– Late afternoon, Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
Living is refusing to let the rhythms of life drown you into submission – Milan Kundera
A German friend of mine just texted expressing her sadness that Narendra Modi won. It made me think about my own feelings on the outcomes of Indian Elections 2014. I’m not sure how I feel about the freshly minted leader of India. I do know – as do most of us – that he is a polarizing individual. And almost all the Western press that I’ve read thus far do not support his appointment. The Economist, usually very tactical in the manner of expressing its opinions, flat out said “[though] there is much to admire…this newspaper cannot bring itself to back Mr Modi for India’s highest office.” The US has in the past denied this very individual a visa to travel and visit the US. This man has been accused (and has never tried to negate these accusations) of playing “religion politics.”
Leaving The Man aside – let’s talk about something else that has fascinated me more. I have never seen before such collective fervor, where the entire nation’s pulse can be heard. Everyone from my 85-year old grandma to the mid-aged parents, aunts, and uncles, to my Indian friends across many different ponds holding various degrees – everyone in my circle – has been infected by “Election Fever.” As I opened my Facebook at about 1AM Eastern U.S. time – updates, both of enjoyment and disappointment, were everywhere. Calling my grandma who is in Gujarat at the moment – I could hear her enthusiasm reverberate through the phone line.
And this is not a Bollywood movie. This is living that Rang De Basanti momentum in actuality.
To whom do I attribute this to? The Gandhi Scion was always in the picture. Corruption in India has always been an issue. Push towards an economically successful country has always been on the platform. Had BJP furnished a lukewarm candidate, though, would such a historic election have happened? Would the everyday Indian citizen truly have woken up and gone out to vote and take that precious selfie? Frankly, judging from my past memories of Indian elections – I am not too sure.
Yes – he is polarizing. And no, despite being a Gujarati Girl from Vadodara, I am not endorsing him. Nor am I endorsing anyone else. Because, frankly, this election – it was about choosing between a dynasty that was successful in the past and a man who, while playing up religion in a secular country, promised economic gain. When it comes down to it – hasn’t the West too voted for individuals who favor one race over the other? Or those who push towards promoting only a certain kind of sexuality? Didn’t Bobby Jindal just recently admit switching to Christianity from Hinduism to gain more American voters?
While I do worry what is going to happen to my preciously secular India – where I celebrated Christmas, Eid, and Diwali alike – I am confident that Indian citizens are capable of decrying any moral transgressions carried out by their leader.
I had quite forgotten that I used to have another blog. That blog – still online – has some of my writings from my early 20s. I realized after reading bits and pieces of my own forgotten words just how much I reveled in writing. That love for the metaphorical pen & paper has not died down – but these days – it just requires a lot more discipline. A stricter regimen of sitting down and just frolicking with language, dancing with phrases, and crayoning with words. What it also requires is fuel – it is too hard to extract color in the mundane day-to-day but therein lies the challenge, no? Life cannot always all the time be about travel, about adrenaline rushes. Life, in fact, for the better part is about the day-to-day, that routine, that paying job. It is about sustaining a livelihood while also not forgetting to breathe. That too requires effort – to ensure that you spend your time equally with yourself as you do with your work. We all require introspection, we all need moments to tear our eyes away from our laptops and incessantly buzzing phones. Turn off that ping when at dinner with friends, plug off for even a half-hour to de-stress over the comical Mindy Project, use those public bus rides to pull out your journal to write down thoughts instead of work emails. Refresh. Recharge. Then get back on, start again – pouncing away on your laptop working once again.
For those curious, my earlier blog resides here: http://iantani.blogspot.com/
I have a minor case of acrophobia (fear of heights). I realized this at the age of 10 when I was at a friend’s house on the 12th floor in Mumbai and was looking straight down. The world seemed to tilt and all of a sudden I had the feeling that the building was sagging, that we were all falling uncontrollably, to meet the earth. I took a step back and have always maintained this distance.
The reason my acrophobia is minor is because I truly enjoy climbing. I love vistas and the journey often endeavored to get to that point. I oft find myself inching towards the edge – taking a quick look down – and then running back to the safety of a hilly plateau.
I also love jumping – off of cliffs, waterfalls, bridges. Granted the stark height is less of an issue here and I am breaking no new ground, my internal conflict before jumping off of each edge grasps me. That moment, when on tiptoes I stand looking down at the turquoise of a deep water pool, I struggle. Each and Every Time. Getting up to that cliff, to that rope, to that ledge is never the issue. All that involves is walking and following another person who has just gone before me. And then my turn arrives – the world closes. My mind wrestles between “Just Do It” and “Are You Serious?” I stand there as if the time has stopped, the world has stopped moving and it’s just me, my mind, and the water below. I do not know what that water holds – to me, my experience – that depth is entirely unknown, completely unfamiliar. Yes, I saw the person before me jump into the same and emerge just fine. But this is my fear, my perception. Eventually each and every time, I feel will power slowly come in to render a decision. Determined – I go.
I don’t close my eyes, I forget the consequences, I leave my fear behind. And I drop, engulfed within microseconds by the cool arms of the once seemingly treacherous water. Waves of exhilaration and accomplishment soon follow and I glance a look back up at the stable ground that I just left and all I have left with me is a smile.
Oft, living life requires a similar debate and a similar determination. It is always tempting to choose an easy path – often at the sacrifice of doing something that one might have loved but one that required time, effort. In these cases, life soon becomes monotonous – the flavor evaporates, the color fades. Therefore, it is always important to wake yourself up – to dive, jump, run – and start beating once again.
July 23rd 2013
A friend asked me today – when was the last time that you were blown away? It pained me that I couldn’t quite remember. My smile fell. Then, glittering Istanbul and its Golden Mosaics came into view. Hagia Sofia. Of course.
But that was two years ago.
Little did I know that just a few hours after this talk, I would happen upon an experience that would leave me awestruck.
For you see – I finally dared to see It. I had been in Florence a good half-week by now but had been avoiding looking in Its direction. Stepping off from the train, I knew the moment had arrived. Although, I was dusty and exhausted after a grueling but wonderful day hiking and swimming in the Cinque Terre, I knew that this was it. I felt it first reverberate in my brain, then quiver in my heart, and thunder through my no longer tired legs as I walked towards It. Towards Him. Towards The Duomo.
I stopped at a local pizzeria, got a cappuccino and a whole pie of Margherita pizza to-go. I trekked on – the anticipation building up.
Suddenly, I made a left turn, unassuming, not knowing what lay beyond. And there it was – the white, dizzying Cathedral of Florence – contrasted perfectly by the indigo, dark hues of nightfall.
I have had this vision since high school – of being Here. It has been one of my biggest driving factors as I trudge through life. My lifeline – the cause of an inherent fire within my blood. The Duomo. And Brunelleschi’s masterpiece – its scarlet dome.
Now – I am here. My long-kept vision mixing with the current reality, the actual physicality of my being here. And it is perfect. And, it had to be experienced alone. Only I know the journey, excitement, internal reverberations leading to this point. I always envisioned being alone here. My first view, my best view, had to be experienced through the comforts of my own solitary mind.
The constant hum of the crowd fades, the electric lights morph into lanterns, the world closes about me. All that is left is Santa Maria del Fiore. And lucky, blessed me – looking up – absolutely spellbound.
I knew I could not cope with the future unless I was able to rediscover the past.
– Gene Tierney
It has been a while, hasn’t it? My words never did go silent – they just went from being digital to dusty cursive choosing to live in physical notebooks for some time. I wrote, I was prolific. Perhaps the reason why it was more literally pen to paper is because so many of these thoughts were deeply personal. That’s how this summer of travel affected me – the sights that I saw, the people I met – almost gave rise to emotions and aspects that I thought I had lost in the buzzing world of Business school.
These post-MBA travels before restarting my career after a two-year hiatus serve as a perfect bookend to my pre-MBA exploits around Southeast Asia. Back then, in 2011, I had set out to discover new worlds and push myself in directions that I didn’t know. These past 2013 travels were almost like shaking hands with a familiar friend – a best friend – who one doesn’t get to see that often. A friend who I had forgotten in my pursuit of a higher education. Ah – well – I am glad that I have found her again. She’s alive and thriving!
In Croatia, I confirmed the strength of beautiful friendships that I had cultivated over the last 2 years.
In Vienna and Budapest, I felt my inner history-loving fire come to life, waltzing around the Schönbrunn, pumping my fists up in Jewish Ruin pubs, singing “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” with an eclectic, musical trio.
In Italy – ah Italy – I met Bernini. I came face-to-face with his majesty – finally. I rediscovered my Art. Dancing on the streets of Venice, Prancing through cobbled stones of Florence, Hiding in the caves of Cinque Terre’s Ligurian Sea, Playing with fountains in Rome. Running across a friend from primary school days after 10 years of separation.
In Paris, I unearthed my love for Absolute Immersion. Living in the heart of Montmarte, traversing the City of Lights with friends who had defined me in my days in Boston, relishing on pan au chocolat and a café from a corner bakery every morning.
In Freiburg, I again understood the joy of Living Simply and the Art of Conversation. Picnics, munching on berries, swimming in green lakes, debates of society and politics under stars. And yet again, this time too, with friends who had shaped an amazing few months for me back in Boston.
In Peru, I found all of the things above in a wonderful package juxtaposed with some of the most astounding scenery that I have ever seen. And, saw my Macchu Picchu – a site that I have been chasing for about 10 years to get to. What was the most wondrous? While Europe rekindled with my old self in beautiful backdrops, Peru unveiled an entirely new dimension of me.
My travelogues eventually will follow. I wanted to write this piece to join together jumbled thoughts.
It feels surreal. Being back in The Big Easy. The singular city in America (besides my Boston) where my heart felt full, content, complete when I was last here.
It feels like a lifetime. The journey – the experiences that I have been through since my last adieu to the glorious yet treacherous Mississippi – is something that I feel I had always anticipated. Had I envisioned my life to unfold in such a predictable manner? I am not surprised at finding myself here – four years later – academically successful, jumping off to an even better platform than when I was here last.
Did I miss out on something there? By planning life in such detail – did I forget to look around and see paths that I could have traversed? Was I that consumed by my purpose that I potentially sacrificed a life that could have been lived in the joys and learnings of impetuosity? Of following one’s spirit. Of being guided by intuition and feeling and colors and smells.
“I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook –
I could have been…”
I look upon those intricately woven iron ropes that curve and dance around pink and red flowers on balconies. I know the expression my face holds – I felt the same muscles twitch in exactly the same manner as they did back then. The City still holds me in Awe. This time around – I knew what the city held. I knew its heart and I knew why I fell in love with it the first time around. That is indeed what I looked for when I took a very late night walk around the Quarter. I looked for those signs, that spirit that has captivated my thoughts for the last four years.
And there – right there – I found it. It’s in the music that serenades out of nowhere. It’s in that energy that emanates from the people that walk around. It’s in that freedom of being yourself, of embracing your Individuality, your inner Artistic heart.
There – right there – is why I feel that coming back to this city has reminded me of the girl that I used to be four years ago. In my heady days of living in my early twenties, thoroughly immersing myself and my energy into feeling the tingles of life. I was at Plectix back then – I was in love with the Freedom that Youth brought. I was Bright Eyed – looking at what the world out there was to bring to me.
I still am that – Bright Eyed. My expression, though wrinkled, still mirrors what it did back then. Perhaps, yes, wearied. Slightly Tired. But still Hopeful, still Expectant.
“When I was young, younger than before
I never saw the truth hanging from the door
And now I’m older see it face to face”
(lyrics – Nick Drake – a light fused out too soon)