Sunday, June 28, 2015

Of Rainbows, Solitude and Other Good Things

All people should be treated equally, irrespective of who they are or who they love - Barack Obama

With those lines and a momentous ruling, Obama created history on 26th June, 2015. Streets here in LA as well as all over the country have erupted with colors. Of joy and relief. Even Facebook is seven shades of rainbow now. It is nice to be around this kind of infectious happiness. 

Yet, this happiness is a reminder of what India is not capable of. At least, not yet. When we were struggling under the British rule, Tagore wrote - Where the mind is without fear and head is held high; Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake. Now, we are free; yet mired by our own narrow minds. While the world marches ahead, India took a big step back into ignorance in December, 2013 when homosexuality was criminalized. My love for my country runs deep. The kind of love you can't let go of. Been less than a year in US, and I crave every day for the crowded streets, 'chai' in the rains and just the feeling of being home. Yet, yesterday, there was no pride. A sense of shame because my country has deprived people of an inalienable right. But, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things (yes, Shawshank Redemption!). This ruling in US is that silver lining which tells us that a real change is possible. Hopefully, soon.

Quite some time back, I had written that solitude and being alone are not synonymous. Moving to a new country on your own is tough. I still grapple with it. But life's lessons are best learnt in uncomfortable situations. Comfort just breeds complacency. I am surely and steadily getting better at this living alone bit. Of course, there are evenings when coming back home and cooking dinner seems monstrous. This country forces you to drive, and that's a good thing. I have been driving for three months now and it is liberating! The Pacific Coast Highway (better known as PCH) has become my happy place. The city has quaint bookshops and cafes, and when everything seems alien, turning pages in a book seems right. Surprisingly, work has been the constant that has kept me rooted. Good work can be a game changer. The last one year is a case in point. In spite of the insane hours, when we recently achieved what we had set out to, it was incredible. Someone very wise once said that it is never about the money. What matters is whether you changed something for the better. Right now, I am sitting in a cafe in Santa Monica, with a book, coffee, music and this post. And at this very moment, I am good just being here. Content with my own company. Like I said, I am getting better with the solitude bit. :)

Travel plans should start catching up soon. The three month backpacking trip to Eastern Europe is still high up on the list. So are the multitude of national parks around here. And South America. And India. :) If plans fall in place, should be headed to near and dear ones within a month. The thought of it warms me up like hot chocolate on a winter evening. 

The book beckons. Leaving you with thoughts of love, hope and equality today.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Growing Roots

Growing up in Patna was blissful. It's my happy place when things go wrong. Memories of simpler times and friends who believed in your madness. Conversations were easy and nothing was held back. As if telling them about my bad day would just make it go away. It usually did go away. When you grow up in a small town like Patna and you haven't really seen the world out there, your ambitions are just an aggregation of your parents' dreams and your friends' belief in you. It wasn't ever easy. There were exams to clear and sky high expectations to match. There were personal losses too. But none of us buckled. They had my back and I had theirs.

To think of it, we didn't have much in common. Or maybe we did. But it never really was about common grounds. We just had this innate sense of belonging. They were family. Their families were our extended families. The parent set knew everyone's favorite dishes. In the times of no cellphones or social networking, we had a bond which was so strong, it was surreal. Maybe because of the lack of new age devices, we had what we had. 

School and SK Puri are memories from yesteryears now, with happiness and comfort written all over it. A sense of belonging, which I pine for, everywhere I go. Been almost six months in US now. Last I blogged, I was in a hotel in Simi Valley. Woodland Hills has become the new address now. Friends invariably keep asking whether I have settled down. Well, this is as settled as I am capable of. I know where to buy fish, have a fairly furnished apartment and a list of places to visit. S moved to California too. And new year was just so very happy, but that deserves a separate post. Learning to drive here. Yes, in my three decades of existence, I have never seen the need to drive. Like Ruskin Bond mentioned in one of his books, that the only wheels he trusts himself on, is the bicycle. The country deserves road trips and I shall comply soon. 

Don't know why I thought of Patna today. Or maybe I do. Shubha got married last week. My partner in crime, ever since I can remember. Never thought that work and distance would make me miss this. Ma has been giving incessant updates. Well, she was always the daughter Ma wanted to adopt. :) As I sit in my cramped studio, taking updates from Ma about the wedding, about how she danced, about all the food in Maurya; there is an innate sense of happiness. Till a few months back, was floundering with my move here. Work was (still is) crazy. The empty studio apartment lacked warmth. I think I have written this somewhere before, that if you know how to stay happy in your own company, you have my respect. I obviously fail miserably at it. And then, when I hit rock bottom, I visited Boston and then Seattle. These two cities have friends who probably know me better than I do. It's ridiculous how happy I am around them. Between the Thanksgiving chicken roast and the morning conversations over coffee, realized that probably I will never grow roots in US. But I will manage to find my footing here, just because they are around. 

If I get my driving license next week, you shall see another post for sure. Fingers crossed.