plaitsnponys

Where Talent meets an audience…

Reviewing “Wings of Fire”

“He who knows others is learned but the wise one is the one who knows himself. Learning without wisdom is of no use”

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam quotes his late father and describes them as the inspiring words that ‘anchored him in periods of nebulous drift’. While the book begins with an introduction to the very humble roots of the hometown of one of India’s greatest scientists ever, Dr Kalam speaks of the creative forces in his life that spurned him to think creatively- his to be brother-in-law, Ahmed Jallaluddin and his cousin Samsuddin, both of ‘inferior’ education but inspirational nonetheless. From earning his first penny at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 (quite literally) by selling the much in demand tamarind seeds he found, to assisting his cousin Samsuddin, who was the sole newspaper distributor in their hometown Rameswaram, by catching bundles of newspapers that were thrown off from a moving train as it passed by.

The book then recounts his determination to pursue education like none in his family had. It chronicles his gratitude to his sister for mortgaging her gold to pay for his fees and his subsequent vow to reimburse her with his earnings. After completing his B.Sc degree at St. Joseph’s College, Trichi, he then moves on to Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) and impulsively chooses aeronautical engineering. He then mentions that noteworthy grades did not grace his marksheets but a thirst for practical knowledge did haunt him. After his rejection from the Air Force and simultaneous acceptance at DTD&P(Air) , Destiny as it seems, turned him onto the right path leading to greatness, and as he described “If I was not flying aeroplanes, I was at least helping to make them airworthy” .

Wings of Fire

Now, recounting his various encounters defeats the purpose of reading the book, his insights and morals are what are worth recounting. One incredibly apt insight is as such:

Unfortunately, the only line prominently drawn in our country today is between the “heroes” and the “zeroes”. On one side are a few hundred ‘heroes’ keeping nine hundred and fifty million people down on the other side. This situation has to be changed.

Prof. Vikram Sarabhai, his mentor, whom he attributed to his success and the progress of rocket engineering in India, played a vital role in Dr Kalam’s life and one particular bit of his advice to Dr. Kalam is something we can all learn from is: “Look, my job is to make decisions; but it is equally important to see to it that these decisions are accepted by my team members”.

Later in the book Dr Kalam writes: I often read Khalil Gibran, and always find his words full of wisdom. “Bread baked without love is a bitter bread that feeds but half a man’s hunger,”-those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.

On recieving the news of his developing a rocket-assisted take-off system (RATO) for military aircrafts, he writes: I was filled with many emotions- happiness, gratitude, a sense of fulfillment and these lines from a little known poet of the 19th century crossed my mind:

For all your days prepare

And meet them ever alike

When you are the anvil,bear-

When you are the hammer, strike.

Prof. Sarabhai had been more than a mentor to Dr Kalam and he always strived to impress him with his work rather than disappoint and as such, on the failure of one of the systems designed he recounts: Prof. Sarabhai’s approach to mistakes rested on the assumption that they were inevitable but generally manageable.

During his managerial phase of the SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle) he was assigned to design indigenously , Dr Kalam finds inspiration in his experiences and among my favourites is:

If you want to leave your footprints

On the sands of time

Do Not drag your feet

This referred to his decision to be receptive to constructive ideas emanating from his subordinates.

The year 1981 marked Dr Kalam’s transfer from ISRO to DRDL after having lent his expertise at ISRO for 18 long years. It was during the mediation of his transfer that Dr. Kalam was awarded the Padma Bhushan on the Republic day of 1981. He was appointed the official Director of DRDL in February 1982 and joined DRDL only on the 1st of June 1982.

He further states that the initial few months were spent only in motivating his highly demoralised team. He writes:  I still recall quoting Ronald Fischer at one of the meetings, “The sweetness we taste in a piece of sugar is neither a property of the sugar nor a property of ourselves. We are producing the experience of sweetness in the process of interacting with the sugar”.

At DRDL, he then formed the Missile Technology Committee to spearhead all the technological aspects of the missiles they were to design and produce, which followed in with the birth of India’s Guided Missile Development Programme. This is when he finds himself torn between his fatherly affection to his niece, whose wedding he almost misses due to his strenuous work commitments.

It is then that India’s prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, later called IGMDP was born, at the request of the then defence minister.

Dr. Kalam was then faced with the daunting task of ‘selecting Five Pandavas’ or project heads for each of his missiles- Agni, Nag, Akash, Trishul and Prithvi. He humourously admits selecting them not on the basis of any friendships forged but merely that the five he selected himself, were all ‘married to the Draupadi of positive thinking’.

In 1983, Dr. Kalam revamped his team of scientists to better proceed with the design of the missiles and as such recruited young engineers into the IGMDP. It was then that a young engineer on his team doubted their ability to carry on because they did not have a ‘big shot’ amongst them. It is then that Dr. Kalam justifies with a beautiful response- “A big shot is a little shot who keeps on shooting, so keep trying“.

I can go on forever with my favourite quotes and inspirational lines drawn from the book, but as I said before, it defeats the purpose of reading this wonderfully engaging novel. I must confess that from the moment I picked it up to read, I did not have the heart to put it down. You will too.. So give it a shot!

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Somewhere Beneath A Rainbow…

The faint shadow of the chair that carried me, slowly receded into the grey of the floor tiles.  The depressing gloom of the metal grey carpet above accompanied with the gusty wind that let out ghoulish howls through the gaps in the windows; while leaves blew around like confetti- all signalling a warning of the downpour that we could expect.

Doors banged shut like harbingers of the monsoon, and while the trees outside ushered the stranded towards the nearest shelter, the rain began to descend in slanting torrents. Like bullets, oblique and sharp.  Umbrellas lying around, drying off the previous sheath of water that had lain firm on their synthetic arms , flew askew like rootless twigs and water spilled into the corridor from all angles through the central opening.

And it poured, like there was no tomorrow, unabated and full of devilish fury. Thunder rumbled in the distance after what appeared to be distant flashes of god’s camera. The first crack of thunder resounded through the building like the breaking of an Earth-sized biscuit- the initial crack followed by the long and angry growl.

From somewhere came the smell of burning chappati dough- the mess maybe. A distraction had arrived sufficient enough to drive even the cooks away from the warmth of their simmering stoves. Atleast they had the warmth offered by their cooking range and the general humidity in a kitchen of such proportions.

While the cold wrapped around us like a stealthily floating cloud, wisps of clear white cloud glided past and from somewhere came the much approved suggestion of warm coffee-Black or White.

With freshly made coffee snug in the palms of our hands and the rain continuing its dance outside, stories were exchanged among a pile of abandoned books and pages. Pens sat deserted in between curled up sheets and crossed legs. Coffee diminished in our cups but the rain outside didn’t.

After hours, the curtains of water flowing from the endless sky seemed to slowly disappear into a faint drizzle. Afternoon had matured into evening and from some distant point on the horizon, the sun let out a ray in courageous brilliance, filtering past what seemed to be a screen of white and grey clouds.

Strolling up the corridor to gauge the damage done, revealed something none of us could have ever anticipated after a downpour of such magnitude and persistence. Out of nowhere, shone a rainbow in all its splendour! VIBGYOR like never before. Dropping all that our hands held in the moment, the corridor it was to admire that miracle of nature. And while it brought to mind its biblical references and the promise it held, after that storm of sorts, it held a meaning ever so beautiful and overwhelming. Even after the horrendous shower and the consequent material devastation that we failed to perceive, that sight in itself was worth it all.

rainbow

” The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Dolly Parton

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray”

Lord Byron

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The Final Farewell…

Time to say farewell

When the curtains come down on an era, the blast off into the unknown is filled with a nagging fear- that of losing the treasures of the present. And while majority wish to while it away in baseless merriment, a few are able to ascertain the vital importance of the little left to forever encapsulate. Nonetheless, making content memories in the midst of such sadness is what demands more courage and will-power than you ever anticipated.

Somewhere in the middle of all the noise of the present, is that silent voice that eggs on the ‘party’ bug in you. With the crowd slowly melting in a haze of sweat and smoke, the music intoxicates to a sufficient degree. Beyond the thresholds of mayhem is the utter serenity of the starry sky and the soft breeze that rustles the leaves around. The prickly lawn is the best mattress nature has to offer and the blinding CFL in the lamp post manages to conceal the rest of the celestial bodies you wish to see.

Time slows down to a trot and the automobiles are the next recourse, a journey to make. While music flows out of the sound system in a gentle cataract, the soothing strains fail to entice a cat nap thanks to the chilly cold wafting through the open windows and an ardent desire to soak in every second of paradise and unmistakable freedom.

While the route was lined with familiarity, it could never have looked more like chalk and cheese all at once. The trees swayed like bards heralding an epic event and the traffic made way like only celebrities in fancy limousines enjoy. Time had  “larger-than-life” experience written all over it.

A meal went down with complete simplicity packed with jovial taunts and before long, the town had to be painted red once more. A reshuffle of the pack and the light drizzle made the journey even more inviting. In the middle of the summer, who needs air conditioned cars when a rolled down window can offer both a fresh breath of air from the fields and the delight of the first raindrops that hit the parched earth and your dancing forelimbs toppling out of the open window? While the salty air drifts pleasantly through your styled hair and irks the iron rolled curls into a graceful flight around your happy cheeks, the clouds slowly drift past as if waving a silent goodbye. Farewell.

By the time the destination had arrived, excitement levels had peaked and stayed there for a fair while considering the immense promise the next few hours held. Memories would be etched–salt water, rocks and giggles.

The next haunt was another stomach refuel station and despite the fact that the bitterness of the steamy coffee left more than just a pencil point thin layer of froth and bubbles on upper lips, the significance of that counted–laughter, one random dog & more laughter…

Sleep, by then, had claimed two victims and threatened to bully more and another quick journey brought more light into the proceedings. A perch to view the whole world for miles. Mountains packed punches of green and the traffic sparkled bright yellow mingled with the orange of the sodium vapour lamps that lined the streets. Buildings stood ominously in the distance, one larger than the next, and staring sternly like a principal would if you dared to walk out of the queued line at physical training drills. Colour dotted the landscape in colourful blotches and brought much needed visual relief from the glaring orange-red of the cut hills that surrounded the group.

But the fun did not set with that mere appreciation of scenic splendour. A game had to ensue, and a couple of hours just vanished into thin air! The final farewell was about to see its curtain call and the tears seemed to war against realism. The present had to be made the most of, who knew if we would ever be able to return to the same, and even if we were, would it be the same again? People change, lives change…But that one final farewell won’t..Not for all eternity..

“Don’t be dismayed at Goodbyes,

A farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again,

After Moments or Lifetimes, is certain for those who are Friends”

Richard Bach.

Goodbye{Dedicated to my 9 partners in crime…}

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Finding Our “Nemo”

 

Quite frankly, that movie is popular enough and I need not publicize it any further. However, the moral of the story is what we all look for at the end- like in all Disney classics. While I do not attempt to draw a parallel from that tale with respect to the parent-child relationship, I do hope to draw valuable inspiration from the firm resolve shown by that seemingly small, orange clown fish. Separated from his son, he faced his worst fears because he could visualize the bigger picture- His son needed him and nothing else mattered.

So what do I imply when I say ‘Our Nemo’? It is quite simply the dreams we’ve envisioned and goals we have set for ourselves at some point of time or the other. Getting there is where most of us seem to lose our way. Pricked by the thorns of the challenge and unwilling to bleed a little along the way is what stands in the centre of the tunnel leading to what we want, like a wall of steel. How hard are we ready to push ourselves so that we can break the shackles of expectations from the world around us and be able to yell “GOAL!” like Galvão Bueno (commentator) does after someone scores one in Brazilian football matches? That makes all the difference.

So for those of you have not had the fortune of reading “Who moved my Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, it is never too late to grasp the concept of ‘finding your cheese/Nemo’, which is explained in the simplest manner with the story of the four main characters- the two mice “Sniff” and “Scurry” and the two little people “Hem” and “Haw”, all living in a giant maze. While many are unable to adapt quickly to changing scenarios at the work place or in their personal lives, our human nature makes it such that we tend to resist the change rather than ride the wave. Such impaired flexibility makes it twice as hard to be able to react satisfactorily to the situation and in most cases only compounds the problem. So where am I heading? Yes, for those puzzled with the above few lines, do what any sensible adult would after being inspired by the book.

The first step would be to find out ‘your Nemo’. What is the one thing in life that you want more than oxygen and would make you jump out of bed every morning instead of taking it out on the poor alarm clock and then snarling at the bathroom mirror with toothpaste spilling down the side of your lips? Once you find it, for the world, Don’t let it go!! Do whatever it takes to ensure you do something that you absolutely love doing.

The next step would be to learn to let go of things that are beyond your control and instead familiarize yourself with all the changes that are continuously occurring around you.  Harping on your misfortunes is getting you nowhere closer to ‘your Nemo’.

Third, walk that extra mile to make someone you love happy. You don’t live if you don’t live for others. Life isn’t only about “me” but is about “us” and “we”. You all know of the happiness that engulfs your entire self when those special people in your life are happy and attribute their happiness to you. Also, smile more, it will relax you and the people around you. (In no way do I imply smiling at random strangers along the road like a retard!)

And finally, follow this motto, (which was the dedication to me on my personal copy of ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’, written by a dear teacher):

“So, for now, laugh at the confusion,

Smile through the tears and

Keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”

Nemo

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On the Other Side of Midnight

The tranquility of the dark outlines of the stilled trees against the cloud clogged deep blue sky and the monotonous croaking of the crickets hidden in the thick shrubbery-something a late night drive can offer. And this night was no different. The moon  fought a losing battle against a thick blanket of clouds for a guest appearance of sorts and managed to illuminate the world below with a faint silver glow. While the stars retreated back into an eye-straining distance, the utter isolation of the uncivilized locality felt like time travel- a repellent to all forms of technology.

Narrow roads and houses lit solely with incandescent lamps, dry leaves forming thick layers along the hidden mud pavement are all you manage to fathom without effort. While the car music oozes modernity with new age love songs and old fashioned country, the world outside reminds you why the words- nature retreat– helps recharge severely depleted batteries. While the pleasant night air gushes in past the half rolled down car window of the passenger seat, the slim yet curvaceous roads necessitate a seat belt!

Midnight forest

Laughter or not, the companions on such a journey make all the difference. Only then can the troubles of the day melt into the dark shadows around. While the journey improved with the crowd of friendly faces, the tiredness of the day that was seeps in and threatens to impair all hopes of an evening loaded with much needed mindless frivolity. Determination is the hero however and manages to rescue the cause, with firmly opened eyelids and a night filled with infinite promise and surprise.

It really didn’t seem like the distance the speedometer claimed to have covered. I guess while enjoying the little joys of the journey, the length is irrelevant. Soon, with midnight a couple of hours away, the travel component of the night is eliminated. And like the gun shot at the start of any track event, the slamming of the car door one last time that night meant the commencement of the adventure, one that will be treasured for years to come.

The moon finally manages to sneak past the cloud cover and gracefully aides the trek to the planned destination. While a thin stream of moonlight trickled past the dense growth of trees, the beauty that surrounded us was but palpable. Big and small pebbles lined the bottom of the summer dried stream that ran along the pathway we trod on. Trees caved in magnificent arches until the point of the ageless temple, which led to a serene valley.

A remote incandescent lamp (like all the others seen along the way) helped to decipher from a distance the accommodations for the evening. And time travel it was! A stone walled house (laterite still visible) with metal sheets for a roof. While the camp site was suitably crafted with a thatched roof, the ambiance  though dull at first, held a quaint charm of its own. The cottage was stripped to the bare minimum requirements of a bed and lavatory. While not impressive, to say the least, it would do for the plans we had.

By the time the stage was set, midnight was within clocking distance and the first round of supplies diminished quicker than anticipated. Next on the agenda was a beautiful and crackling barbeque pit. While the petrol and metal sheets took a while to sufficiently put the ‘char’ on the charcoal, the massive campfire sparked to life in a majestic burst of orange flames that licked the surrounding blackness in a well poised taunt.

And by the time the first round of barbeque was passed around, the cool night air descended in the form of light breezes that made the group huddle round the blazing fire. With time, the winds got nastier and the dust it kicked up with every gust got unbearable eventually. Till then, the games began and drinks managed to replenish dried up throats. A couple of times, walking through a gust of wind felt like in those old Hollywood movies where the hero would walk straight towards the roaring twister, his arm shielding his eyes and his body weight thrown forwards just to balance his entire self and to avoid being blown over. Well, the merciless wind managed to recreate that more than once!

Then, well past midnight, the fun had just begun. With wind speeds touching tornado levels, what with chairs being blown away like specs of paper, the devil of sleep attempted to play spoil sport. Fortunately, the involvement in a game of laughter gas consequence proportions managed to erase it that once.

The hours crawled by much to our delight and every second counted. Whether it was the guitar playing sing along rounds or the quiet strolls in the deserted fields of the valley whose lap we sat in. Almost 48 hours without a wink of sleep, the biological clock decides to ruin the party with an unsurpassable ‘Emergency Stop’ operation that halted all further enjoyment.

The next memory is being gently woken up with the baby blue light of dawn seeping through the open cottage door. The winds had ceased to rattle the roof above and the silence of the hills had returned, but the dust in our eyes from the previous night hung in little blobs at the corners of our eyes. While the others who had never gone to bed strolled around in packs with music blaring out from the sound system like the previous night, the outside world beckoned. A cold breeze blew the first set of goose bumps against my bare and tired arms. While marvelling at the endless green carpet of trees that covered the surrounding hills, the sun crept up from behind them like a cheeky jack-in-the box.

And it all ended in a sudden bustle of organisation and settlement. Pictures aimed to forever frame moments in stills of utter beauty. Even though, none from the group was spared from the blanket of utter exhaustion, it didn’t hinder our desire to admire nature. Making our way back to the present, we were reminded of the same transition with buzzing cell phones and long delayed conversations. Nonetheless, it was one memory of Life outside the sheltered confines of the regular, and on the other side of Midnight…..

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Memories of Meetings….

Memory lane is the only street that can draw tears and cheers. Well, someone rightly said that. If blessed with a memory of colossal retention ability, the journey is power-packed with both extremes. A good memory will have you hankering for a repeat telecast of that one moment, etched permanently in your past, while a bad one on the contrary will make you wish time had skipped you by in that moment. Then comes the question: What’s worse? Remembering the bad stuff or not remembering the good stuff??

Memory Lane

In answer to that thought provoking question, a trip down memory lane is in order. And it doesn’t even need to be well back in time. Falling in ‘love’ at 15 is one of the most beautiful things on Earth. Taylor Swift has done justice to the above statement with her hit track of the same name and it would be redundant to further emphasise the point. However, living in the same bubble of fantasy without the cruel whip of reality beating down your back is something you will forever live to regret. Defiance of all sensible reasoning is at its prime in the teen years and what I like to term ‘Puppy Love’ is what fuels the same. “Wordless” and “Meaningless” are the words that best describe that blind attachment to utter nonsense, better judgement has now reasoned. Then however, a future me advising the same would feel like understanding gibberish! Heroic dialogues come to the fore- At least I learned to Love with all my heart without ever expecting a reciprocation; I never knew I could Love someone more than myself. Well, the bottom of the trash can is all those admirable sentiments see when that fictitious little world bubble goes ‘pop’.

Avert it all ye’ maudlin,

The bubble eventually does burst,

A morbid cruelty underlies,

You Languish alone, A fatal thirst.

Moving along, when the age of those formerly believable fairytales approaches its expiration date and when the Prince Charming on a white horse story bites the dust, Serendipity (call it Destiny, if you must) manages to knock you senseless. Prince Charming does arrive sans the horse and the cavalry to rescue you from the prison of self- abandonment and by the time the ultimate realisation does manage to hit you, the consequences may already be in play. Never did you fathom, in a million years, that any individual besides yourself could wield such power. Even if it has humble and shy origins, the repercussions are of epic proportions. Getting to know the person behind the ever handsome and cheeky grin is an adventure in every sense and utterly fulfilling is the feeling of being a helpless spectator as you watch yourself fall more in Love with that person- if that is even possible! Whether it is the much anticipated first lunch date minus the college equivalent of paparazzi- friends or the Notebook style romantic stroll along a lonely road with just the sky, sun and Earth for company or the first couple-like moment in the midst of randomness, Knowing you have found The One is what makes fighting for it so much more worthwhile. While the world offers a formidable resistance, no hurdle is too high to clear. Such is the Power of True Love. It is in wordlessly knowing what the other thinks, How the other feels even if they try to conceal what is really pestering them, Loving and respecting the same life-related entities, Learning and wanting to share your torments with just that one person and finally, Being able to forgive and forget all the mishaps that are part and parcel of Life’s roller coaster ride. Somewhere in between the endless conversations, there is an indescribable contentment that somehow the world is right side up again. While the initial attraction is filled with symptoms like weak knees, rants about not being in the same league and that ever popular pink cheeked blush, the real deal is facing Life together- accepting the other as they are and loving them in spite of all they perceive as their imperfections. Finding that one 10/10 significant other is not what goes through your head in the moment, it is the auto-pilot that guides you to realising that this is everything you wanted and so much more.

When I peep through this window,

It is something different I see,

It’s plain and simply the world,

That I always dreamt it to be.

 

The present gallops away,

And the past seems so irrelevant,

While the future stands out,

Inviting and ever so brilliant.

 

With rivers that are calm and outlying,

And oceans so mysterious and puerile,

There trickles by a stream,

Seemingly obstinate and never docile.

 

There are grey clouds of anger,

With occasional gusts of patience,

Along with thunderclaps of splendour,

And an Earth greedy for eminence.

Remembering the ups helps weaken the lingering bitterness of the downs but never really erases them. Next to impossible to even hope that all the bad memories will just disappear. Pretending a life-altering event never happened and pushing all the awkwardness under the rug does no good to a budding relationship. Frankly voicing opinions and being painfully honest helps greatly. But then come those “ups” worth fighting for-the “ups” that can make you smile in the middle of a draught.

But all this fades to oblivion,

For all I ever see,

Is a waterfall of tireless Love,

A Love, whose end will never be…

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Musically Then & Now…

Whether it was the smooth sound of the Eagles with “Tequila Sunrise” or the strange comfort from “Take it Easy” or the ever popular “Hotel California” -lyrics everyone knew like an anthem of sorts, I can’t remember my childhood any other way. Then there was “Living Next Door to Alice” and “Lay back in the arms of someone” by Smokie, “Making Love out of Nothing at all“- Air Supply. Clutching the plastic cassette casing and hitting the ‘Rewind’ button on the stereo every time the song ended formed an integral part of the faint glimpses of my early childhood memories. Then, in the middle of all that was an obsession with the King of Pop. Somewhere in a photo album is a picture of a pint-sized me posing next to an equally tall poster of Micheal Jackson. “Black or White” “Heal the world” “Thriller” . Icons then and legends now.

 music

I wanna lay you down in Bed of Roses, For tonight I’ll sleep on a bed of nails….”

Till date, I am yet to find a track that will replace Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses”  for me. Being absolutely addicted to that song is an understatement what with the electric and intoxicating bass beginning coupled with Bon Jovi’s rusty voice. Once a favourite, always a favourite. And I can’t forget “Have an nice day” or “It’s my life“. Those kick-start to the morning songs keep me going on days when the struggle to get out of bed gets out of hand.

At age 8, with keyboard lessons came an introduction to songs my music teacher and parents had grown up listening to. The Beatles with immortal tracks like “Yesterday“, “Imagine” and “Hey Jude“, then there was Rod Stewart with “Have I told you Lately?” and “Rhythm of my Heart“. Also Elton John (At Lady Diana’s funeral) with “Candle in the Wind”  managed to blow me away. In came Eric Clapton with “Tears in Heaven“- the song that had me guitar crazy for a good decade. Weddings and Celine Dion’s Titanic theme made my music selections verge on the romantic and I titled towards “Could I have this dance?”  “Right here waiting” and “The Way you look Tonight“.

Years passed and competition to the old favourites arrived in the form of Micheal Learns to Rock (MLTR). I can faintly recall my instant attraction to “Paint my Love” , “25 Minutes” and “Someday” as we drove to a picnic at some beach with some work colleagues of my parents. Fast forward a few years and then came their next chart topping album –> Blue Night. I would be lying if I claimed that “Blue Night” and “You took my Heart Away” didn’t give their elder cousins a run for their money.

At an age I fail to remember with cohesion, I fell for CSNY or Crosby Stills Nash & Young with their tracks “Looking Forward” and “Sanibel“. Poor stereo! It had to work overtime to take me to boredom.

music

Next came Shania Twain with her “From this Moment On“, a song any romantic soul would save for a first dance at a wedding.

You’re the reason I believe in Love… And You’re the answer to my prayers from up above…..

Doesn’t that just make you melt like butter on a hot saucepan? Bryan Adams joined that bandwagon with ‘Everything I do, I do it for you‘Summer of 69’ and ‘When you Love Someone‘.

Then came the sibling influenced phase of ‘Westlife’, ‘Blue’, ‘Creed’ ‘Madonna’ ‘The Backstreet Boys’ and ‘Britney’. Oh, those years went swiftly by in a musical blur. None singled out favourite in that whole phase, but they deserve a mention anyway! Dido came as a refreshing change with Roswell’s theme song ‘Resting Here with me’ and others followed- ‘White Flag’ and ‘Christmas Day’. So did Daniel Powter with ‘Bad Day’– a once upon a time American Idol contestant sign off track.

Coming to the ‘Now’ period, the mixture is ground breaking! Whether it is ‘Love story’ or ‘You Belong with me’ or ‘White Horse‘ or ‘Begin Again’ all by our latest heartbreak queen Taylor Swift or the dynamic Lady Antebellum with ‘Need You Now‘ or Sugarland with lovable ones like ‘Stuck Like Glue’ or ‘It Happens‘ or Rihanna with ‘Umbrella‘ or ‘Shut up and Drive‘, the range seems to terminate at infinity! Who can forget Train and the million times we all attempt to croon ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and ‘Save me San Francisco‘ in the shower?? Well, there is ‘Marry Me‘, ‘Shake up Christmas‘ or even ‘Drive By’ to suit your every mood.  The Band Perry isn’t far behind with soulful numbers like ‘If I Die Young’ , and ‘Hip to my Heart’.  If there is anyone to give Ronan Keating and Gareth Gates a fair contest with ‘When you say nothing at all‘ and ‘That’s when you know’ respectively, it is Bruno Mars with the quintessential ‘Just the Way you are‘.

More recently discovered one track wonders (by me) are Coldplay with ‘Nobody said it was easy’, Simple Plan with ‘Save You’ and ‘ I can wait forever’, Taio Cruz with ‘Run to You’ and ‘Telling the world’ , Lady Gaga with ‘You and I’, Selena Gomez’s ‘Love you like a Love Song’ , ‘Livin’ on Love’ by Alan Jackson, ‘Better Together‘ by Jack Johnson …. However do I terminate this list?? Well, you get the gist. And mind, a few moments spent to add these to your playlist will not be in vain. Rest assured. Music is timeless and so are the artists who bring them to life.

“Life, he realize, was much like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.”
Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

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On a Wall in the Middle of Nowhere…

 

“Happiness is not found in self-contemplation; it is perceived only when it is reflected from another” Samuel Johnson.

“Destiny has two ways of crushing us- by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them.” Amiel

“But Love is such a mystery.

I cannot find out;

For when I think I’m best resolved,

I then am most in doubt” Sir John Suckling

 

Somewhere in the middle of these thought provoking quotes and the blistering summer heat, a wall in the middle of nowhere is the best retreat. While the rest of the world bustles past in hurried anxiety, the solitude offered by their disregard is utterly refreshing after a rush of utter chaos. While the drumbeat of the distant music is like a gateway to a parallel universe, the ‘wind-provoked’ dust circles with hyper activity right before your eyes.

In the middle of Nowhere

Somehow in the pandemonium of the crowd and the idyllic bystanders, the world is still a tranquil  space to withdraw from it all. While the rest of the world may assume it to be the tiredness of the week that was, a few others feign a false pride and refrain from any form of interference; their decision a blessing in disguise.

It is in that choice of loneliness that the true state of meditative contemplation is achieved. We are blessed beyond requirement and forever fail to see it. Look at that frail boy who cleans up after you at the restaurant you just left. Where is his light at the end of the tunnel? While we are all trapped in a warped web of incessantly crying ‘I’ and ‘Me’, we forget the other plural pronouns that exist simultaneously. The needs of those immediately affected by our actions are forgone and  most often neglected to a degradable degree. In letting go of that basic responsibility, we lose a part of our true identities. While family comes before friends and Forgiveness is the foundation, the grasp of conniving vices never cease.

Love is an emotion forever misconceived. While the movies orchestrate an event as epic as the extinction of dinosaurs, implying the life-altering aftermath, reality sings an altogether different tune. It is that subtle seize of all senses when the ultimate realisation does eventually dawn. Fight it all you can and the amazement of the power wielded by that one person never diminishes. Consent to decisions you would never imagine even faintly possible, against character and all will power come to pass.

Interrupted by the sound of the present, a familiar voice clambers into my thoughts and occupies my attention in all completeness. The conversation breathes a breath of fresh air into the stale and brings to the fore a conflict of emotions. Emotions far too dominant to conceal with any ease. But the world interrupts and the dilemma reinvents itself into another- hankering. That said, the solitary wall returns to its original state.

Destiny. In all simplicity, it is the force that claims to control our already mapped futures. And while Happiness is interlocked with it, Destiny always springs that surprise at every corner in life. ‘Embrace Serendipity’ a friend once advised, ‘It is then that you get to experience Life in its true sense’. Never have words made more sense than at that very moment. Right before my very eyes is my whole life, a life millions only dream about. Love, Family, Friends and that loop. Is Happiness really centred on any other eventuality?? Quite frankly, it isn’t. It is just the decision to be content with what one has and doesn’t have. The grass never is greener on the other side. That common phrase was never completed, in fact.

So where did it leave me at the end of all this? Seated on a wall, in the middle of nowhere, with the world making a ruckus. And did that in any way hamper this thought process? Well, I would respond in the negative.

 

Reason thus with life:

If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing

That none but fools would keep.   Shakespeare

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In between Sips of Hot Coffee…

Hot Coffee

When the heat of the hot ceramic cup first hits your palm, the intoxication is instantaneous. The first billow of vapour that rises through your nostrils works like a drug and even the tongue burning attempt at a first sip isn’t mandatory to rid you of any faint glimmer of sleep. And you place your red instant coffee cup down hastily, maybe a moment to cool. Haste only ends the pleasure sooner.

During that brief instant of abandonment, you seek out a task most trivial in an attempt to let the coffee “wait” for you. And just like an eager lover unable to wait any longer, you sweep the mug with still swirling contents into your trembling hands. The huffing and puffing at the hot liquid scents the room with the smell only a true addict could love. The stir tea spoon sits tight in hot transfixion while gently aiding your efforts by slowly soaking in the extra heat that separates you from that first proper gulp. With the cold and heartless morning wind surrounding you, the desperation increases and you puppet the spoon in a mad circular fashion, dangerously taunting the steamy fluid. The frenzy culminates when you decide that enough energy has been wasted and that’s precisely when the courage to chance another sip arrives.

coffee cup

When that first mouthful glides warmly down your oesophagus and into the rest of your digestive track, your neurons charge up for the relentless firing of signals that constitute your thoughts. Getting the right amount of sugar in that cuppa is an art that is learnt only through experience and a deft hand at ratio and proportions. The satisfaction that ensues a perfectly coordinated caffeinated miracle is an altogether different feeling. A Smile maybe. Precisely then are you able to numb out the frigid surroundings and feel the warmth radiate through your fingers and the Goosebumps rise in attention along the length of your arm.

While the rest of the cup is downed with relative ease and an established familiarity with the heat, the tenderness offered only by a steaming cup of coffee leads you as far away from dreamland as you can possibly want to be. Sadists deem coffee to be a threat more than a life-saving lifestyle choice. Caffeine pumps blood to the brain quicker, stimulates the senses like no hot beverage and beats the drowsy blues to pulp. While overdoing it and developing a dependence on it is harmful, like too much of any good thing, it’s absolute necessity and utility can never be argued upon.

And while the black of the early morning world interspersed with twinkling lights plods on towards daylight, the silent red mug sits snugly in your palm. You are never alone once with it for the simple reason that there are many more nursing the same cuppa in their hands too. The coffee rush is brilliantly awakening and spurs bigger and better results.

As for the tiny black dregs of instant coffee sitting snugly at the bottom of the cup along with the remnants of the stubborn sugar crystals, a catchy phrase comes to mind: Life is like a cup of hot coffee. You go through the bitter liquid and then find the sugar crystals lying below, unstirred, undisturbed. If only it didn’t have to end so soon, the pleasure limited to a sticky memory on the side of your lips.

coffee

Whether it is bright and early on a black Monday or late some weeknight before an exam, Coffee remains to this day an unheralded elixir of life. And while those fancy brews so well advertised with jingles that play in loop in your brain while sipping your favourite brand, the coffee culture grows steadily with every developing coffee buff. The humble coffee bean and it’s multi-million dollar empire. Instant or the other kind. Coffee. Caffeine. Perfection.

From the very first whiff,

To the sneaky dates with you,

Ours was a love destined to be,

An affair of addiction to you…. 

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Marrying For Money

Happy Ever After? Don’t Bank on it..

Marrying For Money

If you want to marry for money, You have to work for every Penny!

Chris Manby. The wonderful author of this page-turner of a novel. Well, while the last line of the synopsis does justice to summarise the moral of the story, it fails miserably to contain the ‘wow’ effect in the aftermath of the book. The brazen affluence of lumber heiress, Marcella Hunter comes in stark contrast to the unlikely heroine of the plot, Charity Grosvenor, who loses her job as a hotel maid at the hands of the same pompous heiress.

While Marcella’s high society lifestyle with an illegal immigrant for a housekeeper Anjelica Solorzano permits her to conveniently forget her first brush with Charity right up to the part where she obliviously invites Charity and her sister, Grace to her extravagant birthday party at her own residence in Little Elbow, the Hamptons. When Charity and Grace move in next door at the Rose House, Marcella turns her world upside down, unnecessarily complicating her life with jealous competition when all of Little Elbow’s rich and eligible bachelors turn their attention to the humble and seemingly rich Grosvenor sisters. In the mess she creates for everyone in Little Elbow, she blinds herself to the affections of her houseguest Simon McDonnough.

While the Grosvenor sisters initially attempt to fight off the glamour quotient of living in such a dollar-saturated neighbourhood as compared to their shabby apartment in Tooting, South London, they are soon sucked into a mangled web of dating men from the world’s most unsuitable husbands list. While Charity Grosvenor finds herself trapped in a warped obligation of dating first a Wall Streeter addicted to his cell phone and then a software tycoon with no social skills, she fails to give in to her instant attraction to her poor but handsome handyman,  Ryan Oldman. Charity learns to preen roses and fix rowdy and deserted greenhouses from Ryan and soon enough it dawns on her that she wants him as more than just her gardener or the shoulder to cry on after another disastrous date.

The plot thickens wonderfully when Grace manages to snag Choate Fitzgerald, Marcella’s ex and also a her nearest competitor in the lumber business. Choate falls helpless in love with stunning Grace, who, as it is later revealed, is fresh from a broken engagement with Danny, back home in London. At first, Grace’s conscience rips her apart when she realises that any number of Vera Wang bridal gowns cannot buy her love for the man she has consented to marry. While Choate, the most painfully boring conversationist in all of Little Elbow cannot believe his luck, a bad bump on her head at a polo match, manages to change Grace’s mind, just as she was about to return Choate’s ring, which sat silently in her pocket from the instant he had popped the question.

The first bombshell is dropped when it is revealed that the seemingly well-off sisters aren’t as well-off as the story they had cooked up. While the rent money for the Rose House was provided by a lucky lottery that Charity landed, Grace joined her sister on her vacation just to move on after being  robbed of her wedding savings by her own fiancée, Danny. Or so she thought. That thread of the plot is stitched tight at the culmination of the book. Besides the fake exterior, pathetic is the moment when Ms. Manby introduces her readers to Charity’s little black book full of details of the rich bachelors she hoped to date and marry before her brief stay in the Hamptons culminated.

A rather ridiculous set up with a man old enough to be her father, Charity finds herself loading her date into an ambulance instead of a limousine, ably assisted by Ryan of course. With Ryan avoiding her in general after she refused to let him pay for Burgers and drinks at a pub outside Little Elbow one night with a rather rude rebuttal (“You’re just the gardener..” ), Charity finds comfort in his arms that sported the type of muscles that make a girl want to swoon just so she can feel what it’s like to be caught up in them. That’s when the next big bombshell is dropped when Ryan subtly reveals that he is in fact the elusive Bryan Young, the owner of the Rose House.

What follows is heightened drama when Danny comes in search of Grace, Grace gets in a head on collision with an emotionally exhausted Anjelica (Who harbours a one-sided love affair with Choate), Danny attempts to break into the Rose House while Charity calls the cops and has him arrested and Bryan learns of Charity’s roots the hard way (via Marcella). The last and final bombshell involves Peggy (Ryan’s aunt) and Marcella’s grandfather who were lovers in their teens and the possibility of them rekindling their relationship after years of being apart. Revealing the ending at this point would defeat the purpose of reading such a merry and wonderfully different novel.

Then comes the riveting question you are left with in the end. Is it worth marrying for money and ending up as a trophy spouse for the rest of your doomed existence? While Charity, Marcella and the rest of Little Elbow learn the ultimate lesson about the transitivity of life, they are forced to face the consequences of their actions. And when the question came to me, the answer was all too simple. For someone as relatively lazy as myself, working as hard as Charity attempted what with putting up with ludicrous dates and men with giant wallets but brains smaller than peas, is simply not worth the effort. It was never even a distant possibility. Marrying for Money-A must read by all means. And full points to Ms. Manby for that winner of a phrase: If you want to marry for money, You have to work for every Penny!

 

 

 

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