Monday, December 30, 2013

The India Hangover

The evening sun in Mumbai

You know that growing sense of badly suppressed excitement before an India trip? Well, I used to know it- what seems like but is not- ages ago. 

It used to start many months before the actual trip- when I decide the trip dates and start looking for flights. Being an obsessive spreadsheet-maker I would narrow down costs and options into a table and finally narrow down on one. You can hear my heart thump slowly, like the sound of feet before a long run. In a few weeks, however, those drums would be drowned by the din of everyday life. Deadlines, weekend plans, grocery lists.

Then, one fine day about a month before the trip, I would suddenly remember "Oh, I am going to India in a month!". Those beats would begin again faintly in the background. Slowly yet steadily growing louder.
About two weeks before the actual trip, I would realize I haven't done the gift shopping yet. And I have only one weekend. I would make a list of things to get, and kill myself running across the city in that one weekend. Sometimes, I would also be ripped off by the Amazon shipping costs. 

The next few days would be a race between me and all my to-do lists. Pending bug fix, check. Collected gift package from leasing office, check. I-20 signature- oh hell, I forgot that... and so on. And in those rare minutes I catch myself thinking, I would feel the impatience. 48 more hours to board the flight. And 26 hours after that. Why can't I be home sooner?

Then D-Day would arrive and I would do all the last minute packing and re-checking that I locked my place and finally reach the airport. Oh hell, forgot my ipod charger. But that would appear minor compared to the prospect of going home. The drums would be audible again. Playing an interesting beat, almost like a folk song. And as I feel the airplane engines rev up and leave the ground I would hear the drums being accompanied by a full blown orchestra- "I am going home." To people I love...

I call this whole process the pre-India-trip-build-up. Sometimes accompanied by the sudden sense of nostalgia, it makes me wonder if Cheran's (of "Autograph" fame) spirit is somehow haunting me..

Guess what, I don't know that feeling anymore. This time I went through the charade of spreadsheets and to-do lists and gift buying. But no drums. When I got into my flight in SFO, I fell asleep almost instantaneously.  In fact, during my layover at the London airport I was just bored and counting the minutes before I could sleep on a comfortable bed.

Not to say I was not looking forward to the India trip. With my newfound interest in photography I had huge plans of taking beautiful "bringing-out-the-colors" pictures of bangle stores and smiling old ladies with huge nose-rings. And sunsets on dusty roads and crowded markets. You get the drift. And I WAS looking forward to meeting my family and friends. Maybe the little music director in my head was on a vacation. (This reminds me of the homunculus argument! But I digress... ) But somehow, the excitement I usually have for going home was just a little dim..

(To be continued...)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tooth fairies, fantasy and dasavatharam

I know I haven't been writing for a while. Blame it on a super hectic month followed by an India trip followed by an even more hectic month and then the holiday season. Anyway, I wrote this post before leaving for India, but couldn't get around to putting it up. So here it is.. Also, hope to write about the India trip soon.. We'll see when I get around to doing that..

I read this post on Hallucinations about a conversation between 2 six year olds about tooth fairies- one girl knows they do not exist and the other doesn't. It made me wonder what I really thought about fairies and stuff when I was a kid. Very early in life, my mom told me Santa Claus was just someone I know dressed up with a fake beard. And my dad told me that the people you watch on TV are just acting (that was because I would get way too depressed seeing characters die or get hurt on TV!). I remember reading way too much Enid Blyton (I think I read everything from the Red story book to the Book of pixies) and trying to imagine that my toys could talk at night. It was fun to imagine, but even then I knew it wasn't true.

The fantastic things I truly believed in then were quite mundane. Like the fact that there is a supernatural power watching your every move and waiting to restore the balance in the world. Or that good begets good. That if you keep hoping, everything will turn out alright. They are nice to believe in as a kid. Sometimes, even as an adult. It is nice to do your part and assume that "there is somebody who made you and cares for you, and who will help you if you do the best of what you can".
But as I grew older, I decided that these ideas were as fantastic as the idea that tooth fairies exist. That the reason to do the right thing is not because you will be rewarded in the end, but because the doing is itself the reward.
Funnily though, I admit that the made up sentences(or ideas) work. Telling yourself not to give up because all that hard work has gotta pay back does give you enough confidence to last the last mile. (You see what I did there? :P) When you have been back-stabbed or are generally cynical, telling yourself that good begets good motivates you to go on doing good. So you see, even though I think these sentences are made up, I use them all the time. 

Then, the truly amazing thing about all this is not the fact that I realized as I grew up that these ideas are made up, but how these conflicting ideas can co-exist in my head (and in the head of the kid about whom that author was writing). I can drown hours in imagination, I can tell myself confidently that it will all work out in the end. And yet I know these are just sentences I am making up. (To some people, this might smell of hypocrisy. But maybe I will write about my justification for it some other time).Anyway, that reminds me of the Tamil movie Dasavatharam. There is this conversation in the end which beautifully sums up all I have to say about the co-existence of rationality and fantasy.

The translation goes this way-
Asin: Why do you say there is no God?
Kamal: I am not saying that God does not exist. I am just saying it would be wonderful if he did.