Getting up early in the morning and hitting at your work desk, seeing the same innocent faces next to you, smelling the same smells, anticipating the same outcomes of the day, writing your heart out, wistfully looking at your social networking sites, greeting the same people who have sent you messages, chatting up with new ones with pure as well as vile intentions, vacantly looking at the postings others have done, reading so many things that you really do not need to know yet you read fearing being left out from social discourse, eating the same breakfast made by the same hands, going out, getting into the same car or any mode of conveyance, chancing upon the same strange people who have grown familiar over a period of time during the daily grind in metro/bus/railways stations, attending the same issues that reappear in different shapes and hues at office or workplaces, creating, recreating, feeling happiness, sadness, despair, elation, getting back home in the evening and attending the same rituals of yet another union. Life may sound too boring if you analyse the days in a year in your life. But this repetitiveness gives a sense of security and grounding though most of us feel that greener pastures are at the other shores. But we remain in one place, making all efforts to be happy and content.
Facebook, the agency that reassures one’s self worth day in and day out through its clever programming this year, has brought us the cheerful moments culled out from our lives and presented for us. As we go through them, the pictures that impart the feeling us riding the crests of joy, fame and success, we feel that the year was not really bad. If we see a year as a novel that tells a tragic story, these pictures are like those marked out pages where only joyous incidents are narrated. Reading those chosen pages could make someone take the book for a comedy. But it is not a bad thing; Facebook wants all of us to be happy and to be positive to receive the New Year, which in fact is not different from the year or day that has just gone by. Still we feel good. Like a soothsayer, this social networking site makes us feel good about ourselves. If it really does, then we should welcome the move. These vignettes from the year that is going to be past are like a platter of assorted desserts. The main course has already been taken; the hot, cold, sour, pungent, sharp, cutting tastes are taken with eagerness. Now it is time to relax for a few minutes. The platter makes you happy; it looks so beautiful and tastes so good. Have it, please.
(In one of my previous incarnations)
Looking back, I find myself waking up from different beds and sitting at different tables to write or read, throughout the year. I wake up alone mostly; sometimes a little bit of dullness in the head which has accompanied me to bed along with an occasional drink I have taken the previous night. Sometimes I wake up with a dazed mind with tears and screaming still reverberating from a late night phone call I have received in the night. Most often I get up with a clear mind and then I see a choir or orchestra set up in the stage of my mind with musicians ready to strike the right chord at the cue of the conductor. When I wake up and sit at the computer I become the conductor, words flow rhythmically. I find it curious and smile to myself when I am sitting with the computer on a table or on my lap, sitting on the bed itself because the environs look strangely similar. Just pull the curtain apart, the world out there is different, the language spoken there is different. Then I remind myself that I am in a new place though the hotel rooms look same. Sometimes I am in a transit home set up by myself with the help of some kind friends. I feel a sense of security and think that I am going to be here for long. I write from that sense of security. Then it is time to go.
When I walk along the streets and lanes, alone seeing things, I get this feeling of déjà vu. I have been here, I have eaten from this restaurant and I know that boy in his dirty clothes, who smiles at me. He has served me. I avoid that Sardarji who runs a gym. I know that barber who has cut my hair, I know that small provision store owner because I have bought things from him, I know the cigarette shop man and I know that old woman sitting on a wooden platform, selling vegetables. I know those old men in the parks who greet me enthusiastically. For a moment I think that I am daydreaming. But I am not. They are real people and I have been to those places. I avoid that Sardarji because I have worked out in his gym for fifteen days and then I am gone! I know those old men in the park because I have walked with them in the park. Those who care amongst them have asked me about my identity. I have given them different identities; to some people I am a writer, to some people I am an artist, to some people I am a journalist, to some people I work for an NGO. Experience has taught me to place myself finally. I do not say that I am a journalist anymore because if I say that they would tell me the names of the leading newspapers and ask me which one I work for. I used to fumble in the beginning till I chose one of the top names. I no longer say that I am a writer because then they ask me what I write. But I have found out a mid way. I tell them, I am a former journalist now writing books. It raises the respect quotient. They want their lives to be heard and written about. They tell me things and I hear them out. Some people are relentless; they just want to know my true identity. For them now I am a businessman. What business? They ask. I tell organizing exhibitions. As in? Big cultural events. They are happy. But what mental picture they must be forming about my business, I wonder. May be a contractor who rents out chairs, electronic equipments, make shift pandals, platform etc. They are happy because they think that this guy from South makes good money. He does not look impoverished either. Good...good.
I have lost the count of parks and streets I have walked. In Kerala, in Hyderabad, in Bangalore, in Delhi, in Mumbai, in Pune and in many other places, I walk just for the heck of it. Besides my morning walks in the parks or working out in gyms, I prefer to go for walking. In the beginning of 2014, I had decided to leave the security of my life for the second time by leaving home and hearth. I had done it first time almost twenty three years back when I decided to leave the place where I was born and brought up. This year I have been living in different places; at a friend’s place, at my sister’s house, in some dingy lodges, in some historically important bungalows, in artists’ studios, in hugely posh residences with two servants to attend me on, in moderate homes and an old school building. Looking back, people from different walks of life have come up to help me whenever I wanted help. This helps me understand that I have become an empty receptacle. Only in empty containers you can fill up things. I have learned, from the experience of this year to make myself an empty container; a person with minimum needs and minimum demands. What do I want for myself, I ask this question. A fresh pair of clothes, food to eat, a neat place to stay, books to read, a computer to write, an internet connection, a mobile phone, and....the list could be long. But I think I need only this much. Yes, I can hear you asking; MONEY. I have told you, when you do not have any demand, money too comes to you because there are other people around you who need you to make money for them. So money too comes. I am not exaggerating. I am blessed in that way.
I do not know whether you will believe me or not. I do not have anything that I could claim as my possession. I have learnt this lesson from this passing year; live the life you want and live happily. Be a receptacle and help as much as you can. Be free and be blessed. I am not a preacher or an evangelist to say this. But let me give my own example from this year. When I left the place where I thought I was living comfortably, I had taken my clothes, which amounts to a couple of pairs. I had a shoulder bag that carries my laptop. And this laptop was given to me by an organization which I was working for in 2011. When I left it they did not ask for it. So that is with me even today! One friend looked for a small flat for me and some other benevolent souls arranged the household things. When I went there, it was a liveable home. As I knew I was not going to stay in that place for long I did not buy a fridge or air cooler or conditioner. I decided to run the fan only on ‘two’ speed in 45 degree temperature because I did not want the idea of ‘luxury’ come to my mind for I did not have any clue where I would be staying next. For three months I wore a loin cloth at home, cooked my own meals and ate alone. One friend gave me a couple of shirts, another one gave me a pair of shoes and all of them together give me the strength to pull on. When I decided to travel, I did not have any travel bag. A young couple gave their travel bag to me, which I am still using.
(New Year drinks that I may not open)
Throughout the year, I did not buy a single thing. All my clothes are gifted to me by friends. All my trips are arranged by my friends. I never asked for money or clothes or anything from anybody. They kept on coming and they still keep coming. Mostly I travel by flights; I know from where the tickets come but I never ask for it. I am always prepared to live in a five star hotel or a railway station because I do not have anything that could be stolen from me. I am always prepared to travel by a bus or a train without reservation. I can eat five star lunches that costs Rs.2500/- per meal to Rs.20/- per meal ‘Jan Ahar’ that you get outside metro stations in Delhi. I am not boasting. I do not make differences between these two. I drink Glenfidich or Glenmorangi and I do not have any problem to take Royal Stag or Old Monk. I can have a Corona beer in style and I do not feel lesser when I sip Kingfisher ultra. A few days before a friend came with a packet for me and I opened it to see a Mexican Tequila ‘Patron XO Cafe’, a bottle of Black Dog, one bottle of Jesterini and Brooks whiskey and one bottle of Ciroc Vodka, all for myself to celebrate the New Year eve. But I may spend the night with a glass of water, listening to some Malayalam songs in Youtube. By the way, I have not told you this: cars are at my disposal wherever I go. But I do not mind walking all the way, if there are no cars for me.
I have been telling you how my year was like. I have been blessed by friends and well meaning people. I do not want to take the names of the people who have been showering me with their blessings. I do not ask anything from them. But like Gods they know what I want or what I may want and they keep showering me with their gifts and love. But I keep myself empty always with my feet firmly anchored in reality and letting my imagination soar to the limitless skies. I am blessed because you, my reader, are with me. I live a life of emptiness so that you could fill me in with your love and care. I do not make any New Year resolutions because I do not have a vices to kick out. I kick out myself from myself every morning and every night so that your blessings could find a place to stay. I am not excitable and I am not easily susceptible to materialistic things. In high tide or low tide I want to be like this and I seek your blessings for that. I wish you a happy New Year and you stay blessed.