Insecurities of a happy mind

You wake up on somedays without wanting to face the world. When you would like to curl up and bury yourself in the insecurities you feel that have been tucked away and ignored for a long time. When you want to dwell in such insecurities to (maybe) suddenly discover a solution or a soothing thought. To throw away all fears and actually feel the insecurity. You wake up not wanting to prove yourself to anybody or anything. Not at work, not in your personal life. When there is a nagging need from within to probably tone down the peace and happiness your heart maybe filled with. When you want your mind and body to be still. To be free. To feel no pressure. To take no responsibility. To be of no help to anyone. You thus touch the bottom of the bottom of your heart. It is liberating. It grounds you. It moulds you even, as it makes you think and forces you to be brave. It doesnt make me cry. It makes me sad, afraid and then teach myself to be brave.

Anna Karenina. An author’s mind.

It took me 3-4 months to finish reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (It feels somewhat formal to say Leo Tolstoy than just Tolstoy).

I have always felt that Russian authors write the deepest into a human mind. Human mind at its natural best, and worst. Human mind as how we humans most times do not want to accept it. Tolstoy surpassed all my existing opinion of Russian authors. In this single book, (oh yes but its a huuuuge book),  he has explored every single human emotion, every single weakness a person can develop and the minutest character detail the God above has conjured up for humans.

There are various authors who delve that deep into human beings. Invariably in most of their books, you tend to know at the end of the book the distinct characteristics of the author himself (/herself) and the strong preferences and advocacies of the author. After going through the lives of the multiple central characters in Anna Karenina, I found it difficult to frame an opinion on Tolstoy. It was difficult, atleast for me, to imagine what Tolstoy was like. So deep does he go into the minds of so many numerous characters that its hard to tell. This is my striking takeaway from the book. Tolstoy’s brilliance lies in here. I am pretty certain he could not have identified, at the level he goes to in the narration, with each of these personalities that make up his book. The characters are all so intricately thought about and written about in Anna Karenina. They are all extremely real. Very real are their wants, their outlooks and just about everything about them.

Tolstoy probably borrowed a little from every person he ever met and then some bit of himself.  It may have been a tad bit intimidating to be a friend of Tolstoy’s then, don’t you think? That is, if he ever let it slip that he is using this interaction with you for decorating his creativity. To think that every emotion or every word you express or say is being weighed and is being used to judge mankind and to build a fictional character that will form part of literary history.  At the same time, I wonder if a person such as Tolstoy who has proved to be able to go into the deepest corners of a human mind, himself may not be a bit of it all. A multi-dimensional personality and I don’t mean that in a good way. One cannot write so true to reality unless one experienced it as one’s reality. If you were a mere observer and grasped the intricacies, is it possible to shed the experiences without being affected? If you were an observer and an unaffected one at that, can you translate it into a piece of literary masterpiece? I think not. I wonder if there are some great books written on Tolstoy himself. Its one of those books that made me think about the author as much as his characters.

An opinion on an opinion

How unimaginative is that title? Yeah, I could not come up with anything else.

Everyone is in such a rush to convince the world about their opinion and enforce it with vehemence. I have always viewed opinion as a personal right, a personal space and hardly something to wear on your sleeve. That spot in your mind where opinions are formed is a big large space for you to paint a certain picture of the world based on what you see, influenced by intelligence (hopefully), interpretation and personality. I have never viewed my right to an opinion to be my right or my gateway to prove any sort of superiority to the world. Having said that, I have always understood that my freedom to my opinion is a one way street and I need not let anything or anybody change it unless it comes from an intelligent, tolerant space. Equally strong is my lack of desire to force my opinion on anyone around me. When someone sitting across me says anything that contradicts my view, I have never felt compelled to scream out my view, argue and prove anyone wrong. Each one has the right to live by their beliefs. I may believe someone’s belief maybe keeping them away from the path they would like to be on or their right path. But unless that wrong step has a direct impact on my life or that of the other person’s, I like to avoid argument. I dislike the word argument. To me, it carries too much negativity. That is probably because I have met very few people in my life who can express their opposing view without bringing in arrogance, pride, ego, inexplicable drive and desire to win (an argument) and/or vehemence. I deplore all such traits.

I find it entertaining to see folks endlessly argue over any and every matter including what dress may suit a celebrity. All that energy can be put to better use, I am certain. Maybe in reading further and educating yourself about just a bit more on the subject matter itself. Most people have also lost any idea of the fundamental fact that if you like a certain colour blue and only that colour, it does not mean that all other colours are non existent or that all others colours “have to” be “bad” to the world at large. Pretty dumb in my opinion.

How we hate the dark

Aside

I watched the Tamil movie “Sindhu Samaveli” by Swamy yesterday. I had never heard of the movie nor the diretor prior to reading about it yesterday in some forum and deciding to watch it. The movie is based on the novel “First Love” by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev. The movie is about an illicit relationship a woman has with her father in law. Apparently the heroine of the movie, Amala Paul, received death threats and was hurled abuses at by some women in public for the mere reason that she “enacted” the role of a woman who sleeps with her father in law. I guess the audience in many parts do not understand the basic fact that a movie is a work of fiction. Simple misses.

As I always opine post a movie watch, I strongly believe a movie conveys the brilliance of the Director. It is his work of art and talks a lot about his grit, his ability to articulate and his influences (among much more). Here, the director’s mind is easily concluded to be able to run through excessively intense human emotions and get to the base of it. He must have gone through (atleast in his mind if not in experience) a greal deal of the emotions that he so strongly conveys through his film. Everyone goes through intriguing emotions at some point of time in our lives. Sometimes we get deep flashes of the emotions through the experiences of a loved one. But how many of us are blessed with the ability to decode it and understand it? (Here I would like to point out that the use of the word “understand” is meant to carry more depth than usual).

Director Swamy has done an excellent work of placing the premise of the illicit relationship so well in the movie. Clearly if you are even fairly intelligent, you will understand that he is not showing any disrespect towards a father(like)-daughter(like) relationship we expect a father in law and daughter in law to share. He simply presents a particular circumstance in which such a relationship grows mutually between the parties and very strongly also presents its extreme ramifications. It is sexual and it did start with the inability to control a forbidden human desire. He does not however fail to also show a wise man’s perspective of the situation (through dialogues with the family carpenter/mason). But what I liked about even that scene is that it did not throw light on simply the societal implications of such a relationship. But that conversation very simply mentions all the turmoil that it creates in the lives of the individuals concerned. How that should not fall upon any family ever.

Further, the movie does not slip into an overdramatic and emotionally explosive mode when the son gets wind of the relationship. Well here is where the directors capability comes through – the female protogonist becomes aware of the fact that her husband is aware of her relationship through a beautiful written short story by her husband (and published in a magazine) in which he introspects into his suspicions in the light of his love for her and her father. It is enough to trigger that big moment of regret and disgust in her and she proceeds immediately to put an end to the entire suffering. Now the son needs to deal with his father wherein once again the Director proves his skill. It is by far probably the best scene in the film and is fittingly the climax. No drama. Not too many dialogues. But using the ocean as the backdrop, the anger, anguish and the killing realisation that the young boy experiences is beautifully shot like a painful painting. At this point, I was itching to lay my hands on the book to read (in the typicaly russian writing style) the author’s narration.

I am not sure how much of the storytelling is a direct life from the book. To me, as  a viewer, it doesnt matter where it came from and but I am there to watch what is given to me. To get a glimpse of something so dark just to remind you of how fragile humans can be. How people commit mistakes knowing how wrong it is and how it is only a circumstantial temptation. But say what you may, such wrongful acts only lead to death. Physical death. Death of relationships. Death of every strand of life in the living body. So much more. Its unfathomable. Draining to even imagine that emotion in you for a second. Thats when you respect the director, the story teller, whoever. Unless he pushed himself to experience the various emotions in the deepest corners of his existence to make this movie, he may probably have never bared it all as this and been able to show a build up to human follies as this.

(Ofcourse he could have done without the annoying frequent comedy interludes that is menace in movies these days. Just to get the people in. Well this movie didnt since as I said earlier people do not really know that a movie is a work of fiction)

Apparently the viewers took to the movie very badly. How dare the director even imagine an illicit relationship between father in law and daughter in law? Worse still, i hear many reviewers refused to give the movie a rating. Uff. When do we all wake up to realities? Stating a fact that could even remotely exist is entirely different from justifying it. When will people ever gain that insight? Hey, its not that difficult. Just a little open mindedness. But that IS too much to ask of the world today right? Right. A man lacking in intelligence will point out how the movie so visibly shows the wrong in the relationship. The Director hasnt left any stone unturned to show the grave impact it has on the young son. And on the wife. And on the father. What wrong did the director do here? I can only conclude that people really lack logic and simple sense of derivation. Truly wonder how much of the rejection of the movie stemmed from guilt and from complete lack of acknowledgement. I leave it to you to conclude on the guilt and acknowledgement.

Just before I say goodbye

There is something special about the time post dinner and before sleep invites me. I love this space in my life. I always have. This is when I indulge in the following (most days) and revel in the joy it brings me:

– Read a book. It transports you to another world. A world that carries so much resemblance with your own. A world in which you experience emotions and situations that you would never allow yourself to experience in your life. A world in which a stranger (read : the author) uses words so beautifully to form a chain of thought or an expression of an innermost feeling that you always felt but never understood. Awakening. 

– Lose yourself in some fact based or opinion based reading. It may not be emotionally intriguing but definitely enriching, triggering ideas and invoking an astonishing level of motivation and goal seeking in you. Fulfilling.

– Indulge in the biggest but most basic blessings in your life. Relationships. Emails to friend who lives half the world away. An email that in todays world most of us have found a way to bring in the equal satisfaction of a conversation. A long, indulging conversation with a family member. To relive the love that exists in your life and the love that will propel you forward

– Or write. Like what I am doing now. To connect with myself. To put together many a thought and gain that much needed better understanding of one’s own self. To find so much gratification in expression. To feel joy.

I am done. Joy that I worked on through mind and body envelopes me right now. To break beyond the obvious and achieve the unknown. To value the essentials and not letting much else impair my sight right now. I love my life. I love my people – family and friends. They make my life. I make my life what it is and thats as good as it can get for you, me or anyone else.

 

The household matters

We are in the process of setting up our house. So many things to buy. So many shops to visit. So many decisions to take. Exciting, stressful, liberating and taxing. All at once. Such beautiful things to choose from that it instills a great sense of excitement in your mind. Making the most convincing choice is stressful. Especially when you have particular taste without an unlimited budget. Discovering worthwhile thrift stores and the one off furniture stores (I mean the standalone stores in your neighbourhood. not a chain store) with ample treasures on sale is liberating. It makes you realise that you can have a unique home which does not share items with most people in your area. Even more so when they are not exorbitantly priced. Finding a balance between money, time and tastes can be taxing.

Then you go through all the lovely internet pages on store reviews, home tours or just beautiful things (like my favourite blog – once upon a tea time http://onceuponateatime.blogspot.com/ ). Collectively, they inspire you. Individually they give out great sources for timeless pieces to collect for your home. Spending time on these pages builds so many varied pictures in your mind for your home. 

One step at a time. As needy as I am for a fully furnished house right now, I want to build it with love, care and prudence. Prudence for money and for taste. I want to pick up only those items that excites me and makes me believe its making my home beautiful for me to live in. I want to buy only those items that justifies the cost in such a way that the cost does not matter. To elaborate, if its a little expensive you still see so much long term value in it that it does not really pinch you. Or if its dirt cheap, you still see so much value in it that to you it isnt really a cheap deal. Cheap or not, if you love it, its always a great deal.

Have picked up few pieces for home which are dear to me. Oh let me tell you, a water bottle even can sometimes make me believe I have pretty things in the house 🙂 I will plan a post on these items sometime.

A red letter affair

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Yet another bookstore that hooks you. Red letter books in Boulder. The collection is impressive and the condition is great. Dont expect the storekeeper to help you find any book because organisation is their forte only to the extent that most books are organised section wise but they may not have a good track of which particular book maybe kept where. But that is the point where it attracts someone with my sensibilities. You may find books stacked on the ground too. The entire setting is a charm. Simple store where the only thought that has gone into the decorator’s mind is to surround you with enough books to make you want to live there. Now in a book store what would you want to see more than books? They sell second hand books which to me adds more character and depth to the books (The books are in exceptional condition). It is as though every book has a story to tell apart from the one the words within narrate.

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Walking past the aisles staring at the books with a longing. And then a book tugs at your heart. You pull it out to read few passages. Then another book tugs at your heart too. And then another. Finally I literally sat on the ground (yes the store does not have stools for you to sit on while you choose your books but trust me you wont complain) and read through my shortlisted books and chose one. 

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Sitting on the ground to read my book redefined my connection with the book store. I felt at home. A sense of liberation every book lover or book writer yearns for. The same sense of good preclusion a great book takes you into. I hardly looked around me. I sat right there on the floor letting my intuition reach out to my hands to pick the pages to read from and to pick some more books to choose from.

Red Letter book store has history. Someone who frequented the store 10 years ago took me there. Its been there for much longer than that. It makes you wish someone would pay you for reading books and that too read it while you are IN the shop. Sitting on the floor. 

Sometimes when you walk past an aisle, you feel the urge to instantly experience all the worlds that all the books on that aisle have hidden within its pages. Impatience to “feel” the contents of the books will rise. Till you find that one book which calls out to you TODAY. It works this way for me.

Today, I chose Ramayana by R.K.Narayanan. (Also, my next buy from Red Letter has been chosen)

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

How we underestimate the value of sleep. Or I did. All these years I attached value to a good nights sleep only for the sole purpose of making the brain function as expected and at its best at work. Went easy on it in the last year when I have been at home and not working. But it almost feels like I am an entirely different person the day I wake up at a reasonable hour and have had a great night’s sleep. I am happier. Sleep induces  a calm state of mind in your system and triggers all the positive switches in your head to come on. Suddenly, you feel like there is so much potential in the world. That there is so much you can deliver. That every backward step life sometimes forces you to take actually is not the end of the world or for that matter end of anything. There are multiple ways in which you can get ahead. Sleep lets in a freshness in your entire body and mind. Fresh energy enters your system and you watch yourself do all the things you thought but did not do just yesterday. Procrastination appears to be the first thing that sleep fights. It almost feels like life would just be so simple and you will be so driven daily if only you slept well every night. Is it really that simple? Am I giving a little too much credit to sleep?

Atonement by Ian McEwan

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A book hooks me or fails to hook me in the first ten pages. Atonement failed me miserably here. I attempted to read the book thrice in a span of 3 years and its only the third time that I managed to go past the first few chapters, allow myself to take in the book patiently and complete it.
 
The book does not stir your emotions untill almost 40% is completed. Way too many words and reader’s (atleast readers with my taste) time is wasted in the first 40% of the book excessively narrating the landscape and other sundry matters. Words spent on workings of Briony Talli’s mind also may appear to be wasteful when you are still in this first 40% portion of the book. However, as the subsequent events unfold you realise the importance of gaining an insight into this character’s mind. Infact the subsequent chapters do not pointedly explain the young Briony’s thought process and subsequent wailings. With the help of the seemingly extended narrative in the first chapters, the reader automatically understands the deepest corners of this character’s mind. You are left undecided on whether she remains a victim of her youth throughout the period discussed in the book or if you expect her maturity to have surfaced at some critical point to undo the damages of her acts performed in veiled innocence and under good intentions.
 
The remaining 60% of the book is emotionally gripping. It forces you to look at the eposide that can alternate as being the protagonist of the novel from three perspectives.
 
Briony Tallis – At what point of time do we expect a child to be mature and understand the wrongful implications of an act committed with no bad intention? Is it fair to expect a child to recognise the need to and gather courage, intelligence and strength to turn back on legally provided statements in order to relieve a childhood friend of legal punishment and social embarassment that lasts a lifetime? Is her true and abundant love for her sister a justifiable shield for her act that alienates someone she genuinely believed to be a wrong doer?
 
Robbie Turner – In the first 40% of the story, he is never shown to be the quintessential romantic novel hero whom a teenage reader falls in love with and holds as a benchmark in all her romantic indulgences in her life. He is never dealt with in such a manner till the end of the book. However, when the book focusses on him in the second part (the book is divided into three parts), you develop a strong emotion towards him. I dont use the word “liking” because there is nothing in that part which makes you distinctly “like” him. You sympathise with him – his wasted youth for no fault of his, his distance from the woman he loves and uncertainity surrounding his reunion with his lover in the backdrop of the war. You do tend to admire the strength of his mind through the journey from war torn France to England. You may expect someone who has had a bad run with luck to be dejected and hopeless. But you identify the source of his strength – he has a woman to go back home to. This is where you begin to recognise the “romance” in the novel. Many of us may recognise the strength the faraway love brings to his existence. Sometimes just a thought, however uncertain it maybe, works as a miracle drug. Sometimes the hopes and dreams for a future life with your lover, however distant, is just the rejuvenating therapy one needs. We have all experienced it. The second part of the book reiterates it beautifully. What I found to be most profound in McEwan’s writing is that he is never explicit about the emotions in his characters that he wants to convey. His narrative is so strong that a reader “understands” all that and more.
 
Cecilia Turner – For most part of the book, she is angry, let down and generally down cast. Circumstances force her to alienate herself from the family. Circumstances here imply love. Newly “realised” love. When it hits her, she realises that the emotions have had their foundation in her heart through early association with Robbie. Feelings never came to the surface of her heart, her life. Secretly built emotions in the deepest corners of her heart. When it surfaced, it hit her hard, it swept her away like a long lost friend. It made her turn her back against her family. All in a matter of a day of coming face to face with her new love. All this makes one see the power of love. No one can define it, no one can set its boundaries. Immensely strong girl. Once again, love and hopes that come with it is her source of strength.

Tattered Book Cover…Love affair with a book store

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I went into the Tattered Book Cover, a lovely book store in Downtown Denver. I have been here before but did not spend too much time in there during the first visit. Today i did what I love to do in a book store.

Keep the mind open. Empty the mind of any expectations or thoughts. Let the books around you call out to me. The book calls out to me. Sometimes few books call out to me. Then dutybound, I spend sometime reading few pages (randomly picked) from each of these books. I close the books and I know (my mind tells me) which book to pick. Its always the right choice. Another book buying habit of mine is that I never buy more than one book at a time. It somehow beats my loyalty to a book if I buy more than one. Having a single book to shower my attention on lets me drown myself in it more deeply. 

The classics section lured me today. I had two russian novels set in 1800s and Romeo and Juliet with me. See when books call out to you, they usually also carry the same undertone. Today’s was classics. 

Tattered Book Cover is a delight for any book reader. More so for a lover of book shopping like me. I enjoy the process of picking a book as much as reading a great book. Its an indulgent experience for me and always been very fulfilling. Tattered Book Cover is a huge book store (two floors) with a vintage feel to it. Its a massive space which gives ample privacy and space for each section of books. Each section is almost like a small enclosure cordoned off from the rest. Many inviting old world seating is made available throughout the book store. Most common are those huge leather chairs which you associate with old rich English households. There is also a huge spread out table with chairs around it. Here you can meet other people and chat while you browse through your selections. There is a lovely cafe inside the books store as well. My favourite sight from today’s visit was that of this old man sitting by himself in a small balcony sort of extension built inside the store (refer the first picture, above the stairs). He picked the cozy spot with a drink in his hands and was seen reading his newspapers. Speaks peace.

Such book stores make you want to read all day long. It makes you want to believe that the only reality in the world are the stories it tells through its books. It stimulates your mind. Today, I read passages from heavy duty emotional fiction to a Tibetan book on death to few translated poems by two chinese authors which has great pose, love for the nature and a hidden message about life, to Romeo and Juliet. Your mind wanders for few minutes into the many worlds that the books lure you into. Then you make the choice. You cannot explain the choice, you just pick. 

I picked Nokolai Gogol’s Dead Souls.