The social animal

No man is an island, they said. Man is a social animal, they said.

They were right.

All this while, I thought, I like my alone time. I enjoy time with myself. I can’t stand people and their drama.

I was right too, but also so wrong. I do enjoy being by myself. I recently realised that I need my people too.

What changed, you ask?
I started my internship. I’m officially no more a medical student. I’m a doctor in training. I’m a few months in, and I’ve learned to be an adult, more than anything else. Handling people, situations, stress, getting the job done. These are the skills my internship has taught me, these skills that may be as important as how to deliver a baby or how to suture. These skills I didn’t even realise were that important.

But the most important lesson of all, is that I need my people. My support system. My friends, my family.

I would have gone crazy without them. My days are extremely volatile. Some good, some bad, some exhilarating, torturous, or plain boring. Through all this emotional yo-yo ing, I’ve felt like I’ve become a teenager again. I hated it. But my people have kept me together.

A patient ear, or a much needed hug, or a trip out to lunch, or party time. A trip home, a home cooked meal, a pat on the head, the voice of my sister. Sympathetic nods, furious expressions of affront, a compliment, a word of appreciation. A haircut, a new trinket, a new flavour of yogurt. Or just a familiar face, a kind voice, a smile in the middle of the day, a midnight message. These are the things that have kept me going.

I’ve realised I can’t go a single day without my people. I’d go mad. A little bit. Be it calling my mom everyday ( you may make fun of me. I don’t care. She’s supermom), or my best friend, a hostel mate I haven’t talked to in a while, a friend who’s a blast from the past, or my sisters or my dad, this is what has been my rock. That at the end of the day, I have a rock solid core of people behind me. Who will catch me if I need it, who will help me fly when I’m ready.

That is what we call family. Not just blood. A bond. Trust. Love. Help. Even if you don’t ask.

To my people, you know who you are. Thank you. I couldn’t have made it anywhere without you.

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The first time

The first time I realised I grew up.

Was it when you got married?

And I was remembering the times we played farmandia and you were jealous of my pickle factory?

Was it when I got my first salary?
When I worked my first Sunday?
When I gave advice instead of take it?
When we began to see each other once a year if that?
Was it when we stopped waiting by the landline for hours?

Was it when we used code names because we had stories we didn’t want our adults to know?

When we fought and nobody tried to patch us back together?

Or was it when it became acceptable to text on birthdays and festivals and for wedding invitations, and that was it?

Was it when our best friend moved half way across the world and our world kept going?
Was it when we saw death for the first time?

Was it when we saw birth for the first time?

Was it when we got degrees tacked to our names?

Or when we learned to wear sarees?
Was it when we learned to cook our own meals?
Was it when we thought of others before ourselves?
When did we first become adults?
Or is that moment yet to come?
Or are we just in denial?
Life has been happening and we’re still waiting on landmarks to show us the way.
The first time. Does it matter, really? We did all those things. And hey, look at us, here we are. You there and me here.

Magic, not just inside our heads.

Do you believe in magic?
Yes, ofcourse, it’s happening inside your head, but why on Earth would that mean that it isn’t real? 

(Also, yes, after one whole long boring year off the blog this is my comeback post. It is cliche, but it deserves to be said.) 
No, my logically inclined, disbelieving friends, I don’t mean waving wands and casting spells and brewing potions (though nobody would wish it were true more than I did);

I’m talking about the magic we feel and experience in everyday life.

In a world filled with increasing rates of war, crimes, hatred and discrimination, isn’t it magical that all of us go about our everyday lives, and not just that, do whatever we can to spread the love, knowing full well that whenever the next World War comes, the Earth as we know it will not exist?

All of us have (more than) our fair share of problems, but aren’t your family and friends there to hold you up, being the superglue that they are?

I mean, okay, maybe all this is large scale, let me tone it down a bit.

The smell of a book? Of paint? Of petrol? Of tea? Of hot steaming spicy biryani?
The pitter patter sound of your dog’s footsteps? The sound of applause? Of a beautifully done ARR song? 

The carnival of a city that Madurai is, with it’s flashing lights and blaring horns and empty river and amazing people?

Isn’t it all magical? 

Aren’t there things that you simply can’t explain, but they make you fill up with this warm glow inside (like when you have Butterbeer?), and you’re all happy? 
So let’s celebrate the little sparks in life. Look at the magic in everyday things, and take life as it comes. 

Because what’s coming will come, and we’ll meet it when it does.

Have a good day, everyone. 🙂

Poetry in my life 2.0

A few beautiful things in life have a special meaning. Only to you. Something you cherish. They may be as fleeting as a thought, but they stay with you, coming at you at random moments. Powerful, evoking emotions, influencing you. Few things in life stay with you, in this way.

In my world, which includes a lot of reading, some of these things that stayed with me, a lot of these things, actually, came from books. Stories. Poetry. A perfectly written line. A beautiful sentence.

It’s exactly like that science experiment I did in school. A column of water and a tuning fork held over it. At that perfect height, the sound of the tuning fork resonates, reverberates, until it’s a beautiful, perfect, loud note. Music.
These words that’s stayed with me were exactly the same.

To relive some of these with you, has been almost a walk through memory lane.

I remember, I remember, 
The house where I was born, 
The little window where the sun 
Came peeping in at morn; 

I remember, I remember, 
The fir trees dark and high; 
I used to think their slender tops 
Were close against the sky: 
It was a childish ignorance, 
But now ’tis little joy 
To know I’m farther off from heav’n 
Than when I was a boy. 

That was I remember, I remember by Thomas Hood. I learnt most of these poems for competitions, declamations. I didn’t appreciate them then. But they come back to me now, at odd moments.
This one, nostalgia.

Some people decorate their rooms, their walls with pictures. I wish I could with words.

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, 
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see. 
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; 
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed. 

One morning, very early, before the sun was up, 
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup; 
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head, 
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Silly. Capturing childhood. It’s joy. It’s innocence. It’s security. My shadow, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Another one that stuck with me, even though I didn’t understand it at that time, I was eight, but still-

Ozymandias- Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

To me, these words held power. A sadness and a wondering at the foolishness of it all. The human preoccupation with raising huge monuments to leave behind on earth, and the trouble taken for it, and look what remains.

And how could I forget, Casabianca. That favourite at all competitions. The utter heartbreak, the unbelievable courage of it all gets me, every time. An unforgettable one indeed.

The boy stood on the burning deck 
Whence all but he had fled; 
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck 
Shone round him o’er the dead. 

Yet beautiful and bright he stood, 
As born to rule the storm; 
A creature of heroic blood, 
A proud, though childlike form. 

The flames roll’d on…he would not go 
Without his father’s word; 
That father, faint in death below, 
His voice no longer heard. 

He call’d aloud…”Say, father,say 
If yet my task is done!” 
He knew not that the chieftain lay 
Unconscious of his son. 

“Speak, father!” once again he cried 
“If I may yet be gone!” 
And but the booming shots replied, 
And fast the flames roll’d on. 

Upon his brow he felt their breath, 
And in his waving hair, 
And looked from that lone post of death, 
In still yet brave despair; 

And shouted but once more aloud, 
“My father, must I stay?” 
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud 
The wreathing fires made way, 

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild, 
They caught the flag on high, 
And stream’d above the gallant child, 
Like banners in the sky. 

There came a burst of thunder sound… 
The boy-oh! where was he? 
Ask of the winds that far around 
With fragments strewed the sea. 

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair, 
That well had borne their part; 
But the noblest thing which perished there 
Was that young faithful heart.

Another all time favourite of mine, is the Raven. The poem is too long and too beautiful to paste here and leave it at that. I could write a whole separate essay on it, regardless of the fact that I had to, for school. Go read it, and experience the beauty.

There are so many more poems that stayed with me. Material for more posts. So for now, farewell. Happy poetry time. Share with me your favorites, and spread the joy.

As we say in Tamil,

யாம் பெற்ற இன்பம், பெறுக இவ்வையகம்.

Let the world experience the joy that I have.

Poetry in life.

This is not going to be a philosophical discussion about how we should appreciate the beauty of the smaller things in life, about how poetry lies in a child’s smile or a mother’s hand. No, I am going to talk about how poetry affects our lives. Even the lives of those who don’t really read poetry.

Poetry is born from emotions. Love, heartbreak, anger, disgust, hope, hopelessness, nostalgia. Poetry is born when we feel something, and for this very reason, is as powerful as it always has been. When done right, of course.

My childhood included a lot of poetry. For this, I have my school textbooks to thank. From nursery rhymes- aren’t they poetry? They capture an emotion. Joy. Childhood. Happiness. Silliness. Yes, they’re poetry – to Shakespeare.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Life lesson right there.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Don’t sit on huge walls. Great advice on how to stay alive.

When we grew up, it only got better. The first one I remember was Rain in summer by H. W. Longfellow. I still remember our amusement with that name. But his words couldn’t be more true.

How beautiful is the rain,
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street

Living in India, I couldn’t have appreciated it more. I could all but see it. Actually, I think I did.

Wordsworth with his Daffodils.
I came across this one a couple of times. At first, it was just something about a yellow flower I’d never seen. And then it was about how you keep certain memories and you bring them up when you’re sad, or pensive, or lonely, and their warmth lights you up from the inside. And he called it Daffodils.

We all had Road not taken by Robert Frost, more than once. I took it literally the first time,had no idea what the big deal was all about. It was just a guy taking a walk. And then years later,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I can’t say I know what he’s talking about. I don’t think I have that kind of courage.

We had a fun poem about the English language once.

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

English is a beautiful language.

I discovered Tennyson.

Home they brought her warrior dead: 
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry: 
All her maidens, watching, said, 
‘She must weep or she will die.’ 

Then they praised him, soft and low, 
Called him worthy to be loved, 
Truest friend and noblest foe; 
Yet she neither spoke nor moved. 

Stole a maiden from her place, 
Lightly to the warrior stepped, 
Took the face-cloth from the face; 
Yet she neither moved nor wept. 

Rose a nurse of ninety years, 
Set his child upon her knee— 
Like summer tempest came her tears— 
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’

It was the first time I heard words work together like that. Like music. I learnt that poetic license had a purpose, and that my mind could make music.

Poetry has made a mark, if I liked it or not. There’s too many that did, to cover in one go. Stay tuned!

The smaller infinities:

Writing itself stems from reading, and nothing can change your day like a good book can. So why not share the pleasures of reading, by recommending and reviewing books we read to you? This blog will feature The Review, a book review about classics and bestsellers, and everything we think is worth reading.

All of us have our opinions, and they are all worth consideration. So we bring to you The Opinion – just our opinion on whatever crosses our mind when we decide to write.

What’s better than one bibliophile? Two of them! At The Smaller Infinities, we thought we’d make things interesting by dabbling in some Creative- yes with the capital C- writing. So we present to you, The Story. Because what is everything but a story? Look out for surprises, because this is the jack in the box section. You’ll never know what you’ll get.

Nobody is perfect, and neither are we. So we left ourselves a personal column, to vent about whatever trivial thing it is that bothers us (I can’t wait to start writing now!), but don’t worry, you don’t have to deal with that more than once in two weeks, either. So that’s The Personal Column, not so personal, but necessary nevertheless.

And  we’d also like to post some quote or passage that we think you’d like, because, what’s better than a perfectly written sentence? That’ll be our Tidbit Tuesday. Something for all of us to think about.

We present to you,
The Smaller Infinities.
(‘Coz they’re also big, and you know, infinite.)