Saturday, February 25, 2017

TIME AND AGAIN

Time always fascinates me. Time changes constantly. We all know that. We have been told that. In the famous statement “Change is the only constant”, time is the variable. But can we really see that? Think about it. We hardly see time change. All you smarty pants out there, don’t look at your watches immediately! What I meant was that in the hustle and bustle of our lives, we fail to notice all the changes that happen around us. We are subconsciously aware of the changing times but we sort of seamlessly ease in to all these changes that we hardly notice them. Well, I am not being intentionally vague or purposefully confusing here even though you may be cursing me already.

Well, think about it. Time is like the earth or the sun or the millions of heavenly objects. Science has educated us that all these things move. But we have never really seen them do so (unless you are sitting in NASA with a super telescope). Time is like wind. We can feel the change but it eludes our eyes. So years go by and we live life adapting to (and accepting) all the changes that happen around us through the years without really stopping to think and see the extent and magnitude of those changes. And also there is the continuum paradox. Well, don’t worry. This is not a science article. Imagine you keep seeing someone every single day. You wouldn’t notice the subtle changes in their appearance as they are so gradual that they go unnoticed. On the other hand if you are seeing someone say after 5 years you are more likely to see the changes in them.

All right.. all right.. I can see a few polite folks yelling: “So what are you trying to say here?” Well, I will give you the usual answer: Nothing really. If you still want to try and peek into my brain, don’t tell me I didn’t try to warn you. Well, it is one of those random moments where I was just reminiscing the old times and my idle mind started to chronicle all the changes that it has lived through all these years. And it made me part nostalgic and part philosophical. Don’t worry…. Won’t bore you with anything too deep though.

So let us see, what has changed in our lives! Well, for starters, everything! The way of life, the people around you, the landscape, the scenery, the air you breathe, the roads you travel, the food you eat, the things you do and so on and so forth! Nothing has been spared by the winds of time and change.

Be more specific, you say. Okay! In those days, TV was not 24 hours. And it was not 240 channels either. I am sure lot of you would feel nostalgic about Doordarshan. I used to sit watching the Doordarshan symbol spinning and spinning, waiting for programming to begin. Or sometimes there used to be that multi-color bars that covered the TV screen like a rainbow which always fascinated me. And I don’t know if it is just me, but I felt that the programs in those days were better than the ones that air now. But again I digress.

The point is that in those days there were limited numbers of good quality shows (and of different genres) that kept us hooked. I remember waiting for the next Wednesday to watch Byomkesh Bakshi. Sunday mornings were always the most exciting time of the week as we had great shows and cartoons back to back from I think 9 to 12. And those were the only times you could watch these shows. If by chance you miss it, there is no way you can watch it again. There was no re-telecast. There was no internet (probably was inside some genius’ mind). I remember being so bummed when I couldn’t watch a favorite show due to a power cut. I also remember going to a friend who lived a few streets apart (where by some miracle, there was no power cut) and asking him what happened in that day’s episode. I can’t imagine anyone doing these things nowadays. To the next generation, this might even sound outright funny (I can already see Maya making fun of me), but these are bits of nostalgia for me.

There was no Youtube (or multiple music channels) those days and Chitrahaar or Rangoli were the only means for you to catch a new song or reminisce an old classic. And ohhh…. Movies. What can I say? There was so much buzz and anticipation over the release of a new movie. The only way to watch a new movie was in the theater. And we only watched our most favorite actors’ movies (or an absolute classic) in the theater. So it felt like a huge deal. I would always be in countdown mode that whole week. And then there was ice cream, popcorn etc… It felt very special. Nowadays we have the option to watch every other movie in the theater though more often than not, we watch them in our laptops while multitasking a bunch of other things. And a week later, we don’t even remember if we ever watched that movie or not. It is no surprise that I distinctly remember only the movies (the theater I watched them in and several other details) that I watched up until I probably went to college.

Moving on to food. Well, that too has changed a lot. I remember fruit and vegetable vendors making rounds every single morning. I used to love the exercise of going out and picking fresh vegetables. No supermarkets, no genetically modified shiny fruits that look like that they came out of a washing machine, no cutely labelled organic fancy (read expensive) stuff! Just fresh fruits and vegetables right out of neighboring farm lands. And lots of variety too. I know it will be a weird comparison, but if you think about it, even though the number of dishes in restaurants have risen exponentially, the ingredients are actually shrinking. There are vegetables that I no longer see or are very scarce these days. And talk about restaurants and fancy places serving food! Well, I know we have a lot of options these days. But somehow I feel that they just try too much to be different and unique. Don’t get me wrong, they are very good, but I still prefer the older ones which kept it relatively simple but immensely delicious.

Let us switch gears a bit. How about the stark contrast in watching a Bjorn Borg or a Stefan Edberg play to the current crop (barring Federer of course) go on and on in endless marathon rallies like soft skinned cyborgs? How about the fact that in a few years, we could see 1 over cricket matches playing to packed arenas? I can just go on and on but I am sure you don’t want me to. And don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that all this change is bad. By no means! I am just saying that our lives are changing daily at an infinitesimal velocity and ferocity.

And if you think about it, technology is at the forefront of most of the changes that have transpired in our lives. It is what drove us out of the streets and playgrounds into our cellphones and gaming consoles. It is what gave us the option of skipping a get together with friends and to catch up later on Facebook or Whatsapp. It is the one that trumped our urge to catch a movie on the giant screen to watching it on your iPad on the go. It is the one that egged us to tear away from our roots and explore the vast expanses of the earth (and beyond). Well, I guess you get the point here.


There will be a day when we (at least some of us) will be travelling in cars that drive themselves, when robots will clean our dishes and autobots will cook delicacies for us as we watch a movie in our Google glasses while telecommuting to work. And to our delusional mind, all this would seem like life as usual. But to the deep subconscious, if and when it wakes up from a slumber, it would be another of time’s in-numerous illusions that will, like it or not, leave you transformed and transfixed to equal measure. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Letters to Maya (III)

As usual I had gone three songs over, putting you to sleep. I knew the exact moment you feel asleep. Your breath had softened and you felt like a feather. And as is the case every single day, I didn’t want to let you go. Not just yet. I decided to entertain you a little more with my melodious voice. I hope your dream was punctuated by a violin symphony. Okay… that is taking it a little too far. Anyways, finally after I had exhausted my list of songs, I reluctantly put you to bed.

Surprise, surprise! You got right back up and extended your arms towards me. Perhaps the bed wasn’t as warm as my shoulder. Instantly I took you back in my arms and started rocking you again, all the while trying to figure out a new song. Damn… I got to add more to my arsenal. Anyways…. I improvised and resorted to humming. You were asleep in a jiffy. I wish you could just sleep in my shoulder all night. I wish to be a kangaroo in my next life. I rocked you some more and then gently transferred you to the crib and immediately covered you with a blanket. You cooed, turned around and continued your sleep.

For a few minutes I was standing there just watching you sleep. It is my little ritual every day. It was a full moon that night. I hadn’t closed the window blinds. The moonlight was piercing the window and was falling on the crib, lighting you up with a shimmer on one side. It was magical. You were snoozing coyly in the gentle moonlight. I wanted to take a picture. A car passed by on the street shining its headlight into your eyes. You turned and covered your face with your right hand. I went and closed the blinds. A moment went un-captured. Well… actually, not really!

I continued to stand there and watch you. You were deep into your sleep. And I, deep in my thoughts! I had had a tiring day at work and had left office thinking I will come home and take a short nap. When I walked into the house, you were there waiting for me as you gave me your cute four teethed smile. You looked at me with your eager eyes and signaled outside. I went and got my tea. You wanted a sip. You copied my sounds as I enjoyed my tea. And then again… you signaled outside. How in the world, will I say no!

Off we went… I took you to your favorite hangout after hitting a few familiar pit stops. You watched your favorite cars zoom by and I watched your eyes light up in excitement. Every time a car went by, you said: “Caaaaa”. Then all of a sudden two cars swept past us at the same time. I looked at you curiously. You thought a little and remained silent. It happened again. Two more cars went by. I looked at you and you said with an innocent smile and feverish enthusiasm: “Caa Caaaaaaa”. I just burst into laughter. You looked at me strangely for a minute and then joined in on the fun. We watched a lot more cars, waved to a few of them and then decided to walk back. By the way, I did notice that you gave special attention to the Audis. Not happening, my girl. Not happening!

We came back inside. I remembered the short nap that I had come home longing for. At that very moment you gave a shout out to me with a ball in hand. I came running to you and we started playing again. You patiently and diligently removed every little toy from your toy basket, dedicated exactly 20 seconds to each toy and then tossed it away. A few minutes later, the basket was empty. You looked at me. I took one toy and put it inside the basket. You followed my lead and started putting them back. I was impressed with myself. You restored all the toys and gave me a curious glance. I realized that my self-praise was short lived. You looked at your work of art, the neatly arranged toy basket. You must have thought: “Something is seriously wrong here.” So you went through the routine again, removing every single toy and spreading them all around the living room.

I looked at the carnage and then gave you a serious glare. You had moved on to other exciting things as you hurled a ball at me with all your might. I picked it up and threw it back at you. You caught it with a splendid dive. You then tried again to throw it back to me. Alas, this time it went back over your head and under the sofa. You tried reaching under the sofa to fetch the ball. It was too far inside. You looked at me and pointing towards the sofa, you shouted: “Baaaaa….”. I tried to reach down under the sofa to get the “baaa….”. It was beyond my reach as well. I brought a stick and nudged at it. It came out at the far end. I went to the other side and came back with the ball, victory smile smeared all over my face, as I offered you the ball.

You looked at it for a moment. Wonder what went on in your head! But you threw the ball away and again pointed under the sofa: “Baaaaaaaaa….”. You must have thought: “Daddy didn’t get the ball from under the sofa. He brought this from elsewhere. He is trying to trick me.” Now I was having the dilemma of my life. How the hell am I going to convince you that this is the same “baaaaaa….”. I remembered Goundamani and Senthil and their famous Banana comedy (Only South Indian movie buffs will get this reference, but you get the point anyways).

I came up with an idea. I slid the ball under the sofa. And then I reached for it and grabbed it and offered you the newly found old ball. You looked at it, seemingly convinced. You were about to start playing with it before curiosity got the better of you. You looked at me, mischief imprinted on her face. Not so fast daddy. You tossed the ball aside and then angrily motioned to the sofa: “Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..”. I was running out of ideas. I tried in vain for another ten or fifteen minutes, several new ideas and techniques to convince you that your “baaaa…” was indeed not lost. But nothing worked. Finally you gave up on your incompetent daddy and got distracted with some song that was playing on TV. I thanked my stars as I collapsed on that damn sofa.

That got your attention. You rushed towards the sofa and tried to climb on it. I gave you a hand. You pushed it away and after a few valiant attempts finally made it up. Then you oh so sweetly started patting me on my back trying to put me to sleep. That got me going again. I grabbed you an off we went to play again. We ran inside the house, paying a short visit to each room, exploring every little artifact of interest as your mom also gave us company trying to accomplish the herculean task of feeding you. An hour later, there were two tired souls and an adrenalin baby in the house. You were in no mood to sleep but we decided it was time for you to!  

I looked at the clock. Three hours just flew by. I thought of the short nap I had wanted to take. Now here I was watching you sleep blissfully. I wondered what all I would have missed if I had actually taken that nap. I laughed to myself. I realized that even if I don’t have a single ounce of energy left in my body, the moment you come running into my arms, I forget every pain, worry or trouble and become a child once again. You have given me my second childhood and I will remember this one more than the first!      

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