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On Comfort Zones

Comfort zone:
noun
1. a situation where one feels safe or at ease
Everyone has that comfort zone somewhere. It’s just that tried and tested thing that is guaranteed to put your nervousness to rest, because, hey, you got this. No matter what happens or what you go through, there’s that one thing that you know you’re good at. Nothing can ever take that away from you.
Personally, I don’t like comfort zones.
While they might seem comforting to some, the only thing I can see them as is stifling. There are so many things to do in this world, the list goes on and on and on. By establishing yourself as superior in just one, or a few, of those millions of things, you’re actually just limiting yourself.
You might be terrified of heights, but unless you gather the courage to climb to the top of a mountain, you’ll never know first-hand how clean and crisp the mountain air feels as it rushes in and out of your lungs. Unless you jump into an ocean, the only exotic fish you will ever see will be in pictures or captivity. Maybe I’m the only one who NEEDS to know everything there is to know, but it’s not a bad need to have.
For instance, you could be a natural at pottery, but because you’ve never even tried it, you wouldn’t ever know. Ever. This might sound like something someone with a mild case of OCD might say, but isn’t it scary to not know these things?
And this is so much more than pottery. You could spend your entire school life studying for engineering, never having considered anything else. What if you were to try out something in a business field and discover that you love it, but ten years later, when you’re only qualified to be an engineer? Of course, it’s never too late to have a realization, but sometimes it can be hard to act upon it.
When people ask me why I bother reading Harvard Review when there’s a biology test in a few days, I find it difficult to make them understand. Yes, I love biology, and yes, it’s my comfort zone. But that should not mean that it’s all I ever do! Having a comfort zone and knowing that it’s always going to be there isn’t a bad thing at all. After all, the rule of thumb in this world is to always do what you enjoy, what you’ve been consistently good at, and only then will you truly succeed. Many people live perfectly wonderful lives within the safety net that they’ve only strengthened for as long as they can remember. But nets break, and no matter how tightly woven yours is, if you’ve only got one, you run the risk of it falling out from under your feet. You don’t need to do things only so that they help secure your future, but at the same time, you’re the one who has to live that future. Do you really want to place all your bets on that one net? If you’re completely sure, then by all means, go ahead.
But if the slightest of doubt creeps into your mind, if the ‘maybe there are other interesting things out there’ has occurred to you, then you need to act on it. Even if it doesn’t give you a shiny new utopian life, at least you’ll know. At least you won’t think, fifty years from now, that maybe, just maybe, you could’ve had it better.
Back to myself, anyone who knows me will tell you that my dancing skills are non-existent. With great embarrassment, I myself have admitted that when I dance, it’s akin to a giraffe on steroids. And I’m not kidding. However, that doesn’t mean I’m averse to being, well, a dancing giraffe, when I’m alone, or with people I’ve known for ages. It’s just a well-kept secret.
Having said this, I naturally cursed myself when my hand moved of its own accord when volunteers for a dance in a school play were asked for. Sceptical as I was about the sudden bout of confidence, I didn’t object to my name being added to the list. It was only when we were asked to try out a few moves in front of everyone that it sunk in, and I panicked internally. I vowed to somehow come up with a reasonable excuse to get out of this, but something (I still can’t put a finger on it) made me hesitate, and I went with the flow, let my name be where it was.
I don’t know what I’m going to do when it comes to actually performing. But I need to find out, whether the outcome is good or bad. After all, I cannot possibly tell my grandchildren that I was part of the background, when I had the chance to have been so much more now, can I?
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Of positive spins and blessings (?) in disguise

I read somewhere that our greatest weaknesses are our strengths. Think about it, it is only when you overplay your strengths that you slip up. Congruently, our greatest strengths can arise from a weakness. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around, but if you look deep into your issues, it’s the shortcomings that cause most of the strengths. Personally, I’m not quite a fan of long ‘motivational and inspirational’ rants about loving oneself, accepting your weaknesses, yadda yadda yadda, so the whole “blessings in disguise” theory never appealed to me. It so happened that I just got bored with life and started thinking about random things. (You know what I mean, I’m sure everyone has deep thoughts in the shower; or contemplates the meaning of life while trying to fall asleep. Most people do at least)

So I considered the things I pride myself in, and why I do so. After hours of (distracted) thought, I came to my language skills. I read a lot as a child, and continue to read anything I can get my hands on even now, be it newspaper clippings or the backs of cereal boxes, I just devour words. It’s only natural that I pick up some vocabulary and have some command over expression through words. However, many people read a lot. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are good with words, or express themselves well around other people. A lot of people who are amazingly eloquent aren’t avid readers. I’ve been recognized for my abilities time and again, so where exactly did the abilities even come from? How do other people even know that I have a a way with words? The answer? I frequently use these skills around other people.

I’m relatively simple with the written word, I write to express, not impress my readers with big flowery words. A glance at an essay of mine probably wouldn’t even exhibit a wide knowledge of words. Basically, it’s spoken word that I’m judged upon. More introspection revealed that I don’t have a choice. I need to use a variety of words while expressing myself verbally, or I could never truly be understood.

Speech impairments are among the most frustrating things that someone can get stuck with. Mine? A stammer, which, ironically, developed because in my hurry to express, to share what’s on my mind, I garble my words and effectively mess them up. Of course, there are other reasons too, but this was where it all started. I genuinely don’t have any option other than knowing a plethora of words. When you’re trying to say ‘spider’ and your tongue catches on the ‘sp-‘ sound, you know that this is it. You can either use another word, or hopelessly stutter, repeating the ‘sp-‘ again and again until your mouth is ready to form the next syllable, which can take an unpleasant amount of time, for both the speaker and the listener. I did the unpleasant time for around six years, hoping that, with practice, I could get rid of the stammer. As with most things that one wants really badly, the attempt failed. It took time to develop the speed thinking, but now, six years later, I can change my sentence the minute I sense hesitation.

Maybe saying “KILL THAT ARACHNID” instead of “KILL THAT SPIDER” sounds unbelievably odd, but hey, it got the point across, and quickly too. I’ve been forced to develop a wider vocabulary and quicker thinking by my own mouth. Is this what a blessing in disguise is? I still don’t think so. Knowing more words is definitely a killer ability to have, but it doesn’t completely negate the stutter, or the psychological effects it had on me while growing up. I think the best way to see it is as an unexpected positive spin on something frustratingly negative. I’m sure that if I really think about it, I’ll have a lot more positive spins. It’s like that pixar movie, ‘Inside out’ that describes our thoughts about our experiences as highly mixed feelings. It’s in the ‘bleh’s and ‘meh’s that we’re all guilty of using when we can’t exactly pinpoint what we feel about something. My positive spins are weird and messed up, but they’re positive all the same, and they’re essentially what made me what I am.

Thanks for reading/skimming, and hopefully you will be incredibly inspired to put positive spins on everything. Hopefully.

🙂

*The ‘KILL THAT ARACHNID” example? I’ve actually said that before. It ended with a little too much giggling and the escape of the offensive arachnid in question. I haven’t seen that ugly spider since.

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Summer

The summer has poetry of its own,
In the snowy carpet of fallen bougainvilleas over cross-hatch road tiles, 

red, yellow, red, yellow, bright but monotonously mellow

It casts a tangerine spell that resounds in carotene-rich flowers, amber sunsets and faded Mediterranean roof tiles, or cheese-like moons on clear evenings.

There’s rhythm in everything, reflection, refraction, diffraction and resonance, in juicy watermelons and sticky fingers, flip flops and cool water, and scented sunscreen and the reigning Cestrum Nocturnum* 

There’s happiness in the incandescent beams of light that are bound by no curtain or tree cover, sun-kissed faces and captured smiles; iridescent eyes in blinding sunlight that twinkle with the mirth of lazy days of bright flora and croaking bullfrogs that melt into clear starry nights…

*Cestrum Nocturnum- “Queen of the Night”, a fragrant white flower that only blooms between sunset and sunrise.

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By Nature’s Light

The view up here

From this colossal height

Devoured by mine eye

Before I must take flight

It was the torrential downpour

That stained the gorge Brown

And in deep dark places,

Brought the stalactites down.

The once trickling streams

Now with a gushing flow

Frolicking as they drain

Into the rushing river below.

In those shimmering few

Golden hours ere twilight

When the sky is radiant

The colors dull, but yet so bright.

Then the cleared sun flashing

On the leaf-strewn ground

As the rich smell of earth

Lingers, heavy all around

The gorge walls weathered, softened

Waves of solid stone

Bared, streaked, and immortalized

By God’s hand alone

Dark and eerie shadows

Lengthening at twilight

As I steal away

Into the starry, starry night

My path of turmoil

Winds, twisting into the dark

An obscured direction lit up

By the mere hope of a spark

For it was the torrential downpour

That stained these carvings brown

And in this deep dark tunnel

Brought the stalactites down

It is in the ceilingless cavern

Caressed by moonlight

Where my eyes behold

The end to my plight

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The Death of a Leaf (2011)

The bright yellow, veined thing

So alive looking, yet dead beyond help

Flutters from way above

The living green canopy

Lands in a pile of the warmest colors

Only to be whipped up by the wind again

Its star-points now dulling

To a much deeper brown

As it fades into non-existence

Yet it survives the winds and braves the cold

And finally lays down

To be crunchily stepped on

The bits lay there, dampened by the snow

And are further trodden upon

Nature takes its course

And the leaf becomes one with the ground

Part of the earth once more……

The leaf is dead.

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Life and monopoly

“Money is the most important motivation in today’s world”

Earlier this month, I took a brief course on Economics. I vividly remember that on the first day, when the professor explained the history of the subject as a whole, he framed his statements in a way that stuck in my mind. He said, “People realized that the most important thing, the concept most sought after, was happiness. However, there were infinite limitations – health, time, family, and the list went on. The most important one was, and continues to be, money. At the end of the day, everything, happiness included, boils down to money, and this is what led to the birth of economics.” Having analyzed this statement from as many angles as I possibly could, I wholeheartedly agree. Money is the most important motivation in today’s world.

Each and every constraint that there is to happiness can be alleviated, or at least lessened by money. We might be doing things because they give us satisfaction, but to be able to do these things in the first place, we need money. Once upon a time, our biggest motivator may have been happiness, but it has shifted. We naturally associate money with happiness. Our basic needs can be fulfilled only with money. This makes us sound like shallow, materialistic beings, but the truth is undeniable. Money is everything to us.

Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs has given us a graphical representation of our requirements in the form of a pyramid. At the base, there are physiological needs like food, water excretion, i.e. our ‘basic’ sustenance. The next tier represents security- shelter and safety. It is after all these needs are met that we can afford to need more abstract concepts, like family, relationships, love, and the like. This is an accurate representation of the human mind. Only once we have the basic can the complex become attainable.

For some real-life examples, we could observe a student’s life. The student studies to get good marks, which will facilitate higher education of his or her choice, which will then lead to a job that he or she will enjoy. Only if someone is happy with their career will they be able to earn money, which will go towards fulfilling their basic needs. The short term goals may be good marks and a good quality education, but in the long run, these are the things which will give us the money we need to live a ‘happy life’. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it makes unhappiness more comfortable, and the road to happiness much smoother.

In today’s world, quality of life is extremely important. Your happiness depends upon your comfort, the people you surround yourself with, and the satisfaction that comes from simply living your life. One of the most important aspects of comfort is health. Unless you are physically and mentally healthy, happiness is very difficult to achieve. Health and its maintenance require money, often large sums of it. Another aspect, the people you associate yourself with, also has a subtle, but certain link to the amount of money you can spend. Attending an institute where you may find like-minded people isn’t always easy to pay for. If you want to stay with your family, you need to pay the price of living so. If you wish to distance yourself from family, you need money to leave with. To enjoy luxuries, you must work to earn the money that will buy them. Even transportation demands money!

Money takes us everywhere. It has become the most coveted asset of all. Once you have it, you only want more. We need it, we desire it, and we cannot survive for long without it. Money can bring us respect, fame and power. Most of all, it grants us the freedom to do as we please. What better motivator could possibly exist? Clearly, it is the most important motivation in today’s world.

The desire for all that the world holds is an extremely strong one. The desire for the means to this end is even stronger. Money can drive people do do nearly anything. The human brain is wired to seek rewards, and money, most of all. How many of us have changed our minds about doing something once we discover that we can make money out of it?All in all, money is a powerful motivator. It is the key factor in our individual pursuits of happiness, and has come to mean so much to us, that our cravings for happiness have been replaced by a greater, far greater craving for money.

Whether it’s ‘cash’, ‘dough’, dollars, rupees or euros, money truly makes the world go round.

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Of lingering phrases, origins, and introspection

“Oh, this is Roshni, she’s weirdly amazing and amazingly weird”

^This is what one of my friends said to someone new on a chat group. And it’s a line I’ll never forget.

There are normal alphabets that form words, sentences and finally, paragraphs that our brains recognize as something. Then there are permutations of letters and words into phrases that really have meaning. They’re those little things that somehow linger at the back of your mind. They’re often simple, and mostly non-essential to daily life, but they strike a chord within you that, once struck, isn’t ever forgotten. I’m sure there’s something that someone has said to you, or you’ve read somewhere, that stuck with you. As for me? There are plenty of these phrases, and they’ve come from various places- a joke a friend made, something a teacher said in passing, you name it, and it could be something life-altering. Or maybe not that drastic, but memorable all the same.

Coming to the line I started with, the attempt my friend made to sum me up into a sentence, well, it became a source of great inspiration to me. If I’m completely honest with myself, it’s that phrase: “weirdly amazing and amazingly weird” that really made me think, and still inspires random but relevant trains of thought. I know that I don’t exactly fit a single stereotype. There are things I think of that I find hard to share with people, simply because not everyone understands the idea of something not usual. The stereotype I mostly get labelled with is “weird”. At the same time, people who I identify with are, to me, the best kind of people. I find them amazing. When I decided to blog about random things, naturally the first heading that encompassed my ideas that came to mind was the weirdly amazing quote. (See what I did there? :D)

We’re all a little weird. Maybe some more than others, but that those quirks are present across the board. Some of us suppress that individuality, while some of us define ourselves by it. Beyond anything, it’s this weirdness that shapes who we are. When you describe a person, or anything for that matter, the best description is the quality that makes it unique. To go by society’s norms, that quality is what’s different about you, and therefore weird. At the same time, it’s what makes all of us amazing in our own ways. Simply put, it’s amazing how weird we all are, and that weirdness makes us amazing. I could go on and on with examples, but I’d rather inspire introspection.

What makes you weirdly amazing?