The Circus Elephant

As a 90s kid, a large part of my summer vacations was making a day out of a trip to the local circus. We’d spend days planning the day; making a group, convincing parents, thinking of the potluck, prepping for the post show games in the garden and actually picking a date- most of which was done by the mothers while we just nagged around.
As trivial as it sounds right now it meant a great deal then. The drive to the venue was filled with incessant chatter among cousins and friends, trying to recall the events of the previous year’s circus, making creative assumptions about everything we wished to see in the current year’s performance and how much fun the immediate future was about to be. There was a large part of this conversation which revolved around the food our mothers had packed, the sandwiches and juices, the jams and candies… no one wanted to talk about the fruits of course.

The sight of a familiar, larger-than-life, multi-coloured, striped tent would automatically have us gushing. Our caps and hats in place and shoe laces tightened, we were like bulls waiting to charge, waiting to find a seat and waiting for the show to begin. Visiting the zoo was one of the compulsory trips on our annual curriculum, but a circus always held a different charm. The animals were the same, but here they were let loose instead of being inside cages and yet they were sources of entertainment rather than being intimidating; funny, isn’t it?
Year after year, the routines remained the same. The monkeys cycled, the gymnasts were on acrobats, the dogs carried baskets of flowers and sometimes fruits, the lions roared, the bikers rode in horizontal circles defying gravity, the masters made the lions act like tamed dogs, the magician pulled out vibrant ribbons, white pigeons and rabbits from their hats.

The show stopper for me always remained the elephants. The ginormous and magnificent beings that have ears and noses larger than all and suspiciously tiny eyes. Unaware of the order of the food web or placement of herbivores in it, to me they were the most powerful of them all. The reason they had all my attention was because despite their size they played the role of a juggler with hats and colourful balls. They stood on two legs over an inverted bucket. They made me laugh and tickled my ribs like the clowns around them.
Why was someone who is strong enough to uproot trees with a whisk of its trunk alone, being so cordial?

The answer of course came much later. Years after I had stopped going to circuses. Years after the use of animals at circuses was declared as cruelty against animals. It came in a lecture when the professor was teaching the concepts of Conditioning, Learned Helplessness and Parenting.

A baby elephant is left in shackles and nailed to the ground for majority of its free time. Every time it tries to break free, it is punished with severe pain around its ankles. With years of trial and error resulting in pain and failure, it learns a lesson for life!
Fast forward many years ahead, as a full blown adult sized elephant with the ability to crush anything and everything on its way, it remains humble. It is humbled by an experience of its childhood. It has the potential yet it undermine itself. Tied down to a spot with just a feeble rope and anchored to the ground using a disproportionately small piece of wood, it never tries to make a run for its freedom and allows itself to be commanded at the helm of a midget stick being pointed at it.

Many of our actions have consequences large enough to change the fate of a person and their self image.
When you compare between siblings or friends, you are always inflating someones self efficacy while deflating the other though the short term agenda was to motivate. When you tell your child that they are not yet prepared, you could be leaving a long term impression about them not being good enough. When you tell your spouse to be more like your parent, you are telling them that they do not compare or provide as well as you have been provided for. When you tell a hurt boy to not cry like a girl, you are forcing the thought process that girls are weak and among girls that boys are stronger. When you ask someone to work on their size, complexion and tan with the intention of helping them work on their appearance, you could be instilling an inferiority complex through discrimination.

There is an old hindi proverb “हाथी के दांत खाने के और दिखाने के और” which loosely translates to “elephants have different teeth to eat and different to show”.
It is the same with our words. They intend something but could have a very different effect.

Coming A Full Circle

We have all learnt that a circle by definition is a closed two dimensional figure with has no edges and no starting and ending point. But the circle that I’m about to talk about has a well defined starting point. This circle is my journey from the point when I rode high on an impulse of starting a blog with no theme or planning in mind to today when that night and the conversation that led to it are always going to remain a story I love to re-tell.

In the summer of 2018 I took a trip to Manali. This trip started with fifteen strangers huddled together for some camping and hiking and a week later we were all friends with stories and thoughts exchanged. While I was busy being lost in myself and absorbing my surroundings, there was someone who was taking notice of my repeated moments of rush to scribble something on my notepad.
Fast forward two months, and I see a link in my inbox with a message saying you should apply for a certain creative writing retreat. Thus began a late evening soiree of youtube videos on creating a blog to digging up old notebooks and scanning the last pages for a half decent piece of writing.

With 52 weeks and 52 posts behind me, I know I have some more clarity than I did that evening. But I’m still as clueless as when I had started. But between the beginning and now, a lot has appeared, disappeared, grown and changed. While the words “I would like to be the first one to receive a signed copy of your book someday” seemed like a good motivation with not a single freckle of reality, but today I do imagine a book in the future.

Speaking of travel, perspectives, mental health, simple living and just simple pleasures… I have also found a more constructive and grounding way of thinking for myself. On some of my blue days, it’s this platform that has made me realise that I’m not the only one. Talking about little insecurities on such a large platform is difficult, but the acceptance and responses have made me realise that I’m starting a conversation that’s much needed.

A principle that I’ve stuck to since day one is that I’m going to keep my truth honest and naked. So, in order to write about being responsible towards the environment and nature I made sure that I was switching to more sustainable habits such as bamboo toothbrush, metal straws, reusable water bottles and menstural cups. Talking about health only happened after I had personally quit sugar and observing intermittent fasting and found cost effective ways to support the habit.

Of course, there have been weeks when I have just disappeared with no word. But the love that some of you have shown by just dropping a message and asking if I was doing fine got me back onto it. Life has been quite a wave of change in this period; from being someone who was travelling once a month to being engaged- I like how @thehazywhisperer remains a constant that I’m proud to call my passion child, that I’m nurturing and growing all by myself.
Somedays it has been my venting space and some other times it is my reason to try something new. Somedays I’m drawing satisfaction from the fact that my words have brought support and a smile on someone’s face and some other times I have spend hours scratching my head and putting my education to use by spreading the word on a larger scale.

So, I’m just trying to find the right words to say thank you to each and every element that has gotten me here. I’ve started conversations and become a more attentive listener because I’m always wondering what new thing can I learn and which alternate perspective can I bring forward and share with you guys!


A humble gift request on turning 1: Please do take a minute to share what you think about my work so far & do you feel a connect and if yes then how. Your feedback is the fuel to my engine of things, do be generous 😉
Write back through comments,
via email (thehazywhisperer@gmail.com)
or on instagram (@thehazywhisperer)

People

Okay, I know there are terrible terrible people out there but listen:

I also know that there are people who stop and smile at tiny plants growing out of sidewalk cracks, people who laugh so loud that they snort, people who compliment others randomly, people who take pictures of their friends because they love seeing them happy, people who ramble about things that they’re passionate about, people who blush and stutter, people who are kind, people who are warm, people who love and love and love.

There are people who are intrigued on seeing a bird’s nest, people who slow their cars to let the pedestrians walk, people who stop to look at the clouds and smile, people who walk a mile extra to conserve the environment one step at a time, people who pet strays like their own, people who share food with strangers, people who give bear hugs, people who stay up all night with their loved ones just so they do not feel left alone, people who suffer with a simple just to provide two square meals for their family, people who do not like taking credit for things thy’ve contributed in, people who give and give and give.

My Love, there are all kinds of people out there… So wear the tint that you can appreciate and only then start looking at the world. Because, you will only find the kind that you seek.

Guided Choices

During a group discussion in a management session, the professor said that he will get back to my colleagues question in a little while.
Then the professor further asked my colleague, “If you don’t mind me asking sir, do you have kids?”
To which my colleague replied with a smile, “Yes sir! I have a son.”
Professor: “How old is he? What is he doing?”
Colleague: “He is currently pursuing a financing course.”
Professor: “Does your son have freedom to make his own choices?”
Colleague: “Absolutely?”
Professor: “Do you trust your son?”
Colleague: *almost immediately* “Of course, completely!”
Professor: “Oh, that’s great…. How did he come to choose his field of vocation?”
Colleague: “By himself, with some council and guidance from my wife and I.”
Professor: “Are you sure you were just a guiding force and not an opinionated person with a convincing fatherly instinct?”
Colleague: *lost for words and drowning in retrospect*

Professor: “… so to answer your earlier question Sir, do you really think you trust you employees and give them freedom to perform when you did not really give your own child the complete freedom to choose what he will be practicing all this life?”


Give it a second before you start thinking or simple let your horses loose. I’m not pointing fingers at the father who wanted the best for his child and calls it his love and concern. I’m not pointing fingers at the Professor who got a bit personal in order to explain a point he thought was necessary to prove to us that just believing is not enough.

Just take a moment and think about the times you’ve made guided choices and now believe that they were truly your own. How often have you just tried to help someone make a decision while what you were sub-consciously doing was letting them know that the universal truth is actually just what you believe to be true based on your awareness… (which is not wrong, but just requires some thought).

Now think, how often have you just heard the other person out.
I know, for a fact, that I’ve made these guided choices and guided people through choices. But I’m also told that I’m a terrible counsellor for someone with a Masters in Psychology. I ask questions, some more questions, and then some more, until a framework emerges. Until a fabric of understanding is woven. Up until there is enough information to create a tailor made answer… Is it bad? Well I’m just indecisive like that!

The Backwards Law

Recently a friend shared an interesting post with me, via social media.
In all honesty its been a little more than a week since he shared it, but today I’ve decided to put it out here and share it with all you people.
Its taken me some time to ‘unpretzel my mind’ and its still a work in process…


‘Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”- the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-entered and shallow you become in trying to get there.’


If you are wondering what took me so long to chew this up, gulp it down and try to digest it… well maybe you should read it once again. And then one more time if you still feel the same way.
And these multiple reads were what I needed to internalise these words in the first place. The idea of always being happy and being positive has been so largely marketed and glamourised that we forget that we are more complex machines than any we have created and that we have innumerous softwares that work parallel to one another and mechanisms which are far beyond our own understanding and control.
It is not just okay to feel low, in fact sometimes you owe it to yourself- if you are low, allow yourself to feel it. If you are feeling upset or even angry, you have a reason; so don’t undermine your own smarts. By this I don’t mean to say that you can do outrageous things and take extreme measures, all I mean is that we need to feel the whole spectrum of our emotions and then act with the best possible alternatives.

Have you ever been given a compliment which not only do you not understand but cannot even believe it because you think the contrary of yourself? And somehow that compliment or comment (as you don’t believe it) comes back to you from time to time.
Ever wondered why someone thinks you are beautiful while you don’t think your complexion is good enough or you are too tall to look good or too broad structured to look cute? Are people really always trying to flatter you? Could they have an ulterior motive to achieve by making you doubt yourself and classify your insecurities flawed?

It is only when you love all the colours in a rainbow do you accept the rainbow’s beauty or else you are just knit-picking!

CONTENTMENT

The Thesaurus and Oxford dictionary use synonyms like happiness and fulfilment to describe it.
According to Urban Dictionary, it is “The state of mind you reach when you look at your life in all its imperfection, and say good enough”.


The first shower of the season came as a shock rather than a surprise.
Being stranded in a place for 90 minutes more than required.
A dearth of connectivity from current location to the closest metro station.
Someone burning a hole in my shirt. An overly bumpy ride to my station.
A cranky kid blaring.
An air-tight compartment packed with staleness burning my breath.
Dirt and other particles staining my bag.
A phone that’s waiting to die on me.
A walk through a smoky, crammed road.
Splatters of muck making me dirty waist deep.
A soiled pair of shoes and frizzed up crown of hair.
Being recognised by an acquaintance who decides to park aside for a little tête-à-tête.
Welcomed home by a guest whose arrival I had forgotten all about.

I walked into the house this evening looking like seven kinds of hell. All the above things had happened on the same evening, within a period of 45 minutes. But there is one more thing that had happened. It wasn’t an event. It was just an underlying feeling that I had through all these events. A Satisfaction of sorts!
Let me take you through the details of these 45 minutes for better understanding…

So after a brief day of work I decided to take a walk through the mall. A browse through the windows and half an hour later I was ready to leave but the climate had other plans and had me stranded for 90 extra minutes. But the drop in temperature was a welcome relief. Once the down pour mellowed down to comfortable drizzles I took to getting wet in search for a rickshaw to take me to the closest station.
Before I knew it there were sparks flying and there was a hole in my shirt. On following the direction of their origin I found a street vendor fanning at coal and roasting corn; such a delight!
Taking shelter under his make shift tarpaulin tent, I shared some corn with the local kids who were more than willing to share their summer expedition tales in exchange for some warm snacks. After a good laugh, Lakshmi (one of the street children) offered to ask her uncle to drop me at the station. His rickshaw was rickety and the cushions pokey, but it was a blessing to find a ride.
Onto the first stretch of my metro, there was ample room and breathing space. Once I switched lanes and hung up on an ongoing call upon seeing the rush, I had to fight my way onto it. Pushed against the wall, two women squeezing me for some extra square feet from either sides and a baby bawling its eyes out and making the already stuffed space grow smaller. The mother earned multiple angered looks as she struggled to shoulder her baby into comfort until someone took notice to the fact that the clothing of the mother wasn’t conducive to the young skin. To distract myself and be of use I offered to hold the infant and we gibberish-ed our way through.
Getting off on my stop and onto the roads, completing the last stretch to reach my destination, I was greeted by a biker speeding over a puddle of water, leaving me amazed at the way he swerved through the crowd. It was a relief to know that my laptop was safe but I knew my pants were soaking wet- can you imagine my comfort at the end of a hot day (imagine me winking while I say this).
The next 400 meters were spend jumping in almost every puddle that I could find and watch people judge me for being immature and crazy… only I knew how good I was feeling and couldn’t care much. Things sure got a bit awkward when a familiar face popped out of a car and asked me to get in. Hopped in and got a ride, left behind a thanks and lots of slush to remember me by. Entered home with a bounce to my step, a nest hair on my head and a song on my lips only for Mumma to show me her signature glare that has the capacity to send me places.
‘Hello!’, came a flying hug with a dejected smile from our guest who had realised all too late the sorry state of my appearance.
Maybe it was the look of contentment on my face that had distracted them from my physical reality…

Paper Boats

Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.
In big black letters I write my name on them and the name of the village where I live.
I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and know who I am.
I load my little boats with shiuli flowers from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night.
I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting their white bulging sails.
I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats!
When night comes I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars.
The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading is their baskets full of dreams.

– Rabindranath Tagore

During a sweltering summer afternoon, my younger sister- who sometimes is an adult but mostly a teenager, walks upto me with a book of poetry held loosely in her hand. She sinks next to me on the bed while I continued watched the fan over head churn and spit warm air around.
With her head rested on my raising and falling stomach and cotton stripped pyjama clad legs hanging lazily off the bed, she asked out of tired curiosity “Could you read this poem out to me?”. While a bit agitated, I agreed as there was nothing better at hand for me to occupy myself with.
There were no conversations that followed. Just the two of us, lost in our own lands of thought, counting the boats we have sailed to no specific destinations and longed for a response from the universe.
With a decade between the two of us, after a year of this summer afternoon, it still amuses me how age truly is just a number and how I (even now) continue to dwell in my own child-like fantasies hidden under the drapes of adulting.

Note:
1. Shiuli: also known as night-flowering jasmine and coral jasmine
2. Child-like: when an adult continues to have (nice) qualities of a child such as innocence and trustfulness

EXCITEMENT

Increased heart rate
High adrenaline level
A feeling of restlessness
A state of mental arousal
Heightened sense of awareness

It is a combination of all the above signs and symptoms that we use to explain what excitement does to us. It could be the little things that make us skip a beat or the prolonged moments that leave us with our hearts drumming in our ear. It is the sweating palms and shallower breaths of anticipation.
It is what one experiences when heading out for a crazy night of fun with friends, also when meeting someone who is a stranger with potential to be more that just an acquaintance.
It is exactly what I experience every time I’m boarding the flight for a trip that I’ve been planning and putting together for quite sometime, also when I sat smiling next to him for the first time with cameras and happy faces pointed at us.

With lack of context it is very easy to confuse these signs between excitement, nervousness and fear.
Ever realise that?
We go through the same set of physiological responses when experiencing excitement and fear, while they are such opposites!
If you try to think a bit longer and dwell deeper, it is easy to see that the root difference is based on the fundamental element of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’.

So the next time you’re scared of something and it is leaving you sleepless at nights and anxious during the day, spend some time and energy in getting to know more and more about it. Because the more you learn the more your brain is likely to make it into a pleasurable and exciting experience rather than a dreaded and feared one.

Here’s to getting to know more and being more excited each day!

RESULTS

With a huge number of teenagers and early adults receiving their scores in the present month in the month of May, each summer carrier the potential of transporting me back to a time when I faced the same fate.
I stood on the edge for hours a together, waiting for the fruits of my labour to be announced. Pondering if I had made silly mistakes. Fretting if I had not given my cent percent. Pulling at my inability to vividly remember what had been asked and how well had I tackled each shot.
And just as the time grew closer I started listing down all the reasons why this was important for me. Everything that had been told to me with the intent of motivating me suddenly started feeling like an extra pound on weight on my shoulders. Slowly it stopped mattering whether I had done a good job, what made me more nervous was whether I had done a job better than my counterparts. Oh! What a badly timed downward spiral it was.

Today, after a decade of receiving my higher secondary results and looking back at how far I’ve come from that day I have understood one thing.
Its not the percentage or the grades that have made me who I am today. It is what I chose to do with myself inspite of the grades that make me the person I am.
By no means am I saying that it is okay to not do your best, but it is essential to push yourself to the limit and then a little more, then the results you achieve should be accepted with open arms. Because somewhere, only when you know you have given it all that you got is it possible to not feel let down by yourself.

There are young adults who brand themselves based on the scores and parents who differently treat their children through comparison with others and then there are educators who segregate kids based on their memorising power.
This remains beyond me.
I have been a top scorer who through sudden turn of events struggled through high school to just float through the rest of my school life. I cannot and will not lie- it was difficult and sometimes even traumatising.

How did I survive?
My parents were my story of inspiration and my heroes. Even though they kept pushing me to work harder, sometimes through more harsher ways than the others; they made sure that I knew that they meant well. They were sensitive enough in their pursuit to know when I was reaching my limit.
But the inspiration was the fact that, two individuals with limited means and even more limited education, have been successful in creating a happy family, wealthy relationships and a respectable living. Through my childhood to early adulthood I had witnessed a wavering graph but most of it was growth. I had grown up seeing their humility and acceptance of their shortcomings while working hard each day with honesty and happiness.
Somewhere, I had started to believe that in is my character certificate that holds more weightage in life than my school marks certificate. But I also knew that if I could not improve one then I would have to work double hard with the other as I would be pushing a cart on a single wheel rather than having the support of both.

Today when I talk to my younger cousins and other students, I tell them only one thing:
Everything is equally important, make sure to create a neat balance. But don’t worry if you are falling short in one area because there are other areas which are your points of strength and can be used to your help with a little bit of faith and some confidence in yourself and the world.
Just make sure that you know where you place your happiness and that you use the right parameters to measure it. Sometimes even the most expensive car cannot buy you the contentment that a cup of tea being shared with well wisher.

SERENDIPTY

Understood as a ‘fortunate mistake’ or a very good coincidence that leads to something pretty awesome.

I’ve always felt this over-whelming feeling of joy when I catch the early morning dew drops trickling down a blade of grass, hear the synchronised singing of the birds, changing shades of the sky, the presence of the sun as well as the moon in the sky or just the crispness of the fresh air… all this while all I wanted to do is to get some running done.
And this feeling, I know, works for my mind the way a good jog works for my body. It makes me feel more awake and ready for whatever the day holds for me.
I also experience serendipity, when I bite into some foods that take me to a happy place with some happy people, not because they created it but because I’ve had the chance or fortune of eating it with them.
Like when I eat a softy or swirl ice cream, it transports me to my childhood where they held a special place (as rewards or/and celebrations). Though, the intention of having one now is to make the heat more bearable and not the transportation.

Odd, isn’t it?
I can think about a 100 such things that fall under this expression. They are all the little things which, if not to explain this beautiful word would have been taken for granted by me.

This word that is generally used to refer to luck and surprising findings, was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. He adopted the word from the title of a fairy tale ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’, in which the heroes are always making accidental discoveries.
Fun Fact: the old name of Sri Lanka is ‘Sarandip’. And it was voted as UK’s Favourite word in 2000, alongside being voted as one of the ten most difficult english words to translate.