The ’30 under 30′ list!

At one point or the other, do we not all want to be in some kind of list? List of students who move on to the next class in school. List of students who got into the prestigious college. List of people who can buy land in Mars. List of people who survived an accident. List of people who would make it through one more day. Endless lists of endless things. Endless feats. 30 under 30, 40 under 40, 50 under 50… but why? Lists give you a sense of accomplishment. Ticking every item, striking off each accomplishment – a list is a definitive way of measuring success at a personal level. Impersonal lists may or may not be definitive, but they still are a means to see how far you have reached.

Sometimes I wonder how cool would it be to be actually featured in some ’20 under 20′ or ’30 under 30′ list. It would feel super amazing I suppose. 20 under 20 is gone and 30 under 30 is also slowly slipping away. Never mind though. 40s and 50s are right there intact. Okay, now it sounds very weird. It’s almost like I believe there has been any such actual accomplishment in life. To clear things up, that wasn’t quite the intention of this intro. I am only trying to put my thoughts about lists and their relevance in our lives.

You and I – we all have lists. From grocery to daily to-dos – the list of lists is endless. Do you often wonder how these lists take control of our lives? Marking things on it and striking them off are so satisfying, aren’t they? The feeling of accomplishment of something. And it is all that we all live for. Some mental lists, some paper lists, some unwritten lists – reminders on the things to chase for. It is fascinating how aimless one feels without a list of action items. What happens to free will and thinking on the feet? Oh well, they do exist. But almost always enveloped by a big picture of some bucket list or to- do.

There were times in life when I had more than 3 to-do planners. With groups and folders and RAG status and what not. I still have some of those kind. But all of them are for work. I’m too scared to keep one for myself these days. It just feels like a blaring proclamation of my failure to strike things off them. Or some such weird thought. And lost in that fear and uncertainty, I guess I’m just missing out on some really fulfilling moment of life. Exactly like so many other moments in life.

P. S. This is a writing I’ve been working on for some months now. With many interruptions and excuses, I managed to delay this forever to be published. Ironically, this one strikes one thing off my ‘not-written- down’ list – write away with an endless expanse of ocean outside the window! Last word written exactly in time before my last day with this view – oddly satisfying!

Ente veedu, appoontem!

My home, Appu’s too. That has been the hardest reality I am trying to put up with recently. Apart from global warming, world poverty, Indian politics and general joblessness. Seems that even if I survive them all, I can never accept the existence of this new member of the family. This blog was planned exactly a year ago. When I was away from home, my family celebrated the first birthday of our pet dog, Appu. Cake, a fancy cap, sadhya with payasam, (though the dog had it’s routine curd rice) and a prolonged description of all these to me. The pet’s birthday was quite a big deal. That’s when I thought of the title – the sharing of my home and my family with a new unwelcome member.

Owing to many reasons, read excuses, like lack of time and laziness, I never completed the post. Coming to think of it, perhaps, I was just giving myself time, to know the dog better, maybe try to adjust with it’s existence, if not love it, and then write down something nice instead of my generic snarls about animals and their domestication. As things turn out to be, a year passed by and the dog is a year older now. But nothing changed about the ‘two of us’. Oh wait, I just addressed it as one among ‘us’. That changed I guess. Then again, as I write this, there’s some barking in the background. It doesn’t particularly annoy me, out of habit, but nor does it make me feel warm to the supposed ‘guardian’ of our home.

There’s a lot I learnt about Appu, over these two years. It’s basically a scardy cat, more than a dog. It’s scared of lightnings and thunders, rains, and even the slightest change in tone of anyone of us at home. It has befriended a lot of birds, and suddenly I see many types of them around my home, talking to the dog, stealing it’s food. That’s something I do appreciate about it’s presence at home. Appu loves mangoes, and raises serious doubts about it’s ‘dogliness’ when you throw a slice of ripe mango at it. The dog stinks, and sheds way too much hair for an OCDed human like me to deal with. It’s been the menace of my life, while it’s the apple of the eye for the rest of my family. My parents think of it as their begotten son, and my sister as her lost brother, I assume.

All that said, I don’t hate it. I never did. I am too scared and annoyed of its presence, but I am trying to live with it. Like I said, a reality I am trying to accept. My mom, on the other hand, is pretty convinced that I might even kill it on purpose. My sister wouldn’t disagree, I guess. But what they don’t see is that, there are a lot of ways to cope with things. Ways unknown to many are the norms of many others. When my entire family and extended family loves that 4-legged hairy barking creature unconditionally, I am genuinely intrigued. Why?! And at the end of the question, I am easing into a home that’s not just mine, but also Appu’s. Ente veedu, appoontem!

JaDa – Day 84

Finally, the day has come, and the flight is here to take us home. We reached the airport pretty early, thanks to Haruka! We couldn’t have checked in that early, so that made up for an excuse to roam around Osaka. We hardly saw the airport when we arrived here. I wasn’t particularly looking for anything, for I had drawn a full stop on souvenir shopping. It was my hunger pang’s turn to be pacified as I spotted a Subway. Biting into a sure-shot vegetarian food was a dream come true for me in Japan! Luggage was well within the limits, so no worries there, though Divya and Saikat slightly got the burn. Soon, I was in the flight, looking back at Japan from air – one final glance. Surprises weren’t over yet at Japan. I was given my pre-booked meal, well packed and appetizing – Japanese sticky rice with convincing vegetables! And that, my friends, is the story of me tasting authentic Japanese rice, mid-air, flying away from Japan. After a brief layover at China, we were in our flight to Mumbai, rushing back home.

With the touch down, JaDa ends.

JaDa – Day 83

The very last day in Japan! Tomorrow, sitting at the airport doesn’t count as being in Japan anyway. I wanted to make the best of today, and so, I took a bus pass to roam around the city. After a very brief visit to Yodobashi (family stuff, you know – shopping never ends literally!), I got into a random bus. And I did not get off it! I could see that I was going the same route over and over, but it felt nice to relax and watch the city move around me. I don’t remember how long I traveled in the bus, but it definitely didn’t feel as long. The one last meal in Japan was again in an Indian restaurant – Maharaja. I know, it does sound stupid, but if there’s one thing I don’t trust Japan with, that’d be distinguishing vegetarian and non-vegetarian food! Took a stroll around Kamo river, walked through random alleys, saw couple of geishas and meikos – what more can you ask for in Kyoto! And finally, to end a great day at with hot cup of coffee, I sat down at the Starbucks by the riverside. As I enjoyed my last evening in Japan, it began to drizzle outside. The day was cloudy, but I hoped to be in train before it poured. Winding up the day, I reached the station only to know that all trains to Minami Kusatsu have been cancelled! Apparently it rained heavily, and the rail tracks were blocked. Panic mode was up and running, and then I thought of Divya roaming around in Kyoto. Called her up, figured out alternatives and went full-on crazy and scared about missing the flight tomorrow. After a while, we mustered courage to talk to the busy station staff who were dealing with the chaos without a pause. To my greatest surprise, the staff at the office kept aside his urgent tasks at hand, and patiently explained to me about our options to get back home. He even took out a paper, and drew the entire map on it, just in case we didn’t get his broken English. We had no words for him, awestruck and grateful; we thanked him and rushed through the platform to catch our alternative train. Mostly likely because of our loud discussions about the rail lines and switching of trains, an old man at the platform offered to help us out. Used to the pleasant nature of Japanese, we weren’t surprised by the offer. He talked through the journey, got off at the intermediate station with us, walked till our platform and ensured we’d be fine on the way since JR line was restarted by that time. My last memory of interacting with Japanese people would probably that old man at that platform, who waved at us continuously, till our train was out of sight. The picture of that man who then walked away to his platform is a frame that wouldn’t fade in my memory. I am glad I could give him the only ‘kachcha mango‘ I had then.

Japan, I am proud to have visited you, and humbled by your humility! I have never been surrounded by such goodness and peace, like when I was here.

JaDa – Day 82

A very emotional day – that was today in a nutshell. I got the stamp – trust engraved – it felt very fulfilling to have trust embodied into something like that. Me and Divya went to Kiyomizu-dera, a buddhist temple in the heart of Kyoto. I would have something very special had I not gone there, at least now. The concept of walking through a pitch dark cave and coming out from the other side was considered a holy rebirth. The cave is revered as the womb of Bodhisattva – the divine essence of Buddhism. As you walk through the pitch dark cave, holding onto the railing made of Buddhist meditation beads, it is a very spiritual moment as you see the holy stone. You pray to the stone, and come out reborn. I am glad this is my last destination of the my Kyoto pilgrimage. We had to get back to the campus before 5, since we had to finally return the ID card. Somehow, I felt very emotional about that too. There’s no more swiping through the stairs, and walking across the hill. Well, everything comes to an end eventually. As though enough memories weren’t made yet, I got a souvenir tee-shirt with Ritsumeikan printed on it, and Divya got a hoodie, before we walked through the hill, climbed the hundred steps up, and the hundred steps down, for one last time.

JaDa – Day 81

One never gets enough sulk-days in life, if you ask me. Holidays are different – they are for you to go out and have fun and be exhausted – like yesterday. But a sulk-day is a relaxing concept – when all you do is sulk and sulk again. Well, today was pretty much a sulk-day for me, thank god! Well that, and I packed my bags to go home! Just 2 more days!

JaDa – Day 80

I don’t know if it’s me, or the foreign trip, or just normal – souvenir shopping just never ends! I have hardly 2-3 days to go home and I am still looking for stuff for relatives. Set out to Kyoto in the morning itself – a solitary trip. Besides some shopping in Yodobashi, and the routine Shijo-Teramachi stretch, I had a selfish agenda for today. I placed order for my most precious souvenir – all for myself! I am getting a hanko – a personalised Japanese style stamp – with ‘trust’ engraved in Kanji – ”. I am so excited, maybe even more than the iPad! Kyoto has been so familiar for us now that we set up random rendezvous to meet up. Met Divya at Wendy’s in Teramachi, and got back home after her shopping spree.

JaDa – Day 79

Reaching at Minami Kusatsu, we had some time until the bus came. We bought some bread for breakfast, and got onto the first bus that came by. It seems quite ridiculous to get into the wrong bus after 3 months of staying at a place, but anyway, we did just that. Technically, it was not a wrong bus; it just took a slight detour from the stop immediately before ours. We got down at a completely new part of the street, and walked all the way back to I-House. But then, I would say that wrong bus did the best thing for us. If not for the bus, we’d have never gone to that part of Matsugaoka – vast expanse of green farmlands and curvy roads. It was a very beautiful sight for a great morning. The night bus and the unanticipated long morning walk made sure we spent the rest of the day indoors only. Exhausted!

JaDa – Day 78

Either we had had too much of Tokyo already, or we were just too tired. We were more than glad to go back to Kyoto. I was even kinda looking forward for the night bus, almost from the beginning of the day. That said, we made our visits to Asakusa, did some souvenir shopping, wondered what’s so great about Tokyo Sky Tree without climbing all the way up (too expensive for no apparent reason!), and walked around the streets of Tokyo. We had had enough of Tokyo, except for one – my iPad. We met Shruti enroute, and went to buy it finally. I was too excited and confused at the same time, I couldn’t make up my mind on the colour or focus on the billing. I somehow paid the amount, and literally ran out of the building with a brand new iPad and an Apple Pencil. It now felt like a completed trip, and I just wanted to be back at I-House. Nothing else mattered anymore, that I point blank rejected the idea of eating from Subway (my only hope for a decent vegetarian meal in Japan!). Soon enough, we bid bye to Shruti and settled down in the bus back to Minami Kusatsu. Bye bye, Tokyo!

JaDa – Day 77

The two of them left early in the morning for Fuji, and soon after I left to explore the city of Tokyo. Rushing through the crowd, figuring out the roads, I got carried away by the vibes of the city. My destination was pretty clear though – Akihabara! The shopping hub of electronics and anime, manga and a lot more – it was so amazing that I spent almost my entire day in those streets only. Walking past maid cafes and anime characters, the feeling of being alone in a foreign city was very enthralling, and not at all scary. I spent most of the day in Yodobashi and Bic Camera, fidgeting with all variants of iPads, testing and evaluating their price, performance and my budget. The Apple Pencil was so amazing that I wrote long essays in Malayalam with it, and spent hours playing with it. I am not sure if I need it yet. But I really really want it.

Unwillingly, I ventured out of Akihabara, towards Ginza, the richer and grander side of the city, in search of an Indian restaurant, ‘Dhaba India’. I walked in expecting the same old huge naan and flavourless sabzi, which I had learnt to adjust with. But what awaited me was awesome ‘masala dosa’ and piping hot coffee! The vigor with which the Tamil server went to the center of the hall and ceremoniously poured my coffee from the cup to the another bowl, and transferred it back to the cup. That was usual, for a local tea stall in India, but why here? I got the response soon enough, as the guests applauded and looked at the guy in awe. It struck me only then, that I am in a foreign country, sitting in a restaurant that would be foreign to the majority of the guests dining there! Soon enough, I met Divya at Shinjuku bus station, and we headed back to Grapehouse Koenji.