So I am thirty three

I like to make myself believe that I take my own decisions and have charted my own life. Unfortunately to counter that there is an “Exhibit A”- “Himangshu had no say on when he was born or where he was born”. In spite of my most sincere protests, every year like the year before the calendar says it is 15th May, my google doodle changes and my parents call me to remind me that I had no say in my birth.

This year was my third birthday in another country in another timezone. That got me wondering when is my birthday. India is sometimes twelve and a half hours ahead from where I live. It got me pondering which is my accurate birthday. My parents always told that I was born on Wednesday of 1986. But 15th May 1986 was a Thursday, (trust but verify even your parents). On further investigation, it was claimed I was born at 2 am on 15th May. That was 14th May in San Francisco.

Its been three years now. I was a failed entrepreneur in Bangalore. It was the month of May. Four months ago, my Hb1c had reached 11.5. I was losing it all. Still, it was my birthday and I was sitting across what I thought was the love of my life then. Halfway through the meal, we realized we liked each other but we were not the one for the other. We talked and confessed and promised to give it a try for old times sake. Wisely we drifted apart the week after. In a few months time, I  left the city and the state and the country. I made a few new friends and great friends here. But I had too many repressed emotions. I kept my birthday hidden for two years. One of them tried to force me to go for dinner last year but I feigned work to bail out. Time passed, my privacy settings changed and I had a not so surprise celebrations this year(2019, in case I suffer from memory loss) round.

With thirty-three years elapsed, I need to take a moment to thank people who have helped me through my life for no reason. Some of the people’s faces have faded from my memory but their kindness lingers on. This list is not comprehensive in any form or fashion but I cannot make perfect the enemy of the good.

 

When I was six or seven, my father was seriously ill. Back in those days, my father used to drop me at school and pick me up. A few days he could not drop me but I went with an aunt to school. After school was over, my father got more unwell and my aunt could not pick me up. I told about my plight to a slightly older student of my school, he was 15 or 16 I think as the school got over and he got me home. Helped me cross a busy intersection. The only name I know was his pet name at home called Bablu.

There was a neighbor of ours whom I only know as Jan Dai. He was no blood relative of mine but he taught me to ride a cycle. This was when I was ten years old.

At the age of sixteen, I left Assam for New Delhi to complete my school education.  Papney uncle who just happened to meet me at a bank branch one day took care of me like their own son. Papney sure does not rhyme with any Assamese surname but I never felt more at home.

When I was twenty-one, I got diagnosed with diabetes and clinical depression. I had difficulty meeting people outside my circle of trust. I once got a severe hypoglycemic attack on the way from Calcutta to my college. I had to sleep on a railway platform for a few hours sipping on an energy drink. Since that day, I always had one friend or another accompany me to the psychiatrist/medicine purchase. Those were Nawal/Aniket/Nitesh/Nikhil. We did watch the dark knight six odd times. That is another story. When my thesis advisor refused to let me graduate. Prof. Sinha went and talked him out of it.  Sometime during my stay in college and new pharmacy opened, I finally could get my medicines from Frank Ross Pharmacy. One day we were going to somewhere and I needed to replenish my insulin. I think it was Nikhil who went to get the insulin while lazy me was in the car. The pharmacist told him they don’t have insulin. Nikhil shouted to me from the pharmacy that they don’t have it. The pharmacist saw me. He immediately told Nikhil that he has insulin but “only for Himangshu”. Apparently, he had only 1 vial left and he had kept it aside in case I need it. For him, other patients can die for all they need. Shobhit/Naru/Nanda and others who jumped across closed doors to get me insulin or sugar as the need may be. It was a village that kept me alive at college. Some of the villagers I haven’t met since and will probably never meet again.

My SFO room-mate (Rock) who took me to hospital and back when I was having a severe sugar attack. Our run-club friend and coach, in the particular order, Nichole who bullied a security guy to reach me in a medical tent as I was freaking out. To the mother on the street of Vancouver who let me have her child’s food as my sugar levels were dropping. To the two groups of friends who rescued me at Yosemite and to many other names not mentioned, thank you for what you did. Thanks to you all, I get to live one more day.

 

 

 

 

 

A song to make me smile and make me cry

 

My years in the world of consumer internet has successfully rewired a lot of  my neurons. I ,now , believe that any opinion standing on the shoulders of anecdotal evidence should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. I also process to be against hypocrisy. Yet, the very same neural patterns which have colluded to form my current worldview makes me make a conjecture that all human beings like music. While it is true that one person’s music may be other persons noise, every person I have met in my life likes some music or other.  My own likes and dislikes are an over-represented data-set of my universal set of data points.  This was a rather convoluted way of saying I love to listen to songs.

For me my love for singing sometimes goes beyond listening. I was once a semi decent singer. I have a few fragments of papyrus alluding to my vocal chords . I used my vocal chords to make a few of my ragging sessions to singing sessions.  In fact, I had used it to escape from physical drill of my first year NCC camp’s physical training . I performed a so-called musical performance for three minutes for the end of camp cultural performance and spent the rest of the camp practicing the song (eating food) and putting on weight while my friends went through a hellish boot camp.. While I no longer perform for an audience of more than me , I still try to learn a song once a while.

I come from a place called Assam and learned to express myself in Assamese. For as long as I can we always had an over-abundance of great music. The fact that our most important festival is all about song and dance could have a role in this. Invariably and frequently, I come across a song that touches my heart. I have away from my motherland for the last decade and a half. In these years, I have spoken very few Assamese words. I have seen  Assamese transition from my first language to second language to third and back to second. Today, Assamese is my second language but my vocabulary is bankrupt.

Yet, I feel an emotional connect when listening to Assamese songs which I do not feel when I listen in other languages. Of the songs that touched me, the song Majuli touched me a lot. I have never been to Majuli, It has always been an answer to a general knowledge question to largest river island of the world. I am not sure if it is the largest island in the world but our Assam based text books, sure, think it to be true. Whenever, I try to try to learn this song, I feel my eyes getting mist.

 

I feel sad that I do not know the meaning of all the worlds used in the song. At the same time the visuals of lusty green and flooded fields overwhelms my endocrine system. The sight of Assamese temple is very confusing. I no longer believe in existence of God and avoid religious ceremonies like plague. Yet it transports me to the days when I used to accompany my grandfather to our home temple as he conducted prayers. My grandfather who was far ahead of his times and did not care for the fact I was a product of inter-caste marriage. I see small kids sing to a joyous song to the tune of this melancholy song and get my emotions astounded, I should feel happy seeing happy faces but I feel sad. I see the colours of my state and I remember that it is reeling under unprecedented floods and I am not doing much to help. I feel anguish at the lethargy of fellow clan members which makes us languish at the bottom of the rat race of global civilization. I get distracted by song’s part about grandmothers love and the accompanying visuals of a kitchen. I travel back to my childhood to my grandmother’s kitchen. Everyone in the family had to eat in the dining room but I was special to my grandmother, My seat was always near my grandmother’s stove and nobody was given food till I had food. I remember my grandparents who are no longer alive. I remember the house in my village which has been long consumed by expanding river banks of Brahmaputra and then I listen to the same song in an infinite loop.

 

 

The guilt free sundae

 

In moral science classes of my very initial school days, I was often told “an idle mind is a devils workshop”.  Idle mind or not, many of my brain cells responsible for storing the memories of my life were empty back then and till date I remember these six-seven words in the same order.

Today things are different, although my dna report will match to me of two decades earlier, my thoughts and thinking process are not exactly the same. I no longer think that devil and divine fight for control of my mind. But it is quite funny what an idle mind can do to your life.

I try to keep myself busy either coding or running in the few seconds of the day when I am not doing any of these I busy myself thinking about all things in life which I will never have.  It has been now seven years since the Brazilian Grand prix won by Kimi Räikkönen . Incidentally that was the day I was told I am a diabetic. It would be a lie to say I was not expecting this news or to say that I was not shattered by it.  Bad news, even though we know is inevitable, always comes across as something sad.

Thankfully though, my willpower rose to the occasion and now I am largely non-diabetic – at least my blood test thinks like that. I run aggressively every day and am rather paranoid about food I take. If I see oil floating around I can’t eat the food. If the food tastes sweet and I don’t know how much fibre is present in the food, I find myself unable to eat.  I feel like a criminal if I miss one session in the gym.

But all these seems to be taking a toll on me. Every now and then I feel like is why and for long do I have to do this. Why do I have to do all of these just to stay alive and now and then , I try to recollect the last time I had a guilt-free sundae. After searching my brain for recollections of the feeling of a guilt free sundae, I only realise I have quite forgotten how it tastes and just wonder how many cousins of guilt free sundaes will torment me in my idle hours.

 

Variables and Constants

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Thousands of miles on my car and thousands of lines of code on my editor later, I am back to my blog trying to reflect on the days gone by and make myself feel greater than I am and preaching to how one should lead ones life.

Some say that it is the fourth dimension of our existence, some say that it can curve under the influence of gravity some say that it is the greatest healer but all I know that time is something that exist in calendars and recorded in my brain cells as collection of hormonal changes. Since we humans owe our very existence to the giant furnace called Sun, it is no wonder that we have always defined in terms of where we were relative to Sun at the moment when the event had come to pass. Due to the actions of many a religious preachers who wanted to replace paganism with Christianity and yet maintain similar festivals, we can say that the current year is 2013.

Things as they are, so long we are alive, we do realize the arrival and passing by of time. By some strange coincidence, 2013 has been unlike any other year I have lived. All the people with whom i had spent my college days started taking life changing decisions. Every month one of my friend was getting married. This will also be the first year where there will be nobody in my college campus who had joined while I was a student. Marriages of close friends in quick succession plays out very funnily . You see your friend circle split into two singles and the rest. To start off the rest are the outcast minority but with every occasion you realise the dynamics are changing and before you know you are hanging out only with your juniors and then their juniors . I guess I am blessed in that – I have no shame and a lot of pride in screaming that while most people had friends restricted to their own batch or one batch up and down, I used to hangout with people across all batches so there is still time before all the juniors are exhausted. I can still refuse to grow up.

If 2013 was seminal to a few of my friends , it shall also be an abnormal year for me. For the first time in four years I am without a job. In spite of loving my job as much as anyone can love their job, I have quit to start my company and figuring out what to do. This brings me to the title of my post -“variables and constants”, life doing a job is like a constant, you have a degree of predictability. If you are working with ethical people, if you do good, you will progress or someone else will be interested in working with you. While if you are trying to build your own, it is like a  game of variables , you really don’t know what they really are till it is too late, you can take your best guess and soldier on. Quite interestingly, some variables are in your control while the others are not.

At times it can be intimidating trying to fathom all the variables governing our lives. For all the criticism vented out at ostriches for hiding in the sand at the sight of trouble, I feel that works well for me.  I have found it better to concentrate on the variable that I have control on rather than the infinite number of them over which I have no control. As a type 2 diabetic with weight issues I had my share of health issues. Having lost over ten kilo- over the last year, I now have some authority on this subject, I found that instead of focussing on my weight it was better to concentrate on how fast I could run and how much. Weight was the outcome that had a lot of variables which I did not fully comprehend while running was a function of variables over which I had full control.  Being 27 and never having had a girl friend is not something I am proud of especially considering my parents  had the guts to marry(elope) defying one set of my grandparents. But the weight loss experiments tells me it’s no shame being the poster boy of “Forever  alone” meme, it sucks that I had not even tried in my life.  Pursuing only 1 girl over a time span of 27 years is not something to be proud of. So here I am trying to ponder what is the variable I should concentrate on.

Broken Resolve

You may have forgotten

All the words I have spoken

All the prayers that I once said

May have been destined to be waste.

I have protests to make

Tears to shed

Blood to bleed.

But I swallow my words

Dry my eyes and pause my heart…

All with a hope that you are free from all my grumbles and all my rumbles.

But some fine day,

A few forgotten emotions comes knocking at my doors

My resolve breaks and my walls crumble..

And I ask myself why do I wish to swim like a fish and fly like a bird

When all I can do it walk like a man and cry like a woman…

Verse, blank-verse and converse

Although there is no cookbook for wisdom and knowledge, the same cannot be said about the intangible adjective called literate.  For all I can do or wish to do it is now forever etched into my gray matter that the 3 Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic make up the seven course meal called literacy. It is another matter that the gray matter is not gray and arithmetic does not start with an ‘R’ yet this is the very sequence of words I shall tattoo into the minds of any impressionable target that comes across me. Like most middle-class parents of their generation, my parents too thought that I should master the three R’s. I was in school.

The thing about school and blog is that language classes are much more easier to ponder over and ruminate then the numerical theories which I now believe to be the only absolute truth. Scientific theories come and go, Religions are born and buried but if one bird on a tree is joined by another bird, we have only two birds on the tree.The thing about language lessons is that we learn “Twinkle Twinkle little star” and “A for Apple” from beyond the time hidden in my subconscious by the mist of time.  This was my initiation to the world of prose and poetry.

As the years went by, poems changed from small songs to sonnets to blank verse. My English papers periodically had exotic sounding words like “iambic pentameter“. But the thing with poems which I have referred to as verse and blank verse is that I was never really sure if I had diverged from what the writer actually wanted to say. Most of the times , the safe approach was the approach of your teacher.  Even the neurons of time have failed to remove the veil of ignorance that envelops my understanding of words that I had once read.

Even today,some questions remain unanswered. Even today , I can’t help wondering if there is more to the poems than that meets the eye. Even today , I want to wax lyrical but indulge in mundane and intrinsic science called prose writing.

A childhood in the fringes of national consciousness

gunFor the last few days, it seems only a curfew can stand between a bullet and a young gullible kashmiri. Today was one of the better days it seems some tangible property has been demolished . Loss to property is a loss nonetheless but it is not something that cannot be replaced. Loss of life on the other hand happens only once. Some of my earliest political memories I have is of the total apathy of my government as huge chunks of land in my maternal village were swallowed by the mighty Brahmaputra. Huge blocks of land simple leapt into whistling water to create another homeless family. It became a sort of yearly ritual to see people lose everything. It went for years and now the place where I spent many of my happy and innocent days of childhood no longer exists, the roads of that ghost village are only their in some hidden compartment of my memories. At those times, it seemed independence from the beastly creature called India was the only way out. That was the mind of a guy who was less than ten years of age. It seemed the cause of all problems was the occupation by India. I guess I am contradicting myself in this post like I usually do reminiscing about the political leanings of my early childhood. It didn’t help that newspapers were bombarded with reports of how the army and other central para-military forces were harassing the masses. I was given to understand that unified command was a mechanism by which security personal were permitted to rape the relatives of militants who did not surrender.

In those days we were more scared of military than the militants. Militants used to usually kill politicians usually giving us a reason to celebrate. A death of a militant was deeply mourned as that of a family member. One of our neighbours son was killed in an encounter. I was simple overwhelmed by the public outpour of grief on the streets. I was eleven years old. Gradually things began to change or at least my perspective of things changed. Having seen many militants surrender and make millions looting and killing the common man-made me realise there is no difference between the politicians I deride. It was also the time the hypocrisy in me was maturing. I found myself with a brain with better than average processing power and soon made my way out of my birthplace . Now I am a visitor to the place where I learnt to walk, speak and talk. On an average day,, the language I am most likely to speak is my mother-tongue.

Back then even though I hated the government of India, it was kind of perplexing I always supported the Indian team on the field. Maybe my childhood is a perfect example of the fact that you may love your country and hate the government. Since I am writing this post in 2010, its time for me to jump back to the present and write a few words bashing Armed Forces Special Powers Act. I know this generational jump is quite of sync with the title of the post and rather abrupt. But I feel too strongly about this issue to care for anything else. It is not so easy living under the shadow of the gun. It is even more difficult when the people who are there to protect you is the biggest threat to your lives.

Whenever sensible people talk about removing AFSPA, the top brass of army raise a hue and cry, the very same top brass whose corruption is a bigger threat to the jawans than the repeal of this act. I am told today there are twenty security personals for every civilian in Kashmir. They are immune to any criminal proceedings for human rights violation. Some might argue that there is a provision under some act or other but for heavens sake is it really practical. Some argue that our soldiers are already under lots of stress and adding the stress of criminal proceedings is not done. I am too biased and emotionally and psychologically scarred to say something impartial on the matter but I do try to give myself a high moral ground supporting higher wages and better facilities for the soldiers of the nation. I believe RR Patil should be hanged before Kasab for the death of Hemant Karkare. But then I have a lot of beliefs some rational.some nonsensical and some utterly comical.

In the end what I want to say is that we have lost over fifty young man in Kashmir due to stone pelting if at all they were allowed to pelt stones maybe we would have lost a few buildings, a few buses a few cars but it would have been far more preferable.

On footnote : after I have left Assam, the militants started colliding with ministers and killing innocents. I was aghast at the happenings but somehow it was easier to hate them and want them to die than the feeling of despair on being vulnerable at the hands of your supposed protectors.