Change Is In The Air

So, a couple of days back, it’s 10:30 at night, and as I’m driving home, I come to this intersection, which has a traffic light, one that people hardly follow, even in broad daylight, let alone that late at night (yeah, that’s a common occurrence in my part of the world). Nothing special so far.

But today, traffic stopped when the lights turned red. And there weren’t even any cops there to explain that. There wasn’t even any traffic from the opposite sides to warrant stopping. Traffic stopped only because it should’ve.

Earlier, I never would’ve expected to see this behaviour at this time. In fact, if some poor soul did stop at the light, she would be harassed by those behind her, by their continuously honking to get her to move, along with a few glares as they passed her by.

Not today though. Everyone waited patiently for the light to turn green. And even those behind, were calm and quiet. This made me realise that there indeed had been a gradual change in people’s behaviour. Couple of years ago, traffic used to be more chaotic. In heavy traffic, coming in from everywhere at the same time, everyone would be in a rush to get through first, often leading to jams. That’s still the case these days, but now there are more people who are willing to wait a few minutes if that means giving a chance for the traffic to decongest.

I feel individuals are more open now to take a personal “hit” if it means improving conditions for many or all others. Maybe it’s just a case of me seeing what I want to see, but I am quite pleased to see this change. And when I read reports like this that indicate that individual philanthropy is on the rise (indicating increase in compassion for those less fortunate), my suspicions are further cemented, although I know it’s a lot more complicated than just that.

Governments and political groups can spew nationalistic rhetoric all they want, but I think it’s the small actions like these, undertaken by the citizenry of their own accord, that lay the groundwork for truly making a nation great. Of course, following proper civic sense, at one traffic light, in one city, on one day wouldn’t give you a great nation tomorrow. But it does show, to me at least, that the citizens of this country are capable of being better, of improving things that are not right, that they have integrity, that they are on the right track.

Because without empathy, compassion, integrity, and all those other “human” qualities, what good are technological, economic, social advancements of a developed or “great” nation?


Photo Credit: Alexandru Tudorache

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Why We Write

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

– Anaïs Nin

I totally agree with Anaïs Nin on this. In fact, this was one of the motivations when I started this blog – to see how my thoughts evolved over time.

Few years back, I used to write in a journal occasionally. One day, I happened to re-read those earlier writings and I definitely got a “taste” of my life from before, which in turn inspired me to make journaling a regular habit.

Of course, when we write something for the first time, especially writing based on experiences or to express thoughts, it forces us to revisit our experiences and ponder over the emotions that we want to convey to our readers. It’s like chewing your delicious food slowly to savour it as much as possible.

So, yeah, for me writing is indeed about tasting life twice! Wise words from Anaïs!

Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art

Today I share with you another gem: Neil Gaiman‘s commencement speech to the University of the Arts, class of 2012, delivered on May 17th, 2012.

This is one of the best speeches I’ve heard. It connected with me. As someone who’s trying his hand at some form of creativity or art, this speech really spoke to me (pun intended).

Irrespective of whether you are an artist or not, I strongly recommend that you watch this video. Or, if you prefer the written word, you can read the transcript of this speech here.

Not to dissuade you from watching the entire video (which I can’t stress enough that you should do), here’s a brief idea of the points he touches upon:

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Friend Request

Of all the messages,
In all the bottles out at sea,
I’m glad, this one
Found its way to me.

Bonds of blood,
May be a bane or a boon.
Bonds of money n’ comfort,
May break too soon.

But bonds of love,
For the written, unspoken word,
Are whispers from the cosmos,
That lonely spirits heard.

We don’t know each other.
Just strangers in the crowd.
Few take that first step.
So, thanks for reaching out.

If it’s meant to be,
We’ll meet some day.
Maybe we already have.
Who can really say.

Even if we never did, never do,
Let’s not become a lost memory.
I hope, you’ll keep sharing,
Your beautiful gift with me.

I do have some friends,
But not many have what you do.
You’ve already helped more than some
To give credit where it’s due.

So I’ve made my decision.
This is what I say to you:
I see your friend request, and,
I’d like to be your friend too.


I first got the inspiration to write something like the above when thinking of a reply to another poem. But then I realized that it could be taken further to a more generic version talking about “friend requests” in general.

Hope you enjoy it! Feedback is always welcome too!


Photo Credit: Everton Vila

A Bigger Tragedy

Still in shock by the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas yesterday. What is the world coming to today? What moves a man to do such a thing? Innocents. Children. The shooter wasn’t targeting anyone in the crowd. Indiscriminate killing, just for the sake of killing? Why? What’s the point? Even animals don’t kill without a reason. Has man descended even below the level of animals now?

From initial reports, nothing stands out about the murderer or why he would do such a thing – he was a millionaire, had family, had a life, wasn’t suffering from any mental illnesses. Nothing. Yet, he carried out one of the most inhumane acts imaginable. Why?

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All Are Welcome Here

If you, dear regular visitor to this blog (do you even exist?!), were wondering where I’ve been for the past few weeks – I was visiting the US of A. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to be precise. And with all that’s been going on in the country, I was…I wouldn’t say concerned…but I was curious to see what the environment would be like now. I’ve been to Pittsburgh before as well, and it’s always been a pleasure. So, I wanted to see if anything had changed.

Although my trip went as well as could’ve been expected, it is in this context that I came across the following sign outside one of the houses:

DSC_0728-1

I wish I had a better quality image. But if you look closely enough, you’ll see the message repeated in multiple languages (I understood only one, but I’m assuming that’s what the others are conveying too).

The above sign caught my fancy immediately. I was once again reminded of the power of words. So much said in so few words.

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Better Than False Ideas…

The above quote has perhaps never been more relevant than today. In the age of continuous media propaganda, where it’s difficult to make sense of what is true and what isn’t, it would do us good to remember this. We should think twice before blindly believing whatever bullshit we are fed.

The thing with having false notions about our environment is that it biases us against the truth. Once we think we know something, when information to the contrary presents itself, we try to distort that information to fit in with our preconceived views. This leads to more confusion and moves us further away from the truth.

It also leads to frustration and animosity, because we are continuously faced with opposing views that require efforts to accommodate to our world-view, and sometimes, because of such a continuous onslaught, we might get a feeling of antagonism from those around us, when they actually may only be trying to tell us the truth.

That’s why I think it’s important that not only do we do our best not to get seduced by wrong beliefs, but also that we remember that no matter what we believe, there’s always a possibility that it may not be the most accurate picture of the truth, and a better explanation of the facts could still be out there.

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.

– Thomas Jefferson

 

The Art & The Artist

So, there’s this artist that I follow online. I think he’s good with his “art” (web comics). However, some time back, I came across some of his views on certain topics, and I found myself disagreeing (sometimes, quite strongly) with a few of those.

This made me wonder if I should continue visiting his website for the comics, and thereby, encouraging him (in an indirect way). The comics, BTW, are totally independent of his views that I had objections to.

And I realised, this is not just about this particular artist and his art. It’s a common issue that we face each day of our lives. We have all heard of brilliant artists and other celebrities indulging in drugs, violent and racist behavior, crime, etc. We have leaders talking bullshit, organisations flouting norms, and closer home, we even have friends and family members, with whom conversations about certain topics invariably end up in arguments.

These are not ideal situations to be confronted with. But what do we do in such cases? Do we continue engaging with such people?

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Stormy State Of Mind

Storm clouds gather.
Some with silver linings.
Some with darker tidings.

Flash of lightning,
Sprawling across the sky.
Straggling ideas that stupefy.

Thunder at night,
Reverberating in the clouds.
Echoes of faded memories too loud.

Clouds of lead.
Draw close to the cliff’s edge.
To dump out what’s been dredged.

And rain they do.
Drop-by-drop, at first.
Then, in fits and bursts.

The rain pours n’ lashes.
Entire worlds, it could sink.
From eyes that do not blink.

But winds never stop.
Clouds drain away, move on.
Get up! Keep trudging along.

The sky changes colors.
Beings return to their flock.
Time resumes on the stopped clock.

The scent of wet soil,
On a breezy night stroll,
Reawakens the soul.

N’ when you see the moon,
Peek through and shine,
You know, everything will be fine.

A Wondering Wanderer


Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom

Now this is a kind of prayer I can get behind! I find this quote a good reminder that, sometimes, acceptance is the only way. There’s only so much time that our short existence on this planet allows us, and sometimes, it’s not worth fighting the things that we can not change – it’s simply better to devote that time to more fruitful and fulfilling activities – like writing, or reading my blog 😉

There’s not much that one can do about those indulging in office politics, neighbourhood gossip, social media trolling, etc. The more you engage with them, the more they spew their filth.

But that doesn’t mean that we give up on everything, entirely. The trick is to pick and choose our battles wisely. There’s so much to do in this world, so much that we can achieve. But that can happen only when we channel our time and efforts in the right direction.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

– Reinhold Niebuhr