Home away from home

Many a times in the past, I have talked/written about how living abroad, away from family and familiarity, has been a point of difficulty personally. One has to deal with the culture shock, strange food, strange people and strange languages (among many other things) without relying on any immediate support. Quite daunting, I think you’d agree.

Now, a year later,  I still have strong feelings of attachment to home (after all, home is where the heart is). But something in me has changed. Something in me has realised that, to make it in today’s world, I need to stand on my own two feet and really make good of what I’ve got. It was a slow realisation, mind, but it has brought me to the position where I have somewhat learnt to enjoy living alone, abroad.

While it sounds as if I have resigned to my fate, that is not the case. I still wish to build a life in my home city. But for now, I am here, in Stockholm. So let’s count the good things in this life.

  1. Fabulous university. I love going to school for the first time in my life. The students and teachers are all from different backgrounds, countries and cultures, making every interaction filled with rich conversations.
  2.  Freedom. I can rest when I want to, I can run when I want to. There is nobody here questioning my actions. This is a two-sided coin- I am free yet I’m responsible for myself. Win-win, in my book.
  3.  Peace and quiet. Living here is expensive, but easy. It’s easy to make a routine and follow through with it without the annoyances and interruptions I’m used to. I love how the busy shopping and commercial centres of the city are interspersed with parks, green spaces and forests, like oases of calm in an otherwise heaving and bustling beehive.
  4.  The anticipation of vacations. I very much enjoy counting down the days to my next vacation- my next opportunity to go home. I book tickets well I advance and just lie in anxious anticipatory wait. The last few days till the trip, I’m practically giddy. Of course, it is sad to come back at the end, but this routine keeps me rooted to my culture and country like nothing else.

I can count many more, less significant things, but I presume one can get the gist from the above. All in all, I think this is an experience worth having. 2-4 years of my life away from home isn’t going to harm anyone.

Compliments

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Source: power2improve.com

I have recently realised that I am terrible at taking compliments. I feel like I always need to be modest about whatever I have done; while that is a good thing, too much of something is still bad. I noticed myself trying to come up with ways to say “No I’m not that good” or “No that’s not the case” every time someone so much as compliments my handwriting. It is kind of a double edged sword- while one is wont to crave some recognition and acknowledgement, one cannot elegantly accept it either; not without questioning one’s self esteem levels, at least.

Don’t get me wrong, this by no means indicates that I don’t like giving compliments, no. I love doing that. I like thanking people and complimenting them even for the smallest things, and not because I want them to like me. It just makes me happy seeing others be happy about something that they are or did. And I sincerely believe it to be an excellent tool for lifting someone’s mood. In today’s day and age, a lot of us are ill-prepared to deal with our lives. So why not just say some kind words to even a total stranger, knowing that they now have a small thing to be thankful for that day?

But ironically, while I do like to be complimented (like any other human), the momentary reactions are hardly coherent/controllable. I wondered why this was. Then it struck me that our society rarely participates in complimenting. They’re never fulfilled or happy with anything. Nothing is good enough for a positive remark. Try to make yourself look good, they’ll call you vain. Stop trying, they’ll call you a tramp. Write neatly, and they’ll say that’s why you get good scores. Get good scores, and they’ll ask why you didn’t get more. Get into a good school, and they’ll ask why you didn’t get a scholarship. Every step of the way, every little thing you try to be enthusiastic about, you’re beaten down. More. More. More.

I believe this is a social evil. I believe this is a factor in people being led astray- into corruption, adultery, thievery. And I believe that’s why a lot of us are never happy. Because we are not trained and conditioned to be so. I can count on one hand the number of people who have asked me to be happy the way I am. One hand. And I suspect this is the case with more than most. Let’s be the last ones in this chain. Let’s try to compliment people. When you compliment someone, chances are they do it to someone else. Like how it is when you insult someone. Tell someone they look good. Tell your friends that they have a lot to be proud of. Tell a stranger to have a nice day. Thank someone for opening the door.

Do that, and at the very least, you’ll be able to take a compliment next time.

Doldrums

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©Gary Felton

Have you ever had a period of time when you had nothing to do? No work, no studies, no hangouts, no vacations, nothing. It’s just you at home, waking up late, eating, meandering and going back to sleep. Such is the boredom that you sink into it further. Do you know this feeling? When everything is just so groggy and so slow, no spirits and no glow, that your only intention of getting out of bed is to get back on it and go back to sleep at some point later?

That is the worst thing. If you have experienced it, you would agree on some level. If you haven’t had it, pray that it doesn’t; nothing can slow down your body and sap your intellect and slur your speech more than doldrums. It is the perfect word to describe this situation. You become a ship with no wind in its sails, no journey, no destination. Her crew languishing amidst an empty sea void of life, of the crisp breeze, of the ocean spray. Nary a cheer or a laugh. Just waiting for time to pass. Ironic, isn’t it? Spending time waiting for it to pass.

Even a day or two like this, for me, makes me feel like a small sliver of my soul drowned, taking away some energy and life with it. The sharpest of intellects and wits are smothered. If you, reader, are here right now, don’t wait for time to pass. It doesn’t. Whoever you are, whatever the situation, make some work for yourself. Feed your brain with more than just blood and oxygen. Get out. Meet people. Go for a run. Clean yourself up. Be thankful for the healthy body you have. Let it live up to its potential. Make a decision. Make it work. Put your oars out there and row.

Lest you be left in the cold and dark, till you can no longer stay afloat. Till you just sink.

An introvert’s rave

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As I become an adult, I tend to have many expectations of the world and of myself. It’s exciting for everyone when we turn 18 (or 21 or whatever) and we’re legally allowed to partayy. With booze, that is. I for one thought (being fairly introverted), once I’m older I’ll change. That I’d be more easy-going and chummy with others with no strings and no baggage. Essentially, that I would lose any insecurity I had and just go with the flow and have some fun. This was the impression I had when I first went abroad alone. Went to Germany, had some beers, went to bars, been there done that. But I came away disappointed, as I had made the following observations:

  1. You don’t stop being an introvert. Despite the veil of confidence and security I masked my face with, there was a perennial realisation of that veil being only a veil. I couldn’t restrain myself from overthinking everything I said to everyone. I couldn’t help but conjure up pointless opinions others might have had about me, despite this being irrelevant, considering seeing the same people again is far-fetched, let alone them remembering me.
  2. People are always judgy. Even the most down-to-earth, open-minded person will always pass judgement and have opinions on others. This is quite problematic for people like me, because, good or bad it may be, I seem to have a keen sense of what people are feeling. I may be wrong at times (especially if it involves non-personal conversations, aka texting), but it is mostly true that no matter how well-mannered you think you may be, a lot of times, you end up being silly in one way or another. Especially if you have on said veil.
  3. I don’t see the point of alcohol. Yes, some types of it taste quite good and get really get you high, but the stronger ones people generally take at parties- well if you’re going to trade the memory of the fun you had for an entire morning of migraines and vomit, it is pretty pointless. Maybe because I’ve never been high before, but I don’t know why I would need alcohol to have fun. Which makes the transition into the next point quite nicely.
  4. My idea of a rave is sitting at home, singing along to music and making funny noises as I drive a nice car on Forza Horizon 4, gawking at the gorgeous scenery. You could argue that a rave minus the people minus the alcohol minus the DJ minus the sweat isn’t a rave anymore, but I think I feel quite intoxicated by car noises and digital environments. Plus, the music they have on these games- well it’s bangin. So that’s plus music plus noise and plus intoxication. So a rave is what I (think) have. And there are more pluses. I don’t have to dress up, I can eat, I have a chair, and if I’m tired at any point I can simply go to bed. Imagine trying to leave an actual rave.

I thus had to come to the bitter conclusion that I’m not built for the life I imagined. But the silver lining is something I understood only by experience. I understood that while parties make me feel faint, I enjoy my own company enough that I can have my own rave- an introvert’s rave.

The way home

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At his desk he sat

In this little loft a ways away

From the bustling metropolis

Listening to sweet music

A great distance from home.

He wandered afar in looking

In seeking a new life, a new future

Befitting the expectations set

Without his wanting for them

He did dream for this life

A nomadic spirit, he thought

Craving for a penny of solitude

Yearning for what’s yonder

Than can be seen by many.

New people flooding his everyday

Work piling up on his desk

Classes fighting for time

A busy two years ahead.

Yet in his long sojourn

Only first steps taken now

Knowing of the highs and lows

But not having faced them

Already did he realise

That this long route

That this new adventure

Is simply the way back home.

Longing

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Life takes us on long journeys away from home and all familiarity. It drops us in the midst of a completely different society and culture and expects us to just cope. It’s never that easy, is it? To just leave behind your parents, your dog, your old friends, your home. Just to get a piece of paper with fancy lettering on it. Supposedly as proof of your education and knowledge.

2 years is how long I’m having to spend in this faraway land. “It’s beautiful” they said. “The people are very friendly” they said. What’s beauty if it’s only skin deep? I’ve travelled a lot before. And enjoyed it. But now that I’m here, I’ve realised that I enjoy travelling given that I’m going to be back at home at the end. But now? What do I have to look forward to at the end of the day? Home? This ain’t home.

As the days go by, I find myself relying more and more on the internet to connect with family and friends. To stay up to date on the news back at home. To dig out old photos off of the cloud. Just for those few moments of warmth and comfort. Something I haven’t yet found here; something that could never be replaced or substituted. My motor runs on the knowledge that I get to go home every 3 months on vacation.

Will I ever be absorbed into this foreign culture? Will I ever be a part of this new land? Possible. But I won’t let that happen. Because, at the end of two years, whether or not I learn enough to get a degree, I have already learned the value of my homeland. I have understood that my motherland is the only place where I will ever belong.

And so, for my true home, I am longing.

The anomalous girl

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A little girl
Performing a solo in her world
Playing with made up instruments
That served as tiny testaments
Of the complexity that ran through her mind

She felt connected to the earth
Never to people from her birth
But to plants and tiny sentient beings
That took to her for the entirety of her living

She crossed paths with none
Some thought she was the special one
She felt that she was far
From making progress or even having a friendly spar

As time flew by it was dawned upon
That those with an ounce of closeness to her heart had gone
Faraway having their life taken away
And yet to this not a price she had paid

As time flew, by she felt stronger than ever before
Rid of all childhood sores
A little gasp once in a while
But she knew she’d be alright

As far as her life went
Not a shred of emotional torment
Nothing humane swept her away
Life slowly flowed through her
In the same gentle way a stream brings her waters

She lost her love and only friend
A tall magnificent tree that had heard her every grievance
Which had rustled its leaves with the wind in comfort
Dried her tears and known all her dreams she shared with none
Everyone only knew her as the transparent one

She knew she had to live for them all
She steeled herself for the falls
Her will to live only strengthened
As her lifespan needlessly lengthened

She burned with passion to make it happen
The pain had not danced around in vain
She looked back at the time she spoke to an empty world
Where she spoke only to the Goddess, her mother
Earth who’d always cared for her
Was now to let go of this mischievous nipper

Despite being denounced
Her bond no longer strong
The wind and rain continued to be a friend
Comforting her until she could fend

Curveballs

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image credit: Flickr

We all know at this point that life has its ups and downs. On some days you’re cheerful, on others you’re blue. Many great relationships end in bad break-ups. Sunny mornings don’t always mean warm evenings. Simple facts of life. After a certain age, we all (more or less) learn to deal with these things. Whether you’re simply a positive person or whether you down a few bottles on a bad day, we all have our ways to cope.

But then, out of the blue, life throws you a curveball.  Let me provide a simple example. A beautiful day. You wake up after a refreshingly good sleep. After getting ready, you catch yourself in the mirror and do a double-take. “Great day to look good!” you think. Then, as you leave the building, a pigeon decides to (literally) crap on your day. Adding insult to injury, the neighbourhood kids you hate post a video of it on Instagram. Where did your smile go?

As one gets older, I have noticed that one has to deal with curveballs more often, because the busier your days get, the more there is to go terribly wrong. Often like dominoes going down. Travelling, for example. Obsessive ones usually plan out every single activity for the entire vacation, complete with directions, bus/train routes and tickets for those buses and trains. Then a train gets cancelled and you miss your connection. The plan for the next two days are thrown out of order. So do we just throw our hands up and call it quits? Or do we let our mood go sour and sullen? Is that what we’re taking a vacation for?

We all ought to be more adaptable and more patient. In most cases, things are more flexible than we think, and the solutions are simpler than we could, at that moment, even care to imagine. So the kids put your video on Instagram. So what? Just be in the moment and laugh! Sometimes, even if your emotions are forced, they tend to quickly avert your focus from the mishap. So you miss the train. Just divert your attention to the place where you’re at. It might be worth exploring. Curveballs are hard to deal with because we don’t know when we’re to be thrown one. So, don’t try to catch them or dodge them.

Just enjoy getting hit.

People leave

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We’ve all been there. You find these amazing new people to hang out with and talk to. You make memories to cherish. You go places with them. Then, when it’s time to leave, the goodbyes sadden you. A week on, WhatsApp and Instagram are your saviours, helping you stay in touch, at least indirectly. Then the messages get fewer and further apart. The stories on Instagram are no longer relevant to you. They move on and leave you behind. The invitations home and the future plans all turn to dust blowing past your face as you desperately attempt to catch up.  And so you just stop. Stop to catch your breath. Stop for a final wave goodbye. And you take a different path.

Or do you? Why is it that we feel people don’t care about us when they stop talking to us? People always need a reason to talk to you. People have lives. People have other people. They can’t afford to stop and think about you everyday. The messages might get fewer and further apart, but that doesn’t mean the memories have faded away. People do care. People do remember. People change, yes, but who you are to them, that doesn’t change. So when you stop to catch your breath, remember, catching up isn’t what you’re supposed to do. You have your own path to follow. And somewhere in the future, closer than you think, paths are bound to intersect. And when they do, all the memories, all the emotions, they come rushing back. In that moment, you realise, love isn’t temporary.

People leave. But they leave not to leave you behind.

Aspiration

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I’m the type of person who expects negative outcomes- a pessimist. This helps me deal with failure. To plan contingencies. To not be disappointed. And so far, it has done me plenty good.

But I figure, one must aspire to be something, to do something worthwhile. Preparing for negative outcomes is, in a way, feckless. Aspirations drive the force of will within us. Doesn’t matter if you’re implacable or resistant to change- good things need to happen. Oftentimes I notice that preparing for the worst brings out the worst in both us and the situation at hand. Think about it. Every time you do that, you’re simmering your spirits. You’re telling them something is incapable of happening or that you’re incapable of making it.

Also, not every outcome is bad. And not every outcome is good. It’s a balance. But why prepare for the bad when you can prep for the good? It would certainly pull up your spirits and your attitude. It might even push you to work harder for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Have some positivity. Ask and thou shalt receive. Thoughts and emotions have power, and you have the responsibility to manage them. Good things always come. Bad things may be good things in disguise.

So always, aspire to achieve. It doesn’t matter if it takes a little more time.

2018

Unity and Strength

Another year over. 365 days of triumph, happiness, sorrow, struggles, highs and lows. For most of us though, it was just another dreary year of doing the same things over and over again.

When will we be rid of the monotony? When will we just stop…just stop and take a moment to see the world around us…see it and not just look? Will it ever happen?

I took such a moment towards the end of 2017. I reflected on the things that I see but notice everyday. Pain, loss, death, tragedy. From hundreds of people out in warzones to the tiny sapling in our backyard, struggling to exist. It is just poetically sad.

World peace will never exist. That is an absolute truth. Like how there can never be an ideal machine that is 100% efficient. It is one of those things coded into the weave of existence by the creator (whoever/whatever).

But we can get awfully close to it by simply extending our love of life, our desire for a better world and our passion for everything in it- by simply extending all of that to the dozen people we talk to everyday. It isn’t hard. It is gratifying. It is like how Portia from the Merchant of Venice puts it- “Mercy is twice blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that receives.”

The smallest things make the biggest difference. Let us, together, hand in hand, make the world a better place as every day of 2018 goes by. One conversation- at the right place and time- can change lives. One hug. One handshake. One smile.

One love. #2018

Civilisation

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People kill for anything these days. I recently read an article about a man who murdered his friend while arguing whether Nvidia or AMD is a better brand. Political leaders in India are offering bounties for killing/maiming actors for being part of a ‘history distorting’ movie. Note that the movie in question was loosely based on a 16th century poem. So basically fictional representation of a fictional work meant to entertain people for 2 hours. Distorts nothing but the future of civilisation.

Speaking of, I was under the impression that ‘civilisation’ refers to a highly developed society. One where people co-exist peacefully and work together to benefit all. Instead, we have people in positions of power showing themselves as raving idiots on social media (which was built on the premise of bringing people closer). There are people who kill simply because of jealousy. One man’s pride is another’s motive, more like. Gun-toting imbeciles shooting people up. Gun-toting idiots shooting animals up.

I’m sorry, but either the definition of civilisation ought to be changed, or the word must be dropped from usage. It simply doesn’t represent the state we are in right now. Front page news covers everything wrong with the world. All the astounding achievements made by man everyday? Yeah, check page 18. In fact, skip to page 18 if you don’t like the idea of purgatory.

Peace is for suckers, I guess.

 

Down to the last second.

The alarm rang. He turned it off and dozed on. Thinking he’d sleep for another 10 minutes.

An hour later, he opens his eyes, straining to check the time. Eyes wide and now fully awake, he scrambles out of bed and hurriedly gets dressed.

Out the door in 10 minutes or his first day at work won’t be. Breakfast skipped, he jumps into the car and guns it.

First intersection- a red light. Time is running out. It still being fairly early, no other cars are to be seen. Impetuously, he presses on, not noticing the school bus rounding the corner towards the intersection.

Crash. Slam. Grind. Blood pouring out of his head. The very last seconds of his life, ticked away. A world of pain, left behind.

Little green

Oh little green

What it took to make you stand up

Hours in toiling,

Getting dirty to the knees

Out in the blazing yellow.

Drink some water, little green.

Get greener, stronger.

Point yourself up

Up towards the sky

Where you shall reach soon.

In years after me

You shall stand, little green.

Stand up for me

Stand up for after me

Stand up for you, little green.

Regret

Thinking back to days past

Wishing to rewrite the tale

Hoping to relieve the pain

Trying to grab the reins

But in thinking

And wishing

And hoping

And trying

One forgets that pain is natural

That sorrow is black to the white

That regret is part of the tale.