A few weeks ago in celebration of the warmer weather and the festival of spring, me and some family went up to a lake in Wisconsin. This is a fairly popular lake and one that is frequented by thousands on a weekly basis. There are many businesses strewn along the harbor, Hotels for tourists to stay at, restaurants for the hungry and there is even a beach, that too with real sand! Like all travellers who visit lakes in summer, we too decided to shell out some money and ride a boat. It was a clear sky and the blazing sunlight bounced brilliantly off the waves and made it seem like we were sailing over an ocean of diamonds. The shores of this lake were populated with homes of the wealthy and the weary. Those who could afford the luxury of living comfortably and found relaxation in the sounds of the waves splashing against their backyard and those that were tired of the chaos of the developed land and wanted peace and serenity.
On the boat with me were a few of my relatives. One particular member had a bad case of the “nerves”. Every time a minor wave would even rock the boat slightly, this relative would burst out in tears and start panicking. To the others in the boat, this was quite an amusing sight. We were all having fun, so why would someone else be so upset. This got me thinking. Why was this person crying anyway? Were they afraid that they were going to drown? Or was it just the sensation of rocking over a not too deep body of water? Or was it just because they were experiencing a feeling that was a departure from the “norm”? I think it was the latter.
Like the countless drones around, we settle into a comfortable routine. We find solace in waking up in the same bed as every day, putting our feet on the same spot everyday, driving to work on the same path that we do all the time, ordering food that we have tried (and liked) before and generally speaking do things that contain “no surprises”. But what does that accomplish? When we look back at a lifetime lived in such a way, we would probably not find any moment worth remembering. Surprises are not always fun. Some are rude and unwelcome and for a lot of people, their arrival is fiercely lamented. I hear that everyday…at work, outside of work, at home…everywhere. But there is something that cannot be denied. The moments that surprise us are the moments that we end up remembering the most.
The few moments between our life and our death contain many such memories. I want to seek them out. Travel to a land never visited before. Talk to a stranger. Do something outside of my element, you know…live a little. That would be a lifetime worth remembering. Nestled somewhere in between the noise of the everyday, it would be the few surprises that I call my second life, The life hidden between everyday moments. These are moments which are lost unless we search them out. Moments that would never exist unless we make a consious effort to live them. Moments that become worth remembering due to the fact that they are unique and not commonplace. And yes, we returned from the sail safely that day with a new memory locked safely into the annals of our minds.
The tireless weekday warriors will attest to the fact that the weekend is truly a treasured event. This event becomes even more treasured if its spent with people that you meet after a long time. People, relatives, acquaintances, places, objects, sights, sounds all physical and non physical entities that define who we are. Its funny when you think about it. Our existence is always reflective of some other factor. We are successful compared to someone else. We think of ourselves as failures based on the what the world defines success. Similarly every emotion: loneliness, happiness, richness and poverty are all subjective.
This past weekend was spent in the company of some relatives at McHenry Park. Its a little park juxtaposed to the Dam in the state of Illinois. It was an overcast spring day. The sky threatened to rain on our parade, but ultimately didn’t. What resulted was the perfect balance. Temperature in the 70s, and a soft wind soaked in the fragrance of rain. I see the sights around me, rocks, the setting sun, and children playing with a soccer ball. There is something about sports that brings out the best and the worst in us. We become warriors, fighters and almost animals in our relentless drive to win. But as much as it seems like a battle, sports function more as a unifier of sorts. People seem to be enjoying themselves here.
I watch the scene from a distance, like a faceless stranger watching events on a broken television. I stand behind an invisible wall, the boundaries of which are undefined but very existent. I stay at a distance, not because I do not wish to partake in the ceremonies, but more because watching the scene is more enjoyable than making the scene. I just stand and click pictures and unlike the players, who will probably not remember this day, I will definitely stash away these threads of memories into the warm corners of my mind. The severed corpse of a tree next to the virulent bodies of its family, the spring grass, the fallen leaves of winter, the ripples of the stagnant water and brilliant hues of the setting sun, I watch these images and the involuntary flickers of a smile gestate on the corner of my lips and I continue gazing at the magnificent colors of life.
I came across a couple of pictures that I had taken ages ago. These are pictures from my trip to San Fransisco in 2008. In essence these four pictures define that trip for me. Many hours were spent drinking a lazy cappuccino in cafes in the financial district. There were the odd touristic indulgences (A trip to Alcatraz) and some unnecessary shopping (Chinatown). Overall, the perfect vacation!
I love travelling, and not having done that in a while makes me yearn to be in a new city, wandering down unfamiliar streets, discovering a place, unknown to me, but familiar to the nameless crowd that passes me by.
Technically, this was posted about a couple of weeks into April, but hey, spring was slightly delayed, so why cant I be? A friend gave me this really interesting desktop accessory. I like it. Its got a cool anime chic thing going on. The best part is that I get a new girl every month. Maybe this will help me focus on work!
The world is moving, the clocks are turning, the weather is changing and all we can do is marvel.
My days are packed with work and I do not get enough time to look at the beauty presented all around, but as I was driving back after yet another beautiful day, I paused involuntarily at a traffic light and glanced at the diaspora around.
The grass is changing color, the flock of birds have returned, Yet another tree reminds me of dancing ballerinas, and the bluish grey sky sobs heavy and wet tears…Spring is here.
And as I sip into a relaxing mug of warm organic white tea, time and life in general starts moving in flash forward. Like pictures on the wallpaper of life, zooming by regardless of whether we see them or we don’t. The winds are indeed changing.
We are visual creatures. Inaminate beings brought to life by the sights of the world.
Animate beings who then form memories based on the inprints left on our minds.
These imprints are visual and textural, based on what we see, and what we feel, Colors, patterns and textures. These define how we see the world.
Colors dance out and take other worldly forms. Trees seem to dance like ballerinas. The discarded feather of a peacock strikes us in visual splendor and we realize that visual sights are everywhere. All we have to do is see.
Redundancy is a defining factor of our personality. We all thrive in the familiarity of the familiar. We build routines, we stick to them. We build routines, to stick to routines. We are creatures of routine, from the moment we were born, we learn by replicating all that we see.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you would know that I try to present a metaphor for every picture that I take. Being a frequent traveller, my nights are spent somberly gazing at the roof of some nondescript motel in the Midwestern region of the US. I gaze at the roof, which doesn’t really catch my fancy.
My attention is then arrested by the lamps. Now, I know that you are probably thinking…not another set of lamp pictures… well, that’s exactly what you are going to get. These are different from the ones that I have posted before, similar in the angles that the picture was shot, but different in the mood and the light that it projects, which goes to show, that in the cloaking blandness of mass market motel consumerism, there shines a tiny “light” of uniqueness.
We are forever travellers. Each moment of each day is spent journeying from one end of life to the other. This journey could be joyous, or could be arduous, it could be enlightening or it could be soul crushing.
One thing is certain, that through all the highs and lows, there are scattered memories strewn along the never ending path of life. These are the sights and sounds that we see.
A meal at a restaurant with loved ones, the sun setting over a puddle of water, a tree on a nameless path in the middle of the highway, or a vacant building in the middle of the night, each image stays with me, like pictures on the stereoscopes from a forgotten childhood. Pictures that represent a memory, an event, a though, which now lies frozen in the infinite scroll of the internet.
Strength, a formless existent entity, the shape of it unknown, the size of it undefined and the physical capabilities of it, relative. It is something that exists in invisibility, but when it chooses to expose itself, the veracity of it, undeniable. Our capability for displaying strength under adverse situations continues to astound me perpetually. But sometimes events and situations that we are involved in get so aggravated that our capacity for sustaining them shatters. We barricade ourselves continuously but after a point, this guard shatters and we drown in the impending storm. Consumed by the waves that bind us, our existence becomes a meek version of its past.
I visited my Grandmother yesterday night, the sixteenth day of an ordeal that does not seem to end. I entered the hospital, now a familiar terrain in its polished and brightly lit hallways. I walked lethargically and without haste, listening to the sound of my own footsteps. The footsteps seem almost symphonic, like musical beats, played by a maestro who has not his gift of melody but has lost his desire to play. The footsteps feel devoid of a desire to exist in the habitat that they were being created in. I may not have spent much time here, may not have done my duty in imparting comfort to the troubled in my family but I have still tired myself of this place. The chemical scent that consumes everyone, the yellowish light, the pictures of smiling patients all seem to rile me. And so I walked up to the elevators, called on the wood-paneled enclosure, entered it smelling the familiar scent of decrepit and artificial wood. I wordlessly instructed the wood-paneled elevator to take me to the required floor.
The familiar chime of the arrived floor woke me up from a momentary daydream and I departed the elevator hesitantly. I walked past the cubical waiting area, now reduced to a cluttered and symbiotic room crowded with other visitors, each one there for a relative or friend. I walked down a narrow corridor, under the shadow of the outstretched wooden bust of the nameless saint, a bust whose significance if any lost on my unsettled serenity. I entered the Intensive Care unit, a bustling industry adept in its fight against the grim reaper. I shredded the floral printed curtains and entered the chambers that housed her, yanking them with a nervous urgency.
I was greeted my members of my extended family crowded into a tiny room. Grandma herself was seated in a chair in the corner of the room, past her bed and adjacent to the medical gadgetry designed to save her. I awkwardly waved at her, mustering a pathetic smile which probably looked more sinister than comforting. There were conversations galore across the room, the train of which I was desperately trying to latch on. There was some talk about a medical procedure that was evidently suggested by unnamed medical experts. There was an air of effervescence around, like a cauldron threatening to boil over. There were words exchanged, some flagrant and some in a casual surrender. This ordeal has been extremely taxing for all of us who are involved and our temper and patience has been on the edge of precipitous infinity.
I look at my grandmother who has metamorphosized into a frail almost inhuman version of herself. She appears exhausted, drained out of the resources that give us the strength to put forth our defense against the harsh terrain of reality. A couple of orderlies arrive and prepare to put her back into her bed. They help her in her attempt to stand up. She struggles, lumbers heavily and is unable to support her featherlike structure on her timid feet. She collapses into the trained arms of the nurse who then proceeds to pick grandma up in her arms. She lifts her up almost like a baby and deftly carries her to her nightly resting area, solitary and a bundle of corpulent wires. The orderlies then looked at my grandmother with satisfaction, like the monotonous satisfaction of a teller after the completion of a transaction and departed with the same haste as their arrival. We were relieved, caught up in our own two dimensional existence, happy at being spared the undesired task of spending another night in nervous apprehension. I smiled at my grandmother hoping to impart a sense of comfort to her, but was greeted by the shattering image of seeing her sob inconsolably like a child.
Tears trickled down her gaunt cheeks. These were not tears of weakness; there were tears of surrender. Tears, tiny droplets of saline fluid, created instantly by us as a visceral reaction to emotions. They formed Pinstripe Rivers running down her face, creating a map of almost a desert like aridness. People rushed over to console her, but I stood my ground in a corner watching her in almost a captivated arrest. Here is a woman who has been on life support twice, has not eaten in 5 days, can barely talk, has not had a drop of water to drink in two weeks and now she cries because she cannot walk on her own. I suddenly realized my selfish reaction earlier. I talk of strength like it was a virtue that I possessed, but in reality I was weak, a timid weakling, a battered car heading towards a stone wall. Strength was in the fight that my grandmother is fighting, wanting to be independent even when stripped of all life and physical capabilities. She doesn’t cry because she is weak, but she cries because she is close to giving up that fight, she is tired. The relentless battle that her body and age has inflicted upon her is winning and she finally realizes that. Her defenses crumble and we all struggle to try to pick up the pieces. We muster works of encouragement, words that sound hollow in our disbelief. My grandmother, the mother of my mother, the unifier of disparity and the upholder of togetherness drowns in melancholy and all that we can do, is watch her crumble.