12 December, 2017

How I ran the Bangalore Ultramarathon 2017

I'm writing this exactly a month after I ran the Bangalore Ultramarathon 2017.

Grossly under-prepared is certainly an understatement! The thrill of over-running - my foot! Remember I had a plan on how to complete the 50kms? It was a flawed plan, and I had prepared it way worse than I thought. So I won't tell you what it was! But I somehow managed to finish the 50kms, in 7:30 hrs. For someone who can now do a Half-marathon on tar roads in humid weather in about 2:15 hours on average, taking 3 hours for the first 25kms was disturbing, to say the least, especially in a bamboo forest trail on a pleasant early morning. And you can imagine the next 25! Maybe I bordered on a mix of over-confidence and lethargy. I had expected to be slow, but not this much. The finish was definitely Mother Nature's grace!

So, here is the series of silly events leading to an oh-so-stellar finish! (Sometimes I enjoy ridiculing myself just too much!)
  1. Traveling from Chennai to Bangalore on a 2nd class sitting coach in a day train, just on the evening before the run, and so reaching my guest house way later than I should have. Brilliant first step!
  2. Lack of sleep - This was the most pronounced part of my over-confidence. 4 hours sleep before a 50Kms run. What was I thinking??
  3. Not carrying a sweater - it's 4 AM on a November morning and I had to travel 40kms by van to get to the forest, and wait in the 'Start' area for about an hour. Come on, man!
And that's how eventful the start of the run was! But once it started, it was an altogether different game. On second thoughts, 3 hrs for the first 25 kms was not bad. I had not expected to set a target finish time for this run; just a decent finish. And beyond the 25 kms, it's a new world for me, for I had not run longer distances before that. So I decided to take the first 25 really slow, to keep my legs fit enough for the next 25. That way, maybe 3 hrs was not that bad.

The second half: The most surprising part to me in the second half was that how many runners ahead of me kept running without a break for some food. I stopped right at the food counter at the end of the first 25kms, gorged down 2 idlis and 1 vada, even before changing my socks. Took about 30 mins in all to recoup. But these people ahead of me were surprising, to be able to go on for 50kms with a glass of water or Enerzal, a slice or two of orange or banana! Oops! Must have been real runners! I'm in wrong company!

Lack of sleep was starting to show up, as soon as I hit the 35th km. A stinging headache gripped me, and I thought that was it. The worst thing that can happen to a runner halfway through a marathon is the slightest thought of giving up. The thought is a vice that instantly grips the mind and the heart. 'So, what's the point' is how it proliferates. Beyond a point, it's not the legs that run. It's the mind and the heart together. You tend to forget that legs exist. You don't know what to do to finish. The way I had figured it out when it came to a struggle - 'forget running. If I can't run a step more, I better walk. If I can't walk, I better crawl to the finish'. But now I was at the 40th km and I was done for! I had come to a point when I felt I can't even crawl. I wanted to give up. I so wanted to!

And then came the music! No vice can stand the power of music that melts a heart, that inspires, that re-energizes a draining soul, that does what not! It's not the body that then takes you forward. It's a Higher Calling. You don't need legs to run. You don't even need the mind and heart to do it together, for you don't know where they are either. It's a spirit that flies now, unbound from the tangles of every worldly thing there is, unbound from the flesh that couldn't contain it any longer. It's inexplicable, the power of music to drive a soul to reach for anything, big or small! I just kept going and somehow got to the finish line. 4 hrs from the 26th to the 50th km. It was finally over.

Post the finish, a woman came up to me and said with a thumbs-up: 'good one'. She must have been in her mid-thirties. 'I was running a little bit behind you for a long time, but saw you fly away suddenly from the 45th km!'. It was then that I realized the music had done its job!

28 October, 2017

The thrill of over-running

Last week I signed up for the Bangalore Ultra Marathon 2017 in the 50Kms category. It's exactly two weeks away. The 11th of Nov, 2017. This will be my first time in this event. 'I'm grossly under-prepared' is putting it very mildly. Actually, I haven't prepared at all. But the event has been on my mind for two years now and I couldn't wait to be prepared for it. I'll just be waiting forever then I guess! I know for sure it's going to be a gruelling thing. So I don't even bother to prepare for that, except in my mind. I'm still only training physically and mentally for TWCM. The simple reason being: TWCM is a target I want to take on. The Ultra is an experience I want to feel. For the most part of my running these three years, I haven't prepared for any experience. Experience is what happens when I'm not prepared for it. (My first two half-marathons are a testament to that). I only try to learn from it afterwards as much as I can. And that is exactly why I signed up for the Ultra, because I want to know what it will take to be prepared for it the next time. But I hope to be just able to finish it this first time. No timing targets. So, this time it's going to be a purely mental game, with little support from my body. I'm already telling my legs to brace for impact.

But, I have a simple plan on what might help me finish it this first time. I'll come back to write about it if it works. For now, it's only a decent sketch in my mind. If it works, it'll also mean I might have a workable training method for how to prepare for a Half-marathon vs Full-marathon vs Ultra-marathon that might help going forward.

By the way, did I tell you I have not run a Full-marathon till date?! Now that is certainly overdoing! But I can't wait for the thrill of running the Ultra, or over-running it!

22 October, 2017

Thoughts on motivation to keep running - continued

The last week has been pretty decent for training, a mix of both progress and pain. I did a training run of 14 kms in 01:35 hrs. Seems pretty ok, and on track for a sub 2hr target in TWCM, provided I don’t stop training the next 4 weeks. I hope not to. There’s just 5 weeks to the event. But a part of this somewhat tough training (by my standards: at least one 15km, one 10km, and one 5 km runs in a week, aside from the regular walking/cycling stuff) is taking its toll in pieces in my right knee. And worse, the last two days it’s been flowing down to the shinbone (the long front bone section between the knee and the ankle). I don’t think it’s an issue with my technique, for my left leg is as good as ever. So I guess it must be from the right knee-down.

Once I severely injured myself, twisting my right knee and tearing a ligament around it, during the Oxfam Trailwalker 2015 in Avallon, France, in June 2015. I need to write about this. It’s a post long due! Long story short: it’s a 100Km trek in the valleys and dense forests in under 30 hrs straight. (Btw, I cross the finish line at 06:20 mins in the link above! ;-)). I know 2+ years is way too long a time for anything to heal, so the problem now is definitely not because of that. But, tell you what? It’s some sort of a mental connection I have made up and that has stuck to me ever since that day: my right knee is not alright since Oxfam. In a way, I like to keep it that way, because it reminds me of two things: 1) what the tough conditions of a real run/trek mean and 2) the cardinal truth of long distance running/trekking/whatever you put your body through – pain is inevitable. So I’d rather stick to what I have now defined for myself and accepted as a small personal motivation factor – there’s something wrong with my right knee for a while, and I’m ok living with it. But that won’t stop me from running

So, the point: associating with an impactful (and preferably painful, for pain is what keeps it going) event is a good way to keep oneself focused on the training. 

Back to the training. What I also realized when the knee hurt too much this week is that I have long stopped training with weights. Stamina is not a problem now, but strength is. Maybe because my muscles are not strong enough for 30 kms in a week, so my body is letting my bones bear the brunt. And those are two entirely different things, stamina and strength, especially for a long distance runner. This may or may not be factually correct (who cares?), but it is definitely true for me. It was a simple thing that I had happily chosen to neglect in the past two months’ break. I need to pick up the weights again. And I’ve got to make my muscles learn that more pain is on the way.

14 October, 2017

Thoughts on motivation to keep running

A few personal thoughts on motivation to keep running:

Fitter, the sooner the better: I'm slowly but steadily getting back to running regularly, after a gap of almost 2 months. However, the three days I ran in the past week have made me realize I'm very much out of form, worse than I expected. I'm puffing and panting to do 10 kms. I stopped at 7 kms on one of those days. I need to get fitter, the sooner the better. I have the Chennai Marathon 2017 coming up in exactly 7 weeks from now. I ran the Dream Runners Half Marathon in July in 02:06 hrs. Right at the finish line, I put my mind to sub-2hrs in the next. I'm anxious about finishing it now. Certainly not good! Thankfully, it's still 7 weeks to go. So I went about thinking of ways to keep the mind charged for the same. Collecting good memories of the days well run is one. Where art thou, my good days of running?

Messages from the greats: Reading about what has helped some phenomenal long distance runners is another way to derive charge. And so, I went back to Haruki Murakami's 'What I talk about when I talk about running' again. I bought and read the book about a year and a half ago. It's a masterpiece with messages that carry hard truths about long distance running, with much simplicity and brevity. And there's one simple truth in long distance running that I loved from him that comes up in the Foreword itself. I quote him: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. And so, here's to more pain.

As an aside:

I'm no plagiarist: Usually, when I read, I underline my takeaways so that when I feel like re-reading the book, I can just read these messages and walk away with the feeling of having read the book again. For some reason, today I wanted to re-read the full book itself. Just when I was halfway through the first chapter, to my shock, I found a striking similarity in his message (which I had not underlined) and my approach to running a few tough days of my 100DaysofRunning. It must have been a subconscious recollection of the message (unlikely, for I would have underlined it!) or a pure coincidence (which is an exhilarating feeling since I then get to share one trait of long distance running with a great runner! How about that?!) Eitherway, it felt like it was so much in me those days, but I was sinking into his message for the first time. I quote Mr. Murakami:
"When I'm criticized unjustly (from my viewpoint, at least), or when someone I'm sure will understand me doesn't, I go running for a little longer than usual. By running longer it's like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent. It also makes me realize again how weak I am, how limited my abilities are. I become aware, physically, of these low points. And one of the results of running a little farther than usual is that I become that much stronger. If I'm angry, I direct that anger toward myself. If I have a frustrating experience, I use that to improve myself.  That's the way I've always lived. I quietly absorb the things I'm able to, releasing them later, and in as changed a form as possible, as part of the story line in a novel."
And I had said last week: "Some days, I ran longer, proportionate to the intensity of anger I felt, to the point that on a few occasions, sheer exhaustion would beat the anger".

[The one point where I'm now aware I have failed is 'That's the way I've always lived'. No, I have not. In fact, the days (sometimes weeks) I have not run to drive away the anger/discomfort have cost me badly, both personally and professionally. I should've known better. I need to work towards that]

Anyway, someone pointing out the true source/origin of an idea or a thought is the death bell for the plagiarist. He should know better to protect the source/origin than his efforts to polish and present the message. So, if I were really a plagiarist, I wouldn't dare quote this. But I have. Hence proved that I'm no plagiarist!

06 October, 2017

How I ran my 100DaysofRunning

The first thing I need to do to keep this place alive is to stop planning and committing to write. 'Will come back for more', or 'watch out' have not helped. Not to mention the latest - which is now a year ago! - coming back with more on my running journal. Not surprisingly I still have not done my first full marathon. I won't be doing it this year. And personally, that's a disappointment for having boasted quite a bit about my running. I procrastinated hard training till the thought of hard training faded away! So much for bragging that I'm a runner.

That said, 2017 has indeed been better than 2016. And 100DaysofRunning is definitely the main reason. It's no big feat by any measure, still, for once I would like to take pride in what I accomplished. For it revealed not how much I can take, but how I can take it, and keep testing my limits. How much is nothing. 5 kms a day, on average, for 100 days in the runners' world would probably not be that much different from 'hey, I've got a job in IT' 20 years after the industry has come about, and especially after it's past its heydays! (Occupational hazard, you see!). That's all there is to the how much really. But the how was definitely more interesting and revealing than I had anticipated. For, the moment I push towards how much, the mind competes with just about anybody I can think of. But when it comes to the how, it competes with just who I was till then. At least, that is how I want to take everything. I would like to live as if I have no competitors except myself, want to be better than the man I was yesterday. And running does help in its own way, help change my life, help change one small perception or motivate to do one small positive thing at a time.

So, here goes the mildly adventurous story of an amateur runner's 100DaysofRunning:

The first 10 days were easy because of the adrenaline of having gotten started and counting the initial excitement in days. The next 10 were again easy because I did the first ten without a break. At this point, I was also at the 100 kms mark. Then, as it is a common belief that anything you do continuously for roughly 20 days becomes a habit, the next few days, till the 50th day, were more or less routine. I mostly struck the run off as a daily chore. The days when I missed the mornings, I ran in the night. Some days, I missed the planned night runs also, thus scrambling at around 11.30 PM or so, to run  the min 2 kms/day mandate. From 20 to 50, the daily kms started trickling down, but a couple of professional half-marathons helped fill the gap in the average. Actually, I took the liberty of cutting down on the 5km/day just because of this. (And that definitely would figure in as a disappointment to a true runner to whom consistency is everything!). But you have to listen to your body. Some days it just cannot move, and it will not. Those were the days of just meeting the minimum mandate of 2 kms/day. And thus went the first 50 days. The 50th day was, as expected, a psychological barrier, for I was literally at the 'half done' point of a job well begun.

The days from 60-80 were the most challenging. By then, the routine was fully set, a habit was more or less in place, and the 'motivation thrust' had completely died down. So why would I run? To make matters worse, my body just wouldn't budge. Those were the days of intense pain. Some days, my legs would just keep trembling for hours at a stretch. I still ran. I just ran. In fact, I ran with the 80th day as the finish line in mind, for I knew the last 20 days would again be a period of intense anticipation and excitement to get to the finish. It's like the last couple of miles to the finish line in a half marathon, where one would forget the 18 kms already done, but run these 2 kms as if one were chased by a pack of ravenous wolves. At least, that's how I have run all my finishing miles in every half marathon till date.

Come 80. It's just amazing how the mind can rewire and the heart refresh when the finish line is in sight. It's like coming a full circle. The mind has its own way of teaching patience, not to hurry or be overambitious to do 10 kms every remaining day. Stick to the basics. It's not a race. By this time I had built more than the target average of 5km/day. All I had to do was just keep to the minimum of 2km/day and I would make it past 500. Thus, 80-100 was a breeze.  I wrapped up the 100 days with 511 kms. So, there!

On the 100th day, I felt a mild sense of satisfaction and pride on how I had come to finish it. More than that, I felt peaceful. And peace was what I was after, because these 100 days happened right after a crisis. In fact, I wanted these 100 days to help me stabilize my mind and heart, to help me beat the crisis. Anger and rage were getting the best of me, and I HAD to run to keep the anger away, to beat it to pulp. Some days, I ran longer, proportionate to the intensity of anger I felt, to the point that on a few occasions, sheer exhaustion would beat the anger. I ran. And thus passed the 100 days.

I heartily thanked Mother Nature, the God Almighty, for taking me through all this. For, many days it would have been impossible to move if I had not felt the invisible hand that woke me up from bed, that patted on my shoulders to simmer my anger and put the shoes on, that lifted me up in the middle of the road, that high-five'd when I finished running on some testing days, or stood at the finish line on two of the professional half-marathons during the course of the 100 days. It was all worth it. It was worth every one of the 100 days.

All of this points to the simplest of truths when it concerns both the body and the mind. No pain, no gain. I took a long break, for more than a month, and now I'm back on the road again. So, here's to more running! (Oops. I shouldn't say that, rite?)

04 September, 2016

My running journal

From the start of the year, I feel I have come quite a long way in my running journey than I had hoped to. Not letting that pride get to my head, here I go, with more on my running year-to-date.

Year-to-date, I have completed five half-marathons – all organized professional runs – and tens of 10Km and 5Km runs – a few professional ones, but most of them my morning runs. I feel good, but I also feel I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to long distance running. Till I picked up running as a serious ‘thing’ casually on one fine day in 2014, I did not know I had it in me. I can’t even call this ‘long-distance running’ yet, as I haven’t even done one full marathon till now. Maybe I might do one this year.

I have always been a restless, do-it-fast, sprinter of sorts – both in running/sports and in life. But somehow, that ‘one fine day’ changed it all. I don’t even remember now or didn’t even care then to note down which day that was, probably because I might have felt it would not amount to much when I would look back on that day from the lens of today. But I clearly remember the flurry of emotions, agonies and pains I endured in the initial days, even for a 30 min 5Km run. It has been two full years. What a journey it has been! 

Going forward, I plan to maintain my runner’s journal here, capturing each and every one of my runs. Now and then, I have felt like doing so, but kept pushing it off, thinking why do I need to capture it. How is my running going to matter at all? But the last five days of brutal pain I’m going through made me sit up today and want to capture my running journey in detail, so that whenever I feel down, I can relive some of my precious moments of running, and pick myself up from that again. Another noteworthy thing that has prompted me to plan to write about it going forward, is the book ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami, in which I’m thoroughly enjoying every bit of the author-runner’s journey. Who knows, years from now, some day, I might come back to enjoy my own journey! That is the feeling.

17 July, 2016

The stillness of an ever-changing life

Sometimes life is best not explained or understood. It helps just to agree that it is made of opposites most often. One of the opposites is the stillness life has even as it constantly changes. Such moments dawn on me unexpected, like a photographed instant from the past. Not long ago - is 7 years long? - I remember myself sitting at the same spot on the beach, in awe of the union of all the Elements, wondering at the meaning of life as I had imagined it then, and soothing music from The Shawshank Redemption to help the mood. And here I am doing the very same thing as if I'm looking at a photograph of it! And how I wish moments like this stopped life right there!

15 June, 2016

Voices

For all the voices we hear around us all the time, the trouble is not so much as to decide whether to speak for or against, but, often, to decide whether to really hear the voices or pretend not to and keep quiet, the latter choice preferable more often than not. Sometimes, shutting up is a lot better than speaking up! 

15 May, 2016

And I'll do it all over again!

My limited presence here is no indication that I've been busy, terribly or otherwise. I didn't write. I just didn't write. That's it. Maybe I waited for the 'right time' or maybe I waited indefinitely for the 'right thoughts'. And, man, am I glad at last to be here and write again! Funnily enough, none of the 'more running, more writing, more books, more music' happened for me to be away so long. (Yes, I did run a bit, but nowhere close to what I had planned or hoped for. Let me see if I can pick it up the rest of the year). I still haven't gotten out of my habit of 'losing the thoughts' before I arrest them here. Clearly a lack of concentration and shortened attention spans! But I will overcome those.

I am a human being. A normal human being, molded, toughened, shaped and formed by all the super forces that are above my potential to master - Love, Kindness, Mother Nature's benevolence and mercy, to name a few. But the ways to get to be a superhuman are not scarce. In fact, there are not 'many ways'. There is one, just one truth told in many ways. Often, it's so easy to get lost in the concept of the 'false-real' - that my life is the greatest show and I'm born to rule. In the 'grand scheme of things', I'm nothing. Just a speck in the universe, the vast vast universe that is made up of just too many specks like myself. But, this misconception is only because of the wrong notion that I'm distinct from the 'grand scheme'. This is where the wisdom of superhumans helps. The advaitins like Aadishankara or the stoic masters like Seneca. The omnipresent power and wisdom of those who have already 'been there, done that', and passed that wisdom too. By their grace and the force of my will, I'm able to reinforce the lessons from them myself when I face odds in any situation. I just need to hold on to them and not let them go.

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या 
जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः
"Brahman (all-pervasive absolute consciousness) is the truth, the world is unreal.          The individual soul is no different from Brahman" - Aadishankara 

Clearly, there are still many moments of 'rocking the boat', but my masters show the way. And, the lessons from self-awareness surely do help too. As much as I have felt proud of my volition to define my paths and stick to them, there are obviously 'powers that be' that keep testing my limits. Somehow I'm holding on and standing my ground. I will stand my ground. And I'll do it all over again!

Cheers.

31 January, 2016

2016 Professional Running - Run One

Today was a special day. One that brought me one more step closer to realizing my potential. I kicked off the first professional run for the year with The Wipro Chennai Marathon's Half marathon, one that is also my first half marathon. The end of the 21.1 Kms felt a lot less painful that I had anticipated. And that now looks like the beginning of an era of professional running I plan to compete in.

Here's to more running!




Cheers!

10 January, 2016

Happy 2016

Surprise! I hope I'm not back just too late for you to remember that this blog and I exist! Here's wishing everyone a very happy new year. May God bless you all with prosperity, happiness and peace.

I know I have missed the usual rhetoric of a New Year's eve post to say 'here's to a better year ahead'. But some things do happen for a reason. It takes a best friend to believe that you are good at something when you feel you are not. So.. Dei Senthil - here I go. Thanks for watching out and letting me know that I have missed the new year's eve post, that made me realize I have hardly written anything in a long time. As a token of our friendsh... well, I don't think there can ever be a token of it. It's just us, the inseparables. I dedicate all my posts of 2016 to you. Hope you enjoy some of them at least!

2015 was a year of enlightenment in many ways. For one, I had to leave home to find home back at home again! And that's only mildly putting it! But more positively, it was also a year of spiritual resurrection, one that made me feel the resurgence of a strong belief in the ways of Mother Nature. I had to change to realize that I cannot, and need not, change. Constancy was indeed an inspiration that turned the second half of 2015 for the better. Funny, indeed, are the ways of life!

Now, to work on my self-awareness is a big task I've set for myself for 2016. We'll have loads to talk about it. As for the other to-do's: more running, more writing, more books, more music. Let's see where the year takes us.

Once again, happy new year! May there be peace.

24 May, 2015

Self-awareness - first lessons

Of late, I realized that I have often been selfish, at times self-centered, and sometimes self-obsessed. Thinking of why and how this happens and why I feel the way I do, I'm not surprised to find that my expectations from myself on all these occasions are narrow and short-lived, and my ways and means of meeting/exceeding them are 'instant-gratifying'. Neither such expectations nor such ways and means are virtuous paths to peace. This knowledge is my most recent discovery from my self-appraisal. All self-appraisals are generally self-fulfilling prophecies - I was right - and one ends up feeling proud at the end of this mirage of achievement. But, pride is the first enemy to humility. That is about as enlightened as I feel now! And pride does come before the fall! I'm not proud now. I only need to think and be thankful for how good a life it has been for me. I now know what humility I owe the Gods/ Mother Nature/ Invisible Hand or whatever you want to call it, having fallen now and getting up. (We will come to this later)

But the problem here isn't with humility or pride, though I wish it were that simple. Then it's a simple matter of do's and don't's. Do be humble, don't be proud. Isn't it? It is not even about fortune or luck - fortunate that one is in a position to feel proud, or lucky that one hasn't been pushed to the limits of humiliation and made to learn humility from it. The broader problem is about the whining mortals caught between these two extremes. Broadly, I come across only two kinds of people -- the self-gratifying, narcissistic, pleasure-seeking, fun-loving and ultimately wasteful life-a-holics who think their life is the greatest show on the planet; and the patient, all-bearing, self-sacrificing, thankful-to-God-ly, silent gazers into a wise life beyond the apparent survival. In short, the 'proud instant-gratifiers' and the 'saints'. The ratio could be something like a million to one. (Are there still any saints around?) So, let's simply say that there is just one type for now, the former. I hope to find, some day, the people of the other type.

I do not want to see the world made up of only these two types. There would be a few more types, and I could find them if I want to, but I cannot take those paths right now. (again, we will come to this later). I do not identify myself with either of the above two categories. But I find I often straddle dangerously close to the boundaries of both, sometimes at such high frequencies that I feel I'm literally rocking the boat from side to side in a dangerous tide in the sea of people on either extremes. It could topple any minute, but regardless of which side it falls on, it is only going to go under. It is a period of intense excitement, thrill and anxiety, all simultaneously, and in that order. Excited that I'm on a rocking boat in a turbulent sea, thrilled that it could topple any minute, and anxious of what would happen if it did topple and where would I end up.

And then...the moment dawns on me. I stop rocking the boat, and the sea calms too. It is a moment of realization that I need to rise above these mere mortals not only because I can foresee the vanity of their short-lived, self-centered, instant-gratifying, material lives, but also because it is easier to set myself apart from them based on my ideals, than fit in with them based on theirs. I'm learning to be self-aware!

12 April, 2015

Inspiration - Part 2

It is against my own wish to start a thought on a negative note, especially and specifically one with such a title. But this note should serve as a caution to ward off the biggest irony I'm currently facing about myself. I read Part 1 and wondered, to my shock and dismay, where that 'I' is now! It is close to a matter of shame to think that I can get lost of myself (not 'in' myself) in such a short time. I had changed, for the worse. But there is a consolation (unique to me) that it has been four years since that note (wow!), because four years to you can well be forty years to me, and that I have stayed on to look back four years and wonder at that now makes me feel both happy and sad. And it does not also fail to kindle something in me again. The last sentence in Part 1 - If i feel like writing a Part II to this, I sure will update - is the motive and the reason I'm here. To surprise myself. This post can be outright nonsensical or profoundly silly, for it is a contradiction to a widely held dictum that change is always a necessity and an inspiration, but this is a train of thought I felt should come out now.

Constancy as an inspiration: I have been dormant for too long, much to my dismay again, letting my uncontrollable flow of thoughts still uncontrolled, letting my attention sway too much into the trivialities, letting my guard off the 'higher sense' of life and be lured sometimes into the material and the transitory. My brother posited a truth simply - the more things change, the more they remain the same. It is inevitable to undergo change every moment, and yet we find ourselves mostly unmoved in the larger scheme of things. Once in a while, change throws me off balance and I feel it is reasonable to lose my footing for a while. But the wind does slow down, and I have to pull myself up. In that sense, I think I was wrong about my wind of change letting me shed some of my old unwanted self back home and start afresh a few things. The change has only made the permanence even more obvious. (Bro, you are a genius). I am what I was, and I will be what I am. If I'm to let myself get engulfed by my own misconception that I'm supposed to change, I lose myself. I'm not going to let that happen.

I recently stumbled upon one of JK's quotes - it is no measure of health to be be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Somehow, the way I am now suddenly worried me if that is the health I was unconsciously heading into. Can I really shed some of my old self 'back home' in light of the new society? I do not think so. I do not need to change. My inspirations are still constant, non-material, and unlimited by space or time. I'm only held stable because of this realization, and because Mother Nature never stops calling out to me.

And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep

Here's to more of the best of times ahead.

Rajaji

01 February, 2015

2015 - the first wind of change

When I turned 30, I spoke of a probable wind of change that I hoped would become real. Come 2015, I'm glad to say 'Yes, it did!'. The psychologically important 30 has indeed started off on a good note. The Netherlands has opened its doors for me, and Amsterdam is letting me live here. While I may not say this is the most significant moment for me in a long time, it is indeed one that I was wishing for quite a lot, so that I can shed some of my old unwanted self back home and start afresh a few things here. It's a new place with a new meaning, and chances of more exploration and adventure. I'm looking forward to it and hope to make good meaning out of all the possibilities that are open.

While some of my friends tend to think I have found my calling, I'll not be so sure and so quick to call it that. It may or may not turn out to be 'the calling' in some time. But, yes, it is definitely one worth calling a strong wind of change. Yes, it is definitely a big and long stop in my journey of life.

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Rajaji

02 November, 2014

Here I come, 30!

There are many cliches on age, but two stand out - 'Age - it's just a number' and 'We're always the same age inside'. Funny we get to take these (and all other cliche's) either so casually or so seriously that, on either side, there are deeper thoughts we miss to see in such apparent cliches! Since these cannot be generalized and one has to look for them oneself, I'm not stretching the point any more on what they ought to be. But here are mine. I'm no stranger to cliches myself. I have both given and taken tonnes of those. And this time too I can't help giving myself quite a strong dose of some cliches. Let's stick with a few on life that tie back to age.

Life has been good. Life has been gracious. Mother Nature has been patient and forgiving and merciful. As time has gone by, I now see another probable wind of change in the horizon for me. As much as I'd like myself to be grounded firmly on a few driving principles of my good and gracious life - stoicism, gratitude, contentment to name a few - there always come moments that tempt me to bend a bit here and there, and wish for things to be such and such, and want things to happen. Ah, if only controlling desires were that easy. And now how I wish the probable wind to turn real! And so, as I keep wishing and not-wishing, I wonder what I have done with that good and gracious life that has happened to me, if not something that I shaped here and there, least of all something that is 'chiseled by my own hands'! (ah, here's another cliche!). Well, I'm not a self-made man!

There's not a better 'circumstantially appropriate' time to look back on one's life than one's birthday. With my 30th a couple of days away, I'm doing the 'looking back' and wondering what have I done to call my life my life? What have I worked out on all the 29 years of existence (maybe the last two or three consciously living and not existing**, after crossing the chasm of identity crisis. Finally, I think I'm getting to existentialism!) to call something an achievement by my own standards? 

Education? Yes. 
Job? Yes. 
Meaningful work? 'Meaningful in what sense' is something that is still on the works! Let's stick with maybe
Societal belonging (outside of family & best friends)? Questionable, bordering on a No. Damn the society!
Love? Hell Yes, both loving and being loved, (although I guess I'm poor at the former compared to the latter!) 
Friendship? Yes, some exemplary. 
Philosophy? Maybe. Getting there!
Passion? Well.. maybe one or two. A few years ago, this would've been a resounding Yes. Now I'm wondering what my passion is! Sometimes I think I know (the probable wind of change may be one, should it turn real. Let's see), and at other times I wonder what they are. So, let's stick with maybe. 

There it is. A smorgasbord of  Yes-No-Maybe that captures my 29 years in 10 lines! Funny that some vital ones are Maybe's bordering on No's. Danger signs!

30 is a psychologically important time for me (don't ask why). I have a meaningful wish this time to firm up some of the above, starting now. I need more 'Yes'es. Here I come, 30!

** - Ok I promise I won't bring the existing vs. living conundrum again. This is the last time. Henceforth I swear to use existing interchangeably with living, so as to clear the air around my existential angst on surviving vs. living. Deal!)

07 August, 2014

On the continuum of 'Pathos'

Of all the feelings capable of being aroused in me, those of pathos form the perfect continuum. Pathos is a quality/experience that arouses mainly four different types of feelings. The continuum that I have identified looks something like this.


The three interesting discoveries, if I may call them that, in this continuum are:
  1. The intensity of the movement of the feeling from its strongest to weakest state is directly proportional to the number of people it is aimed at. I empathize with my brother or a friend, and I carry with me the strength/burden of one feeling in two hearts. I sympathize with a set of people, say, destitute of basic physical & safety needs or devoid of social needs, and there I understand the heavy air of despair of that particular lot. I'm antipathetic to a social structure  that is dogmatic, trembling with chaos and on the brink of self-destruction. There I enjoy the company of very few men who think right but are largely antagonistic to that wretched society. (Simply put, we are the outlaws of an outlandishly outrageous system). And finally, I'm apathetic to a materialistic, insensible, incorrigible and unjust social system. And there I revel in my solitude while shunning everything & everyone else 
  2. Empathy is one of the greatest virtues, of which most men are incapable. But the ones who are capable of gifting this to another soul will never stop feeling (and finding) themselves gifted.
  3. Apathy is a weapon of immeasurable destructive power. The one who has used it will never be able to take it back and will find himself alone, with nothing but a curse of loneliness all around the destruction he causes. (if you read pt 1 now, you'll think 'revel' is probably not the right word to use there. But some of us do revel in solitude and not be cursed by loneliness, when we know how to use apathy in a just manner and not be left alone. We are like the water drops on a lotus leaf. We are one with the system and yet untouched, and we do cleanse the system now and then by just being there!We know how to be part of that social system and still make the right choices where we can!).

Rajaji

01 July, 2014

The philanthropist

I could put up with the uber-rich that does not donate a bit, and I do not know what to say about the destitute who shares his meager begged-out meal with another destitute. But I can never put up with the philanthropist who donates to the poor with an intent of getting a tax break out of it! And somehow, there is a solid system in place which actively promotes this!

24 April, 2014

Imagining beyond being - The Foundation

As a good friend of mine read part two, she wrote back anxiously, I guess, to know if something strange/profound had happened. Quite surprised, I read the whole of it and found I had been a bit angry with people, quite irritated/disappointed with society, and overambitious about myself. In effect, I had felt emotions I should not have, about most people who don't matter anymore, at least as much as they used to. I re-read the post slowly and deliberately, so that I would see through the vehemence of it, and never write like that again, emotions glaring!

But that was not the only finding. I found I also violated some of the underlying principles of the philosophy I'm an adherent of now. It also struck home the point of examining the source of my thought processes of 'beyond from being', the ways of controlling passions and emotions; understanding the meaning within the apparent meaninglessness of life; and many more aspects, that would ultimately deliver wisdom from, and to, that way of life. Maybe this post could serve as a primer of the outcomes of that initial examination, which is still an ongoing journey.

About seven years ago, for the first time, I faced the reality of 'what is the meaning of life?' The years thence led me through the search for a philosophy, that would serve as the basis for a meaningful life, and one that would serve ultimately as the meaning itself. After a worthwhile pursuit of a few pearls of wisdom from the philosophers of my birth-religion (some of which reflected in my earliest writings but do not appear here now), and then of my brief encounters with a few philosophical dimensions from the West, I finally rested myself on the most sensible of them all - stoicism. (Considering where I found the source of this pearl of wisdom, it would befit to agree with what is said proverbially: that we find inspirations for life in the most unusual of circumstances and trivialities!)

Everything about the premise of stoicism - the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to overmastering emotions and life's setbacks* - struck a chord in me. I hardly ever knew what hardships were, if you mean hardship as it is generally meant. I have been made steady by the sacrifices of many a human, starting with my mother, whose victorious struggles with unfair lives yielded me a fair one! (To me, they are the first beyonds!). But there are always hardships, of various kinds, for all of us. Some setbacks (as I saw them) early in life and the resulting emotional turf wars for extended lengths of time did make things difficult - the eternal struggles of the beings. But this essence - that there is wisdom possible for a self-possessed** person - sowed the first seeds of contemplation and critical introversion, with a curiosity to understand the roots of being human, precisely because I had long been under overmastering emotions and I always saw setbacks of different kinds. Once the seeds grew to be trees over the years and I began discovering the fruits of that wisdom, there has been no stopping. And then, an even higher sense of wisdom: the consummation of the individual with nature and a life in harmony with oneself and nature, no matter what fate sends in one's way, all the while living contentedly with what are just necessities and not be left wanting for anything.

Again, initially they did prove to be difficult, the sensibility and reasons of austerity and idealism in this. They still do so, at times. But no answers are impossible when the questions are reasonable. The questions of the nature of self, the oneness of that self with Nature, being human, beyond human etc. And thus goes on the process of critical introspection that has led me to where I am now. In light of all that fate or fortune has brought me, the stability of the reasoning arising from this introspection of the self-possessed does yield wisdom. There is no greater sense of contentment than realizing that oneself is steady in the path he chose for himself, in accordance with nature, and is prepared to be unfazed by what fate or fortune sends one's way.

This has been the best part of the journey so far, one that brings happiness and contentment from the understanding and realization that the subordination of pleasures, passions and emotions to the supremacy of the mind and the soul delivers wisdom, rooted in reason, for a harmonious life. And that is still just the beginning. I have a long way to go yet! I err, I stumble, I fall. But I pick myself up, and move on.

And so it was that the previous part about expendability turned out to be a shaky bit in the journey; a rocking boat caught in a storm. There may be bigger, more powerful storms coming. I brace myself! I know I have the courage to carry on to the beyond, and the strength to bear to stop being the being, even if it means expending some of the beings. As I know, it may end up as a solitary journey, but the path is clear, and I thank the stoic ideals which serve as the light at the horizon.

* - Preface of 'Seneca: Letters from a Stoic', Penguin Classics, 2004
** - Did you immediately sense selfish here, ignoramus?! Selfish is wanting for oneself, whereas self-possessed is holding oneself ground in reasons of the self; kind of a prerequisite for introspection, if I may say so.

20 April, 2014

Imagining beyond being - Expendability

As I wrote the introduction, I did not realize that I was writing just that - an introduction. Hence the title update now. Little did I anticipate that I would come to follow it up with quite a heavy dose of life lessons. But the difference between that introduction and this follow-up is the difference between two worlds - one of imagination and the other of reality. The situation here is the choice between the reality shaped by the thoughts of consequences of the imaginations if they were to turn real, and the reality that happens by itself. After all, it is one thing for an imagination to become real, and quite another for reality to happen by itself, unaided by any sort of imagination.  How many of us have had the true pleasure of saying 'I imagined I would live this way'?!

The following is the result of yet another battle of mind and heart, and the overarching and unyielding determination to go beyond rather than just stay being the being, no matter which one wins. It is in all ways defined by the motivation to break from being the being and become the beyond. And if I have to come to realize anything since that first thought, it is this: It is not impossible to go beyond the being, only just too difficult, at times, to hold on. But the point is to hold on. And the conclusive lesson is this: If a fellow being who knows he/she can be beyond, too, along with you, but still refuses to break free from the being for reasons whatsoever - society, insecurity, fear - it is not your fault. That is the reality that happens to them. If your reality is shaped by your imaginations, you cannot reconcile that with the reality that just happened to them. The logical thing to do is to let go and just move on your path to beyond. People leave. Simple. To rise above mere mortals, it is inevitable to break free from them! And that is how it often becomes a solitary journey. Here's to mutual expendability; you to them and they to you! I may probably leave you with the feeling that I sound like an anti-social, but I'm not. As I said in the introduction, I'm only just better off without the society. I don't raise slogans nor do I hold banners of protest against this damned society. There is nothing sacred in fighting something in the middle of which you yourself are. Instead, I think it is wise to be invisible to that very something, and make your way through it unnoticed and finally break free. (Paradoxically, I'm very obvious with this statement, am I not?!)

Most often, it is the society which keeps the being prisoner, and clips its feathers of hope to fly away to the beyond. And my latest experience is fully borne from this fact. Many people who should have mattered to me for life (and sincerely did at some point!) - some friends, other social gangs, and most of all, the women any of whom could have been my woman - all proved me wrong that I could take them too to beyond; and all of them preferred being the being. At best, I have tried to give them the elixir of imagination-driven reality, but they just wouldn't drink it! They have sided with the reality that happened to them, or worse, that they brought down on themselves. The infinite vicious darkness called society is just not the ground where I can take these beings head on and convince them of the possibilities of the beyond, and ask them to join me in overcoming the distasteful, dispirited, unambitious society. Looking back from the eyes of their society, they have all played their cards wisely. One more frog to the damned lot in the well! Good for them, and good for me!

For the pitiable souls (myself one, at some point in the past), it is awful to see how easily the society belittles something as significant as the motivation that once made them near-impossible to be held back in bondage. One of the reasons must be the fear instilled in them of becoming meaningless when death stared right at them and asked them what they made of their lives. I think many beings are slaves to the society because they are slaves to time and death, and the resulting fear of an imminent failure to state the meaning of life, should either time or death cut their journey short and make them answer to the society's question of 'the purpose of life'. The beings have a cause for the future, while the beyonds have it in their present. In this confusion, the beings do not understand that the beyonds seek a meaning starting now, as they live, which could only prove right in the long run. Even if death were to stare at them for an answer to the purpose, the beyonds have made right by the very ambition to start creating that purpose. As much as I have seen, the beyonds live, whereas the beings are always preparing to live!

That said, when I knew at every stage I was taking one step closer to the beyond, my beings could not understand. Looking back, I thank them all sincerely. For, as I said, the beyond is not the opposite of being, but the absence of it. Now I realize that the absence of that common lot brings meaning to my solitary journey. Still, I have not given up the ambition, or the over-ambition so to speak, that someday I will take, at least, one being to the beyond with me. To win that heart, I have an unrelenting spirit, an elevated spirit, of envisioning a beyond, far far away from the being. And when we start on the journey to create wonders, we will propose one toast to the expendables!

To the best of times!

12 April, 2014

Imagining beyond being - Introduction

We are no strangers to imaginations. Imaginations are like the breaths we take. They are there every moment in whatever form they come in. A life without imagination is like a flower without a color or fragrance. They are a part of us. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they do not. Sometimes we wish for them to go away, or to stay for just a while, and sometimes to stay forever - sort of a second life. The roots of imagination never leave us, but the branches reach worlds apart, and the flowers they bear are intoxicating. No matter how reasonable or wishful - depending on whether they are driven by thoughts and reason, or by pure emotion and feeling - our imaginations seldom stay or go away to our whims and fancies. They are just there around all the time and we constantly fight for them to stay or leave. On attempts to avoid all this, there is no dearth of definite ways to control the mind, and thus the imaginations; all the methods of self-control. But how far do we go to achieve the levels of control we like to exhibit, with people and things alike?

I must say I'm a bit overambitious to aspire for the highest levels of self-control, my personal definition of which is becoming increasingly complex. Paradoxically enough, the possibilities of deeper meanings and eternal consequences extend or contract the definition, based on the stakeholders and the circumstances; just like an archer who knows he is responsible for where his arrow lands. I wonder if I'll ever define self-control completely. All that is driving me now towards whatever I wish to define it as, is a ray of illumination on a cleaner path, away from the dirt and darkness around, (which I will call the society, for want of a better comparable. Don't get me wrong, I do not hate the society, I'm just better off away from it). I know neither the source of the light nor how long the path is, but that light is a better guide, and that path a better alternative to an infinite vicious darkness. And, now and then, I'm tested to my limits to sway from this path. I hold steady sometimes, and I break down at others - reminders of the human nature, only with a strong sense of awareness that I both succeed and fail, and that this cycle will never end. Just being human.

The true purpose of this complex self-control, as I see it, is the constant endeavor to be beyond human; one that is a bittersweet journey; and one that is a constant tug of war to break away from the social-collective being and become the solitary-individual beyond. The irony of this endeavor is that, when I feel I have won over the commonplace desires and passions of the crowd, and stood steady as the individual I am, the resulting exaltation and pride break the very meaning of my having exercised my mind to break away from the being and become the beyond. I try my best not to be exalting or self-gratifying, but I also allow myself the latitude to feel these emotions, and let them ride the wave. In short, a proud beyond becomes just another being, defeating the whole point of it all. The beyond should not be the opposite of being, but the absence of it. The other side of the irony is that if I end up letting myself down, staying just the being that I am, the resulting pain of having failed in the exercise to be beyond takes me out like a boat caught in a storm. And so it has been for years and years, on one occasion after another. After all these years of this tug of war, this is what I have learned about self-control.

All said and done, come what may, the journey to becoming the beyond will go on forever. The ironies of this stormy journey, filled with its surprises and shocks, may rock the boat so much so that it can capsize into the vast sea any minute and take me down with it. But the awareness of the endeavor will keep my hands steady, my feet firm, and my eyes straight. Every storm ultimately subsides. And there I see the light at the horizon!

11 March, 2014

The reality of imagination

One moment of reality makes good or breaks down many moments of imagination; for imagination most often has no grounds, whereas reality is rooted in reason, at least in hindsight if not upfront.

26 February, 2014

February and anniversary

One year this month into the new job. But really just another mundane year in the context of my imagined (imaginary?) big picture. And there goes February in vanity and ephemerality! 

Where art thou, my dear adventures?!

04 February, 2014

The thought of a thief?

I wonder what goes on in the mind/heart of a thief that makes him think he could do with stealing just one pair of slippers when he could have very well stolen the two other pairs, besides the stolen one, too. Strange!

01 February, 2014

Crowds

Irrational crowds annoy me. I would put up with any other kind. But the question is (to quote the legendary Col. Jessep) : is there another kind?

31 January, 2014

The anagrammatic me!


  1. apolar (adj) - having neither poles nor processes; without polarity
  2. jag (n) - a sharp projection; a barb.
There you go: the apolar jag!