10/18/20

The Creaking Chair – Part XXVI

4:37 PM

 



07th April 1988

‘A commentary on struggles and injustice’
this was the pamphlet in my hand 
as I entered the market place in Toulouse on this Sunday afternoon
I was out to buy some croissant and wine for an evening of recluse
in my immaculately neatly kept apartment 
a fetish I had developed recently and was slowly developing great pride in


It was supposed to be a dialogue followed by a rendition of Warsaw concerto 
and the orations would focus on the themes of
‘human spirit and resilience’, ‘the fundamental nature of the oppressor”
and ‘the anatomy of a revolt’
to my Sunday slumbered mind these sounded quite grand 
but then the name of one of the speakers stood out to me 
We had dated for sometime during my stay at Marseille 
and I realized how organically had we drifted apart 


The fact that the passage of time between us was so vivid in my head 
was a revelation for me – I had barely thought about her for the last 5 months
and it had been only 5 months since we bid our farewells to each other 
The name reminded me of how we had met – on a metro reading the same book 
‘Incest – by Marquis de Sade’ – it was one of those unplanned book pick ups for me 
may be it was providence playing its subtle hands 
I was almost finished reading the book and she asked me while we sat in a café that evening 
what did I think about the book and I remember word by word what I had said


“The book for me started on a note that shook me out of comfort. Reading it induced raw un-supplemented emotions of fear, love and pity, slowly building up to anger and disgust. The best part of the narrative for me was the dialogue with the priest - provocative and questioning societal norms with logic and not emotions. There was something raw about the entire book”


And she laughed whole heartedly at my comments
How little you know about the struggles of human emotions 
as if you don’t want to touch the real surface and be content with what floats on water 
abashed and angered – I let loose a discourse on the genesis of human emotions & our responses
passionately peeling away each layer with great care and little remorse  
by the time I had finished, we were near the Old harbour somewhere in Le Panier
and the night goaded us along towards the sea and to many nights of passionate debates on human
emotions, the justice of struggles and of equally passionate love making


So when I saw her name on that pamphlet I knew I would be pulled to the auditorium
to listen her speaking with the same audacious ferocity on a subject she adored 
by the time I entered the venue, it was already twilight and my heart was pregnant with anticipation
of possible recognition, of awkward silences, of uncomfortable laughter and possible reunions
for someone who had just finished writing a section of romantic prose, nothing was an impossibility


2 hours later when I left the building to a moonless night 
I was troubled and knew the writer in me would be awake for the next few days 
trying to pen a soliloquy on the struggling emotions of the forsaken spectator in a revolt 
I felt a thousand thoughts brewing in my head on the real motives of struggles and revolutions
of propagandas and high collared talks of reforms and need for change in mentalities 
of the stories being told of the victims in a tone of superiority rather than empathy
like a trophy being displayed upon the deliverance of a speech which serves none but self-aggrandization


Two hours of the discourse pulled me away from my hopes of a romantic reunion
and rather edged me towards a shady escape for the fears of being spotted by the lady 
As I sat through, I was slowly transformed from a placid listener of a commentary to the oppressor in the play. 
I was the ringmaster of oppression in the commentary, the person who grew in power by deceit 
I had become the example amongst the multitude of generalized aggrievements  – without reason or action 


And all for the purpose of a proof of a paper written without consent about the struggling emotions of the victim at the hands of the oppressor
But did I have a say in the act of becoming an unsuspecting villain in the play of a revolution-in-making
was it even a necessity when I had passed the audition without my knowledge, for representation of a character that I might have resembled 
but in the long run it should all make sense, for the achievement of equanimity would demand a few sacrifices on both ends 
and the liberals and neo-liberals ready to salvage what would remain of the aftermath


~ Ashk


P.S. – I did end up taking a bus to Marseille to have a cup of coffee at the same café that night for closures 


P.P.S. – If you want still more understanding of what I really meant, my discourse on “The faux-perils of the perceived oppressor” was inspired by that night in the auditorium


10/11/20

If tomorrow never comes ...

12:49 AM

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, with all my might

I may not have been broken, but I was tired

And you must know I did not go away, without a fight

The epic battle of my life, ironic

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to forget and forgive,

all trivial, in this state of mind

of all promises made and silences broken

all mistakes made and paths not trodden

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to leave behind all my insecurities

Of troubles nights and anxious days

Of social pressures and self-imposed pains

Of words you couldn’t understand or fears I could not speak

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to be ok with not being ok

But then the hashtags disappeared

And photo ops died, it was another cause they were rallying

While I sat forgotten in my bed still nervous to be called mental

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to speak up and not bottle down my emotions

Of the million times I had the courage – almost

Of the thousand times I tried to reach out to the counsellor – almost

Of the hundred times I tried to tell you I need help – I wish it was not always almost

 

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to shoulder responsibilities like an adult

to make you smile when you needed me around

to make go away your fights, the responsible one amongst us all

to listen to your fears and share your joys – while I struggled to loan a genuine smile

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, to leave behind a legacy

Something of my own soul to be remembered of

Of words scribbled like jumbled expressions on melting ice

Of impressions of trust on people who could in me confide

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, even during those moments of late dusk

To give it one more day and maybe one more night

To not be called a genius maverick by some or a moronic quitter by others

To think of all of you and maybe a little of me

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, and that it was never you but always I

Of unsettled feelings resting upon unwarranted fears

Of courage not bred and actions not taken

Of weakness allowed to grow strong and dreams let go

 

If tomorrow never comes,

Know that I tried, with all my might

But by then, the tunnel was too dark and the story in my head too romantic

But by then, no words could reach me & the demons in my head too strong

But by then, I was finally happy & the thoughts in my head finally empty


~ Ashk

10/4/20

When I am sad..

11:05 PM

When I am sad I go back to those sheets 

in a forsaken hotel in a forsaken town

on a forgetful morning 

and to the sunshine through the broken window 


When I am sad I go back to your habit of sharing dreams

of nightmares of violence or dreamy weddings

on a misty morning 

and to the last drops of morning rain on the window pane


When I am sad I go back to empty words

scribbled along the edges of many a notepads 

on a sleepless night

and to the silence between those faded inkblots


When I am sad I go back to that empty house

on a shiny street, with facades and mirrors

on a moonlit night

and to the echoes of thunders, of peaceful sleeps


~ Ashk

9/13/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XXV

4:49 PM

 


The Creaking Chair – Part XXV


12th September 1990

There are days when your body and mind craves for a fight
it can be in a brawl in a bar 
or a war of words and emotions with your dear ones
but there are days when you just crave for some kind of a outlet 
of course you don’t want to really hurt anyone 
or get hurt yourself – physically or emotionally 
but you want to have that rush of adrenaline to cleanse your system


The feeling is like that of a rusty door frame 
the hinges are crying out to come out – to break into dusty forms 
and yet holding on too afraid of the sound of a falling door 
as if it would break the slumber of a sleeping giant in the room
and that can not be good, is it?


The dichotomy of emotions at that moment,
it’s like the sound of wind slowly gaining speed before a storm
they say silence is the deepest before a storm 
I disagree, I think it is after the storm that the silence really kicks in 
when you realize the magnitude and reality of the destruction caused 
before the storm is a sense of fear of what may become of the next few hours 
you circle around that fear looking for something to hold on to 
hopefully a belief or a faith that would not be blown away in the storm deserting you


The same sense prevails sometimes when you are looking for a fight
there is an unease inside you knowing that you are skirting on danger 
relationships are delicate bonds that tangle at the slightest strain 
the art lies in knowing when to stop when the debate kicks in 
otherwise by the time you realize the knots are too string already for any respite 
but there would be days when you would have the craving
to give into the dark side and join forces with the Sith Lord


I have a few of these skirmishes with friends and family over the years
it’s a blessing when they know your nerves are on the edge 
and they ignore the venom on your tongue 
but there are times when your anger needs to be on display 
for you to be confident more than for the others to be mindful 
the fine line draws or erases itself depending on how much you let it burn though you


~ Ashk

P.S. – I decided to start writing a few letters for Sahil. ‘WTD’ is what I am going to call it – Wisdom Thought Doodle.

P.P.S. – Star Trek is any day superior to Star Wars (Unpopular opinion but truth!)


For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

9/6/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XXIV

3:37 PM

 



14th October 1949


Habits form due to practice 
but hobbies are not developed; it’s like having a feeling where they call to you
that’s what I believe 
have you ever heard someone say, I am on a 21 day course to develop a hobby ! 
And there is no specific time when a hobby may prop its lure in your head 
and the trigger can be many
for me my charm for cycling is one of those hobbies which happened to me


I am not yet a professional level cyclist 
but glad I am getting good day by day 
today is special because I hit the 100 Km mark for the first time 
And when I sat to write about it I realized the strongest impressions were of the last mile
The last 10 Km gives you all kind of sensations 
I am not even getting into the famed last mile stretch that the marathoners feel 
thankfully, I did not feel any of those life changing, hard hitting epiphanies 
or the absolute struggles of thinking how would I finish this infinite last stretch 
to be frank, I don’t think I had the feeling that I would give up


For me, the emotions were more of a memory reel
drawing parallels to some of the most esoteric experiences of my life 
the wind rustling through your ears inside the helmet reminded me
of listening to Opera music when I am trying to concentrate 
Also this was the stretch which I enjoyed the most because I was not concentrating on the miles covered anymore
I was looking at the scenery around, the trees and the hues of the sky
Guess because I had finally accepted that I would end up finishing my 100 Km & not give up
the weight of self expectation had gone down & I started to look at it as a joy rather than a task


There was also a bit of palpable anxiety in my throat and stomach 
don’t think it’s weird when I don’t say anxiety in the heart, this is on purpose
this was more of a nervous enthusiasm mixed with a sense of fear 
think of a countryside in wales or Scotland 
now imagine that you had a wonderful day ling drive enjoying the beauty of nature, 
the sunshine, the warm mist of a evening pregnant with laughter of your beloved besides you 
this was the feeling which you get post such a day when twilight settles
and you have reached a plateau overlooking a valley with an orange hued sunset 
that feeling of how fast the day has gone, warming your heart for what a wonderful time it was 
and that nostalgia already settling in making you fear the end of the evening – the moment sun would drop into oblivion in a few moments


Cycling is also dichotomous in that sense 
when you are in the act, you are concentrating on completing the next km & then the km in an infinite loop 
you would feel the troubles of your daily life, would be lost because your entire focus is on ensuring you reach the finish line 
but once you start enjoying the process, you reach a meditative stage 
when you start to reflect on life as your brain sending reminders to you to keep a track on the kms to go from time to time 


~ Ashk

P.S. – The feeling that came to me when I crossed the 100 Km line was that of being in my school Chemistry lab performing salt detection test and the colour changed in the beaker changed to yellow !!


P.P.S. – I need to gather my thoughts more around how does it feel for the first 90 km as well for a complete memoir

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

8/30/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XXIII

3:35 PM

 



04th April 1991

There was a time in my early thirties when I was a rolling stone
stumbling from one gig to another 
like I had only a day to live and I had to achieve all that I could in that day 
and yet I had not reached a stage where I was mastering all that I was doing
or anyway close to it for that matter
It was a race in my head that I was running more than anything else

That was the time when I was writing a lot
so many authors had said that write as much as you can when you are young,
you would thank yourself later 
so I was following the route of quantity 
I set targets for myself and in that rut my focus wavered from the depth of what was penned down
I should have spent more time to let the poetry settle in my head
before it even had the far-fetched chance to settle on a piece of paper 
so most of the work from that time was uncooked; 
but at least there was quantity for me to prune later

I was also dabbling with my musical instincts 
restarted teaching myself guitar over the weekends through an online course (never works !)
Last time I had started learning guitar, it was more out of peer pressure
It was the cool thing to do, I had a group that played guitar and I was gullible 
Hence the classes were more of a drag and the drudgery of practice was too mundane for my liking
I was young and wanted results fast – so jumped from one teen player to another
for quick lessons and chords that could be easily memorized 
but this time I wanted to soak in the process – go slow – go through the drag 
but all in a day’s work ! Regular practice without any show off moves was still too painful for me

Back in my graduation days, I used to take classes for others on Robotics
and I wanted to get back to robotics and programming
that was the hip thing – if you have watched any sci-fi American series 
there was that one guy who could hack through any computer, break any cipher or make any gadget
I wanted to be that cool guy (too)
so I started with my pet project of an automated personal assistant 
and guess what I named it – Jarvis
I had to set up my own server, create my own home automation tools 
and have my own voice controlled responsive assistant

And then there were the other minor gigs 
Sketching – because when I was a kid, I used to like that art of expression and I had a few decent strokes I could strike, never really learnt it with rigor though 
Singing – There was this ever looming pet project with 3 friends of mine (all separately) where I had to start an online channel or create a movie where I would give voice over
Language – I started learning French thrice ! and I had wanted to be conversationally verse in Spanish & Mandarin as well, while I wanted to be able to read Sanskrit 
And then there were a couple of other side gigs I wanted to do work wise

So you would think I had my hands full, driven to make the most of my life 
turns out I was more scared than I was driven 
I was scared of the number 30
and I was scared that I had crossed that dreaded no of years of my life
and I may not even have started on the journey of what I can and must do 
that fear was driving me like a maniac in every direction
to search and look for that one source of inspiration that would put me on the right track
Some of these activities were a defense mechanism to know that I am actively doing ‘something’

And now that I look back
I was not completely wrong in the way I looked at life
that fear drove me to experiment and try new stuff
it made me hungry to learn and never settle 
to go to new places, to meet new people, to do something new each day (or at least try)
but it also makes me realize now, I was running shallow
first the fact that I was running – I had to slow down 
and enjoy the art I was trying to explore rather than do this too while thinking of the next gig
and second, I was dipping my fingers too thin into each of my attempts 
the fact that I had too many options I was trying, meant I was not afraid to fall 
and I was not driven enough to be devastated if I did not deliver the best masterpiece 
so I was always “Just there” but never “Wow, I have arrived”

In hindsight it all makes sense 
but I wish someone was there to tell me to slow down 
life will pass you however hard you try to stop it 
the only way to live life is to stop by and soak the sunshine 
and get drenched in rain on a windy day 
then use the memory of those moments to inspire your art (slowly while enjoying the process)!

~Ashk

P.S. – I ended up learning a mouth organ and playing a guitar is still not my best traits 

8/29/20

The manual of love

11:30 PM

 

She used to chide me often...I need to tell her how much I love her...express...get her gifts..give her hugs...steal kisses when she least expected...where would u find a girl who comes with a manual on how to be a perfect and caring lover...her friends used to tell me..I'm lucky..

And stupid me..I often told her to be real...just like my love was...expressions I said need not be words..kisses need not always be stolen...smiles need not always be shared...for love does not come with a manual...love comes with a set of wild hearts...bent on taming the other...and its not the ones who win this battle who flourish in love...but its those who learn to loose these battles who live happily ever after...

I still remember our fights...they were somehow different than the fights I had 6 months ago...did we change so much in 6 months...or did our love somberly hijacked logic in our brains...the debate was not if I should tell her how much I love her...the debate was whether it was good to be logical or was it a drag...and a more humane way was to live illogical...

I still remember our first fight...I would certainly remember our last...both left me with the same feeling...someone had finally defeated my words...someone had finally broken free...and now I stand on a moral high ground deciding if I was right or if it was she....does love really come with a user manual...even if it does....I don't think I could ever read one...

~ Ashk 

The Creaking Chair - Part XXII

11:22 PM


22nd September 1992

Pratishtha visited us today after so many years
Kamal had no idea she was coming 
It seems it was Veena who had received her call last week
and had decided to keep it a surprise for Kamal ; 
My son was, let’s say more than surprised to see Pratistha sitting in the living room
as he came back from his evening bicycle ride 
boy, he was flustered


First he looked at me, with the same innocent face 
like the one he made some 17-18 years back when I first got to know about Pratistha and him
I was more angry at him for not telling me that something was going on
rather than the fact that he was dating someone
I had always been cool about it, and I always thought if he ever gets serious he would tell me 
but then he went and told his mom and she unwittingly told me 
I was angry at that betrayal than anything else


But how flustered was Kamal today
it was nostalgic to see him behave like a young college kid who comes back from the playground
and sees that his crush is sitting in his house in front of his parents
only in this case, he was petrified that it was Veena 
for a moment I think he thought, she was angry 
and he wanted to whisk Pratistha away and ask her what was she thinking coming in here


They had dated for almost 3 years during their graduation 
and were dotingly in love – or that’s what they thought
she was a senior to him in his class of engineering
and he was quite the nerd of his batch
their favourite thing was the stroll on the park besides the Jawahar Bridge in rains 
and did he think I did not know of his visit for ‘robotics project’ to her house every second week


It took him some time to recover and get back to his senses
the realization dawning on his face with relief spreading over his entire being
He had told Veena all about all of his rencontres d’amour in life 
and she was having the guilty pleasure of watching him behave like a college kid once again
All said and done, Kamal will open the 15 year old bottle of wine he has preserved for special occasions


~Ashk


P.S. – Kamal thinks no one in the college knew, but his story of waltzing with Pratistha in the park besides the Jawahar Bridge when it rained was quite a story !


P.P.S. – I remember the day when I (who could never shake a leg) waltzed on a bridge on a rainy day with my love. 

funny story – she was super jealous when she got to know I had waltz on a bridge in rain with my first girlfriend in my graduation days and never let her make me dance anytime! I had to make it right 

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

8/15/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XXI

11:15 PM

 





27th October 1992

Sahil has been very quiet for the last few days 
generally he used to come back from school and be all chirpy
he used to keep pestering me to listen to what happened 
what was the latest trend in the playground 
which technology were the kids of the new generation drooling over 
and of course which girl is he starting to have a crush on


I am like the cool grandpa 
something which Kamal is often jealous off
but he has to raise his game if you wants to compete with me
Just because he is my son does not mean I let him win easily 
especially when it’s about being the BFF of my grand child  
Sahil told me what BFF means


Last month he also asked me to come along with him 
to this gig thing that they do 
it is just like the jamming session that I used to do when I was young
but they do a lot of things there
from singing and music to debates and someone also showcases his paintings on and off
reminded me of ‘Dead Poet’s society’
and I think he was just over enthusiastic to have called me 
he later felt quite relieved that I had told him I would not be coming 

So anyways, he seems quiet for the last few days
and on the edge and jumpy
in my experience, that happens either when you have a solid crush on someone
or you are being picked on by someone who prides himself to be a bully
and I have a feeling that since he is not speaking to me about it
it must be a bully. Sahil is tough but he needs someone to speak to 
I am torn, yeah even at my age and with all the so called wisdom
should I speak or let Kamal know about it and let him speak to his son

I also feel sorry about how my gang used to bully Kristen 
I may have played some part in the pranks as well
but then it was innocent, it was not as horrible as some of the stuff I hear these days 
and we heard of nothing ‘bad’ that could have happened 
so I guess we were not crossing the line 
but then when I was bullied I also always smiled so that no one would hear my stories 
I think best I focus my energies on Sahil and how to help him
maybe I could also call on Kristen and check how has his Harvard degree helped him - what a snob ! 

~ Ashk

P.S. – Amongst all the names I was called when I was bullied, the one I still laugh at today is ‘Sabrina’. How that video found on the internet with misplaced identity spread through in my graduation !!


For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

8/8/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XX

6:38 PM

 






21st February 1986

I have hit a ‘Writer’s block’
I have absolutely no doubt about it 
it’s been 6 days and I am stuck with the same 3 lines 
no new rhythm in my thoughts and no cadence in my words
It’s like being stuck in a passage where you don’t know which side to go
I am not sure if I have to let go of this thought 
and move on to writing something new
or should I persevere with this and be patient
 


22nd February 1986

I went to a coffee shop today
thinking maybe that would help 
looking at strangers sitting and sipping their Mocha and Cappuccinos 
engaging and thoughtless conversation with a random stranger 
would help I thought to stimulate my grey matter 
as if they would involuntarily push me forward in my endeavor 
to pen down the next 3 lines 
and then maybe I can come back here again and wait for another stranger 
willing enough to come & sit by on the empty chair in front of me
and I would write another 3 lines that night  

 

23rd February 1986

I have bolted myself shut and promised to myself
that I would only leave this room when I complete this poem
The day has not been so productive, but maybe the night would have my creativity flowing
How do these authors end up producing novels on a trot 
like it is some kind of an assembly line
I remember someone close to me used to tell me
how she envied that I could write so effortlessly
if only she saw me now

 

24th February 1986

After behaving like a maniac for 3 days, I am back to my senses 
Vishal called – someone told him how stupid I was acting – I have a suspicion I know who told him
Anyway what he said made absolute sense –


“Poetry needs time to precipitate – it’s not another item on your To-Do list,
stop treating it like one & give it some respect !! 
It’s like an angel descending from a higher plane, 
it would take its own time and if you rush it, all you would get is a glimpse of its beauty
Just like rushing a poetry would give you only a glimpse of its skeletal thought
and never of it’s true character”


I will sleep in peace tonight,
Maybe I would end up naming this verse as ‘Writer’s Block’


~ Ashk


P.S. – I did end up completing “The Writer’s Block”. Go read it in the withered diary with a faded horse on its cover. 


P.P.S. – That diary was a gift from one of my favourite couples. I wonder how many gifts to me were diaries !! I must have been an easy person to identify a gift for ! 


For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

8/2/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XIX

5:31 PM





4th April 1998

I have a very strong will power
over years, I have been able to resist a lot of my urges 
those which would have caused me much trouble 
and even those which were more innocent 
But being able to control my desires so that they don’t consume me 
has always been something I have prided myself on


And well of course, this is painting a broad stroke 
the picture has a lot of finer details 
times when I have completely given into my urges 
even those which have definitely put me into a lot of trouble 
and also joyful stories if I look back at them now 
I am no saint, right? Remember the five night brawl in the winters of my 33rd birthday?


But then there is one pleasure which I could never give up on
the absolute joy of eating sweets – and I know some of you would never get what I mean
you need to truly admire the release of happy hormones in you 
when you put that morsel of ultimate bliss in your mouth
I had a record in the house where I had eaten a kilogram of rasgulla in one go 
how astounded was my sister !


But the reason I am going on babbling about this 
is because I now need to reduce my intake of sweets 
is what my doctor has told me 
it’s like telling a life long smoker to stop smoking 
ain’t gonna happen ! 
so my days of hiding things in the neck of my table top vase are back 
good that at least Sahil is on my side
we already have a plan


~ Ashk


P.S. – If you have not tried yet, you must eat kala jamun made in the shape of a jalebi. Can’t explain why but the taste is just so much better than the regular Kala Jamun !


For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

7/28/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XVIII

12:06 AM





24th August 1999

Today evening was a surprise for me
Kamal came and sat besides me on the sofa 
and slowly he rest his head on my lap and lay down there
Though he makes it a point that he spends at least an hour with me daily
either during my morning ritual of reading the newspaper 
or the evening time when we have the badminton matches 
he rarely shows any sign of such sentimentality


To start with I was worried 

I did not know what was going through his mind
but I knew he was tired, I could sense that in the way his body weighed on my legs
it was as if he was letting go of all his the weight he was carrying 
I started to speak, but then I saw his eyes were closed 
like he was in thinking of something old 
reliving a memory I should not infringe on


He has been troubled for sometime now 
I guess its been a couple of months – it shows on his face 
and the way he goes inside his shell when he is troubled
even as a child he used to be highly impressionable 
but selective on whose impressions he wanted to imbibe 
rarely did I see him shouting at his friends or cousins 
and I could feel the weight of all of those years slowly letting off as he lay on my lap


Last time when he felt so heavy was when he had decided to quit his work
that’s when he took to follow his passion – or that’s what they call it in today’s world 
It had taken me 14 years to make him follow my pattern 
one of choosing life and its mysteries over the ties of the worlds around 
and he had told me how it was totally worth it 
our conversation on how seriously we humans take our work 
and how much of our life we give to it – knowingly & unknowingly 
still remains as one of my most cherished memories – for it changed me & him for good


Him, because it made him realize what he was missing out on
it gave him the courage to do things which he was otherwise fearful to do
dreams he was otherwise fearing to dream 
Me, because it made me realize how I was right when I took that plunge 27 years ago
and it made me go deeper into the reasons I did it 
then it was more for to be called ‘the one who took the plunge’
now I realize it had a much deeper reason – something revolving around self-discovery


~Ashk


P.S. – Kamal had one of those days when he just wanted to let go and rest and he wanted to remember his childhood – my lap was the only memory which he could touch and transport himself back.


P.P.S. – It was a new experience for a son to watch his grown up dad lying like that on the laps of his old man..


For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

7/26/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XVII

3:05 PM


12th November 1999

One of the first books I picked up as a kid
was a random cover about the Greek Gods – and I was hooked
It was my first tryst with books other than my school books
and I was only a 11 year old kid, so obviously I was excitable
I used to go around asking people in the middle of a conversation 
‘what is your favourite book?’ – more like a hook for them to ask me the same thing, 
irrespective of whatever they answered 
And I would go on describing how I had found this book which described the history & mythology of Greek Gods
and how they should definitely pick it up – of course I don’t remember the author !

The sheer pleasure of getting hooked to words, I guess
coupled with the innocence of a child 
But somewhere my love for mythological characters, superheroes, Demi-Gods & super-villains with mythical powers originated from that innocent choice of book
And this is one of the reasons that I went to the Norway
well the allure of ‘Northern Lights’ came much later in my decision matrix to be frank 
I wanted to be in the land where the mythology originated

Two and a half months of travel through the Scandinavian land
And among other things which captivated me was the weather on some of those days 
the constant mist, the coldness and the sogginess of the day 
looking and searching for the sunlight and enjoying the clouded dampness 
I found it romantic in its own way and also mystic 
I think more mystic than romantic 
I was young and with a different temperament

I don’t know when did the transformation happen,
but I had started liking sunshine more than the constant cold of a misty day 
I could feel the lyrics of Beatles’ song in my bones 
the warmth of the sunshine hitting me and making me smile and cry 
not in a sad way though, like in a hopeful way 
but what is amusing to me is the shift from one spectrum to the other 
and the absolute love and joy for both when I was in those times

That’s what time does to you, I think 
experiences in life and your cravings decide how you feel about not just the weather around you, but so much more
and if you decide to stop and look back you would find it a fascinating journey
like for me the placement of my bed along the window side 
where I enjoyed the patter of the rain against the glass with an opened curtain 
while I drifted off to sleep
to moving my bed to the other corner of the room, 
closing off the curtain during the rainy nights 
and be content with the dim background noise of the rain pelting outside 
it was more symbolic of the shift in my temperament than I realized then

~Ashk

P.S. – The only thing which can put me to sleep though when nothing else can is the sound of Thunderstorms !

7/18/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XVI

6:13 PM




The Creaking Chair – Part XVI

15th June 1999

I have not been writing for the last 2 weeks
It is not the pattern I generally follow 
The last time I stopped writing my journal was when I was in the prison
but I had a sharper memory at that time 
so could remember all my thoughts to be filled in the journal later
The last 2 weeks were different though

I caught some infection and felt horribly weak 
it started as a throat infection & then started having chills & fever
lasted 2 weeks, but now I feel better 
but these days took me back to the times when I was writing my PhD thesis
There were so many topics I had shortlisted
and one of them which I had let go was “The true value of time”

But had done quite a lot of work around the topic
I found the entire idea of having a currency called ‘time’ quite absurd
and fascinating at the same time
how it controls everything we do – it has possibly the most control over our lives than anything else does
We invented time to ensure we have more focus & structure to our days
But how it confused the hell out of us – the entire conundrum of what happened before Big Bang
which they say is when time began

But then again, I was reminded more of the title & its implications 
“The True Value of Time”
If you knew you had only 2 hours of free time before your shift at work started 
you would know what to do with it 
and more importantly your loved ones around would know what to do with that time 
you would play, talk and ‘spend quality time’ together

What happens when you don’t know how much time is left before the start of the shift?
You can either worry about it and waste the time you have in the present 
hating the fact that you don’t know when would you be called 
or you can relax and let not time take a grasp of your mind and stay free till you can 
I sensed anxiety in Sahil’s voice during the first week 
he was fearing time, or possibly, the lack of it

It’s about time I finish that thesis too I guess
just for the records maybe..

~ Ashk

P.S. – Why was I in prison? Go read about my days in the North East States and the one time in the State Capital

P.P.S. – Sahil made Veena gift me a typewriter when I felt better. He wants me to start writing him letters. Some of my idiosyncrasies are rubbing off on him I think. 

7/12/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XV

11:12 PM


  

30th November 1986

I like Suzanne
But the only thing which we can speak of now-a-days 
revolves around politics and the shift in world power 
discussing if it is for the good or bad ;
of the country, the people and more importantly world in general
Now you would think that this is good 
Conversations with substance and not just idle love making 
That sounds like a relationship to look out for

Well if I were to compare myself and my interest in politics
to any species in the Animal Kingdom apart from the Homo Sapiens
I would come closest to a Panda or a Polar Bear 
And she would be the Chimp or the Bee or the Ant  
So it’s not really a fair match

And well to be frank, I am not apolitical
I am aware of the nitty-gritties’ of the left wing and the right wing ideology
And all that rhetoric which falls in between 
I also have a well defined process of assimilating the political opinion 
and the art of political warfare 
But what I am not comfortable with is carrying my political belief on my arm
and picking up fights wearing that arm band 
for I won’t win an election or a war – but possibly tie a knot on the thread of my current relationship

I have a longer blog post on this thought which I have put out 
so if you are reading this, do not judge me lopsided on these surface thoughts alone 
Neither is this lack of courage or a desire of escapism 
It skirts on pragmatism with a hint of indifference 
but deeply entrenched in the fabric of moral principles 
It takes a deeper intent to make a difference in a matter 
than to have a rhetorical conversation on a decision taken miles away 
Judging on the spectrum of rigid beliefs to fluid conservatism

Remember what George Orwell said & I quote 
‘ All the war propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, 
comes invariably from people who are not fighting’
Political debate is no exception

But then I think it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable 
in the field you feel so passionately about 
and maybe we would reach that place over time 
for now it’s an exploration..

~Ashk

P.S. – I later learned Suzanne was a major in Political Science from Berlin. Some secrets she kept from me, some vulnerabilities I never exposed – so I guess we were even..

7/5/20

The Creaking Chair – Part XIV

2:46 PM





11th July 1999

“I am writing to you in a state of unbridled passion
I have intoxicated myself on poetries from Pablo Neruda 

and the 90’s Bollywood love songs 
Remember how you found my love for ‘Zara Zara’ from RHTDM 
to be hopelessly romantic !
I am in one of those moods right now 
And it’s pouring outside completing the setting for reminiscence


It’s funny how in spite of calling myself a poet,
I have never written many letters to you 
That is supposed to be the thing with lovers who are poets, right?
Wasn’t that my biggest pull when I tried to woo you? 
Oh those were the days !
The butterflies in the stomach, the incessant checking for text messages
Do you even know how many times, I wrote an entire poetry 
just because I wanted to tell you something 
and was too shy to speak to you directly


How far have we come from there
From writing messages through my words 
to concealing messages between my words 
and you still read me; with all my apostrophes and full stops.”


I found this handwritten note in one of Pablo Neruda’s anthologies yesterday 
I think it was ‘twenty Love poems & a song of despair’ 
the letter was half-written, in fact I was just getting started
and I don’t remember why did I stop
This was the time when she was in a foreign land 
and we decided to experiment with letters so that we would have a story to tell later
Maybe it was a call from her that made me stop writing 
or it was the use of full stop – like a valve shutting off the flow of thoughts & emotions


~ Ashk

P.S. - Should it be ‘Lovers who are poets’ or ‘poets who are lovers’?

P.P.S. – The letter must have been somewhere in the early August of 1949 or 1950

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

6/25/20

Black Coffee

11:49 PM




2 months and 2 days...and he still was lost for words...but he did write each night...like a fanatic following his religion...he was pious too..he did write the letter each night and burnt it every morning...he sprinkled the last bit of the ashes in his coffee every single day...it was a peculiar habit...but he was so full of peculiarities now..that his own reflection was a little baffled at his sanity...they din know he did that..if they knew they would chide him on how it could effect his health...but then he already knew how he was...he only din say...

Why make it a sad story...every time I write...someday..maybe it will be a little more sweeter and saner than last night..maybe then he would post the letter...but he did not have the address..but then he still din have the final letter ready...

Dramatics...never his trait...but he craved for applause...for critique...for honour...would his story make them cry...will those words finally fall into the perfect order of Music which would make them cry for he never wrote to make them laugh...those were not his realities....

His words were still mere letters and yet not the letter...and they still asked him why he drank black coffee...and he already said...only till I do....

~ Ashk

6/7/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XIII

3:00 PM




3rd August 1953

I woke up in the morning at 5.23 AM

Something like my regular routine these days 
It had been an uneasy sleep 
Remembering when I ended up sleeping is a lost cause 
Its happening most of the nights these days 
I generally sleep between 2 or 3 AM
Must have been some time similar


It is a shady chapter of my life 

if anyone ever cares to write about it 
though I doubt they would get to know much about it in these pages
but I would still try 
understanding human nature & emotions is a tricky act 
some excel in it, while others run away 
They call it escapism – couldn’t find another fancy term it seems


I have been practicing Hikikomori for a 2 years now

Never thought I would start to love it so much
at first, it started as an experiment 
the charm of total isolation without any human contact 
without any worries of handling emotions which come from human interactions to be honest
but then it grew on me


The first few weeks were blissful

you could do whatever you felt like 
It was my space – shielded from all consequences and associated responsibilities 
then came the months of reality hitting you
the self-doubts and existential questions 
realization sinking in of the extent of your escapism 
That was the toughest part, where meditations worked, at least for a while


It was a time when every action you have ever taken in your life comes back in colored reel 

And so does the bundle of emotions like a wave on an ocean front
battering your psyche like that rock on the water front
It’s amazing how there is so much talk about the effects of depression and anxiety on people 
but the issue is that it talks in generalizations 
these demons never attack a herd
each story is unique and each reaction is personalized 
that’s what scares the mental health awareness groups I feel
though I am sure it is sprinkled with some amount of genuine care


I have been told when I look back at these days

I would have a happy laugh about it and how I blew the minor issues out of proportion
while also stating that these are significant emotions & important to me
Choose a side, guys!


But all said & done, I at least know that Depression is real 

and it can hit you anytime, in many different peculiar ways 
I also know how stress in life is equated to an anxiety disorder
or even full blown depression 
but glorifying something like this is not a good choice, mate 
Here’s a toast to reality & as my counselor told me self-realization


~Ashk

P.S. – Well, on hindsight this is one of the only dark entries you would see in my diaries. I think the only reason I plugged this in is to remember my days of Hikikomori. 




P.P.S. – Of course, I created a different journal documenting those 2 years of my life. 

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

5/31/20

The Creaking Chair - Part XII

2:24 PM


28th May 1999

I have an abnormally large collection of photographs

moments I have captured over years
and I use them as mirrors to keep me grounded on a plane of simplicity
so my pictures are not the regular friends laughing in a pub kinds
or teens banging their heads in a rock concert
or even the quintessential birthday party as a kid
with the lettered cut out on the wall calling out ‘Happy Birthday’ 
and the beaming smiles of friends behind the cake & the Birthday Boy.

My collection has a rather abstract view of life
A fallen eyelash resting on a copper pooja thali;
the queer expression of a rebelling atheist
An aimless braided chair sitting idle on a sunny day with a hint of cloud in the background;
the untainted memory of a peaceful afternoon embossed upon the mind 
A rope line with my mother’s freshly washed saree hung for drying
the untarnished smell of unfiltered warmth spreading through the heart
A shuttered public library with the leftover ashes of a burning sigri
the aftermath of another cold night in the open for the watchman

But the one photograph which made me write this entry today
was the photograph of my beloved coleus plant 
It was a housewarming gift from a dear colleague when I moved to Kolkata
Placed in a fish bowl shaped casing it had layered soil and tiny crystal like rocks on one side
the plant nestled nicely in the middle of this boundary between the decorative crystal patch & the underlying soil 
there was another smaller budding offshoot on the other side 
I liked the gift – it was good, but I did not love the life in it, yet

And then a few weeks later, I saw tiny new shoots on it
beautiful red leaves with spreading green on its corners 
Oh boy, that was a feeling difficult to match
an untainted adoration and pure love spreading like a smile on my face 
and for the next few weeks, every morning it was my first ritual to watch the new bud & smile 
This was my first experience with the weight of responsibility of nurturing a life 


But the photograph was not of that little bud

the photograph had to be inanimate right? 
if you have not yet caught the recurring theme in my photographs
It was a black and white shot of the same bowl with a fallen plant with shriveled leaves 
In my youthful zeal filled with an arrogant ignorance 
I kept feeding water & sunlight to it – at times too much water & too less of sunlight 
without realizing the underlying build up of tiny root eating aphids
the day I look the photograph, I realized they were too far in their act of weakening the roots 

I did replace the plant with another 
and this time took much better care 
for I was now prepared and a little bit more wiser 
But I miss that original plant for it gave me my love for gardening


~ Ashk

P.S. – Sahil has taken up to ‘digitizing’ my photographs as his project this summer vacations. I have a feeling I have a summer filled with walks down the untrodden memory lanes & loads of stories to tell. 



P.P.S. – Maybe I should convert these stories into something like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’.

For the complete series, visit - http://www.ashksymphony.com/p/the-creaking-chair.html

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