Bit of “Me” in my things.



I like things I can hold, touch, feel, smell, see etc. etc. You get the drift. But lately one thing that has been bothering me (and that might be primarily because I am kind of old fashioned and like some things the good old way) is that, increasingly a lot of our stuff is becoming intangible. And by stuff I mean things we buy and keep with fondness because there are milestones, memories and moments associated with them. So, while audio cassettes replaced LPs, and CDs replaced audio cassettes, and now cloud has replaced CDs, it has also replaced the involvement of going into a music store, laboriously going through the music shop to find the cassette or CD, saving money for it in school or college, and then getting it home out of the cover and listening to it over and over again, lugging it around when one moved to the hostel and back and then wherever one moved. And then a time came to replace the old technology with the new form of this technological progression.

Today, if I am missing a song and want to listen to it all I have to do is go to my apple music account and download it or have it as part of my monthly subscription. So easy, yet I find it so impersonal.

Human beings by nature like memories and looking back upon them every now and then. And nostalgia is hand in glove with memories. Look all around us, taking pictures constantly, of things, places, people we love. What else are we doing but creating memories…memories to look back on. I came across this quote while reading something about nostalgia and then connecting that with my discomfort of things becoming intangible and the fact that I am re-reading “Immortality” at the moment, my discomfort began to make sense.

“Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective, and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life (and that of others) is not as banal as it may seem, that it is rooted in a narrative, and that there have been—and will once again be—meaningful moments and experiences.” – Neel Burton M.D.

Having read the excerpt above I realized that all the “things” that we accumulate and some of it that we keep is the narrative of who we are, what we like and what we hold precious. Those are also the things that once we die will help make others some sense of us. Someone going through the books that we bought and kept, seeing the boarding cards tucked away in them, or name, date and city scribbled that tells the person when and where we bought it. Going through the pictures that are found in an envelope because there were too many to be framed, some pictures which never made it to social media, the music in the form of CDs, LPs…all the stuff that can be touched, seen, and felt. The stuff, that makes us tangible even if we are gone, the stuff that makes us slightly immortal in our own little world.

Those things will suggest our thought process and what we enjoyed and who knows what someone may learn or take away from that. But given the intangibility trend who will bother to go through the Kindle that we bought for convenience and see what we were reading and what was the pattern in our preference or log onto the music and pictures library to see what were those experiences or people or words that influenced us. The things others will look at and think, “Hey, never imagined Shaifali would ever listen to this!” or fight over who should take what book or music CD.

So while technology has started to make life more convenient for a while now so that we have more opportunities to experience things with ease and much more immediacy, it is also replacing our invisible form, our invisible form that lasts a little longer than our tangible selves. Things that will be shared and hopefully will make another person go through a journey much like ours or different.

Places of Answered and Unanswered Prayers.



I have always loved temples, since childhood. I remember that in Nahan, a small town where I was born, there was a temple up the hill. It was a very short walk and I used to go there alone very often as a child. When I grew up the visits to temples or any place of prayer were rare as my parents though believers of God are fairly liberal and somewhere between laziness and hurry for modernity we stopped doing anything that continued a contact with God. We all grew up, got busy and moved on.

Though, many years later when I was travelling with a friend in Uttarakhand and we went to a temple with many many steps, many bells and I felt the same feeling of peace.

I realised that my love affair with temples, or places of prayer was not over.

Over the years, I have managed to see some beautiful places of prayer across many cities and few countries and have always walked away with a feeling of calm and hope. Very recently I visited two places of prayer, both are magnificent in terms of architecture and space but not any more or less important than the smaller places I have been to.

One is at the Vatican. St . Peter’s Basilica and the other one is Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum.

Both of them are worlds apart. While, St. Peter’s Basilica was buzzing with tourists taking selfies and all, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple does not allow photography and there is a dress code that one must follow and respect. But, there is a prayer room at St. Peter’s Basilica where one cannot speak aloud and all you can do is sit and pray or just sit for as long as you want. When I went there, I just sat and prayed for my family, friends and the world at large but there was something so moving about the place, so quiet and so heavy with the air of faith that I just found my eyes welling up and was unable to move due to this wave of emotion, a wave filled with a bit of self pity, a bit of feeling sorry for others, a bit of hopelessness, a bit of thankfulness, a bit of nostalgia and all of that. I realised that whenever I have looked around and seen people at places of prayer all I have seen is this intense devotion. You see them praying with the intensity that looks like once they walk out of here all their problems will be miraculously solved. But I don’t think those miracles happen very often.

What I did realise that it is not the presence of idols or symbols but the presence of human faith that makes a place of prayer powerful and hence that God is nothing but the energy created thanks to human faith.

It is the energy that we create and it takes a tangible form in our minds. And that form make us believe that things will get better. Prayer is nothing but a one sided conversation and God is probably our best shrink. We speak to God with all the honesty, I don’t think we are ever that honest with anyone else. We are honest with the energy because an invisible and non-tangible, silent form is not judging us. Since we are talking to our own energy, conversations with God are actually honest conversations with our own selves. Just that the idea of talking to God makes us feel there is someone listening and is less judgemental about us than we are.

Conversations with God help us to say it as is, it also helps to re-articulate and question what we are praying for, question if what we are praying for is what we want or is it something else. Conversations with God is an iterative process of arriving at that absolute one sentence we know when we say it, it will feel right. And frankly at the end of all this, I have realised that by and large all that we want is health, empathy and joy. The rest are just means to this end.

We as human beings need faith and hope to go on. To believe that what is good today shall remain good and what is not will become better. But in reality it isn’t always so. And that is our strife and that is our struggle with life. We strive to keep making ourselves better despite of reality and we keep struggling to understand how. For a better life I am not sure what the benchmarks are anymore. Because when I look around my life, I realise that it is pretty damn good.

So in places of prayer while I pray for health, happiness and joy, I also enjoy the energy of human faith that gives me more hope. And of course I do love the vast places of prayer that have come to stand tall thanks to the power of faith.

Old books & lovers.



I want to meet you again, with the familiarity of re-reading an old favourite book.

You know the story, the beginning, the middle and the end.

But in between the lines detail is what has been slightly forgotten.

I want to smile again. At the sentence that I have read earlier, but it feels anew.

Because, even though my mind forgot the memory of those words,

that familiar glee never fails to reach my eyes.

You may say the same sentences or different ones,

but I know that I will still smile.

Because what I remember is not what you said,

because what I will always remember is how I felt when you speak.

I just want to sit quietly and hear you say things, random things,

because I want to remember your face,

your face that you are so conscious of,

when you look away because you are feeling shy,

when you purse your lips because you don’t know what to do if I cried.

Like I hold that old and familiar book,

I want to sit across the table and hold your face with my gaze

examine if the grey hair that you have,

is more than when we met last.

I want to smile wide and honest so you can see my wrinkles.

I want to inhale that smell of you like we smell old books.

They are musty and comforting.

I may find something new in the book this time.

We may find something new in the conversation.

But the feeling of familiar, comforts me for very long.

How can something so old and so familiar still give a feeling of new, fresh excitement?

How does that feeling remain?

Is it the time, is it the distance, or is it just the memory?

Memory that misses the details but only remembers parts of elation.

The parts where words across a page made me think and re-think.

The joy that was brought by that thought.

The words that made me discover a whole new me.

The words that added to “me” being who I am today.

That is why I want to meet you again.

To just watch while you speak.

Miss the details of your words. But remember that feeling which made me find who I am today.

That feeling which nudged me to test myself and see what it really meant to love.

That feeling which makes me remember not the details of your words but the intensity of my feelings.

I want to keep you like that book I am re-reading by my side, for a while. At least, just that while.

Me and My Magic Carpet.


I distinctly remember that when I was a child the notion of magic came to me for the very first time while reading the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. Magic at that stage of life meant “whatever you want, will happen.”

Magic at this stage of life still means, “whatever you want, will happen.” Even now, in my everyday conversations, many a times I refer to my imaginary flying carpet. In many situations I do feel much calmer imagining myself sitting on that carpet and just flying off. Now, thanks to knowing the real life the reference to the magic carpet has an undertone or overtone of sarcasm. But I must say, even now, I believe in magic, even though it won’t ever be obvious, but I so love the glee I feel when I think, that imagine if this could just happen, something which sounds super improbable.

Magic also requires complete suspension of rationality, logic and perhaps science too. But what it does require for sure is a very strong belief. And that belief will lead us to some place. I think. Just imagining that I have a magic carpet and all I have to do is sit on it and transfer myself somewhere else is highly unlikely, but when I do imagine it in my head, it feels real, I actually imagine cool breeze, no pollution of course but a calm traffic smoothly on the road below me. I don’t even care where I land, as long as I can fly on that carpet is all that matters. And it is true to our behaviour in life situations too, the moments we think were magical, they were never leading to anything or anywhere but they were so powerful and complete in those seconds primarily because we believed in the improbable.

Just before my teens, my magic carpet was my bicycle. I used to just cycle around for hours and hours, and the freedom I felt is still palpable. I was discovering freedom for the first time and that feeling that I can get away was awesome, it made me feel like an adult. The feeling of being far way on my own, from where I was supposed to be, but not yet knowing where I will be and the in between was the magic. Only when I came across a point where I felt scared or not safe did I turn the bicycle around and went back the familiar way. Well, sadly there was no magic in turning back.

Now, the magic carpet equivalent is a fight. It literally transports us from one place to another, takes us somewhere, anywhere, but all the planning beforehand makes the destination magical and not the journey somehow. For me, I don’t really care about the destination, as along as I have a magic carpet and all I have to do is sit on it and fly away. I will eventually get to someplace. 🙂

So, I guess magic is nothing but just a strong belief. A belief that something wonderful will happen despite of rationality, logic and science against you. Unfortunately, my damn flying carpet which is supposed to transport me somewhere else is not manifesting itself.

Van Gogh and other pointless thoughts.

Yes, there is a lot going wrong out there and sometimes I feel guilty and shallow for enjoying things. But at the moment all I can do is pray for the sufferers, choose empathy towards friends and strangers and live and enjoy all that life has to offer.
Long ago I remember buying a book, a book which I usually would look down upon as I thought it was shallow and focussed on things that are not important. The book was the best of Vogue pictures of parties, people and places. Once it was bought I thoroughly enjoyed admiring the pictures, I remember telling a friend, “Why must one feel reality is only the struggle, poverty and the suffering? Reality also lies in beauty and perhaps indulgence.”
So, here is my indulgence at the moment, pontificating on my favouritest painting in the world. (I know favouritest is not a word).
It is called “Cafe terrace by night” by Vincent Van Gogh.
I don’t remember when and how I fell in love with that painting, perhaps during art school days. And over the years it is a painting that I love deeply and somehow it just calms me to see it. It is not an unhappy or a happy painting, it is just a sombre snapshot of someone’s neighbourhood cafe, these days we may see something like this on instagram with a hashtag of #myneighbourhoodcafe or something like that.
I have been looking at the painting and realised that my first impression was that of emptiness. The cafe looks like a place busy during the day but the quietness of the night makes you want to get away from it. The patch in the canopy gives it a feeling of well used and well lived a place by people and its owners and it looks nestled in a typical European street with houses around and people coming in and going out. I would like to think, like me Van Gogh was also focusing on the emptiness with vacant tables in the foreground, people and the quiet humdrum of activity at the back is incidental, like when we take a picture, we focus on one thing and many a times when we look at that picture later we realise the stuff that was happening around the subject.
There is so much of quietness in the painting that I feel even the sound of breath itself will bring life to it. When I look at it I don’t even hear the sound of shoes against the cobbled stones in a far away distance. The painting is from a point of view of someone who is distant, smoking a cigarette and with no thought just looking at the on goings of the cafe. Probably if you asked the observer what he saw he may not be able to recall as the painting feels like a moment when you are among a crowd but don’t feel your own body or mind and later on won’t even remember being in that crowd. The painter feels closer to the emptiness and not the people.
And most importantly, because oil painting in the only medium in which you first paint with dark colours and paint light colours at the end, it is similar to a spiritual journey in life. Yes, this is me overthinking it but going from dark to light and to lightness.
So indulgence is a journey, whether of enjoying places, things, people, moments and so on and so forth, but if we let it, it can take us to observing our indulgence and give us a sneak peek in who we are. It is just a matter of how close we are and how far at the same time.

When I am a kid.



When I am a kid I can talk to anything or anyone.

When I grow up I will get the sense of “I”, “Me” & “Mine”

When I am a kid you are a friend and not a swan.

When I grow up you are a bird and I ain’t no Peter Pan.