What up with the Dopamine?

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So the other day I was returning from my routine morning run and saw a fellow puffing cigarette after his run ended. Looking at this man dragging his breath out his lungs after he’d gifted them with a pure, blissful dose of the oxygen-rich morning air, I was amused to witness the contradiction.

It was 0540, the sun had taken its ascent in the cool, orange summer sky and here I was enjoying my dose of dopamine acquired in exchange for one of the many accepted currencies in the system. You give your brain something rewarding, it gives back dopamine. Learn something new? You have your reward, and? A dose of Dopamine from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. You relish that piece of tasty brownies, what you have is dopamine! So, the math is simple, you have to give something to have something in return. So the question arises, why I felt elated? And for others like me who don’t know a bit about dopamine, the question arises how dopamine is related to the feelings of mirth, elation? Maybe this one extract from an article by Psychology Today on Dopamine might help.

Dopamine helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and emotional responses. It also enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them. Since dopamine contributes to feelings of pleasures and satisfaction as part of the reward system, the neurotransmitter also plays a part in addiction.  

Psychology Today

Coming back to the first question, why I felt elated? What was so rewarding in the act of giving your legs a beating? Well, the rewards were many. For instance, completing the run in the target pace or giving that heart a run-up for an hour-long session; demanding a considerable effort in pumping blood to the oxygen hungry muscles at work, etc.

But, why was that man in need of nicotine? Turns out that stimulants like nicotine, drugs like cocaine, meth (Remember Breaking Bad?), opioids, heroin, and psychostimulants increase levels of dopamine in the reward system and hence they play a role in addiction.

But, the question arises why do we feel the need to seek rewards from stimulants, chemicals or otherwise? Take, for example, us, the millennials, we are a people who are the most affected by stress, addiction, obesity, low self-esteem, and a myriad of other problems.

A lot of us are more concerned about how we want ourselves to be seen rather than shaping our skillset and letting our skills shine our light; being considerate of others, being more observant.

When we are very young, we seek the approval of our parents. As we enter adolescence, we crave for it from our peers. And that’s when a majority of us take up alcohol, smoking, etc. Almost all alcoholics got introduced to alcohol in their teens. What bogs me down is why don’t we seek our approval? Maybe we lack self-esteem. We are a generation that is unsure about ourselves, over-stressed and frustrated. And stress is a factor that moves this mountain of addiction in our path to sanity. Rather than learning to cope with stress by speaking it out with humans, we tend to take refuge under the numbing embrace of the addictions – of chemicals or otherwise.

If you believe that only chemicals are inhibiting our capacity to cope with stress then let me forewarn you, you are wrong. We are surrounded by yet another contributor to the dopamine problem – the smartphone. Just take a moment before attending to that ‘bing’ of your smartphone and feel the gnawing urgency that takes the claim of your conscious mind even if it is for a very short while. Well, that happens because you are vehemently opposing the elation or stopping your mind to move towards it which otherwise would’ve been satisfied had you looked into it.

That’s not it. Talking of smartphone without the mention of the social media will be foolishness. Today’s social media had not only substituted human interaction with its highly interactive interface but also has largely been the prime conniver of reducing the self-worth of an individual to the number of digital likes, views, and comments he/she has garnered on their SM accounts. And interestingly they are paid by the loot they were able to stack in. How do social media influencers make money out of their followership?

As humans, we are hard-wired to be always on the move. The rewards motivate us to move our butts. And, those rewards produce dopamine in the VTA which inturn, drags us into this cycle of moving forward for good. And today’s social media has its flip side of breaking the cycle. We have failed to banner social media with the restrictions akin to that on alcohol and gambling. This should be done immediately. For if the young guns are introduced to this electronic drug, their impressionable minds will always be worried about how they should match with the latest fashion trends rather than making strong relations in family and friendships.

I was inspired to write about it when I saw this video on YouTube, Most leaders don’t even know the game they are in – Simon Sinek

But, before that, I made myself a test case and I monitored my social media activity, my table manners and the thing with the WhatsApp statuses. And the findings are shockingly amusing!

One, I posted a few posts asking my peers to write something about me or give feedback on something by the use of Instagram Polls and Ask Me Anything. Two, by observing the behavioral pattern of my near and dears ones who can be categorized as entry-level SM addicts. And three, by Willfully submitting myself into those “status traps” that demand the respondent to complete a few tasks before getting the answers or whatever those traps were designed upon.

For example, this post which I recently posted

The reason why I chose such a picture was to see the reactions of people, of my close friends. And behind that want of reaction was an observant eye hawking for the anxieties that were at the helm of every notification alert in my smartphone. Because to me, this was a risk, I could have exposed myself to speculations of being a man who was lost or a gone case. The one who thought brandishing a smoke was cooler now as it was in the old’ days of Camel when it was seen as a matter of social status (By the way, earlier in the medieval era, the cigarettes were associated with the low-borns who made them up with waste paper and scrapes of tobacco collected from the remaining litter of pipes and cigars of the high-borns!). Anyway, coming to the point, the post stayed online for 24 hours and every time the phone cried, I had this undying urge to see what reactions the post had garnered and who saw it.
This and many other posts like this brought a realization that I was essentially lacking the resilience and self-control compared to what I had a year ago.

The second most important finding which I noticed was the effect of the presence of phones in the visual range of the person accompanying you in the middle of an interesting conversation. This happened this June when I was with my cousin in an Italian shack in Kolkata, we were having a deep conversation about our personal lives, how we were coping with our demons, basically about the question, “So, tell me how’s life going?”. I don’t have a count on time but looking at the length and span of the topics covered, a close guess would be about 40 minutes. And just then, when our second order arrived, I happened to take out my smartphone and looked into its dark screen, probably looking for a notification, UNCONSCIOUSLY, as if I was waiting to have a look at it at the back of my mind and forty minutes wasn’t enough for that little bastard to remind my habitual self to take over! And guess what, our conversation felt awkward after that. It suddenly got away in a hurry and the next close guess would be fifteen minutes, the time it took us to end that conversation and take off from the shack to the nearest metro station.

That was the time, maybe, I had this urge to dig deeper into the change in dynamics of interpersonal relationships in presence of smartphones and what I found was just by the presence of a small screen of the smartphone. It essentially makes the other person feel less important.

On the bright side, humans are bloody mysterious. They always find ways to survive. And I do believe we can always rely on dopamine produced naturally in our bodies rather than that which comes with the sources I have hounded with pleasure in this blog so far.

Here I am listing few activities by which any walking human could take that shot of dopamine.

Go out in the Sun daily

When you’re exposed to sunlight, it both increases your number of dopamine receptors and gives you vitamin D, which in turn activates genes that help release dopamine. Light in general triggers dopamine release in your eyes, which is probably why we like being glued to our screens.

Get More Human Contact

Human contact triggers dopamine production not just for you, but for the other person as well. So get your dopamine fix whether you’re caressing your girlfriends/boyfriends, hugging the kids or even shaking hands with colleagues.

Get a Massage

By extension, activities with a lot of touching also boost dopamine, including massages. For a fact that it reduces stress and tension in your muscles.

Hug Your Pet

The principle of increasing dopamine through touch also extends to animals, so make it a habit to stroke or hug your pets.

Get the Right Amount of Sleep

Meditate

Sometimes the best way to do something is by doing nothing. Specifically, you do nothing physically but in your mind, you’re trying to sort out your thoughts. Whether you meditate, pray or do simple self-reflection, all these activities are linked to increased dopamine levels.

Listen To Music

I was introduced to some good songs by my friend from Delhi, for instance, Billy Joel’s The Downeaster Alexa which I listen to and almost instantly go in trance. Listening to music that you like makes the brain release dopamine as a response. Good music equals good mood, isn’t it?

Make Music

This head reminds me of a friend/brother of mine from Himachal Pradesh, he plays guitar and tries to make his notes or whatever you music lovers call. And I remember him as a guy who never touched alcohol even if he was surrounded by boozers!

Do Creative Things

Increasing dopamine can be as simple as taking up a creative hobby like photography, crafting, auto repair or drawing. Looking back in the memory field and watching my creative Mallu brother sketching his favorite super-cars I now realize the reason behind his cheerful smile.

List Down Your Small Tasks

Dopamine is also released after you finish something, whether it’s a big job or a small task. So it follows that if you want more dopamine “hits”, break down those big jobs into smaller ones.

Just like I feel elated to struck off names of the books on my read-list when I finish reading them. Feels great, try it out.

Take a Cold Shower

I remember standing under the shower feeling the cold spray of water rinsing out all the worries off me.

Lose Some Weight

Exercise Often

Physical activity is something our body craves (even if your conscious brain hates it sometimes). To make it fun for us, our brain releases fun chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine. I still remember the feeling when I used to finish those 90 odd push-ups which I did under the watchful eyes of my buddy in college and was known for his gleeful attitude.

Take a Walk or Run

Damn, I miss running with my friends, seniors, and juniors in the first two years of college. And yes I regret not running with a friend lost and found in the three years I was in Cochin.

If you want to read more as to how to get back on your dopamine levels and fight that stress naturally, try hitting this.

And this last line ends my watch for now. It felt great going through some interesting articles, my journal entries (love re-living the best days of my life) and giving two hours of focused effort into writing this blog. And I am writing it in the present tense, “I sign off from my WP editor now with a lot of healthy dopamine”, so that it reminds every reader that it felt awesome to write this piece.

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A Quest For Meaning

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 Sometimes I miss her, it feels like a quest. 
A quest to seek bits and pieces of her.
Sometimes I wonder,
how can a man's heart yearn for a memory that has become a distant providence?
How can a man yearn for the touch that bears fictitious brunt?
You can touch the mirror the million times over but,
Never can you touch the person whose reflection finds home in it.
Unless! Unless, you turn those hands towards yourself.
But, you can't touch the memory of the person you see beside you every-time you rest your gaze on the mirror.
I seek her not in memories, but in the days that I live by, in the breaths that I take in.
I seek her in my quest to gather the character of noble origin.
I seek her amidst the aisles flanked by words of wisdom.
I seek her in every venture.
Sometimes I feel there's more to my yearnings, it's living! Living in abundance.
You can't have whatever you want, but you must have what you need.
Maybe, I wanted her physical presence - her whole physical entity.
Maybe, I need the halo over her crown - the halo o'er my Queen.

While I was sitting at my desk, doing nothing but dreading the apparent vacuum in my mind that boredom had left in its wake after a couple of hours of studying, I happened to spiral down into a space where I thought of nothing yet swarms of thoughts were creeping at me from all directions. Thoughts about ill-thought decisions that I took up while choosing the stream to graduate from and get the bachelors. Thoughts on whether I should’ve taken that interesting yet an aimless, unrewarding stint at the job I was offered or the one that slipped by due to some shady deed of a friend who took to stabbing his own friends to make way for himself and a lot many to be put into words. I was marauded by these depressing beings who came at me, in waves after waves, to bury me into the ground under the weight of dread, disgust and gloom

Just then I was struck by a fit of awareness; not that I didn’t had any in the first place, this one was of a different kind. As though I was looking at me from an isolated frame of observation and with this, all of my decisions were put to objective scrutiny. It essentially made me realize a multi-faceted aspect about myself that lay buried within – shielded by a veil of insecurities and unresolved emotions. I took up my journal and started noting every insight that had payed a visit at my doorstep. It became clearer how I have evolved on both the sides of the fence and easier to accept myself. Acceptance is the first step to submission – a submission that empowers one with the freedom to turn every tragic incident into something fruitful.

The motive of this blog isn’t about discussing on those insights for they are of a very personal nature. It’s about seeking the good from that vault called past. As Victor Frankl spoke , “In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured”, he didn’t restrict the nature of the past as being a safe depository of events, opportunities and potentialities but as an illuminating piece of self which we must exploit in the hours of need and take forward the lessons learnt in its light and deliver ourselves efficiently in the shadows waiting to be lit as we cross them in transit.

While all these thoughts were picking at my nerves, I closed my eyes and thought,
“what are my needs, wants and desires?” and kept on repeating the same until I was startled by the image of a woman in a bluish hue. She was as lively as she had been years ago. And that was it that I knew what I needed. For, along with her image came the words that she once spoke to me – “When you get to be with a woman, be with her fully, give her all of your love”. It’s worth to mention here is that these words came from the one who was hurt by me. Sometimes we expect thorns in the path, and that’s okay. When all your expectation of coarseness are met with kindness, it transforms you. I had been entangling myself into the vicious knots of a guilt trap only to have liberated from it when I was met with kindness. And thus I wrote the above lines in the opening paragraph of this blog. And as I say, “But, you can’t touch the memory of the person you see beside you every-time you rest your gaze on the mirror.” I mean only one thing, you shouldn’t ever try to picture the edited past. You should only thrive to form strategies to avoid the parts of past, you’d rather have forgotten, from happening again or form corrective measures to tackle them as soon as possible. This is similar to the psychological term – Risk management where one consciously thinks of ways to mitigate a risk or to contain it post occurrence and strive for corrective measure – the solution oriented approach!

Therefore, I appeal my readers to re-read the poem and not see it through the eyes of a guilt-ridden, hopeless lover, but that of a man who loves his life and sees to it that she is abundant with meaning and purpose.

Strive to live a meaningful and purposeful life; you needn’t have a grand meaning to it just yet, on the contrary, strive to live every day with purpose and aim, make every task driven by meaning so that, in the hours when your breaths are few – you look back at your depository only to find that your life had always been meaningful and purpose driven. Life is a possibility, make every miracle possible while you are alive.

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The Question WHY? An attempt to answer the ‘why’ behind the stubborn desire to don the Olive Green

“Zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun, lohe si khaal odhe aur jazbe ki Shamsheer thaamey, lahoo ka Deepak jalaey main zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun. Bas watan ki un be-nazr deewaron par khud Ko lapetne chala Hun. Aye fir koi Ghazni ya Ghori, vaar pehla sehne mai chala hun. Main zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun.” 

(Translation: Determined to play the armor, donning the beastly willed steel infused skin and wielding the sword of courage, with victory in my prayer sanctified by the blood lit lamp I am all packed up and ready to play the armor for my country. Over the invisible walls of my country, I am on to drape them all with my service. Come what may, another Ghazni or Ghori, I am set to receive the enemy as his first welcoming host, and make sure I am the last. I am set on to play the armor all in service of my nation.)

Why do you want to join the army? The IO asked after a brief stint at digging me through my PIQ responses. With the above lines in mind which I penned way back, I started off uttering the answer which supposedly should have had the weight to win the IO give the final go to culminate the journey that started with the ‘Pratham Pag’ written on the steps to the entrance of the waiting hall at the SCE, Prayagraj (former Allahabad) to the ‘Antim Pag’ at the IMA. I guess my answer didn’t make the peg to fit in the right hole for I wasn’t selected by the assessors. I knew it, that I didn’t answer the question as I should have, as my heart wasn’t satisfied with what my mouth uttered! 

What makes of a reasonable choice or decision is the question why. For, inherently, it answers the underlying questions that target the motivational aspects of an individual towards his job. Why do you want to do something? It is a very simple question to answer, but we make it a lot more difficult a venture by subjecting it to severe adulteration with our counterproductive thoughts and fears. And, there comes the solution – keeping it simple and stupid. Often, we stumble on great revelations through obvious approaches in life. We are so accustomed to solving complexities that often times we fabricate complexities out of simple things; that is where the problem lies.

To bring some perspective to answering the why, I would like to mention Maslow’s  Hierarchy of Needs and filter out the essentials as per my observations. It speaks of two pillars of motivation, the deficiency needs, and growth needs, which when simplified takes the shape of a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are – physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

 

It requires no deliberation in understanding the theory for it is self-explanatory. What we aspirants need to work out is to know the organization and; the ethos, the values, and the work ethics that it enshrines in its core. Done that, we are now required to draw parallels from the Hierarchy pyramid or any other method of gauging the source of motivation available at hand. 

Filtering out those essentials which shall fulfill every inch from the basic deficiency needs to the core, growth needs of the spectrum are beneficial. Hence, one may find oneself, with every passing day, near to the point enabling one as to answer the Why behind one’s desire to don the uniform. So, to speak of from the basics, a person may venture out finding what a job as an officer in the Indian Armed Forces has on the platter for him. One may realize, that every need from the lowermost level of the pyramid is satisfied by the life in the forces. Special mention to be kept in mind is the job security and familial safety that the life in the forces offers. You get in the forces, train in the world-class environment and be furnished with top of the mark training. You, enlist for SSC or PC and the time you serve, you serve with honor and dignity. And, if so it happens that you are called upon by the good Lord, your people shall be taken care of by the extended family (the forces) which they garnered because of you. 

Having covered that, you come to the Psychological Level of the Pyramid. The first thing which comes to my mind is the brotherhood. It has nothing to do about how you feel about the others. You will meet new people on your postings and if deputed to forward units such as RR or SF units, entire teams get changed and one has to make connections on whose shoulders the success of the mission and the sustainability of the team depends. So, there is no question of liking or disliking others, there is no scope of likes and dislikes among men. You are required to lead the team and bring results with men under you back as safe as humanly possible. Here, the crux is the mutual, unsaid, agreement which is signed by all. An agreement in a group that you’ll put the welfare of the group, that you’ll put the safety of everyone in the group above your own. In a way that makes you care about the lives of the men under your command more than your own. That’s brotherhood. And personally, this one thing boosts my desire to be a part of the forces. And, psychologically, I am no professional, yet let me make an attempt at making a point in understanding why most soldiers have high levels of self-esteem. Ever noticed their ever warm, ever welcoming composure? Well. that is because they believe what they do is holding a high moral ground and that every day in service of the mother nation is a service to their brethren by their backs. And as the saying goes, every act which benefits others without an aim to get something in return boosts your self-esteem. Such a wide observed belief can only come when the organization stands on high moral grounds.

Now, when you’re all boots on the ground, you build friendships, you build relations and you build trust all amounting to the fulfillment of the deficits in the ‘belonging’ level. The realization that you are an asset to the organization as much as its values are to you renders you a feeling that you belong there, in the forces, amongst the men. Every day is a new day with its own set of challenges. No two days shall be similar and behind every failure, the life in the army and the fact that you are a part of it renders you a compulsion to find a glimmer of hope and reach out to find its source. That fighting spirit never lets you settle for anything but accomplishment and maybe that’s why the dynamism that the life in the forces offers occupies a big space in the answer column of the question of Why.

Outside the sphere, in the civilian world, you are respected for your service, your parents, your friends and everyone associated with you earns a part of your respect. It seems as if every affirmation that you would have communicated with your inner-self as in, “I shall prosper and everything I lay my hands upon shall prosper”, takes a tangible shape by the day.  Every aspect screams out to boost your self-esteem and strives to give you a sense of accomplishment. Thus, it indeed forms the answer why one would want to join the forces.

Atop the pyramid lies the Growth needs, and that becomes the most important aspect as finding the ‘why’. Every man on earth as he comes of age to realize his philosophy of life, his needs, wants and desires he chooses to grow the way he wants and by growth, it means achieving his full potential as well whetting his creative side. The job in the armed forces do not fall in the category of ‘jobs’ it inherently leans on towards the categorization of lifestyle. Being in the forces, you are absorbed into a lifestyle that provides you with a dynamic living space where challenges and variety is a matter of daily occurrence. The forces invest in you tremendously at great depths to make a diamond out of you. It is understood that once you’re in, your training never ceases. You are trained on a regular basis post commissioning and is the prime requirement. Professional competence is a basic attribute of a leader and in view of gaining it, one undergoes training to gain in skills over a wide spectrum of subjects. So, if you’re someone who has always felt that there’s something amiss in your life in terms of learning then all your whys find their answers here for the scope for learning is so vast, it will probably take a lifetime for an individual to cover them all and gain on a position to lay the claim that they’ve done it all. 

You get to travel throughout the wide expanse of the country, meet new people, get in touch with the cultural richness of our dear mother land. You get the benefit of excellent professional training, world class infrastructure, and various courses that tend to clear the path of a retiring/retired soldier to enter the civilian life with yet a diverse spectrum to pick the next innings in life from. And with the fear of sudden, unanticipated lay off gone owing to the job security one gets, one tends to be fearless in terms of choosing personal growth as well. Personal growth cannot be attained without fulfilling the familial duties, and as such, one gets enough time to look into one’s family life as in contrast to a regular corporate nine-to-five job. 

Quoting from the Indian Army’s official recruiting website, I’d like to add to in the answer to the WHY:

Quality of Life

As an Indian Army officer at 21, you’d be looking at a lifestyle that one cannot imagine in any other profession, so early in life. What comprises “Quality of Life”? On one hand is a job with a thick pay packet but with the drudgery of 9AM to 9PM schedule, no avenues and time for extracurricular activities, no scope for adventure and excitement, no social status, lack of family life, threat of being terminated with a month’s salary, working in suffocating environment with no self respect and honour. On the other hand is a job which offers you challenge, adventure, excitement, honour, prestige, self respect, whole some family life, safety and security for the family and to top it all the love, respect and esteem of our great India. In the somewhat chaotic social and economic conditions that prevail in our country, Army life is an island of sanity and social order that is the envy of our countrymen. Quality of life is an important attribute of Army life, and has no parallel in any other service. Some of the intangibles, which go to make the quality of life in the Army, are:-

  • Service of the motherland.
  • A profession to be proud of
  • Opportunity to travel and know the country and its people/culture/flora and fauna
  • Opportunity to serve and represent the nation abroad
  • A pure and noble profession
  • Honour and social status
  • No stagnation, a new challenge every day.
  • Opportunity for growth
  • Sports and adventure activity
  • Messes, clubs and institutions facilities
  • Education facilities – Both school and professional colleges for children
  • AWWA hostel for girls in metros
  • Army ensures your physical and mental health.
  • Quality of life ensured not only for officers but also families.

Variety and Adventures

Variety and adventure are the spice and romance of life. No profession has the kind of recreational and adventure facilities to offer as the Army does; from membership of the best clubs in country to horse riding, swimming, golfing, mountaineering, trekking and sailing. Posting to exotic stations gives one an opportunity to see India and its different cultures, in all its vivid glory. You may also get a chance to go abroad on course or on posting. So, if one is looking for a profession, which goes beyond being a mere job, accept the challenge and join the Indian Army.

 Didn’t find your answer yet? I see the bright side of yours, for you are a seeker with a Warrior Mindset and the reasons to join the Army are far deeper to comprehend. Go along the flow, charge up the warrior in you, mates. Charge forward, charge for sure and 
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true. 

Useful links:

http://joinindianarmy.nic.in/Alpha/life-in-army.htm#Professional-Advancement

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

A little motivation from my favorite, Aerosmith

The Dream

“The dream bore a picture of a soldier lying on the pool of blood of his own. The snow beneath him absorbed the redness of his blood; while it seemed untouched by the dying heat of his body. And in between the hazy glimpses, which one would register in those subtle moments caught by the eyes when they didn’t blink, it seemed he lay on a clearing amidst the trees all covered with snow. The treeline had lost its greenery to the whites and nothing could be seen from his position, and having no vantage point, he was at his most vulnerable condition. It was too demanding a task to hold those eyelids stretched open, yet, maybe the training kicked in and the need to gather some situational awareness surpassed the temptations to close the windows to the world shut”, wrote Saket into his journal after giving up all attempts to shoe away the fixation which the unnerving brevity and the clarity of his recurrent dreams warranted. “How can the same the scene, the similar turn of events conjure up in these dreams every single time?” he thought while staring at his journal. Disturbed by the cacophony of the shrill noise that the scene in the dream brought to the fore shielding the signal that might be lurking in the background. “I must find it, why the same shit gets played on my mind over and over again, there must be some pattern, some clue that I’m missing… what is it…..” he murmured.

After a brief period of sitting still pondering over the details of the dream that woke him up with a choking belch, a pained chest (or was it just a memory of the pain that sneaked past the realms of the dream into the realm of consciousness materializing itself into a tangible one – that’s a matter of discussion!), and a headache that might have consorted with the sleep that was shaken up midway through the midnight, he took note of the time, 0330 hours – he had to strike the pillow again!

An hour and a half later, his sleep was again broken, only this time by the sound of the alarm that banged a wakeup-cacophony on routine. It was his usual time to break off from his warm refuge and ready himself for the morning run. He woke up with a hangover from the bizarre stint of his mind that it played on him a few hours ago. Perplexed by the confusion, he took longer to get into action than the usual, spending a quarter of an hour or so on deep thinking. Gauging as to what shook his senses last night, it occurred to him that the more he’d think of the dream the more confused he gets and takes on to console his pounding heart enclosed within the fleshy walls of his chest that such things are just figments of his imagination which is stuck on that repeat-cycle which explains why he sees what he sees on various nights since many years.

To Saket, life has a different flavor altogether where the ingredients are mixed up with philosophical spices. And maybe he takes everything, every experience as a lesson. Always attentive, always vigilant and mostly straightforward he has this habit of brandishing his watchful eyes under the veil of silence. Maybe his experiences were taking a toll on him, maybe one thing that struck him was one such chapter from his otherwise unpublished, unknown book that he himself was unaware of. It’s like the old Japanese adage of a man having three faces; The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you never show anyone, only in his case he masked the last one so efficiently that he himself was unaware of.

For the world, he was a no bullshit man with a temper problem known for his otherwise calm composure. A man who could not stand a slack in logic, though on some areas his logic was itself under the spotlight of questionable merits – his relationships of example! For his close friends and family members, he’s emotional, he’s caring and little skeptical. The kind who’d pick up a fight readily if an act of breaching the limits comes under the long stretches of the jurisprudence of his watchful sight. And lastly, he finds himself stranded as to know who he is, and is constantly under the sweat of culling down the thick fog that blinds his vision to a world within himself.

It’s said that the reference to dreams as to one seen with open eyes is different from the one seen with our eyes closed. The former explains one’s purpose that one envisions for himself to set his whole life on the task to accomplish, the concept of Swadharma, the latter explains the visions that get projected to a screen within the confines of the three-pound master that sits within the cranium – the origins of whose are too complex to define between the alleys flanked by the reason of experiences of the past and the metaphysical reason of the unexplainable on its sides.

All said, it seems Saket was on a fix, a deep-seated urge to know the reason behind the regular occurrences of his strange visions that tend to disturb his sleep often. For he was documenting every tiny detail by the dates and even though a lot many details seemed to have a touch of redundancy, he never stalled his endeavors. Perhaps the journal writing was a tool he developed as a consequence was a blessing in disguise. And he consciously admitted it, as he wrote in his journal entry a couple of years after the incident mentioned in the beginning. “It’s strange a feeling, it’s kind of a thing of past that my dreams have gone silent on that old radio frequency that had only one thing to broadcast – the dream! A lot of things have changed in me, maybe everything happens for a reason and those strange dreams were acting ladders prompting me to take that climb the summit of which is a total knowledge of the self. A lot many would still falter while answering who they are, one thing is sure, I won’t force myself into searching for words as to answer who am I, for I am onto the journey to know myself in bits. Afterall rediscovering who we are in situations unknown is a beautiful venture…”

"There is a strange positivity in his outlook that he wears. 
He sees opportunity in times of utter despair.
He feels his cup as being always partially filled,
Maybe that's why he wanders in the wilderness of  knowledge.
In his travels he gathers the guild,
Of fellow travellers who oversee the trade in whetting their edge.
LIke the hunters our forfathers were,
Outrunning their pray, till it ran out of air,
And each one from the pack watching  another's back." 

More in the next blog…

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Tiny little heavens for the soul

On the roads in those tiny little abodes rest heaps of books. And when my eyes wander along the columns searching for the the pages under every nameplate which binded into a house soothing enough to compel me to call it home, I realised that the nature of my stay isn’t really based on what the names make or the pages described but the life they kindled within. I could feel the propensity of my soul turning in for a divide, for it wanted bits and pieces of it in every house that it felt of a nature of a heavenly dwelling.

The question was how can one man’s mind opine in it’s stubborn accord of living in all those tiny little worlds all at once? The answer was somewhat intricately simple, the mind is always hungry for learning something new, experiencing the unknown and living in distant far off places within. A constant urge to discover things alien to it, a constant need to assimilate the details into it and live by the values thus manifested in it’s core. One cannot guarantee that one would see every nook and corner of the world in a lifetime, but a lifetime is enough to have the courage to constantly feed your mind of things that nourishes it as one does in maintaining the garden that one keeps – looking after the plants that grow on the soil that is charged up with manure and nutrients. I think what makes reading a distinguished venture into self-care is the benefits that it carries with it, it nourishes one’s mind and soul.

Thus, it is these little tiny abodes that find their home in the places of common touch like the Wheeler bookstores in railway stations of India, the ones you’d find in some remote corner of a busy city which lacks of every luxury of a decent, high profile bookstore but a collection of the top-read titles all blended with the scent of old paper like the aroma of filtered coffee. You may not find the collections of Tolstoy, Orwell, King or Shakespeare but you, for sure, would find the singular ones that have the weight to move the mountains within you. Now I am not against them fancy stores, they serve their purpose very well, where a few kind words may bag you an assurance from the keeper to furnish you with your title by the weekend or so. But, a visit to these places that smell of old paper is indeed a thrilling bet. For worse you may not find any piece that makes you stand on one leg for hours together, for the better, well you may end up with pieces that force your eyes and attention to run between the rows of the lines of neatly arranged words, make your feet glued at one place and maybe make your arms ache under the delightful weight of some of those books which you or your soul searched for for years together.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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It was two years back that the thought of writing and sharing my thoughts and observations on life through poems, essays and stories came to my mind, but as the saying goes by “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water – Rabindranath Tagore” I was just staring at the stillness of the water, waiting for the perfect wave to lift my feet up and propel me further into writing as I surrender myself to it; this is my attempt to transcend into the state of being the one who fights the seas rather than the one who just does the job of merry-watching.

So here is a poem that I wrote when I used to spend my time in solitude when I was in the Kochi campus of Indian Maritime University.  In this, as you’ll read on, you’ll find the contents written with heavy metaphors that it renders it an almost cryptic undertone. Try reading it with an approach that you are having a conversation with yourself – sitting on a beach with an orange hue left by the setting Sun crowning the horizon as it gradually sets in for the dark of the night to take over. The metaphorical references are generally taken from the day-to-day observations and hence I believe the act of deciphering the crux of the ‘Undaunted Questions’ would become easier.

Undaunted Questions

Can you see the light in the dark;
And be on Your foot to maneuver the unfathomed terrain,
And balance every strand to eke out the disturbances in the mirror’s tale,
And Mark every silhouette on its face?
Let the world despise you for your courage;
The courage that lets you stand on the grounds of noble lineage?

Can you hear the noise of silence;
And hear every cry that turns the stubborn walls into dust…
The mounds of which when soaked in waters from the streams of senses,
Fills the air with the odor of corpses with severed heads!
And hear the sounds of appraisal and not be affected in the merits, but pledge to keep up with the flow?

Can you hear the noise of the earth and the oceans and air,
and just decipher the faint signals which mean a thing of obese weight in its true order of questionable demerits?
Well, we are rowing our boat along the flow;
Mountains are engraved by the might of the mob.
They let it pass, and so the kind should…
Let the noise pass his tunnel
And continue with the rowing till he reaches the ends to meet the parameters of enlightenment.

Can you bear the pain of success;
And still, love it as you do on losing the tooth which went sore,
And just contain your tongue to tingle the site of useful destruction to mark a stable incubator for a new start,
And to refrain to let it entertain the extraordinary keep when it grows-
And employ it to its work and focus on the new arenas to practice duels with the beings unknown?

Can you be strange and be normal to entertain the tons of thoughts and draw a meaningful conclusion from your observations?