Saturday, October 16, 2010

Northern Skies

He sits here every day. Everyday he comes here and sits. Among the many different ways in which you can change the syntax of this sentence, the semantics, unfortunately, always remains the same. Oh yes! This is not a complaint, one can be certain that he has lost the art of making a complaint, but, sometimes facts do sound like complains. When Newton discovered the laws of gravity, he also implicitly complained against the fact that humans can’t fly. This stupid planet keeps pulling you down to the ground and so, we created Superman, an alien who could fly and yes, save the world in the process.

He sits here every day with a sandwich looking at people walking on the streets of this strange, alien city where everyone has things to do and people to talk to. He has somehow managed to pick out loneliness in the myriad of options that he had when he entered this new city and chosen to sit with it and a sandwich waiting for the lunch break to get over. In fact, you could call him a stalker, just that he doesn’t stalk one person, he stalks people. He watches them everyday walking on the street and follows them till they disappear into the oblivion.

Sometimes you do end up finding strangeness in the everyday encounters with this bench. Just the other day he saw this couple, tall husband – short wife, a little strangely matched to be honest (though he couldn’t really be sure if they were married!) and the wife was carrying an umbrella trying to cover the head of her husband as it drizzled down from the clouds. Common sense would probably suggest that it would have been a lot easier for the husband to carry the umbrella, but the man was not bothered. He smoked his cigarette as his partner tried to prevent the inevitable drenching that was becoming a definite possibility. He wondered if that woman would have preferred sitting here in all the glory of loneliness than being with this man. After a moment, he realized she wouldn’t. No one wants to sit alone and have lunch all by themselves. People like talking about the trivialities that make them social. They would probably hang on to that umbrella just to be accepted.

But, today seemed to be different, one can’t be exactly certain why but some freak in office decided to get interested in Norse mythology and was sending out emails talking about the origin of Earth. “There was once no heaven above nor earth beneath, but only a bottomless deep, and a world of mist in which flowed a fountain. Twelve rivers issued from this fountain, and when they had flowed far from their source, they froze into ice, and one layer accumulating over another, the great deep was filled up.

Southward from the world of mist was the world of light. From this flowed a warm wind upon the ice and melted it. The vapours rose in the air and formed clouds, from which sprang Ymir, the Frost giant and his progeny, and the cow Audhumbla, whose milk afforded nourishment and food to the giant. The cow got nourishment by licking the hoar frost and salt from the ice. While she was one day licking the salt stones there appeared at first the hair of a man, on the second day the whole head, and on the third the entire form endowed with beauty, agility, and power. This new being was a god, from whom and his wife, a daughter of the giant race, sprang the three brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve. They slew the giant Ymir, and out of his body formed the earth, of his blood the seas, of his bones the mountains, of his hair the trees, of his skull the heavens, and of his brain clouds, charged with hail and snow. Of Ymir’s eyebrows the gods formed Midgard (mid earth), destined to become the abode of man.

Odin then regulated the periods of day and night and the seasons by placing in the heavens the sun and moon, and appointing to them their respective courses. As soon as the sun began to shed its rays upon the earth, it caused the vegetable world to bud and sprout. Shortly after the gods had created the world they walked by the side of the sea, pleased with their new work, but found that it was still incomplete, for it was without human beings. They therefore took an ash tree and made a man out of it, and they made a woman out of an alder, and called the man Aske and the woman Embla. Odin then gave them life and soul, Vili reason and motion, and Ve bestowed upon them the senses, expressive features, and speech. Midgard was then given them as their residence, and they became the progenitors of the human race.”

As he went about his day trying to read up more on Odin wondering how strange imagination could possibly be. He came to know about his messaging system, which involved warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears called Valkyrior. When they ride forth on their errands, their armour sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, making what men call the “Aurora Borealis,” or “Northern Lights.”

Today, he sat on that bench wondering what it would be like to see the sky lighting up with a constellation of colours of every hue. Stalking people seemed irrelevant for the first time. For a second, the bench seemed to move in time and space as he felt the road in front of him change into a sheet of ice. The sun disappeared and a clear sky with stars twinkling appeared out of nowhere. He stood up and felt a sudden chill in the air as he realized that he was all alone surrounding by nothing except the great whiteness of snow in all directions. The bench was still there probably waiting to take him back.

And then it happened. Slowly a very blurry picture of magnificent colors became clearer. It reminded him of the days when he used to watch the sky every night with his telescope. Every night he had to re-adjust the lens to see that clear picture of the sky again. Only this time it seemed as if the sky was adjusting itself for a spectacular display of colors. In that one moment as he looked at those colors, he knew that life was more than subsistence. It was about living and seeing what the world had to offer. Not just the people and how somebody could just come in and change your life. But, the amazing thing that is this planet.

“Hey Amir, Compass is waiting for you in his cabin. You better hurry up!”

The ground was concrete again, the bench was still placed facing the street and people were still walking past it oblivious to their stalker. Suddenly he felt as if he had woken up from a long strange dream with the hand of a colleague on his shoulder.

“Oh! Thanks.”

He stood up and rushed to his Boss’s cabin and knocked. He had no idea why people called him Compass but he did always talk about directions to move forward.

“Amir, well it’s time for the annual review of your performance and I have to tell you that it is very positive but there are a few directions that we need to explore…”
“I quit!”

As he got out of that cabin and started to walk out, his Boss opened his cabin and said, “Amir! Wait. Where are you going?”
He turned and looked at his Boss and for the first time in ages, he smiled.
“To the Northern Skies.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fort Da!

He was just sitting there… doing absolutely nothing. It’s kinda strange if you ask me. But, then for a psychology student, all kinds of behavior seem strange. It comes with education, I tell you. One day you are sitting by the side of your old man assuming that he just doesn’t like meeting people and the next day you get to know that he has social anxiety disorder. Why aren’t things simpler I wonder? Some people just don’t like people. Period! Just like the age old aphorism, “I love humanity; it is the people that I can’t stand.” There is nothing scientific about it… it’s just a state of being. Oh! Yes, the classic quandary faced by all psychology students, psychology and psychoanalysis are NOT science. They are just some pretentious scientific mumbo-jumbo used to explain the human condition. 

I guess if you had said that to me while I was trying to work my ass off trying to pass those god forsaken exams, I swear to God, I would have killed you. It sure did seem like science. It was tough, unintelligible at times and more often than not, simply generalizable. Isn’t all of that pure characteristics of science? But then, we can go on trying to fight this over and yes, you might have an upper hand but, that does not undermine my respect for what I will be doing in the near future, if I do graduate. As usual, as it happens with most psychoanalysis session, we digressed from the original point. He was sitting there… doing absolutely nothing.
It was a hot summer evening and the summer break had just begun. This time our break did seem to have an additional touch of anxiety over the ongoing Kargil War. When you are young and mostly stupid, politics doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea, unless you’re a student leader. But, then Kargil had certainly become the talk of the country. But, why would we care? Anyway, so as I was saying, Railway station is an interesting site for observation. You always find quirky characters to talk about. If you do have a bunch of psychology kids around, who are waiting for a train which is delayed by 5 hours and the book stall has extremely expensive Sydney Sheldon books, then you are in for some cryptic over the top psycho-babble. Well it is quite a standard protocol with my set of friends here! I don’t know what happens with other psychology students. After an hour, films become obsolete and gossip over women seems mundane and then starts the treasure hunt for the most quirky character on the Railway Station.
There are lots of specimen… you can probably tell a lot about people by the things that they wear and the way they part their hair. Well in fact I was recently introduced to the idea of trustworthiness of beards. ( Whether it’s just for fun or there is something deeper to it, might probably be a question that could be answered only if you actually end up meeting that person and interacting with them. In that sense, I agree with Freud. Every patient is unique. You cannot generalize the human mind, the tool-kit might be the same… the methods, the techniques… but the answers are always contextual.
This old man, seemed to be in his eighties or probably the expression on his face made him look older, was genuinely silent before he took out what looked like a photograph. He looked at it for while and then, kept the photograph back in his bag. Strangely enough, after a certain point of time, he had a worried look on his face and he started to frantically look for something in his bag. He searched and searched, emptied out most of the contents of his bag and then, he looked some more. After a whole lot of looking around, he lifted what seemed to be a photograph. His face was radiant with the joy of a discovery. He looked at the photograph intently for some time. Then, he started packing up his stuff again into the bag. After repacking his bag, he went silent, unmoving for 15 minutes, after which, he started emptying out his bag again looking for something till he found another photograph. Or was it the same, I am not sure. I am not a spy; I am just a psychology student.
Now, that’s a little freaky. Oh yes, it is politically incorrect for me to say such things but, to be honest, my personal reaction to it was, “Cool!”
“Hey guys! I think we have a winner. That old man, just look at him for 15 minutes and you will know why.”
The old man seemed to repeat the ritual with precise timing. He didn’t seem like there was something wrong with him. He wasn’t the roadside nut-jobs that you see around at Railway Stations looking for food. He was well-dressed, average middle-class person waiting for the train. Just like us. But, there was something surreal about him. He was absolutely normal apart from the constant ritual that he performed. There was a certain rhythm to it. Something unbelievably out of place and yet, it seemed to be perfectly normal, routine activity.
“What is he doing?” asked one of my friends.
“I have no idea.” The response as I said it seemed to raise more questions than answers.
“Is it the same photograph that he hides and then… finds…?”
“I don’t know.” As the risk of sounding stupid, let me just say that I am being honest here.
“That’s sure as hell a crazy way of killing time. But, wouldn’t he know where he hid the photograph before he starts finding it and defeat the whole purpose of the treasure hunt… wouldn’t it?”
“Treasure hunt… It’s a game.” Sometimes I do admire the trivial connections that I make.
“Duh! Here we thought he was an alien trying to locate his signal transmitter.”
“Fort Da!” This time… it’s a real connection. Probably not that trivial, if I can prove it.
“What!? How? Why?”
“Alright. In Freudian terms, Fort Da is the child’s invention of symbolism: the use of one object to represent another, absent object.”
“A little background information would be really helpful, Sir.” First year students are always a pain in the ass because they usual end up being the idiots who don’t know anything.
“Ok! In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud tells the story of a game his grandson invented at the age of one and a half, before he could speak many words. He used to throw small objects away from him, then say ‘oooh!’ with pleasure. He also took a wooden reel attached to a piece of string, and threw it over the edge of his cot, so that it disappeared. After saying ‘oooh!’ he would pull it back to himself and say, ‘da.’ He repeated this game over and over. Freud understood him to be saying ‘Fort’ and ‘Da’ which is German for ‘gone’ and ‘there’. He thought that this game of disappearance and return allowed the boy to manage his anxiety about the absences of his mother. Hence, the invention of symbolism… Now, do you get it?” Sometimes, I can be a real smug, you know.
“So the old man is playing the game because he is anxious about his mom. I am quite sure she might be dead, by now. Freud and his complexes… always amaze me.”

Despite the fact, that my friend was being stupid… he had a point. He was an old man displaying a child’s level of cognition. The game didn’t make sense and it couldn’t possibly have any relation to his mother. Or did it? Sometimes curiosity does take the better of you. I was interested in the ritual; it seemed like an interesting case study. Something worth talking about to my Professors if I could get a little more details. But, alas! His train arrived.

The old man started to pick up the things that he had taken out and put them back, he then started walking towards the train with the photograph in his hand. I ran towards the train. A perfect cover, if I were actually a spy. “I was just trying to catch the train” would be the cover story. I ran towards the old man trying to get close enough to have a look at the photograph. The old man had reached the door of the compartment by that time. As he moved tried to get inside, he turned the photograph while trying to get a better grip on the handrail. Before a brief moment of time, I could see the face on the photograph. It was a photograph of a young man, early twenties, dressed in an army uniform.  On second thoughts, he looked like a younger version of the old man, in many ways.

I came back. There was nothing more to know or to see.
“So what did you see, James Bond?”
“Nothing! Couldn’t see the photograph. I guess he was just a crazy old man.” On second thoughts, I don’t really know why I lied.

The old man became a distant faded memory in about five minutes. A friend picked up the newspaper from the nearby bookstall and started reading it out loud.

“Fresh reports from Dras confirm that 5 were killed and 50 injured in the on-going battle to reclaim the Indian territory…”

Friday, April 2, 2010


It doesn’t rain here anymore. It hasn’t rained in the past 50 years. Being a 70 year old man living in this mess of a slum for most of my life, I can say it with quite certainty that I might be the oldest among the people who inhabit this Underworld. Not a very imaginative name I must say, but then most real things have unimaginative names anyway. We certainly wouldn’t call it Death Star or Zombie-land. How do I know these two names? Slums don’t usually have people who know about Star Wars and Resident Evil. The answer to this one is quite simple. Exiles usually end up in the Underworld. The Flying Cities don’t have place for people like me. The Underworld is also the new prison. It’s quite different from four walls and a set of bars. You’re free to go wherever you like except up in the sky.
Well this must definitely be confusing for you. A touch of history might clear things up. The world as we know it came to be, because one fine day, a genius (his name is irrelevant and he is dead… appropriately assassinated, I think) came up with a way of defy gravity. He made a house, a fully functional housing facility based on a typical suburban architecture that could float in the sky. Not very high though, just enough to symbolize the distance between people who could afford it and people who couldn’t. It’s strange how semiotics can be such a powerful weapon. If you could build a house, then you could build a mansion, you could build a multiplex, roads, a complete lifestyle to create the Air Elite. It was just a matter of time when technology caught up again to change the world one more time. It definitely saved humanity from Global Warming. This time, in a way that was strangely surreal.
Air space! You must have heard of the idea that when you’re buying an apartment on the 20th floor of a building, all you own is the air in your apartment. The ground certainly isn’t yours. You own it with hundred other people who live in that building. Having a piece of land, in that sense, was important. It gave a sense of true ownership. Ironically, air which was so cheap for entire generations of humans from the Caveman up to Einstein became the most expensive commodity of this world. Yes, you would wonder about the technology and how was it possible and how do you create power for such things and how do these buildings stay afloat, but, I am sorry; my answer to all of these questions would be that I don’t know. I am not an engineer, I don’t have an IQ of 180, and I don’t even want to know how it all came to be. I just know that we got screwed over by Science in a very literal way.

Man has always been social. Whether on ground or up in the sky. Individual floaters started connecting with each other. As the number of Air Elite increased, a whole new concept of Flying Cities came up. It was a booming market for infrastructure companies. With a whole new world of opportunities, the capitalist economy created the novel idea of Flying Nations. Create a set of Flying Cities, join them together with Flying Roads and call the conglomeration a bloody country named after the firm that built the whole thing. It was a fucking genius idea. People who could afford it, bought citizenship of these Nations and started living there. Work permits, Residence permits, everything could be bought, if you had enough money. The rest of the people, people who run the daily lives of these rich bastards were immigrants. No rights, only an opportunity to experience Life above Earth.

I was one of these rich bastards. I made a butt load of money by making a Facebook application that used Jung-Myers-Briggs typology for personality testing to find you a matching date. Yes, the same stuff that is used for career advice. Simple idea, if you think about it. If you can decide what kind of job you would be good at, why can’t you statistically decide who would be a good match for you, if you have a big enough data set of people who have already taken the test. Anyway, I bought my way in and then, I was thrown out. Why you ask? The reason begins with what happens if you live up there rather than living down here.

You get shelter, but you need the other two very important things for survival: food and water. Food became a no-issue once they brought the best top soil to create Flying fields. Why did we need Flying fields? Why wasn’t earthly food good enough? The reason is basic economics. If you depend on people down on earth for basic needs of survival, you have demand and they have the supply, which will eventually screw you over. You need to create your own fields, so that you don’t have to depend on them. Hence, the creation of flying fields was thought of as the only viable solution. Also, pests seem to be less of a problem considering you need earth to support most of them. Yes, a lot of science and terra-forming at an aerial level is involved here. I must apologize; I can only give you the basics.

The only thing left was water. And now, we can start all over again. It doesn’t rain in the Underworld, because clouds are the primary source of water for the Flying cities. When it rains, it rains on the Flying cities; the Underworld gets rain on the outskirts. Imagine a world on top of you that cuts off the simple pleasures of sunshine and rain. Something that you wouldn’t miss for a day or two, probably even months, but, years of no rain and sunshine, has its own set of implications. Osteomalacia and Rickets were encountered at an epidemic level. People were in pain, extreme “musculoskeletal pain” as the doctors called it. There was no land in the Underworld that wasn’t covered by something flying above your head. Not that there was much of it left after the full impact of Global Warming was realized.

Millions of people died and all that the Air Elite did was to let them. Survival of the fittest literally became survival of the wealthiest, and I decided to do something about it. Classic case of a stupid guerrilla rebellion… we tried to smuggle people up, decided to fight the system. The trouble with guerrilla warfare is that it works only if you are fighting on your own turf. We didn’t have a turf. We were all up there in a place custom designed by people we were fighting against. Now that I look at it, it does feel like something only idiots like me could have managed that. William Blake once said, “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” I believe that sometimes the fool is right and that’s all the history that there is for me to tell you.

All in all, I have managed to survive everything that this Underworld has managed to throw at me. We share a permanent exploited state with the permanent exploiter state of the Flying World. They say that all forms of exploitation are possible for a time only because the exploited need the exploiters, that is to say, there is a real basis for love. I guess living down here depending for literally everything on the Flying World that exists above us, we do need them. We need them for water and for food, but, it’s not love that makes this relationship work. It is mutual hatred. They need us for cleaning their cities, waiting at their tables, cleaning out their garbage. We need them because we have nowhere else to go.

Life isn’t fair. It never was. But, I think the one thing that I have to say at the end of it all, living in the real manifestation of Dante’s Inferno is that I miss the rain. I miss the drops of water flowing down my cheeks to meet their purpose of merging into earth. I really do.

[Inspiration | a TED Talk | Shekhar Kapur: We are the stories we tell ourselves

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Strange Encounters with the Romeo Kinds

The day began like any other day. That’s such a useless beginning. What does it really tell you? Absolutely nothing and then to continue to point out that it is telling you nothing is more pointless (for the lack of a better word). But, yes, the day did begin like it always does. A little late for work, she wondered when she would find an alarm clock that actually works. Its strange how you always find something out there to blame for all of your troubles. Nothing is ever wrong with you.

So, let’s make it short and simple, she got ready and was out of her room within the next 30 minutes. Her personal best; for the record! Strangely enough, that actually left her with some time, before she had to take the train. What do you usually do to kill time? If you ask a smoker, they will tell you to stand by the side of the road and smoke your life away. It doubly kills time! If you ask her, she would probably just end up in a restaurant-cafĂ© with freshly made coffee and a “Mean Bagel with Cream Cheese”! The restaurant definitely had a strange combination of things going on being a little Punjabi run Indian and Jewish snack place. There is limited clarity on the Jewish angle to this restaurant but, she will probably figure it out someday.

So she is sitting there, still trying to wake up, when a young man comes, walking by her side and sits on a table right next to her. The guy seemed ‘cute’ enough to deserve a glance and as she tries to sneak a peek like a Russian spy, she realizes that the guy is point blank staring at her. Suddenly, the cuteness disappears and the creepiness takes over. Staring is not allowed in our culture anymore. You can’t look at a thing/person of beauty and call it joy forever. That would be inappropriate and yes, people do stare at things, probably even like staring at things. Also, people that are being stared at, more often than not, enjoy being the center of attention (except if you are a celebrity, then it is just a clichĂ©)… but, it’s still inappropriate. It is a mad world that we live in.

Anyway, the creepiness takes over, but she decides to hold it together. The guy is just staring that’s not a big deal unless he actually tries to do something. Probably he will stalk me and follow me back to my room and make a whole scene there. Mrs. Robinson won’t be too happy about that. Or probably he will make a scene here. This could possibly get so out of control and utterly embarrassing. She wondered why she always manages to attract wierdos and good-for-nothing assholes her way. Why can’t she ever find a decent guy? God has stopped manufacturing them these days. The last time, she went out on a date……

“Do you speak French?” Her thought process was suddenly brought to an abrupt end by this young, previously ‘cute’ creepy guy.
“Do you speak French?”
“A little bit, I can manage.”
“Tu es la plus belle femme que j’ai vi dans ma vie.”

She had never heard those words before in French. Or quite certainly, her language classes never taught flirting in French as a part of the course module. She could pick up on a few words but the sentence made no sense whatsoever.
A blank expression on her face seemed to say it all. Using Cricketing terms, the cute creepy guy was almost taken on his backfoot and was about to take his bails off himself, when he recovered.

“So, a little bit is not much… is it?”
“I guess not,” she said. “Do you need something?”
“Oh! No. Not at all. I was just trying to say that you’re the most beautiful woman that I have seen in my life. I might even have mixed it up in that sentence. It’s good that you don’t speak the language.”
 “Why in French?”
“Because French is supposed to be romantic or something. I don’t know. I am making a complete fool out of myself here. Ain’t I?”
“A little bit.” She said, smiling to herself. The outward appearance was still so serious that it would have thrown any guy off his game. If you want to call this a game, that is.
“I don’t understand, you didn’t ask me to go away. You just asked why in French? Did it work?”
“What do you mean by ‘Did it work’?”
“Ah! There should be a law against putting your foot in to your mouth. Probably, then I would know better.”
“If you are done, I think I need to leave.”
“Would you like to get together sometime? Grab a lunch or dinner or watch a movie or something.”
“The answer to that would be NO.”
“Hmm… I had kinda guessed that one coming my way. But, seriously you’re pretty! What are you doing this evening?”
“Does that ever work?”
“The French thing… no! Definitely no. But, what are you doing this evening? Yes, usually people do tell me what they are up to that evening when I ask them.” He chuckled… This might have been the smartest thing that he had said in that brief encounter.
“Well, it doesn’t when it comes to me and especially, when the question begins with ‘seriously you’re pretty’”
“Okay! Have a good day.”

He left her table, went back to his table and predictably, continued staring at her. She picked up the bill, paid for her coffee and the bagel. Went outside and started walking towards the station with an eye on her back trying to see if this guy was following her.

Good-natured as some Romeos are. He wasn’t and that would probably be the end of it.

As she sat in the train wondering about this guy, she realized how strange the encounter was. Probably the nicest sleaze ever! She couldn’t stop smiling for sometime at the thought of it, but it might be just that the guy was practicing on her. If she could fall for it, then probably the actual ‘most beautiful girl in the world’ might also fall for it. Suddenly she felt ugly, which honestly, is strange in its own way. Am I not good enough to be the most beautiful woman in the world? I might have just pushed away the one guy who actually said it. There was a strange sense of honesty there. He must know that it just doesn’t work that way if you simply tell a girl. There was something uniquely impulsive to it and despite the fact she knew that it would be insane to follow up on such things… it ultimately made her feel special. Probably even made her day.

“So the French thing doesn’t work… does it?”

“See, ‘Do you know French?’ is a perfect conversation starter. The trick is to say something in French that is not entirely grammatically correct. You have three outs here…

One, the girl knows French and if she tells you the right way of saying it, then you are so totally in. All that you have to do is to say that you are not very good at French and take it from there in English.

Two, the girl doesn’t know French and you take on the conversation from there in English and you sound cool because you know French. Here there might be three possibilities. One, she gives you the stone face and you quickly acknowledge that even you don’t know French that well. Then you both might have a common ground. You both don’t know French. You could possibly try to use that. Two, she smiles and you have already established that you know French which is cool and you take it from there. Three, she slaps you after you translate it in English. In this case, you should probably get the hell out of there.

Three, the girl knows French and she slaps you. That’s the quickest Game Over.

I guess, sometimes you do end up making a fool out of yourself anyway. It is always a risk if you put yourself out there. But, it’s better than not knowing, isn’t it?”

Ice-breaking is a science. Number-game with probability trees. Some people don’t need it and the rest, will probably spend the rest of their lives trying to figure it out. But, more often than not, generally, a ‘Hello’ does seem to work. Doesn’t it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


“You see you're just like everyone

When you share your falls

All you want to do is run away
And hide all by yourself
When there's fall, there's fall

There's nothing else!” (Once, 2006)

He had seen that film, he remembered the song. It’s strange how a few things stick with you. Out of the hundred things that you encounter in a day, sometimes the most insignificant, grabs your attention. It’s an amazing sense of discovery, I guess. To hold onto something so trivial, as if it meant the world. To see something that nobody else can see, to revel in that discovery as if you have reached the heights of achievement.

Now these lyrics are not all that brilliant, a hundred singers must have sung them in their own ways. It’s a universal truth that keeps reappearing because it seems to be a fact of life. Then, why this film? Why this song? I guess it might have something to do with the context; he was in the space where he could appreciate the meaning of these words. They meant something to him. He could listen to what they were trying to say.

He had heard this expression from most of the people around him. “Amir, why don’t you ever listen?” Till that point in time, in the 25 years of his life, he always wondered what it meant. He seemed to not be deaf; he could hear just fine. In fact, he did hear what most of the people tried to tell him all the time. Advice because that’s usually free unless you are hiring a consultant, predictable conversations with his sister, girlfriend and a myriad of his friends, the quaint serenity of his mother’s voice and the depth in his father’s voice. But, the problem was that most of the times, he already knew what they were going to say to him.

Predictability is a ubiquitous skill. Everybody has it. There are just a few who don’t. Well, if you do manage to ask him, I guess he would rather say that he doesn’t really know if these people who are unpredictable actually do manage to change the world. But, he knew that there are just a very few handful of them. For the rest, he supposed that he doesn’t really need to listen. He could predict what was coming his way when most of the people opened their mouths.

He would be a terrible ethnographer, I tell you. The unfortunate part of having the skill to notice predictability is that life exists in broad strokes. Everybody is predictable, but everybody has nuances. If you really want to know somebody, sometimes you need to go beyond the predictable. He was too lazy to ever engage in that quest.

The result is something predictable. Superficiality! If you don’t listen, there is no meaning. Because meaning comes from listening, not just to people, it is embedded in your very own lifeworld. Everything speaks, places, things, shoe boxes, notes, scribbles, books, ashtray… if you are listening close enough, everything has a story to tell. Some of these stories are again predictable, while the few that aren’t, make memories.

So, what’s his story? Pretty darn simple in broad strokes, I guess. A 25 year old in quarter-life crisis who believes that rock n’ roll will change the world, has a good ‘functional’ family that loves him but doesn’t quite get to the end of understanding him, has friends who sometimes initiate the randomness of adventures which seem meaningless after they are accomplished, a girlfriend who expects more out of him and yes, the most important, no sense of the future. He loved predictability, but hated it when it was about his future.

What attracted him about the film was not the film itself… It was the title of one of the songs in the soundtrack: When Your Mind’s Made Up. Of course, the lines that begin this narrative are borrowed from it. He scribbled them down on a post-it and made the first ever post-it note to himself. Then, he remembered the time when his dad actually bought that post-it pad for him.

“Sometimes you just need a few things to remember,” he said.

He didn’t quite listen to him, then. “Well, I have a big enough head to remember things,” he thought to himself. Since then, the post-it pad was lost in the randomness of his room. So, now when he picked it out and made his first note and looked at it every single day, because it was the only one there up on his wall! He realized that he would have forgotten the film and the song in a few days after he had experienced it, if the note hadn’t been there.

Why he wrote this specific note, you ask. Well the answer is quite simple. He realized that he would make a future for himself when his mind’s made up. Till then, he seemed to be floating in the abyss of unpredictability and he somehow seemed to enjoy it. He wasn’t hiding anymore and that seemed to lighten him up. The problem with writing down such a meaningful first note (meaningful to him at least!) is that it had become increasingly hard for him to find anything that tops it.

As time passed by, the way it usually does, he realized that everything that he knows about everything around him, is just not fit to be on his post-it notes. He had to look for more. He had to go deeper. His wall had one post-it note and if he really wanted to fill it, he had to find meaning in other encounters, with friends, with family, with objects, with the sheer randomness of everyday life.

“There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.” (A Beautiful Mind, 2001)
“She always stirs her coffee for about 5 minutes after putting in two cubes of sugar before having it. She says that it makes the coffee sweeter.” (Probably a note on his girlfriend Samara, I am not sure)

“Dad likes the idea of a gramophone, but he would probably never get it because he thinks that the world belongs to iPod now.” (This is definitely about his dad)

“The problem with rock and roll is that the generation that created it is now the establishment. Rock pretends it's still rebellious with its video posturing, but who believes it? The stars are all either 45-year-old zillionaires or they endorse soft drinks! The 'revolution' is a capitalist industry! Give me a break! Fortunately, I've found some protest music for today's youth. This stuff really offends Mom and Dad!” (Calvin and Hobbes)

“She loves looking at family albums. Every few days, for about half an hour, she opens one of the collections and takes out all the photographs and rearranges them. Her face lights up when she does that. I have never seen her happier than in that half an hour.” (Mostly likely this one is about his mother)

His room became increasingly private. Nobody was allowed to enter it. As he started making notes on his sister’s secret obsession with Batman, the random quirks of his friends and experiences of everydayness, he realized that the wall was more about his life and the people that he is connected to than anything else that he had ever indulged in. People were less predictable now, they were special. Experiences had lost their everydayness; they were sometimes worth a post-it. He smiled more often, he lived a little more.

And suddenly, he realized that people around had stopped telling him that he doesn’t listen anymore. I guess because he did start listening. His mind was made up. He knew that the future would always be unpredictable, but the present was just as unpredictable as the future. The past had left its impressions on his wall.

And then, he invited everybody to his room, to share his wall. The entire thing was filled up with post-its except the center. There was place for one more. As everybody read through the post-its, Samara asked him about the centerpiece. As he tried to explain that he hadn’t found the centerpiece as yet, she asked him for a post-it. She scribbled something on it and said that this might be appropriate.

He looked at it and smiled. He knew this was it! He took it and placed in the centre of a huge concoction of personal words. He turned around and everybody laughed. As everybody started leaving his room to go downstairs, he was alone in his room. He looked at his wall, smiled and then turned around to leave the room. As he was just about to turn off the lights, he read the centerpiece once again.

“On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.” (Waking Life, 2001)