E. E. Cummings: The Hardest Challenge…

I find this quote from E. E. Cummings to be very true.

We always have an opinion on everything. Even if a random person, whom we are meeting for the first time, were to appear in front of us, and ask for some advice, we would definitely have something for him (even though we may not give that advice to him out of politeness or political correctness, but our minds will definitely think of something for him).

This works the other way too. Everyone has some opinion about how we, ourselves, are, and how we ought to be. That includes how we talk, our body language, our sense of dressing, our lack of knowledge about something, etc. People always have something that they want to tell us.

And this is not always with of a sense of condescension or contempt. Sometimes, people genuinely want what’s best for us. Like your family or friends. They’ll share their knowledge or opinion in the hope that it will make us better, prevent us from making certain mistakes, etc.

But, irrespective of the intentions, the ultimate effect on a person is that everyone tries to make the person be somebody else, according to what they think is best. But as the person leading that life, one has their own idea about how to lead their own life.

The result is that one has to deal with too many opinions, some their own, and some from different people. These opinions are often in conflict with each other, and one may easily be confused as to which one to take into consideration, and which to ignore.

To whom do you listen? To yourself or to those around you? Who’s to say who will be right? When faced with a choice, say you are thinking of going for option #1, but everyone around you suggests you take option #2. And say, after a great deal of thinking over the options, considering the arguments that others made for option #2, you do end up going for option #2, who made that decision? Did you or did they?

And even if you do take option #1 (your own original choice), suppose that turns out wrong (everyone makes mistakes and wrong decisions sometime in life). When the next time you have to make a choice again, and when again, the others have certain opinions different from your own, whom do you listen to?

These are not easy questions to answer. To make decisions that are truly one’s “own”,  one needs a great level of self-awareness and courage.

Self-awareness, so that one can objectively decide what one’s own thoughts are, without getting them mixed up with the plethora of thoughts from others that one will, undoubtedly, be bombarded with.

And courage, because that’s what one needs to stick to one’s own convictions, even in the face of a 100 people telling them that they are wrong. And specially, when one has actually been wrong in the past. A mistake, in the past, in a totally different scenario, doesn’t mean that one will make another in the current scenario. But those other people won’t miss a beat in telling you that you were wrong before (when you hadn’t listened to them), and that you should listen to them now if you don’t want to be wrong again.

In such a complex mix, it is a real challenge, the hardest even, to maintain a clear vision of who you are. So, yes, I agree:

The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.

– E. E. Cummings

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The Lives That We’ll Never Live

For me, winters are a time for reflection, more so than the usual. The long winter nights, lying in bed in a warm cocoon, sitting by the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate. With snow outside. It just makes you think and wonder about life.

Well, none of it actually happens where I live, but it’s how I picture winters. Maybe it’s because of all the books I’ve read from English authors, describing those cold winter nights in the English countryside. 🙂

Anyway, to get to the point: So, yesterday, I had a thought: What would it have been like to live the different lives that I never got a chance to live? What all lives have I missed out on? And it’s not the first time that I’ve had this thought.

Let me explain what I mean by it.Read More »

A Stranger

A poem about a chance meeting with a “stranger”:


In a cool autumn breeze,
Walking down an old street,
I came across a stranger,
And it made me lose my ease.

Memories, I tried to plow.
But my mind wouldn’t allow.
I knew I knew the man.
Just didn’t know how.

He was old and wrinkled.
But his eyes still twinkled.
“Hey there! Remember me?”
My heart, his voice tingled.

He smiled at me, bit amused.
I stared at him, lot confused.
“Sorry, but how do I know you?”
Said I to the man perused.

To which he said:

“I’m the wolf that wasn’t fed,
Surprised, I ain’t already dead.
Missing, marooned memories –
I’m what time hasn’t yet shred.”

Thinking him mad, I began to leave.
My quandary, he seemed to perceive,
For he spat, “Time, when one gifts,
Be humble, and their wisdom, receive.”

He went on:

“Friends were we; grew up together.
Our bond was to be our tether.
Keeping us safe, sane, spirited –
Storms, it would’ve helped us weather.”

The fog lifted at this mention.
I realized our deep connection.
Shocked, surprised, I almost cried,
At this ghost’s resurrection.

I inquired where he had gone.
Why return this beautiful dawn?
Why couldn’t I see him before?
Why did it have to take so long?

He answered with:

“Too busy to look or listen;
In a rush, you missed all the fun.
I was always ’round the corner;
You just… never made the turn.

But, for a breath, you stopped today.
So, here I am, plain as day.
Fate often looked you in the eye,
Only, this time, you didn’t look away.”

***

We meandered through a park.
Enthralled by the song of the lark,
I gaped at the colors of fall,
Wondering where had gone this spark.

As the old leaves fell,
I felt my heart swell –
A lightness long forgotten,
The lifting of a dark spell.

Finally, I understood this:
That feeling of something amiss,
Was just me not able to see,
A life blessed with beauty’s kiss.

So, at long last, I said to him:

“All your words are indeed true.
I’ve missed this place, this view,
Missed the laughter, the light,
Missed so much about you.

Last we talked, I was a child.
Living in a world less wild.
With a heart full of wonder,
Worried far less, much I smiled.

But somehow I lost that zen.
God only knows way back when.
Times changed, and so did I.
Never been the same again.

I so wish I could’ve seen,
The futures that could’ve been.
Life, blessed with your charisma,
Would be so much more serene.

I lost you once, and was lost.
But, thank God, our paths, at last, crossed.
Don’t leave my side till I close my eyes.
Not again can I suffer that cost.”

***

And so continues our story.
I just pray I never again see,
That deep, dark, death of a night when
That “stranger” is, once more, a stranger to me.


So, finally, I’ve managed to finish this poem! Although the idea for it came is swiftly and unexpectedly as ideas are wont to do, fleshing it out into the poem you see above has taken up a considerable part of my attention over the last two months. I know it’s not great, but it’s definitely the longest poem I’ve done in my short career as a poet, and given how much time and effort it took, and the subject, it’s quite close to me (although, as an artist, everything I write is close to me!). Hope you guys like it too!

P.S.: The inspiration for this poem came when reading the poem: “The Crooked Man” by Elrow Swift on hellopoetry.com. As I was reading about the “crooked man” in the linked poem, an idea suddenly popped into my head about what it would be like to meet the “stranger” from my poem.


Photo Credit: Nathália Bariani on Unsplash

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

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:

Read More »

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