited resources dinner.
For the first time, we eagerly awaited the dawn of the Monday. This Monday was going to brush away the blues, or so we hoped.
Luckily, the proverbial Monday morning was anything but blue. It was official – we were staying back. By evening we had our list of things to do – cancel disconnection requests, buy a TV, TV stand, dining table, chairs, water filter and the lot of other stuff, make our weekly grocery trip to HEB, hang the paintings on the wall, unpack the clothing into the closet, and unpack everything else that needs unpacking.
It was suddenly like we just moved in and have to start setting up the house. After six months of living in this city, in this house, it all seemed just like the day we first moved in – four large suitcases, two carry-ons, two laptops and a near-empty house.
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Tags: San Antonio
September 19. My Birthday eve. A black limousine in all its shining luxury halted just ahead of us. Two people who would aptly fit to be called “lady and gentleman” alighted from the car and walked through the heavy entrance doors.
As we entered the lobby of the Majestic Theater in Downtown San Antonio, we were greeted by tuxedo and formal-gown clad members who welcomed us with complimentary champagne. The lobby was dimly lit with a low indistinctive noise all around. The traffic was increasing in the narrow East Houston Street and so was the crowd on what was a sold out day of performance.
I never learnt any form of music, but did learn to love all kinds of it. And a long-awaited first visit to a symphony concert was just the moment I knew I was going to cherish for a long time.
Minutes later, we settled down at our seats at the mezzanine level, looking around in awe at the magnificent theater. The ceiling was dark blue spotted with tiny lights giving an open-sky feel. The noise wasn’t ceasing anytime soon with people flocking in trying to make their way through the dim lights. A few musicians began taking their places, some working on the passages they needed to polish before the performance with no regard to what other musicians were practicing. It was fun listening to those random notes from violins, cellos, tambourines and trumpets mingled in no specific order.
As the conductor walked swiftly into his position, there was a sudden silence almost giving an eerie feel. Without much ado, the performance started with the American National Anthem. As we were about to retire to our seats, the conductor walked back with Gil Shaham – the Illinois-born Israeli violinist who won a Grammy Award in 1999 for Best Chamber Music Performance. The next 45 minutes was a treat to the soul as Gil Shaham unleashed an Allegro.
The best part was only about to start. If you’ve ever listened to an erstwhile Old Spice ad, or more recently, the introductory music in Michael Jackson’s History DVD collection, you would know what, arguably, is the most famous piece of music ever composed. Carmina Burana is a manuscript of 254 poems and dramatic texts in Latin from the 11th or 12th century. Between 1935 and 1936, Carl Orff composed the cantata Carmina Burana based on 24 of the poems found in the original Carmina Burana manuscript.
The drum rolled and the choir began singing the best known piece of the composition – the opening section, O Fortuna. I could feel the nerves tingle, like what only music could do to you – as if I had just fallen head over heels in love all over again. (Music is one of the things V wouldn’t mind me falling in love with). Although the Latin words were hard to follow, the translation ran on the screen suspended on top of the stage that made it possible to make an English-sense to the performance.
Carmina Burana was performed for about 70 minutes. The standing ovation that followed was an experience of a lifetime, as we joined the audience in a nonstop applause lasting almost five full minutes.
That brought it just a few minutes to midnight, and it was a privilege having celebrated the most unique birthday party – with Gil Shaham and Carmina Burana!
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Tags: Carmina Burana, Gil Shaham, San Antonio, Symphony
“Imagine how different the skyline would’ve been with the twin towers?” V said walking across the top deck aboard a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. The New York City skyline towered majestically across the horizons, albeit the missing jewel in its crown.
9/11. How household those numbers have become. Across countries, cultures, languages and History books, henceforth, the number 9/11 can only mean one thing. I was sitting in my little Madurai University hostel room on 9/11/2001. It was late Tuesday evening and I had just returned back from the classes and switched on the TV with a few cookies to give me company. CNN was Breaking the News. There was smoke bellowing out of one of the towers and the rest of the disaster was just about to unfold.
Soon a crowd joined around me, open mouthed, unable to believe they were actually watching live pictures streaming 10,000 miles across the globe and not Hollywood graphics. When the North tower fell as if it were submerging into the ground below – the TV showed a journalist with his camera on, running frantically into Liberty Street trying to escape the raining debris. “Oh My God!”, we chorused incoherently.
The Empty Space where the towers once stood. As seen from the Liberty Street.
We walked across the WTC Memorial Site and past the Liberty Street, as I shared my memories of 9/11/2001 with V. We stood watching the empty space that was once a hub of action, that now felt like a dent on the planet. Life around seemed business-as-usual. Scores of tourists walking in and out of the Millennium Hilton, some taking pictures of the empty space. Probably it’s the only instance where the empty space is as much a place to see as the towers itself were once.
Over the years some people ask why is 9/11 so important, when innocent people all over the world succumb to bombs all the time. To me, 9/11 is not just ‘another’ terror attack – simply because of the place and the way the whole thing happened. Struck on a busy weekday morning at the headquarters of world economy, that injected an unfathomable if-WTC-can-go-down-anything-can fear on the safety of any place anywhere in the world, the day rewrote what terrorism is capable of.
Today there are researches, theories and conspiracy theories on how in the world what happened could ever have happened. The post-mortem would continue well into the future, and chances are, we may never get to find the real answers. But 9/11 would stay on in the hearts of everyone of our time, as a mark of how brittle the world and our lives could be.
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Tags: 9/11, New York, WTC
Seems to me that I’ve developed a habit of losing stuff and, as if a strange pun of destiny, get back what I lost. And that seems to be the pattern – at different times it was my mobile, jacket, a duffel bag, all finding their way back after being lost.
I set out to write a story
That spoke of a loser
And how he lost.
What is losing, after all
But the temporary misgivings
Of a trampled mind
Where thoughts trickle
Sepia tinted pages
Of a depleted memory
What is losing, after all
But a mere
“Change of owner”
Like they say of Energy
Or the soul
That could only move
From one owner to another
I set out
For those phantom words
To tell his story
But the words elude me
Much like my fortune
As I keep looking
For my lost words.
What is losing, after all?
Words that just passed
Like the rainless clouds?
Or did the loser just find
A new owner
For the words he lost?
Filed under: Life and Living, Poetry, Thoughts | 6 Comments
Tags: memoir, Poetry
He was a nice looking gentleman wearing an oversize coat and thick mufflers around his neck, who acceded to taking a picture of me and V standing on the edge of Dolphin’s Nose. “So where are you from?” he asked me handing over the camera to V. “I… Er… I’m from…”, I fumbled. V did better. She smiled, as she secured the camera into its case.
It was an incredible moment in our lives. A moment when we realized, we didn’t have an answer to the most rudimentary question of existence – “Where are you from?” Well, let me see. We have moved three cities in two countries in four months, have our belongings lying in five cities across the two countries and have no idea where we would be four weeks from this minute.
Things weren’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be happy days ahead. Family, elders and all that, you know? A fairy tale of the prince and princess living happily ever after. It sure was a fairy tale of sorts, until the day we called bitter-gourd bitter. Ever wondered calling bitter-gourd bitter could bring you trouble for the rest of your life?
Many months after that ignominious moment of getting reprimanded for stating the obvious, troubles continued. “Elementary my dear Watson.”, a well wisher suggested, “Everyone has troubles. Just deal with it.” Deal with it, huh? At what price? A few hundred dollars of happiness would do? Heard they started selling that thing in Wal-mart these days. So I could’ve helped myself, you know, with a few capsules whenever there was trouble.
We are dealing with it alright. But not like the Goody two shoes that we used to be. Although no one knows it that way. Life is simple. People are not. They are high on illusion or hung over on reality. So much so that any attempts at talking them out of their ridiculous assumptions or psychic outbursts only falls into deaf years. We became weary of our condemned routine and decided to find our own way.
We are on the move, although no one knows the real reasons of what we are doing or where we are moving. “Family” thinks we are happy. The indicators are there – we travel, we do the vacations, we shop, we laugh, what else one needs to know if someone is actually happy? For them, we are the good kids who do a lot of traveling on business. To ourselves, we are lost rowing in a sea without a compass and the shore is nowhere in sight.
May be we could still have waited for more time, until the day when the deaf ears would open up. May be, if we could’ve drugged ourselves with a few capsules of Solvomycin from Wal-mart, everything would’ve been solved and life would’ve been back to being a fairy tale. Life is a honey moon. Except that the honey doesn’t taste good at some times, and the moon is hidden by clouds at other times.
“Deal with it, kid”, an elder told me. “It’s the same with everyone”, a veteran confided. “You can’t run away from troubles. You’ll have to come back to it someday”, told a peer. I agree with everyone. Except that they are not me, and they haven’t seen what I’ve seen. But how do you tell the world you don’t bother about it anymore? I guess you just don’t. And that’s what we’ve done. Kept quiet, and moved. “Cheeky, but you did the right thing”, a friend smiled when he heard our story, “Life finds a way”.
We’ve set out to do what we think is our pursuit of happiness. We are moving places, driving in near-zero visibility. We don’t know where our next turn is, or how long until we stop again. We don’t know if we’ll run out of gas, or reach our hitherto unknown destination soon enough. We don’t know if we are alone, or there are other cars beside us. But we do know that we’ll keep driving.
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