An opinion piece I penned recently was published on YourStory.com! Yayy! It details the history of trade, the milestones we’ve achieved, USA at the eye of the trade war storm and how India features in it. Feedback is most welcome.
Over the last year, the United States of America under the leadership of President Trump renegotiated trade relations with the European countries, its’ North American neighbours, Asian economies and has now brought India under its’ lens. Post an apolitical stance in the Cold War era, India opened up its’ trade borders extensively to the U.S but no bilateral trade agreement was signed between both countries. Now that we seem to be on the brink of one, here’s what to expect…
In my last blog post I asked you a question – do you prefer your travels to be meticulously planned or be a blind adventure? I am still deciding which one suits me more – plucking out memories from earlier trips, deciding which lessons are worth being learnt and which were just flukes of the hour.
I recall a trip to Udupi, a quaint temple town, nestled by the beaches lining the Arabian Sea, in the Western Ghats – a trip I had researched, Googled about, interviewed earlier travellers and jotted down an itinerary to the extent of having even decided the breakfast to be ordered at Woody’s! Yeah, called me obsessed but I was really excited about that particular trip, not that I recall the reasons now, but it could have something to do with beaches! I am a beach baby who fears the seas, after all. Take that for irony! Guess where that led me? The moment I set foot on one of their islands, St. Mary’s, I began looking for that particular patch of lagoon where my friend said he’d played volleyball with his friends and how picturesque the location was. I set foot on the island with someone else’s idea of beauty rather than making up my own mind about what I felt about the island. I led myself to see through someone else’s eyes and thoughts. Not a moment of rest to the mind, not a pause to stand and absorb, feel and think, a constant rush to check the next sight off the list, not standing long enough to even breathe.
But. There’s a but.
Last month, I visited Hampi, known for its ruins of the Vijayangara empire, hippie style of living, a bed of rocks that transports you to an era a few hundred years ago – possibly the heat that plays with your mind. Circumstances made me procrastinate planning for a trip I had sincerely vowed to. Such desperate were the times, that despite three attempts to map out the route of our visits, technology failed to help us chart a plan. So we were left to hang dry with no map references, no lists of ‘Top 10 places to visit in Hampi’, ‘7 things you should do in Hampi’, ‘5 must-try restaurants in Hampi’ and so on! “Oh chuck it,” I thought when a man tried to sell me a ‘Tourist’s Guide to Hampi’. I’ll go in blind this time, I thought. And you know what I ended up missing?
I walked away from this detailed, breathtaking, mind-blazing, still mostly intact ruin from within fifteen metres of it, after reading the sign that spelled out its presence! For freaking Heaven’s sake, this is the third image result that pops up when looking up Hampi and I did not visit it! Such a bummer. But well, we did manage to do a lot of other crazy stuff that cannot make it to the blog for want of keeping your faith in my sanity intact.
So what do you say? Guess I need to find a little balance? And pray, how do I do that?
Weekend getaways are a solace I look forward to. I find myself in the middle of nowhere, no networks to connect to, innocent, city-oblivious eyes peering out from house windows, lush green or azure seas or b both inviting me to lose myself in the peaceful insanity of it all. These short trips don’t happen as much as I want to or happen much more than my Mom wants them to. Either ways, at the end of it, both of us are happy – me with a lighter wallet, she heavy with my experiences.
But. There’s a but. While I’m on the trip, there’s a guilt accosting me often. The guilt of either knowing too much about the place or too less. Striking a balance between reading up about the most interesting places to see and ending up with a list of twenty places to cover in thirty hours is a task for me. With the extent of the reach of internet, there is not a place worth the penny you wouldn’t find a blog on, along with photographs revealing the beauty that a camera can manage to capture. But that ends up unveiling the surprise the sight has to offer! Well, and if I don’t read about the place, how would I know where from to extract the best of the experiences the place has to offer?
More on this in detail in the next blog! Meanwhile, what do you prefer? Blind dates with a place or well prepped for an apocalypse?
Stop waiting for the stars to align, the Universe to send signals, the Gods to descend. Make your own mistakes, choose your own days, decide for your own self. What is the worst that could happen? You could fail? But what if you didn’t try? Then you did fail.
They weren’t wrong when they said that we could conquer the world. But first, you need to conquer your own mind. More than half the battle is won then!
For writers, in life, some people end up becoming a muse – thinking about them gets the words flowing, the ideas add up and the fingers don’t stop typing (or writing)!
I was introduced to this concept of a writer and a muse way back in 2010, when the first season of Castle was being telecast on Star World India. That night I was switching channels with the remote in one hand, the landline phone’s receiver (good ol’ landlines!) in the other, sprawled on the sofa, talking to my soul sister about if we should have really skipped the party our batchmates were at, at that moment. After thirty seconds of awkward pause, each of the two imagining how outlandish the idea was to get out of your pyjamas, put on the little makeup our mothers would allow us to and dress up for a night out with people who you’ve hung around with for 14 years of your life, almost 8 hours each day. No, thanks! We might as well have crashed at each other’s place and have more fun poking fun at life! Which is when I came across Castle – the 90’s kids that I am, Tata Sky and it’s schedule of shows was new for me and I excitedly checked out the episode summary by clicking on the ‘i’ button of the remote. I was hooked – line and sinker!
Beckett was a smart ass, Castle was a pain in her smart ass (but ruggedly handsome!), the plot was thrilling and funny, and there were English subtitles which helped me follow the dialogues delivered in hushed undertones at the crime scene. Little did I know that 8 years down the line I’d still be a fan of the man whose name I’d made fun of! I mean whose last name should even be Castle?
But why am I telling you all this? Oh yes, muses! Castle found his muse in Beckett and I understood the importance of one. I haven’t fathomed the psychology behind it yet. I found mine a few years ago. I only found him back again. 🙂
Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?
News media often carries reports of people who have failed to measure success in their acts – standards of success that the society set for us all, marks in examinations, money in jobs, marriage by a certain age, being a mother – suffer from depression and end their lives.
But once in a while you also come across relatively successful people, who have much more means, who have earned more respect than the average individual, yet they too suffer from depression. A couple of years ago, a well-known Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, opened up about reclaiming her life from the dark clutches of depression. She shared her vulnerability with the world at large, and very bravely so. She made depression a household phrase, more rightly and less commonly used from then on.
Just in came news of an IPS officer, aged merely 30, who committed suicide, apparently due to depression. The case is still under investigation so it is possible the facts of the case might change later. But becoming an IPS officer is an achievement few have been able to boast about in the country. Out of 9 lakh aspirants each year, merely 200 are able to achieve the glory. And it requires you to slog your ass off! I know it because I’ve myself given it a shot or two. He was just 30. But being an IPS officer must have meant he was immensely respected and an immensely powerful carrier of change. Despite what I think would have been an ideal place in life, he was under depression. And depression strong enough to lead him to end his life – which means sharing his plight with others hadn’t helped, hoping that he had. It saddens me to think that someone in his stature, position and with the visibility among people he had, the visibility his work demanded, the best of therapists he could afford, he still believed the death was the solution. That deprived his soul felt!
I know there could have been circumstances at work or at home which may not have ended in a rosy life. I know there could have been sufferings in his past that had led to this step. I know there could have been therapists and medicines but they didn’t work. I know all of it. I acknowledge that I do not know the full story. But I fear the fear depression institutes in people, the helplessness it causes, the grief it brings to our beings.
And that is what leads me to think:
Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?
I looked up from my Kindle and out the window. The air turbulence was distracting. I wanted to stretch my legs that were getting cramped in the narrow leg space provided these days by airlines. Just a few minutes ago, the view from the window had been drab – blues of the lightest kind with fluffs of white cloud in the foreground. Or was it more than a few minutes ago? I wouldn’t know. My phone was on flight mode and my mind grappling with an Agatha Christie whodunit. Keener observation of the clouds would allow the brain to identify patterns. Sometimes it would be a horse’s head, other times a trophy and then a flock of sheep. But right now? Right now provided a view that would make it to Instagram stories, photography contests and lure amateurs towards professional photography. But I sat there watching unperturbed, unhurried. I was flight bound to home. The Sun was going home for the day too – home being the horizon. My eyes went in and out of focus, the portrait mode some call it, others name it bokeh. In an expanse of white, to the far right, soft hues of orange meshed with lighter yellows which faded into whites of the clouds. The mixed streaks seemed painted, with the flourish of pulled brush strokes. The center was a deeper, brighter, concentrated shade of orange, like the Sun itself was shining out – but you knew this was an illusion – more science than mere fabrication. The Sun was closer it to its home than it let on – this was simply a delayed telecast you were viewing. Closer to my window, making way for the scene were the clouds – bigger clouds, fog-like, misty, as if dewy-eyed at the beauty out my window. And then came the window – double paned, corners curved, waiting to be flapped down; a hole at the bottom edge of the outer window, scratches on the outer pane, whether flying bird wings or key marks, no one knows. And then I return to my Kindle, back to Christie, because I know, no matter how good the camera, it wouldn’t capture the scene my bare eyes saw. But I hope my words did.
From getting work done by the maid, to being your bridesmaid,
From finding a home, to setting up your own,
From discussing our dreads, to you moving into your husband’s bed.
Swati, it’s been more than two unforgettable years together and hopefully many more will follow ahead. You’re one sturdy lady and never let anything bring you down! We don’t often find people who match our frequencies but when we do, it’s best not to lose them so soon.
Varun, you’re one hell of a lucky guy and lucky enough is she! Take care of my friend as she makes you slog around the house. 😂
This post has doodles provided by Priya Vyas and Abha Dalmia. I’m ever thankful to them for encouraging me to blog and for showing their love towards my passion! Thank you! 😍
Though we did find women who were wearing the most insensible footwear, involving heels, chances of twisting your foot, skidding on the water and of course, breaking them! We went flip flops all the way! And maybe a couple of us also chose to show our bathroom slippers the light of the world. After all, it is in water that they show their true colours and strength.
Though it was incorrect on our part to once suggest our driver drive at more than 80 kmph on an open highway, because speed limits, he retorted with an explanation about how that would break the rules set for safety. Fair point, right? Not so much. Because at his own will he had been driving rashly even at 40 kmph, overtaking vehicles dangerously, sometimes while on not one but two calls!
Let’s talk about how phone calls. He was incessantly on calls, so much so that listening to music on the car speakers was almost a slam dunk attempt at trying to get him to shut up. But then he would be louder than the music then we’d tune up the volume, he’d tune up his and then we’d switch off the music while he still did some more talking. While he held one phone to his ear, the other in his hand which also controlled the steering, we held our heart in our mouth. Don’t ask me how he changed gears. I was too afraid to watch.
He’d rather we call him uncle or chachaji than Sir. Because he has grandkids our age. And he’d rather we sit in our hotel room, visit one place a day and let him be free for most of the time because hello, why should we have all the fun! He went to the extent of commenting when we directed him with Google maps to a temple off the main Mahabaleshwar Panchgani road, that we must be careful of the places we’re going to. After all, we are five single women traveling alone. So much for being five. And so much for calling him uncle.