Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015, 3 Things That Made My Year Special.

It is a quiet Thursday night.

I have been at home all day, but then, I wanted to stay in.

Like most of the other members of our species, after thinking about the many things that I could do such as, taking out the trash, clearing the pile of laundry lying at a visible distance, or doing the dishes that have been in the sink for so long I bet I saw a mini ecosystem developing around it this morning, I finally decide that the best thing for me to do would be watching the good ol’ telly.

I have repeatedly seen all 236 episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S so many times that I have now reached a point where I have started noticing a lot of things that escaped my attention during my initial viewings of the show.

The changing artwork in the coffee house, Chandler Bing’s fluctuating weight, Joey’s different hairstyles, the wooden pole jutting out in the living room supporting the set, actors standing near windows and doors waiting for their cue, and so on and so forth.

For the first time, however, my thoughts are drawn toward the studio audience.

I wonder if the laughs are organic or forced.

At least in the case of a show like F.R.I.E.N.D.S,I can vouch for the authenticity of the laughter, the jokes were after all incredibly funny. But then I think about shows such as the King of Queens, a sitcom that dragged on for 9 long seasons which in spite of a stellar cast and interesting premise felt more like a punishment to me than entertainment.


‘I really have to find something better to do with my day’, I tell myself, and my eyes start scanning the room again.

I hear sounds from the kitchen and my imagination starts going wild, I wonder if gremlins are coming to life in the sink amidst all the debris. I stare at the laundry basket and worry if some of the clothes have moved out of their secure location to the floor by themselves.

Fortunately for me, my eyes land on the date and time showing at the bottom right corner of my computer screen and I instantly break out of my funk.

One more day before another year comes to an end, and a few more hours before I step out into the cold for my favorite tradition of taking a walk on New Year’s Eve.

After letting out a deep sigh, I start my review of 2015.

And as I always I begin by thinking about how fast it went by.

Just to make sure that I am not the only one who feels the same way, again, as always, I call my mother and she agrees with me (of course, after shouting at me for waking her up in the middle of the night). 


2015 went past us like a blur.

I dive deep into the sea of memories in my head and swim around for a long time before I realize that even though 2015 was a very eventful year, three things particularly, stood out from the rest.

Travel.

Although mostly unplanned, 2015 for me was a year of travelling.

In my 28 years of being on this planet I have never travelled as much as I did this year, I am not sure if I will ever beat the record in the future (though I hope to God that I do), but over 50,000 miles across 3 continents in planes, trains and automobiles is definitely a young man’s game :-)

"Travelling really is the ultimate test of a person isn’t it"? Billy my co-passenger asked me soon after our flight to Baltimore landed at the airport.

We had experienced multiple delays that morning, our landing was rough and, even though I wasn’t eavesdropping I noticed Bill’s laptop run out of charge just before he could save a presentation he was planning to deliver at a meeting later that day.

A few deep breaths later, he composed himself, found a charging spot at the airport, and got back to work.


It took me some time to understand what he had just said, but when I thought about it, his words made so much sense to me.

We can test our limits only by stepping out of our comfort zones, this happens all the time when we travel. Our capacity to adapt, reinvent ourselves, make quick decisions, and improvise on the spot are tested constantly when we are on the move.

For every mile I travelled, and for all the experiences along the way I am grateful.

Getting hitched.

Wait a minute.

I’m not talking about myself.

But yeah, 2015 was also a year when most of my friends got married, engaged or into serious relationships.

23 people to be exact. 46 if you include their better halves.

One of them very lovingly referred to his wife as an 'incurable wound' in his wedding announcement (still trying to wrap my head around that one).
I rejoiced with every notification on my social media pages and all the invites that showed up at home and in my mailboxes online. The idea of someone finally finding that special person in their life was something worth celebrating.

I think the only reason humanity is still around is because, in spite of all the wrong that happens around us, there is still love to be found, that fact that people are still falling for each other getting married is proof of this.

A year of learning.

I will remember 2015 as a year when a many of my personal theories about life were disproved.

Take for example, the theory I had about making friends.

I had always believed that as we grow older, it becomes increasingly hard to make friends, but this theory of mine turned out to be absolutely wrong.

All it takes to get through to someone is being able to spend quality time with them, even if it’s just 2 minutes. Nothing else matters.

Another thing that I believed in when this year began was that, in order to receive God’s grace in our lives, I thought it was important for us to do things to prove we were worth it.

The truth, however, stunned me. God’s grace is not something that we deserve, it is something that is given to us, something that comes looking for us, especially when we are at our weakest. The countless ways in which we are protected day in and day out by invisible forces that we often don’t see is evidence that it is impossible to earn grace on our own accord.

Perhaps the best part of 2015 for me was when I heard a phrase that brought about a major change in the way I approached various challenges in my life, especially the ones concerning other people.

I don’t really know where I heard it first.

It might’ve been on the radio, someone's t-shirt, a bumper sticker or even a text from a friend.

This is what it said – ‘Inside every person, is someone you haven’t met yet’

This is universally true and something I have always known but this quote helped me set it in stone.

No matter how much time you spend with a person there are always going to be facets to them that we don’t understand, or appreciate but if given a chance everyone can, and will surprise you.It always helps to give others the benefit of the doubt and walk a mile in their shoes before arriving at a conclusion about them or the situation.

And as my friend Karthik would say, make sure their shoe fits you first before you start walking :-)

I hope 2015 was a great year for you all too and that 2016 will be better in every manner possible.

A heartfelt Happy New Year to everyone reading this. Stay Blessed.

Until next year,


TGV

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Grow Up? Say Whaaaat?


“You”.

Manish appeared startled when Dr. Mohan pointed at him during morning rounds at the hospital.

“Yes, you”.

In general, he had a tendency to fumble, and now, with Dr. Mohan’s vision (rumored to have the capacity to pierce through giant icebergs) focused directly on him, I completely sympathized with him for looking lost, confused, and terrified, all at the same time.

I also didn’t find fault with him for dropping his pen, for nearly falling on the floor when he stooped down to pick it up and for slamming his head on the patients bed when he straightened himself.

Dr. Mohan was a force to reckon with, if being chief of medicine in a busy hospital of the city wasn’t enough, his towering 6’4’’ height and powerful voice was more than the necessary dosage required to surprise, nay, frighten a freshly graduated doctor from medical school.
Imagine the same scenario above, but with a lot more people, A LOT MORE! :-)

“What is Courvoisier’s law”?

“Sir, Um, Umm…” Manish replied, struggling to string together words that made sense.

“Um”? Dr Mohan asked in the same powerful voice, his eyebrows propped up this time, which only served to increase the tension in the room.

“Sir, Um…” Manish said again.

“Yes, you said that already Dr.Manish”.

“Sir, the gall bladder”. Manish said turning his hands around in the air trying to depict the shape of the structure in the body.

“The gall bladder dances”? Dr Mohan asked him, imitating Manish’s hand movement.

He exaggerated it to make it appear as though he was performing a traditional folk dance popular in India.

“ Dr.Thomas, do you know what it is, or are you going to teach us another step of this dance form that Manish seems to have mastered”? He asked me, turning his powerful gaze in my direction.

Unlike Manish who was new to the hospital, I had been working in the hospital for 6 months now.

There was no need for me to freak out.

“Sir”, I said, taking a moment to think. This was mainly because I was trying hard to avoid saying “Um” like Manish was doing.

“Sir, the gall bladder.”

“Yes, yes, the gall bladder”. Dr Mohan said, the annoyance in his voice increasing as he spoke.

“Sir, the gall bladder”. I said again, this time inadvertently repeating the same damned hand movement that Manish had done earlier.

“Ah”, Dr.Mohan groaned.

“Why don’t the two of you start a dance studio and call it ‘Man-mas dance classes for nitwits’, I can think of a 100 people from just the top of my head, including my son, who would love to join.

Everyone in the vicinity without a hearing problem laughed out loud.

"Tell me about it tomorrow" He said.

"About the dance studio sir"? Manish enquired.

"No you idiot, Courvoisier’s law". Dr. Mohan said shaking his head and storming out of the ward in his signature fashion, which involved throwing his disposable mask and head cap accurately into the trash can almost 25 feet away like a seasoned basketball player.

All of us including the nurses had tried achieving this feat several times in the past, none of us could get it right, in fact we had often tried to place the dustbin farther away from its original position to see if he could still make it, but that didn’t make much of a difference, Dr. Mohan never missed his target.

Manish and I both knew what Courvoisier’s law was, we had been repeating it ever since we heard of it in our second year at med school.
In case you were wondering.
The problem was that whenever we were faced by Dr. Mohan, we would suffer from acute episodes of the famed 'tongue tie', our jaws would automatically get locked, and our brains would either shut down completely, or go into overdrive.

None of this changed the fact that he was one of the most brilliant doctors we had ever come across, and even though he was in charge of over 40 patients on average, every single day, we never saw him lose his cool, get angry with a patient or misdiagnose an illness.

“Man-mas dance studio sounds like a good name, doesn’t it?” Manish said as we headed out for lunch the same afternoon.

“It’s like man and mass together” He said putting up both words in the air and holding them together as he spoke.

“Are you sure you didn’t suffer a head injury this morning?” I asked , unable to believe that he was actually considering the option of the 2 of us starting a dance studio.

“Have you ever wondered what helps Dr. Mohan stay so cool all the time”? I asked him trying to change the topic.

“I think about it often, I’ve heard he has a big family too”. He replied.

“Maybe it has something to do with that half an hour break he takes everyday”. I said

“Nobody knows what he does, in that time” He replied.

“There are rumours you know” Manish Said.

“Ya, he is probably just getting some well deserved sleep in his room during those breaks”.

“No way, People have heard him laugh from within the room”.

“Which people I asked him”.

“I can’t tell you”.

“Why?”

“Because I can’t”

“Yes you can”.

“No I won’t”.

“Yes you will”.

“Over my dead body”.

“Why”?

“Because…..”

“Because, what?”

“Because,I promised Nurse Mini I wouldn’t tell anyone”.

“Oh damn”!!! He exclaimed, realizing he has just revealed something he was hoping to keep secret till his death.

“Nurse Mini you say? She wouldn’t say that unless it was true”. I said sounding convinced.

“You want to go check on Dr. Mohan”? Manish asked me.

“No, I’d rather start a dance studio”. I replied.

“Common, it’s his usual break time, atleast we can confirm if what Mini was telling the truth”.

I reluctantly agreed.

We went back upstairs to the doctor’s lounge.

Dr. Mohans room was closed as usual.

Manish sneaked up to his door and beckoned to me to follow.

I stayed at a safe distance keeping watch.

With every passing second, the dance studio idea was seeming to make so much more sense to me.

He couldn’t shout so he mouthed the words without saying them.

I didn’t have to be a trained lip reader to understand what he was trying to say.

“You have to listen to this, come here”.

“Mini was right, he is laughing hysterically”.

I shook my head vigorously, saying no repeatedly.

Manish continued to mouth the same old words, adding an ‘I will kill you’ to try to convince me.


As his frustration grew he started waving his hands wildly.
Manish was so excited that he couldn’t notice what was happening right behind him.

But I saw it clear as day.

The door knob was turning.

Dr.Mohan was just about to emerge from inside.

I tried my best to tell him what was going on.

But he didn’t relent.

I turned my hand so as to mimic the motion of the turning knob, but instead of being alerted by my actions, Manish conveniently thought I was repeating the gall bladder dance.

He too started turning both his hands to mock my actions; for added effect he shrugged his shoulders rhythmically and pranced on his feet.

For some reason I didn’t stop doing the gall bladder dance either. Maybe I was too terrified to get a grip on the situation.

I watched in horror as Manish danced in full swing, completely unaware of the fact that Dr. Mohan was standing right behind him.

Both of us froze when he gently tapped his shoulder.

He reached for his wallet, fished out a crisp hundred rupee note and handed it to Manish.

“Nice performance, keep it up”. He said before walking away from us.

Manish’s hands were ice cold when I walked up to him and took the note.

“Why didn’t you tell me he was standing behind me Man” He screamed when he came to his senses.

"I tried you idiot, but you started mocking me".

“Oh man! What do we do now”. Manish said sounding anxious.

“I don’t know. I’m hungry”. I replied

“How could you have an appetite after this incident”?

“We can use that money to buy something good you know". I said showing  him the bill Dr. Mohan had given him.

“Haha, very funny". He said turning around for a second to look at the door”.

“What the…” he stopped short.

“Do you see what I see”?

“What”?

“He left the door open”. He said pointing at the door which was still slightly ajar.

“Yeah so what, let’s leave”.

“No way, I’m going in”.

“You must have some kind of concussion Manish” I said trying to sound angry.

He walked into the room, completely ignoring my words.

“Oh my God” I heard him exclaim.

I followed him inside.

I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing either.

“Dr. Mohan’s  laptop was on, and what he was watching surprised me greatly”.

Tom and Jerry!!!!!

So, this is what he does to unwind Manish said as I dragged him out of the room.

In the cafeteria we both stared at our food without talking much to each other.

"Tom and Jerry", Manish said breaking the silence.

“Who would’ve guessed”? I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“You should’ve heard him laugh; it was a lot like my 7 year old nephew”. Manish said.

“He seems to be all softy soft on the inside, like an overgrown child". I replied.

“Ya, that's what it looks like".

“What are you doing this weekend’? I asked him.

“I’m going with my mother to the mall, to buy some clothes”.

“You can’t buy them yourself?”.

“I can, but mommy is better at it than me”. Manish replied with a sheepish smile.

“Dr. Mohan is not the only kid in the department” I said staring back at the 23 year old man who regressed into a 5 year old child at the mention of his mother.

I couldn’t resist laughing at the thought of Manish strolling through the mall with his mother helping him pick up his clothes.
Grow up!

Stop acting like a little baby!

These are lines all of us have heard at some point of time or the other, and yes, growing up is an important part of life, but I have always held that it is equally important to keep the child inside us alive.

My experience that day with Dr. Mohan only served to help me strengthen that belief.

The fact that he relied on reliving some moments of his childhood by watching a beloved cartoon show to rejuvenate his energy and composure, was enough for me to realize how indulging in a little childish behavior from time to time can be the saving grace we all need to deal with the many problems that adulthood brings along with it.

Inside out was one of the best movies that came out this year.
Like all pixar films, this one too was insightful, original, heartwarming and ingenious.

While I hope someday to write an entire post dedicated to the film, the one thing I want to use from the story here is how the lead character in the movie, Riley, starts losing her love for some of the most precious parts of her memories as she starts the transition from being a child to a teenager.

As a third person watching the film, a large part of me was going, "No Riley,no, don't allow that happen, don't allow the world to do that to you".

Childhood is a phase of life characterized by quiet trust, a sense of wonder,innocence and love for the simple things.

But as we grow older, a lot of these positive feelings begin to diminish, sometimes, they lose their meaning altogether,or worse still, they get replaced by fear and insecurity, till ultimately we arrive at a point in our life where we stare at ourselves in the mirror and wonder how far we've come and how much we've changed along the way.

But if you haven't allowed the world to take away the child in you, the fearless, funny, trusting and loving version of you that only a few if not none have seen before, don't hesitate to, take a trip down memory lane every now and then. Dance in the rain, make a splash in the puddles of water left behind, watch your favorite cartoon show, or like me, go down to the supermarket and pull down every box in the cereal aisle till you decide what you want to buy, carry the box with both your hands holding it close to your chest, and change your mind at the billing counter. ;-)

Trust me, doing something to reminisce your childhood will only serve to make the challenges of being an adult seem far less daunting.

My hope for you, this childrens day, is that you are somehow, in some way, holding on to the child inside you. 

Until next time

TGV




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Baggage Claim

What’s in your backpack?

How much does your life weigh?

Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack.I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders.

Feel them?

Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. 

You start with the little things, the things on shelves and in drawers, the knickknacks, the collectibles. 

Feel the weight as that adds up.

Then you start adding the larger stuff: clothes; tabletop appliances; lamps; linens; your TV.

The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now and you go bigger: your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there.

Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two-bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack.

Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it?
This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. 

And make no mistake, moving is living.

Now, I’m going to set that backpack on fire.

What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember.

Drink some ginko and let the photos burn.

In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it?

Now, this is going to be a little difficult. So stay with me.

You have a new backpack. Only this time, I want you to fill it with people.

Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office.

Then you move in the people that you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your parents. 

And finally, your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack.

Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to light it on fire.

Feel the weight of the bag. Make no mistake, your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders? All those negotiations and arguments and secrets and compromises.

You don’t need to carry all that weight.

Why don’t you set that bag down?

Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically for a lifetime. Star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans.

We are not those animals.

The slower we move, the faster we die. 

We are not swans. We’re sharks.

This is not me talking, but Ryan Bingham a character George Clooney was born to play in the movie ‘Up in the Air’.He fits into the role as comfortably as he does in the suave suits he is wearing throughout the film.
I’m hoping that when you read the monologue from the film above, you too found yourself answering Ryan’s questions and doing what he asks you to do.

These are not words that I personally choose to live by, in fact I remember watching the film for the first time and thinking to myself, “No, that’s not the right way of approaching life”.

I was however very intrigued by some of the things he says.

I think the basic question here is about what all we tend to carry with us when we go through our lives on a day to day basis.The burden we choose to place on our shoulders.

I want you to think about all the things that are weighing on your mind right now, even as you are reading this post.

Wouldn’t you agree with me that too often we weigh ourselves down by thoughts regarding things that are not really under our control.
Regrets from our past, worries about the future,issues at work, bills that need payment, exam results and scores from matches featuring our favorite teams.If all this isn't enough we also think about other people’s problems. This would make sense if the ones we thought about were friends and family, but we also tend think a lot about celebrity relationship woes and drug problems and so on and so forth.

Maybe you’re set of problems are not the same as the ones listed above, but I’m sure you have your own worries to deal with.

While ‘Carpe Diem’ and ‘Seize the Day Boys’ may seem far fetched sometimes, living in the moment is a reasonable expectation from oneself, wouldn't you agree?

For a moment, turn your thoughts toward only those things that need your individual and immediate attention.

Don’t you feel atleast a little less burdened?

Doesn’t the space you have created for yourself allow you to enjoy a little bit more of your present than you were able to before?

Don’t you feel your drooping shoulders straighten up a little as you let go off everything that is not under your control?

Life is short and unpredictable, we only have a little time here and a significant portion of it is spent on worrying and thinking about things that usually end up taking care of themselves. Trust me, a lot of apparently unsolvable problems in life get sorted out on their own without any assistance from you or from me, its just how the world functions.

We all have baggage that comes in different sizes and shapes, and it is only natural for us to be weighed down by them, it might be easier for some of us compared to the others to empty our backpack off all the stuff that we dont really need and move on with our lives. For the rest of us, here's the best part, if we have good friends whom we can lean on and share our burdens with, the weight becomes a lot more easier to bear.

Until next time

TGV


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Something I Need

I hate one republic.

Wait.

I spoke to soon, let me rephrase.

I actually love one republic.

One moment please, that’s not what I’m getting at, so let me try again.

I hate that I love one republic as much as I do.

Yes, finally, that’s what I have been trying to say all along.

One republic’s music is great. They don’t have a particular sound which makes it difficult to confine them to a single genre, the lyrics of their songs are incredible, most of their videos are very interesting and yet I seem to have a problem with the band, why is that?
The problem I feel lies in the fact that their songs make you think, they make you want to get up and do something.

I have been very honest with the posts on this blog, but the stupid things that I have done after listening to their songs are secrets that I will carry to the grave.

Not the grave maybe, but definitely to my deathbed atleast.

Alright, alright. I’ll give you one example.

The song ‘I lived’ is one my favorite songs by the band. The words are basically a calling to the people of the world to do the best that they can with their life, its good advice. But for a man completely unaccustomed to running with 5 minutes left to catch a plane which was just about to leave the gates it meant doing everything physically possible to try and make it.

Spoiler alert.

The man slips and falls right next to the gate, he coughs uncontrollably trying to catch his breath surrounded by a crowd incredibly paranoid about swine flu and yes, the plane leaves.
Ok, so the song doesn’t literally ask people to do silly things, but that’s what I’ve been trying to say, one republics music tends to have that affect on people.

‘Something I Need’ is a song from the their album ‘Native’.
While the song itself is beautiful, it’s the music video that this month’s blog post is dedicated to.

Let’s start from the beginning.

We see a man sitting on a park bench reading a book very intently. Standing close by is a very pretty girl feeding the ducks in the pond. She waves at the man who initially can’t believe that the girl is interested in him but after a while he gathers himself and starts walking towards her.

Before he reaches her though, he sees a giant, angry looking dog that chases him down the street and leaves him badly injured.
Bleeding and bruised he makes his way to a newspaper stand and reads about the dog which turns out to be a rabid animal on the loose. The girl appears again. This time he almost holds her before the Alsatian comes roaring back at him. He struggles to fight the dog back but he doesn’t break loose and the dog prevails.

The video now cuts to the funeral service.

Our hero is lying in his coffin, and weirdly enough he is still holding on to the book he was reading initially.
Someone, presumably a close friend or a relative walks up to him and takes away the book.

The girl appears again holding the dogs on a leash and she lets them loose.

The dogs dig into our hero, but he doesn’t resist (he can’t, he’s dead remember) but surprisingly, he is brought back to life.

He smiles as he awakens to seeing the girl and the video ends.

You can watch the complete video by clicking on the link below.
Like almost every other one republic music video, upon seeing it another time I realized that there was more to it that just a funny story.

To me, the young man represents a every other person in the world with an apparently impossible dream, the book he holds on to is like a set of rules that he has made for himself over the years that are serving as a roadblock to going after what seems to be ‘out of his league’. The dogs stand for his fears that he harbors inside which threaten his very existence and show up every time he decides to take a step towards changing his life.

Instead of standing tall and facing his fears he runs away whenever he is confronted by them and his fears eventually consume him.

Even in death he holds on tightly to his little rule book, till someone comes and forcibly snatches it from him. To me this scene symbolizes all the people in our lives who work tirelessly to remove the curtains from our eyes and help us see things clearer.

With the book gone and no other option left but to face his fears the young man realizes that what he thought would kill him actually ends up breathing life into him.


Like the man in the video it’s not uncommon for us to hold ourselves back from doing something that could make a major difference in our life because of our doubts or fears, but the truth is that many of these uncertainties are often founded on rules and policies that we make up for ourselves that don’t lead us anywhere but keep us from going after something that could potentially make us happy.

If there is something in the world that you feel you need, you must go after it with everything you have. You may encounter fears of all different kinds and shapes, some real some made up, but the truth is that you are always bigger than your fears, no matter what.

And I guess what the best part of going ‘all in’ even if you fail is that you will find something invaluable in exchange, which is closure, and you will never have to look back on your life and wonder what should’ve, would’ve or could’ve been.

Don’t run from what scares you, if you do you’ll never stop running. Stand tall and face them, and you will realize they have no power over you or your future.

Until next time.

TGV.