Everybody hurts

So for a long while now I have been travelling to work and back in an Uber. Take that Gen Y!

My usual tendency is to doze off as soon as I am in the cab. But when I don’t do that, I observe. People commuting in their cars or the cabs. Watching them, this song by REM comes to my mind.

People don’t look happy. They don’t look stress free. They don’t look optimistic. They don’t smile. Even if there is more than one person in the car, the conversations don’t seem to be happy conversations. The ones who are not driving, they are glued to their screens. This is across all kinds of cars. From small car to SUV to luxury sedans.

I know driving in Delhi can be very stressful (why do you think I don’t drive anymore!) but this look on people’s faces is not about stressful driving.

We don’t seem to be happy. We don’t seem to be content. We look angry. We look agitated. We look lost. We look disenchanted. Why is it so?

Is it because we have far too many expectations from life? Is it because we have set goals too high for ourselves? What is lacking in our lives that is causing this? Is this only while commuting (when we think we are all alone) or is it all the time? Or when we are with people, we tend to put up a facade.

I had watched the video for this song “Everybody hurts” long back. But this morning I watched it again. Realised that we could very well put images of people on the road in Delhi into the video and it will fit in.

Come on people. I am as stressed as you are but I don’t let it pull me down! Ok so I don’t smile much (been told often enough) but it doesn’t mean am not optimistic about future. Doesn’t mean I am not content. So go ahead. Get that happy look.

Watch the video (courtesy YouTube) and see what I mean.


Dictionary meaning hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen”

And that by itself is a trap! Hope is a trap because it has feeling in it. It has expectation in it. It has desire in it.

All of that totally irrational. Doesn’t involve head but only heart.

In our culture we are full of such dichotomies. We have been told for long enough “fal ki apeksha mat kar “. Desire is bad and yet we are also told that we must have a positive outlook towards future. Isn’t positive outlook based on hoping for a better future? And hope has expectation and desire in it?

How does any of this ever work?? I live a life without expectations and am berated for it. I have desires which I know will never be fulfilled so I bury them into an abyss of my mind. And yet there is another part of my brain that hopes. Hopes for many things to happen. It’s in constant conflict with the part that doesn’t have expectations and desires.

When I say I don’t have expectations, I get a weird look. When I say I have desires, I get weird look.

So why do people hope? What is it that they really want? And why do people give up hope?

I think it is a mix of the past we had and the current we are leading. It makes us desire for more. It makes us desire for something better (better is relative). It makes us desire for a transformation. None of it ever happens of course but we keep hoping.

This post comes from a mind that is tired of hoping. This time I am going to let the part of the brain that doesn’t believe in hope, to win.

Another Monday, Another Flight

The routine is down to almost perfection.

Enter the airport, get the boarding card, fidget at the baggage drop. Head for security and then it becomes an art. Taking the stuff out to put in the tray. Both hands operating to take the stuff out. And then put it back in. Unlike George Clooney, we don’t have the option to choose the queue to stand behind the right person for quick check through.

It is interesting to watch people. Earlier post was about people in the aircraft, this one is about people at the airport.

The ones flying for the first time or very new to flying. They have this look of uncertainty about them. Fumbling with stuff at the check in. Observing what others do at the security check. Still missing out on putting the wallet and phone in the tray. But soon they will become experts too. And it really is a wonder and nice too. Everyday new people are taking flight.

Then there are the suits. Always busy and on calls even at 5 in the morning. How much work do they do!! Consulting, marketing, sales or whatever… always the hustle. And yeah, they move around with the feeling that the suit sets them apart from the common people around them.

The bags and backpacks too make for an interesting story. Labels get defined here. It is no more the in thing to carry the backpack with the brand of the laptop across it. Now it’s all about practical stuff. The suitcase and the backpack or the bag match. They reek of people on the move. No time for check in bags. And yes, if they have time between check in and flight taking off, laptops come out promptly.

Amidst all the chaos, there will be some on a leisure trip. You look at them and you know. The clothes, the slow pace, browsing through shops. Books in hand. Envy them!

But coming back to the suits. They make me wonder. They are so focused on work and always have so much to do, that I wonder if something is wrong with me. I don’t have enough work or am I too laid back. And yeah I don’t wear suit or jacket for that matter. Why am I not on constant calls or sitting at Starbucks with laptop open. Is this about ambition? They have it and I don’t? Have I missed the bus by not being like them. Am I the exception to the way this whole corporate world functions.

Sure I have the hustle of life. But there is a time and place for everything. Making the most of every minute is not packing it with work. Am somewhere between the suits and the leisure travel people. Once am off the flight, I am all work. I will rather be bleary eyed post the flight due to the sleep I had rather than having worked my ass off at the airport and in flight. If reaching the top asks for these sacrifices, nah… don’t want to make those sacrifices!

One life. It has to mean lot more than the constant treadmill. One might argue that because I have reached a certain point in life and hence talking this rubbish. But I was always like his. Even when I was climbing up the so called corporate ladder. People get a sense about me that I don’t do enough but hey if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting at the airport and typing this right?

I have always liked Mondays. And for past couple of months, I have also liked these Monday morning flights. An added bonus to the super charged Mondays. But all that once I land 🙂

Between “Boarded” and “Landed”

These two texts that are sent out, bookend every flight we take.

Between these two texts, the ones they were sent out to, go on with their lives, while we hurtle through the skies at 35,000 feet (15,000 for a propeller aircrafts in which I have travelled a lot lately).

After the “boarded” message, unspoken thought with the sender and receiver is the thought of “landed” message. No one thinks about it but it’s always there in the back of our heads.

So what do we do and think about while our life is in hold till we reach our destination and while the life 35,000 below is unfolding at its own pace?

The busy ones whisk out there laptops as soon as the seat belt sign is turned off. Spending time productively is what they would call. I will say it is terrible time management if you haven’t been able to finish the work and choose to work while sitting cramped and bumping your elbows into fellow passengers.

The ones on holiday are the boisterous lot. Hell yes they want the world within that steel tube to know they are heading for a holiday! Especially the kids.

The other boisterous lot are the group from one organisation who will talk about Office gossip. No please I don’t want to know any of that!

There are also those who even after sending the “boarded” message will continue to talk over phone and let everyone in the vicinity know how important they are. Also the ones who whip out their phones and are the first ones to send out the “landed” message.

Then there are people like me. Always the aisle seat. Always doze off during take off and landing and a few times in between, depending on the duration of the flight. Headphones on my ears shutting off all conversation and the world around me. One sense taken care off (hearing), I read so that I don’t have to make eye contact or indulge in conversation (second sense taken care off too). I must add here that I have fear of heights and also partially claustrophobic (hence the aisle seat!). I use the music and reading and sleeping to keep the fear away. 🙂 When I am not doing any of that, I observe people around me, the cabin crew going on with their work wearing a smile and care that is trying very hard to be genuine.

And there is a lot to think too while we are alone. Sometimes the thoughts are pleasant. Anticipation about what’s waiting at the other end of the journey. Thinking about the people who are waiting for our “landed” message. Other occasions the thoughts are disconcerting. The purpose of the travel is perhaps the reason or thoughts about the person you hope would be waiting for the “landed” message but isn’t.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes on while we are up there but most of it is in our head. People who don’t feel important in their life below, have a chance to show off to this small audience they are important in the world below. The ones who are boisterous are actually very insecure.

The ones like me, have put the time on hold. At peace with ourselves.

Which one are you?


Unlike festivals and anniversaries, birthday is a very different day. Everything associated with this day changes every year. Or every few years. We travel a path from so looking forward to the day to so not looking forward to it.

When we are young, the anticipation starts few months before the day. The gifts, the celebration, who to invite, the cake, the food, the games… we look forward to all of that. As we grow older, the number of invitees becomes selected. The closest friends.

Even more older, it’s the college group. The friends who want to give you a surprise party. Same when we start working. The HR sends the customary mail.

Somewhere along the line, we get into relationships, get out of them. Sometimes this happens between two birthdays. In a relationship, two days that become important your day and your partner’s day.

Kids happen and there are more birthdays. Somewhere along the line, all that associated with your own day starts to diminishes. You spend more and more time prepping for birthdays of others in life.

Also the dread (?) of growing old starts to creep in. From arrogance of youth to fear of end, the day for you is back to being celebrated by people around you. The way it was when you were young. But now there is no anticipation.

I know it’s a very depressing look at such a special day but hey, it’s the truth isn’t it? In this whole process of growing old, we are so focused on the end that at some point we stop enjoying the journey…

As you would have guessed, yes it’s my birthday and am not depressed because I never worry about the end. I look at all the moments that I have had. The good ones, the not so good ones. The ones that made me happy and the ones that left an ache. They have all been part of my journey. And I wouldn’t want my life to be any other way 🙂

The suitcase life

To all those who live the suitcase life, why don’t you share your experiences. What follows is my take:

For last couple of months, I am back to living out of a suitcase. It’s almost a decade and half back that I used to do this.

Back then I was obviously lot younger. Therefore, things were lot different than they are now.

Airport lounges, aircrafts, hotel lobbies, coffee shops and of course the hotel rooms. Life now revolves around these areas. In the past there used to be night outs almost every night while travelling. Not so much now. And this perhaps is the biggest difference that leads to loneliness while travelling.

While waiting for the flight, sitting alone for breakfast or dinner, spending time alone in the claustrophobic hotel rooms (the rooms are not small but the walls do seem to close in), the loneliness gets to me.

It is strange that I don’t usually talk even when I am with people close to me. I have been called a snob, reticent, cold and bereft of emotions. But I always feel comfort in the fact that I have people around me that I can talk to when needed. Does sound a bit selfish, doesn’t it? So it shouldn’t bother me when I have no one to talk to when I travel… right? But bother it does.

I have started looking for ways to keep myself busy. The walking up and down while waiting for the flight to be announced, keeping up with my step count (did 2500 steps today while waiting), I smile and strike up random conversations with people. That guy who is also walking. The person serving coffee. Guy at the bar. Chef at the coffee shop. Person serving my food. People at the reception desk of the hotel. The cab guy.

Hitting the hotel gym on a regular basis (sometimes in the morning and evening as well), watching stuff downloaded from Netflix and amazon prime, music, books, those few minute calls back home in the morning and at night.

There are people who envy this lifestyle. There are people who tell me am lucky to get so much of “me” time. But trust me, it isn’t fun.

Travelling is fun and I do enjoy travelling. Cities and people in those cities, one can learn a lot about what’s happening in the world just by observing them. But the heavy baggage of loneliness, I guess that’s something I didn’t sign up for.

Sailing away

The day has come. As it comes pretty much in every household in this country.

From the time the child is born, all our energies get focused on the child. The world starts to revolve around her. And if the child happens to be a daughter, she connects with us like nobody else can.

From the time my daughter was born, the first time I held her in my arms, the first time she smiled at me, I knew that she is the centre of my universe.

She had the capability to turn me into a jelly. I could never say no to her for anything. Her smile every morning used to brighten up my day.

Watching her grow, and yet be the same little girl is an experience I will never trade for anything.

Last one year (12th!), was extremely stressful for her and for me. The choices she made in terms of what she wants to do with her life, I stood by her. Through all the stress of Boards and all the entrance exams, she never lost that smile. She was the sunshine of the house.

I would sit till late in the night while she studied. I went with her for every entrance exam. I held her while she cried with disappointment when she didn’t make it through couple of entrance exams. I heard her crying with joy over phone, when she did make it through one of the colleges she want to be at.

All the preparation, all the fights (yes we fought too but they never lasted very long), all the dreams, all the hopes, all the insecurities, I tried to be her pillar of strength. I kept my emotions in check so that she could let them all out.

And then it all boils down to this day. From today, she joins her college in a different city.

She will be lifting the anchor and be ready to set sail.

She will create a void in my life that will be very hard to fill.

There will be no morning smile or a hug anymore.

The only contact (while she is away), will be the calls.

Life will be tough. Waking up in the morning and getting ready, without the cheerful smile is going to be so tough.

She will get a group of friends and perhaps even the guy who will become her new anchor.

I hate Indian culture. It makes us so closely knit. Makes us believe that the reason of our existence is to bring lives into this world, nurture them and then watch as they move on with their lives. Why are meant to create such strong bonds?

I will be at her orientation today. And tomorrow I will leave. This perhaps will be the real cutting of the umbilical cord.

I only hope that in times to come, through all her life, she will always turn to me when she is most happy and most stressed in her life. I hope I have taught her well enough how to handle all that life throws at her.