Posted by: R!P | December 6, 2012

Thoughts : Marcus Aurelius

I recently read a book entitled “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. It came highly recommended to me from two contrasting sources

1. August Sen, from the book English, August – In here, Agastya Sen is an IAS in training who is currently placed in a non-descript town called Madna with a disinterest to his job in particular and his life in general. He was gifted with this book on his 24th birthday and reads it to find some pleasure in the ‘misery’ of Marcus, which is greater than his own.

2. Dr. Hannibal Lecter from the movie The Silence of the Lambs – In the movie, during one of his interactions with Clarice Sterling, Dr. Lecter refers to Buffalo Bill’s nature, and tells her to Read Marcus Aurelius .. see a thing in its true nature, in its simplest form .. what it is for itself .. not what it leads to .. but what it is!

Now, I had heard about Marcus Aurelius’ work in some of my earlier philosophical readings, most extensively in ‘The guide to a good life: The ancient art of stoic joy’ by William Braxton Irvice, but had not quite come around to “Meditation” or “Thoughts” written by him.

Marcus Aurelius was the qunitessential king-philospher, who followed the stoic school of philosophy during his reign as the Roman Emperor. His Meditations or Thoughts are self-reflections of a practicing stoic in the day and age of ancient Rome. The stoic school has had quite a few proponents of fame, including Seneca (Book: Letters from a Stoic). But for me, Marcus stands out, not only with his royal lineage, but also for his cynical and mildly pessimistic outlook towards life. Now, this is something I can clearly relate to, with the modern world as well. ūüôā

As far as the book is concerned, it makes for a pleasurable reading, in parts. It is a non-commital discontinous discourse and I read it in a broken way, some today, some weeks later travelling in a rickety bus, some as the credits rolled on a TV show. But, it is a thought provoking series of works. I identified with quite a few of his reflections, most notable was one which went something like this .. Every morning when you wake up, say to yourself that today I will meet with arrogance, stupidity, incomptence, betrayal and hatred for the world is full of them .. This is a very pessimistic statement and were a shrink to look at this, he/she would be rubbing his/her hands in glee with the prospects of a long-time patient! But, when you try to start your day with such a note, it just keeps getting better from there. The idea here is negative visualization of the happenings of your day and then finding pleasure in the smallest favorable event since it comes unexpected.

Another of this quotes which struck me was .. I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others .. this makes a lot of sense for us, the approval-craving, praise-hungry, unopinionated folks of the day. We, who in keeping with our desire to conform to the mould of this society, work jobs that we hate and gather stuff we don’t need to please people we don’t really care about. Quite a stoic perspective.

From this book, I moved on to Letters from a Stoic by Seneca. More on that, when I can.

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Posted by: R!P | November 7, 2012

And where went the written word?

It has been long since I wrote something. The inertia of keeping the proverbial pen down is staggering! It does not mean that there have not been moments worth writing, but a bizzarely intoxicating mix of laziness, reading, short bursts of FB status messages, exercising and work has been driving me away from the written word. That is, before today.

I was just browsing through the internet, while the numerical model set up was in progress (yes, I am an engineer at work), when I stumbled upon this blog. http://bangalorewritersworkshop.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/what-makes-one-a-writer/ 

It got me thinking .. and then wondering aloud, with a whistle. That is frowned upon in corporate jobs ūüėÄ and quite a few heads turned. The looks I got varied from ‘oh-you-turned-up-naked-in-office’ condescension to ‘how-can-you-eat-my-pet-alive’ hatred!! And I realised what I have been missing.

So, here I am pledging a pledge to write as and when I find time, and whatever I can spit out .. because happen what may I am a writer !

Posted by: R!P | March 22, 2012

The Wind up Bird Chronicle

Imagine a dark room, singularly dark, with a single door exit. A blind-folded man walks around the room, groping at the wall with his hand. He keeps walking along the wall, in a hope to reach the door. On the other side of the room, sits a dog on a short leash, his tail protruding inside the room through the door. As the blind-folded man reaches near the door, he steps on the dog’s tail. The dog cannot turn, nor can it run. It squeals and yelps. The blind-folded man, startled,¬†takes its hand off the wall, steps away and misses the door, yet again.

The wind-up bird chronicle makes you feel like that man, and at¬†times like that dog. The narrator is sitting on a pile of emotions –¬†with a dysfunctional marriage, a lost cat, a lolita-attraction, repressed hatred, a¬†black¬†mark with healing powers,¬†psychic sisters – Malta and Creta Kano,¬†a war-infested¬†counsellor’s friend and metaphysical violence. His blind-ness is innate and complete. As a household husband to a dis-interested wife with a family history of violence and demise, his immediate surroundings are dim and dark.¬†His particular affection to May Kasahara and Psychic Kano sisters, and later the¬†well’s¬†dark ambience¬†reflects on a self-search – manifested, to some extent¬†through a lost cat.¬†The characters stream in and out, in an effort to defy the narrator, and keep him away¬†from the “door”. The wife Kumiko, The neighbour May Kasahara, The Lieutenant, Nutmeg and her son, all well-etched characters in an effort to define the narrator. The setting is vivid and dull at the same time. The ethos of characters are shifting and rigid in turn. I, in particular liked the Manchukao war descriptions and May Kasahara’s letters. There is a genuine reality in hard-boiled fiction, which is hard to miss.

This was my first Murakami book, but for certain not the last one.

Posted by: R!P | March 22, 2011

.. on the way

She looked around, harried and distraught. There was no sign of a living soul, except that sound .. the sound followed her. The deafening clunk of metal against concrete. The simmering sun was beating down her back, a drop of sweat trickling slowly across her brow .. she wiped it off in disgust. What does this world hold for a woman? A constant agonizing fear, distrust

Anger!

Her first memory haunted her .. the earth kept coming closer, she shrieked, flailed about, screamed .. but it kept coming closer. The fall was never ending and the abyss of this world was as terrifying as the day she was born. She had always been a pale child, fearful, weak

And adored for her weakness ..

The metal clanks on concrete kept coming closer. She could almost feel a presence across the corner .. her grasp on the can of pepper spray grew tighter ..

Pepper spray .. defense mechanism that nature did not or rather could not fathom. And it was adorned by the empowered women of today, a natural response to years of repression. Pepper.

She was running now .. and there was a huffing chase by the metal clank .. All of a sudden, She clamped shut her eyes and pressed the canister of pepper spray at his eyes with all her might.

Nothing. No scream of pain .. no angry yelling.

As if the world came to a standstill, the silence grew all around her ..

And with the whoosh of a sprinkling jet of water, it broke. Happy Holi screamed the young kid, and ran off with his pichkari.

She stood there flustered. In a puddle of water, with a can of pepper spray, and a smile across her face.

Posted by: R!P | February 27, 2011

Freedom

There was blood. Dripping slow, steady .. He was petrified, as the stain grew, and the noise .. that deep trembling noise, like a thump on his heart, with each step, each moment .. it was deafening. He woke up with a startle .. sweating .. and tearful. There was a scream, but it was not his voice. He wanted to scream. The pain .. the throbbing pain in his head.

He saw the persian rug, growing red-reddish brown by the minute. But that stain, that was a dream. Was it? He touched his forehead, and it was wet.
Thud.
Thud.

The rug was stained.

His rug.
His blood.
His bullet.
His people.

There was a shatter. And another stone .. the pelting had begun. He looked around for her.

“There is no price that can’t be paid, no sacrifice that can’t be made .. Freedom.”
“Freedom” Hailed the crowd.

“But, I need rice .. bread and salt.”

“Your needs matter not .. for the greater good .. you will have food .. you will have a job .. you will have money .. you will have a life. If you have freedom.”

“Freedom” Hailed the crowd.

“I don’t need freedom.”

“Freedom” Hailed the crowd.

He ran .. ran for his life. Could not recollect what happened after that .. until the persian rug. The rug was stained. His blood. His bullet. His … his daughter. Where is she?

He looked down the shattered glass .. it was an uprising ..

“There is no sacrifice that won’t be made, no price that won’t be paid.”

“Freedom” Hailed the crowd.

Her book was lying on the ground .. outside the window .. covered in foot steps .. red blood stained .. she was shot. She was dead. He could bear it no longer. And he pulled the trigger. The blood dripped down the window .. and the book read

“Who is the president of our country?”
“Ga…i” And blood dripped from his window .. his blood .. her blood .. and the name could be read no further.

The name was erased, but the blood remained.

The rug was stained.

“Freedom” Hailed the crowd.

Posted by: R!P | September 21, 2010

Naitik Pradhan

Contd from here

“But, what does it mean?” She delved deep into my eyes, jiggling the stirrer and the olive in her drink.

“It means ‘Morals First’.” I mumbled what came to my numb mind.

Squeal. Squeal. That giggling sound she makes, when .. whenever .. actually always. Like a steel tip rubbed against a black board.

“Ironic isn’t it?”

“Huh?”

I guess somethings are not for everyone. I hate this place. It’s filthy, stinking and dull. But, it’s so close to my clinic. I am a psychiatrist. Qualified Quack for cuckoos.

“Can you please flit here?” The waiter turned at my call, and squealed.

“I mean the cockroach, not the lady.” He scratched his ear, and pulled out wax, rolled it into a ball and threw it across the bar. Unperturbed.

The thing about this place is, every-time you keep your drink at the counter, the next sip will have a complimentary cockroach – beer battered. It crawled up my pint towards the rim, it’s everest.

“Can you please?”

And a drizzle of insecticide on the bottle as I covered the top with a lid. It smelled like a perfume, as if the scent belonged here.

I took another gulp. She squealed again. I gulped again. The clock struck two. There is another thing about this place, at every gong of a complete hour, you get a shot – on the house. Ain’t it something.

What’s this now? I could feel something near my thigh, a motion .. Bloody roach has climbed up.

Buzz. Buzz.
No, its my phone. But yes, it’s the roach. Saumik. I guess I should go. He pays me by the hour and lies at my face.

“Hello?”
“Doctor, Its Rajan, Saumik Rajan.”
“Ahan?”
“We have an appointment at 3, is it confirmed?”
“Yes of course, Mr. Rajan. I’ll see you there.”
“Sure.” Click.

I downed my waiting shot and lit another joint. They all swarmed in, towards me. Circling, Chanting .. growing.

“Thwack!” I put the 20 dollar bill on the counter and rushed out. “Could you please give this to the lady in black?”

The tissue read “I am sorry it seems so rushed and desperate. But, It is.” And a little smiley face at the bottom. She crushed the tissue, licked it and threw it away.

Posted by: R!P | July 13, 2010

In the lap of nature

Friday Evening, 9:00 PM
We left for Chikamagalore, with a song on the lips .. and a sway of the hips .. it was a marvel of a journey .. with card games, fits of sleeps, some sweet and sugary “coffeeteacoffeetea” and loads of fun.

Saturday Morning, 5:30 AM
The hazy morning, half asleep, we reached the stay in Chikamalgolore.

Saturday Afternoon, 12:00
Waterfall – around 20 kms from the stay, a sleepy ride through the mountains, and a short trek to the fall

Saturday Afternoon, 2:00 PM
The water fall, Awesome experience !

Saturday Evening, Sunset View, 5:30 PM
Lush green and the setting sun ..

Saturday Night, 10:00 PM
A chilly night and a campfire !

Sunday, Archaelogical Visit – Belur

Posted by: R!P | July 9, 2010

Joie de Vivre

“I want you as a glass, never as a mirror.” She fiddled with the olive in her drink. It was drizzling and the breeze carried tricklets of water to her eyes. “Promise me, you will let me see the world through you. You will let me be here.” He was afraid to look up, wondering if it was the rain outside or the pain inside that moist her eyes.

It was never meant to be this way. He could never bear the thought of hurting her, it pained him, to reflect on her actions. He had become the “mirror”.

“Home is not just the ground beneath your feet, it is the people around you. You are not bound by the land, nor the sky, but by the affection, love in our hearts.” She flinched and downed the shot of tequila with an apparent vengeance. There was a sense of restlessness that kept creeping in his head, scenes from years ago, flickering like a candle, about to burn out. He could see in her eyes, the joy of their first meeting, her errant ways and the mischief .. How she would force him out in the rain .. roam around the city wary of an attack, and yet free of all fear .. the way she said “joie de vivre”, in that tainted arabic-mexican-indian mix of accents – on reading his personal diary .. and never understood … Never.

She blinked and his heart skipped a beat. It was her last day. She would be deported back to Syria, her ‘official’ home.

He signed the order with a heavy heart. They were still in love, but their nations had divorced !

Posted by: R!P | May 7, 2010

Icarus fell ..

It held an appeal to him, a desire, an ambition .. but the words kept coming back to his mind
“Stay low. Keep away. For the higher you go, the lower you come.” His teacher’s words echoed deep.
Mediocrity was dripping from each of the learnings. He felt caught in a web of lies, that grew around him and kept him from going any further .. any higher.
He wanted to scream.
At the top of his lungs.
Let the gust knotting in his stomach unravel.
He felt like he was about to burst.
He wanted to fly.

“Fly you may and fly ahead
For I gave you wings ..”
The words ringing in his head, he jumped off the cliff. At first, his heart started throbbing against his ribs, threatening to spring out .. As he closed his eyes and lunched forward, his mind calmed down. The earth approaching him, seemed to have a pacifying influence on his nerves. He felt in control.
He let out a wild shriek that had been trapped inside, clapped his wings and soared high. It was liberating to feel the wind, drumming against his ears, scorching the eye-lids, cleansing his body and soul. He felt unstoppable. And in a frenzied state of exhiliration, as an expression of freedom, he ventured higher up, eyes clenched in determination, mind numb with ambition.
And it was too late before he realized the wax that held his wings melting away as he closed up to the sun. A state of tranquil resignation set up as he fell down, satisfied for having given his best .. having tried to reach the sun , the final goal !

Icarus was falling to the ground. A failure to the apparent eye, yet a success at heart !

The image has been sourced from wikimedia and is usable under creative commons license

Posted by: R!P | May 2, 2010

Stories ..

The one to penguin India ..First_salary

The one to Hindustan Times .. From_greed_to_solace

Some of my recent forays .. or more like an attempt to foray into the literary world !

P.S
Credit for the first one to Mohit Jain.

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