Friday, November 9, 2018

Still I Rise

Today I had my classical dance (Bharatanatyam Salangai Pooja). It’s the first symptom of a deep seated passion.

I started learning at the age of 22. I have been ridiculed from the beginning, why do you need to strain yourself, you’re not getting it. You already have a successful career, why do you need to pursue something you are mediocre? Passion doesn’t listen to reason. And in the course of my studies, I actually did fail after three years and quite rightly so at that point in time. I picked myself up again and trained harder.

The beginning of this year has been the worst of everything. I honestly believed at one point my life was meaningless and worthless and I was simply going through the motions of plain existence. I threw myself into dance — I started going for classes 4 times a week. It was my sanctuary. In that one hour, I was free from mental trauma. It was a wonderful meditation, for body, mind and soul.

My teacher then suggested I do a salangai pooja. I was highly skeptical. I slowly agreed. I started saving up for it. I blocked everything else that made me happy because I didn’t trust my mind with what it perceived as happiness any more. And the peace that dance gave me was too sacred to ignore.

I went on stage and danced my life out. In 2013, I casually prayed to Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram that I’d love to learn Bharatanatyam. In 2018, unexpectedly, I offered this small token performance in a temple. As an agnostic, Bharatanatyam has been free enough to let me explore my faith.

I am sadly a perfectionist. And I fought my stage fear when I know I’m far from perfect. I know my Natyarambha became lopsided after half hur. I knew my adavus became heavier and heavier. But my one constant was my smile. Because the one fundamental thing that dance taught me is that I am enough. When my body couldn’t digest food in depression, my mind couldn’t hold onto hope, dance gave me a purpose to cling on to that permanent undamageable soul.

Aham Brahmasmi

TL;DR

I rose like a phoenix,
From the ashes of doom,
In fiery tones of orange and red.


 


 


Thursday, September 27, 2018

What I got wrong about self-love

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you will know that self-love has been an oft-visited theme for the past two or three years. I have under numerous occasions extolled the values of self love in various contexts. After a certain part in time, there crept a smugness into my character that I have indeed mastered the ability of self-love.

To my utter horror I realised, that was far from the truth.

The recent complete collapse of the world I am familiar with served as a rude wake up call. I had been experiencing various pressures on various fronts. One fine day the teapot finally blew the lid off.

I was supposed to be the logical guru. My anxiety had ensured layers and layers of contingency plans Yet, the tsunami of terrible events had broken every dam, wall and shield I built across my heart.

It's easy to profess self-love when you are winning accolades, getting ranks and publishing short stories. Self-love is easy when you are surrounded by sycophants. Self-love is easy when you are recovering from a bruised ego.

Self-love isn't just that. Self-love is being kind to yourself when you know you break down completely. Self-love is accepting yourself when you are writhing in the throes of rejection. Self-love is believing in yourself when every other person thinks you are wasting your time. Self-love is simply being there when the thunderstorms of tears crash through your soul. Self-love is accepting your guilt as you recoil in horror at how you sabotaged a beautiful friendship.

When I was drowning in pain, meditation was a life-raft I clung on to.  I was shocked at how cruel the voices in my head were. The major sources of mental pain were from within. Somewhere down the line, my perfectionism had become dangerous, my obsession with results downright deadly. The whispers of taunt that recalled every failure since childhood, the sneers of ineptitude echoing in my brain and the flashbacks of every mean thing ever said to me ricocheted in my skull. I would never be so cruel to my worst enemy and yet I was unforgiving and merciless to my own self.

I have started picking up the pieces where I left off. Whenever a sneaky cruel thought creeps in, I try to imagine if this were to happen to a friend what would I say. One of my friends told me, 'It is ok to make mistakes, why do you spiral into oblivion for doing so'. And that is what I tell my voices.

For all the pressures and ill words that exist in the environment, the most vindictive are the ones within. I am trying to develop a healthy relationship with myself. I am significantly calmer. In the end, it takes both practice and time, just like any other relationship.

In short, self-love is unconditional. It is with you in the best of times and the worst of times.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Zero

In honour of the recently announced national mathematics day, I thought I'll write a blog post on the sheer poetry of zero.

When I was growing up, Shakuntala Devi was a fascination. I bought every book of hers. She had a large repertoire of calculating algorithms from numerous sources. In one of her books, she said that zero was invented by Indians.

I was surprised at that piece of information. By then, the number system had been etched in my mind as a matter of fact. To think that someone would've had to invent something like zero astounded my teenage brain. And yet we did! Recorded by Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, we don't know exactly how the decimal system evolved. But we do know that it was in contemporary use at that time in history around 500-700 AD. Anyone who recollects the Roman numeral system will understand how cumbersome addition and subtraction was in that representation. In fact, the English word 'zero' was derived across centuries and miles from the Sanskrit word 'shunya'.

Indian mathematicians have a unique quality and that is creativity. From the poetic talents of Pingala, Brahmagupta through the genius of Ramanujam, whose short career was illuminated by brilliant proofs, till our contemporary Fields Medallist Manjul Bhargava, our mathematicians possess an innate creativity. I am sure the beauty of mathematics will remain firm in India. After all, it's universal and just beautiful :) 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

When Life throws you out of your Comfort Zone

First things first, I'm blogging this from my phone. So discomfort has been set pretty much in every sense.

In the past month, I've fallen ill twice. I can only describe the experience as being physically thrust out of my comfort zone and left to fend for myself in the deserts of pain and discomfort. When I am in physical pain, I will do anything to make it stop. I will believe two and two makes five. To bake me more thoroughly in the solar furnace, I was also plagued by flames of self doubt, anxiety and other nasty things.

But I survived.

In the end, that's all that rings in my head. I survived. I had amazing friends who were there for me. I had wonderful family support. I have million things to be grateful for. But most importantly, I survived.

We are just a ripple in space-time, witnessing life. I'm grateful for these experiences. For it is not age that has taught me bravery or given me strength. Rather it is exactly these testing moments that make me stronger and give me hope that no matter what life throws at me or what I screw up, there is hope to move forward.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This Year in Book Reviews

This post is on all the books I read this year.

The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The palace of illusions was a fine novel. I was apprehensive about yet another take on our epics. But this book did not disappoint. The language was very simple but not amateurish. The narration kept me hooked and I was rifling through the pages a lot. It was very enjoyable to hear Mahabharata from the point of view of Draupadi.  While many retellings vilify her for laughing at Duryodhana's confusion, this version has an interesting take on it.

The Rise of Sivagami - Anand Neelakantan

Yet another book by an Indian author is on this list. Fueled by the Baahubali craze I purchased this book. I particularly enjoyed Kattappa's origin story. I'm extremely excited to know how the plot thickens. This is a prequel set in the immersive universe. Sivagami's character is definitely one of the most intriguing in the movies and the book does not disappoint.

Women at War - Vara Hildebrand

A non fiction book is next on my list. It described the all-female regiment that served in Subhash Chandra Bose INA. Though they never actually fought, this book describes their trials, tribulations and their mindsets quite eloquently. There is a wonderful authenticity through photographs and interviews that you picture yourself being led by Capt. Lakshmi.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

I revisited this particularly riveting tale in its original avatar. This is a story of the most romantic revenge. There is something in human nature that is immensely attracted to the age old tale of good defeats evil. Edmond Dantes, the highly successful sailor, poised to marry his sweetheart gets thrown into jail by jealous rivals in career and love. The prosecutor might have saved him but due to personal reasons, he keeps him in jail. Edmond, being a simple trusting person, believes he does not have enemies and languishes in prison. Withering away for fourteen long years, he strikes upon a magnificent treasure and rewards those who helped him and takes ruthless revenge on those who wronged him. He leaves the reader with the enigmatic statement for all the problems in the world - "Wait and Hope"! Do give this book a try.

Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

This is a fast paced thriller by JK Rowling under a pseudonym. I enjoyed the style, a refreshing difference from the Harry Potter saga. Cormoran Strike, a private investigator, is sent a nasty mutilated leg in the mail. More disturbing is the fact that it was addressed to his secretary. It's a  fascinating tale of logic, drama and the society in its most real perspective. This is a thriller you would not want to miss. 

The Prince - Nicholas Machiavelli

One of the most translated Italian books, Machiavelli could be loosely seen as the Chanakya of medieval Italy. In a desperate bid to gain political favour, Machiavelli describes practical requirements of leadership sans all morality. Far ahead of its times, it describes why the global leaders acquire technologies, why good leaders have good reputation even if they have to do a task that is not palatable. This is a fascinating read for insights into human psychology.

Now there is a book store in my college and I have to go see if my list is to be edited later :)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Necessary Evil of Validation

We are fundamentally social creatures. It is one of the reasons social media sites have exploded in the last decade. We love to air our opinions, have conversations, know what everyone is up to and what not.

Our education system, our friends, our jobs all revolve in a realm of competition where you are consciously or unconsciously compared. Our work, our actions, our very thoughts are deeply impacted by what others perceive us to be, whether those perceptions are voiced or not.

On another level, it is sad we have evolved thus. In ancient hunter gatherer days, isolation from society meant certain death. Hence, the lack of validation from peers instantiate the same fear mechanisms that we have for physical obstacles.

When I was younger, it was much easier to receive that validation. Thus, without my knowledge, I became addicted to that sense of smugness that validation brought. As I grew older, the sources of validation became scarcer. Naturally, like any addict, I sought it more aggressively. Then, the voices became feebler and slowly tapered down to nothing.

I had made validation a metric of my progress in life and that ruined me. Then something in my head clicked. It was like a tiny twinkling of a star on a new moon night. I did not like myself. To escape that feeling, I yearned to hear someone else say that they appreciate my existence. The root of my problem, was that I did not fulfill the expectations of myself, not anyone else's.

I need validation. Because, after food, clothing and shelter, I entered into another tier of needs. A sense of purpose. That purpose was partially fuelled by validation. I just changed the source where I went to seek for it. The only effective method to achieve peace from validation is self-validation. No one, not the ones closest to me, not the ones who've been the longest with me, know my vision, know my story. I do not have the luxury of hating myself, because I have just the one soul. So I resolved to work with what I have, and celebrate it. Because I found, it's not that bad after all :)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ma

When the demon Mahisha wreaked havoc on heaven and earth,
emboldened by a boon that he thought made him invincible,
when every being believed destroying him would be an enigma,
little did he imagine he would be vanquished by the majestic
Goddess Durga riding a lion into battle. I salute you, Ma.

Today's young woman swims through a society's judgements,
pursues her dreams in spite of all the manifest obstacles,
trudges on with her bravery through every dilemma,
stands up for herself and surprises the very earth from which
she sprung. A Goddess herself. I salute you, Ma.

The Devas and Asuras fought over you while churning
the ocean of milk, Goddess Lakshmi showed us how fleeting
material prosperity is and saw through the cosmic drama,
and travelled to the abode of the one person
who saw through the Maya, Vishnu. I salute you, Ma.

For a few centuries now, her work was not economic.
Respected if a Goddess operated within a line, she depended
on father, husband and son. Today, in a sweet moment of karma,
she embraced her hidden talents and can support
all three of them with her prosperity. I salute you, Ma.

The serene Goddess Saraswathi cannot be described by words,
as she is the bestower of words herself! The mother of learning,
art, the veena maestro, the one with the subtle charisma,
the envy of the world and the embodiment of everything
pristine, her blessings are most sought. I salute you, Ma.

While intelligence has always been an individual trait,
today's Goddess can participate in the highest echelons
of learning. She has realized the value of the dogma
of Ardhanareeshwara and is utilizing the yin and the yang
to make our society a better place. I salute you, Ma.