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Coffeelosophy

Whiskey hued musings of a caffeinated mind

#Crossroads

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I stand outside; bare feet in my sprawling balcony,

A slight chill in the air; under the skies; so starry.

I see neon lights in the distance ever so clearly,

Like urban fireflies that buzz all night drearily.

A porcelain mug in my hand; my only companion; you see?

Its contents comfort me; sugarless Black Coffee.

A stray dog howls somewhere below me,

Vying for attention from a restless; sleepless city.

Solitude comes easily tonight; so surreptitiously,

Black velvet hues in the dark continue to engulf me.

I look into the distance and wonder; ponderously,

The thoughts in my head that I try to comprehend fully.

“Are we only slaves to our jobs and careers; perennially?”

“Does life hold more meaning than what we experience and see?”

Chasing dreams and passions; we often forget; we flee,

From the grave realities of life and the suffering; regularly.

In the continual pursuit of happiness we sprint lightly,

Tripping and falling; rising and dashing relentlessly.

There is more to life than just making; minting money.

Inflating bank balances and egos that in the long run seem funny.

What happened to living in the moment; cursorily?

What happened to appreciating what we have; presently?

Time flies by at the rate of knots; you see.

There’s more to every moment; unhinged and free.

There’s more to us and our lives; beyond the superficiality.

The mug in my hand looks back at me; empty.

The stray dog in the distance naps longingly; breathing heavily,

I see the first hint of a sunrise in the velvet vicinity,

As I table my pondering for another night of pensive activity.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

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What is it that we seek and chase?

So fervently the bar we raise…

Onwards we move in this dogged race,

To each their own; in a billion ways.

The pursuit of happiness; a relentless craze,

Moving pieces in life’s chess plays.

 

Days and weeks are blurs of time,

Penning the words to our futures’ rhyme.

So focused are we on tomorrow’s line,

That we forget about today; a nasty crime.

The pursuit of happiness has left us resigned…

…Tiptoeing over life’s many land mines.

 

A generation of posers and pretenders born,

As we try to keep up appearances; masks on.

Embracing materialism to often right our wrongs,

But all we want is some place to belong.

Perhaps the pursuit of happiness is just a ticking time bomb,

That bogs us down as time moves along.

 

The Machinations of Death

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Death. An unassuming five letter word that spawns a multitude of thoughts, emotions and perspectives from every single living individual. A biological construct that is a foregone conclusion…an indubitable inevitability…a consequence of a steady march with time as an eternal companion. Death.

It is fascinatingly intriguing to note how various personalities accept, approach and react to this eventual reality that lies in store for all of us existential beings on this planet we call home. At one end of the spectrum, some shun the morbidity of it all in an endeavour to focus on the present; ferociously chasing their dreams, goals and passions. The Activists. The other end of the spectrum is home to those who have perhaps fallen prey to the fear of the inevitable and whose actions or lack there of are significantly dictated by how much time they may have left. The Tragics. Amidst these two “factions” there lies another proverbial bracket of individuals who have encountered a near-death experience sometime in their life. Such an experience may either cause them to don the gauntlet of an activist or descend into the depths of resignation as a tragic.

Simply put, our time on this planet is finite. How we put this limited resource to use to the best of our abilities is upto us. The manner in which one approaches life based on a firm foundation of sacrosanct credos and constructs, courage and conviction, compassion and comprehension…often determines the kind of legacy one leaves behind when one’s “time is up”. Along the way; one will encounter challenges, stumble, tumble, overcome, overcompensate…fail, succeed, laugh, cry and introspect. All this while, time continues to tick away; bringing with it the baggage of age, decay and eventually; death.

What is death after all? 

A paradigm of life in itself. 

Alive and Kicking @ 25

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Twenty five is a curious age for more reasons than one. You’re in the process of forging a “sorted” career for yourself whilst attempting to strike a semblance of stability with regards to your personal life. Life appears to be moving through rough seas at the rate of knots as the winds of unpredictability rip through your sails and your hull combats the unrelenting waves of self-doubt; periodically. There are good days and bad. The sun appears to shine brightly on the horizon of opportunity one day and then inexplicably takes a sabbatical; leaving you to fend for yourself in the darkness fuelled by questionable decisions and pessimism. Rent is sure to take up a sizable chunk of your salary (it’s never going to be enough. You know I’m right). A weekend of binge drinking and heavy duty socializing (you know precisely what I’m referring to!) is sure to set your liver and bank balance back even further. You’re likely to own a vehicle – new or of questionable vintage; the “fuel guzzling efficiency” of which will leave you and your friends awestruck and wallet-light; perennially.

Your parents and relatives are forever wondering “Beta/beti life mein kya kar raha/rahi hai”. Responding to their myriad queries is akin to facing an intense interrogation by the FBI, CIA, KGB, RAW and ISI put together. For some of you, marriage might be on the anvil; whether you like it or not.

“Sharmaji ke bete ki shaadi hone waali hai!”

Okay.

“Tumhare cousin, Monu, ne Videshi ladki dhoond li hai US mein! Bola tha US chale jaate job ke liye.”

Cool.

“So, beta. Anybody special in your life currently?”

Yes. My new Bai who started work last Monday. She’s a miracle. She always switches the fan back on after sweeping the room when I’m asleep.

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Polite and impolite enquiries from family members will either leave you ROFL-ing or frustrated enough to head out for a potentially well earned drink (not the cheap Old Monk variety but since you’re now earning; bring on the “mehengi sharaab”). Then again, you’re in a similar position when seemingly everyone from your peer group is either getting engaged, married or procreating. Social media platforms at times like these are a strict “no-no” given the whirlpool of conflicting emotions that can rile up within you. On the one hand, you are happy for them and on the other, you might just be wondering what you’re doing with your life. Ex-boyfriends/girlfriends are getting married left, right and centre. You’re better off saving your sanity. Raise a toast and internally direct a “you poor soul, you have no idea what you signed up for!” thought at him/her. However, if said ex-better half is love lost; then sign up for the closest “Aashiqs Anonymous” support group. There are a plethora of options available for varying degrees of heartbreak.

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At twenty five; grappling with the daily dose of flux in itself can be a physically, mentally and emotionally draining undertaking. But, that’s perfectly alright. Life might be a rat race on many levels but it is critical to take a few steps back; periodically; in order to re-evaluate your course of action. It is not criminal to take your time to figure out what you really want in life. You will be better served engaging in that at this age rather than a few years down the line when you reach the point of no return. So, relegate the fear of failure or loss to the backburner and take a few calculated risks along the way. Of course, be wise to astutely gauge the Risk to Reward Ratio before making an intelligent call. There will always be critics and naysayers waiting to tear you down, every step of the way. Be mindful of their words, but don’t allow that to deter you. You know you’re better than that and always will be. Life was never meant to be the proverbial bed of roses. You are going to trip, stumble, fall, crash and burn at every blind alley. You just have to dust yourself down, cash in your insurance and get straight back onto that horse (open to interpretation!).

There’s more to life than just big-ticket corporate jobs and fat paychecks. A lot of us somehow, somewhere down the line, appear to forget that reality. Passion, happiness and satisfaction should never become forgotten commodities in our lives. Dream fervently. Plan meticulously. Travel extensively. Love passionately. Exercise discipline and moderation. Explore. Learn. Imbibe. Teach. Live.

I realize that it is always easier said than done. But, these are things well within your grasp and scope of action. All it takes is a modicum of initiative, courage and drive. On that note, let this be food for thought and my cue to sign off given the fact that my Dhobi is at the door.

Twenty five is an incredible time to be living and breathing. I urge you all to make the most of it; today, tomorrow (and until you’re twenty six, of course; when we shall be having a somewhat different conversation!).

A Dutch Encounter over Coffee!

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“Aaaare you lonesome tonight…?”, Elvis Presley crooned in the background; forlornly; as I sat with the remnants of my Café Latte for company at the Starbucks’ outlet in  South Mumbai; looking out through the windows – equally forlornly – at the rain pelting down on the potholed road outside. The invigorating aroma of freshly brewed Coffee wafted across the well appointed room; carrying with it promise and positivity; in stark contrast to the gloom that prevailed outdoors on this quintessentially wet Mumbai monsoon evening. Broken conversations between the handful of patrons present competed with the sounds of eager, overworked fingers pounding away on weary laptop keyboards. There was a palpable bustle interspersed with brief periods of inactivity where most folks took the liberty to kick off their expensive Loafers or up-market Heels; in the unconscious attempt to detach themselves from the conscious rigors of yet another working day. I sat, mindlessly fiddling with my Smartphone and playing with a couple of desiccated coffee beans, waiting for the torrential downpour to marginally abate…and that’s when I saw her.

“Katjaaa”, one of the over enthusiastic attendants behind the resplendent counter called out in his booming Marathi twang. A petite, Blonde haired woman dressed in a Tee Shirt and Jeans strode purposefully from the other end of the room to collect her order, the most enchanting smile playing across her glossed-up lips. I can’t remember what she had ordered as I was taken in by two things; her smile and her Tee Shirt that aptly stated “Trump is a Chump!”. She happened to see me out of the corner of her twinkling blue eyes and I instantly averted my gaze back to the blank screen of my Smartphone; curiously having forgotten my passcode all of a sudden. She thanked the attendant and walked up towards my table and politely asked me if she could join me as she waited for a friend of hers who was running late in this treacherous weather. I glanced up at her. The rain pounded on the pavement outdoors. My heart pounded against my chest indoors. I’m not quite sure what came over me in that instant but basic English words had mysteriously escaped from my vocabulary and into the swirling darkness outside. I racked my head for something witty to say and I came up with an absolute gem; straight from the depths of embarassment and idiocy. The gem in question was a hoarse “NO”. Yes, “no” is what I came up with. Good job, bud. Real smooth. Katja looked at me quizzically before almost embarking on a moonwalk back to her previous table. I realized my gaffe and quickly stood up; apologizing profusely, introducing myself and asking her to join me; eventually. Better late than never.

Katja Dubois from Amsterdam, Netherlands sat opposite me; trying to size up this seemingly nervous Indian bloke who wouldn’t stop touching his hair (I tend to do that a fair bit when I get conscious). “Your hair is fine!”, she declared with a disarming laugh; clearly bemused but also radiating an inexplicable warmth. That put me at ease. And, over the next hour we proceeded to strike up an engaging conversation about seemingly anything and everything under the sun. An Art Student, Katja was travelling across India; a country towards which she exuded a tremendous affection. Her knowledge about Indian culture, traditions, religions, history and mythology was truly astounding. I kept up with the conversation with the help of my trusted aide, Google Search, from time to time (I had miraculously recollected my passcode by then, so…). Geopolitics, international trade and finance were discussed with equal gusto. And, then came the clincher. “Tumhe Hindi aati hai?”, she asked me in her slightly accented version of my country’s national language. I had just recovered from her discourse on the current state of the European economy, having equally impressed her with my take on the same. Pleasantly surprised, I quizzed her on how she had managed to learn Hindi. As it turned out, Katja happened to be a major Bollywood buff and had taught herself the language watching many a film over the years! “Kya baat hai!”, I declared in abject and unconcealed admiration. My admiration was toned down a notch or two once she revealed her favourite “Actor” was Salman “Being Human” Khan. She stood up for “Bhai” like only his fans do and I was left shaking my head in bemusement. Realizing this wasn’t a battle I would win overnight, we exchanged numbers and the promise of keeping in touch moving forward. There was an incredible vibe about her and the fact that we had managed to strike it off so soon must have surprised the both of us.

“Your friend is really late!”, I remarked eventually after there seemed to be no sign of the seemingly impunctual gentleman. “I wasn’t actually waiting for anyone!”, she said most nonchalantly and gave me the wickedest wink I’d ever seen. My eyes widened in surprise as I broke into a “you got me!” laugh. I realized the rain had stopped quite a while earlier; the silence outside defeated by our incessant chatter over yet another steaming cup of coffee. I got up to beg my leave as I also needed to pick up some kanda and lauki on the way back home for my Mom. “Aaaare you lonesome tonight…?” picked up in the backdrop once again (These guys need to refresh their playlist. Just saying). We exchanged a couple of engaging looks as I hastily picked up my weathered laptop bag before giving Katja a warm hug. I could smell the perfume on her porcelain skin as stray strands of her hair glistened magically under the overhead lights. We broke away and I made my way to the exit, my mind a veritable whirlpool of muddled thoughts. “Kabhi alvida na kehna!”, I heard a cheery voice ring out from behind.

I looked back one last time at her before breaking into the widest smile and walking into the night; tripping over a pothole barely illuminated by the flickering streetlamp.

 

Let’s Get Physical!

img_4054They say that once you get entrapped in a rut it often takes a Herculean effort spurred by a combination of internal motivation and external impetus (criticism, soothsaying or what have you) to help you snap out of it. That is precisely what many of us fall into in today’s hypercompetitive environment where work (read careers that you may not always like) actually becomes “worship”. The working professional’s life seemingly revolves around stiff deadlines, hectic working hours, endless presentations, team reviews and client meetings. Consequently, the haloed concept of “work-life balance” doesn’t just take a backseat, but gradually gets erased from the working man’s lexicon altogether. Set in this backdrop, holistic health and wellness becomes a lesser priority…and dangerously so. The weekends (or whatever is left of them) appear to be the only time where you might get the chance to let your hair down; usually engaging in activities that seldom add much value to your actual wellbeing.

A few weeks ago I happened to find myself in that exact same predicament and rapidly realized the toll it was taking on me physically, mentally and emotionally. Apart from the gradual gain in weight, my biorhythm was out of sync and I was battling fatigue for no apparent reason. For someone who has always enjoyed physical activity and the outdoors, I gathered that I was metamorphosing into someone I had vowed never to turn into, back in the day – the quintessential corporate slave with precious little personal time. The clarion call for a critical lifestyle change had been in the works for a while but I had seemingly been ignoring the same; and detrimentally so. The final nail in the coffin came when I struggled to fit into my favourite pair of Jeans one evening. Five minutes of huffing, puffing, stretching, lunging, wincing and cringing had reduced me to a breathless heap on my crisply made bed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!

I ended up changing into a far more comfortable pair of tracks and proceeded to stay home that evening; determined to somehow find a way back onto the road to redemption. What followed was a night comprised of “Fight Club”, “300” (for the umpteenth time) and a slew of fitness related motivational videos on YouTube. I went to bed early that night after striking some unflattering bodybuilding poses before my stained mirror with Rocky’s “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the backdrop and vowing to hit the gym with aplomb the very next day. And, hit the gym I did.

8755041502_e1905aa4d8I walked into my gym, post office, much to the surprise of my long-time trainer who had seen my commitment to the cause waiver on multiple occasions previously. Honey Singh’s “Brown Rang” (not the ideal workout track by any stretch of imagination) blared from overworked, bass-deprived speakers as I confidently strode towards one of the recently vacated Treadmills (pounded upon relentlessly by an over eager Aunty) and broke into a brisk run. Five minutes in, I was gasping for Oxygen and clutching my back in agony. I was faced with two choices. Either I could get off, bum out and relax in the Sauna. Or, I could power and grit through the initial discomfort. I gallantly chose to do the latter much to the chagrin of my revolting knees and ankles (a full blown bodily mutiny was now on my hands). And, power through I did.

It has been a month since I hit the gym in earnest on that “momentous” day. I have stuck to my regimen, dropped a satisfying 8 kilograms and continue to build muscle mass at an even more satisfying rate. Patience and persistence become the keystones to improved and sustainable physical prowess and performance. I feel a lot better about myself; not just because the results have been favourable but also because I have managed to stay true to the cause this time around and plan to continue doing so; sore, complaining muscles or not.

health_fitness_myths_01I am not here to extol the multiple virtues and advantages of physical exercise. For that is something everyone is familiar with. The idea is to wake you up to the reality that given our existing lifestyles, it becomes extremely imperative to invest sagaciously in your health. Nobody is asking you to transform into the next Mr. Universe, Tour de France Champion or UFC super-achiever. But pursuing some sort of physical activity, adhering to a relatively disciplined diet and getting enough sleep can go a long way in aiding your overall wellbeing. Essentially, the sooner this realization dawns across the murky horizons of ignorance or apathy, the better. All it requires is (reinforced) concrete commitment, ironclad will and balls of steel (figuratively, of course); the building blocks for a potentially healthy tomorrow. The beauty of it all is that once your mind and body get aligned to the rigors of a more disciplined lifestyle, it will crave the same when not supplied with generous doses periodically. That is what conditioning is all about. Begin with the simplest of fitness goals and scale up from there gradually. You’ll be surprised how your body responds to that persistent call.

I might be getting a little carried away with this part-personal experience, part-sermon narrative; but that’s perhaps because I have just returned from the gym and can now comfortably fit right back into those Jeans that had rallied me to embark on this path in the first place! Sometimes, it is the accomplishment of the simplest and perhaps, silliest of goals that give you the greatest highs. True story.

The Hurt Locker

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There are fewer things in life that cause more hurt, pain, consternation and disappointment; in unequal measure; than heartbreak. The simple act of being emotionally attached to and dependent on “someone special” can at once become your greatest strength and debilitating weakness. Life is seemingly hunky-dory and a bed-of-roses until cracks begin appearing in one’s relationship; initially fortified by trust, loyalty, understanding and of course, love. That is when human nature’s characteristic “fight” or “flight” instincts are usually triggered. Does one stick around to mend fences and consolidate on the progress made thus far? Or; does one save time, effort, energy and heartache that is usually invested in such “salvage missions”? The above conundrum assumes a more frantic hue when those cracks gradually or expeditiously become gaping chasms filled with misunderstanding and blame-throwing. What does one do in a situation like that?

There’s one school of thought that vociferously yet ambiguously maintains that you ought to stick by your partner through rough weather and calm if you believe it is “worth it”. That appears to be sage advice on the face of it. However, arriving at a conclusion such as that is a personal challenge and remains highly subjective. Factors such as the duration of the relationship in question, past dating history and current life priorities ought to be taken note of; amongst others. There’s another school of thought that encourages you to walk away from it all as perhaps no good is liable to come from putting up a dogged resistance when the writing is on the wall. This might smell of a defeatist mentality tinged by pessimism but who today has the luxury to invest so much emotional energy into something that might crumble at the next bus stop? Simply put, it becomes a case of exiting the scene with minimal damage; emotional and otherwise.

Either way, with some amount of emotional investment in any relationship comes an undeniable degree of vulnerability. Some would deem that element to be one of the fundamental blocks on which any potentially healthy and sustainable relationship is founded. However, being vulnerable is always a double-edged sword. It opens one up to a plethora of possibilities that can tug at your heartstrings, this way and that. But, does that mean that one should shun the idea of letting one’s guard down to an extent where it comes back to haunt them somewhere down the line? I don’t think so. However, whilst saying that, I can imagine how recurring incidents and failed relationships can majorly deter an individual from “putting themselves out there”.

The bottomline is no relationship in the history of relationships is smooth sailing. Love can be an intoxicatingly heady cocktail that makes you feel on top of the world one night and wakes you up with a crippling hangover the next morning. Heartbreak and hurt is inevitable. It is an “occupational hazard” one signs up for when entering the haloed arches of a potentially long term relationship. Flaws and faults shall abound. Acceptance, compromise and forgiveness become the cornerstones of a realistic relationship scenario. The inevitability of it all makes it pointless to deny the same or run away from ground reality. So, go ahead. Take a chance. It’s perfectly alright to make that ultimate leap of faith. As with anything in life, you win some and you lose some. However, don’t allow the fear of failure or heartbreak to get in the way of something that “could have been”. That is a regret you do not want to have down the line.

I am hardly an expert in this arena. For that matter, none of us are. It is the constant cycle of making mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them that makes life the fascinating journey of glorious uncertainties that it is; heartbreak or no heartbreak.

 

Independent India: 70 Years Young

At the break of dawn; 70 years ago,
An enslaved nation finally awoke; centuries too slow.
This was our “tryst with destiny”; they said,
It was finally time to bed the colonial demons to bed.
The promise of a new tomorrow beckoned and how,
Our leaders further promised to take us farther; they vowed.
The machinations of nascent democracy slowly took root,
A chaotic blend of relevant voices and irrelevant power struggles; too boot.
We trundled along like a train in the dark,
Silently chugging away into the wilderness; stark.
A mixed economy steeped in bureaucracy…
Corruption and inefficiency; only adding to our fallacy…
Poverty and illiteracy became inseparable friends,
The common man suffered finding means to his ends.
Where was the promise that once rang so true?
Were we in danger of becoming a “failed state” too?
Perhaps; or perhaps not…
For India found a way to turn things around,
The promise of yesteryear; today; again does abound.
But yet there remain forces; internal to our land,
That continue to blur boundaries between what we know and understand.
Forces that threaten the foundation of our being,
Unleashed by selfish entities; clearly hard of seeing.
That does hold us back from what we can be,
But isn’t that the case with almost every country?
A region that polarises; replete with paradoxes and contradictions,
A land begotten with developmental afflictions…
“There’s more to her than what meets the eye”,
Look closely; and India is guaranteed to surprise.
For few gave us a chance to get this far,
Doubters and detractors who smirked at our once sinking star.
A journey of a billion souls; a million miles…has only just begun,
There’s some way to go before we take our place under this sun.
Together we have, we continue to and we will…
Chase our collective dreams all the way up the hill.
Unity in diversity tugs at our souls; yet binds them together,
Helping us tide over through the roughest of weather.
70 years young and now pursuing glory,
Let’s all be a part of this incredible growth story.

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