Una Mattina

And when I close my eyes to the music, I can see the dust flowing off the wheels on a Jeep that is crossing a dusty plateau many thousand feet up in the mighty Himalayas. Once I used to dream of those places and life has been kind enough to me to make those dreams a reality; a reality that I know is there, accessible to anyone who dares to dream to take a step at a time to make it real.

Life has been hard in the past few months, as it often tends to, to remind us to never take it for granted. That, even in the best of things you can ever have, the worst can be experienced for no fault of anyone. Every moment you can breathe, every moment you are alive is worth living, once you realize that within it, it holds the potential to be both extremely bad and extremely good.

And it tests us and rewards us, if we are truly willing to let go. People and places, eventually, are all the same. There are always prejudices, there is always unkindness; what differs is the nature of the prejudice or the unkindness and how we identify with it. All music, eventually, is made of the same basic notes, and yet we can like or dislike it on various grounds.

To hear that note clearly, clearer than the note I hear clear with my ear, in what it says about the longing, the disappointment and the eventual rapprochement. The hurt, and the joy in letting go of that hurt. To acknowledge is the first step towards releasing that lifelong bondage. It hurts as much as it frees. And yet it frees.




This was a post that I had been waiting for long to write, I had even the right photo to go along with it — one from about fifteen-years-ago, of a mattress, an ashtray with a cigarette slowly burning in it, in the place I called home for those long years. A little while ago, I accidentally lost all the data in the hard drive that had the photo, along with many other memories from the past 16-years. And the move from the old house itself happened in the middle many other, more important, changes. I have not had much of a chance to reflect at length on all the years spent there.

Much has changed in the past six-months. Perhaps, the most important of all those changes is in what I consider normal. ‘Normal’ is the unseen foundation from where everyone operates. It is quite possible to have a perfectly reasonable sense of normal for others, while having a completely warped one for ourselves. I am not the only person who has the uncanny ability to provide a perfectly sane perspective to another’s life and yet find it impossible to apply even a small percentage of that same sane, rational logic to my own life. We don’t often see ourselves as clearly we can see others, or we see an image of ourselves that is entirely false.

I could, probably, have tried harder to recover the data in the hard drive, but, in the end, I did not. Somewhere along the way, I learned that a life lived in fear is not a life worth living and stopped doing that. But I never gave up walking forward without constantly looking back over my shoulder. I could, probably, have tried harder to repair and retain all the relationships from my past, but, in the end, I did not. I used to do that a lot earlier, but, in the past 6-months, it has became quite clear that I used to do that mostly out of a sense of guilt. And doing anything that you otherwise don’t want to do, is not normal or good.

As the knots untangle in my head, there is the relief of not having to carry so much of the baggage I have forced myself to carry over the years. Nobody asked me to do that, but the burden they created was very real. They also reveal the underlying core issues that I have hidden under many layers over the years. Much of it is not very pleasant, but it is a little bit less of a struggle every day and it also makes it easier to deal with things not going my way. Things work sometimes, sometimes they don’t. And it is not always my fault that they don’t work.

This normal is very unexciting. It is not life on the edge. It is not a life of keeping tabs. It is not a life of being constantly on the watch out for who will attack me next. But it is a beautiful life to live, where each moment feels right and full. There are no games. There is nothing to guess. And I would not have believed it was possible if I was not living it.


It is life’s nature to demand changes from us regularly. Sometimes we give into those demands and make those changes, most times we ignore those demands and soldier on. I am no exception to that norm and have lived most of my life not making the changes life asked of me, leaving life with no option but to often let a bitter aftertaste remain of most things in it. Even so, nearly five-years-ago, I was sent kicking and screaming down a path where I had to start making those changes to be a better person and live a life that was a considerably better one than the tangled mess it was.

As 2014 slowly winds down, a significant chunk of what used to be my life five-years-ago is no longer there and a lot of whatever is left of it is also being purged in the interests of living a better, simpler and healthier life. It is far too easy to look back and blame everyone else for what has been and what has not been; but, the fact remains that the life I have is the result of the choices I made. It is only logical that if I wanted to have a better life, I had to make better choices. It is also equally important to stop dwelling on all the bad things you have done.

You can’t do much about the past, but you can do a lot about the present and the future.

There are very good reasons for someone to make bad choices in life and I have more than made my fair share of those. Those bad choices have a limited shelf life and at some stage realization will hit you square in the face that the time has come to make different choices. That realization happened for me five-years-ago, but it has taken me all these years to understand the extent to which I had to change how I live and act, to be true to what I wanted. It is just way too easy to pay lip service to the constant urge to want better and yet stick to doing nothing different from what I have always done.

The hardest part, perhaps, of these changes for me has been personal relationships. A journey like this leaves little space for things or people that drag me down. What was broken had to be fixed, or let go of . It is quite easy to say that, but incredibly hard to do for someone like me who has always been attracted to exactly those things and types of personalities because they are the best places to hide my own shortcomings. The list of casualties from this purge is not long in numbers, but, in impact, it goes far and wide as friendships and close relationships, sometimes spanning a decade or more, have been let go of.

On the other hand, there are also the relationships that have only grown stronger, healthier and better. Some of them, like with my parents, have pleasantly surprised me in how it has evolved. I feel eternally grateful for such blessings. I love not feeling emotionally on the edge all the time and it is amazing how everything looks a lot better when I don’t feel bitter about everything around me all the time. It is nice to know that everything is not a conspiracy to make me feel worse, or that I am responsible for everything that has gone wrong in my immediate universe, and sometimes a little bit outside it too.

Over time, this simpler state of affairs has also ensured that I cannot sustain anymore anything that is even moderately complicated or unhealthy. It maybe most selfish to keep my own well being and happiness as the thing that is most important to me, but the realization that only I am responsible for my happiness makes it quite okay for me to live with that selfishness.

Living such a simpler life also yields simpler and healthier relationships. I have fewer friends and there are now increasingly fewer instances where someone has to stick their neck out in an unhealthy way to validate some part of me that needs shoring up. It is a world where I enjoy the fewer words a lot more, but also one where I can share a silence without any awkwardness. I don’t feel the need to shoulder a burden that is not mine, just so that I could feel that I belong, in the most convoluted way, to someone or something.

But the best part of it all is not feeling like a piece of shit all the time. Which is what most of my life, at its worst, had come down to. It is nice to make the odd mistake and not kill myself for it, be my little imperfect goofy self and still be loved for it.

If you ask me if it is worth it to gain so much losing a lot, I will gladly tell you, oh yes, it is totally worth it.

Manga, Maggoo And Grumpy

A little less of you return each time, till, eventually, only a shell returns.

At least that was what I started this post with a few days ago. It was meant to be another of the ornate and obfuscated bits of writing that I am normally quite fond of writing. It would have covered a wonderful trip to the high Himalayas, the unexpected discovery of an effortless love and other significant changes.

Yet, I could not bring myself to write a single line after that. Not that I did not try. I did, on multiple occasions, but not even a single word could be added to that line. It is not that I have not had trouble writing before. In fact, it is way too frequent an occurrence; and the blame often can be placed squarely at the feet of sheer laziness.

But, let us get back to what I wanted to write about. First, the trip. It came together rather unexpectedly, which pertains to the ‘who’ of it than the ‘where’, as Spiti has been on the cards for a long time after the difficult passage in 2011 and the multitude of failed attempts since. Spiti was the reason why my white Gypsy (called rather predictably as ‘Whitey’) was acquired and a blown engine and many mountain trips later, she finally had her date with destiny.



The trip was not without its own share of drama. As always, I had taken much longer to acclimatize and by the time we got to Kaza, the altitude did get to me, resulting in a longer layover in the town, which was the nicest way to be afflicted by an ailment. We got going again, crossing non-existent roads after Losar, up Kunzum La and a difficult drive down on its other side to finally head towards Chandratal,

The lake is an experience that cannot be adequately described in words and as my partner is fond of reminding me, it is a lake that does not want to be found, unless you are willing to go the extra mile or two for it. And even then, till you go up another hillock that betrays no existence of a lake, you won’t have any idea that something as special and spectacular as that exists there.

The shepherds there took a liking to us, which was something we were very grateful for. And we found Manga (the one in the photo), Maggi (lovingly mangled to Maggoo) and Grumpy (since she was the grumpiest of the lot). We spent two timeless days by the lake, watching the clouds roll across the beautiful blue skies, sleeping on the shores, with the trio for company. Manga, especially, took a liking to us and we wanted to bring her back with us. But as a soul that flies free in that magical land 15,000 plus feet up there, she won’t survive the heat of the plains, nor the prison that it must represent to her.



After watching yet another spectacular sunset and the lake’s brilliant change in moods, we went to sleep, with the sad realization that the morning will be a time of farewells, to the trio and our gracious hosts — the shepherds — who looked after us like we were family and even sang for us one of the nights in their little shelter that was poor on creature comforts, but rich in warmth, affection and how freely they shared everything they had. When the time came for us to leave, the trio was nowhere to be found, a relief of sorts. It would have been really hard to leave Manga behind. Some goodbyes are best left unsaid.

We eventually made our way through to the by-now infinitely tamed Manali – Leh highway. Since it was past the peak tourist season, we had the roads mostly to ourselves, which was a good thing. Both of us have known the road from a time when it was not much of a road, which is a far cry from the slightly-difficult drive it is now for anyone. In a matter of a couple of years, it will be an all-weather road, four lanes wide in most places and easily doable in a single drive for most drivers.

Leh was mostly devoid of Indian tourists. It was so empty on our way in that we were afraid that something was not quite right. Eventually, we found a nice place to stay, spent a fair bit of time in the market and moved to Lamayuru. The drive from Lamayuru back to Delhi was rather uneventful other than for a monster traffic jam that we found at the Delhi border. It was almost as if the city was doing its best to ensure that it did not want to take us back.

In a lot of ways, we did not really want to return. And, even now, two weeks after our return I do have a tough time adjusting to life back here. As a fully city-bred person the city feels familiar, but the heart feels no connection to it. Every day breaks with the urge to see the pristine blue skies in the mountains and their warm embrace. There is a sense of inevitability to the end of the life here. It is not that I hate the life here. It is a city that gave me hope and a second (and many more subsequent) shots at life later. It is the city that, eventually, gave me the love that I have always yearned for in life.

Yet, it is also a city I have a hard time living in. In fact, I doubt I can live in cities anymore. Without even realizing it, I have been consuming less and using fewer things in life. I keep giving away clothes and things that I own after realizing that it has been years since I have worn most of them, it has to be of better use to someone else. Being not as well off as I used to be earlier also means I have little means of being a spendthrift anymore. And I don’t miss being able to buy yet another pair of shoes that I will forget I own. And it is not that I don’t buy expensive gear anymore, I do; but most of those serve a function than my own vanity.

For long I have known that I needed lesser; and without realizing it, somewhere along the way, I have started wanting lesser too. Within me, I feel that I have everything I need, while for most of the urban world, I have little or nothing. And that is a disconnect that is hard to overcome. There are only a few ways of living the city gladly supports and feeling that you have enough or not feeling constantly irked are not those ways. And I guess that explains the inevitability.

Fake It Till You Break

It is quite sad that we all now live lives that place an inordinate amount of importance on making us dislike ourselves for what don’t have than to like ourselves for what we have. All around me, I see people who are faking it till they make it, or at least fake it like they have made it; while, behind the splendid veils of success there are broken, miserable people littered all over the place.

It would be pathetic to pretend that I don’t belong to the same tribe, because I do. It is hard to let go of trying to play the same game that everyone else around me plays. Like everyone else, I too pretend that everything is fine, while most often it is not. I pretend that I am on top of the game, while I have already lost almost each and every one of those that I have tried my hand at.

It is terrifying to see the society we are helping put together. In our public facades, we are all thriving and moving up in life. Bigger, better cars. Bigger, better apartments. We were normal people with normal flaws at the onset of the social networking age, now we all strive to look like supermodels in the pictures we put up. My current display picture is the coolest of maybe five I took in two days. You won’t see the four others that made me look uncool.

That is what we have reduced ourselves to.

Our self worth no longer has to do with how much we love or care for each other; or how grateful we feel to be loved as much as we are. We still need more of that too. We don’t feel like worthy parents if we can’t buy the most expensive tablet for our children, without which they feel worthless among their peers. The last family get together I attended had children, each with a tablet in their hands.

This is a world where we feel guilty about taking time off. Doing nothing and helping ourselves recover is almost a crime now. And when we do take a break, we feel pressured to click photos or post updates to share with everyone else to show what a good time we are having. How did we wind up hating the company of our own selves? How uncomfortable do we feel with our own company?

Behind the perfect facades, families and marriages are breaking up. We are mistreating an older generation that deserves all the consideration in helping them cope with a world that is vastly different from what they spent most of their lives in. Save the odd mother’s or father’s day, how often do they figure in our public persona? I guess that would be a rare thing.

Almost everyone I know live lives that are vastly better than how the majority of the world lives. Yet, the feeling is that nothing we have is enough. A perfectly fine car needs to be upgraded because it is no longer the cool model to have. A house needs to be upgraded to a bigger one because it no longer has space to store yet another collection of things that we probably will never use in our lives.

When was the last time we ever felt that what we have is enough? In fact, I don’t know many people who even know where that ‘enough’ is. Everyone seems to be sure of only one thing — that they just don’t have enough. Do you remember the last time when you met someone who was content with what they had, that they had enough? I don’t. And I will be surprised if you do.

If you do know someone like that, find out what makes them tick. If you don’t know someone like that, it is time you found that someone, either within yourself or in someone around you and find out what makes them tick, before it is too late.


A hurried move to cover her bare neck was a gesture that was unexpected. It was an amusing reaction as I was neither looking at her neck; nor was it the case that I could see anything on her from the distance and the height that was I at. I was merely observing her emptying a bag of waste into a slope that eventually merged with the stream far down below. In an environment as pristine as that it seemed a terrible thing to do. But it also raised the question, where could they dispose the waste our modern plastic-filled lives produce and who was I, an occasional visitor in that little Himalayan village, to judge them?

The mountains are a both a calling and a healing in competing measures. Once you heed their calling, and should it resonate well within you, a music then starts that your life never stops dancing to; yet, it is a music that nobody can hear, nor can you explain it to another. Faced with another who can hear the same inaudible music, you just nod in agreement, struggle in vain with words to express what you hear, give up and let your feet and heart tap and beat to the mad melody punctuated by the actual sounds of passing thunder and the chirping of the numerous birds.

Here, old wounds gently open up. If you allow yourself to, you start to feel again in the generosity of an embrace that stretches far beyond what the eye can see or comprehend. Life is ancient here. The trees carry scars far deeper and older than what you or I may hold dear in our short lives. Yet, they stand and they unquestioningly keep giving. You will love, lose, turn old, break a bone, die of some deadly disease, but they are always there. It is the ultimate truth and the eternal return, should you choose to seek that within you.

The healing has no words and it is a futile endeavour to attempt an explanation. How do you describe a moisture-laden mist that slips through your fingers? If you do not resist it, it will seep into every bone and particle within you, rake up both the hurtful and the happy within you. In their shadow, you learn to accept the generosity of the rain that strengthens the roots and also accept its destructiveness that uproots everything in sight. And yet, the mountains they stand, in spite of what happens to them.

Empress Orchid, by Anchee Min

The book is quite an easy read; so easy that you can almost skip-and-read vast chunks of it and yet not miss much. The pacing is quite inconsistent too as there is no consistency in how time is taken into account in the book. Short events may take a long time at times and long events are dispensed off in a sentence or two. That said, it is not a problem that is significant enough to make the book any less enjoyable a read, which it is.

The period covered in the book is the troubled 1800s when the old Chinese empire is on the wane, and under pressure from Europe. It is not a good book to read if you are looking for a historical perspective on what happened in that time period, as that aspect of the story only serves as a background with only just enough detail to provide context to Orchid, the main character’s, story.

Both the subject and the book had great potential to have been turned into something substantial, but Anchee Min does not succeed in doing that. You do get a pretty decent account of what eventually turns Orchid into who she becomes eventually, but it all feels very hurried.


Sometimes, you get to experience something extraordinary that you have coveted all your life. Yet, in experiencing it, you so feel gladdened, so complete, that its mere existence is enough to make your life worthwhile, while possession becomes a matter of far less consequence. In a season of being relatively poor (not the same as poverty, which is far more serious a situation), that experience has left me richer than anyone else I know.

I can safely say that at this time in life, my sole valuable possessions are my beliefs. But, even beliefs are not things that can survive without the nourishment of validation in the best case scenario. and signs, in a lesser preferred scenario. In experiencing what I have been able to, I feel I don’t need any more validation in life that good exists and that good can happen, only if you give it a chance to happen.

And when it happens, on that rare occasion, it can be so perfect that it feels unreal. I have always thought that such an experience would always result in me wanting to grab on to it, make it mine and never let it go. Surprisingly, I find myself in a situation where I’m happiest to know that it exists and as long as it exists on its own free will, that is what matters and not whether it is mine or not.


An Interval

Recent times have been interesting, not because it has been reclusive in a manner of speaking —  I have always been that — but because it is such a departure from the familiar in practically everything else. A lack of control from an unwillingness to attempt it, over a variety of things, is scary; especially for someone who has spent a large part of his life attempting exactly that. This requires nothing short of blind faith in myself and in life that even in the worst storms, where a thing can’t be seen, I can stay true to my path.

Sometimes, the best escape from something is to run deep into that within yourself. It is crazy and extremely risky as the first thing that goes out of the window is objectivity. Secondly, there is always the risk that you won’t ever come out of it. Intentions are crucial here. If wallowing in something is all what you are looking for, you can easily wallow a lifetime on this path, which will be an unfortunate thing. If the intention is to know and face your own self in its crude, unvarnished and often unlikable self, there is no better path to be on. But it is a battle like nothing else you would have been through.

Chasing yourself down is tricky business. And, by yourself, I don’t mean what you feel. We all know what we feel at any given point in time — elation, sadness, bitterness, exhilaration — but we rarely know what lies behind those feelings and also how those feelings shape our worldview. Our thoughts regarding a feeling is more often partial than complete. In anger, we will process an event or an incident only to the exact extent where it bolsters the feeling that we are feeling at that moment. That way, we paint people we know as angels, demons and everything in between, depending on how it suits our purpose than often how they really are.

Once the necessary fortitude and the discipline is put into place, events and incidents often transform into a different picture. That which looked intentional and all about you often turns out to be unintentional and had nothing to do with you (yet, it was no less hurtful); that which looked to be a stroke of luck often turns out to have someone going out of their way to do something good for you or your own hard work; that which looked like a promise to yourself to never love or feel again often turns out to be a declaration of hurt and a convoluted manner of grieving.

For someone like me, doing that requires a certain degree of isolation. It is impossible to chase yourself down when you have spent a lifetime being a spectacular success at hiding behind others. It is also a crazy wild ride as I don’t honestly know what will eventually come out of it. But the first step towards finding out is to allow all of yourself to exist — the good, the great, the bad and the ugly — and it is strange that even in this world of over-sharing, how little we share of us, and our worst fears, with ourselves. We will delude ourselves, deny its existence and hope it all goes away.

What we need to understand is that those fears don’t ever go away if we don’t face up to them. Nor can we choose what our worst fears are. But we can certainly choose how and where we want to face them. That is the only choice life offers, but it is also probably the most important choice that we don’t often realize we have the power to make. For me, I believe, a life worth living lies on the other side of facing those fears. It may change everything I value and know for it can potentially re-frame my understanding of the world I live in and what role I have to play in it.

Till that is done, this is an interval, from almost everything else.

A Collector Of Moments

A grubby looking man, with a good number of his front teeth missing, tells his story in a raspy whisper, of a life led feeding others. His own, though, were few as he never stopped long enough; sometimes enjoying the shifting sands, other times chasing the waves and for a few months every year living in this splendid valley of green giving company to the gushing river down below, where we met him.

For a land teeming with of eateries of all kind, it was strange not to find, save one, that offered good food. Yet, his was the tastiest food we ever had, in a place where few would look and even fewer would eat. He told tales of stones he collected, the way he sold them; how he learned English and many other things, which the raspy whisper made it not at all easy to follow.

On a table shared with two ladies, one of them later spoke of hopping islands and countries, how they sought out solace in the unfamiliar and their lives on the road. With a couple next door, retired, greetings were exchanged every morning and queries were made about a party nobody looked keen on really attending. A connection is sometimes attempted over the most mundane of things.

The streets had a music of their own; rising up often, promising weary legs only the hope of an easier return in return. Between the gurgle of the omnipresent water channel, the roaring engine of a vehicle braving the uphill climb and the cacophony of the territorial disputes of the canines, common songs came up, private jokes were born and a journey of no interactions became a carnival of one.

That stretch which looked impossible to cover, was covered thrice, made possible the struggle to keep from falling off a trail nobody seemed to have taken in a while. The distance was nothing to write home about, but the accomplishment of having braved, trusted and having failed in a way, but to have won many times made it worthwhile.

The couple said they tried the same from the other side, but to the same end. A waterfall that was aimed for and missed, was reached another day on a cycle that slipped its chain at the first encounter with the day’s big uphill ride. Villages were crossed, a familiar face was narrowly missed as we crossed our paths unknowingly and left in a familiar cloud of dust.

A rain that was promised never came, the end of a long trek into the wild came, premature, by the threats of the same clouds that broke the promise of the rain. The path was steep and hard and it held a promise of a magical meadow in it. In the end, a compromise was reached, a part of the evening was spent watching anglers try their luck with a fly. The meadow was never reached.

Every journey is a collection of moments, of all this, gifted by the surroundings and by those who surround us. We may never have company, but we never travel alone; all we have to do is reach out and look, sometimes in the eyes of strangers and at times in the eyes of those who are not that unfamiliar.

Because all we have in the end, are just those moments.

The Expectation Of Magic

Most of my life I have thought that the distance between ignorance and self-realization was one of the hardest ones to cover. Going by the experiences of the past year or two, I have come to understand that that distance is one of the easier ones to cover, while the distance that lies between self-realization and self-actualization is far greater and far more difficult to cover. Knowing what you do wrong and knowing what needs to be done to right that wrong is very different from actually doing the right thing. And the expectation of magic is in expecting that now that you know what needs to be done, you will magically start doing that every time. Rather predictably, it is never that easy.

In a way, this is explained best by a pretty unlikely comparison. The expectation is that it works out beautifully like one of the best forwards in football working his way through the defence. It is literally poetry-in-motion, there is tremendous beauty to it and the finishing touch that deposits the ball in the net is the triumph of everything good over adversity. But, real life is much more like rugby, than football. The journey from self-realization to self-actualization is more like a journey from one try line to the other as an endless series of scrums. It is ugly, brutal, bloodying and every inch has to be earned and no quarter is given.

The hardest part in all of this for me is to remind myself to stand up for what I want in pretty much everything. If you have spent a lifetime having trouble clearly spelling that out, it forms a habit that is nearly impossible to get out of. And then starts the vicious cycle of putting yourself into situations that you don’t want to be in because you were never clear about what you wanted in the first place. Eventually, one day, a small stone is dislodged and the dam breaks; leaving everyone wondering how could such a small stone put and end to such a huge dam.

As it is often the case, at the time of occurring, even accidents happen in slow motion. From the time you see that vehicle heading towards you and the time of impact, time slows down considerably. There is nothing sudden about it. In life too there are almost no real sudden events. There is always a build up, but we choose to ignore it, hoping that it can either be suppressed or that the underlying causes will disappear with time. Unfortunately, neither happens most of the times and apparently-sudden-looking event winds up being a near-certainty.

So, the scrum is on for real and I am in the thick of it. It is immensely frustrating to see only the gain of half-an-inch or two after a whole bloody lot of effort. What is worse, sometimes you even lose a couple of inches in spite of your best efforts. And then there is the temptation to kick it all off and stomp off the field in rage. After 35-years of life, it should not come down to having to try so hard to accomplish something that a vast majority of humanity takes for granted.

And then you realize that there is no magic; there is only the expectation of it. And you wipe your brow, take your place in the scrum. Blood, sweat, tears once again; all for those precious few inches. And then you remind yourself, this is the life you chose. This is exactly how you want to live.


At some stage in life everyone has to choose the life they really want to live. Some make this critical choice rather early in life, others, like me, make it rather late in life. In leaving it that late, the choice builds into itself considerable grief for the person making it and also for those who love and care for that person. While I have been fortunate to be spared the considerably difficult problems like gender dystopia or questions related to sexuality, the confusion and volatility involved in getting to this point has been nothing short of significant.

What makes the choice harder, should it go against the accepted norm, is that the modern world is one that is working hard to eliminate the little nooks and crannies for people who don’t really fit into the mainstream. The 1970s at least had given the younger generation of that time the space to live and be something other than the mainstream. Sadly, the current millennium is so focused on its mono-cultural aspect that if you can’t be with the program, there is no corner of the world where you will be allowed to be.

From a very young age we all are taught what is the right way to live and the right things we have to aspire for. If you don’t learn it consciously, there is the subconscious indoctrination through family, society and culture. The happy picture of a family, complete with the smiling children, is held up as such an ideal that even within that picture we don’t allow for people to fail or accept failures or shortcomings as possibilities. By no means I’m looking to contend here that such a picture cannot be happy, but I certainly do contend that that is not the only happy picture possible.

For many years I have struggled with trying to accumulate those ten material things that are a key part of this happy picture. At different stages I did succeed in attaining various elements of it, but the complete picture always remained elusive and even acquiring those few elements were quite a struggle. Somehow, even when I have owned many of those things (and some of them of considerable value) I found that I derived not a great deal of pleasure from owning them, once the initial rush from the anticipation died down.

In the past few years I did give trying to fit in an honest shot and the eventual outcome is that I’m no good at it, not because I can’t fit in, but because I don’t want to fit into that picture. When I think about things that I want to do that makes me happy, it is always images of faraway lands, new people and things that I have not seen before that makes me want to move forward. For most of my life I have considered those images, and experiences of them I have had, as a diversion from the eventual return to the norm. And the norm was a the happy family life that we have been told since a young age is the right thing to do.

The truth, I realize now, is one that I have always held within, and trying to fit into the normal picture had become untenable. One of the things that very few people will ever genuinely tell you is that before anyone else, you have to be okay with whatever you really want to be, which should be the same as what you are trying to be. The lack of alignment between those two silently destroys the lives of many people as we try to fit into various pictures assigned to us by circumstances, people we care for and conditioning. Unfortunately, that lack of alignment has been a significant part of my life too.

The funny part in all of this that one day it struck me that I have very little of material value with me, but internally, I don’t feel the lack anything. That is not to say I am a miracle worker who needs no money to survive. I do, like everyone else, need money and I have been fortunate to always have enough to get by, but not having more of it has not bothered me much other than when my lack of alignment would give me a hard time that I don’t have as much as my peers do.

And, by all of that I don’t certainly mean to say that I don’t want more material things or I’ll never become any richer. The difference is that there are things that I am not willing to do to acquire those material things and should I acquire them, I would not feel all that attached to them anyway. When you have made do comfortably with five oranges, having fifty thousand oranges does not make you live any better. At least it does not make me live any better. That sort of mindset allows me to enjoy thoroughly what I have with me, and even when I don’t have them I don’t feel all that bad.

This moment is all that you have. Yesterday is a string of those moments past. Tomorrow is a string of those moments to come. If you cannot be happy with what you have this moment, it is very likely that both your yesterdays and tomorrows are unlikely to be the happiest you can be, even if you have everything a person could ever want. In that, what the Buddhists believe in — that death, or how you die, rather, is a reflection on the life you have lived, which is influenced little by all that you have had. You have nothing to fear in death if you have lived a life that is full and free.

So, one day I asked myself the question what is it that I really want in life? And the answer was that I don’t want to be a prisoner within myself. I wanted to feel a certain freedom that can only exist within myself. It is a kind of freedom that can never be taken away from a person even in the most secure and isolated of prisons. Somewhere, I do feel that I already have most of that freedom, what was missing was the responsibility in acknowledging it and owning up to it. And it is finally the time to own up to it.

To wind up this rather self-absorbed post I have to mention something that is still making me smile. For some reason I had left the “hello dolly” plugin from WordPress turned on in the site. I had been meaning to turn it off for a while, but never got around to doing it. It shows random quotes from the Louis Armstrong song and today it showed me this:

It’s so nice to have you back where you belong