The Sathyam Obsession

After a long time I finally got down to watching a movie that brought back some of my fast depleting faith in Indian cinema. Piku, not only exemplified the virtues of a simple story with strong characters, but also proved that there is not only hope but definite freedom in the minds of our story tellers and it shows in the lines they write, the characters they build and the stories they tell. A big hug to the entire team to have created something so simply brilliant.

But more on the movie later. This post is reserved for an obsession that refuses to leave me...

I moved to Bangalore a little more than a year ago from Chennai. While the move and all that followed has been well documented in other posts and Facebook updates, a majority of my mind has inevitably begun to find a soft spot for Bangalore. I walk to work, so I see lesser of the traffic and I feel all is fine. I live in Indiranagar which by far is the capital of the civilised world and in that pride my chest does swell a tad bit more than required. I like my coffee places, I adore the breakfast joints, I never stop meeting interesting people and there is just never a dearth of stuff happening in town, just a dearth of time to do anything about it. But even then, there is that one thing, that will just never be the same again. My movie watching experience!

Chennai will always define me as a person like no other city ever has or will, but even though I can confidently say that I wear that more as a badge of honour than a scar that I like showing off, the experience of watching a movie in Sathyam (And Escape) will never completely leave me. Ever! Every time I walk into a theater in Bangalore, no matter how good, I am reminded of the enveloping warmth and brilliance that is Sathyam (And Escape). When I walked into Sathyam (And Escape) watching a movie was never about the ticket and the movie, it involved so much more.

There was always this palpable sense of excitement when I knew I was going for a movie there. It never mattered if the movie was good or not, the excitement was just there. The excitement would begin to build hours before even getting there. Emails would get typed faster at work, the Activa would chug along a tad bit smoother through the traffic and the traffic lights just never seemed to turn red. Dinners before the movie (Chinese or Frankies) would always be a fun and hurried affair, because we just couldn't wait to get into Sathyam (And Escape). Once in, the general buzz of the place, the collective coming together of so many kindred souls in one place was always electrifying. Chennai took its movies very seriously. We cheered together, laughed, cried and groaned together. We even sometimes put popcorn in our mouths at the exact same moments during the movie. The popcorn too undoubtedly played a pivotal role in guaranteeing you were always transported to a different universe while in there. You always will want more butter stuffed in to the popcorn and more cheese poured into it. The autonomy that Sathyam (And Escape) gave you to create your own popcorn concoctions was just unbelievable. We would come together on so many nights irrespective of the movie to create combinations of food and beverage that we would talk about the next day. We would talk about the chocolate donuts at breakfast next morning, the cold coffee at tea time and invariably we would be back in Sathyam (And Escape) the next night discussing how we want our popcorn.

Sathyam (And Escape) was never about the movie alone but about all the elements that just magically came together to make each of those nights. You would drive back with this quiet admiration every time because even if the movie disappointed you, Sathyam (And Escape) would have made the night special for you. Because watching a movie in a cinema hall is meant to be special. It is meant to invigorate you and place you in a room with a large number of strangers to bring you together. There are fewer experiences that consistently produce this feeling of togetherness. Cinema halls across the country are doing this every day...

Sathyam (And Escape) just do it heartbreakingly better than the rest. 

Welcome 2015, but before that..

Keeping in line with the year 2014 was, I just haven't had the time to get this post out earlier so I finally decided to get my act together after a rather fertile evening of thinking and conversations and get this post out. For the past couple of years I have been writing a review of the year gone by, the things that mattered to me, that defined me and the world around me. 2014 was a little different that way. It didn't contain the roller coaster rides that were 2012 and 2013 but it was by far, and history should stand testament to it, the most pivotal year of my life.

I began my year with the rather uncomfortable thought of leaving Chennai. It also spurred what many abusive commentators to my blog posts that popped up around that time, would call, my obsessive love with the city of Chennai. If given a chance I would have written a blog post dedicated to every inch of Chennai in those last few weeks. I sometimes still wish I had, even at the expense of losing relationships forged the day I was born. The weeks that followed were possibly the most complete and soul stirring that I have ever experienced. Saying goodbye to a city has never been a task for me. For the most I used to be convinced that I would never return to them or know that they were an inextricable part of me and therefore never concerned myself with the banalities of extended farewells. But there was a sense of foreboding upon leaving Chennai and it felt that the city would never be the same again once I left. Working past those emotions I decided to take a short holiday between my segue from Chennai to Bangalore and that was possibly the best decision of 2014.

Hidden between snow capped peaks in the bed of paradise is the little town of Macleodganj. It's the place where the word quaint was discovered and the feeling of inner peace, only mirrored by Po at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2, could be experienced. The weekend spent there in between the snow, the warmth of the best travel mates I could ask for and the distinct sense of abandon that I felt there was momentous. There was a moment, one I will never forget, as I lay on the snow halfway up a hill. The sun crept from behind a mountain and stared me in the face but was weakened by the intense cold and the combination was a warm fuzzy feeling. The ice was melting behind me and freezing again. the cold was gentle but the gusts of wind were furious but there wasn't a soul for miles, not a thought on my mind, not a single concern. For the first time in years I lay vacant. Nothing processing and all systems on standby. It by far, as much as I enjoy a constant tension, was the greatest single moment of clarity for me. Since that moment on, nothing and I mean nothing would ever be greater or impose a greater force on me. There in that moment I had found my peace. The drive back to Chandigarh, the food eaten, the Tibetan martyrs remembered, the trek into the darkness with us endangering our lives, all of it, every bit of it was brilliant but secondary to that timeless moment of immense sanity. It has guided me fearlessly through the year.

Thank you to that wind, that harsh sun and that warm snow.

With very little time to recover from that glorious trip I was already in a new office, in a new city which was well really a city I knew too well and in a new home that was way to big for me. I had to overcome it all in no time so that I could catch up with the pace at which work was moving. In Chumbak, I have joined a company that is pretty close to being a soulmate. From Day 1 there was no doubt in my mind that I had to make this work. There was absolutely no doubt I had in my self but there was this lingering fear of something new getting the better of me. That the variables for success were stacked against me and conquering them would challenge all that I had. As I kept reminding myself of my day in the snow, I held on and at times, just about. Like that moment when your parent or sibling let's go off your cycle to allow you to pedal it yourself, I never realised when that force stopped holding on to me and I cycled away. Work didn't become a breeze, far from it, it became a struggle that I just couldn't get enough of. I need it and savour every moment of it, even the lows. There is this sense of history about it all for me, like how you read chapters from history without ever questioning how those set of circumstances came to be. The sense here is the same. I forget, every once in a while, as to what triggered this moment and give up, only to realise that this was just right. There have been very few moments in the last year where I haven't been thinking of work and like that day nestled in the snow, I would not want it any different. Discovering something that motivates, frustrates and fulfills you every day is a tough ask and when you get it out of the one thing where you spend your longest hours, there could be little else one could ask for.

Thank you to that unknown moment when the decision to be here was made. Thank you to the people at work who have made the year unquestionably crazy and fulfilling.

I also began the year convinced that I was running away from something. Something that I needed to get away from and that it was the only way to get a toehold back on life. A large part of me was moving on with life only for the right reasons, a lot of which has been validated over the past couple of months. But what I failed to see back then was that there was a subtle but significant difference between running away from something and unknowingly discovering something. So what began as a year on the run, ended in finding gravity to life. Something that pulled me back, firmly to the ground and promises to hold on to me tight and comfy. I'm certain now that your world doesn't need to be defined by you, you don't need to be in control. Sometimes, and for every once in a while, focussing on your shit while allowing the universe to get your shit together is just the best way to lead life.

Thank you to me, for realising that allowing life to make a few decisions for you could just be the best way ahead. Watch out for this space.

Thank you 2014 for allowing me to watch up close the journey of the most adorable, enchanting and bewildering girl I know, my darling niece. Being this close to her, my sister and brother in law has been the most comforting bonus of the year. Thank you for ensuring that I ended up living with not just one of the most awesome room mates but also in a part of the city that from a very young age I have always wanted to find a home in. Thank you in helping me rediscover running, even if it finally took you nearly the end of the year. Thank you for each of the people that found their way into my life at work who i'm sure came right out of my wish list of people I always wanted to work with. Thank you for not making Bangalore easily likable because in every day that I struggle to love this city I discover something about it that will surely make the bond stronger. Thank you for challenging me like never before, for the sleepless nights of which there were many, for letting me witness the two greatest love stories of my life turn into something magical in a matter of two days, for teaching me that love is beautiful but not necessarily for me right now and for trying so hard to help me just move on with this new beautiful life I have been given. I promise to make a lot more of it in 2015 as this will be the year I begin to enjoy what I have found and stop running away from it.

In essence, i will spend this year lying in the snow, looking up at the sun, closing my eyes and with a quiet smile on my face, I will lap up every moment given to me. Bring it on 2015!  

Rediscovering a crush

My first crush was at the age of 8. It was the daughter of my English teacher, she was my classmate and she was every dream that could come true. I worshipped her, quietly from a corner in the class and would slip or stumble or just make an ass of myself whenever she was around. I also remember having some pretty Bollywood moments with her with those typical 'hair flying' in to my face moments and also one of those 'I can see her but she isn't here' times too. All in all there is something completely special about having a crush or crush'ing' as many in today's generation like to put it. I am a man of the times after all.

There is undoubtedly something special about a crush. It isn't exactly falling in love, it generally is a little before that but it still is a lot more defined in intent as compared to love. Crushes are also often silly and ambiguous for one to explain and confess but at the same time they are one helluva rollercoaster ride, albeit travelled all alone. Crushes are the trailers before a movie, the lit candle on the cake, the complete and unadulterated joy of the world. And in all these years I have had so few. I may have fallen in love more than a couple of times but the charm of a crush is rather unique. It is unnerving, disarming and fantastic in every manner possible. The thought of your crush possibly taking note of your existence and giving you your due of importance and attention can be the most gratifying few moments of your life and many a man, mostly boy, has spent many hidden corners in school and shy glances across corridors understanding this universal truth.

And just when I thought that only my younger self would allow itself to fall prey to this rather crazy and curious feeling, I find myself right back there after ages. Possibly for the first time since I was 17. The thing about me and a crush is that it is always borne out of an innocent moment of realisation of a woman's beauty, not always physical, but of her presence. Her presence needs to light up my day and she could do that in just about so many ways. Yesterday I was treated to an exquisite performance on stage by a woman who I can only consider, magical. Her grace, articulation, those eyes, everything was a coming together of all that is perfect in a woman. There were moments during her 90 minute performance where I would often wonder if I had ever encountered perfection of this kind. Her words gripped me, her ability to tell a story through dance and her expressions followed by a change in pace in her narration to an abrupt pause. I was gathering the pieces of my broken heart every time she seemed to be hurt or moved to a point of sadness. I know she was a character in a play but she had moved me beyond a point of reality because in those minutes before she decided to leave the stage there wasn't a part of me that wanted this to end. She told a story of great conviction and courage and I may not be objective in my analysis of her performance but she had graced that stage like none has ever before in front of my eyes. No human, living or fictitious has grabbed me by the soul like that. This was a crush that had transcended all known boundaries of innocence, blind eyed love or emotion like ever before. This was how a crush was meant to be. She had walked on to that stage, grabbed me by my skin and never let go even after she walked off the stage.

This was a performance of power, vigour and fortitude but most importantly for the little boy in me, this was a reminder of the power of a crush in all its disproportionate magnitude. I would advice you to never stop having crushes, its what reminds you of what it feels like to be in pure and absolute awe of another living being. And in that emotion, sometimes, lies a feeling far greater than love or lust or attachment could ever envisage of giving you.

As for the lady on that stage, I will try my best to follow you to all the stages you grace. I wish to remain enchanted..

Becoming a writer..

At the age of 10, my uncle and aunt gifted me a notebook. It was spiral bound, semi-hard bound and had a couple of stickers with quotes from famous authors about the art of writing on it. On the first page was a little note from my uncle and aunt talking about how they thought I would someday make a great writer. Along with that they had given me ten ideas to write a story on. The book instantly became a source of wonder for me. I wouldn't ever care sharpening my pencil in class for anything, but when I would open this notebook and look at the ten ideas, I would be instantly gushing with excitement and tirelessly begin to sharpen a couple of pencils and embark upon a story. Some of my classics included, 'The autobiography of a 50 ps coin', critics (my aunt, mom and sister) rated it as an important 20th century piece of literature. There was the rather mature story of an American pilot caught behind enemy lines and sympathising with the people of Iraq to one day fly for the Iraqi Air Force. This one scared the critics a bit, but much praise was heaped upon my little mind. All in all the notebook was a great success because in me it kindled a sense of pride, to write and express myself and for it to count.
A few years later as I would dip my Chinese pen in a bottle of ink before an English exam, I would lick my lips at the prospect of an English essay. It was always the most special moment of all my exams. And whenever the faculty thought it was good enough to be read out in class, I would know that that little notebook back then had done its magic. It had created a writer. It seemed like I was destined for only one thing in life. The critics, (a few more English teachers and friends got added to the list) agreed wholeheartedly.
As the years went by, my writing always found a way to find itself on some paper, a document on MS Word or on some blackboard in an empty classroom. I began blogging when I was 18, on this very blog and then moved on to another two blogs. Throughout this journey, I started and stopped many ideas for a novel, changed many laptops, shifted back to writing in a spiral bound notebook, wrote exclusively on a white-board in my hostel room. Well, to say the least, I tried everything. And I don't even know why. Writing has always been a great release for me, it's how I feel after a long run. There is this pleasure in the pain and exhaustion you feel after and also a pleasure in the pain and exhaustion during. But after I get back from that run, settle down, take a couple of sips of water and untie my laces, I'm just back where I started. Going for that run didn't mean I was getting anywhere specific, I wasn't changing anything forever. It was just an incremental change to my current state of being which in the larger scheme of things is too minuscule to count for anything. If my Running App tells me I have completed 50 miles a month, those 50 miles haven't taken me 50 miles away from where I am. In the same way with close to 100 blog posts over the last few years, I haven't really moved anywhere, I haven't gotten to any place new. Now how does that make 10 year old me feel about all that effort put in creating a compelling story about a 50 ps coin?
Well, I guess the answer lies in this little moment right now. Yes, this very moment, these very words I am typing. How right now my eyes are wide open, my heart is beating a little faster than usual. Just a slight bit faster. About how every worry in the world seems to have been buried somewhere, somewhere I won't be able to even search till i'm done with this post. It is in those few seconds when I will post this and I will see that moving circle of Google Chrome loading my blog post, and then seeing it live on my blog. The joy isn't in ten thousand people reading it (how I would love that) but in ten people reading it and with two coming back relating with that feeling or asking me why I don't feel differently. The adrenaline is in that sleep induced moment at 5 AM when I wake up to see a few messages on my phone of people who loved the post, who want to understand more. Nothing wakes me up like that, nothing, and I mean nothing compares. And then the heart slows down, the racing stops and I read it again. I scroll through it slowly and I begin to relive the exact stream of thoughts that went through my mind while I wrote it, the other ideas that were swirling while I was checking it for grammar. All those thoughts, that heartbeat, the wide eyes, the excitement to see someone's comment, the messages early in the mornings, the Likes on my Facebook page and that one off person who decides to follow my blog just because this one post inspired them or lit up their day..
That is why I wrote that story back then, the story of the 50 ps coin. That was all I wanted and felt back then. That is all it takes to become a writer.
I'm going to love reading this tomorrow morning.

Making the move

A month ago when I moved to Bangalore, I thought I was making the easiest and most logical move ever. It all made sense; the job was perfect, the city was already acquainted with me and all the other variables involved in a move were well under control. Not much could have gone wrong, except for one rather obvious oversight. It was all too easy.

Ok, yes you must be thinking that i'm a slave to hardship and misery. I have been accused of it before but let me explain. All my life, all I have ever known is change. Moving from one place to another, a new place, falling in love with that place at my own pace and then creating a deep bond with it. That's how I have always operated the best, at my greatest potential. With Bangalore, I was robbed of that opportunity. I have come into a city I know rather well, with a mind made up on what I think of it and with an outlook that could destroy an opportunity to find love for another city. I sometimes feel that I have exhausted my quota for loving new places, its like it is alien to me now. Or maybe I am resisting it. It's like meeting a girl and being quite obviously attracted but working on every instinct in you to not give in. Bangalore is that girl today.

In the last month, I have discovered much I did not know about a city I thought I knew yet I have allowed very little to pass through and enter into my conscious. Allowing a city to make an impression on you is so important. Giving it the freedom to create that space in you to which it can latch on and enrich you is key in developing a meaningful relationship. Complete resistance could only be detrimental in the long run. Something had to give or something has to change..

So in a rather poetic way, it was a weekend that came to my rescue as did back in Chennai when I first fell in love with the city. With some of my best mates in town, I managed to find a fuller and much more happier definition for the city. We roamed the streets, we sang loudly in a pub with fellow lovers of the color Red, we ate rolls on the roadside, we watched a terrible play in a lovely place, a beer challenge was followed by a cold coffee challenge and then we sat quietly observing the travesties life has committed on us, all within a space of 48 hours. Somewhere in between all that, in a moment of clarity, I saw what I was missing. In Bangalore, I have been presented with a unique challenge, to create a real legacy. Of finally becoming a man of my own in a city that resists you creating your own identity and offers you many templates to fall into. I will have to hold through it all and build from the start like I have done always but this time it will be easier because inbuilt in this city are so many versions of myself that I can be, just a matter of finding the version which can most fulfill me.

It's time I finally complete the move..

2013, Come Gone!

So when I was much younger. Let’s give that a number. When I was 3. I would stand at the door of my uncle’s house and look at the guests leave and announce to the entire house, ‘PEOPLE COME GONE’. It was my simple way of saying, ‘Wow that was quick’ and it sounded really adorable from the mouth of a three year old me. Now, most of 2013 felt that way, especially the second half.

The first half of 2013 revealed a side of me that I have come to detest in me and in any person now. It is rather easy for me to feel that way and it is unfair to other people but then again I come from a vantage point on this and feel rather justified in my feelings. The first half was sluggish, emotionally annoying and was filled with very little optimism. The crappy part was that I had only myself to blame for this rather terrible downswing but in hindsight, it was only good because the months that followed played out like a high paced movie which married Hollywood’s slickness and Bollywood’s masala like never before. Well atleast that is what I tell myself.

June, saw me spending many days in front of mirrors and under showers wondering how I had allowed everything become so miserable and dreary. I used to love work but I was labouring through it now. I wasn’t connecting socially, I was barely social and I was content in this emotional quicksand. The strange part now is, I am not even sure if I decided to get my act together or my act decided to get itself together, if you know what I mean. Because suddenly from ‘crawl like a turtle’ I went to ‘fly like the wind’. The month of July took me to Mumbai, Meerut and Singapore and all of them included a personal debut. My first time compering a corporate event, my first North Indian wedding and my first time outside India. After those three weeks, I was a changed man. I just wasn’t going to allow me to ruin myself and since that moment on it feels like the old ‘me’ had COME GONE. Poof it was over.

Now, I just needed to do everything. Everything seemed exciting, everything seemed to symbolise the end of what it meant to be me and I liked that. Do you know the feeling when you feel yourself change? You don’t know if it is good for you or if you will lose the things people loved about you, but you don’t stop to care? It is a very liberating feeling. I did pause to think of how it would affect me in the long run but there was just no time. I decided to run again after a failed attempt to get my mind and body in sync back in March. This time I spent a lot of time reading, researching and structuring the rest of my life around the need to be fit. The food I ate, the amount I ate, my resistance to waking up in the morning, temptation to eat junk food, all of it had to change. This wasn’t going to be a half assed effort. And to infuse some seriousness into it, I threw in the small matter of a 10km run at the Wipro Chennai Marathon. I can quite easily submit that preparing for the run was one of the most satisfying two months of my life. I learned that there was another gear in me, both physically and mentally. I joined a gym, started eating untouchables like beetroot again and the discipline was actually addictive. The few days without it still make me nauseatic. Funny how the nausea of the first six months didn’t push me to change it all, shows there is much to be understood about the human psyche. The 1st of December brought me a lovely overcast morning and 7000 other enthusiasts who had decided to change something about themselves. This truly was already a victory for me, to be running in the happiest place in Chennai that day. I surprised myself and many who were following and supporting me closely in the last two months by posting a rather decent time, but more than anything a part of me had changed forever when I crossed that finish line. Being a pathetic version of myself, allowing my circumstances to get the better of me and deciding not to change had all COME GONE now. I had outrun it all.

In the process of all this change I suddenly woke up with a rather weird feeling in the stomach, one morning late October. I woke up, washed my face and sat on my bed wondering what was on my mind. I had changed the way I processed the thoughts in my head. There weren’t large spaces of introspection, just a quick realisation and then action. This was one of those moments. It started a chain of events that some thought was quick and rash, some saw it as well considered and some are yet to completely comprehend. In the weeks that followed that day concluding on the 18th of December, I had interviewed at a company that sells some of the funnest things in the country and hires about 60 people, I had quit my job and been offered what I can easily sum up as a dream job and I had decided to leave the city I loved to make the move across the border to Bangalore. Yes 2013 also signalled the end of my short but lovely time in Chennai with a move scheduled in mid-February. Till this day I am fascinated by the reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m moving. These reactions revolve around me leaving Chennai, the speed with which it happened and the company I am joining but what truly leaves me incredulous is at the conviction with which I concluded a thought that began that morning. It surely stemmed from a part of me that was fighting to be heard from long but the conviction surely arose from this new belief in me.  Belief that has surely COME but ain’t be GONE for some time now.

2013 will always remain a monumental year in my life. It involved travel, running, brilliant movies, (special mentions to Kai Po Che, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Ship of Theseus, Raanjhana and Lootera) realizing the meaning of true friendship and finding in me - a spirit. This spirit does not know what exact moment revived it but I sure do know that the resurrection has been strong, the long term impact is unknown but there is a part of me that is ready to overlook the consequences in pursuit of the result. From this have emanated some resolutions for the year, simple ones that I’m very excited about and have already begun to gently put in practice. I can rather happily report, that they are working but more on that later in the year.

But for my biggest fans however little in number you may be, my friends and family, I have completed the process of re-engineering myself (as my Whatsapp status has been declaring for rather long now) and I am in a zone of progression. I hope to see more of you this year, I hope to change perceptions everyday mostly for the better and hope to continue evolving and improving my version of myself. I can actually see ‘three year old me’ saying, ‘Som you sure COME GONE eh’.

2014, anyone?

What’s your 'entry song'?

Remember the good old days of WWF. The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin kind, not the cute panda kind. That is still there. Right? Moving on..

While the WWF I loved has been replaced by WWE which is quite obviously fake unlike the good ol days when they actually fought, genuinely got angry and meant to do those stunts with all that anger and vigour. Okay maybe I am getting carried away and that’s why growing up sucks. Let’s leave that for another post. But either way, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the ‘entry song’. Remember that? Remember Triple H’s mean ‘I-will-beat-the-crap-out-of-you-and-then-spit-water-coz-its-cool’ entry song? Remember ‘Big Show’ coming on with the swagger of an elephant on dope. Ya well that was the shit. Those songs would electrify the crowds in the arena and get me super excited too especially when ‘Rock’ would come unexpectedly during a match and beat the crap outta some poor guy and get the hell out of there to the crazy adulation of his fans with me air ‘choke slamming’ my pillow to death.

Now that’s the power of an entry song. And I think we all need one.

An entry song is an announcement of your arrival. It could be at the beginning of your day, it could be when you walk into office or when you sit to take a dump or it could even be when you walk into gym. It’s that song that sets you free and makes you look at everyone around you and go, ‘Look at me bitches, I’m the real shit’ (Side note : That line translated in Tamil – damn funny!!). It is the song that reminds you of the part of you that you want yourself to be all day. It may not play on loud speakers in a stadium filled with people but it sure plays in your head waking up every bone in you and reminding you that getting your act together is the best orgasm you can give yourself. Ok, make that second best. Either way, an entry song that you play on your Ipod or phone which only you hear on your earphones allows you distinct anonymity especially for the ones who choose to have ‘Justborn’ Bieber or ‘Dicey’ Cyrus as their artist of choice. You see no one will ever know what you are hearing and you will just have that smug smile of a person ready to kill it.

We all aren’t built to motivate ourselves all day, we need props. We need the power of music or powerful imagery. Technology makes it freaking easy yet cumbersome to figure out that one perfect aid that will help you rev up those engines. So choose wisely and if it is embarrassing, don’t worry because the music, the artist or the words don’t matter, it is only the feeling that it gives you which gets you ready to kick ass every day that counts. The rest can stick to their motivational quotes for all I care.

And just for the record, this is my entry song.