Day 126: SoulSurfer I

A million thoughts run through my head and the SoulSurfer has been a major partner in all of that. What started off as a reality check for the SilverGhoster turned into a crucial inward journey for me. Was I ready to let another in after all the pain of the past? When I had finally accepted that I might be by myself for the rest of my life, for lack of another with a similar mindset, was the universe sending me a message through this company? For all that I complain about the society and its unwarranted needs, was I truly ready to stand against it and fight every triviality that it worries itself with? Was any of this worth it?

  • Midnight babbles from Valley school eased me into the novelty that came with the environment. As we spoke about strange topics that mattered, and that did not, there was a strange comfort in knowing that there was someone to listen to me at the end of the day. We worked through the major disagreements after the birthday night, and it felt like I had someone in my corner. As discussions about each evident difference in us popped up, it seemed like I was talking to a sorted individual, influenced by the checklist and affected by a plan. The babbles made sense.
  • There is apparently a car whose review completely fit me. The all-white Civic Type R was the kind of city-road sports car that was a bumpy and a choppy ride, one which would make any passenger question the buyer’s intent. But ask the driver, and you’d know exactly what the car meant, and where it stood out from the crowd. Coming from a car guy, this felt like a great proclamation of the thoughts the SoulSurfer had for me. And who can complain! The sweet ride has VTEC.
  • At the end of week 1 at Valley school, I was craving an entirely different palate from what I was eating every day. I wanted a biriyani, and some dosa vada, and a panic puri, and maybe some parathas. But what did I  crave the most? An ice cream. I got cornered when I invited SoulSurfer along for a trip to the House. We found the quieter version of the store, cosy enough for a conversation, and yet with the same amazing DBC. There was a mirth and glee in the light banter that was refreshing.
    • I sensed a certain unraveling in the SilverGhoster that was comforting. I could sense certain layers getting pulled off. As we walked around neighborhoods familiar to the man, it felt like homecoming; walking through familiar roads with an unfamiliar face. I felt a need in the SoulSurfer to share his life, his stories, his roads and his streets.
    • I also perceived an evident hesitation in the SoulSurfer when walking the streets. Hands locked up in the back, a safe one-arm distance from me, and an instant apology in case of any unintended brush against me were all signs of a certain refrain in the man. And, I was surprised by how little I felt any of it.
  • Considering how close traveling is to my heart, it seemed like the right time to put the SoulSurfer through the second litmus test – the day trip. A lot of planning went into deciding the destination, the pitstops and the ride – the SilverGhost, and there was a mutual excitement going into the weekend. And come Friday, Mt Vesuvius erupted. There was some major argument, a more major disagreement, and the plan was off. It only seemed apt for me to propose to cancel, and it hurt a wee bit that the SoulSurfer was all too quick to jump on the plan. A general consensus that came out was that the universe worked on its own schedule, and you couldn’t force it to be any faster or slower than what it actually is.
  • Back at the Valley, and there was a sense of newfound calm in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. The conversations at the school had moved to them wanting to have me join them. And, on the personal front also, there was a meaningful turn of events; discussions with the OldMan were not too confrontational; and the SilverGhoster had started digging a little too deep into my soul. It was getting easy to let him open the book, read a few pages, and maybe recommend a few corrections too. The dark side of the moon was slowly unraveling and it was not going to be such a scary event after all. The SilverGhoster was slowly, but surely becoming the SoulSurfer.
  • Research wrapped up and a surprise road trip popped into my schedule. A holiday in the middle of the week meant that SoulSurfer and I could head out of town, in the RedBeast nonetheless, and with a curfew at 1 PM for the Cinderella turned SoulSurfer. I headed out late, he brought in a detour to an ancient building, but soon enough we hit the road. Turns out our music interests matched and both of us didn’t mind singing at the top of our voices. Turns out I was comfortable letting the SoulSurfer drive, while I unwinded up front. Breakfast at Shivalli was nice; we picked the more quieter, more ancient one, than the more loud, noisy and refurbished one.
    • SoulSurfer popped the biggest surprise of the day by proposing that we change plan and head out to Mysore. As we pulled up at Shivalli, I felt a sense of regret for the trip already ending. So, when the man suggested something off, which meant that we’d be on the road for longer, I jumped in immediately. The element of surprise was amplified when I only wanted to go to the city, and return back, where as he thought of a little trip to the temple up the hill.
    • The temple trip itself was a spiritual experience beyond me. It was crowded, as expected; there was a huge mess and a rush, as expected; and yet, there was a certain peace in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. The SoulSurfer was surprised that I would behave ‘normal’ in a temple. And I was surprised by how pleased he was with me in the temple. I approached the lady of the house, and I asked her to take care of the uncertainty ahead, and to give me strength to put up with what she had planned for me. As we sat in the temple, the SoulSurfer a breath away, and the mad rush of the temple all around us, I knew that there was something more to this trip than just a day trip between pals.
    • As we drove back, I was ready to hold a pinkie and just ‘that’ was an elevating feeling. As I held a bony, skeletal hand, I realized a strange connection, a young lady waiting to be led, a grown man looking for company, a friend lost at sea.
    • Pulling into Cinderella’s castle, it became evident that the SoulSurfer had never been in such company before and the filter of what to share and what not to was still developing. It also became evident that my impression of my own body, and my insecurities were going to hold me back more than I anticipated. I reached out and held his hand, he commented on how dry my palm was, and I immediately withdrew into my little bubble. All under 15 seconds. It took a long drawn discussion about this to slowly find my way out from that corner. I wondered what previous experience would prepare the man for such events, and what prior hurt would have etched in deep, and dark places in my heart.

The transition from the SilverGhoster to the SoulSurfer was sudden, considering the few days that we have been talking and getting to know each other. The suddenness brought with it an element of surprise, of spontaneity that the Gemini in me craves. He was noticing things often ignored, he was saying things often considered silly or inappropriate and we were talking about things that I presumed were universally understood.

It was novel. Novel, at 33.

Pics4mswiss: The town of Lausanne, enveloping the hills, and looking over the grand lake.

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Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

Day 118: It’s raining ameeras

Speaking of the dead

ChemProf was in town to attend to his familial duties, and I tagged along. We went early in the morning and paid our last respects to a granmy that passed away. It was funny to listen to all the planning, and the beliefs behind them, that went into checking on the dead, in fact on the living left behind. It’s preferable to go in the morning, because you anyway have to come back and shower; so might as well club it with the daily wash. You must have coffee at home and go, because it’s generally not recommended to eat at the house. Once you’re back, you should make sure you don’t touch any item of clothing; or be ready to do a lot of laundry. When leaving their house, you’re not supposed to say goodbye since it would tempt more mourning in the house; we left with a lot of awkward nods.

The conversations there, however, were all over the place. There was a lot of sharing of sob stories of every other oldie that one knows, that suffered more than the one in question. There was some fond reminiscing of the life lived and the love shared. There was a lot of rationalizing the death over the suffering. At the end of it all, the adults seemed like awkward teens at the class party, making small talk and waiting for closing time so they could leave. And like young adults, the men were more out of place in such a setting than the women.

The Kabir within

I dropped ChemProf and the Mrs off at their bus, and was an hour early for today’s kabir session. Unlike the last session where there was a nice quiet before the class, today was mayhem. There was a ballet recital coming up and the overly British-accented tutor was screaming her lungs out to get her students, ranging from 5 year old girls to 25 year old boys to follow instructions. I spent the 45 minutes before the session trying to not listen to her while trying to digest the lyrics for today’s kabir song.

However, the magic from the first session continued when we holed up in the room, the noise of anticipation and eagerness drowning out any external sounds. Tu  peele ameeras dhara, gagan main jhadi lagi – go ahead and drink the stream of nectar, there is a huge downpour in the sky. Yet another wonderful pick for the class, by Vipul. Catchy tune, a much happier number than the last one. The conversations were much deeper than the last, if you asked me. The interpretations for true knowing, a drop vs. the plenty, thirst, and the guru were inspiring to listen to.

In the end, the message that I took away was simple – There is nectar in the guru or the teacher’s words. And do not look for the guru outside you, he resides within. Simple. Indeed.

Sneaking coffees

I had a cross-country trip from South to far East, for the last event of the night. And fancy ideas snuck in a coffee break on the way over. SilverGhoster was free and saturated from the prep for his exams and I needed some filter coffee. So, off we went to grab a cuppa from some good ole Udupi bhavans in Koramangala. As we passed by a couple of CCDs and Costas, brim with their falsified lights and promises of caffeine satiety, I was reaffirmed of my love for pure, simple coffee, the traditional Indian way.

The conversations were haphazard, but I left with a feeling of glee. There was a strange, and yet familiar reaffirmation; the kinds one feels when you know that this would not be a graduate-and-forget kind of a friendship. Not reading too much into what lay within either of us, I felt a platonic comfort that I haven’t formed with another in a while; not since I let MalluMan in and paid for it.

As I drove back to the last event for the day, I wondered what the universe’s grand scheme of things was. Both of us joined the university at the same time, both of us had similar aspirations of leading an educational institution at some point, and both of us loved classic rock in this day and age of the Biebers. And yet, the universe did not put us in the same class. It did not even find reasons for us to meet until an entire year was spent going ahead in the same direction, but on parallel tracks. The logic beats me. If it had put us in the same class, we may have been at each other’s throat by now; there is that commonality of being the loudest in the class between the two of us. If we had met sooner, the circumstances would have made it just another trivial acquaintance.

Whatever it’s strange plans were, or are yet to unfold, I met the SilverGhoster at the apt moment that the universe intended for us to. And we shall wait and watch what lies ahead.

Petting projects

The final event of the day was a dynamite explosion. I was in the company of two, young and overly bright minds – the GardenMan and the ProjectPetter. GardenMan and I were both a little skeptical when ProjectPetter told us of her plans to be in Bangalore, and to meet up. But the first few minutes into the conversation and it made sense. We all loved education, and it’s state in India, how could we not connect?

ProjectPetter told us a lot about the extended personality development program that she was on. I’d probably try it when the timing is right, because the energy levels in the young lass were very evident. Something that she asked me has been plaguing me for a while and could be the answer to a number of the country’s youth hoping to contribute to education. What truly creates the most impact to the education space – working with the government, working for an NGO, or starting a localized program of your own? A worthy thought with no easy answer yet. Do we shoot for quality or quantity? Do the sprout of localized agencies truly justify the impact? The questions are still afresh in me.

Overall, a very eventful day indeed.

Eventful indeed. But is that some interesting food that you gave up there? When are you going to make me taste them?” Scotch 

Day 113: I would never have forgiven myself 

When Scotch almost got me killed

Well, technically, it started with me almost killing Scotch today. I left some rat kill cakes, for the rats to eat, and I was confident that when I woke in the morning, they were intact. Our little rodent pals had found other sources of nutrition. Except, about an hour after checking, I see that both the cakes are missing, and Scotch is sitting in the area, smacking her lips.

I was convinced that she had eaten both and was going to turn all fizzy and die any minute. Worst of all the luck, all this happened between 4 and 6 AM and I had an exam at 9. Would I have to skip the exam entirely? Should I rush her to the hospital now? What if I came back from the exam and found her limp? Would I ever forgive myself for poisoning my own dog?

A quick chat with H helped reorient my thoughts. I immediately called Cessna emergency and we were on our way in 10 minutes. They checked her vitals, and deducted that she was normal, especially since it was about 4 to 5 hours since the suspected act. Her pupils were normal, no frothing or excessive salivation, and she was still alive. Phew!

They anyway gave her a charcoal cleanse and a vitamin K shot, to soak out any poison that might be in the stomach. And she would stay with them, in their day-boarding, while I wrote my exam. I don’t think I would have been able to sit through 3 hours of torture if I had not taken her to the vet.

Exams done, quick lunch with A and SilverGhoster done, and I was off to pick her up. That’s when I learnt about the unprofessional behavior of doctors and how much it affects a layperson. I picked up Scotch from her cage, and she tumbled out in a dizzy. Her hind legs shivered and shook as she stumbled a foot forward. I took her to the vet’s table and asked him if she had been sedated during her boarding. He nodded confidently – no, she wasn’t. And the next 4 hours were spent in my trying to quiz them and myself, on reasons why a normal dog, who had clearly not eaten rat poison, would act dazed and confused after spending 4 hours in a cage. She usually has separation anxiety and comes back from all boarding with a sore throat, from all the barking. But she was never this.

Every post on Facebook, from loving pet parents who’d lost their pet due to hospital negligence, shot in front of me. The guilt from the morning returned all over again. Scotch had gone into some strange depression after my rushing her to the vets early in the morning, feeding her charcoal and locking her up in the cage for 4 long hours. She must have been convinced that I was trying to kill her, and this was her showing signs of depression. I had broken my dog.

Or so I thought, until the vet called me at 9 PM and clarified his mistake. There had been 2 labs today with similar issues – rat poison. And they mixed up Scotch for the other. Yes, Scotch had been sedated because for the first hour that I was gone, she had barked her vocal chords off and unsettled most other boarders. They just had her name confused. A fancy establishment, earning millions of rupees every month from treating and working with pets and they haven’t found a better system to identify dogs.

Shame!

First kisses

Conversations with SilverGhoster took an interesting turn and we got talking about first kisses. It reminded me of past conversations about the same. It reminded me of the past first kisses, and the emotions that come wrapped in with that simple act of a kiss.

The moments of furtive glances and stolen touches before the kiss. All the years of preparation and still being unprepared for what lies ahead. That nanosecond before your lips meet, where you question the next act that lies ahead. With that kiss, you’d be changed forever. In that nanosecond, you remember every opportunity for a kiss that you took before, and every opportunity that you’ve missed. You walk two steps away and yet two steps forward, as you feel an energy draw you on. Unimaginable.

And then, it repeats again with the next one.  It’s the first kiss all over again.

The feeling that binds it all

The factor that makes it truly special, the reason you couldn’t just pay a professional prostitute to give you your first kiss, is the feeling of belonging or oneness that comes with it. Ask any man that has lost his virginity to a paid masseuse, and he’ll tell you about the strange sense of regret that is typically associated with the act. Sex is no longer about love making, it’s purely an item to check off on life’s to-do list.

A lot of today’s generation seems to be stuck in this rut, the one where sex is no longer love-making; it’s a solution to a heartbreak, and is an international flight and some bahts away. There is a queer pressure to belong, a sense to ‘lose it’  because all your friends already have. I’m reminded of the conversation with the Danseuese aka Tooti, where she thought she didn’t have a boyfriend anymore because she didn’t put out yet. I hear silent sighs when I share the first time I made out. It feels like I was a few years too late compared to today’s youngsters.

And yet, I’m able to look back at my first with a sense of pleasure and wonder. It’s not like we’re getting awards for the best first sex. But, I can still look back at my first with a sense of wonder and awe. It still has a memory of amazement, a strange mutual exploration, that was still not pushed by peer pressure. And that’s honestly all that I’d like to send out there as a consolation message to the kids of today – hold off until it feels right, and it will totally be worth the wait.

Checking off checklists

Turns out the initial conversation with the SilverGhoster did get him thinking. As I was talking to him today, I realized that he had a newer, a more updated version of the checklist, and some of the major stereotypes were gone. It feels powerful, almost God-like, to know that someone’s interests and wants in life are shaped by discussions with you. But with that feeling comes great responsibility. By sharing your thoughts and views on varied social issues, you could be altering an impressionable mind, something that can go either ways.

A surprise that lay at the end of the conversation was the realization that I’d checked off a lot of the items on his list. Was I creating such an impression on the SilverGhoster that he was shaping his future aspirations based on me? What would happen when I start showing sides  of me that have scared men away in the past? The last few days have been good conversations. But doesn’t this new twist in the tale just remove a friend from the list entirely? Is this going to be another choice between a friend and something more than a friend?

Doesn’t the past trend say that the friend is the one lost in all such cases?

Woah! All that charcoal and sedative is making me feel funny in the head. And you’re up all night chatting up giving big lectures! Show me some love man!” Scotch

Day 112: Arguing with a fool makes it two 

To share or not to share

SilverGhoster and his classmates are weird. Period. For students getting an. MBA degree, especially in Educational Leadership, they seem to be a little immature in certain aspects. I remember having a similar conversation with GardenMan and his Senior, but these were u degrade kids in their second year. Not experienced professionals pursuing a professional degree, and heading off to lead institutions.

The bone of contention? Class notes, should one share them or not. I have always related to the concept of Open Source over proprietary software even when working. I believe that knowledge should be out in the open, available for those capable to make the most of it. And by reading the notes that you took in a class, if another is able to score more marks than you, what does it truly say about your preparation?

I take my notes online, on a OneNote, and the notebooks are shared with my classmates; well, both of them. At the end of the first semester, they themselves realized that using another’s to study us only so effective, and it’s more beneficial to take your own notes. Even now A uses my notes online but as a guide for last minute preparation.

It reinforces my thought, that when you put all your cards out there, people realize that their own limitations would stop them from making the most out of what you shared. And you eventually come out being the smarter one. Because we all know that when you argue with a fool, that automatically makes it two.

It is also well known that the one that doesn’t share his bread with the doggo is the fool. So, can you? Now please?” Scotch 

Day 110: Surprised by Forum 

A late night, last ditch effort to study. Economics of education. Bus to Uni. Missed a Volvo and found a beautiful blue bus. Peace at college. That morning big, strong coffee. Rants and revisions with A. Annoying male supervisor with his ‘stand up for question papers’. Three hours of hand-breaking pain. Choices, choices, choices.  There should be a better way to test. Walk to the parking lot, but I have no car. Lunch plans for bitching. The hunt for Clinique continues. Forum has a front and a magical back entrance. Love it. Didn’t find Clinique. Ran away from parottas and chole bhatures. Plans for Melt flopped by crazy traffic that won’t let you cross the road. Soup, corn flake chicken and Lassi. True stories of DubaiCassanova. Gossiping is for girls. Reminder about fun conversations in the past. Have I missed these for too long? Blue and green buses are hot ovens. Back home. Scotch needs psychiatric help. Kitchen is in shambles. All dishes for washing on the floor. She tried to help. Bakeware sacrificed. Didn’t scold or hit her. Muzzled for an hour. Hurt me more than her. She’s the boss. Another dog, maybe?

“I told you I loved what you cooked yesterday. And you give me just a slice? So, I tried to help myself to all the goodness still stuck in the pan. In all the excitement, shit got real.” Scotch

Day 109: One can only hope 

Sleep, sleep, sleep. Noon. Brunch. Read, rest, relax. Snooze, Snooze, Snooze. Wake up, bathe, study. Realize all content is from Mumbai University distance program. Feel miserable about life’s choices. Crib to SilverGhoster. U came here for a reason. You’ll understand that sooner or later. Sniff, Awhh. Bake some yummy keto bread. Coconut flour over Almond. Back to study. Give up by 10. Off to sleep. Up at 3. Finish the rest. Listening in class pays off, always.

​Highlight of the day – Make it to the corner. There is always hope just around it. Even Pandora’s box was closed in time to prevent hope from escaping.

Study all you want. Sulk all you want. But why don’t you share that yummy goodness? I mean, something more than just a slice. What good did 1 slice do to anybody?” Scotch