Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 1 - Of Meet The Friends Project

Week 1 - Of Meet The Friends

Remember last post where I talked about meeting a new friend every week as part of my New Year resolution to put a face to all those online friends I have (loads) but never met in the real world? Well I did put it into motion this very week and it was such a roaring success that I am tempted to continue the experiment. The friend who got the invitation this week for an up close and personal meet and greet with me was someone whose awesome work as a photographer I had been admiring for a long time through her Facebook posts. So this week I invited her over for some doughnuts and coffee and picked her mind about pro-tips for shooting portraits- her specialty in photography. So introducing to you through this blog – for the first time ever – Portrait Photographer Niranjani Ravi, a good buddy I met through the Chennai Photo Walk group on Facebook. Niranjani works in an Ad agency in the creative department and is available to shoot your pictures on weekends. Other than that she is good conversationalist and kept me in splits through the one hour or so we sat there talking. And as a final hint to all you bachelors out there- Niranjani is a card carrying member of the lonely hearts club and good pickings- as the Yankees say. So there- you have a great photographer (middle) and a budding talk show host (right) in the picture below (the other person is my longtime friend from Madurai Gopal (left) who had dropped in for the weekend)

Anyhow I was talking to another friend this morning and he was complaining about how life seems to be just a series of lessons in misfortunes and he cannot put to use the previous experiences in woe. I suggested to him that maybe he looks on himself as a finished product and is reluctant to make the changes required to his life. If he keeps repeating his misfortunes then its time he took a close new look at himself and his life. Sometimes we –most people- feel that needing improvement in some aspect of our life is a negative thing and when and if we admit we need help it is a sign of our weakness to deal with it all by ourselves. But sometimes a fresh pair of eyes are needed to add the perspective we miss from our close involvement with the events of our lives. And most people are happy to help out when asked politely. I have often found that people are most eager to help others out even going so far as sharing their passion with us once we take the courageous first step to admit to them that we are way over our heads over some issue or other they never guessed about. It just takes a minute to confess to a friend and to gain a lifelong coach and motivator. So go for it- talk to your friends and get them on your team. Well, that ends the advice session for this week and see you next week with more updates from my life.

P.s. dear readers-all- I hope all of you had a great week and are still going strong with your new year resolutions for 2015. Hang in there and we will see it through together. Cheers and spread the wishes and hugs all around. Remember happiness is never from what you buy or who you win, its simply a way of being. Be happy and stay smiling and come back next week for a new post.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My New Year Resolution(s) – Make That One

My New Year Resolution(S) – Make That One.

After a shitty 2014 when I went through all the emotional upheavals you associate with being caught complacent in life and then being kicked on the ass by destiny/fate, I have rebounded back to attain some degree of mental equilibrium. It’s so easy to say shit happens and life throws lemons at you- even more easier to share it as internet memes- but when it comes to accepting it in the real world it takes a lot more than you thought you had in you- to deal with the vicissitudes of life in all its darker shades. But like everyone who goes through the shadowed valley and comes out the other end alive, I too hope to make a fresh start this New Year after conquering the demons which plagued my recent past. And to carry that forward I have made a new year resolution- yes, I said “a/one/single” and its simple in itself- to be more out there- there in public.

To explain in detail (and here comes the boring part dear reader- self psychoanalysis alert) every time I am traumatized by events I tend to withdraw into myself a good deal- just imagine a hurt animal retreating into a darkened cave to lick its wounds and there’s me. I have over the years tried to reduce the time period for such self-imposed seclusion but I have found out (through trial and error) that the process takes its own time and I can’t hurry it along without re-lapsing back into a feeling of solitude. So this time I have made the deliberate decision to go out there and socialize more as a way of showing fate that “keep throwing those lemons and see if I care”. This is my way of showing bravery, my way of showing that whatever happens to disrupt the normal peaceful routine of my life, I will not withdraw myself away from public gaze (and from the company of my friends) but would fight to remain normal and social.

Having made this my new year- 2015 – resolution, I have decided to invite more of my friends for meet and greets. Especially my online friends from twitter and Facebook with who I have interacted for many years online; but haven’t really met face to face. I am planing to invite all such friends for a coffee or a high tea and just sit across from them- a real person across the table and talk to them like I normally do online. This is my New Year resolution – to talk in person with all my online friends.

So wait for that invite dear friends- this year we will definitely be meeting face to face. Please join me for a coffee, tea, beer, lunch or dinner. And don’t worry- we need not discuss my life or yours- we can keep it simple and gossip about celebrities. Do join me, will you?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami

Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami

The first book I read in this New Year was picked by selecting one the top-20 books of 2014 list from the New York Times, a book called “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami. I have never read any of Murakami’s books before and to confess the truth the first time I ever heard of him was when I noticed his name on the top-20 list.  The title was the thing which intrigued me first as it looked to be a bizarre translation of what must have been a perfectly normal Japanese title- as is often the cases with Indian novels whose English translators come out with laugh-worthy titles. But to my surprise as I read through the book I discovered that the title perfectly fit the mood of the book and the protagonist Tsukuru Tazaki indeed undertakes the epic journey of his life to discover why he is the only one left colorless among all his colorful friends.

The story is indeed all about friendship and how our friends leave a deep mark on our psyche- either for good or bad. The hero of the novel who also doubles up as the narrator – Tsukuru Tazaki is introduced to us as an engineer in his late 30’s working for a railway company and living alone in Tokyo city. After a series of failed relationships which don’t progress beyond a certain point and a crisis point in his newest relationship- a complete absence to achieve erection with his latest girlfriend- she advises him to face the demons of his past first- as it seems all his problems in bed stem from emotional issues unsolved and buried inside his psyche. She tells him that he can suppress his memories with a tight lid, but the history remains underneath and he has to face up to the truth one day or the other as that alone will give him a clue as to why he avoids any deep emotional intimacy with anyone.

And then Tazaki as he prefers to be known opens up about is past- about how he once was in a group of 5 friends in school- 2 girls and 2 boys- who all had nicknames based on different colors while he alone was called colorless by the group because of his amiability and tendency to go along with the collective decisions instead of taking a firm stand on anything. But surprisingly he alone has the courage to apply to Tokyo university after finishing school while the rest of the group join college at their hometown preferring to stay in the same locale and continue their friendship. After a year or so of college when Tazaki returns to his hometown for the vacation and calls up his friends he is devastated to learn that they have made a joint decision to cut him off and avoid him altogether. After failing to talk any single one of them, he gives up and returns to Tokyo where he goes into a deep depression and suicidal tendencies for almost six months till he makes a partial recovery and decides to concentrate on his studies. But the scar of being excluded from his once close friends makes him reject the idea of anymore deep friendships and over a twenty year period of his life- he stays alone with never once opening his heart to anyone.

So by the middle of the book, Tazaki decides to find out the truth of why he was excluded from the group and after tracing his former friends he visits them one by one after twenty years – to learn the reason for his sudden banishment from the once tightly knit group. To his shock he learns form his friends that one of the girls in the group – Shiro (white) - had claimed that he had violently raped her when she visited him in Tokyo at his university and that is the reason his other four friends had decided never to see him or talk to him again in their lives. When he vehemently protests his innocence of the crime, each one of his friends confesses to him now -20 years later- that they always felt that Shiro was lying and they didn’t believe he was capable of such a thing, but they had lacked the guts to say it out in front of the group when the group as a whole had made the decision. This strange confession consoles him even if it comes twenty years too late.

In the final few chapter’s Tazaki journey gives him a lot of issues to ponder about and he slowly starts seeing himself as more than the “colorless” person he had always imagined himself to be. When Tazaki on his final quest of the pilgrimage goes to Finland to meet the only girl left from their group, his accuser Shiro having died earlier, the other girl Eri (black) says she knew even then that Shiro was lying about Tazaki and when she had to make the crucial decision whom to believe and whom to support, she had felt that Tazaki was the strongest person among all the group and so had decided he could survive alone cut off from the group while the other girl Shiro would have collapsed into mental disease and hence she had gone along with the cold blooded decision to cut him off from the group. This confession gives him a new insight into the way he had always viewed himself and he returns to Japan a wiser and bolder man.

That colorless Tsukuru Tazaki the man who always thought himself as the victim of the capriciousness of his friends whims understands that he was the sole person they always though to be stronger than the entire group- this head turning revelation of the last chapter shows not only the protagonist but even ourselves how much of a wrong self view we carry about ourselves all our lives. When we assume that we are useless and good for nothing or are easily despondent- they are others out there who envy us for our strength, admire us for our gifts and appreciate our position in the world. All it takes for us to appreciate out true position in the world is to look at us, really look at ourselves, through the eyes of others- the answer will surprise us. So the book ends with Tazaki having conquered his emotional demons and regained his erection, calling up his new girlfriend and waiting for her to come back to him– confident for once of trusting others without fear of betrayal.

This is my second Japanese book- other than the 5 rings of miyomoto musashahi which I studied for its martial arts content and I was surprised by the depth of its insightfulness and the universality of its theme. Somehow, something in the book resonated within me and I couldn’t put it down till I had finished it in one go. I think I am going to read more of Haruki Murakami in the future and I do hope dear reader you will too.