Back to Auroville

With so many places to visit, I rarely find myself excited about revisiting what I have already seen. But the love affair that began with Auroville this February has brought me back to the Neverland – this time, for longer duration with an open-ended plan. This is the place which introduced me to Mindfulness and Consciousness. After all, Dec-Feb are the most beautiful days here with lovely breeze and lush greenery. And I have heard writers and artists hang out here often 🙂

As I sit quietly in my serene Guesthouse, I ponder upon the last few weeks when Chennai floods hit, chaos ensued and my trip seemed in danger of abandonment. But choices emerged as they always do and I improvised as I always do. Sometimes, it is better not to plan too much and let yourself drift. I got a fresh loaf of bread from bakery this morning and some eggs. And there are these cute looking bananas. The idea of rustic meals, minimalistic living, and just reading and writing for the heck of it excites me more than a 5-star vacation. In the end, I am here and looking forward to what this visit entails. I distinctly remember the last special visit in February. Read this Quora answer to see how I fell in love with Auroville.

I am here on a creative break after working hard over last few months. Beyond that, there is not much plan. However, I did scratch few notes for myself. And perhaps, this is meaningful for you too when/if you go on a self-exploration or a new place.

Goals:
– broaden the perspective
– feel driven and refreshed
– reinforce peace and value of meaningful relationships
– meditate, yoga, be mindful
– discover yourself, cut out the noise. Awaken the dreamer and the artist
Do’s:
– Take a bike and explore everyday
– Talk to new people everyday (use solar kitchen, Auroville units, visitor center etc)
– Eat what you like, experiment (try new things)
– Get ‘your’ time. Relish the solitude
– Be thankful for this time
Dont’s:
– Coop up in the guesthouse room
– Waste all morning sleeping
– Overwork, this is your creative break
– Let fears take over
– Be stingy
– Finishing the book is not the goal but to write freely is

A dear friend reminds that having any goals is against the idea of free flowing. So yeah, chuck the goals, let things happen 🙂

 

Auro1
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Another open letter to Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Mr. Kejriwal,

If AAP can win, so can I. That is how I felt when people of Delhi gave a decisive victory to your party on 10th Feb. Something about the world seemed right and trustworthy. The wavering lamp of hope got its fresh supply of fat and the flame rekindled. Whenever asked a question (even a tough one), you never said ‘No comments’ or ‘I will not answer this’. When humbled by a landslide victory, you actually cautioned your party members against arrogance. That gave me further faith that my support was not misplaced. When you said it was scary, believe me you are not alone. Every supporter of your’s knows that the path ahead is full of hurdles. It is because you chose to follow the difficult path instead of a stable bureaucratic job. You wanted to get into this mud and slime. We helped you jump into it and did our part of throwing a rope for you. The battle ahead is your’s to win or lose. And whatever you do will determine if people like me would ever put trust in a voice from amongst us. We were defeated and uninterested mob who had gotten used to ‘sab chalta hai’. When you came on board, we felt for the first time that it is ok to believe that ‘sab kuch actually nahi chalta hai’. You will be wrestling a hungry and grumpy opposition in this mud but trust me, we will cheer for you every time you get dirty to clean the filth. We will wait to high five you and those muddy hands will feel much cleaner than the hands that are used to taking bribes.

The wolves are waiting to pounce upon you for the smallest of your slip, face it with same grace that you did during campaigning. Do not become one of them. At the same time, never underrate or disgrace your competition. They will attack you on policies and even the day you don’t feel like wearing your muffler. It’s fine, stay focused and trust the people who have put their trust on you. They are more aware and sensible than their parent generations. They do not vote for dynasties or empty promises, they keep an eye on what you are beyond your speeches. They know that their God is bigger than someone who needs Ayodhya mandir to prove His presence. So, do not be trapped into doing wrong things that have worked previously.

The good thing is you have forced your opponents to keep the competition clean – they will have to find honest people to fight you. Or, at least, the ones with least dubious backgrounds. Either ways, it is a win win for me. We trust and respect you like a school principal who actually knows how to teach and does not endorse expensive tuitions. But do not tempt me with freebies. I want an honest governance and hope. Hope does not equal unrealistic expectations. And understand that I am not your fan. Fan is someone who has fixed allegiance irrespective of merit. I am not that. I am a believer and a cheerer but I shall always judge you on your actions. I will trust you when you deserve it and I will not be swayed by a hateful opposition but the day you turn arrogant like your predecessors, the day you bullshit me why you did not do your duties, I shall go back to ‘sab ek jaise hain’. Don’t make me go there because you are my last hope of a better India.

Elections are over and the time to be antagonistic is over. Be skeptical but not biased. Give me progress and better quality of life. I don’t need swachch bharat abhiyan on twitter, I need it to be executed at ground level. Keep women safe, please. Punish the rapists. Stop hate speeches against any religion. Act now. I know that your report card will not be 100% but I hope that you will try more honestly than your predecessors ever did.

-Nistha

P.S. And, please don’t take Shazia Ilmi (read opportunists) back.

  

Indian life in USA

I love Quora, I suppose it is one of the better social networks out there and I have got lot of knowledge from it. So, I am pretty active there. Recently, someone asked me to answer a question – ‘What is an Indian’s life like, after they get a job in the US after an MS in the US?

I was amused. This is what I answered-

This is what its like after getting a cushy job in USA-

  1. Rent a decent apartment, buy new clothes, laptop, SLR and all gadgets you want to show off with.
  2. Get a car if you are not in NYC.

On weekdays-

  1. Get up early for work, talk to your Mom while commuting in a public transport.
  2. Have lunch at your desk or sometimes in cafeteria, finish by 6-7pm earliest.
  3. Come home, cook with your roommates/spouse or go out for a cheap dinner if you are not cooking type.
  4. Watch some sitcom or surf/facebook.
  5. Call India and talk to your family.
  6. Sleep by 11pm.

On weekends-

  1. Drive to a nearby beach/mountain/park or any picturesque place. Take lot of pictures, share on facebook.
  2. Do hour long skype calls with your family.
  3. Go out for dinner at fancy places esp with non-Indian cuisines and click lot of pictures (closeup of food items), share on facebook.
  4. Once in a while, go to factory outlets for branded shopping.
  5. Slowly, start hiking/trekking/swimming/diving/jumping/flying/cycling or whatever activity you can – its become your new passion. Click lot of pictures, share on facebook.

On Diwali-

  • Light fancy candles, scented oils, draw rangoli – click lot of pictures, share on facebook. Post about ecofriendly Diwali.

On Holi-

  • On weekends when actually you can celebrate it, go to a community gathering, put gulal on your cheeks, click lot of pictures, share on facebook.

Same for other festivals like navratri. Gather with friends, click lot of pictures, share on facebook.
For US festivals/holidays-

  • Dress up awkwardly on halloween, go to parades, click lot of pictures, share on facebook.
  • For fourth of July, go to nearby places for the cracker show, take a lot of blurry pictures and share on facebook.
  • On New Year’s, stand for hours in line in freezing cold in NYC or something similar, and end up exhausted by midnight.

Move from cricket to baseball, soccer to football and spend couple of years learning the rules of the game (or don’t even bother). Call your friends when a popular match is about to telecasted (Rose Bowl etc), decorate potato chips, nachos, guacamole and fancy dips on your table with 2L coke, sprite bottles. Cheer loudly when commentators seem excited. Post furiously on facebook how the winning team was frickin’ awesome. When some Indian friend asks about it in the comments, refer them to a link and tell how awesome the game was.

The bottomline is do anything on the weekend that lets you click lot of pictures, and yes, you got it – share on facebook!

—————-

I think I even offended some people. To that I just say – don’t be offended, I was there, I did it too 🙂

See the post on Quora here.

  

Tretar 18, Making Choices

[This post is the eighteenth in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

Life shouldn’t be hard. And the hardest part is usually about making choices. Each moment, we are making a choice. For example, you are making a choice right now to read this article. Your choices this morning will determine how you feel rest of the day. You will decide which doors to open and which to keep shut.

Mandu-white-darwaza

Back in New York, once I made a choice to enroll for a class in ‘Animal Sketching’ at Museum of Natural History. When we entered the Museum at 7 pm after it was closed to the public, it seemed like a whole different world with silent animals glaring from behind the glass showcases. We sat there for an hour sketching whatever we wanted (see a sketch here). It was a long ride back home on those winter evenings. It made no sense for a software engineer to be taking this class except that I wanted to do it and I chose to do it.

Similarly, we decide who should be and should not be in our lives (well, apart from parents). Remember that you are in someone’s life because they choose to keep you. And that’s a golden rule. Earn your place in their life and keep them if they have earned a place in yours. Any other equation just doesn’t work in personal relationships. Love is nothing but a choice because there is no perfect human being. Anyone who loves anyone else is making a choice to make them special in their life. Someone who doesn’t value the choice you are making about them probably doesn’t deserve a place in yours and vice versa.

My favorite poet Gulzar has written an amazing song on choices and its my favorite song too. I recently happened to go to Mandu on an impromptu trip (again a choice that I’m glad I made outside my comfort zone) and the ruins there reminded me of this song.

Is mod se jaate hain
Kuchh sust qadam raste, kuchh tez qadam raahe
Patthar ki haveli ko, sheeshe ke gharoundo me
Tinkon ke nasheman tak is mod se jaate hain

[From this turn, diverge
few lazy lanes, few fast paced paths (talking about the choices in lifestyle)
to some stone castles, to some glass houses (talking about stability and fragility)
to some delicate nests]

Aandhi ki tarah udakar ik raah guzarati hai
Sharamaati hui koi qadamo se utarati hai
In reshami raaho me ik raah to vo hogi
Tum tak jo pahuchati hai is mod se jaati hai

[One lane passes like a whirlwind
one descends from the feet shyly
At least one path in these silky paths should be
the one that reaches you]

Ik dur se aati hai, paas aake palatti hai
Ik raah akeli si rukti hai na chalti hai
Ye sochke baithi hun, ik raah to vo hogi
Tum tak jo pahuchti hai is mod se jaate hain

[One comes from a distant, turns close by
one solitary lane neither moves nor stops
I am just thinking that there is one lane here
that will reach you, from this turn]

You cannot see in future and you can’t predict the results and yet all you can do is make a choice right now. Best meter for evaluating the goodness of a choice, in my experience, comes from the heart. If it urges you to do something, try it. You may not see the road right now but in hindsight that road will be the most glorious you could take.

@Oprah_World: Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.

P.S. For contextual exposition on this song, check out this old post – “What does ‘is mod se jaate hain’ mean?”

  

Tretar 17, Stay True to Yourself

[This post is the seventeenth in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

paintingandoriginal

I am feeling a mixed bag of emotions this day. My book is about to release and as some early reviews are pouring in, I can’t help reminiscing. And that is why I am cheating for this post of Tretar, I am going back to this very very old picture that formed the inspiration for my first original attempt at Oil on Canvas. I must be such an egotist to paint a self-portrait! But, lets ignore that. This is who I truly am – someone gazing afar, reflecting on life, content in solitude. And just like I have made the colors more vivid in my painting, I add colors in my perceptions. This painting is probably the onset of my creative journey in life; the point when I discovered something more than an engineer in myself; something more than ‘what I am supposed to be’. This painting told me that it is possible to be someone you want to be – a painter at that time. And, although this painting may be full of flaws, it had made me ecstatic. Once you know you are a creator, it is hard to tell yourself that you aren’t. And whatever events have transpired in my life since then, I have found myself most peaceful when I have been closest to creating.

And today, Seven Conversations has brought me back to this starting point. I think I have done justice to whatever little talent God gave me as an artist and I want to keep building on it. I can confess that I have tried to fit in and chase things that I was supposed to chase but none of it made me happy. It is the first time in life that I feel truly alive. And it makes me realize how important it is to stay true to ourselves.

Sometimes, I meet these couples who are totally different in each others’ companies than they are individually. That is a great sign to know whether a person is living naturally or pretending to be someone else. It is good to adapt for people we love but it is perhaps not advisable to bend beyond limits because it is unsustainable. I have seen many happy couples too – they are the ones who are comfortable with each other in their natural form. Similarly, there are so many professionals who are convincing themselves that their lives are what it is supposed to be and that they should enjoy it. But the truth is, what you enjoy can only be determined by you and there is no ‘supposed to’ when it comes to pleasure.

To end, I would just share this gem from Anais Nin for this says it all.

You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.Anaïs Nin

Please wake up.