Hate And Why We Love It

I was reading a rather disturbing feature on Time about the attack on Nido Taniam in Delhi. It struck me that this, and other instances of hate that happen all over the world every day, are not surprising. We can’t pretend to be shocked, awed and disturbed, and cringe away from these acts of violence. As human beings, we are programmed to inflict pain on others. And we love it.

hate and violence
British Riots. Image Courtesy: BBC

My theory is quite simple: we are hateful creatures, forced to live together on the same piece of land and a bunch of makeshift rules and laws thrown in to govern our behavior. We forced ourselves into this corner. No one did this to us.

On our own, we are quite the pacifists. Well, most of us. But why is it that when we are put in a crowd of people, we bare our teeth, beat out chests and turn on each other? I think the answer lies deep within ourselves – our inherent fears. I’ll explain what this means.

I’ve been doing this very interesting social experiment for a few years now without anyone realizing it, and it’s proven to be quite the eye-opener. Whenever I am alone with someone (say Bob), in any situation, the conversation progresses like any other conversation between two people – about random things or something in particular. The minute a third person (say Dave) joins the fray, I use a variation of the following line: “Dave, hey! What’s up? Have you met Bob? He’s my friend and he’s uh.. um…”

I pretend to forget what Bob does for a living or what he’s good at, or what he has achieved, in an attempt to trivialize him. Bob immediately takes the cue, subconsciously, and rattles off his résumé to Dave – where he studied, what he graduated in, where he has worked, what he is currently working on, etc. This does not always happen, mind you. But when it does and you observe Bob’s body language, and he is the very epitome of defensiveness. His body is closed, arms folded, shoulders drooped, as though he is bracing for an attack.

The same thing also happens when I’m alone with Bob and I feign indifference to his achievements in life.

It’s our fear of rejection (or the fear of being dismissed as unimportant) that puts us in this situation. We all do it. I do it too. I have found myself talking about my career choices and my achievements (or lack thereof) to people for no fathomable reason except my fear of ridicule and rejection. I don’t want the other guy to think I’m weak. Or stupid. I beef up my arms and shoulders, brace myself and start telling him through my body language that I’m a (relatively) smart guy and can defend myself if need be.

This behavior tells us a few very important things about ourselves – we are all in a constant state of alertness, always on the lookout for a threat. This threat can be in any shape of form – physical, mental, emotional, financial, etc. We believe that everyone around us are a threat to our way of life. This is perhaps why we don’t do certain things like wear sunglasses when we’re inside a building – we fear that people are going to point at us and laugh, thus making us feel small, insignificant and vulnerable. This leaves us open for attack from a larger predator.

When the concept is applied on a global scale – to societies and nations as a whole, we realize that the equation does not change one bit. A billion paranoid people are constantly wary of a billion other paranoid people. Fear multiples in crowds and takes a life of it’s own, which leads to bad decisions and ultimately, a lot of people die. This is used as fuel to further our paranoia  – because it’s all right when we kill someone because we are doing it out of self-defense. But we fail to realize that the other person is killing for the same exact reason. We think he’s a monster, with no thought control and emotion.

The fact that we need this mutual hate and fear to survive and lead our lives is the biggest illusion that we have performed on ourselves. The idea that we need to lash out at a fellow human being in order to survive is ultimately going to make us as extinct as the Dodo. But not before we realize that it makes us just as dumb.

The Man From Nowhere

“See the nowhere crowd cry the nowhere tears of honour 
Like twisted vines that grow 
Hide and swallow mansions whole…”

— James Hetfield, The Memory Remains

He came from nowhere and he didn’t know where he was headed. He seemed lost, confused, a paper boat caught in a hurricane, with turmoil eroding the last traces of sanity and reason in his head. He was escaping, hopefully to a better tomorrow, but he didn’t know for sure. He wanted a fresh start, desperately. He didn’t know how he was going to achieve it – his bad luck seemed to have followed him here as well. Everything he tried seemed to fail, and fail miserably. He caught himself searching for straws to clutch at.

He vowed to find a muse, an inspiration, a candle in the whirlwind of his bad luck. He wanted to find the elusive abundance of good luck that had deserted him for so long. He yearned for the peace and tranquility that had been hiding from him. It was not a search in vain.

He met her on a hot, sunny afternoon and they regarded each other cautiously, unsure of just how much attention the other person warranted. She seemed harmless enough, but he was expecting his seemingly unlimited quota of bad luck to step in again.

“Been a while,” he said. Cautiously. Two tigers, one paranoid and the other indifferent, circling each other.

“Yes. How have you been?” she asked.

“Good,” he replied and they went on to talk about other things mundane.

Time flew by and a pact was etched in stone between them, unwritten yet indelible. It took time, obviously. It did not happen overnight. He began to experience her presence more and more in his life until it almost became an addiction. Over time, he started craving for her company. She became the beacon of light in the darkness that had clouded him. She forced him to embrace good luck again, though he never knew how she managed to do that.

He still had no destination in mind, but he knew that his journey wouldn’t be lonely anymore; the journey that he had started from nowhere and had seemed to head nowhere; the journey that she had spectacularly derailed and made more bearable. He had a lot of things to be thankful for. And for a million things more.

He had found his muse. He had found his share of good fortune. The man from nowhere was finally home.

2011: Acknowledgements & Year In Review

2011 Year in ReviewIt’s been a long-drawn battle with time, and I finally won. A crappy year ends and a hopeful, new one begins. There were so many instances in 2011 when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, and each time I was proven wrong. I have laughed, cried, fought, patched up, been cheated, cheated myself, been lied to, lied myself and finally, searched for the eternal peace which has seemed just barely out of reach for so long. The past year has had occasions of absolute bliss and considerable misery for me, and I will very glad to end this year on a good note, with friends, lovely strangers and a lot of well-earned alcohol.

2011 began for me on a fairly good note, with a job offer at a promising firm. Just a couple of months down the line, I realized my mistake and it was too late to rectify it. The company turned out to be a nightmarish hell-hole managed by lesser mortals and run by an insect. After being sucked dry, my will to go forth and survive took over and I quit the garage (yeah, it was a communications firm being run out of a garage) and started managing my own firm, which had been neglected so far.

I did that for a few months and made some absolutely lovely friends in the process. Here’s a shout out to Satish and everyone at Design Esthetics. A couple of more months saw me take up scuba diving as a pseudo profession. But, as luck may have it, the dive center for whom I was doing the marketing, was run by another insect who turned out to be a bastard of the highest order who cheated all his employees out of their hard-earned money and respect. It’s only sweet justice that his business is ruined and he has nowhere left to run. Oh, I’m waiting to see the asshole’s face in the papers when he gets arrested for fraud.

Things got really interesting after that, and I reached a point where I had to dip into my savings for the first time in five years, just to survive. A year-long courting ritual with a well-known and respected multinational communications firm finally reached fruition and I made the decision to move to Mumbai, tentatively at first, to check out the playing field. It was a decision that I have not regretted and I’m pretty sure I won’t regret for a few more years.

On the personal front, things couldn’t get more strange than they did in 2011. I had a lot of illusions shattered this year when the woman I was in love with turned out to be nothing more than that – an illusion. I made a few bad decisions, I agree, but when two people love each other, they are capable of both pain and pleasure. I realized that money plays a vital role in deciding how long you can love someone. So, on a fateful day in November this year, I lost someone very close to me and made me wonder if she ever was capable of loving someone for who they are and not how much their wallets can carry.

Just when I thought I’d give up hope on 2011 being a good year, I rediscovered what it was to fall in love with someone totally unexpected. A fresh feeling of puppy love, evolving into lust and desire and at this point of time, to a steady state of mutual understanding, trust and faith, made me a believer again. Here’s a warm bear hug to the woman I’m in love with – the hottest mallu chick in the world. Yeah, I’m dating a mallu, and if anyone’s got a problem with that, you can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass when your number’s called.

If I were to send one message to 2011 and all it’s incidents and people, all it’s merry and misery, it would be this: Good riddance to bad rubbish.I can’t wait to enter the new year. I’m ever the optimist, cautiously pessimistic and according to my girlfriend, annoyingly pragmatic.

All the people who have made my 2011 bearable: Rohit Nayak, for his constant support and encouragement; Pavan Attavar, for making sure I never got drunk alone; Mum & Dad, for their support through financial famines; Satish, for his trust and belief in my limited abilities; Nargis Namazi, for making the transition to Mumbai that much more easy; Sagar Pandey, for his warmth, generosity, hospitality and for allowing me to use his PS3; Mark Monteiro, for ensuring that I didn’t kill the asshole dive center owner by replacing the air in his tank with rat poison; Mahesh Bajaj, my newest friend who took the leap of faith and is hopefully in a better state of mind after Gokarna; Renuka Balachandran and Niveditha Singh, who made my days in the godforsaken garage bearable; Nitin Kumar and Pooja Rao, for their steady supply of sex scandals, movies, television shows and porn; Gitanjali More, for making sure that I got my steady supply of interesting conversations; and finally, a very special mention of my new-found sister, Aishwarya, without whose support and love, I would not have been able to settle into Mumbai.

My love to you all and I hope 2012 will be a fantastic year for all of you.

Two Zero Eight Four :)

I stood on the edge of land.

“I’m back, baby,” I whispered.

“I missed you,” she said.

“I missed you too.”

She responded by gently swirling around my ankles, gurgling as she withdrew and made way for another of her waves to wash over me. I had a smile the whole weekend in Gokarna. I’ve written about what it means to me, so I won’t do it again. I missed the sea, her warmth, her cold, her whispers and her screams, her love, her fury and her caress.

I made two wonderful friends this time in Gokarna. Here’s a shout out to Mahesh and Chris. Hope life takes you both where you want to go, and I hope Gokarna has been as therapeutic to you as it has been to me.

I was born on August 20, 1984. Or, in other forms, 20-08-84. A contraction of the same – 2084 – has always been a special number to me, at least for the past few years when I discovered it. It’s a perfect contraction, and aesthetically speaking, it feels beautiful and complete.

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So, all my contemplation and thinking and chickening out ended on Saturday. I got my first tattoo, and I think it beats the shit out of any abstract designs!

When Ponies Ruled The World

It was a time of peace and tranquility. The world turned ever so gracefully with nothing to worry about and nothing to frown upon. The citizens of the planet led a peaceful life with no complications. Ponies and unicorns, roses and posies, rainbows and pots of gold were abundant in every corner of the globe. The sky was bright blue without a hint of gray. The houses were pink and gold and yellow and blue – the colors of peace, love and happiness.

There was not a single diseased thought in the world. There were no deaths, no tears, no sadness and no pain. There was no swearing, no abuses, nothing that would make someone cringe. There were no bad odors, no killers, no thieves, no rapists, no thugs, no criminals. Courts and justice were unheard of. Police forces, armies and mercenaries were non-existent. The countries and cities were happy places, peacefully co-existing with each other with no jealousy or fear.

Then I woke up, looked around me, rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and said to myself, “Oh fuck, I’m late for work.”

Going through the motions of a normal day with Stephen King’s legendary motto running in my head – SSDD (Same Shit, Different Day) – I realized with a jolt that something from that dream had seeped through into the real world. Something strange and unnatural had happened and something from that dream world of peace and tranquility had managed to worm its way into my world. I didn’t know how it happened, but I started seeing signs everywhere I went. I thought I saw a unicorn glide past my window – I did a double-take and checked again, but all I could see was normality. People arguing, shouting, smoking and drinking. No unicorns.

Sometime late last night, I thought I saw a rainbow and a pony waltzing under it. On closer look, it turned out to be an abnormally colorful advertizing hoarding. I actually thought some asshole smiled at me as I walked past him. For no apparent reason, he smiled at me. I stopped in my tracks, ran back to him and saw that it wasn’t a smile. His face was permanently contorted into a sinister grin.

I couldn’t help but think that these weren’t just coincidences and signs that something pure and pristine had escaped into this world through my dream. Something that was making my life miserable by just being. Something that was tainting me, something that was trying its best to make me aware of its existence. I couldn’t help but be a bit afraid. I tried to put these thoughts out of my head, but then I read this.

“Fuck-a-doodle-doo,” I said to myself. “I feel sorry for them.”

Hampi: The Great Escape

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. Part of the reason was my persistent writers’ block. The main reason was that I had nothing interesting to write about. Sad as that may seem, I was living in mortal fear of having nothing left to write about. Then, on a windy Friday night, it all changed.

A call was made on my behalf to a travel agent and bus tickets were booked in my name to Hampi. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I can’t postpone my trip any longer. A loaded gun was held to my head and I was made to pack my bag and marched all the way to the bus station. I was violently shoved into the bus and the door was pulled shut behind me. I was on my way to Hampi, the cultural capital of the country.

I have a tendency to exaggerate a bit at times, and though my departure to Hampi wasn’t as dramatic as I described, it was still a decision I had to take despite a lot of leftover work. Half my mind was on my impending vacation and the other half was working on publicity strategies for my clients. I tried hard and put that part of my brain to sleep and told myself that I’d take it as it comes. I convinced myself that I needed a break. I looked forward to three days of blissful peace.

It was 6 AM in the morning when I woke up, jolted by a particularly nasty pothole and was aware of a painfully full bladder. I looked out the window and was stunned by the landscape we were passing through. in the dawn’s early, hesitant light, I looked at a river flowing in all her might, past the greenest trees I’ve ever seen. The scene was killed mercilessly by a burst of black smoke that the bus belched as it wound its way up an incline. I walked over to the driver and asked him if he could stop for a bit so that I could relieve myself. I was told that we would reach the final stop in under 20 minutes and that I should hold it.

I stood there, squirming in discomfort for the next twenty-five minutes until at last, we stopped for the last time at a place called Hospet. I rushed out of the bus before anyone else, ran out on to the other side of the road and experienced the second most pleasurable thing a man can experience by himself. With a satisfied smile on my face, I took a deep lungful of the clean, crisp village air and hailed an auto-rickshaw to Hampi, twelve miles away. I didn’t know it then, but my journey had just begun.

Mowgli Resort & Guest House

Mowgli Resort
Mowgli Resort
View from my room
View from my room

Hampi is a strange place, geographically speaking. The Tungabhadra river cuts the village into two clean halves, which are linked either by small ferry boats across the water, or, when the water levels are dangerously high, by a thirty mile road trip all along the river and over the dam. I had the privilege of taking the road trip.

The thirty miles seemed to pass in a blink of an eye as the auto-rickshaw tuk-tuk’d its way through small towns, smaller villages and some absolutely fantastic scenery. I saw a few semi-hot village chicks and waved at them as we went by, and saw them give me strange stares in return. We arrived at the Mowgli Guest House & Resort at around 9.30 in the morning and I dismissed my auto. I was quite surprised to find that I was the only guest there. I was even more surprised to find that the kitchen at Mowgli had been closed for a week and they were only now opening it up for me. Tourist season, I was told by the proprietor, did not begin for another month. I was early. Lucky me.

The guest house is a quaint place set in the middle of green paddy fields all around it, with a great view of the river. A typical backpackers’ destination, this resort and other similar ones in the area , boasts of an international menu at entirely desi rates. Imagine having a mouth-watering margherita pizza for Rs. 100! But, as luck would have it, being the off-season, the pizza wasn’t available.

I spent most of the first day lounging around, reading a good book and listening to the soothing sounds all around me – the insects, the birds, the wind and the river.

Scooty Streaking

The Scooty Streak
The Scooty Streak

I hired a Scooty Streak on the second morning and rode all over the neighboring villages. I covered almost fifty miles in under four hours, absolutely mesmerized by the landscape and the ruins. One of the strangest things I discovered about Hampi is the atrocious angles at which boulders sit on top of each other. It almost defies physics. it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time. The open roads, the pleasant weather and the vastly amusing looks I elicited by the villagers all added up to a brilliant morning.

A three hour nap later, I went to a small, rustic restaurant that was quite ostentatiously called ‘Laughing Buddha’. With Bob Marley posters adorning the walls and ugly reggae music playing in the background, I sat by the river bank and had a very satisfying chicken sandwich and a much-needed cup of hot, sweet tea.

By the time I returned to my room late at night, I was highly satisfied and at peace. I was beginning to question myself about going back to Bangalore, back to my stressful life.

Hampi & Her Ruins

My Favorite Ruin
My Favorite Ruin

The last day was by far the most fascinating. I took a chance with the over-flowing river and paid a boatman a bit extra to take me across to the main city. After much hesitation and much negotiation, he got his boat out and ferried me across an angry river. I sat, clutching my life in my hands, as the boat rocked and threatened to topple over any second. Safely across, I met my trusty auto-rickshaw driver, and for the next seven hours, he took me on a comprehensive tour of all the sights of Hampi. The once-mighty Vijayanagar empire that now lies in ruins in and around Hampi is quite a sight to see.  For a glimpse of what I saw, check out the album.

I am constantly in search of peace, and more often than not, I mistake peace for momentary pleasure. Hampi is a place that has taught me quite a bit about peace and how to achieve that state of mind.

It is definitely a place I will keep coming back to.

Gokarna & Why I Go There

This one goes out to all those unfortunate, uninitiated and uninspired individuals. Get off your high horse and read this.

There may be a hundred reasons why a person goes to Gokarna. People looking to get laid, people looking to score and get high, people looking for a nice, secluded beach and people wanting to offer their prayers in India’s most sacred temple. I don’t know if there are any other reasons, and frankly, I don’t really care why people go there.

I go there for a totally different reason, and its none of the above.

I lead a difficult life. I need to balance my passion to work, my unceasing urge to travel and roam aimlessly across the country, my singularly fierce attraction to beaches and my bank account. Juggling these four volatile substances while playing air hockey with the family, the bosses, the peers, the juniors, the friends, the foes, the creditors, the goons, the loons, the whackadoodles, the geniuses, the crap, the stench and the slippery slopes of bankruptcy, unemployment and loneliness around every corner is taking its toll on my nerves.

There are very few things I’m passionate about, and those that I am passionate about, I am so with a vehemence unseen in anyone else, for anything else. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘do drugs’. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘sleep with women’. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘drink drinks’. I do not go to Gokarna to visit the temple and offer my prayers. I do not go to Gokarna for the sea food. I do no go to Gokarna for the rustic beauty of the village. I do not go to Gokarna to ogle at half-naked women lounging in the sun. I do not go to Gokarna because I love beaches and water. I do not go to Gokarna to swim in the ocean. I do not go to Gokarna to live. I do not go to Gokarna to die.

I go to Gokarna once every three months because I need to get away from the Greek tragedy that my life is fast unraveling to be; to clear my head of all thoughts – good and bad; to reboot myself. I go to Gokarna because its the only place on Earth that welcomes me without judging who I am or what I have done. I go to Gokarna because that is the only place on Earth where I am at peace. Completely.

I have a sea rock, which I call my own, ten feet out into the ocean, at Om Beach. Its a bit of a hike to get to the top of the rock, and once I get there, I sit, looking at the waves crashing into me on all sides, rising twenty feet high and spraying me with a mist of cold, salty water. I listen to the rush, the gurgle, the power and the wordless songs of the waves and as I stare out into the horizon, imagining a place beyond comprehension, where the sky kisses the ocean, I realize that I am peaceful, within and without.

Gokarna - kudle beachNothing of what is happening in life matters here. Time stands still for me, for the 48 hours I’m there. I put my feet up at a cafe, sipping sweet tea and reading a good book, or people watching on the burning, golden sands. I take a nice pleasant trek up to Kudle through thick brambles and open moors and I wade in the white sands until the sun starts to set. I walk back amidst the gathering darkness to Om Beach, walk all the way up to Half Moon and back again. As night descends around me, so does the peace, deeper inside me.

I need this. I can’t do without it. For the unfortunate, uninitiated and uninspired individuals, I recommend it. The only thing I get high on, when in Gokarna, is Gokarna itself.