My story …

Story telling….a 4 decade journey

Story telling for me began more than 40 years ago….I was a small boy, growing up in Khartoum, who had created an imaginary city – “Sint” – that was submerged in water and long lost. Sounds like Atlantis ? Maybe, but I was 5 yrs old and had never heard the story of Atlantis. This was not the typical young boy’s imagination….it was a story I carried for many many months….describing in great detail the city and life in it. The descriptions were vivid, surreal…..so real that friends of my parents felt I was reliving a past life. Friends, family and drs were consulted….I seemed fine in every other way, ….. fortunately my parents ignored the speculation of others and continued to encourage my imagination. Perhaps it is that wild and vivid imagination that now forms the foundation of my stories of dinosaurs, dragons and tigers who can play cricket and hit sixes !

For many years after the ‘death’ of Sint, story telling was forgotten….it only reared its head again when I was in an expressive mood in office, and had a receptive audience, read, young impressionable minds ! As Mihir grew up, and his imagination rekindled the child in me, I took to story telling again….for children, these were funny, wild, whacky, crazy stories but which sound so silly when I listen to them myself, …  and for friends, i wrote prose, words of pain and anguish, wrote about my emotions, about what i saw around me ….

Story telling has given me a chance to live outside of my workplace, to feel young, and free again. To those who have been subjected to this story telling, to those who have inspired me to tell these stories, and to those who encourage me with their words of praise, I dedicate my words on this Childen’s day.

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On Marriage …

Marriages are made in heaven ? What the hell !

Talking to a friend over the weekend, consoling her as she spoke about her relationship with her hubby, I wondered what had gone wrong.

Hers was a filmy love marriage, a long courtship, colleagues who fell in love ( and there was no #meToo moment here), married against their parents wishes, it’s been over 20 years now … All the reasons for strong bonds, cherished moments together, ….

Circa 2018… an equally filmy scene…..a couple who cant see eye to eye, squabbling over non issues, attributing motive to each other for every act of forgetfulness, for every word that may not have been perfect.

20 years is a long time, but what happened?  Was this marriage never meant to be ? Did the couple change in ways over time that made them less compatible ? Did age mature them, harden them but also make them less flexible, less accommodating? In their search for perfection in their lives, had they become too focused on the negatives of life ?

I don’t really know. I am still a little shy of 20 years so maybe my marriage is not old enough ! Or maybe we have learnt to fight over the small things but resolve the big issues, eg. Who gets the TV remote first at night ! 😁 Or maybe we have learnt that every storm is followed by calm and hence seek the peace. Or maybe we are so different that the small commonalities become strong bonds.

I guess there is no rhyme or reason for what happens in life sometimes. Hindu mythology would like us to believe that everything is predetermined. Yet it urges to pray to God, to seek divine intervention, to abstain, to renounce, to give….as if the predetermined can be re-determined!

Or like so many other things in life, relationships go through their ups and downs.

But,

We can learn to focus on the positives,
Focus on the future, not always the dark side of the current,
Reflect on what we can change and not on what we can’t
Look inside, and find fault within, not outside

20 years of marriage…. is it too late for us to

Be real,
Be human,
Be imperfect,
Be forgiving,
Be angry,
Just Be.

Marriages made in heaven break in hell, because we keep seeking what doesnt exist. Marriages made on earth, survive on earth ! What the hell !!

This random banter, this cacophony of words, this ridiculous attempt to convey meaning, is like a marriage. Difficult to understand. Difficult to keep up with. Difficult to fathom. But hidden in it, are some deep meanings, some deep feelings, some real experiences. Find these, and find peace. What the hell !!

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Did I Cry ?

A friend asked me this question earlier today…..and as I responded to her, a series of human emotions engulfed me. As humans, one of our key differentiators from many animals is our ability to emote….and with my stoic face, often expressionless, barely a smile or frown coming through, do I come across as being less emotional ? Am i actually heartless, as some people who have worked with me, have accused me of being ?

I still vividly remember, standing by my dad’s funeral pyre 18 years ago, I asked my boss about a meeting that was scheduled with the client the next day.  All he said was,  “we will talk later”. Did I not have any emotions at that time ? I didn’t cry when my dad died, not because i had this filmi theory of celebrating his life ; but simply because an escape mechanism in my head was stopping me from thinking about what had happened. It was my escapist route to emote.

Between 2006 and 2010, I built a business from scratch to 350 crs, created a team of 3000 people. On my farewell, a 1000 people in Bangkok give me a standing ovation and had to be persuaded to sit down. Was a good setting to let a tear flow from the eye. But no, i stood on stage, power point on screen and gave a thundering presentation on what leadership truly means. Was i not emotional ? Was there a quiver in my voice? Of course there was, but the strong CEO could not show it. My act was my escape.

What do I keep escaping from ? There seemed to be, deep inside, a hidden insecurity. A feeling that crying would make me weak. A need to project strength and confidence, ….. Surprisingly, unlike many men, it was never a case of “frailty thy name is woman”.

Over the years, with conscious effort, I have tried to bring out the softer side of me. I am more willing to be weak in public. I am more willing to cry in front of others. I am more willing to put down my emotions in words.

I cry. And I cry. I do it when the world sleeps. Because then I am alone, and only I can hear myself crying !

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To friendships …

Its been in the making for many months. We have known for the past 3 months atleast that it is only a question of a few weeks before the die is cast sealing our move back to Mumbai. It is not entirely a surprise. We came to Hyderabad 5 years ago to make this city our home, but always knew that we would go back. But now when it is happening, there is a strange sadness, an emptiness, a void. Its as if i am going to leave a part of myself behind. If delhi was the land of my birth, the land of mom’s birth, hyderabad will be mom’s land where she lived her last years, a full and happy life. But the emptiness does not come from this feeling. The emptiness comes from knowing that we shall leave a part of ourselves behind. In life, we meet many new people, make new friends, but rarely does one forge bonds that are as thick as the ones we formed with 3 other families here. Some of our best memories are in the wine glasses and late night chai shared with these friends.

After another lovely evening with the pals, i felt bad. Not because we were going. I have a philosophical, maybe even stoic way of looking at these things. Que sera sera. I felt bad because I dont think anyone was prepared for what we shared. We tried to lighten the atmosphere by shrouding it in a game, but that did not take away from the full import of what we told them. Like us, they rationalised it. Like us, they felt an emptiness. Like us, they felt mixed emotions. There was sadness, but some congratulations going around.

With time, we will all settle back into our routine. We will be caught up in our own lives. We will feel let down sometimes, feel angry sometimes, but also happy for the happiness of the other. It is like death. We know it has to come. Yet we are afraid. Yet we mourn. Yet we cry.

But maybe we don’t cry for the dead. We cry for the life that has been lived. We cry for the friendships that were forged.

We just simply cry….but life must go on.

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My half smile … :)

My half smile is like a half saree. It’s not a smile, and its not a grin. It tells you something, but it hides a lot.

I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s my way of laughing, without letting out a sound. The old stiff upper lip ; remnants of the English. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the comic timing to get a word in during a conversation and hence listening is a better option. Maybe it’s a facade for my thoughts which have wandered away somewhere else. Maybe my half smile is a way of not saying anything. It’s my way of keeping quiet. But to an astute observer, or for some close friends, the small upward curve of the lips can tell a thousand words.

The half smile is not meant to seduce, just like the full body swim suit does not. It tells its own story, many a time with a swagger, or sometimes just silently. The half smile keeps me engrossed in the casual banter, and yet aloof from the humdrum of it all.

Or maybe the half smile is like the burkha gone wrong. It is meant to hide but creates temptation instead.

My half smile ……

Its mystical, its enigmatic, its irritating…. buts its me.

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A writer’s block

A few months ago, I began to write, after a break of many years. I was prolific. Would pen my thoughts, easily, coherently and quickly. Words flowed like honey on my Note. My writing was intense, it was coming from deep inside me. Personal at times, reflective on some days, ‘preachy’ on occasions….. but always me. There was no pretense, no mask, no cover. I wrote about friends, I wrote about relations, about inspirations or just observations on human society. Sometimes my writing gave a sense of unease inside me, of a pain, of an ache. Friends reached out to me to ask if all was well.

And then it all stopped. There was a deafening silence in my mind. The words would just not come out. It was as if something inside me had become empty. The confusion in my mind, the restlessness, the pain, was gone. And with it, the words.

I do not know what the pain was. What caused the restlessness? What inspired the words ? I don’t know whether I am happier without the pain and confusion? Or with the fire inside me that brought out beautiful words on paper ?

I continue to seek answers to these questions, like so many more. The day I find them all, maybe my writer’s block will disappear and I may write my greatest piece. Or I might discover that I was never a writer at all, this was just a dream. I don’t know. Till then, All is well. All is well.

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Greed

Greed….

Greed, in my opinion, is one of humankind’s most basic drivers of behaviour. It reflects itself in many ways, at all ages, some in a good sort of way, and some not so good.

My 6 year old’s crying for more iPad time, or a few more candies is the most innocent expression of greed. As we get older, it takes on larger manifestations, and our childhood learning of maternal manipulation is leveraged. The desire to run that extra mile on Sunday morning, to work harder to get the highest increment, are positive expressions of greed. However, greed combined with the scarcity mindset is when the shades become more grey. Now, for me to get a chocolate, the other child should not get one. For me to get an A, my coworker has to get a B. This is when behaviour begins to change, to become more manipulative, behaviour is as much to grab more as it is to prevent the other from grabbing the same. Perhaps that’s why many companies have stopped relative ratings in appraisals. Infact, some have even done away with appraisals.

That Greed can have negative consequences, we all know. But when does Greed overtake one’s morals, one’s values ? Corporate corruption at the highest level has been written about extensively in the past few weeks. These have not been instances of greed driven by necessity. Not even greed due to scarcity. These are cases of greed, driven, simply by greed.

When Greed lacks a counter balancing force, it becomes dangerous. But, what is this counter balancing force ? Our Value system? Religion and God ? Fear ?

Fear of what. Fear of censure ? Fear of punishment ? Generally, fear of consequences ? Does this mean that Fear is a more powerful driver of human behaviour than Greed ?

The other side of the Greed coin seems to be Fear. But, we don’t know how to make the coin stand on its edge. Till then, some will continue to live a life of Greed, with no fear. The Haves. The rest will live in Fear, suppressing their Greed. The Have Nots.

Who will win this battle of life ? For now, the Haves are winning over the Have Nots. But, maybe, just maybe, the future will be different.

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