Arziyan

Today has been a very weird day. Once in a while I have this nostalgic days where I can’t really put my finger on what I am going through but there is this longing. I can’t express it in words and it feels like I go numb inside and just be a bystander to my life. I feel very deeply sad and just memories zoom past. It’s not a physical or mental longing. It’s deeply emotional and being how hard it is usually to word my emotions – one of these days is hardest for me.

On these days I usually tend to listen to Sufi music. It’s kinda healing. Especially a lot of Kailash Kher. As I was listening to it – I came across Arziyan – a song which I love so much but completely forgot what it used to feel like when I listened to. It made me cry. It’s a beautiful song. It’s more than a song – it’s a heartwarming homecoming for me. A warm place where I belong. It’s a very deep song – Arziyan means “requests”, in this case to God – but in a very Sufi way – where God is the ultimate beloved. Just one line explains myriad emotions that I am feeling…

Darare darare hain maathe pe maula,
Murammat muqadaar ki kar do maula

It is said in India – the lines on your forehead signify the amount of experiences you have gone through – and it could be both good or bad. In this line, the singer, is requesting his/her beloved God that his forehead is filled with lines and only He can fix his/her destiny.

There is just so much lost in translation above. I can’t explain it. In poetic Urdu – it’s just heartwarming to hear that. The song was made for a movie but since I can’t find a link to the whole audio song here it is on Youtube. It’s from the movie Delhi 6

It’s just one of those days. I can’t stop listening to it and can’t stop the pain.

 

Stuck between Confirmation Bias and Cognitive Dissonance

Sometimes it feels like I am stuck between my confirmation bias and my crazy cognitive dissonance. As I spend some regular time meditating, I get into this mode of observing what my brain is cooking up and how my behavior is affected by it. I tend to seek (as many of us) – information, things, shiny stuff – that fit my mold and agrees with me very well. I can see (sometimes) clearly how I am biased towards certain ideas, thoughts, people, places and opportunities. As I become aware of it, and as I catch myself from digging a deeper pit of my own bias – I try to straighten up and fix it.

Since the bias is prevalent in various behaviors – I choose certain bias I can change. Like try to genuinely understand Trump voters or read fiction or think of how everything around me is made up of just atoms and there is no particular divine thing. It’s a very interesting thought experiment. But this lead me to some other problem – Cognitive Dissonance. Two or more opposing ideas floating in there and confusing the hell out of me and doubt my sanity and intelligence.

Confirmation Bias feels like that warm cozy leather chair by the fireplace – where all my thoughts are dotted and ideas are crossed. I get a fuzzy feeling that the whole world is complying to my requirements. Cognitive dissonance feels like sitting by the side of a putrid smelling rotten stuff! Throws me off and makes me imbalance.

Being the Libra I am – I don’t know how else to balance these two extremities in my life. I feel like I am trapped between these two.

Emotional Wrenching

I avoid reading fiction. The main reason being when I read – I associate a lot of my life with the book, characters and then feel the pain, pleasure and trauma of the characters. The only kind of personal stories I like are mostly biographies. Other than that, it’s mostly non-fiction.

Recently I have taken  a leap of faith and took a deep dive into a book – which I knew would make me sad from the beginning. It’s a posthumous biography of a neuro-surgeon named Paul Kalanithi. It’s an amazing book. I think so far it has made me cry every 10 pages! I feel so much of what he is talking about. Not in a way I relate to what he did or what has happened to him, but more at a core level of his Soul. He has a beautiful soul and I can at some level feel and understand what he is talking about.

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The writing is just amazing. I have read everything about him online and tracked all his writings. He was a great soul. It’s heart wrenching that he died so early.

This book has really been a test for me. I never thought I would be able to handle so much pain slowly delivered page by page. But in a weird way, the book makes me more reflective on my mortality and makes me feel more appreciative of things in my life. It also makes me feel strong about my life.

It made me become very polarized to appreciate every moment with my daughter. IMG_0014

Next I do plan to read – Oliver Sacks’s biography! I think that would round up the mortality of our lives and fleeting nature of our moments!

I am a Hummingbird

Last Friday we attended a parents’ training program setup by Sahana’s awesome school. The talk was about Trauma Proofing your Kids by Carlee. It was based on a book by the same title written by Peter Levine. I learned a lot about myself and it kinda let me gain insight into my behaviour.

So, every one of us has something called “Stress Response”. It’s the default way we deal with stress in our lives. There is no right or wrong way in this, it’s just how we deal with stress. There are different archetypes of how we deal with stress. And as we did the exercise, I fell in a bucket named – “The Hummingbird”

humming bird

Here are the patterns of stress responses by Hummingbird,

Assets
  • Tracks a lot of information from different sources
  • Vigilantly notice energy/shifts in the environment
  • Engage intuition, read the situation and all people in it
  • Attend to lots of little details
Challenges
  • Attention “leaves body”
  • Inability to stay present
  • Stop attending to bodily needs or fail to recognize exhaustion, hunger, or emotions
  • hyper-vigilance

That list was so on spot, I was shocked how well it organized everything along these archetypes.

So the basic baseline of my stress response is – my attention leaves my body. In other words, I get all mental – focus on past or future. Anywhere in space and time except here and now! That blew my mind. I know I am always up in my head, a lot of chatter going on but no much awareness of my body. But I didn’t realize that is how I respond to my life. And how I respond to my life has basically organized my life along those lines.

For example:

  • I can go on ignoring my hunger pangs for hours – for someone or something’s sake.
  • I love books – they are my gateway to escape into a different reality
  • I could never understand or appreciate art. I don’t know why, I mean I admire some cool art but for what reasons I don’t know.
  • It’s hard for me to take compliments. My critic is basically mowing me down when I think other people say that I am good/cool.
  • Self deprecation is my default mode of humor!
  • I have hard time learning things that involve me doing something with my hands or body. Like pottery or swimming
  • At the same time I am super good with software and learning languages – which I think are highly mental.

The list goes on and on but the most fascinating nugget I learned is – as the trainer said – When people drink alcohol, they tend to focus outside of body and since I focus outside of body for my stress response – I like people who drink or like to drink. That literally blew my mind.

Sangita thinks there is a way for me to bring the focus back to my body. She did a lot of Somatics work and she thinks I should do Drama Therapy. That mere thought scares the shit out of me. I mean to enact what I am feeling among a group of people – would be the toughest thing I would ever do. As usual, I am thinking……

My Dad, a big fish

Like most people I have my share of childhood “stuff” or trauma to blame it on my parents. I do however have come a long way to accept most of it as my very own karmic debt. Last month was my dad’s 9th year death anniversary. I have been thinking about him for quite some time and I think I have coherent enough thoughts now to put them on here.

Growing up me and my sisters watched my dad make a lot of proclamations. Huge and big ideas which at that time sounded like he was bragging. Some of it, he probably was but what I realize now – now that I am a parent and how I sub-consciously imitate my dad’s style to my daughter sometimes! he was actually a big fish in a small pond.

My dad saw some of the toughest situations in life. He was part of family of 8 siblings and my grand dad (whose name my dad gave me) was an extremely poor man who tried his hands at anything to keep his family going. Having not much of education, my dad literally ran away from his hometown at the age of 15 to make and build his own things. What he endured for the next 10 years is – all this magic stuff he was made of. I believe he endured a lot of pain. On streets and no food and doing some odd jobs. Through that process he developed a story. Basically an amazing response to his reality around him – a story he told himself to keep him alive and survive. He believed in some higher force guiding him and helping him and him doing amazing things while going through that period.

So, when he had kids – he would relay parts of that story to us and I never understood most of them. I know he believed that a strong will is a choice and can be built through practice. He also believed miracles would happen out of thin air and told us a lot of stories. Some of them may not be true through scientific lens but what I realized is that – that was “his” story. That story was hand painted colorful because the paleness of reality was too much to bear.

These thoughts reminded me of the movie Big Fish – whose story line kinda fits with what I had seen in my dad.

Now that I reflect back – I think he passed on a lot more than just the name to me. I believe in the same force guiding my life. Every moment. I am spiritually inclined in stuff which he showed me in my early life. I tend to read books about these amazing fakirs, babas and Gods – who my dad claimed to meet and has been blessed and transformed.

On a day like this – where the candles are lit around me and I can still smell that incense and all this peaceful ambiance around me – the one thing I miss most is – I wish he is here relating me one of those stories to me. Today, I would give anything to sit and listen to his stories without judgement. I miss you dad.

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Food is Memory, Music is Emotion

I have been thinking about this for some time. A long drive today kinda tied up all the loose ends in my head. I strongly believe food is all about re-creating memories. When I cook, every time I cook – I am basically trying to recreate the great memory I had eating that food in the past. Even when I go out to eat at some special place it’s all about recreating memories or reinforcing them. Similarly, music is about invoking emotion. I believe we associate our emotions to music. Re-living them through various strums and hums – beyond time and space. Basically tell me your Spotify playlists and I can pretty much guess the kind of feelings and emotions you like to experience.

sadness

Speaking of emotions – Inside Out movie is one the smartest and well done representation of our emotions. I loved it and I think every adult should watch it. The biggest surprise was (now on hindsight it makes it kinda dumb) Sadness is a key emotion for us to feel. Because happiness does not exist on it own. It needs a standing ground to sprout. Sadness provides that and this daily trauma of life has ample opportunities for us to experience sadness. And if we don’t resist it or ignore it or deny it and accept it we might actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And so speaking of accepting things that make us sad. There are 2 songs that I feel that strongly make me sad. I have never figured out why they make me sad so far, I don’t honestly know. One reminds me of Home – far far away. One reminds me of my teen years.

On Being Accepted Unconditionally

Growing up in India, I grew up in a middle class family where the only way you can get upward mobility is through *education*. I spent most of my teens (like 10 years in extreme educational competitive environment), and years after that mired in studying and working hard towards something which I never clearly understood what it will be like. Now looking back on my life I realize there was some meaning to it. I mean it’s kinda assigned meaning but yeah I will take it.

So what does it mean to get out of a middle class in India and to make to to this land of opportunity? It means no one around you accepts you as you are! Yep. My father was never, never happy with the grades I got. I mean c’mon I was like breaking bank with Physics! My professor met with my dad and told him that I had a great future in Astrophysics. But he didn’t accept it just because I wasn’t top of my class in Math! I did my best with computer science, but my dad wasn’t happy with any of it. He had some other plans for me. I would say some other expectations of me.

My extended family was surprised I wasn’t going to US of A when I made it to Singapore. They were like kinda unhappy about it. I mean I frigging took a risk and made it in Singapore, but none of my family acks that!

So the sad story of my life is – even though I excelled in a lot of things – people around me thought I wasn’t doing good enough job and wasn’t good enough. Which kinda left me with a feeling of lack and insecurity in my life that still to this day haunts me.

But not my daughter – the other day she asked me to tie her hair up and put it in a *bun* as she calls it. I tried. I mean I really tried. More than I would try to fix the nastiest bug at work. I couldn’t make it work. All I got was a lame bun and a half assed pony tail up her hair. Finally, I told her – “You know your mom actually knows well how to fix up your hair, I don’t know how to – you should ask your mom” – It was a very vulnerable moment for me. I am like admitting that I suck at this. All my insecurities flying all around. My daughter, looks at me – I swear to god there was a pause for like 2 seconds but it felt like eternity – she says “It’s ok daddy, I actually like it the way you did it”.  For the record, she is 4! She just scooped up my heard with this unconditional love.

Later I tried to get her hair fixed by asking my wife but my daughter refused it. She just wanted it that way. I think I have rarely felt unconditional love, but it was one of those moments. I know my daughter isn’t aware of all this stuff, but whatever she did – no one did that to me for a very, very long time. That acceptance of who I am – I haven’t seen it or experienced it in for a long long time. It really made my day. I think I will remember that forever.