...and new beginnings. [Ok yes, it’s a little over a week old already, but it’s the thought that counts :p ] Speaking of new years and new beginnings and all that, historically it’s always been the birthdays that give me a serious case of introspection. I suppose the idea that you’ve aged one whole year and suddenly you’re filling in a new, alien number in all those age-boxes in forms is more hard-hitting for some reason. But this past year has definitely been something special.
As a friend of mine put it, it's been a year of massive ups and downs. Thankfully not so many downs. Or perhaps I’m just learning to deal with the turbulence better in my life. With age comes wisdom, patience, a few grey hairs and floral pants. The last year has been a lot of fun, a lot of learning and a lot of hard work. Most of my energy has been spent at work and also at a new project I am initiating. I suppose there are few joys greater than watching an idea take root and infect an entire workforce with raw energy. I have been lucky – to have experienced a period of great change and optimism, to have the resources to capitalise on it, to be supported by a dedicated and passionate team who share a singular vision, and most importantly, to have the strength of mind to quieten any self-doubts that do surface from time to time.
That’s an up.
Another up was a major news I received just before Christmas. This time it was a call from the US interrupting a long chat with a good friend, informing me that I’ve been admitted into a top business school in Philly. It’s been weeks since I received the news and I’m still pinching myself to convince myself it’s for real. There was a time when I looked at getting an MBA like a ‘get out of jail free’ card, and grasped for it like a drowning man gasps for air. Looking back, and what I started out with and where I’ve come since then, I am glad I didn’t go in for it back then in that frame of mind. I’m finally choosing to go because I want to, and not because I feel I need to. It’s a good feeling to leave feeling that you’re not running away from anything, but that you’ve moved on and need a fresh perspective and a new experience. A new learning.
So there’s another up.
Coming to the not-so-peachy aspects... this year’s seen a lot of em, massive downs. For some reason, I’ve been more rattled by ‘world events’ than ever before. Especially the latest horror that unfolded in Mumbai. For the first time I couldn’t convince myself that things will be fine tomorrow and everything would be back to normal. It wasn’t about the around-the-clock/in-your-face news coverage, or the blatant audacity of the attacks, or even the crippling realization that no one is safe anywhere anymore. Something fundamentally had altered, and as everyone all over the world changed their facebook status, their gtalk status, updated their blogs and the murmur of horror, confusion, outrage and hurt rippled through the collective consciousness, for the first time I saw – in myself, as much as in others – a slight pause and introspection before launching into action. I felt the need to process this information and that it was important I not analyse it, categorise it and stash it away some way in a corner of my mind behind a label and a point-of-view. Something had jolted the individual out of the usual mob-mentality, out of the numb everydayness of a crowded existence, out of the chalta-hai attitude, and into something more personal and more immediate than ever before. I didn’t blog about it when it happened, and I’m still struggling to find the right words or even the right emotional response. The only thing I can say with any real certainty is that as far as downs go though, that definitely was a low spot for a lot of people.
Other downs this year... breakups. A more than usual share of unions and breakups peppered the year. Much laughter, love, celebrations and nostalgia at the weddings of dear friends. Much sadness and heartbreak as well as I’ve watched the people I’m close to grapple with relationships, marriages, time-differences, communication-breakdowns, work stress and god knows what else. I’ve watched as my friends, the ones who’ve come from happy families and walked into happy marriages with the perfect soul mate, came face to face with doubt, confusion and frustration. People who’ve seen their parents enjoy a long blissful union, struggling with their own unions and asking themselves after the deed is done... what now? I’ve watched my friends – the ones who ‘made it’, the big job, the fancy paycheck, the trophy husband/wife – searching desperately for context, some kind of understanding of the strange new situation they were in. I guess the world’s changed so much from when our folks got married that we need to find our own grounding and the old yardsticks have lost their meaning in this brave new world. Especially when one is confronted with the reality of a ‘long-distance’ marriage with no end in sight to the temporariness of the arrangement, no close-knit family or support system and no reference points to learn from.
Breakups are hard. And I guess it doesn’t matter how many you go through, it really never gets easier and it’s the same pain all over again. I didn’t think I’d go and get involved again, or breakup again, but life always has a funny way of handing you a winning lottery ticket and then kicking you in the balls doesn’t it?
Another down – which doesn’t actually qualify as a down since it’s really the lack thereof that I am bemoaning – is that I didn’t have the time I wish I did to work on more er creative projects. A creative project, anything wild and mad and completely ridiculously challenging, has always had the effect of a full service check up. Theatre, story/script-writing, whatever it be, it had always served as a creative outlet and vent for pent-up energies for me. Plus, when you’re working hard on a problem, it’s great to be able to switch off, take on a diametrically opposite project – one that requires a completely different set of skills – and tackle it. If anything it leaves you fresher and more energised to head back to what you were doing in the first place. The beauty with that kind of challenging creative work is that it really forces you to push your mind to work in ways that you normally don’t exercise in the context of everyday existence. If real life is about societal conformity and protocol, creative work has been the exact opposite and rejection of this view.
I suppose the word I’m looking for is stagnation. Not in a general sense, but in a very specific meaning, I have fallen into a creative blackhole and definitely not been doing the kind of work that I truly love and enjoy. But then again... who knows what the New Year brings? One can always hope.
In the meanwhile, what I’ve really been enjoying are the trips my work (and not-quite-work!) sees me taking. Two trips this year, one to London – a quasi-work trip – and another, a New Year’s celebration in Bali. Both remarkable and both extremely cathartic in their own way.
I love London. It is without a doubt the best city in the world. First of all, I absolutely love how design is so integrated into their culture. Whether it’s simple stuff like ‘mind the step’ signs placed discreetly but visibly at eye-level and well-designed without screaming from the rest of its settings, or stumbling upon a Banksy graffiti, or art in the underground or just everyday people and the things they wear or carry. There is always something fresh and new to discover. I suppose I like it so much because it’s one of those fire-and-life cities that’s constantly evolving in front of your eyes. Not only does London have an extremely evolved sensibility but you can actually see new influences emerging and adding to the fray. It’s nice to be in a city that’s organized and clutter-free but with a strong identity and a real design aesthetic. I didn’t used to notice design as an element in culture much before, but even then, I was always spending hours in London bookstores and I do have a soft corner for British authors. And it’s precisely for the same reason – I always happen to stumble across some quirky and offbeat rare jewel of a book while browsing through a dusty bookstore.
Bali meanwhile was amazing; more so because I really had not expected it to be so. What I thought would be a regular sun and sand resort-type vacation and drunken revelry turned out to be much more. First of all, I was very pleasantly surprised at how clean things were. It sounds like condescendence but after travelling to Thailand I hadn’t expected such a pleasant change. Secondly, and more importantly, I hadn’t realised exactly how culturally rich they were – from heritage sites to indigenous crafts. It truly was an insight into a highly developed culture, even if it was only a short trip. I hope I get the chance to go there again. Another place I want to revisit is South Korea. Again for the same reason – there’s a country that completely altered my preconceived notions of it, however feeble. Again, very culturally rich and very evolved and design-oriented.
Another major incident, perhaps something that can’t really be neatly classified under ups or downs, is something that happened and stirred up a lot of soul-searching and introspection earlier this year. I lost a friendship, perhaps the confidence and support of the one person closest to me. It took months of hurt and agonizing self-analysis before I finally achieved closure on my own. I suppose it was exceptionally hard for me because what reference points does one draw upon in dealing with the grief of a breakup or disintegration of a friendship? It was eye-opening at any rate to have arrived, after much pain and thought, at the realization that despite talks of absolute rights and wrongs, even the closest of friends have different underlying belief systems. And this core system of self-governance dictates how we respond to one another. In events like that, protocol really doesn’t help one navigate through the complexities of human relationships. In situations like that, I guess pain and hurt become just a waste of emotional reserve, and the sooner one realises this, the sooner one moves on.
So there we have it. Ups and downs, big news and no news, periods of stagnation and intense activity... the year certainly has whizzed by and not without leaving its share of scars and battle-wounds. I hadn’t meant to make this an entire blogspot about the past year... but what the heck :)
Happy New Year – belated greetings and suchlike. Here’s hoping for much fun, laughter, success and madness in the coming year.