Whitman’s Ghost

I am so glad I am alive.

That I have a razor sharp brain capable of presenting the most complex of problems in the most lucid of sentences.

That I can differentiate between adagio and allegro and tell a haiku apart from a tanka and a quark from a boson.

That I can speak in three languages fluently and understand six.

That I can walk away from a fight that I need not fight but stay put when I need be.

That I can hold a conversation on any topic they throw at me and hold a thought without it consuming me.

That I can handle rejection without an iota of bitterness.

That I am loved to death by my three girls regardless of how I look or feel or behave. Unconditionally they have my back everyday day after day. I’d be half the man I am if a kid didn’t come and hug me at 4 am in the night and hold on tight all night.

That I can earn however much I want to and never see or know scarcity.

That I’ve earned the respect of people and the love of few wherever I’ve been sheerly on merit.

That at any moment in 24 hours if I am lonely I’ve a hotline to a few wonderful people who bring out the best in me or take the worst in me without holding it against me

That when we are sitting in a room in a meeting or an informal gathering and once I get in a few words, subconsciously people start directing their conversations to me.

That I’ve the heart to apologize and the guts to be stupid and reckless. The power to be wrong and the chutzpah to never spin a defeat into a victory or a losing argument into a winning one.

That I laugh loudly and clearly and make others joyous.

That I can live and travel alone. That I can soak in everything without longing or disgust.

That all the diseases I have are written largely on my face, otherwise blessing me with immaculate health.

That loved ones forgive and live with my inadequacies and sometimes even love me for that. That I am immaculately honest.

That I got a tough hand when the game started and defeat and unhappiness and lots of crying but I turned around a mediocre hand into a winning one with sheer force of will.

That I can write something pompous and self indulgent like this and yet be assured that someone somewhere will read it. That there will always be a reader. That I am patient. Like an elephant. Like land itself.

I am so glad that I am alive. There’s the din of the ac my breath this screen but I am nowhere to be found. There’s no searching or wondering or regretting or hoping or wanting. There’s nothing I am going to get that I don’t have today. There’s no other woman I am going to sleep with and no heart I am going to break. There’s no pot at the end of the rainbow because there’s no rainbow there’s just darkness all around and a tiny shiny green light. Watching over me. That will see me through this lifetime with kindness and gratitude.

I am so glad I am alive. I am so glad I can say so.

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The solace of mathematics

There’s a controversy about reality – whether it exists beyond our heads, Bishop Berkeley has never been thoroughly refuted in 300 years.

But I do not want to talk philosophy today.

I want to talk mathematics.

Not the mathematics of fractals and game theory and Fermat’s last theorem and non-euclidian geometry.

Not even the mathematics of Matrices and Trigonometry and Algebra and Vectors.

But something more basic. More ancient.

The number line.

They say India invented zero. The Romans had other numbers already but they never used zero. I do not believe people didn’t ever have the concept of nothing. If you fall in love once – you cannot not know nothingness, maybe what they meant you cannot express nothing.

Phoenicians before them, they say didn’t have the concept of a number line. They lived with one and many. Either something was one, or something was more than one.

But were numbers discovered or invented? Were they ‘out there’ or were they ‘in here’?

I, for one, believe they were always out there.

I, for one, believe that if I had existed a hundred thousand years ago, I would have discovered them. Or I would have given up on being. Sooner than you can say 1,2,3.

Why am I so sure?

Imagine if I had no way to keep time. No way of putting it into numbers just how long ago it was that I had that one thing which what i always want.

Every moment waiting would have seemed an eternity. My favourite possession is a watch – that piece of engineering brilliance that brings me everyday solace that it has not yet been too long. That the hole that’s starting to build up in her absence is tiny yet with a comforting number behind it. I can keep changing the yardstick of measurement to larger and larger ones, just to keep the number small. Move to hours from minutes and then to weeks from days. And one day inevitably to years from months.

The thought is like a punch in my gut that blows all the air out from inside me.

But the number must remain singular. In single digits.

Just run a thought experiment – if you were living on venus where a day is longer than a year and you would be without a watch with no way to keep time through sunrise and sunset, would you be able to know whether the hole was one minute, one hour, one day or one year? Would you ever be able to not sink in that hole and just patiently walk around its rim like you do since ever and ever?

Would you have made it through life without numbers? All life for you means nothing except for the game of hide and seek. How would you have played it without the counting?

 

There’s an urge towards indulging in violence in all of us.

Pure. Raw. Violence. Violence is the only real source of power.

The desire to hit someone.

The best of us channel it into sex. Making it an outlet. Pinning your partner on the bed or the wall while furiously satisfying the beast in both.

The average ones channel it into their entertainment – by watching superhero movies and game of thrones.

The worst ones exercise it – getting into fights and scuffles over traffic incidences or breaking queues or umpteen ways of feeling being wronged.

But. The worst of the worst exercise it in their own homes. Violence against the powerless and the meek. Men who hit their wives. Teachers who hit their students. Priests who abuse young boys. Boys who apply glue on the feet of a cockroach and watch him suffer.

I don’t know where men who in their anger hit little children who play pranks rank. Especially those children whose parents are powerless to retaliate. Kids of watchmen, of maids, street kids.

That’s doubly terrible because it reinforces the brahminical mindset that pervades this entire country. Exercise the power over the underprivileged by making them feel the worst feeling known to them – being unable to protect their kids from being hurt by an offended powerful stranger.

I’ve been hit often in my childhood. By parents, teachers and strangers. My sister even more. I’ve seen my mom being beaten black and blue.

But I’ve never got used to this rage. Yesterday it flew but I smiled away in indifference outwardly because some people are beyond listening. I tell myself like she tells me – the day wasn’t good, the action of the person was awful and I am mature enough to love a person and hate a trait.

But.

They tell me I say and do things men generally don’t. My wife teases me when I like perfumes and flowery subtle shower gels and facewashes. I think a lot I talk a lot I feel a lot I read poetry i write – more a woman than many women I know.

But I’ve seen what being an alpha male means to the family.

If that’s what it means to be a man, I am glad I am not.

People are irresponsible fucks.

Joan didion nailed it when she said that self-esteem has nothing to do with anything remotely resembling competence or talent or a conscience. It’s as much a genetic trait as looks or body hair. You can be an utter imbecile, a charlatan and yet think so highly of yourself without any contradiction.

And its precisely the type of person who thrives in this age of relentless self glorification and self promotion.

I call them the dressed up dung heap. Zero competence, zero responsibility, and 100 in marketing. We used to hear that the real good sellers are those which can sell an ice to an Eskimo. The real good sellers are those who can sell ice to an Eskimo all the while pretending to themselves and the Eskimo that its a diamond. Ice even might be useful to the Eskimo – they are selling dung and since there’s no place to hide after selling highly decorated dung, you have to constantly find new Eskimos to sell to.

The entire game is based on the goodness of people – you trust that the other will not gossip about you to another, that you will be kind enough to allow the show to continue. Or, worse, you are irrelevant because there’s always another buyer waiting, wanting, eager to be seduced by glitz and glamour of dung.

The funniest part isn’t the outward selling.

It’s the inward selling.

The convincing of self that everything that doesn’t go to plan is due to external factors which cannot be controlled. Everytime. And that everything that goes right is due to self. So the balloon bloats and bloats and bloats but sometimes it bursts. Then they resort to that brilliant ‘tree-falling-in-the-forest’ question of George Berkeley which has flummoxed philosophers since ages. If at night, no one was there to see your balloon burst, did it really burst? Then it’s morning and sleep has filled up the balloon again and its time to go decorate the dung heap.

What I would not give for quiet competence. Someone who just comes, does his job as efficiently as expected to and leaves. If he she fucks up, they gracefully acknowledge it – try to fix the mess and if they can’t, they acknowledge even that, take the slack on the chest with the chest wide open, no horniness intended.

One of my friends gets really annoyed at me when i get mad at marketing. I know there’s something fucked up in me that I get all defensive and worked up about it. But it annoys me to no end whatsoever that it allows people to sell wares when they have no wares to sell. Look at what it gave us – the pinnacle of marketing – donald trump. narendra modi.

At the other end of the scale are equally annoying people who are so low on self esteem that they are always constantly bending over backwards to not disappoint at any cost regardless of cost to self. It’s as if they have decided that they will only be considered good enough if they meet every ridiculous demand thrown out by everyone, so that none should ever say that they didn’t live up to their promise. Always downselling themselves. Ever humble not knowing it isn’t a virtue, nothing but preparing the stage for eventual disappointment in self that the others will see sooner or later.

I don’t know when I joined the latter camp. Of crippling low self esteem. Of constantly short selling myself. Of victimhood. Was it when I married? Was it earlier than that in childhood?

I’ve forgotten the subtle art of not giving a fuck. The art of not giving a fuck about not giving a fuck. The art of responsibility but not guilt, the art of being considerate yet not a doormat.

So on such days. Both things annoy me to death. Why are idiots and assholes the way they are? Why am I the way i am?

Just how do you imagine her?

I never imagine her. It gets too much for me.

But when i do, strangely I always imagine her alone.

Lying on a daisy smitten yellow green carpet, dishevelled hair interspersed with tiny flowers and grass, gazing at the endless sky above.

Staring at sparse lazy clouds which seem to be playing tag with one another.

The self-centered sun shining hopefully, quite bored, on parts of her, content to have company while towering trees around her vying to touch some shade onto her and keep away that obnoxiously privileged orb from gaining her attention.

She however, as always, oblivious to the fragile neediness above, simply basking in the rays and dreams of castles in the sky.