Tretar 15, a Journey on Rails

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

Happy Independence Day!

Trains are interesting to me and I have used them twice in the book for different purposes. First is the reference to Indian Railways (which always fascinate me by the stories they have to tell) and the other is slightly out of this world. I’ll leave the second one for the book, but here are few lines from the first reference and a snapshot from Chandigarh railway station.

Tretar16 - Railways

What can one say about railway stations? And that too the Indian ones? These harbors of persistent and constant commuting are a true reflection of any country’s populace and so it shouldn’t be surprising to find chaos, crowd, poverty and resilience well and truly alive in here. The bickering and haggling between coolies and travelers might make a first world citizen stare in shock but when such a service is available in abundant supply, who will pay two hundred bucks to carry 5-6 suitcases across three platforms? For fifty rupees or so, one can find many willing porters putting unspeakable weights of luggage on their head and lanky shoulders and run up and down the stairs. If one were to give Olympic medals based on weight-one-can-carry to body-mass ratio, these coolies could probably beat professional weight lifting athletes. When a hungry stomach growls, a body develops the stamina without gym and protein shakes. When one is eating only one meal a day, it’s not a matter of shame to sleep on the station floor with no chaadar. When one is barely making ends meet, hygiene or its lack of thereby becomes a non-issue.

The air was filled with the smell of rodents, tea, sweat, piss and shit. The upper classes grimaced and covered their noses, the common man walked off. Indian railways carry a record 25 million passengers every day. When a train stops at a platform, the class distinction in Indian society manifests itself in the descending and ascending lot of passengers. Couple of elites from first AC, a handful of middle classes from second and third AC coaches, a multitude of lower classes from sleeper and general coaches – the constitution displays the fragmented Indian society in its crude reality.

Nistha Tripathi, Seven Conversations

Tretar 10, the Curse of Choice

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


Have you ever found yourself in a critical dilemma where the life choices were tearing you apart? Such times define life. What you do in the heat of those moments define you. Strip out the superfluous and what remains is the truth. Trim away the unnecessary complications we weave around ourselves – people’s opinion, wealth, luxury, religion and norms – and your true priority will reveal itself.

Whenever I have wanted something badly, I eliminate all the alternate choices.

Do you care for something so much that you are willing to opt for a difficult, and perhaps impossible, path? But, what is impossible? It is the spot at the other end of the leap of faith. Once, I did choose to make that leap. And, I was not disappointed. This is the picture of that leap. It is the first Bungy spot of the world – Kawarau Bridge, NZ. When you are at that platform and the fear strikes you, you think of what matters to you most. And, if you survive the jump, you tell yourself that you would go for the impossible.

I would like to share these lines from Seven Conversations.

When we are pushed to the edge and left with no choice, we usually find our answers on our own. It’s impossible to find them externally anyway but we often don’t have the courage to look inside. Normally, people are scared to spend time with themselves because they are afraid to scratch the surface. If they start introspecting – who knows what unresolved issues may lie within? It takes more courage to look within than outside. Yes, when we are on the edge, the answers come.Nistha Tripathi, Seven Conversations

Tretar 9, Disturbing the Universe

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

Tretar, delhi street kids

My nephew wants to be a cricketer but he is being told to focus on studies and grades instead. I have myself studied Biology and Maths till Class XII and got into both Medical and Engineering colleges – eventually I had to choose one. The way our destiny is attempted to be forged by social norms is a growing concern.

So, today, dear reader, I talk to the gagged figure of creativity that lies helplessly behind that old rusty box of your curiosity. You abandoned (or were made to abandon) your wonder as you grew up and started taking yourself too seriously (I am guilty of the same mistake I acknowledge but just in time to rescue the damaged youth of creative spark). The garage of your life is now filled with heavy boxes of practicality and street smartness. If the time would permit, a fresh gust of wind might enter someday to clear off the dust from what we knew so well in our childhood – carelessness, fearlessness and delight.

Only when we take ourselves lightly can we take ourselves seriously, so that we are given the courage to say, ‘Yes! I dare disturb the universe’Madeleine L’Engle

By the time, I found the courage to write and pursue it on a professional level, I feel I have lost so much time. I wish I could have started writing earlier. I wouldn’t mind failing but an early start would have made me better by now. I wish I had dared to disturb the universe earlier and figured out that a prestigious job is a mirage.

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.Paul Graham

One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.Alain de Botton

I wish every child, irrespective of where he is born or raised, gets to know his own definition of success and work towards it. We owe this to next generation and their dreams. I have grown fanatic about pursuing the things you love and finding a way to work on what you love to do. Real success can only come from a full heart and that can only come from loving every moment of what you do. And, thats why I love this resignation letter from Sherwood Anderson, a famed novelist from the advertising job he was doing before writing-

Dear Barton:

You have a man in your employ that I have thought for a long time should be fired. I refer to Sherwood Anderson. He is a fellow of a good deal of ability, but for a long time I have been convinced that his heart is not in his work.

There is no question but that this man Anderson has in some ways been an ornament to our organization. His hair, for one thing, being long and messy gives an artistic carelessness to his personal appearance that somewhat impresses such men as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mr. Curtiniez of Kalamazoo when they come into the office.

But Anderson is not really productive. As I have said his heart is not in his work. I think he should be fired and if you will not do the job I should like permission to fire him myself. I therefore suggest that Anderson be asked to sever his connections with the company on [the first of next week]. He is a nice fellow. We will let him down easy but let’s can him.

Respectfully submitted,

Sherwood Anderson

Tretar 8, the Wings of Faith

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

Are you afraid?

When you are standing at the threshold of a major decision that could change the course of your life, the first thing your inner voice would ask you – “Are you afraid that you are choosing the wrong thing?”
You would stare back not knowing what to say. This would only strengthen your inner doubt and it will ask back – “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Your mouth would dry up and it will strike you for the first time that you don’t know what you are doing.

But let me tell you something. No one knows what they are doing, so that question is moot. One can only try to rise towards their destiny but cannot determine whether it will work. And, that is life.

Once in a blue moon, you will be devastated by things you cannot control. You will be tempted to give up. Once in a lifetime, you will have the chance to face the path that may lead you to your destiny and it will be the path of unknown. Whether you step into that tunnel or not will be your choice.

Does God exist? What is God?

I don’t know. No one knows. Is it  He or She? Is She big? Is She bright? Is She like human or something else? Is She sitting in a temple or a church?

No clue.

But my faith tells me that God is well, God – something bigger than me or anything I have seen. Something more fascinating and something capable of making it all alright. There’s no logic and that is why faith is defined as ‘belief that is not based on proof‘. So, what’s wrong with going by this faith and believing that there is indeed something divine? I think we should believe it because it tells me that I am not controlling everything and if I falter, its not my mistake. When things are bad around me, I can hope that the divinity will make it fine. So that when I enter this tunnel of darkness when I am taking a big scary decision, I won’t die of fear or grief. I will keep walking believing that God is walking beside me and that we will make it to the end.

When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you 
Either you’ll find something solid to stand on
Or you’ll be taught how to fly!
Richard Bach

Faith is what will teach me to fly.

Indian Temple Nistha

Mine is a religious family, often traveling to Hindu places with temples. I think you see what you are looking for when you walk in there. One who wants to see magic will see it and one who wants to see fraud will see that. I realised that prayer doesn’t determine what God will do, it simply influences what you can do. And even God is incomplete without the devotee. A Shiv temple is incomplete without his Nandi. Having faith tells you that you are not just in this bigger Universe or phenomenon, that this Universe is in you.

Tretar 6, Fighting for the Basket

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

Dear 31 years old N,
This is your 60 years old self and I wanted to tell you 2014 was very special and that you should enjoy it more. Good things are going to unfold around you, you just need more faith to hold on to. You just need to believe in it. People could kill for the kind of friends you have, don’t let them go. Ever. Jobs would come and go and probably even some opportunities – do not lose the value of your people. Don’t drop your Yoga. I would be feeling so much better if you continued sparing that one hour in your day even if it meant getting some projects a little delayed. Do sleep well. I know you have trouble sleeping but it will get better if you can learn to leave things to fate sometimes – it helps.

Oh, and don’t bother about facebook! In few years, you would realize that nothing is what it seems on facebook. Don’t pretend to be anything there, enjoy your identity and circumstances – live for them and not for what you can say on facebook. Once people start taking it for granted, the charm would go away.

Continue having that fighting spirit of yours. Just when things would look impossible, a small door would open up. Never give up. I know you won’t because I am a happy person at 60 and that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t know what is important and what’s not. Enjoy 2014, it may perhaps change the course of your life.

Dear 31 years old N,
I am your departed soul, sitting across from Him right now. You know Him right? You used to talk about Him in your book. He is conducting an auction right now, giving away things. Various people are bidding on behalf of their younger selves. I am sitting quietly at the end, just trying to see what goes on and if I can find you a bargain.

First, he auctioned off success but there was some confusion about its content, so He clarified – ‘monetary and material success which entails getting more physical pleasures than you expected’. Bids went crazily high and the winner paid her close friends and family for it. The commotion had barely subsided when next item was unveiled. It was ‘fame’ this time and the winner bade a portion of their life and meaningful relationships for it.

[Hours later] You know its been long and I have not been able to procure anything for you so far. I just don’t think I want to pay those prices. Oh wait, here is something. Let me jump for this.

[Minutes later] You know what it was? First, let me tell you what I bade. I gave a small portion of your success, wealth and fame but I am happy with the item. Its beautiful and delicate. Oh, I cannot even imagine what wonderful things you would do with it. It’s a picnic basket and in the bargain, I got Him to throw a small boat and kid’s beach bucket in as well. I am amazed that no one wanted to bid for it. I know you would fill it with homemade sandwiches and oranges one day. Then take it to a beach and spread a red checkered sheet out. Sit with your loved one and watch the sunset. He was smiling when I took it. And if I am not wrong, I think He winked too.


Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe