Bookmark #755

So much happens to us, so many histories remain unwritten, and the world, as it must, keeps going on. The world will keep moving forward, and it will go its own way, and people will always be moving about in the mornings, commuting in crowds, in trains and in buses, despite what is told and what is not. If there is any scope of piecing together a sort of broken history of this life with these pieces, even if someone were to consider this laborious undertaking, most of it would remain lost on streets of cities no one could list, on tables in bars and cafes long shut down, in the minds of people who would have forgotten all about it—for there are always better things to remember.

And this is with all the headway, the building blocks I lay in the bare. What of those who do not talk? The friend who keeps to himself? What of them and their stories? Well, nothing. In the end, many like him have come and gone, and as vivid as each life is, no remembrance, no records exist. That, and only that, is why we must strive to make a mark on this world, so long as it is not some scar we leave behind. People remember tyrants, but then, who would wish to be remembered only to be spit upon?

Why bother going the extra mile? Why bother living an outlandish, unexplainable life? For the glory, for the grandeur! What else? The world has come far, sure, and we casually enjoy days monarchs and regents would long for, but the ambition of Ozymandius remains the same, and so does his downfall, and so does his hubris. For all its modernity, the world remains plagued by people who have not made those strides. And now, we are playing catch-up with it. So much is expected of us, and we remain full of ourselves—no thought about anything else in sight!

Why does anyone do anything? To be remembered. What else can you do? This planet has remained without you for millennia, and it will remain after you, all things considered. All we have is some seventy years to make our mark. Was there any ambition more noble than this!? Was there any species more selfish than this!

Bookmark #754

I come from a place where everyone thrives on keeping their minds full at all times, mimicking the homes they live in. Lack of space and plenty of people means space rarely goes unoccupied. The streets are chock-full of people, the malls are never empty, and most houses might as well be mazes. This is no one’s fault, of course. But, the way it appears to me, there are two responses to living in a place like this: you either enjoy an empty mind, devoid of any thoughts or worries as you remain in a calm, restful state, or you fill your mind with anything you find, with advertising, with propaganda, with the concerns of your neighbours and the history of your fathers. Naturally, the former has fewer takers. Regardless, this is not the problem.

The problem is that other people live your life for you more than you live it yourself, and since they will always be there, so will the noise they carry with them. It is quite like how when a cat is belled, you know it approaches, but in this case, the bells toll everywhere; they jingle from all corners in an ugly, jarring dissonance. This is the problem, especially for people like me.

So, it is crucial to steal a moment of quiet. Of course, in truth, the closest to quiet you can get is a patio or a bench in the evening, with the traffic still echoing all around, the music blaring from all directions, and the people talking loudly. The noise never leaves, but you can recede behind some hedges. That is the closest you get to it; that is enough if you have spent your life in a place this loud. Any quieter and anxiety starts to creep in.

There is always a little and a lot to say about how this permanent presence of noise makes minds malleable, makes people agitated and angry, and how, like bacteria, an idea propagates, floats into and makes homes into populations. A little because any person with an ounce of identity would catch it before it reaches them and seek the quiet when they feel the animosity, hatred, and umbrella of second-hand thought overwhelming them, and a lot because those who need to listen only believe things when they are said over and over—any softer, and you might as well avoid intervening at all.

This piece is a part of the Soaring Twenties Social Club (STSC) Symposium #16. The STSC is a place for people who believe so profoundly in the simple ideas of identity and art that the mere existence of this belief earns the status of rebellion. In a world where originality is waning, the STSC strives to maintain the good fight. In this camaraderie, the Symposium is a monthly, almost disattached collaboration set around a central theme. This month’s theme is Propaganda.

Bookmark #753

All intense arguments end in a silence that overstays its welcome, but they truly end with a glass of scotch as you try to let it all fade in the background, especially when you have some words to write. True neutrality is impossible, and not taking a stance often becomes a stance. The only terrible part about that is how lonely your camp looks compared to the others that lionise something or the other. If you look at the world objectively, at least try to the limit you can, you tend to isolate yourself from everyone else. People bicker over their Gods and monsters, but the outcast remains an outcast in all eyes. This is a terrible digression from what I was going to write—it is not worth it anymore. It is not the thought as much as the emotion behind it that fetches the right words. You cannot remember a sunset and paint it from memory. You can remember what a general sunset looks like, but to paint the precise one you saw on a particular evening is only possible if you paint it there and then or right after. It is waiting too long when most inspiration wanes.

Despite all the joy I felt this weekend, I will end it with a sullen voice and depressing words. It is with displeasure that I must say that people disgust me when they cannot take their biases off like a hat. It is with great concern that I must comment there is an overabundance of such people in the world. Where do we go from here? It is not something I can answer. But today—like many such days when amid a discussion, I pause and stop to make any retort or a point, when I fade into silence and continue eating my food or sipping my drink—I feel aghast at the way people think, of how they limit themselves, of how they admit they are willing to not go beyond the veil, even if they know the truth is tucked right behind it. It will always confuse me how easily people accept falsifiable truths; I try to remind them of the year, of the zeitgeist and times we live in, and then, as it always is, nothing changes. Perhaps it is my failure to attempt, but what else can you do?

Of course, this vague rambling gives you nothing, but if you have reached this far, I reckon you already know what I am talking about.

Bookmark #752

I woke up beyond well-rested today, almost as if I have begun this life again, but from where I left it last night by some miracle. I stayed in bed for a bit despite knowing this delay would cost me since I had to be in another city in a few hours and back by morning, not that this trip is any crucial, only we must keep our feet moving from time to time. The paralysis of being is a slow death when one is too comfortable.

This does not matter, however. What matters is that it is too muggy for this to be a morning in late September. Yes, the only reasonable thing to worry about is the weather today. It is that or reading the newspaper like a concerned citizen of the world at large. If not that, it is some dystopian rating to measure the capability of a cab driver or a delivery person, and then, that becoming how people view them entirely. They have convinced us to think in terms of their numbers. A 4.2 on 5.0? This must be a terrible person. The point is that worry has no end once you begin. You start on one corner of the proverbial sheet of society, and you never get to the other end. You get exhausted and fall asleep in the middle. Then, you wake up well-rested on a September morning, and it is hot and sombre, more than you would ever expect, so you move your faculties to this instead.

What can I do for the world after all, if not point these things out in whatever way I can? There it is, bait for the teacher who hasn’t a clue what these words are about, but now, at least now, they have some reasonable explanation for why the words are put a certain way. Of course, this may be decades from now or never. But something tells me a teacher is smiling at these words far into the future, and to them, I say hello. To the rest of whoever reads these words, I say worry but do it gingerly. Do not go too deep into it. Do not stay outside the water either. Dip your toes and sit; you, too, will realise the only bother is the humidity. There’s little you can do about the water, but look at it.

The world is only a certain way when people are looking at it. Sometimes, that is all the world expects—for people to look at it the way it is, not how they wished it would be.

Bookmark #751

When I exited the apartment I rented in Florence, I sat with the host, a sweet woman in her early fifties with a penchant for art and espresso, as you would expect from her, given where she was placed in space and time. “Take a coffee before you go, come on, come on, sit,” she said. I could not say no to a coffee, partly owing to who I am but also, given where I was placed in space and time. So, I obliged, and then we talked about my stay so far and if the city was everything I had hoped for. It was more than that, as I told her, and then, when I began to leave, I picked up my bags and manoeuvred them through the door as I have countless times before. Living alone teaches you how to handle hands filled to the brim with bags and still somehow be able to open the door and bring things in. It is a skill that is not celebrated, but given the number of people I have seen stumble and fail at this little task, it occurs to me that it may not be as common, which leads me to believe that despite what television shows and movies have had us believe, people living alone may still not be as common. It is also an easy trick to see if someone lives on their own. Watch how they open the door when their hands are full. More often than not, the smoother and effortless their transition into taking things in or out, the more years they have spent by themselves.

As soon as I stepped out the door, I thanked her one final time. She thanked me for staying and said, “It is easy to be nice to you.” It stuck with me like a drop of honey. I began thinking about it in the elevator, and honestly, I have not stopped since. I must be doing something right if that is the case, I know, but what is it, and how do I do more of it? I will never know. We do not know our parts like other people know them. We live in our entirety; this is not the case for others. A friend once spotted a spot on the shelf I was blind to while cleaning daily. Then, he wiped it off as we continued to talk. Others can tell things about ourselves that we would never spot in eternity. I will never know why she said what she said, but I know now that when you say something nice to someone, they remember it forever.

Bookmark #750

I lie here on the rug, almost asleep, in front of the TV, and it occurs to me that this, too, is some kind of happiness. It is not the most glorious variant, sure, and indeed, not the prettiest, but it is mundane and regular. What more could I want from this moment and this day? I’ve spent the day well. It was an unremarkable day, but beautiful still. Although, I also sneezed a lot of the day away today, and sadly, that is not some metaphor. My allergies have not left me even a smidge of a window to think, and now, having huffed and puffed all day long, I am all but ready to sleep.

There was a time this would have bothered me, and I would have been cross with life, but that time has long passed. Today, despite me being slightly out of sorts and despite this day having nothing particularly noteworthy about it, I am happy I got to spend it as best as I could. Many of my friends like to spend their money on expensive shoes, and at least two admit that they do not wear them for themselves but for the world. This is not something that sits well with me and the kind of person I have become over these years—the person who is content with the type of day I just had. But it still baffles me if I think of myself doing something only for the admiration of the world at large. It is more sickening than the sniffle-snuffle I had to tolerate today. If nothing else, were I to write these words only for the world, I would have ceased my struggle years ago. If I were to live my life at the behest of what others might think of it, I reckon half the good things that happened to me would not have even had an opportunity to happen.

But tonight, I do not want to bother myself with this anymore. I am at my wit’s end; the anti-histamines have stopped working, the tea is not doing much, the tissues are running out, and my will gave out at around seven in the evening. Despite my willingness to go on and on today, I must stop here. I must let myself drift into sleep without my realising it. It has been a day so typical; I should not like to remember it, but then, how could I forget? The reminder waits for me tomorrow—quite impatiently, I might add.

Bookmark #749

I sit and sip coffee as usual, procrastinating work as usual, thinking about nothing as usual. Then, all of a sudden, I started to recall the last time I received unconditional acceptance. The answer to that, as it turns out, is both almost a decade ago and last week. These things are never as simple as they should be. We are starved for the want of simplicity in a complex world, but mostly, we are starved for someone looking at us and having nothing to say—no praise, no disdain.

Mostly, we want to be perceived as we perceive ourselves, not to be made saints, and not to be compared to demons. All of us are but a drop of paint in a jar of water, ever spreading to fit our own selves, ever-growing, until no room is left, not a single molecule remains which can move a certain way or be a sure thing until we become who we are meant to be: a person, as unremarkable as any other.

Of all answers to the grand questions of ambition, “person” ranks at the bottom of the list. No one ever says it despite that being the only grand aspiration. I wish someone looked at me as I sit here, looked at me and said my name with the untouched honesty of a child, with no expectation attached to it, nor some role I play in their life, and surely, not some adjective such as “writer”. That is all I aspire for now.

But the more I talk to people, the more I find myself playing versions of myself, and yet, as much as those are parts of me, none of them compare to what I see when I look in the mirror. Perhaps that is why I fail in the matters of love, too. This expectation, rarely met as it is, gets projected onto someone else. And then, I bare my soul for a spell, only to receive dismay or disappointment, and I cover it up again.

It remains to be seen if this will ever be met, not that it has any bearing on my contentment or the completion of this life. Since I can at least look at myself honestly, I would say this life is more complete than many others. At least, if nothing else, it is an attempt in the right direction.

Bookmark #748

You must train yourself to spot joy. It is not always apparent, and sometimes, you might have to pick a few rocks for it to squiggle out from under them or squint hard as if seeking some elusive bird hiding in the woods ahead. But I promise you that if you do this enough, you will learn to spot it in the heaviest of fogs, in the worst storm possible.

For a little while a few years ago, I lost this ability, so excuse me if this sounds like some sermon by an unholy priest. It is not easy finding your footing. They always told me I was too old for my age. Perhaps it is that and nothing else, yet I feel this catharsis in my heart. A sequence in some film shows me some mirror of hindsight, or some song tugs at the right strings, and all of a sudden, I find myself with tears in my eyes. Tears of what? You might wonder, given my claims of having trained myself well enough to spot happiness. I do not know what to tell you—some things you just know for yourself, and if you don’t, then I suggest you call yourself lucky. But if I were to attempt still and not leave you hanging with your hand out for an explanation, I’d say it is lament over people I will never get to see, over time lost in the years I can only recall in passing. So much I have forgotten because I was too far away from this world. So much that I know to have happened has no record whatsoever—not in these words, not in my memory, but in parting words, and often, denying someone the privilege of the same.

All my unhappiness is now remembered as regret. But it is not something I carry with me on my person. It is a painting on a wall, waves lashing about it, as haphazard and tumultuous as I assume I was at the time. How unfortunate that I met some of the most incredible people I have ever met when I was lost at sea. Now, I can but sit at this shore, having spent years here. All my storms have passed. All the visitors have left. Some tried to stay, too, tried to hold on. We cannot say who tore their camps apart. Was it the sea, I wonder, or was it just me?

Bookmark #747

I sit with my nephew as he listens to his nursery rhymes, and I begin listening to them, too. What else can you do? And as they play on, my heart gets lighter, losing all the tar and the dust it had gathered from all these years. The rhyme tells my nephew he can be anything he wants to be. He is too little to know anything about these matters; eventually, the world wants you to decide and be something. I envy his innocence as he laughs and smiles, but then, I listen and find a hope I probably left back in some speaker or some bench at school or some other place I could not name or draw even if my life depended on it. But that is the thing—my life did depend on it, on being hopeful that anything is possible. And I sit there as he, having recently learned to stand on his own two feet, gets up and stays there, trying to balance desperately.

What is the rush? I ask him softly and laugh. There will be enough time to stand, to be required to do so, to be called on. Sit for now; let the music play. He loses his balance and falls as I catch him and softly let him onto the bed.

But in that moment, it occurs to me that we lose a lot of what we started with: the joy of a simple song, the feeling of excitement for no reason but because there is sound, there are colours, and we can experience them, the hope that if we truly wanted, we could be anything we wanted to and that it is up to us. But then, before this can worry me and before I make this something to dwell over, to be morose over, he starts to laugh.

And there it is, another well-timed reminder. It is a privilege watching you grow, I think, and I begin laughing too. How infectious! There is no virus as potent as a child’s laughter. Then, we continue sitting. Well, he keeps trying to stand now and then, and then, he falls, and I catch him.

The rhymes continue playing on the speaker.

Bookmark #746

Alternative title: How to Read a Poem?

Slept early last night for a change and woke up fairly early, too. Rested in mind and body, but mind particularly, I sat to read a few poems, read some here and there, in subscriptions and magazines and picked up a few from a book of compilations among the many I own but have never fully covered.

As I wrapped this rare moment up, it occurred to me how there was a time I tried to understand poems, and I laughed over how wrong I was, how much I had missed all those years. Poems are not to be understood but felt. But if you are so keen on understanding poems, it would be prudent to learn about the world you live in instead—for which you need to read more than just poetry.

To understand a poem is to catch a clever pun, a little wordplay, which is unnecessary in reading a poem. It is like the glass of wine you choose to accompany the opera or your dinner. Sure, it adds something, but if you take it away, the experience will remain intact.

So, how does one read a poem if not for the attempt to understand it? It would compare to how one watches the sunset. I reckon no one looks at the gamut of hues and begins counting the different colours they see, and I have it on good authority that they would fail even if they tried.

When we look at the sunset, we look at not just the sky but everything under it. If you watch it from a hill in the mountains or one surrounding a cove, the soft light only makes everything pop better into the picture. You notice the sheep grazing in the distance if you are in the mountains, and if you were at the cove, you might see a solitary boat in the distance, and if not that, you might see a heron swoop in the water to catch a fish.

Now, these trivial examples have nothing to do with the sun, but they are things you notice once you sit down and take a breath—when you forget Physics and the scattering of light or the fact that there are time zones and how they prove to be problematic in the matters of love, or even the list of responsibilities you need to keep a list for.

All a sunset does, then, is that it makes you look.

A poem is pretty much the same.

Bookmark #745

There are many ways to measure the lived life. Many—not all, but a frighteningly large number of people I have met—do it with the amount of money someone made. All their toil and hours are totalled into their literal worth. The other ways, some more popular than others but none as popular as wealth, are happiness, helpfulness, satisfaction (which is often erroneously conflated with happiness), contributions to the world and history, and many others. Naturally, a parallel list exists with measures too heinous and hideous to list down, but I can assure you it is longer than the list of good measures. Since I woke up today, I have had many discussions which have danced around this, and as they often do, they have compelled me to think of my own.

How do I measure my life and my days? I could not care much about money besides the fact that it solely exists to be used, if not at the moment, then eventually. Perhaps the measure of my life will be these words, like some writer read and celebrated posthumously. They might praise these ramblings as some seminal body of work or appreciate the intricate web of connections peppered all over. Perhaps students will study the pieces for their classes, or maybe none of that will happen, and these words will die as I will—known only to few, appreciated by fewer. Perhaps the measure of my life will be the people I affected while I was here. And since I have made my share of mistakes, I assume it would not be all hunky dory. If they talk of my happiness, they will not know much about it, and so they will have to rely on these words once again. And if these are not enough, then the little they would remember from my ill-timed jokes, my confusing approach to most simple things, or my obsessiveness over all the wrong details should suffice.

I am not many things, and I have done annoyingly little for the age I have reached by my estimations, but I like to tell myself it has not all been for nought and that there has been some good here, like seeds sprinkled by the wind on some freshly ploughed plot of land in the most unintentional and disorderly manner.

At least, I like to think so. If nothing else, it will help me sleep tonight.

Bookmark #744

Oh, how I love the quiet, and by quiet, I do not mean silence, but the subtle, more personal quiet. The music plays; it is not a silent house, but it is a quiet moment still. The clouds outside get ready to pour once again, as they have for most of this year, and the moment remains quiet despite their talking under their breath. I spent the evening sitting in front of the TV, watching episode after episode of a comedy show I had missed when it first aired. I find the jokes and my own laughter echo through the flat, yet things are quiet. What a wonderful place to be in. What an incredibly soft net my life has landed into and settled in without any hints to bite on—not even a nibble.

Just an hour ago, I talked to a friend, and in my message, I wrote how I only exist in my corner of the world now. I used to be so involved and active with the others—I wrote further. Now, I keep most of myself to myself, and what is shared is shared carefully. I do not give myself away as hastily as I did before. I do not open the door as soon as there is a knock. I wait instead. I wait and take my time. Is this being reclusive? I cannot answer. I still meet people, and I do enjoy going outside as much as the next person. But then, if someone asks me about myself, I keep myself limited. It may be unjust to what they think of me and the image that forms in their head when they think of me next, but then, there are many things more unjust and urgent than a person wishing to be unbothered.

I must say I am delighted today! And that I was happy yesterday and the day before it. I look around this apartment as I cogitate my decision to change cities, and there is a hesitation in me, but then, there is always a hesitation when we think of change. The good thing is, foolish as I may be, I do not rush into things now. There is still time to decide, plan and have everything in order. There is enough time for everything if we quietly take things one at a time.

Bookmark #743

As we grow older, I notice a sudden urge for solidity in people. Now that life has shocked and awed us and, in some cases, humbled us, there is an obsession to stay in the familiar. This is not about carrying big dreams or holding onto your ideas with the clutch of a toddler but rather about the general day-to-day. People have now become so concrete around me that the cement has begun to leak into my life, and now, hastily, I am trying to move my feet not to be trapped, and then, when I manage to shake it off, I will try and find others like me. But for now, I must do my best to resist this rigidity. I want to live in a world where anything is possible, even if I cannot do it myself. It is the possibility of things that I want to believe in even if they are not possible for me, and for most things, I want to believe they are possible for me, too.

Is this an unfair expectation from life? I believe otherwise. I think this is how we are meant to live, if at all. The popular quote goes, “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness,” suggesting (to me, at least) that most cages are built by the prisoners inside them. They build them one by one, brick by brick, bar by bar, and then, they sit quietly singing lamentations about being trapped, about things being as far away from their expectations as the setting sun. But what stops you, I ask? What prevents you from walking towards the sun anyway? How will you know if you can catch it before it disappears unless you try? There is so much to do in this life and not the intelligent stuff, but rather, invent a game, hop over a puddle, make stories of make-believe while walking on the sidewalk, listen to music—new music that you have never heard of, even if you do not enjoy it. Life’s pleasures are all hidden behind the walls of our minds—open them! What is the worst that can happen?

The train to disappearing forever is rushing with all its force; the pistons are working overtime, and we will all cease to be soon, like how we were never here. What are some sixty, seventy years in front of the history of this world, of civilisation? We might as well look ridiculous. No one will remember half of what we did.

Bookmark #742

It is not washed over me that I am not an exceptional person; it is something I accept with my arms wide open. I live my life like every other person. I wake up—usually later than planned—and begin my day, stumbling into tasks. It usually starts with a sort of foley of me making coffee—nothing but the sound of the different steps, divided only by pin-drop gaps. And then, it truly begins, and before it is even afternoon, it is already over because I know nothing can happen that will turn its tide.

The day is set into its cast by afternoon. There is not much I can do to change that, nor do I ever try. And between that moment and now, which is way past midnight, it is a blink. The blink is filled with an abundance of little things noteworthy and otherwise alike, but it all passes so quickly that I often forget. I entertain myself enough—I watch enough television, read enough books (which is something I tell myself to continue being able to call myself a writer), and play enough games. As I said, it is not something unknown that this is a bland life with its mild exceptions now and then, but by no means do they make this life exceptional. This is all by design, of course. I do not desire extraordinary. Working, as long as I get to write and have a good time now and then, and sometimes, making time for a vacation, is as good as anything else.

These words, as I understand them, are not exceptional, too, not in themselves, naturally. But one day, they will serve as a writ to the kind of life I lived. And in their nothingness, they will be something. Banal as they are, they will become exceptional simply because I will not be here to write them anymore. That is probably what compels me to sit at this desk and continue this drudgery. Otherwise, there is no other reasonable explanation for this torture, and I do not recommend it. Moments I interrupt or outright skip so there are some words on the sheet will never happen again, and out of them, these words will have emerged. I will let whoever reads them in the days to come make whatever they make of it.

Bookmark #741

Lately, I have stumbled upon a second wind regarding the hope I have for this life and my place in it. There seems to be a rejuvenated obsession with the life I live. The raindrops have dropped all year, but only now have I felt them fall on my face. I have found myself pausing in awe at the smallest of things. Just the other day on the flight, I sat with my eyes half open and no clue of the time; my wits were around, but perhaps they had gotten up to take a walk along the aisle to stretch themselves, and I found myself in the common daze that one often finds themselves on journeys. Just then, the music in my ears appealed to me like it had not in ages, and until the wheels found their footing on the tarmac, did it leave me. And for all that time, I could only think of how much I enjoy music, of how grateful I am for it—life ebbs and flows, of course. I seem to have climbed slowly out of a trough. There, I see it; there is a peak, but I am not there yet. These are but days of climbing to ecstatic joy. I plan to take my time; I plan to stop to tighten my laces and look up at the view.

Little comes to mind today. There is no need for me to waste any more words. It was a day quite similar to the one I had yesterday, and that is something I have learned to live with for now. The city has remained beautiful. The hawks have soared across the scenic view of the hills. The rains have come and gone, wiping the town clean. There, I see it: the strokes and lines of the hills are clear even in the dark, starry cover of the night. I close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air. It is beautiful, isn’t it? There really is not much to it. I forgot about this for a while. Ha! For all the reminders I casually forget between the lines, I ought to read my words more.

Bookmark #740

I met a driver last night who lost his job in the pandemic. An English teacher was now driving a taxi, almost reluctantly. “It is not about the work, you know? We have to do something, and this pays well, but if I miss something from my old life, it is the dignity of labour, that people talk to me nicely, that I am not considered some bottom feeder.” I said I had some idea of what he meant and that I sympathise. I had seen many acquaintances and, sometimes, friends treating any job where people exist to serve us with contempt. The latter got berated and chided; with acquaintances, however, I have always avoided confrontations in general. But I did understand his plight. He was young and, dare I say, more talented than most people I met or talked to on the daily, but when the cards are stacked against you, talent rarely helps.

He did not shy away from showing off his proficiency with the language—which I appreciated—as we talked about all possible things. As we spoke, I could not help but think of how life has been reasonably kind to me despite being a handful time and again. It did not take me any time to count enough things to accept it had been rather generous. We talked about the city and how it had changed, and then I looked outside and saw that the street we drove on seemed entirely different from half a decade ago, but I had barely noticed it. We do not notice ongoing change. It is far common to visit a city after years and be shocked with the newness than live in a town and find wonder and awe in its evolution. Just then, I realised how it is always the problems of others that remind us of our blessings, as selfish as it sounds. It is how we are bound to think, after all. A sunny day makes us think of water. A windy day makes a cup of coffee look divine. We rarely focus on what we see, what is truly there; we only see what is not.

I wished him well as I got out of the taxi. The night was coming all over town. It looked like it would rain, but then, it did not. When I woke up, I was officially off my sabbatical; it was time for the banal again. Only, I began the day without looking at what wasn’t there; there were ample things around for me to count and keep busy.

Bookmark #739

What a wonderful blue sky outside! How can one not sit and write a few words? I had little to do today, so I went outside and had breakfast with a friend, as one should on a day as beautiful as this. Now, I am back, and I am inspired. It was while we had pancakes that I confessed that I, too, am human. That the reason I have not written enough after I had written for four hundred days is simply because we often think of numbers as milestones.

However, unlike how they are on the road, reaching milestones in life rarely brings you to a new place. On the four-hundred-first day, you wake up, make your coffee, and sit in front of the desk. Nothing has changed. Something does not fit right. And then and there, the charm is gone. It is phenomenally hard to keep doing something when it leads to something. It is but the realm of impossible to do something which never leads to anything. And I think that is what happened to me. It may not be the only thing, for there is seldom only one reason for things being the way they are, but it is a reason. And now that I have confessed this, out loud, to another person, I feel like a weight has lifted off my chest. We must always strive never to believe our myths about ourselves, and even if people continually tell you how insane any of your feats are, you must always know it is you who achieved whatever you achieved, which means it is believable and possible. That is true humility, and I reckon I have learned my lesson.

Now that I have spent time analysing and lamenting, there is nothing else to do but be better. Fortunately, I have my own example to follow now and to write even half as well as I had been doing until I lost my head and put it into my arse would be an achievement. There it is; there is my resolve for the days to come. I must get to the top of the peak again. The rock has rolled to the far end of the bottom.

Bookmark #738

I walked across the taupe steps, inadvertently scaring the flock of pigeons. As they flew away, colliding with one another, they created an impromptu orchestra, supported by the vocals from all the people sitting around the steps, with the obscenities, the murmurs, groans and the tsks. I bowed my head in apology and smiled sheepishly as I quickly jogged across. But if I am honest, I had completely missed seeing the pigeons. It seems I was too lost in my reverie. For every step I took, I also walked inside my head, trying to find an answer to what had caused a tumultuous feeling inside me all year.

I pondered over what stopped me from writing as much or what had reanimated the cynic in me. And I had no answers, of course, but it always helps to list the questions down when we find ourselves at a lack of immediate explanation. Often, just doing this finds the answers in a jiffy. And then, surrounded by art in every corner, in the museums, on the streets, the buildings, the people, and in the air, it occurred to me that it was precisely the cause of the apathy that had risen in me. To put it bluntly, I had been an idiot.

All year, without a plan or realisation, I had studied the works and lives of artists intensely, and now, their ghosts haunted me. It was not my first foray into this, but it was a year of unexpected immersion. It seems my overwhelm had created a hole in my heart. When you experience a work of art, you let it make a home in your heart, and then, the work informs you without permission, for it does not need permission. It stays forever with you. So we must be careful not to let too many tenants in at once to keep the mischief managed.

Naturally, comical as life is, I had reached my breakthrough right when I walked into the flock of pigeons. The explosion around me pulled me out of my deep interrogation. There I stood, having just caused an uproar for everyone sitting comfortably under the shade of a broken pillar, carrying nothing but mild embarrassment and a little bit of resolution in my heart.

Then, it began to rain, so I scurried into the nearby cafe, and said, “Ciao, un caffe, per favore?”

It was then that I realised I was smiling.

Bookmark #737

Having spent the better part of the last month walking along the paved cobblestone streets under the shadows of giants, myths and legends, I am only humbled by what I have seen, even if I knew about those things before. It is always different when you see something on your own. We must always try to see things for ourselves.

Now, I know that is not always possible, and I do not see it necessary to highlight the importance of simply knowing things, too. But for the things that I have seen recently, for the hours I have spent in admiration—which are not enough by a large margin, mind you, to truly internalise the grandeur of the genius of a few people not too far long ago from where the calendar has managed to land today—have stirred something in me.

There is now a craving for a fresh start, of a change in my perspective about how I look at myself, these words, art, and the world at large. I want now to unify the two sides of myself: where I want to go (which has had the reins all this time) and where I come from (which I do not acknowledge as often as I should). Only when I accept both sides and see myself as a whole will I be able to even think of comparing to the greatness I envision for these words. Not for myself, no. No one is great in himself—what we do measures whoever we were when our time is done, and whatever it was starts and ends with us.

I see these days of walking under the shining sun amidst the crowds, walking on the same walkways and galleries that once inspired people to create impossible things, as a soft reminder of how there is still time, of how long a life is, but most importantly, I see them as a respite from the mundane. It has enabled me to embrace the regularity of my life again.

Since I have been back, they have asked me to name the most important thing I saw, and I have told them, as earnestly as I can: my days as I live them.

I saw them from far away, and then, I heard them call.

Bookmark #736

I started the day with a long walk over the generously dew-sprayed grass in the woods. It was an exhilarating morning which, in more than one way, served as a reminder of how my sojourn was coming to an end and how envious I was of myself, of this pocket of time, of how a version of me will remain here forever, while I will live my regular days once again. With every step, I reminded myself not to get used to these days, but I flirted with the idea of spending my days reading, walking, eating, living, and then, if I found the time, the inspiration or the beverage for it, sitting down to write a few words. Perhaps that might be where I end up regardless, or maybe this is the last time I can live like this—no way to verify but to live. The dust has to settle somewhere. The trick is to accept and be happy with wherever it settles in the end, and if being happy is too big an ask, then tolerate it.

Over these days, I have felt a certain forgotten restfulness return to me, having found moments of immense excitement, of quiet comfort, of endless conversation, of never-ending silence, of long walks through forests and piazzas alike, of hours spent in bed since nothing called on me. In all, while there are some things left to see, they will be the dessert after all the meal courses. I believe I am fully satiated with the change in my days and surroundings, and now, I feel in my heart the familiar craving, the urge to go back to my days once again. Maybe it is a flaw, but there is little life can do to rend my days and their aftertaste off me permanently. Sure, there is a feeling of unease that creeps up sometimes, but before long, I find myself tracing my footsteps back home, back to what I know about who I am and what I do. But we must go far away to find our way back. It is easiest to lose track of where you are when you do not move at all.

Towards the end of my long walk through the woods, I thought I had found a new path, but when I hopped towards it, I could see the steps back to the villa. I had walked through and around the whole thing. But before this realisation, I was convinced there was something new there.

Perhaps there was; perhaps that is the point.