Thursday, November 24, 2011

Old spaces and new

There are places I remember, all my life,
Though some have changed, some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places have their moments...
In my life I have loved them all.

I borrow haphazardly from a much loved Beatles song. Today these lines describe perfectly my swirling thoughts and emotions.

For the last few weeks we have all been gearing up for major changes in our lab lives. There have been massive clean-up missions resulting in the entire place looking far more cluttered than it did before, even though each time it really did seem like we discarded literally sacks of junk! We have discovered ancient stuff that not only looks unidentifiable, but smells weird and is awfully old-fashioned and outright filthy! There have been many adventures with mice, lizards, spiders and big black fat ants disturbed from their favourite haunts. There have been delighted cries at rediscovering a missing instrument or chemical or even an old greeting card. There have been spontaneous outbursts of laughter, cut-throat competition to test our abilities to be the best cleaners and junk-removers, many frayed tempers, much teasing and yet, good strong friendships and togetherness. Nothing tests you better than a situation where you need to work cohesively in a group even while maintaining your identity. And I must have some of the best lab mates in the world! We have learnt to leave aside personal differences and gel into a cohesive unit. It also helps that each of us has a definite sense of belonging; we feel it is our lab and hence we work because we want to, not because we must or have been told to do so. Hard work, perseverance, some essential planning and an incredibly involved and enthusiastic boss have made the change seem easier.

The change I mention is one of place and space. We move from our old, historical, dilapidated building to the supposedly fancy, new one. We move from a cluttered, yet much loved space to a bigger, stranger place. I have loved my old lab. I have learnt a lot here and met an awful lot of lovely people, fantastic seniors and current lab mates, who are more friends than colleagues. Doesn’t a place seem dearer if you have had memorable experiences and forged important relationships in it? It seems like I knew almost every nook and corner of the old lab. It was comfortably familiar. And as always, letting go of the known is not easy. But, I do like the airy spaciousness of the new place, the open plan and the light flooding in. It seems like a good place. I know it shall now take a conscious effort to make the new place seem ours. To treat it like a new fresh canvas on which to paint our individual strokes with many a flourish and much faith.

A new sense of belonging is priceless, yet letting go of the old one brings a tinge of tears to my eyes. It makes me want to store the memories of the last lab meeting, the last experiment, the last round of discussions in the old place. There is a feeling of sadness when I see the packed boxes, the dusty work benches and the empty rooms that echo eerily. But change is supposed to be a good thing. And we are supposed to be moving on to better facilities, more space and opportunities for greater coordination between the biological sciences. Even though it seems like a mammoth task at present, I look forward to the day when it feels like I could walk through the entire building in the middle of a dark night and yet not lose my way. To the day when I walk into the lab and it feels mine again. I hope we make it into our lucky new place and that we do some of our best science here in the next few months. I hope we charge up the space with our enthusiasm and energy. Amen. Or something like it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Polka-dotted frocks

Today afternoon I saw two little girls in pigtails, riding their bicycles and giggling away. Their matching polka-dotted frocks, their smiles and the aura of complete freedom around them made me aware of a pang of envy, of longing for times gone.
There was a time when five little girls would all be fitted out in bright matching cotton frocks with identical patterns and frills, just a specially different colour for each one. Those were days of carefree summers, of youth and fearless adventure. Of mangoes, afternoon picnics, hide and seek, tantrums and umpteen tumbles. I can even see their eyes... happy, wide and guileless. Anything seemed possible then, the world was a personal stage. A place where everybody was meant to be happy.
And then the little girls grew up. Back then, I remember I wanted to grow up fast, real fast. Today I wish, sometimes, that we never did have to grow up. That we could have remained that age forever.  Friends together. Sisters together. Time never lets you stay that young. It snatches away those moments of togetherness. It makes you grow up. As each of us now looks ahead to a new and different life, I hope we shall remember those happy sunny summers. Those shared holidays and the "gachhi" at aji-papa's house that was our permanent adda and treasure trove! I shall miss those times. Always.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life Lessons

I have gone through life believing I am lucky. Have tried to live life in the open wind and the sunshine. I have had a lovely life, full of the most beautiful people and times. Have believed in kindness and niceness and genuine goodness. Trusted with my heart and had faith, always.

Yet not everything is as lovely as it seems. The harsh light brings with it shadows and darkness. You chance upon people who can spoil everything, people you wish you didn't have to meet ever again. Have you met these blurry, shadowy, seemingly crazy, hurtful and self-obsessed people who refuse to grow up and face the world? They never bothered me before because I thought they were just in that bad phase and that they would change... because people are essentially nice. I have never believed that anybody is inherently mean or bitchy. I have never wanted to believe that any person is crooked within. It is just a bad time for that person. They seem to see a grey and glum world and perhaps decide that the world deserves a grey and glum person.

But the world is as it always has been. Real. Lively. Tough. But worth it. Every moment. And I wonder, why do I have to be understanding enough to wait for someone to see the truth? Wait while it hurts? A waiting I do not deserve. What for? For those who see a tainted world? For those who do not think before they speak or act and who do not see or value anything beyond themselves? How fair is this? Is it better to stay still and wait for this to pass? Should I smile and shrug it off or should I react?

I think I like my life better with its love and warmth and friendship. I choose to believe in that. I choose to let that, and that alone, be my truth, my reality.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Another of R's pomes :P

(An old poem by my lil sister. Found the original handwritten one and laughed over it so much today. Here's to memories of childhood fights and her ability to still see the humour!)

'Tis a night like every other,
'Tis time for my nightly fight,
I must fight for my rights wi' my sister,
She just refuses to put out the lights!

I shout, I argue, I coax
But all of it is in vain.
She just yells right back at me
And tells me I'm a royal pain.

That's it. It's over. Stop it.
I've taken about all I can bear
Now its time for us to call the referee.
And decide exactly who stands where.

Our mother marches in and glares at us,
And berates us for making a din.
We both start pestering my sister
And she eventually caves in.

But she refuses to go down gracefully.
She still will put up a fight.
She bangs about as long as she can
And then reluctantly puts out the light.

And then when the night is almost over,
And when the joy of the fight starts to pall,
She comes and sleeps right next to me.
I mean, we're sisters after all.

--- Rhuta Deobagkar

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Charmed Lives

What am I supposed to do with the oodles of unsolicited advice that jumps at me from around every corner? Even when I don't really have a problem in my life, there is always somebody around that wants to convince me that I am facing, or am about to face, a huge gigantic problem and then they proceed to dole out advice concerning the ways and means to tackle this heretofore non-existent problem. Blah!
First and foremost, I lead a charmed life. If that makes you nod your head and sigh at my immaturity or naivety, all I can say is, "Too bad!" and some more "Blah". I have the most awesome friends and family and I love the work I do. If I crib about all or any of the above at times, it is just to entertain myself, and I do that well.  Okay, maybe I do not exactly entertain myself, but some complaining helps to let off steam. It helps me to appreciate all I have after a storm of self pity and self obsession.
Apparently, it makes me seem a lot more interesting if my life is angst-ridden and a veritable tragedy just waiting to happen! The more sorrowful my eyes and the more heart-felt my sighs, the more my life seems 'happening' and 'dramatic'! Albeit, to others. To me it is always dramatic even when it is full of light and  laughter with an unbroken series of highs.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

And then, there shall be none...

The weird thing is that we go through life knowing it shall all end. The very fact that I exist implies that I shall cease to do so at some point in time.  And I am sure it is rather silly to live an entire lifetime being afraid of what is, after all, unchangeable! So, though I ought to acknowledge that I have only a finite period of time available to me, it never shall make any sense to fear this. Yet, we are all afraid.
So then I ask myself, if I am anyway going to die one day, and I am very well aware of the fact, what is it that I am so afraid of in my life? And you know what, the answers are many! I am afraid of pain, of not knowing, of loss, of uncertainty. Small little things, but each of them makes me fearful. There have been times, when I would have given anything for the absence of pain, physical or emotional. Other times I would give anything to hold on, to never let go. You might very well wonder what I know of pain and loss in my safe little world. And I must agree it is hardly an iota of the pain of millions of others. And yet, to me, my world revolves around my experiences, and I can only speak with reference to those.
I guess, at the end, it shall matter not whether we were afraid, but it shall matter whether we could live with our fears and yet be tremendously happy. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fevered Musings

Picture Credits: Aditya Lele

I was feverish all through last night and it was an enlightening experience. Did you know that your mind can be astoundingly creative when you are not completely in control of it? I had vivid dreams. I wove stories in my mind. Each one spilling into the other. Never ending. Surreal. Nightmarish. The characters were strong and well defined. They went places, they did things, and they lived larger-than-life lives. I kept telling myself to note each detail. Something about the exact words to perfectly catch an expression or the heartbreakingly beautiful way with words I seemed to have discovered. I wrote it all down. My masterpiece. On paper. In black and white. Or so I thought.
Alas, the fever broke with the dawn and with it were gone my stories. My poor little stories. Washed away. Just like that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

  • Some days I am so lost within myself that I forget to look outside. Remind me about the world at those times.
  • When I get obsessed with my problems, my schedule, my life, remind me that the world does not revolve around me, neither shall it stand still for me.
  • On those days when I am outstandingly horrible, smile and love me. I promise to be better.
  • When I make too many demands, indulge me. I shall make up for the insanity. 
  • At times there are so many voices in my head, I forget it is my own voice that is getting drowned. Help me hear it clearly.
  • When I am all hung up on how the entire world is against me, let me know, again, that you are on my team.
  • Laugh with me and at me, always. 

“Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." ---- Albert Camus

Monday, March 21, 2011

All that is bright and beautiful...

When did we become so cynical? When did we stop believing in good endings and happily-ever-afters? When did our first reaction become a sarcastic snort and a sharp toss of the head instead of a smile and a twinkle in the eye? When did we stop wincing upon hearing about massive devastation or a minor loss?
Is it just me or has everybody around become a little tougher, a little harder and a lot less sensitive? We seem to take even major disasters in our stride, as if it is all but natural! Gory details do not seem to disturb us, nor do the sight of atrocities. We just casually flip the newspaper sheet aside or change channels or move on. We voice opinions volubly and knowledgeably and yet never seem to be really touched by the pain that is somebody else's life.
I do not know whether this is a kind of defense mechanism. Perhaps if we let everything affect us, we shall never be able to get on with the daily business of living. So letting it all flow over may seem like a good idea. It is when this becomes a habit and not just a temporary reaction, that it frightens me. Not letting something disturb you and being obviously nonchalant and flippant about it are completely different reactions. But does this mean that we have stopped believing in the good and the beautiful? Have we grown accustomed to everything being gray and dingy and dull and soulless? Or do we at least sometimes wish to see fresh colour around every corner and  look forward to warmth and brightness and life?
I so want to believe in goodness and beauty and justice and all things wise and wonderful. At times I just long for the strength to believe. All else shall fall in to place then. Or so I hope.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Old and new

Have you ever realized that to really accept something new and to make it part of you and your life, you need to let go of the old, at least for a while? You have to get to the point where the new is as much natural for you as the old. And this has to do with acceptance. It takes a lot of conversation with one self and others. It comes with the added baggage of guilt and feelings of disloyalty about all that shall be missed awhile. It is not easy. Trust me. Some heartache, a few tears and a lot of thought and will power are called for.
And surprisingly the new is something that you are looking forward to with all your being. It is exciting and promising. Yet it is frightening. The old is comfortable and warm and something you have gotten used to, till it has become second nature. They say moving on is part of life. But that is easy when you want to break off with the old. Moving on to the new while never cutting off all the strings that bind you to the old is mighty tough. 
At times it seems like all of life is a balancing act. You don't lose perspective and keep your focus on maintaining balance and all shall be well. The only problem is that you are not always lucky enough to have a broad beam to balance on, sometimes you need to walk on incredibly thin ropes... But in the end, it all seems worth the while and the pain and the laughter as long as some one is holding your hand along the way.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moving Pictures

I am fascinated by cinema, by theatre and by books. Not necessarily always in that order. In fact a good movie or book can keep me away from so many 'more important' things in life. Do I regret it? Never! But this passion makes me ask myself what exactly is it about this often 'unreal' world that draws me?
I love movies, and I love deciding what is good cinema for me, not just what is supposed to be good cinema. Oftentimes, somebody else's idea of a great movie may not be the same as mine. That leads me to the question, what is it that we desire, expect, derive from watching a movie? Is it just the appreciation of another person's vision, creation? Is it for pure entertainment? Is it for education? Is it in order to be awed? Is it in order to lose yourself for a while?

What is it about a movie that appeals to you the first and the most? These may not be the same at all!
To me, the story is incredibly important. It does not have to always be going somewhere straightforward, or be life-changing or terribly profound and realistic. But it should have something, a moment perhaps that touches me and draws me in. Then the rest might be mundane but I am hooked! I do not understand direction, editing, cinematography and so on, so all I can say is a beautiful frame is definitely a plus, makes the experience more aesthetic but it is not a requisite for the movie-watching experience to be fulfilling. Of course, a brilliantly crisp story with all the correct ingredients can fall flat if the actors are wishy-washy. They need to be able to make me believe the characters they are playing. That's all. Sometimes actors are so into themselves that they never stop being themselves. That gets on my nerves. Also, special effects and action sequences never seem to impress me. So no dhishoom dhishoom for me!

I make no claims about being a highly evolved, discerning and knowledgeable movie-watcher at all. But I think that a movie that engrosses me, makes me want to be an onlooker of the scene unfolding, if not a participant is all that is essential to make me watch it in its entirety. Otherwise, I am sorry to say, I have grown to be a fan of the fast-forward button. Which explains how I get through 4-5 movies in one night.
Oh, and the trigger for all this unnecessary thought... the movie Ijaazat. I fell in love with it, all over again. Cried bucketloads, marveled about the strength of the roles written, Rekha's beauty, the poetry and the music, the non-judgemental treatment of the story! It almost breaks my heart to watch something like this and yet I choose to go through the experience again and again, because it feels like I live through all that the characters experience!

Is there a movie that made you want to stop everything else and just watch it endlessly? Over a lifetime, there may have been many, perhaps you could tell me about them :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011


This has been a surprisingly lonely evening. I have never been a lonely soul. I flourish in solitude, can keep myself company even amidst seething crowds. Spending time with myself comes easily to me, reading, writing, dabbling with paints or watching a movie, listening to long-loved tunes or just staring into space. Solitariness still does not bother me, but unexpected pangs of loneliness come a-visiting sometimes now. They are rare, but intense when they arrive.
Moments when I feel the urge to grab the phone and demand conversation. Or feel like taking myself off to crowded markets. Maybe a sea of unknown faces might help restore perspective. They make me long for a smile, a whisper, a whiff, or just a glimpse. They make me long for the familiar and the known and beloved. It is not a question of just missing the presence of friends or family. It is the atmosphere I miss, one of laughter and conversation and silent companionship.
But before I venture out to find a cure for this blasted loneliness, it is gone, as swiftly as it descended. And I am happy again, at peace, contented. There! Am fine again, myself again :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Strings of Words

Today I am in the mood for strings of words. They are not random. They tell me a story filled with the richest of colours and the sweetest of music. It is up to you to let your imagination take over and create your own story. I know mine and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. You shall enjoy yours too if you live every moment of your imagination, draw on all your creative resources and give it a personal touch from memory. Words are magical; depending on how you string them together they can tell you completely different stories of different people and places. Hope you like yours :)

Long journeys, great expectations, vibrant colours, lyrical laughter, gently wiped tears, whirling emotions, wafting musical notes, a soft fragrant breeze, clasped hands, fire and smoke, stolen glances, whispered conversations, suppressed smiles, glistening eyes, friendly crowds, doting families, mothers and fathers, hordes of dear friends, wise old men, solemn vows, a smile and a nod, twirling flowers, of old and new, beginnings and ends, beloved traditions, open minds, silken fabrics, golden threads, unbroken faith, a meeting of hearts, a parting of sorts, new memories, treasured moments, all of life lived within one breath!