Spilling Hearts

Sometimes, we are lost. We are walking in a wilderness, peopled by grasses taller than us. Their rough edges slice our skin as we navigate through. There is a sting where the skin breaks and a thin strip of blood oozes out, eager to explore the world beyond our blood vessels.

That sting travels all the way to our brain, then spreads out evenly into our whole body. Or does it?

Somewhere a nerve has torn, and the world feels foreign, devoid of the usual sensations.

There are a lot of voices. A lot of voices. Every voice speaking in a language that serves its own needs. Howling for your attention, screaming that they “own” the truth. What is the truth? It is, like my friend said, what you choose to believe. But when all the voices shout in a theme which feels relatable, which version do you accept?

And so, a hotchpotch of ideas hurl themselves against the walls of the brains. Blood, hormones, chemical reactions working their way for you to make sense of the world. Only, it does not make sense anymore.

An eyelid twitches. You worry if it’s an early onset of some nervous breakdown. It has never happened to you before. But you know that you have been forgetting the smallest things for a while now. The things which do not need any thinking, the things which are reflex. So, it does not impact your professional life just yet. But it is lurking in the corner, biding its time, waiting to claim your entire existence. A world when you won’t remember what is what. A world which has stopped making sense to you.

Yet, even in your sanest right now, how much of this world does make sense?

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On departures and social constructs

Waking up at a different hour than your usual can sometimes be cathartic.

Since the Covid situation started, I have been working out of my home. I no longer have a job which requires me to wake up at 7 AM in the morning to take calls with the onsite. No longer do I even need to wake up at 8 AM, so I can finish breakfast and leave for office on time.

My morning routine these days consists of waking up at an hour which the young me would have been shocked at and wouldn’t have been allowed anyways in my parents’ house. Yet, the whole world is reeling under a pandemic and wake-up hours may be the least of concern to anyone involved.

However, this morning, couple of my flatmates left the flat as they are going back home. To see them off, I woke up at 6.30 AM. They left about 7 AM. Just having woken up at an hour which you probably have not seen for the better part of a year, you have no idea what to do.

I spoke to my mother for an hour, grateful that some people still wake up at decent human hours and are available for a chat. We talked about people leaving and the emptiness left behind – the suitcases that no longer crowd the hall. The utensils which have magically disappeared, the shoe racks which just hold some blank shoe boxes and dirt from the shoes that no longer belong.

Having spent five years in this city, I would say I have grown to not being affected by departure. I have learnt to shut the lid on memories and reopen them when they are convenient or simply gushing into the mind-screen. The weekends past spent on pizza parties are just that – past. I know now that these weekends are not to come back, but what will indeed come by are new people and new memories which come with them.

This pandemic has taught me the importance of being around people in life. In some ways, I am saint-like in my life. I could go hours without talking to anyone, thinking to myself, reading something or just generally doing things which do not matter in the grand scheme of life. Yet, in the handful of parties that have been held in the house in the last month or so and a game of monopoly which I have gotten great at over the period, I realize the importance of the social construct.

I did not grow up learning to respect friendship. It worked back in the day, because we lived in houses filled with nosy relatives or pesky neighbors, people who made your business their business. But here, in the high-rises of Bangalore, no one really cares. If you ever exchange any words, that’s perhaps because you haven’t been responsible with your trash or you cost your neighbors their sweet sleep with your loud music. We are generally good tenants, which means, we don’t often get called out for the two behaviors mentioned above. Which means, we live in a three-bedroom flat, my flatmates and I, and we are pretty much on our own, on our own routine.

And within that, when people come and just fill up your lives, in the form of a maid or a random co-worker of a flatmate who you’ll never see again, somehow it feels good. The world is a beautiful place, but it is made all the more beautiful by the sheer variety of people living in it. In some ways, even the pesky neighbors feel like a fixture of the past era now. There is an odd pain in everything being perfect, without a bother. I do love my solitude, but we will continue to be social creatures until perhaps the end of this civilization, in spite of our machines ripping us off our human interactions. In between, perhaps these pandemics will serve us with a reminder of who we ought to be and what we really need to thrive in the world that we have made up to be so complex.

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New Garden!

Growing up, we lived in a house where the water seeped through the walls every monsoon. As the water crept through the layers of cement and plaster, it left sorry marks behind, like careless trails of paint down an artist’s brush.

My parents were simple folks who worked hard for a living and raising a family, and then slept peacefully at night. They had little time for hobbies, whether for themselves or their children.

The sum of these two paragraphs is the fact that we never really had a garden growing up. We lived on the first floor and had a terrace, but due to the leakage we could not have potted plants there. There was a slice of land downstairs where our entrance gate was, which had a hibiscus plant belonging to our next-door neighbour. We never planted anything there. In fact, the only plant that grew happily in our house was the tulsi, which is a medicinal herb revered in the Hindu religion, hence finds a spot of worship in every Bengali house. Sometime, perhaps when I was in college or my early years of work life, someone told my mother that money plant was lucky for families and would bring in money. So, it was duly added to our scant “garden”.

Anyways, in November last year, we started renovating the house. We chiselled away the leaky layers of plasters and re-did the cementing. The house got a thorough coat of greenish-grey paint. We decided to have a small garden near our entrance area, where the hibiscus plant is. Our neighbours do not stay in the house next door anymore, so that area is no longer in use (my mother dutifully picks up the hibiscus flowers for her daily prayers though).

This week, while I was home, we finally ended up hiring some help to dig the soil, irrigate it and layer it with a dash of organic fertiliser. I went to a nearby nursery and bought a few plants: a red rose, an orange gerbera, a snake plant and a rubber plant. I also had a quick visit to one of our neighbour’s house, who is a veteran gardener. She had a whole array of plants, perhaps over thirty in variety. I scanned those and decided on two to add to our collection (since I left for college and thereafter work-life, I hardly spend too much time at home. So, I do not have express permission from my parents to leave a whole lot of plants behind me that they have to take care of): chilly saplings and a succulent from her garden. The next morning, our neighbour brought those in.

I had the happiest time setting up the plants in their new homes and watering them for couple of days. One of the chilly saplings grew limp in the same afternoon that I planted it, and I was able to recover it with some watering. The rubber plant was also curling up with the strong sun, so I put a shade of newspaper to support it for a few days.

Here are some snaps from our mini garden:

As I write this, sitting thousands of feet above the ground on my flight back to Bangalore, my only regret is I didn’t get a lot of time to spend with the plants. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could stay one more week and wake up each morning to water the plants?

On the bright side, the next time I am home, I’d be back to a lovely garden ecosystem, with bigger, stronger plants. Some of the plants may disappear, but I am quite sure most of them would survive. Wouldn’t that be lovely too?

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Happy November

Dear Time-Traveler,

One nagging feeling as you grow older is how time moves so fast. All through primary and secondary school, time felt like that old seed you sowed which just never sprouted. Year after year you were solving those algebra and trigonometry and geometry problems. But when you are grown up, life feels like a hyper-lapse film, each event happening way so fast that now you’re here, and then you’re somewhere else.

And in all this mess, there are days when you feel like time has stopped. You watch the calm November sunlight filtering through the netted window, casting soft shadows on the tiled floor. You watch the blue sky that’s not washed out with the harshness of sunlight.

Today’s one such day, so I wanted to capture a few moments of this day and store it forever in this blog-post. There’s this immense desire sometimes to just put out a strong surge of happiness through the digital world, where pulses of electricity can convey the fleeting joy that I’m feeling to all of you.

I slept late last night, but woke up on time. Went for a morning walk, had a simple breakfast of toast with bananas. I painted a bit, after quite a long time. I made paintings of flowers and plants and pots, something which has been on my mind since last Sunday when I brought home a few houseplants. I also potted a few coriander seeds, with the hope that in 20 days or so, I can stop purchasing coriander and pluck it from my own mini-garden.

Anyways, there’s only so much one can say. Sharing these pictures with you, so you can visualize my joy. Hope you are having a great November as well!

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Until we meet again!

Love,

Arpita

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Help Needed |How to Adult?

Hello WordPress family,

Hope you all are doing well! I’m writing this post to get some quick tips from you all. Let me explain:

As I’m getting into the later half of my twenties and generally learning to figure out how to handle life like a boss, whether be at the personal or professional front, I have been wondering what changes I could possibly make in my day-to-day life to live a more meaningful life.

Hence, this post is an open-invitation to all of you to chip in your two cents on the little things that help you live life more happily and comfortably. It could be something as dry as reading about the stocks to improve personal finance or maybe taking half an hour in the day to call a friend with whom you have lost touch or watching a TV show which can actually help improve negotiation skills.

Any takers?

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City Animals and Bangalore Traffic

Have you observed how the animal kingdom adapts to our city life?

I remember reading a story about City Mouse, Country Mouse when I was very young. To the best of the memory, that story was about how the country mouse, initially in awe of city life, finally comes to realize that his country life is much better than the cut-throat pace of the city, where you can be run over by a vehicle before you know it.

Sometimes, when I am on my way home from office (fortunately, a walk-able distance in the crazy Bangalore traffic), I feel trapped like a country mouse. There are days when I wait for minutes before I find a narrow scope to cross the super-busy ITPL Main Road. The incoming traffic never stops, you just have to wait for the right gap between scores of vehicles of all forms and shapes and run for your life when the opportunity opens up. Just like you have to wait as you search for jobs, or when you want to buy that newly-launched mobile phone available exclusively on Flipkart or Amazon. Imagine my frustration when I hear from my friends settled in America how the traffic stops should a pedestrian be spotted on the pavement. In India, pedestrians belong to the least important category in human race, almost at par with the city animals.

Anyways, coming back to the topic, last couple of days, incidentally, I ended up crossing the road with a fellow four-legged pedestrian. I watched closely as the dog kept a watch on the incoming traffic, and at the first signal of thinning traffic, he sped up. And guess what, I ended up following the dog’s lead as I crossed the road!

It’s curious how the structures of human existence impact the animal kingdom. As the city dogs and cats become more adept at crossing roads, perhaps new nerve connections form in their brains, enabling them to get better at surviving this. Which makes me think, should there be a re-enactment of City Mouse, Country Mouse story in real life, would the story still stay intact? What do you guys think? Comment and let me know! 🙂

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The Duchess by Danielle Steel | Book Review

The Duchess by Danielle Steele is the first book that I have read of the author. It was recommended to me by a colleague. She said if I enjoyed any feminist work, I’d like this book.

The truth is, I am ambivalent towards feminism. But once in a while it makes sense to read books referred by others, if only to expose yourself to different types of writing. And I haven’t been reading a lot lately.

The Duchess is a coming-of-age tale of a teenaged girl. Set in an era in England where women did not inherit their parents’ money or properties, even if they were duchesses, this is a story of Angelique, who gets thrown out of her house when her step-brother Tristan steps in as the new duke, after the death of her father. It is the story of how she gets forced into a life of service, and eventually, due to the cruel turn of events, ends up running a high-end brothel in Paris. She does find the love of her life and her happy ending, but none of them come easy.

What I liked best about this book is how Danielle keeps the story real. At no point does it feel that Angelique has it easy. Her life is hard. She has no family, and no one to take care of. She finds herself in difficult situations but she tries to make the best of what life deals at her. She does not give in, and she never pities herself. She accepts her fate and tries to deal with it in a manner which she finds befitting herself. The writing is easy to read and relatable, and it becomes easier for the reader to sink into the story.

The only thing that I don’t like about this story is how it keeps repeating itself – especially in the first hundred odd pages where the author keeps reiterating Angelique’s pain in losing her father and her brother’s cruelty. It becomes unbearable after a point. Also, for a book which is about a woman, it is surprising how it paints many of the other women characters in a shallow manner, and never tries to give a voice to women who choose to love their parties and their frivolities over caring for their children. Even with a protagonist who ends up running a brothel and fighting to give a better life to the prostitutes, this book in many places just end up reiterating what’s traditionally acceptable for a woman, and shows little tolerance for women who don’t care to have a blazing mission in life.

Be it as it may, it’s been a while since I read a work of fiction and this one made me want to get back to my reading. Maybe, we’ll see more book reviews on the blog in future.

Until later!

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Adulting

Being an adult is not an easy task. Of course, when you are a kid, you don’t even think about it. You think about what you want and the fact that you want to achieve them. But the older you grow, you learn that getting what you want to get comes with its price tag. You have to make compromises, you have to make decisions. Decisions which are always not black and white. It’s a constant dilemma of weighing pros and cons of every decision. If nothing, you end up feeling like a weighing machine! 😛

When you are an adult, you realize sleep is the best thing that can happen to you. Sleep is magical. When you sleep, the biological fairy waves her magic wand and wounds heal and tissues repair. And you wake up brand new, fresh, ready to take on any challenge that the adult world throws at you.

When you are an adult, you learn to look at the impact of your decisions in the light of how it impacts others. It’s not easy to do, because even though it means you are more sensitive to the needs of others, sometimes it also means choking the throat of your own desires. When you are an adult, there is no time to think about your deepest desires, because the world may not consider them proper.

But having said that, in an adult world, you live in waves of possibilities. You could be an influencer. You can find the best of both worlds. You can be a great weighing machine. When you are an adult, you have a choice. You have a choice of weighing the pros and cons, and you have the capacity to identify the pros and cons. When you are an adult, you are not at the beck and call of anyone.

The world is your canvas, and as an adult, you can paint anything you want in it.

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In the quest of developing style…

In the quest of developing style, we often look back in history. We often look at what the masters have done.

The last few weeks have been creatively fulfilling for me. Before this, I was making videos, I was writing blog posts. I was living life, experiencing all sorts of emotions. And then suddenly, there was this shift. This Holi (Mar 2019), in Mu Sigma they held this event where we were given paints and papers to have fun and paint something. While I was in the cafeteria that day, toying with acrylic colors, I realized how much I loved colors. How much I liked manipulating colors into forms and shapes. And thus was unleashed a new course of creativity.

I started making paintings. My experience with the camera had taught me that I needed to observe the world lot more than I was doing. That underscored the need to paint. When you paint, you need to pay closer attention to the game of light and shadows; to how colors blend into each other; to the lines, shapes and forms of the natural world.

As I am working to make my paintings better, I am focusing on researching about the art movements of the past. I have been watching videos on Impressionism, Van Gogh, Matisse. Today, I watched a documentary on Picasso. Frankly speaking, I had known Picasso only for his jarring modern art, and until I watched this video, I used to think of the art he created as grotesque, and gibberish which a child could do. My general understanding of modern art, until the last few weeks, was that people who could not paint realistic painting just sought resort in modern art. I did not understand modern art. In fact, a lot us don’t understand modern art.

My notions have been changing as I have been learning more about the art movements. But I think it became clearer as I learnt about Picasso today. He was perfectly capable of drawing realistic traditional art as early as 16 years of age. When you look from his perspective, of flattening things out, bringing multiple perspectives in 2D plane, you realize that it must not have been easy to do that. It’s not about painting a deformed nose that a child could also paint. It is about painting the nose that way while being aware why it fits the genre, the style of the painting. It was deliberate, and it was ground-breaking. Finding a genre is not easy. Inspiring generations of artists is not easy.

And hence, in my journey of finding style, I am getting to meet the masters who found their style through hard work, meticulous deliberation and extreme experimentation. Maybe, I’ll find my voice too. But before that happens, I gotta put in those hours.

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The Dichotomy of Creators | An Essay

You know there comes this phase in life for all creative people where they are trying to discover their styles? That point you don’t know where your ground lies, what is it that you are trying to express and what is the right medium to express yourself?

When a plant is born from a seed, does it know what it is meant to grow for?

I’m kind of going through that phase. We are alive in a century when anything and everything seems possible. There are so many ways today to express yourself. You could write, you could paint. You could take pictures, you could tattoo your body black. You could cook and make your dishes look beautiful. You could make movies, produce songs, produce music. You could just talk, become a speaker. You could write poems, you could perform your poetry. You can act, you can dance. You can be a digital artist, you can make animation, you can make cartoon or magic worlds. The possibilities are endless.

When the seed pushes against the soil, the soft, gradual push of the tissues, does it know that it’d come to see a world of sunlight, a world of the pleasant monsoon breeze?

As far as I can remember, I have expressed myself creatively through my writing. I have a special bond with the pen/pencil/keyboard. That’s something that I have perfected over the years. When back in 2011, I was on writing.com, I came across so many different styles of poetry, so many different styles of prose. “Baby shoes. For Sale. Never Worn.” And even to this day, writing remains my primary form of thinking (unless of course, when I am walking and thinking to myself, or talking to someone and thinking out loud). But over the years, I have come to realize that sometimes I want to express myself through something more than writing. Something more visual, something more auditory (auricular). So, I bought a camera and I clicked photos and made videos. I added sounds to the videos and I found my peace. For a while.

How does the first wisp of breeze feel on a newly born leaf?

But then, I realize that making videos has something very closely to do with the world around us. That world is peopled by peoples, by rules, by regulations, by fashion, by money, by trade, by technology. By history, by politics, by biology, by physics. By relationships. By reference systems. It is a complex world. It is a multi-dimensional world. I am thankful I have the five senses to grasp this world. But at any given point in time, can I truly grasp it in all the dimensions that it exists in? As-is? Simply grasp the world as it exists?

The baby plant continues to grow – by some prehistoric rule-set that dictates its growth, encoded in its DNA. It does not have the ability to think, to shape how it grows. It merely responds to the stimuli the world provides it. The direction of the sun, the kind of the soil.

Existing as a human in this world is complex, if not difficult. We are fighting to maintain status quo. We are fighting to destroy status quo. We are hungry to find a new world. We want to travel back in time and explore the era of corsets and kings and monarchs. We want to be free in choosing who we love. We want to be fit and not give in to the sedentary modern lifestyle. But if you are a creative person, sometimes, the world feels even more complex. Because you are not just trying to live it. You are trying to understand it.

And so… the plant can become a tree, without bothering to understand the world around it. It could be a dumb, blind witness to generations of life forms, and still be in a healthy state. 

And so, I envy the seed. I envy the plant. I envy the tree. I envy every simple life form that can exist without having the obligation to understand. To be understood. Yet, when I am feeling lucid and I can write what I exactly feel in the depths of my tissues (without knowing if it’s the heart, or the brain or the chemical reactions in the nervous system that allows me to do it), I feel grateful that I am a higher form of life. I am human. And that’s something to be grateful for.

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