City and I.

After too long of a stretch of city living, holiday month was finally here. En route Simla, flying, via Chandigarh.

I sat at my much-fought-for* window seat, and prepared for take-off. While the flight taxied, I looked beyond the boundaries of the empty runway to the dirty gutter, the slums, the cranes and half-built buildings beyond, all on the fringes of BKC. I thought back to an irritated rhetorical question I asked once, whilst sat stuck in traffic caused by construction: “will this city ever finish being built?”

While taking off and during the first part of the ascent, I looked intently at all I could see of the city. The large slum patches. The “high rise” buildings. The regular buildings, where most of the city’s population lives. I surveyed, and thought about how dirty it all was.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this city intensely. For numerous reasons, the main being the fact that it is home. But even to me, from this perspective, it looked gross. Disgusting.

This kind of grossness and incompleteness isn’t always apparent. It barely features in city-related thoughts whilst living day to day…

We’re often fed pictures and ideas of the ideal version of the city – billboards featuring carefully constructed high-rises, listicles that do the rounds on social media featuring quaint and romanticised little nooks, adverts playing up the existing beauty of the city and photographers and writers commemorating its intricate moments. All within the veins of this giant, life-like organism.

The city is more than the sum of its parts. It’s known to exist beyond its physical components and what literally constitutes it. It goes beyond to extend to the life that exists within it, and the dynamic versions of connections and relationships.
The people within are known for their cultural diversity, yet having the common tendency to get along and thrive. This is a city that’s very commonly described, in various ways, as being “multifaceted”. (One of my favourite terms off late)

In those moments of ascent, with the view of so much sprawled before me, my drifting mind thought about how much like the city I am:
In the constant, continual process of romanticism, with a constant idea of what an ideal version could be.
Despite the vision, continually in the process of “being built”, and oftentimes dwelling in incompleteness and stagnation.
Having a whole network of interconnected emotions and inclinations – sometimes flowing seamlessly together despite stark contrasts, and at other times clashing, leading to a range of intrapersonal conflicts.
All this put together.
By few, by many. Built with time, occasionally sloppily torn down. Sometimes carefully re-constructed.
Intricate on the inside, and externally beautiful, while at the same time, existing amidst complications and dilapidation.

An intensely flawed work of art.
I never realised humans and cities had so much in common.

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picture taken on the day this was written, watercolour doodle made at a different time.

*fight with the sister, resulting in a little silent treatment. Nothing major 🙂

Emotions and Expression

In the bus on the way to college, yesterday, I was sitting next to a girl who was seated by the window. She had her earphones plugged in, and was staring out for the most part. She seemed to be slightly older than me – possibly in her early 20s, although I couldn’t say for sure.

From time to time, she’d either smile or chuckle a little, and adjust her earphones – she seemed to be listening to something entertaining, possibly a radio channel. Sometimes it was more than a chuckle; a prolonged giggle. She was clearly very entertained by what she was hearing.
Over the course of the journey, I noticed that if I happened to glance up or towards her whenever she did smile or chuckle, her face would immediately, visibly change – she would instantly straighten it. Even if I wasn’t looking at her (I was reading on my phone) she’d look down, or put her hand over her mouth, as if she was concealing her amusement.
I wondered why.
Was she embarrassed to laugh? Was she embarrassed to be seen laughing?

As I tossed this over in my head, I remembered the several times where I stifled laughs or pressed my lips tight shut in public, when ridiculously amused. There were so many times where I stopped myself from showing emotion, not just laughter in modes of transport, but feelings in public in general. There have even been several times where I’ve responded to hilarious texts with “I’m smiling ridiculously in the bus now, thanks“.

The more I thought about all of this, the more ridiculous it all seemed. We all seem to agree that emotion is natural. We see it every day in the people close to us. What is it about this particular facet of being human that is socially unacceptable with strangers?
Could it be seen as a form of vulnerability, and do we hide it as a defence? Are we glorifying the idea of being emotionless robots?
Have we ourselves donned this false idea of “acceptable behaviour”?
Why do we limit ourselves to “fine” or “good” or other generic retorts when asked about our well-being?
What’s going on?!
I don’t remember being told, even once, that showing emotion in public was a bad thing, yet I still limited myself in this regard.

I haven’t come to a conclusion on this, nor have I found a cause for this phenomenon.

Relevant links I’ve come across so far:

A Psychology Today article on the expression of emotions in public.

Contrasting cultural approaches to the expression of emotion: Indonesians and Norwegians.

PS: I do not mean to encourage public disruption of any kind through the expressing of emotions, rather, to eradicate the suppression of them.
However, I don’t know where the line between expression and disruption lies either.

The Curious Can’t be Blissful

“The curious can’t be blissful” is a statement I tweeted a while back, during one of the several hours in the past months I spent in frustration while thinking about the current state of the world – particularly the unbridled chaos that takes place in various forms, around the globe.

Over multiple conversations with people with contrasting ways of life and world views, I have found that there is a significant amount of unrest in the way people are inclined to feel about this chaos; this undeniable state of unpleasantness the world exists in.

One way of dealing with this is, not caring. This may initially, to those with views that state the opposite, come across as a rather callous way of approaching things that exceed the bubble of one’s self and immediate needs. It comes across as being selfish and ignorant, and those who hold these views may be deemed as people who want to look no further than what physically concerns themselves.
However, is that all there is to this “ignorance is bliss” mentality?

I remember one occasion when two friends of mine and I were together, and one of them was telling us about how the horrifying extent of sex trafficking around the world had recently come to her attention. She was aghast and passionately angry about what she had learned, and was frustrated that the other friend wasn’t reciprocating her sentiments while continuing to absent-mindedly tidy her desk.
Upon questioning said friend about her indifference, we were met with a – rather exasperated – “But what can WE do?!”.
I was taken aback. This retort brought a new perspective on an attitude that I thought stemmed from blissful, and more importantly, deliberate ignorance.
Needless to say, both the other friend and I had no coherent response to that.

I am by no means saying that that friend of mine is deliberately ignorant. In fact, I know her to be one who actively encourages wider perspectives and greater involvement in things above and beyond just the trivial, but her response stumped me.
For the most part, what can we do?

The answer for a lot of people seems to be Social Media Activism. People state opinions, write blog posts, engage in debates, raise awareness and involve themselves in a whole host of other digital activities in an attempt to contribute to something that achieves a greater purpose – something for the betterment of more than just their own selves and bubbles.
It would be wrong of me to generalise and state that social media activism achieves no purpose: a lot of it does, however, a large percentage of it does not, as well. In the absence of any other means of contribution, people resort to the easiest and most commonly found form of social media activism – “raising awareness”. This, of course, has its place and can be an extremely powerful tool for change, however, a lot of the “raising awareness” that I’ve seen changes very little, and is close to no use in a larger scheme of things.
Despite its relative uselessness, why do we still choose to engage in this form of activism? Could it be so that we feel like we’re helping? So that we feel better about being otherwise helpless in a situation that affects so many of our own kind?

Is social media activism our outlet for deep-rooted survivor’s guilt?

Over the past few weeks I have been faced with incidents that have left me bothered, frustrated and almost incredulous at times. These were situations which I was extremely emotionally invested in, yet were completely out of my control. I was advised by my best friend to stop letting myself be as affected as I was by these, since try as I might, there was nothing I could do that would change anything at the time.

I had always associated intentional ignorance with apathy – but could it be deliberate for sanity?

In retrospect, these situations were, in a way, representative of the majority of the population with regard to the world’s chaos: extremely undesirable situations which we have no control over.
This sentiment – this overall attitude of frustration at helplessness is how I imagine we all would feel if we let the un-ideal situations we hear about affect us.
It is easier to “not care”. Not “not care” in terms of have no sentiments whatsoever on the issue; “not care” in a way that we don’t let what we can’t help affect us. But, if we don’t let situations and circumstances that oppress humankind affect us, can we be pushed to want to make any kind of changes that may be necessary for the betterment? But, what is accomplished if we have the push and the motivation and the genuine, heartfelt conviction that things need to change without the power or ability to do anything? Or, are we overlooking things we can do in our attempt to stay sane by keeping our emotions at bay?

Can the curious be blissful?
SHOULD the curious be blissful?

A Mind-Enveloping Emotion

 

This is a distant journal entry- distant because it is not being written on the pages of the journal, rather, approximately 10 kilometers from the location at which the journal physically rests. “Why?” I hear you (whoever you may be) ask. “Why write a distant journal entry?”
The answer to this seemingly simple question is mildly complex, in that the answer itself may be mind-numbingly simple or thought provokingly complex. That is for me, the writer, to determine.

This cause; this reason; this origin stems from an unpleasant state of mind that plagues thousands of human beings across the globe. It is very often proclaimed (sometimes rather vehemently) by the young smartphone toting generation -also known as teenagers- who seem to gain pleasure from writing on various social media platforms (rather succinctly, I might add) about being the recipient of this complex, mind enveloping emotion.
I, for one, had sworn to myself that I would never fall into this unprofitable rut of a circumstance; this futile drain on mental (and occasionally physical) energy that could be used to accomplish far more.
However, despite my best efforts to deny myself this unhealthy escape, that which was dreaded has occurred, and I, Rayna, dodger and suppressor of certain regressive emotions, can state with a fair amount of certainty that:
I am bored.

 

(I still maintain the redundancy of the ordeal.)

IMGBored

Juxtaposition.

This picture is one of the few I’ve taken recently that I’ve actually liked. Not because it’s aesthetically pleasing- rather, the opposite. I find the vibes emanated by the background and foreground somewhat conflicting: the background being systematic, modern, and cold, and the foreground being warm and whimsical, and perhaps a little medieval too.

This image was captured in a (supposedly quaint but rather commercial) flea market, which was set in BKC — one of Mumbai’s main business sectors – filled with banks and offices and planned construction and white lights and suits and overall dull blues and greys.  In the middle of this business-like establishment there sat a cozy little flea market, with whimsical vintage décor and an abundance of fabric and fairy lights.
A rather stark but fascinating juxtaposition.


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A Narrative.  

Narratives confuse me.

Storytelling as a whole is relatively easy: you formulate an idea and write about that after building on it, or in other cases, you make it up as you go along. Narrative writing, however, is a whole different ball game.  I once attempted a narrative piece in a mock paper, and the examiner told me I did it wrong. Never after that have I tried, out of shame.

But I like a little challenge thrown into life now and again, so here I sit, attempting narrative writing.
(Side Note: This reminds me an awful lot of The White Tiger, a book I’ve recently read and possibly my main subconscious (now conscious) source of inspiration. )

Where do I begin.

My hands.

My hands are shaking at the moment. Not rapidly moving and pressing keys that indicate typing, rather movements much faster than that, also known as shivering. The weather is chilly, but that isn’t the cause of my shivering.  It’s the other presence in the room.
I am currently heavily heaving whilst typing and looking around rapidly–a bit like the main villain in movies who’s generally severely ‘cuckoo in the head’. Typing gives me temporary sanity, while backspacing takes it away.

What’s that? I hear you -the reader of this, whoever you may be- asking for. A large cup of context?

Rewind to 7 hours 30 mins back. (11pm now)

While accompanying Nanna –my grandma– up in the stone cottage in the hills where I currently reside, I decided to take a walk outside since I had no interest in the show she was watching and had just finished reading my book. (The White Tiger). I walked silently, letting the mysterious hills that loomed over me swallow up the crunching noises I made while walking, and taking notice of the little things nature had to offer. I sat on a swing made of a log of wood tied to a branch, and looked around. The tiny clover leaves I trod upon. The swiftly moving fog that swept downward, originating from beyond where my eye could see. The bees that buzzed around me. The grass insects that jumped out of the way as my shoes came near.
I sat as still as I could and listened. Even though I was completely alone, I felt surrounded, in the best of ways. I felt at one with nature, as cheesy as that sounds.

Fast forward 7 hours 40 minutes. (7 hours 30 mins + the time it took to write this.)

I still shiver a little bit, although exponentially less than when I started writing this, however I have to say, it’s less of a shiver now and more of a rocking back and forth in denial (much like the cuckoo-in-the-head main villain) but some may describe this as a shiver. (Not keeping consistency in a storyline is seen as a weakness to some and—I digress.)

I must pause and think about how I want this story to continue. It is certainly turning out to be different from how I imagined. My views, opinions and beliefs are changing rapidly, and hence the story reflecting my views, opinions and beliefs much change rapidly too. Let me start by continuing to narrate.

I’m sat here on the bed, no longer leaning on the wall but instead facing it. There is a slight strain in my neck- possibly caused by bad posture, which is in turn caused by my want to maintain minimal movement. My ribs shiver a little as well, but I suspect this has got more to do with the cold, as I am no longer under the blanket. My eyes are starting to feel the strain of sleep, which is a good sign as it indicates that I am no longer as bothered by the other presence in the room.

At first, when I saw the other presence I panicked, swore, and hyperventilated. A surge of possible reactions and outcomes rushed through my head, and I tried to work my way through them, logically, while trying to continue providing adequate oxygen to my brain — hyperventilating isn’t the best way of doing so, I’ve learned. I resorted to facing it and typing. And quite an effective method it is too; I’ve regained 85% of my composure and sanity.

I can still see the legs of the other presence, the one I tried unsuccessfully to murder, behind the table. I can now look at it and still feel sleepy and consider turning off the light and going to sleep. Although I still look at it every five seconds, see how it’s moved and try and accordingly determine what it wants and predict it’s next move,  I don’t have adrenaline or seratonin pumping through my system, nor do I have an elevated heart rate, and this is a very good sign. Progress.
Writing two pages in the span of 50 minutes (didn’t realize I’ve been here so long- no wonder I’m getting tired) Is also progress. And progress is a stepping stone to success.

I never thought a spider would bring me success.

[Written in September 2014 (can’t remember the exact date) at Bhimtal, Uttarakhand]

Rainy Reflections

The concept of rain is, to me, quite intriguing. The idea that such humongous -seemingly unlimited- volumes of water can fall from the sky so densely for hours -sometimes days on end- fills me with as much awe and wide-eyed wonder as it fills the potholed roads and subways with water. Despite its dark skies and raging winds, for many people such as me, the monsoon brings happiness and serenity;  Happiness in the rhythmic falling of rain on my skin, serenity from the innumerable cups of coffee and tea consumed while sitting by the window, staring at the mesmerizing patterns that form on the pane, ignoring the long list of pending work.

The rainy season is fun. However, I feel that sometimes we get caught up in enjoying the season as a whole, without taking the time to appreciate the details and littler elements that add character to the monsoon at a smaller intensity. These are the things that i enjoy the most.

The little baubles of water that tumble down stems are roll around on leaves. These are extremely refreshing to look at and fun to watch.

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The fresh flowers and leaves, and the way glass looks like a freshly painted canvas when water slides down its surface.
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Hot drinks. Whether it’s coffee, hot chocolate, various types of teas, or just regular old chai, this weather provides the perfect environment for such warming drinks. Ordinary daily beverages take on a luxurious spin.

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This might be a little unconventional, but I absolutely love the way it gets dark and gloomy during the day; when afternoons start to look like late evenings and early mornings look like night.

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The process of staying cozy; blankets, books, and the occasional ukulele tune.

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Sometimes a particularly loud shower wakes me up in the middle of the night. I find that getting up and out of bed (sometimes taking my blanket with me), sitting near a window and silently watching the rain is extremely awe-inspiring. Night is beautiful.

Clicked this picture on one such occasion. Droplets on the window enhanced by two tube-lights in the parking lot of a building, below. The rain was heavier than normal that night, as this window doesn’t typically get any direct spray.

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Finally, I think that above all, the monsoon makes me appreciate the return of the sun. I absolutely love the rain and it nearly always fills me with immense joy, but the feeling of stepping outside without anything squelching under my feet is truly a feeling like no other. Plus, the sun makes for great photos.

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The various elements of this love inducing season (including the emergence of the sun in all its glory) are as fascinating as the season as a whole. These are the things that make the season, the things I love and look forward to every year, and most of all, the things that I find represent the quintessence of monsoon.