Revisiting The Alchemist

Currently listening to Missy Eliot and watched some Fairy Tail (came across a few episodes which I couldn’t believe I used to watch on Animax. Like what the actual fuck). They even have a whole manga thing going on. I loved that shit. Lucy and Grey and Erza and Natsu were love. Except who was I even five to seven years back? Why the fuck was I reading and watching whatever it is that I was reading and watching?

Are you crazy?” the boy asked the alchemist, when they had moved on.

I read a lot of Paulo Coelho in school (Brida, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Eleven Minutes, Veronika Decides to Die, Manual of the Warrior of Light, The Devil and Miss Prym, Like the Flowing River, The Witch of Portobello, The Winner Stands Alone) and I did like some of these books, and a friend had recently read The Alchemist and couldn’t stop gushing about it.

I decided to read it again. And I did. But can’t remember the last time I struggled so hard to complete a book. It was probably A Long Walk to Freedom (a second-hand which gathers dust on my shelf ) which I didn’t complete. I (usually) no longer feel compelled to complete a book I don’t like or lose interest in mid-way. (What’s the point? Why treat things as if they are more than what they represent?)

I guess I have become super skeptical or something, but couldn’t buy into the whole Language of the Universe and the Soul and omens which need to be discerned. I want to believe it. I can’t. I like to think that people once they realize their dreams or whatever should totally work hard for it and go for it and shit but reading signs from the universe, the universe testing you and being one with nature, all that stuff I don’t get anymore.

. . . That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

‘Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.’

The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.

Just in case you missed it the first time.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Are you running away or running towards? Do you get the difference between growing up and getting ahead?

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Read about Kerala hosting an athletics meet for transgender persons. This is like the only reading I have done in a bit. The article. That is it. This is it. The Murakami shit I read a week back. Need to calm the fuck down so that I can read peacefully again. Need to be cool. Also, I hate that word now. Cool. Ugh. Fuck you, I will be whatever I want, okay?

Except fuck me because college is over and I have no job and am living with my parents. But it’s going to be okay. Okay? I keep telling myself that.

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I remember the documentary I watched in Goethe-Institut (which recently had a sale, and I ended up buying a German book of poetry except I don’t know German [I want to learn that shiz, apparently the A1 classes start from July, and comma splices are like my new thang, cue eye rolls please] but love buying books and it was cheap af so it is super chill) called I am Bonnie. It was pretty fucking cool.

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Have been listening to Ankur Tewari and Prateek Kuhad. Heard about them when someone I know was supposed to go for one of their gigs in Bombay or something. She ended up not going.

खो जाने की ज़िद ना करो ख्वाइश है ये दिल की

This lyric is taken from Tum Jab Paas and tbh it summarizes my condition perfectly. It’s almost as if parts of me want to get lost, other parts already are and whatever is left in the fringes, yearns for the familiar, so as to not fall off the edge. I want the newness my now promises and am repulsed by the idea of being the same, of remaining. I want to be better and I want to be more. I want to be more. But at the same time, there are these waves of absolute exhaustion, of disappointment, frustration. I’m irritated. The novelty of my problems have all worn off. They need to be dealt with in small steps—in boring systematic ways. How can I still not know? I feel incapable when the tide is high. What do I want even? What can I do? What am I supposed to want? How is Ghibli pronounced? What the fuck is Aéropostale and why is it a big deal if I haven’t heard of it? and I become absolutely mental on social media and do not know how others can be. . . So, then, the idea of being lost is enticing, and that of thriving in the wild, even more so. Except that shit gets tiring. Actually, it’s the worrying that gets me. Now I think things will work out, because they have to. There simply has to be a way out. There is no other option. At least that’s what I keep telling myself and it’s kinda like working.

But I’m done being lost. I don’t know where I might be going but I think I got my ways sorted. And for now, that’s all I need ( हैशटैग यह दिल मांगे मोर!)

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After reading, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, I thought it would be a great idea to get back into running and stuff, except two days in and I realized my year old injury still hasn’t healed. Great.

Anyways, the book was first published, I think, by Knopf in 2008 and is translated by Philip Gabriel (who also translated 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore and lots of other stuff). So this book is about en d  u   r    a     nce and r                                                                            unninand sports and not giving up, it’s about Murakami, his life and his routine, his philosophies and his relationship with running. It makes for a decent read and is divided into nine chapters. The following are quotes randomly selected from each of them. They aren’t the best or the most interesting or the most thought provoking, they aren’t the most anything but are a part of the whole.

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Foreword: Suffering Is Optional

Instead, this is a book in which I’ve gathered my thoughts about what running has meant to me as a person. Just a book in which I ponder various things and think out loud. Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy . . . I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.

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One: Who’s Going to Laugh at Mick Jagger?

I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void . . . The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky . . . The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.

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Two: Tips on Becoming a Running Novelist

I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first thought I could write a novel. It was around one thirty in the afternoon of April 1, 1978. I was at Jingu Stadium that day, alone in the outfield drinking beer and watching the game. Jingu Stadium was within walking distance of my apartment at the time, and I was a fairly big Yakult Swallows fan. It was a perfectly beautiful spring day, not a cloud in the sky, with a warm breeze blowing. There weren’t any benches in the outfield seating back then, just a grassy slope. I was lying on the grass, sipping cold beer, gazing up occasionally at the sky, and leisurely enjoying the game. As usual for the Swallows, the stadium wasn’t very crowded. It was the season opener, and they were taking on the Hiroshima Carp at home. I remember that Yasuda was pitching for the Swallows. He was a short, stocky sort of pitcher with a wicked curve. He easily retired the side in the top of the first inning, and in the bottom of the inning the leadoff batter for the Swallows was Dave Hilton, a young American player new to the team. Hilton got a hit down the left field line. The crack of bat meeting ball right on the sweet spot echoed through the stadium. Hilton easily rounded first and pulled up to second. And it was at that exact moment that a thought struck me: You know what? I could try writing a novel.

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Three: Athens in Midsummer—Running 26.2 Miles for the First Time

Other runners kept passing me, but I limped on, grimacing in pain. The numbers on my digital watch kept mercilessly ticking away . . . There are three reasons I failed. Not enough training. Not enough training. And not enough training.

Four: Most of What I Know About Writing Fiction I Learned by Running Every Day

In other words, my muscles are the type that need a long time to warm up . . . And I feel that this type of muscle is connected to the way my mind works. What I mean is, a person’s mind is controlled by his body, right? Or is it the opposite—the way your mind works influences the structure of the body? Or do the body and mind closely influence each other and act on each other? What I do know is that people have certain inborn tendencies, and whether a person likes them or not, they’re inescapable. Tendencies can be adjusted, to a degree, but their essence can never be changed.

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Five: Even If I Had a Long Ponytail Back Then

Looking back at my running log, I think I’ve been able to prepare for the race at a decent pace:

June 156 miles

July 186 miles

August 217 miles

September 186 miles

The log forms a nice pyramid. The weekly distance averages out in June to thirty-six miles, then forty-three miles, then fifty, then back to forty-three. I expect that October will be about the same as June, roughly thirty-six miles per week.

I also bought some new Mizuno running shoes. At City Sports in Cambridge I tried on all kinds of models, but ended up buying the same Mizunos I’ve been practicing in . . . Once when I had a chance to talk with a sales rep from Mizuno, he admitted, “Our shoes are kind of plain and don’t stand out. We stand by our quality, but they aren’t that attractive.” I know what he’s trying to say. They have no gimmicks, no sense of style, no catchy slogan.

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Six: Nobody Pounded the Table Anymore, Nobody Threw Their Cups

I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead.

I repeat this like a mantra. A literal, mechanical repetition. And I try hard to reduce the perceptible world to the narrowest parameters. All I can see is the ground three yards ahead, nothing beyond. My whole world consists of the ground three yards ahead. No need to think beyond that.

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Seven: Autumn in New York

Long story short: my knee seems to have settled down, which is definitely good news. I’m going to try to be optimistic about things.

Eight: 18 Till I Die

But in real life things don’t go so smoothly.

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Nine: At Least He Never Walked Afterword: On Roads All Round the World

At 9:56 the start siren goes off, and everyone immediately begins the crawl. This is it—the most nerve-racking moment of all.

Relationship Selling

flyer,-rupiya,-paisa,nm n-pyaar1My final exams are starting from tomorrow. I hate sales management and need to start studying like now. Have sifted through half of my notes and came across marketing insights in relationship selling. Thought that I should jot it down so I can remember the kind of shit I was reading in my final year.

  • People buy from those they like and trust.
  • People buy with their emotions and justify it with logic and facts.
  • People always act in their own best interests.
  • You cannot sell to someone who is unable to buy.
  • The product is not the product.
  • Features are not benefits.
  • Problem solving comes before solution selling.
  • People are stupid.
  • People are so tied down by societal expectations and institutions they cannot think for themselves and believe that the only way they can be happy is if they live their lives like every other sad motherfucker out there.
  • Why are so many people getting married? It’s none of my business but it’s also making me super anxious.
  • People get killed in some places for eating beef.
  • Sonu Nigam just shaved his head.

Disclaimer: Some of the bullets are less real than the others.

Cheers!

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Serpents in my mind/ Looking for your crimes

Serpents in My Mind

  • When did I decide to treat this space as my personal diary? God. Fuck me.
  • I think I started reading a bit differently, knowing I would want to do a post on the book. There are so many written pieces, need to edit them is all. I decided to be super impulsive about this one because that’s almost the mood of the week. That and being depressed af.
  • Currently reading Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell ( for like the third time) and Leila Seths’s On Balance and listening to Sharon Van Etten and other stuff. I cannot get enough of Your Love Is Killing Me.
  • Anyways, today has been the worst. I think I spent an hour in the bathroom crying. I have my project due day after. It’s pathetic.
  • Also, I have been wondering, a lot, recently, alarmingly, about death and dying. I can imagine having already committed suicide, I imagine myself hanging, noose around my neck and all. It’s pretty generic. But it’s difficult to imagine actually doing it.
  • I think about what Virginia Woolf was thinking of when she drowned herself.
  • About Sylvia Plath, and her head in an oven and children in the other room, and her book, which I absolutely love.
  • About, Anna Karenina and Vronsky and people flinging themselves in front of a train. I couldn’t fling myself in front of a metro. I remember reading Anna Karenina, and I already knew the ending, and every time I used the metro, then, I imagined an imaginary Anna, in love, mad in love, drunk in love, lost in love, jealous in love, jump. Sometimes I was in love with Anna and other times I was her. She had black hair, tied in a messy ponytail and she always wore white. I had to stop using public transport for a bit to preserve my sanity or whatever’s left of it.
  • I read, Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, it’s beautiful. I think about the concept of a ‘brave hara-kiri’ as opposed to a defeatist view of suicide. This I comprehend even less. To die with honour, for honour, honour could go shove something up its ass for all I could care. God.
  • ‘Jesus Christ is coming soon.’ I read that, in a plaque of sorts, in a small café of sorts in Darjeeling, called Mother’s Recipe or something like that. We had had tea and momos and thukpa. The momos were real nice except ‘Jesus Christ is coming soon’ is stuck in my head and its getting real creepy. What dies that mean? Maybe I will let that typo be.
  • But I remember reading somewhere, about someone saying that they would like to kill themselves in a bathtub and fill it with flowers and I thought that was beautiful in a fucked up sort of way and it has haunted me since. I imagine if I had to do it, I would fill a bathtub with water that would be as blue as that German girl’s eyes, who had visited us in India, in school. I would slit my wrists and the blue would be with the red and the red with the blue and there would be yellow flowers, I can’t decide which ones, just that, ideally they would be yellow, maybe daisies and sunflowers, floating on top. There would be a sweet smell in the air, the smell of flowers and the water and the blood and the death and the died which would all dissolve into the earth. It would be a bit too sweet. Obviously. I had dreamt this once, except the tub was in a white room in a white room in a white room, none of which had doors.
  • But I think I would want a sudden boring death. I would like to be remembered, if at all,  for having lived. To die in my sleep or be hit by a bus while listening to Kanye West seems the most favourable.
  • I think I need to stop romanticizing shit. Not just the idea of death but also living.
  • I remember, in school when we were asked to read Anne Frank’s diary (I tried finding the quote now, and ending up reading a lot more excerpts, and am now crying again, I forgot how beautiful and inspiring and everything it all is, humans are monsters capable of such beautiful things, but I can’t find it now, will put it in later, maybe it was some other book?), she (or was it someone else? in someplace else?) wrote about the courage to go through the little things that happen every day, and to face them head on. And I find that so fucking annoying and difficult sometimes, and maybe I am privileged or spoilt or something to be able to complain about the small things. Either way, some times, most times, it becomes not very easy to be, when these small things consume you, I imagine them, these small small incidents which I keep repeating to myself don’t matter, smother me to death. Brick by brick they form concrete walls and trap from within, trapped within their absolute frivolous existence, they make the air heavy, the wall, sometimes, my head seems to be on the wall, and it’s as if I were walking upside down, and everything is pressing up onto my head and weighing me down, but more accurately, I think it would be about being pressed between, in between the wall and the ground and waiting to not be.
  • ‘It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter.’ I imagine this on a banner on loop, like the ones they teach you to make in them IT classes about designing websites or programming or something in fucked up colours, like a really bright yellow background with a red banner or vice versa. Except, sometimes it does matter and most times it does hurt. Someone make it stop please.
  • I feel a little dizzy, its almost as if someone’s lit a cigarette inside of me, and its never ending, the smoke, I choke on it, I ask that someone to stop and they stub it on the inside of my lungs only to light another one, again, I burn. I almost get used to the smoke, it’s so familiar, I could miss it, if only it gave me the chance.
  • I used to speed skate when in school, and a friend of mine and I we had this competition, whoever would get more scars would win. I wish I could wear my wounds just as proudly now.
  • I read on someone’s Instagram today, ‘Sometimes, things need to break to be able to glow’.
  • I need to stop behaving like a sixteen year old who has just found tumblr. Also, I would like to re-read When Veronika Decides To Die and Anne Frank’s Diary. That’s the agenda of the week, that and going through that stupid scam of a project without breaking down.
  • Hope you have a better day.

Looking for Your Crimes

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

This is Water, David Foster Wallace

‘This is Water’ is a commencement speech delivered by David Foster Wallace in 2005 at Kenyon College. The text of the book This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, first published by Little, Brown and Company in 2009, originated from this speech.

I am a sucker for commencement speeches and keep coming back to this one. It serves as a reminder that I need to get over myself — not everything in the world occurs as a response to me. I must learn how to think, to decide what has meaning and what doesn’t and simply be aware. If I go on I will sound preachy af, but this text helped me set things in perspective. And sometimes a little bit of perspective can go a long way.

Or you could probably read about how the best commencement speech of all time was bad for literaturethisiswater.jpg

The Inability of Words by Harnidh Kaur

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THE INABILITY OF WORDS
Harnidh Kaur
Writer’s Workshop India, 2016 – 112 pages

This book, published by the Writer’s Workshop India, looks beautiful with its handloom sari-bound hardback and the elegant golden calligraphy on it. It comprises of sixty-six poems, divided across six sections. It was exciting to hold the book except twenty-six poems in and not much stands out.

It feels like I am reading the diary of some teenager in high school who used to sit between the backbenchers and the overeager front runners, somewhere in the middle, looking out the window, scribbling in her personal diary. Poetry has to have a point right? It has to mean things and introduce one to newer dimensions of existence and this book fails to do that. It has no point. It seemed to be the same. Similar to everything else out there and that for me was exhausting. It is predictable and unprovocative. I am curious how she got it published. That the poet thought that words fail to describe her, fail to describe the condition she has been through borders on arrogance. It was the inability of the poet to use the words, I think, to mean.

I did like ‘Citric’ and ‘Reorganizing’. The poems paint striking images using simple words.  Maybe the voice of the poet reminds me of the voice in my head. And I hate the voice in my head, its shitty, irrelevant, can’t express itself and overthinks everything to death. The book is okay; you have to hunt for gems. But that’s just my opinion, and my opinion doesn’t mean shit. Get the book and form your own. The friend who lent me this book loved the simplicity of the prose and the title, apparently, was very very relevant to him. And he writes poems. So that.

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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

THE METAMORPHOSIS
Franz Kafka, translated by Ian Johnston
Planet eBook, 1999 – 96 pages

In the Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into a large insect-like creature. The novella doesn’t concern itself with how or why the metamorphosis occurred (it is what it is), but how everyone- Gregor, his family and his employers deal with it.

Gregor couldn’t seem to talk, nobody could comprehend what was happening;

I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.

The alterations which Gregor suffered from, though inexplicable, were physically evident. His consciousness, for most part, did remain the same- he was in essence thinking the thoughts of Gregor as Gregor was- and only when the attitude of others towards him changed, with time, that his own identity changed, his own sense of self changed, his place in his family and society changed, all of it, metamorphosed, when he realized that he was a burden on his family and, in the end, he decided to end his life.

I couldn’t help but think that in our lives, we change so much, our changes might be less visible, but our thoughts, dreams, visions, and priorities do evolve, and sometimes we can’t seem to explain ourselves. We can’t articulate precisely how we have changed or why we have become, we just have. And then there is this constant tugging with becoming, becoming who we were, who we are, what we want to become versus what we think we should become. And we need to accept ourselves and simultaneously try to become more.

This novella deals with transformation and change (obviously), but also identity-how we identify our own selves and decide our own worth. How much of the assessment of self for example, depends on me only, and how much on what others think about me? Even though I keep telling myself I don’t care what others think, it seeps into my judgement of myself anyways, and I view my good and bad as they would, and I define my success and my happiness and my sadness and my correctness based on what a collective entity would feel or think, based on them. Do I control the content of my dreams?

What happens then… what happens when people around me can’t accept me? When we are ever evolving and don’t stick to our personal ten-year plans? Maybe I want to become a lesbian Buddhist who meditates in the Himalayas, or  travel to some obscure island with no internet and swim with dolphins, or study gender in Mumbai and work in villages. What happens then? Do I become a burden? Do I kill that part of myself which causes such discomfort and cease to be?

Maybe I should just clear my throat, is all.

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Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Gitanjali, Rabindranth Tagore

GITANJALI: SONG OFFERINGS
Rabindranath Tagore, translated by William Radice
Penguin Books India, 2011 – 257 pages

It seemed mandatory, to me, to have read the Gitanjali before visiting Shantiniketan.

Many a times, while absorbing poetry, I feel as though I should be moved after reading certain works, but the words remain, they remain stiff, holding on to the paper, refusing to stir, they don’t matter, they don’t mean. They don’t mean more than the stubborn scribbling of black ink on white. I am not sure what I expected from Gitanjali but I am surprised I ended up liking it, as much as I did.

A collection of songs and poems, the book mainly deals with nature and spirituality. The introduction is lovely and illuminating, the book simple and unassuming. I wasn’t really in a spiritual state of mind and was relatively stoic towards some pieces which would otherwise have had a greater impact. The book, however, definitely did succeed in creating a sense of calm and peacefulness which permeated from the words and transcended the physicality of the book ( During my visit to Shantiniketan it wasn’t particularly difficult to imagine Tagore roaming the streets, the forest, the university in a calm poised way wondering about God, His creations, writing poems and whatnot). Also, I am not sure why I feel that anything written, especially poetry, should transcend its physicality, that it should mean more than what is printed, that it does mean more than what is being explicitly stated.

I read the book in one go and that isn’t necessarily the best way to read any sort of poetry. I don’t think I have taken everything the book has to offer, or grasped all of its meaning, or understood completely why it is so revered here, but maybe I will come back to it. I would like to, perhaps in a few years, when I have brushed up my Bengali, I would like to read the original and read it slowly and let it awash me.

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Introduction

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These trail of book crumbs interspersed with random musings, I hope, will allow me to keep track and better understand myself. I don’t mean to analyze on the how and what that is written but to be able to articulate how these books have shaped me. I realize that this may be of no consequence to anyone rather than myself but I’m doing it anyways.