Let’s Play: Us Against Us

As I stepped out of office and looked at my watch, I realized it was just 6 p.m. Yes, when you run your own work space as well as struggle to keep up with stage, rehearsals and socializing, you realize that 6 p.m. is relatively early.

But as I walked down from my first floor office, I realized that the greatest problem is not that there is “no time” but that I barely – care to – take out that time that I so dearly and desperately desire.

For instance, when was the last time I blogged? I wondered as I got into my car and began to drive.  For months now, it had nagged me. While I wrote for my clients, plays for my theatre group and letters to my associates, I hadn’t written a word on Half a Cup of Tea. It especially hit me when I walked out of a recent meeting where this client needed voice-overs and scripts. As I discussed various samples of my writing and walked out, I realized that I hadn’t even mentioned my blog.

I remembered a conversation with my mother as a child, when I used to write my personal Diary very regularly. She had said, “You write so much now, because you have time. As you grow up, you can’t expect to write down your entire life. You’ll lose touch with this exercise for sure.”

I don’t know in what context that came, but I remember it hit me then and I sort of made a secret resolve that no matter what di, I’ll keep in touch with you! (Di being my Diary) And fast – forward now, 15 years ahead, and my mom’s prediction was coming true.

My first resort in a situation like this, when I am almost low is to call my friends. And after a series of them not being free or answering the phone (like it always happens), I end up calling my best one again. “I am coming to pick you up”, I say. “What? But I am just getting out from office. On the way home!”

“Stay where you ARE!” I order, even as I wonder where that authority comes from.

“Alright, alright!” he says, puzzled at my urgency.

There was urgency. There are sometimes those moments of realization that are best not ignored. Sometimes your heart is trying to tell you something and the clutter of ‘everything else’ hides it away. An honest confession would be that I have been ignoring that voice for very long; seeking that inspiration that is so hard to find. In the search to be inspired ‘that much’ again, I was starting to quieten the voice inside. And hence, the lesser number of blogs, the lesser connection with self.

By the time I reached my friend, I had almost screamed at a guy driving on the wrong side while almost knocking down a woman who was trying to go straight on a U-Turn. I could hear her sreaming on the outside of the window before driving away. The signal turned green.

“What’s the matter he said”, as he got into the car, placing his luggage in the back seat. This friend carries a guitar to office, so he can strum it when he has a moment and steal a second from life.

“I haven’t written for ages,” I begin to grumble. “I am feeling sad that I haven’t spent as much time doing things I love. I mean, I love my business and I love theatre, but still. I feel like there is that extra spark I am lacking. Some vibe. Some inspiration. Something.”

“Hmm.” He said.

“And it’s making me sad. I don’t see inspiration anymore. The way I looked at the world has changed. I feel like I am living a mundane life of a non – working, married woman form the 80s, who spends all her time in family duties. The only difference is, I don’t spend all my time in family duties and I am not married either.”

“Who stops you from what you are doing?” he asks.

“My self.” I reply. “I stop myself.”

And that’s another box in my face. It is Us against Us.

Sometimes I wish I could just go back to school and re-live the youthful aspirations. Where do those aspirations disappear after a time? Or is it just me?

“Can you stop beating yourself so much?” he asked. Men, do have a very short span of attention when it comes to grumbling women after all. I check myself.

“Apsara, everyone grows up.” He says. “We have no responsibilities as children. So, we are bound to have uninhibited aspirations. But as we grow up, we’re bound to have more to do, more to work on, more responsibilities. SO, it’s just fine. Don’t stress so much!”

I am driving silently when I recollect a recent session at the TED talks, that I had had the opportunity to host. Vikram Sridhar, a professional storyteller had said, “ Once upon a time, someone told us stories they want to hear. Everything that you know today Is a story someone told you.” The story about the rabbit and the tortoise, the story of the cunning jackal, the story of the crow and the pot of water….. to story of Prince – and – princess, India and Pakistan, Diwali and Holi, Marriage and Relationships. Everything that we have been told is a story someone wanted to pass on.

And as he closed the session he said, “So please, tell the stories that the future will carry and the stories that will make the world a better place.”

We write the stories that we want to tell the future.

While there are many things that aren’t immediately in our control – like falling in love, perpetual success, immediate fortunes and untroubled relationships; there are some things that are in our control – observing beauty around us, perpetual attempts to rise, perseverance to build and sincerity towards the people in our lives. And most importantly, a little bit of self love.

May be, a little more of self love than we think is required.

And just as the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the winds blowing fast and smooth. The trees were waving and the farms were swaying. I rolled down the glasses and the wind touched us in the car. And just as I turned I noticed a tree on the right a rock – seat right below it, just as though it were out of a children’s story book.

“Sach!” I said. “Check that out! Let’s go.”

I stopped the car and both of us hopped out like little teenagers. The wind was blowing. The evening was just setting in. The air had a fragrance which you just couldn’t miss. The magnificence engulfed.

“Wait” he said, “I have something that will make this moment awesome.” He pulled out the guitar.

And there in the middle of nowhere, an aimless drive on a rare early day from work, had led us to this “Story Tree”. We rushed over to the stones under the tree to see who could get there first.

He won of course, the athlete in him.

And within seconds, he was playing music and it was like nature was singing the chorus. I can’t say definitely what song he played or what lyrics he sang. For me… The tree, the winds, the music … just became a chance romance with the universe. I walked straight past the tree, straight into the fields.  The grass touched my feet. I walked bare foot. And as I turned around, I saw one of the most beautiful instances ever.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Let’s write the stories we want to Live.

The moon was up, the sun was setting. A group of young boys were making their ‘play list’ request.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Silent moments, when Life brings inspiration.

They watched in awe as my friend played the guitar. They talked cheerfully about their village, their school and the games they played.

And I told myself then, if this could not inspire me to write, what could?

As the kids carried on with their plan to go ‘cycling’, my friend put down the guitar, content that something so beautiful and meaningful had been experienced.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! For kidnapping me and bringing me here Aps.” He said. “Let me get you Tea. That’s the only thing left to make this evening perfect.” As he moved ahead to bring us the cutting – chai, I pulled out my diary and began to write. I began to write, once again.

And in the end, Amen to Us winning against Us, always.

p.s. Please go out and do something you have been longing to do for ages. I am telling you, today is the best day to do it 😉

Love, Apsara

The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story....
The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story….

ILLUSION



He walked so briskly as he did

it seemed he was so sure, In his mind

though he repeated “Don’t bind me

by emotion.” to himself he assured.

 

He is a traveller, he wants to go.

His walk is steady but slow.

He has no baggage , no gifts, no thoughts.

Yet his walk is slow.

 

His mind is not with him, she asked him not

but he left it there, where his heart does belong.

“Don’t bind me by emotion.” He repeats

and carries it along.

Though who listens –

Not mind, not heart.

Yet his feet keep pace

marching ahead, he is reassured to go.

“Could I take her along with me,

To the unknown destinies?”

He doubts ,but soon retreats,

“I am a traveller , I walk alone”

Says he with a pain to be.

 

“I see in your eyes what I desire,

I wished to walk with you.

I want no shelter, no cloth, no gain ;

I wish to walk with you.”

Honest words, truth and a heavy heart –

But his thoughts were long sown;

Sown – too deep to seek new flowers.

 

He chooses not to heed or hear,

In his quest to define self,

“I am a traveller, I walk alone” he

repeated to himself.

“Don’t bind me by emotion, thus

I choose to walk alone.”

 

 

 

Found it in an old diary .. a 2009 poem… edited now.

About the preconceived notions that a traveller has to walk alone.

Can’t he travel with someone who is willing to walk with him?

Often the way we react, is influenced by what we have grown to believe (by default!) .

You can see in this poem that the traveller is following the “Rules” that he believes are true.

He has not questioned their reality.

He wants to travel, discover the unknown, but believes that he should be alone.

He would probably enjoy the company of his partner, (and probably , even the journey called life ! )

but doesn’t believe in the possibility.

He is unaware of what he really wants , looks and feels confident –

But, is only living an illusion.

 

Passions never die

Zap. The biometric-data-swap-card had recorded my exit time. I hung the card round my neck and started walking down the steps to my car. Beep. My car opens with the automatic security system. I get in, turn on the radio and close my eyes for a second. Strange, technology has fixed so many things in our life; has made life so comfortable! But one bad day, and all the comfort seems painful. I know this rough day will end soon, I’ll be smiling, hanging out with my friends, yet it is so difficult to finish this moment.

I start the engine. And the tension begins to ease. It started as a necessity, then a luxury and now, after so many years, I never realised how much I enjoyed driving. I release the clutch and the car starts to move. Within seconds I am on the fifth gear. Wow. Was driving a passion?

I see the traffic turning a corner and follow the cars, with no real destination in mind. Following the crowd is easier. You don’t really need to think twice.

But where the crowd dwindles, I decide to plunge ahead. I am almost on the outskirts, driving for about an hour; have I left the city? I don’t know; haven’t kept track of the mile-stones. I am driving when I cross a tea stall. Wait. I reverse and head back.

It’s 8 years since I got out of college, could it be possible that I haven’t had this-something-that I thrived on for 8 years? That thought frightens. Could it be reality? What else have I left behind? I turn off the radio. I remove the ID-card and keep it aside. I relish the moment and the memories. I think about the child that I was and the man that I have become. I hear the oceans. I hear the winds whispering. How good do I feel about myself?

I close my eyes and think of all those things that bring a smile to me: my friends, my love, my family. But my heart plunges with a sudden adrenaline rush as I realise what I REALLY want to do, at that moment. I reverse, speed up maximum, and head straight to the one place I loved and that one place where I was my own person.

I walk to the auditorium. I climb the steps to it; to the back stage where we practised. I open the door and find it, placed exactly where it were supposed to be.

I pick it up and walk to the main area. I stand on that stage, to an audience of empty chairs; and I play the music.

I play till I can smile no more,

I play so I can smile;

I play to compensate yesterday,

I play to heart’s core.

I stand there; not so someone watches me,

I stand there so I watch myself,

I stand there to feel that energy,

I stand there; it is still with me.

I stand there because I enjoy,

That something within me;

I don’t know whether they see it,

It doesn’t concern me.

I stand there playing the cords

Of my soul,

I move with the music made,

I fill the air with that moment,

I fill it, so it will live.

And I know that is how each life feels,

I know that it is life,

I know this feeling exists,

I know it never dies.

I know I may be far away,

Yet that love thrives,

I know time will travel,

But it will never die.

I am thinking about FREE will…

I am thinking and I am thinking. And then I realise, that is just what I am doing! I am

SIMPLY just THINKING!
And then I think, what is it that stops us from doing the right thing?
What stops us from DOING and encourages us just to think?

The other day I was working on my system, early in the morning. (Early as in, really early.. as early as 10 am.) My mom enters the room. Sits on my bed and says, “So when is your life going to be in place?”.
I stop what I am doing and look at her.
She repeats, “You asked for time to do your own thing. We have given you the time. Now what? It’s not that we don’t believe in you, it’s just that we are wondering why aren’t you able to get a good job. And settle down?”
And I think, how self-contradictory can a statement be? Yes, I get the answer in my mother’s last sentence. Yes, I guess that is the degree.
I say “Mom, I only just finished my portfolio last week. I have just started applying to jobs. It will take some time before I get what I want. Besides, I made a conscious decision and took this break. It’s my choice mom.”
My mom says, “Please Apsara. Don’t go that way again. I don’t want to hear all that. I am just asking when will you get everything you want?”

And I think, does anybody have the answer to that question? Aren’t “wants” something we can’t account for? When does man get everything he wants? I am thinking philosophy, when my mother’s expression tells me she is expecting a logically coherent answer, with a probable reference to the calendar; perhaps even the clock.

I explain “mom” and turn away in exasperation, with a frown that I try my best to hide.

“do you know what you are going to cook day after tomorrow?” I ask.

She says, “ what rubbish Apsara. Of course not. That depends on what vegetables I buy. This is irrelevant.”

“Mom”, I say in a calm tone, “ you don’t know what vegetables will be available in the market day after, and what you will cook following that; how can you expect me to tell you, when my life will fall in place?”

“keep arguing Apsara. You are just wasting your life”. She turns and walks away.

Great. First a struggle, a struggle that I am enjoying to the core, no doubt; but it is still a struggle! So first a struggle to define life and the path to head, and then to face constant criticism from parents who think you are the black sheep. Hmm… for them , they lost their beautiful MBA pursuing girl to a  one who does nothing but writes weird poems, articles and quotes for weird images she has either drawn, photographed or downloaded. Yes, from their point of view, I am lost. From mine, I am just started, the right way.

But at that moment, I am not all that optimistic. So, I pick the phone and call my best friend (and worst enemy), and start randomly whining about how pathetic it is to survive, and how I want to stop all this and pick up the next opportunity and do anything. What is this journey of self discovery? Why the hell is it important at all?

I could simply do an MBA (having got a great score even without working too hard), get a classic high paying job, and settle down content. I’d be on my feet again. Free. A path where I work as hard (as otherwise), but manage material things faster.

He cuts me in, and says “Apsara, wait. Can we meet now? In 15 mins?” , “Now!” I exclaim. “Okay”, I agree. “Where?” , I ask. A moment’s pause. “At the zoo. I’ll see you at the entrance” he says and cuts the phone. ZOO! I wonder. Fine. I am there. I buy myself a cup of road-side-chai, and sip it, as I wait. I am half way through, when he arrives.

“So, how are we?” he asks, enthusiastically. “Am ok . Ab bol. Kyon zoo pe bulaya.?” I reply with the question.

“Apsara. Relax. We can talk in a while. Relax now.” We are walking and I try to concentrate on thinking about what my great philosopher friend has to say, but my mind is drawn to the ice cream parlour in-house. The best chocolate chips I have ever had.

“And what are you thinking?” he asks. “un.. hmm” I clear my throat, “nothing.”

And all of a sudden I wonder what I am doing there. Why am I walking in a zoo. Why am I thinking about chocolate ice creams. Why am I talking to a friend about my problem ; ultimately, as I always say, the battle is yours alone! Then why look around? Why not just act? Why not just concentrate on something, direct your energies anywhere, and eventually get results. I had read an article once, about a girl who was a BPO employee by night and an RJ by the day. So, if you really want to do something, you could always multi-task, right? I want a career in creative communications. So what! I could continue working technical, as  well as pursue creative. But then, that’s what I always thought. And that’s what, never happened.

Conclusion: I quit my perfect job to pursue a dream.

Remarks : I went from being a talented daughter of the family, to being wasted citizen of the country.

The walk had brought us to the caged deer and I found myself staring at one particular hero, on top of a make-belief mount. Probably, the head of the herd. He had large horns, a firm gait, and visibly strong feet. He held his head upright, brisk, and confident. He was overlooking his fellow companions. Yes, they perhaps needed the comfort of his vigil.The Hero

“That is you”, my friend interrupted.

Huh? I gave him a quizzical look and went back to looking at the hero of the troop.

“You think he is happy?” the philosopher asked.

“ He is a deer even the lions would fear!”he continued.

“His acumen, his speed , his strength can even defeat the great carnivores. In the wild, when he is in charge, his team feels safe. He can protect, he can lead. He can do whatever he pleases. He has the capabilities.” My mentor paused. (Yes, by now he was on a slight pedestal.)

“But he is here. In the cage. Not living his full capabilities. Not living his dreams. Not doing all the things he could and wished to.”

“Suppose beyond this mesh is his forest, then what should he do?” He asked.

“He can’t do much. He can’t break free.” I reply.

“But he can try, can’t he?” my friend proposes.

The deer in question, which believes in his qualities, in his dreams, in his desires; could probably spend his whole life fighting the walls of his cage; he could keep trying till he breaks free, and enters the wild. He could win or fail. He could hope. He could look forward to a future.

Or, the deer in question could live a life of contentment. He could be comfortable with the position he held in his community. He could keep his mates happy, live a secure life.

In my reality, probably my MBA would have brought me to such a pedestal. A job , a position and respect in the eyes of even my grandmother. But I think, which path would I prefer to choose? Would I want the make-belief pedestal or would this pursuit of satisfaction-from-profession make me sacrifice my social status?

The free mind is our weapon. We can use it to liberate ourselves. We can use to do what we please. Strange, but only with a free mind can you feel happy! By free I mean, not idle; but free. Free will. No bondage. No restriction. It suddenly dawned on me, that this is so true for all of us! Even my first romance had once commented, “I love the free, aspiring Apsara. She can win anything”. “She” can, not because she is supernatural or fantastically talented. “She” can, only because she wishes to.

Free will. That is the strength. If you are in any profession by free will, do the restrictions, rules or principles bother you, thereafter? You can conquer the greatest of battles if you are doing what you wish to.  In fact, then the challenges are fun 😉 and exciting. It becomes a sport , where you win because you are well-trained and playing out of love for the game, and not fear of survival.

Too much philosophy? Well, at least it explained why I was thinking of chocolate ice creams. Free will to cheer up .

It also explained why I think so much or why we all do. Free will again, in a restricted context. We are so often, so bound with undue or due concerns that we end up just “thinking” and not “acting”

Again, too much philosophy? 😉 well it only gets better.

“Look at this” he said suddenly, pointing at the gate for the toy train.
The toy train doesn’t run any more, but the tracks are still intact. The gate was shut. You could see the tracks ahead of the closed gate, and the tracks leading to the gate.

“Duniya aisi hi hai. Pehle bolti hai aage rasta hai , aur phir bandh darwaze dikhati hai.”

Take a look yourself.

But the irony lies in the way the gate is shut.

Take a look at this again.

Duniya sahi mein aisi he hai ;).

Pehle raste dikhati hai, phir bandh darwaze. Par un bandh darwazon ke tale kamzor hi hote hai. Unhe khol kar koi bhi aage badh sakta hai, but kholne ki niyatt honi chahiye.

As you can see here, there is only a thin wire closing the gate. Anybody who wishes to cross only needs to put in that much effort to do so; and the then …………the road not taken, is taken.

Cheers!

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