“… So let’s set the world on fire…”

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” … God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young
It’s hunting season and the lambs are on the run
Searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars, trying to light up the dark?…” – Lost Stars, sung by Adam Levine/Keira Knightly, from the movie “Begin Again”

 

People talk about wealth. They talk about happiness. And health. And love, fame and success. Not a whole lot is spoken about youth. I could be part of the problem and complain about that, but mine is literally slipping by the second, so I decided to be part of the solution. And started to write this.

So why isn’t youth as popular a topic as the other typical feel good ones? After all, the title of the highly overrated and utterly sub par Bollywood blockbuster says it pretty well- “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (loosely translated, “this youth is intoxicating”). Maybe because it passes and no one has control over it. Maybe because the people in positions to talk are bitter about theirs having long been gone. Or maybe because I’m still on this side of the threshold and I’m missing something. Perhaps there’s something I don’t know.

What I do know is I still have mine, and I absolutely love it. Every second of it. I wake up every single day and thank my stars that I’m still young. It’s the shiniest treasure and the greatest blessing I can think of. And I happen to be in the sweet spot of age 21-22, where I have all of the freedom and none of the responsibilities, with just enough sense to fully enjoy it all.

I have immense faith in the universe, and I realize that god doesn’t play dice. Every living organism has a birth, death and a similar pattern of ageing along the way, so I’m sure every phase has its own unique relevance and beauty. I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it is.

Childhood, as magically as it may be portrayed, is a little bit of a lackluster prequel. For its most part, we’re all frankly too stupid to be relevant. We need to depend on others for everything without the realization that there’s no reason for us to be that entitled. We have no developed sense of decorum, protocol or the slightest clue of what the fuck is going on around us. Kids say the wrong things at the wrong time, and leave their parents with awkward, embarrassed smiles, and have them thinking of the slightest reason that could be used to explain why they called Aunt XYZ a “Gold Digger” (No really, I said “Goal Digger”). Moreover, this is an unnecessarily vulnerable age. My childhood had no major trauma(touch wood), with the exception of having to carry my study material on vacations. Not everybody is fortunate enough to grow up safe and content. A huge portion of kids in the world grow up in poverty, sketchy neighborhoods, dysfunctional families, neglect or with the loss of one or both parents. Their highly impressionable minds fail to process this in a healthy way leading to incalculable and irrevocable damage that hinders their state of mind for the rest of their lives.

And don’t even get me started on old age. The first day of retirement is one of the happiest, most light headed days in decades. You sleep in late, take the dog for a walk, play cards with your friends and watch a movie, all in the same day. And then, from the second day onward, you have no clue what to do with your life. And even a car accident might not kill you, but an idle mind will. Very few people are able to find an exciting new avenue that late in life, and even fewer who manage to pursue it. And if you do manage it, there’s this other issue… of getting older. The years of alcohol, cigarettes, lack of sleep and exercise, stress and unhealthy food habits begin to heavily weigh you down. Blood sugar rises, cholesterol is off the charts, the risk of a heart attack has tripled, your eyes stop working, your ears stop working, you have diarrhea, dementia, Alzheimer’s and the hips need to be replaced. Suddenly, you’re taking more pills than nutrients and the medical expense is more than what your wedding cost. You have all the time and money in the world, but no energy left to travel. Once again, you start to depend on others. And if you have a less than concerned family, there’s a hundred petty insults and humiliations that often come with it. You sort of “let go” of life and start to think of the regrets of the past and things like “who will cry when I die?” Basically, you become somewhat of a wacko. And all of this doesn’t sound appealing to me.

The middle age, is slightly underrated I believe. Even though the best years of your life are gone and the once wild and ambitious couple is reduced to a largely thrill-averse life of parenting, there is still a lot to capitalize on. You’ve had some solid work experience. You have the wisdom and lessons that 50 years of being alive brings with it. You have decent resources and are in a position to make anything happen. You’ve learnt the ins and outs of the world. Sadly, though, for most people this age, life is in a rut and not on a trampoline.

 

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The song “We are Young” by Fun

 

The glorious 10-15 years of one’s youth, on the other hand, are more magnificent and promising than I could describe in a thousand words. There’s rampant energy, a plethora of ideas and new found freedom. You can run, dance and the mind works at its peak level. There’s the unshakable belief that the world is your oyster. And even better, it is. You have the freedom to choose any life path you’d like, and the margin to re-route if need be. You’re allowed and on some level, expected to make mistakes. With that, comes the opportunity to learn, and grow. Every few years there’s a whole new exciting chapter of life unfolding, and there’s always enough to look forward to. Opportunity is plenty and responsibility is minimal. It’s the phase of life that’s full of all the best firsts- first drink, first job, first apartment, first kiss. It’s the time when temporary friendships have faded and you’re left with those few friends that have stuck by through it all, and you genuinely believe that it’ll last a lifetime. It is also the time where you make friends that become your closest advisers, confidants and the true worth of your network even 30 years later. I haven’t gone through it yet, but I’m almost absolutely certain, that your best memories come from here too. There’s all of this and there’s so much more that I can’t seem to be able to materialize into words. Most of all, there’s seemingly an abundance of the universe’s most precious resource – time. Unless you’re Bill Gates or The Dalai Lama, I’m sure everybody would like to go back in time for some reason or the other. Maybe to start that business they always wanted, or to be able to tell their mom how much they loved her. Good thing about youth is, you still have that chance. You still have time. As I realized at some point, you still don’t have an unlimited amount. But you have as much as you ever will, and the ability to capitalize on it. Time is always there and there’s never enough of it I suppose, but the ability to not be constantly reminded of how much of it is gone is what lets us truly enjoy it. Really, if I were god, everyone would be born at age 18, and after a hundred years you’d die at about 25. Okay 27, because 25 is the legal drinking age in Delhi, and I need some time to enjoy the legal version of it. (Seriously though, 25?)

Even after this prolonged, opinionated piece comparing the several phases of life, I do believe youth is not an age group, it’s a state of mind. Well maybe not, but I refuse to believe that we have to live (or not live) a particular way just because we’ve spent a certain number of years breathing air. Listen to your gut, take some risks, laugh more often, don’t sweat the small stuff, be selfish when it comes to the things that make you happy, and approach life with love and gratitude, and there’s no reason why your youth will not follow you to your grave.

But then again, I’m young. What do I know ?

 

 

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“Youth is intoxicating.” Of course, the public will buy anything as long as it is sold with beautiful, popular superstars on the cover.

Enough of that book already. Go watch some TV.

“Jesus Christ XYZ, you have school tomorrow. Stop watching FRIENDS and go to sleep.” said(yelled) my father. Despite my most exhaustive defensive strategies, my father caught me watching an episode of my favourite sitcom at one o’clock in the morning. Which wasn’t a big deal except it broke the illusion I had managed to create that I promptly go to sleep at 10 every night. I didn’t mind shutting down the computer. I had my entire video library on my iPod, which I would continue to watch under the sheets for the next few hours. The next day my dad deleted everything from the computer. That stung a little.

Admittedly the premise of his argument wasn’t invalid. Watching movies and TV shows isn’t a particularly lucrative hobby. It’s passive entertainment. It deteriorates the eyes. Oh and the poster boy for anti-television reasons – MOST OF WHAT IS SHOWN TODAY IS RUBBISH. Whether it is to exploit the schadenfreude of the viewers or to garner their empathy, the science of television production and broadcasting has seemingly boiled down to creating loud, toxic drama. This takes various forms ranging from the manifestation of ancient ideas leading to family feuds and murdering the female foetus like in Balika Vadhu, to essentially harmless but absolutely brain-dead and delusional depictions like Taarak Mehta. Even the news channels today show either only murders, rapes and scandals or presumably false and absolutely irrelevant success stories of whichever political party has paid them off. And don’t even get me started on reality television. From Roadies to The Bachelor, it’s a constant onslaught of uneducated, unimpressive people eager to try their luck at riding the TRP wave to super stardom. The thriving entertainment business today might be the biggest sales job where garbage is sold to garbage-men, often without the pretty packaging.

And I love it. I absolutely love it.

Now that I’ve showcased my frustration for the slimy, sticky, corrosive part of this industry, allow me to explain why it has had me hooked for as long as I can remember. Why I choose to ignore the thorns and smell the rose. Why I believe that the true value of TV shows and movies is more intangible than we are ready to understand.

Since the total number of movies, TV shows, talk shows, game shows, reality shows, documentaries etc. annually produced around the world is beyond staggering, there’s more than enough of these that are in fact well thought out and beautifully executed. These are the ones where the proprietors wake up every morning with the goal of creating media that is just as much a creative outlet as it is a genuine public service. These are not made with the end goal of making a vast amount of money, but of striking a chord in the heart of the audience and being memorable long after being forgotten. (No, the paradox isn’t lost on me). Funnily enough, these are the productions that end up making the most money.

Since there are no more bushes left to beat around, here are a few reasons(off the top of my head) as to why a little bit of TV might do you some good.

 

  1. Makes you laugh
    The average child is said to laugh about 300 times a day. The average adult, less than 10. That is just plain sad. And if you’d google the astronomically impressive benefits of laughter, it’s borderline unhealthy. Well-made sitcoms make you laugh. They bring that glow to your face that can only come from happiness and are an instant mood lifter after a bad day at work. And I mention laughing because personally I have a slight preference for the genre of comedy. But similar responses can be triggered by programmes of nearly any genre. A good drama will give you goosebumps. A good mystery/thriller will get the wheels in your head going. Even a good tragedy makes you think or tear up a little. Essentially, well crafted television can unclog your emotional pipelines, and that will serve you well in all other aspects of life.

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    F.R.I.E.N.D.S. might be the greatest comedy ever created. 13 years after it aired its final episode, re-runs of this giant success can always be viewed on some network or the other. Having watched every episode more times than I care to admit has had no bearing on the fact that each time I view a scene again, it makes me laugh like it did the first time.

     

     

  2. Exposes you to the genius of the creators
    Some of the smartest, most intellectually acute and creatively superior people on the planet have given their lives to the entertainment business. These are people who have a unique lens of viewing society at a global level, and at the same time an erratic imagination that will leave you breathless. And when dozens of these geniuses pool their time and energy into creating and polishing something, being able to watch it is not only a pleasure, but a privilege.

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    From eccentric scenes to amazing dialogues to incredible direction, Pulp Fiction is just one example of the genius that is Quentin Tarantino.  Here you can expect accidentally shooting others in the face, scaring off robbers by reciting a verse from the Bible (which subtly turns out to be the undertone of the entire film), all hell breaking loose every time Vincent Vega goes to the toilet and an unbelievable dance sequence that hasn’t been replicated since. (Geez, I could do a whole other post on the magnificence of this masterpiece).

     

     

  3. Showcases different cultures, businesses etc.
    Not one of the most obvious benefits of television and movies, I agree. It’s there, nonetheless. A lot of research goes into the creation of the context, and it is ultimately packaged beautifully in a way that can quite often provide insight and knowledge. Whether it’s the culture of a far off country or the intricacies of a particular business, stories emerging from these carry with them the basic understanding of their ins and outs.

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    The inside story of the cut-throat, diamond studded and enviable world of Hollywood is split open and put on exhibition in the semi fictional HBO series Entourage. Also, it gave birth to arguably the best character ever created, Ari Gold (far left). Fair warning, watching this series could cause serious damage to your love for your own life.

     

     

  4. Gives you a certain flair for the language
    Once again, a more passive perk. I am absolutely convinced that the grip I have on my languages is in no minor way due to the countless hours I have spent indulging in numerous productions. (If you don’t know just how much, have a look.)

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    The unparalleled brilliance of every one of James Spader’s closing arguments in Boston Legal is something that can’t be put into words. It’s an experience. Hats off to the writers.

     

     

  5. It’s good entertainment
    That.

 

Oh, and I’ve actually made money watching sitcoms.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting centering your life around the screen, nor am I arguing that movies are a reservoir of knowledge. I’m a devoted reader of books and I agree reading is a far superior mechanism for enlightenment as well as entertainment, but books already have a good reputation, so that’s not what I’m here to argue. AlI I’m saying is that little portion of your life you do spend in front of the screen can not only be relaxing, but also rewarding.

Now if you’ll excuse me, House Of Cards just finished downloading.

Whoever came up with Thanksgiving, knew exactly what he was doing.

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“Now first off I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or of any human hand. He has shown me that it is a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates…”- Matthew McConaughey Oscar acceptance speech

 

Someday, 2:38 pm – Madgaon Railway Station

A young twenty something walked in through the hustle and bustle at the station. Even in such a place, where the crowd consisted of millions, you could spot this smashing gentleman from the moon. Looks lurking around the average, not very tall, and dressed in a simple shirt, jeans and sneakers attire, there was no reason why he should have been distinguishable from anyone else with a similar description. However, a few seconds around him and you could tell he was god’s gift to this world. How aware was he of this, who knows?

He had flown in from the greatest city in the country (New Delhi, for you rare, delusional ones who think it’s, ughh… Mumbai), had tandoori chicken and beer for lunch, took a thousand rupee cab to the station, where he had a seat in the AC coach that would take him to his extremely overpriced (and overrated) college.

“Coach C1, seat 33. C1, C1, C1…” he said to himself, alternating his gaze between his not so latest but still good smartphone and the never ending array of train coaches. In thirty-eight degrees of heat. After scanning the entire train thrice and not being able to locate his coach, he figured maybe he was on the wrong platform. So once again, he picked up his luggage, climbed up the stairs, crossed the overhead bridge to the other side, all the while simultaneously dodging people’s armpits being shoved in his face and dog excrement under his feet. Obviously, he was on the right platform before. He picked up the luggage, crossed over again, and decided to ask for help from the unfortunate seventh member in a seat meant for three, whose face was pretty much hanging out of the window by now, and would be for the next five hours.
“Bhaisahab, is this XYZ Express ? “

“Yes”

“ Which way is coach C1? “

“ AC coach? “

“Yes”

“Maybe towards the front. This is the general coach “
Having checked “the front” thrice already, he picked up his luggage with one hand, blocked his nose with the other, and crossed over to the other side to the station master’s office. “AC coach scrapped today, not enough reservations. Go talk to the TC, he’ll give you another seat.”

Fifteen minutes later, the young man was sitting in his Non-AC coach, still just as smashing, but visibly pissed now.

 

Same day, 2:38 pm – Madgaon Railway Station

“Get out of here, you filthy beggar” shouted the cashew vendor. It being India, there were more beggars in the vicinity than cashews, but the vendor shouted at one in particular. He wasn’t even begging. He was asking if he could sit next to the shop for a few minutes, but who would care about what he was about to do. Most people in the world would ask this man to get away if he tried to approach them. He obviously hadn’t cleaned himself in weeks, hadn’t eaten or had any water for days, was barely dressed in a pathetic excuse for a kurta and was most likely ridden with disease(s). Anybody who looked at him would say he could drop dead anytime. But then again, not a lot of people looked at him.
Having just been insulted for the fourth time that day, he walked away from the cashew vendor, heavily leaning on his walking stick, looking for the next spot of shade to sit under or scrap of food to eat. Eventually, he came across one of the many trash cans installed in the station. He leaned into it as deep as his spine would allow, and started going through its contents. Three feet deep worth of foul smelling waste that you and I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Eventually, he came across a half eaten piece of bread. He picked it out, kissed it, and proceeded to enjoy every last bit of it. It was the highlight of his day. He then did something unimaginable. He touched the rim of the trash can, touched his fingers to his forehead and then kissed them, as a sign of respect. He looked up to the sky with his eyes closed and a broad smile on a face ecstatic with gratitude.
Looking at the whole scene from the window of his Non AC coach was god’s gift to this world, currently lost for thought. Here was a man, who had less than nothing but could still find a reason to be happy and grateful.

What’s my excuse now?

Popping my cherry – The blog post from hell

“Wow, you’re really good at this” said my classmate. I had just finished writing the essay for her application to the prestigious XYZ college. I knew her compliment was genuine as this particular piece had come out very well (okay I admit I might have put in extra effort because I had the biggest crush on her). That essay would get her into the college. Hell, that essay would have got Osama Bin Laden a US visa. It wasn’t the first time someone had said this to me. It happened almost every time I took the blood oath to write an article, essay or obituary for anyone. I loved hearing it. It wasn’t like creativity was oozing out of every pore of my body that I’d get sick of it. I didn’t sing, I didn’t dance and my artistic career was over when my aunt put one of my paintings on her fridge thinking it was made by her 2 year old son. I was 14 at the time. But there was something about stringing words together that didn’t make me feel like the most challenged person in the room. I don’t remember when exactly, but at some point somebody asked me to write something for them, mostly just to shrug away their responsibility, hoping I wouldn’t screw it up too bad. I didn’t. From there on it was a series of once a year coincidences landing me my “gigs” a.k.a. something to do in Network Programming lab. I liked the praise that came with it, or rather, I liked that praise came with it. The only limit in the system being there just weren’t enough opportunities for me to showcase my writing (start a blog, maybe?)

Which is what it eventually came down to. Starting a blog. For no real reason I suppose. I wasn’t being paid for it. I didn’t think I really had something to write that anybody would bother reading. But nevertheless, it was the only viable idea that popped into my head when I tried to solve the problem of “too much time on my hands” with the tools of “need something I like to do.” That was four years ago. And three. And two. You get the drill.

So why did this self proclaimed connoisseur of language with eyes filled with dreams of one day being the author of an above average blog take so long to start one? It’s not hard to do it. It requires no start-up capital or special skills. Heck, 9 year olds start blogs to describe how painful their last breakup was. So why didn’t I have one? Due to a plethora of excuses my fears had sold me, which after all the cake and watermelon boiled down to two things:

Would anybody bother reading what I had written?

and if they did,

Was I really any good?

As it turns out, the first question didn’t matter and the second one could only be answered if I got around to writing one. And once the questions had been answered the noise started to fade away and the silver linings began to emerge. I wasn’t writing for a magazine or any other publication, so I had no obligation to be (politically) correct. Since I had already rendered the first question useless, I was basically writing for myself. Which meant I could write what I wanted, when I wanted. It could be a paragraph long or ten pages long. I could be as frequent or infrequent with my posts as I desired. And for those who did end up reading it( thank you so much), I could choose to serve you in any which way I fancied. These were strangely empowering realizations. I’m still not sure what I’ll be writing about, as is evident by my first blog post, about writing a blog post, but I hope for three characteristics to be prevalent.

  1. The articles make the readers laugh(or at least smile to begin with)
  2. They are uplifting and/or thought-provoking
  3. They are well written

I’m not sure I know how to do any of these things yet. But then again, there was a time when I had no idea how to take a shit, and now I can almost always do it on my own, so let’s see where this takes me.

So for those – if any – of you that have stuck by till the end of this first article, I guess I owe you something for your time. Here’s the corniest piece of free advice I can think of: Do it. Even if just for yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?

Cheers, to me popping my cherry. And now, for the real question.

Was I really any good?