Month: July 2012

Soul Fried Fish

Soul Fried Fish

It’s a Sunday afternoon. I am lying in the center of a large dining hall in a five star restaurant. I suddenly realize that I am warm, in spite of the air conditioning. Too warm. My insides are burning. Seems like my soul just got fried.

Let me try and be polite, like you five star people. I am John. I know it’s a common name. Could be yours, or yours, or yours perhaps? No? Well that’s odd, I never thought there won’t be a John in such a big gathering. But I guess, people are not named John out here in your country. I see you agree.

I get that you are interested in my story, since I am not from around here. You think I have a unique story to tell, from where I am? That my life would have been really different from yours seems interesting to you, doesn’t it? I really don’t think it is that different. We all take the same route in our lives, broadly speaking. It’s how we observe it, how we analyze it and how we internalize that defines us. That is what makes us different from each other, doesn’t it?

No, I hear you say. You still want to hear it? Well, I’ll tell you then. But let me warn you, you have heard it a thousand times before. You’ll all get up from your chairs at the end of it thinking “Oh, same old, John!” and I will remind again you at the end that I told ya.

I was born, like everyone has to be – to become everyone. Alright, alright I’ll swear, if that is what you all want. No more attempts at that sorta’ humor. As I was saying, I was really close to my parents back in the days and I remember how much they loved me. Among my earliest memories is with my parents at our home when my dad and mom would come home after a day of just loafing around with his friends. Yes, that’s true they didn’t work, like you guys now. There was no concept of working for ’em. They just wandered around, enjoying the fruits of mother nature. Hippies, I hear you say. It wasn’t quite like that, I hope you’ll realize that as I tell you more. Try not to judge.

Which brings me to an interesting theory I have had for some time now. You people are very uncomfortable with not being able to understand or comprehend something. In your mind, as any information gets processed, your head starts throwing labels. You start attaching these labels as you collect more information. Think about your friends, your brother or sister, what comes to your mind. Adjectives, that define them? To you, everyone you’ve met is a collection of labels. For things that you understand, you try and break it down into components on which you can attach the labels. That is the only way you wrap your head around anything new. I am not saying, it is good or bad. I am just wondering if it is the only way? It does seem rather limiting, doesn’t it?

Coming back to my story. Growing up, I learned the same way of life. What to eat, how to survive. But I was always hungry. Always wanted more. My parents couldn’t understand my hunger. They tried to understand me. When they couldn’t they tried to counsel me. They were scared for me. Afraid that this unique trait in my personality, would land me in trouble. However, My need to do more than just hang around, eating the same food every day. Doing the same things over and over again. At one point I was convinced that there is more to life than just that. My parents’ inability to understand me made me Angry.

One day, while wondering about these thing, I wandered quite far away from home. That had become very usual for me. But this day was different. I saw around me and I saw the vegetation change. I found a new fruit – that’s what my parents called what we ate. I ate a stomach full. Imagine the sweetest, juiciest fruit you have ever had ever had. It was better than that. It was the first thing that I had tasted, that was different from the other things we ate. I carried as many as I could back home. My parents had never seen that fruit either, neither had my friends. They called it a Miracle.

I knew there was more. I knew it was not just a miracle. I had believed in it. I had believed that there was more, and it had materialized in our lives, enriching all of us. I became a dreamer that day. Always looking out for more. Where my friends and family were convinced that it was a rare miracle, to me it was just another brick in the wall. Just another Brick.

I started going further and further away from home each day in search of new fruits. I was exploring a lot, but I returned home empty handed each day. I was overwhelmed with a passion to discover more riches, and it became an obsession with me. As I returned home all worn out each day, I could see my neighbors looking at me and shacking their heads. They called me an Idiot.

And one day, just like that, my perseverance paid off. I found yet another new fruit. I was overjoyed, but this  time I kept it to myself. I did not share my discovery with anyone, because I believed they were not worthy of it. They had not shown the one thing that mattered the most to me then. The one thing I needed because I felt like I was doing something different. Trust.

I stumbled upon a lot of different varieties of fruits in the days that followed, not one of which I shared with them. I did not feel the need to prove to anyone that I was, in fact, much more Intelligent.

I just needed to go on and on and On.

“I am better than those Neanderthals.”

AMBITION. That is what got me here. Let me tell you the final part of the story so that you can see how it all fits together.

After having made several discoveries, as one would expect I was tired. And satisfied, mistake me not, with the progress I had managed. I was, I truly was. There was nothing more I really wanted. So one day I put up a grand exhibition of all my discoveries and invited everyone. They were all awed into shock. They tasted all the fruits, and loved all of them. It added color to their bland lives, some of them told me. They thanked me for having struggled so hard for the greater good. They said, I have taken the race forward.

I was filled with joy, as is predictable. But there was a nagging feeling in my head. If all the fruits were so great, I needed to find the most delicious of them all. Wasn’t that I started out in the first place? This is where my need became a greed. I left home that day, determined to find the best fruit there ever was.

After travelling for several days, I finally saw a single fruit hanging. There was nothing around it, no other fruits or vegetation. My eyes widened. I was convinced that this was the one. I hurried and reached the fruit. Circled around it and ascertained it was nothing like what I had seen before. It was only after I had been admiring it for quite some time, I saw there was something attached to it. A string.

I had to make a choice then. But my choice was made, even before I knew whether I would have to make it.   To hell with caution, said I as I went for the fruit. The string suddenly became taut and that was that. It pierced my cheek and I was pulled out of the water.

And that is how I am here today. And it is only today that I realized that I am no different from any of you. I am just another Soul Fried Fish.

Umm… Told ya?

Ambition is a dangerous recipe and it is overrated. It is important, but it is not what defines me. It is not what I make of myself, materialistically, that matters when I think about the end. It is a sum of the moments of joy that I have spent in this lifetime. The memories of all the places I have been and the people I have loved, each day more than I thought was possible. The strong emotions I have felt and recorded in my mind forever. These are the things I will miss leaving behind. To me, it is these little things that matter. And for that, ambition needs to be moderated with satisfaction. Today, I know, I am satisfied. And this post shall be a reminder of that.


Expression Kills

Expression Kills

I am not unknown for my conformity issues. This might seem like a desperate attempt to find another ‘Road Less Travelled’ and a contrived challenge to the accepted norms, but do try to look beyond finding fault in the writer and focus on the subject matter howsoever hard it may seem. Maybe it will open an eye you have shut wide thus far.

The ‘accepted norm’ in this case is the unflattering, uninhibited and to a large extent unconcealed attraction of the crowds, audience rather, towards the lead singer in a band. I have always felt for the drummer who sat behind his assortment or the synth player lurking deep in shadows for the entire duration of the performance stepping out for a sip of water in between songs or to take a collective bow at the end of the end of the show. All this while the lead singer and the guitarists take their numerous bows, yelling their countless ‘Thank you-s’. Even the bass guitarist has his moments during the course of the night – what with the archetypal demeanor and hairstyle (what’s with these guys? They seem like a common breed these days… certainly un-human-like!)

I have often thought that it is possible that guitar is a more charismatic instrument compared to its bretheren, but I have also since long discarded the idea. It can’t be. Even if it is, it is certainly no deal clincher the way it is made out to be on nights like the ones in discussion.

I have also been, ever since I have found myself to be one, an ardent supporter of the underdog. I did check whether it was a manifestation of that same sentiment that was at play when I felt for the less acknowledged and less loved members of the band. I have no better explanation than – my gut tells me it’s not that. I needed then to figure out what was it.

I went to a concert last night and attempted once more to get to the root of the dynamics of the elements at play during a performance, and yes, to try and have a good time too. As the night progressed, and yes, as I got more and more inebriated, I had a sudden clarity. It was expression, as the expression I hope would go, that kills.

There are those of us who are used to being the centre of attention and they love being there. For lack of a better way to put it, I feel they are maxed out. They are too exposed and reveal so much about them as they go along it is conceivable that there will be little in them that is not known by everyone. They’ll make their every thought, every action and every emotion very public. They have nothing in them left to themselves and they can’t cherish anything without sharing. All the elements that make a human being, for these people, are out in the public domain, open for scrutiny and judgment. They are yelling their lungs out and jumping around the jacks, like jacks for attention. For love.

Ignore the condescending tone, I really appreciate that hunger. The joy of getting that much by just being your natural self and uninhibited expression might actually be something tangible. But you have to embrace the downside of exposing your soul.

The band I had went to see perform had a sax player, who doubled up as a violinist and tripled up as a recorder player. The serenity and peace on his face, the inability to perform any antics lent him a glow that shone him more brightly than the movers and shakers of the band. At least to me he seemed to be wielding an aura of mystery that worked like magic. The enigma of his persona filled the room.

His music was soulful and I found myself waiting in eager anticipation of his solos. The music from his multiple instruments were pregnant with a charm that was characteristic of him. At the end of one of his solos, he opened his eyes only to wink at one of the girls standing in the front row, tuned into his music with rapt attention. That was the most dramatic act he dared that evening. I wouldn’t be surprised if the girl was his girlfriend or wife.

To me, hence, simplicity and the quiet fashion in which people go about their work holds a charm irresistible.

As they say – Expression Kills.




I have often thought and said that pain helps the spark of creativity in us and helps us cross the threshold that otherwise restricts us. I saw Rockstar yesterday and the question rose again. Is pain the only way to produce your best work, creativity wise?
I think it has to do with intense emotions. Any intense emotion, if channeled, can help a creator come up with an inspired creation. If we accept this hypothesis, then the next question comes – why are all our best works a product of a period of suffering?
There can be two reasons for that. I have personally felt that both of them go hand in hand.
First: Pain is the easiest emotion to channel. Compare it witb joy, excitement, success, love… all intense but happy emotions. These emotions have becone occassions to celebrate. And with the passage of time, we have learnt to take them in our stride. Shelf them. And aspire for more. There is no contentment with achievement of these emotions. Rather, they serve as a push to gun for more. Why stop now, when i can go another mile?
Pain stops us on our feet. Forces us to think and change the course that we have been moving along on merrily thus far. It is often this stimulus that guides the work of creativity. It becomes easy to give up all the other things that might be going on and focus on just one thing that really matters. Which is the creation of a creator. This singlemindedness propels the work of art to a personal genius. It comes from the deepest part in us, comes from our soul.
Second: when nothing else matters, the sense of fear on being judged for the work goes away. The creator stops caring for the opinions of the world. This goes hand in hand with the first point to help create the singlemindedness of utmost devotion to the work at hand.

The work, thus created, is undoubtedly the best you’ll ever do. And a creator longs for pain. Masochism, is a common trait in all creative people… for the love of art, they’ll suffer. Because that is the most important thing in theit lives.

I am sure my thoughts on this are not exhaustive. I welcome any comments or suggestions on this. Would like to understand it better myself.