Tuesday, March 10, 2015

fascination

I'm on my way to work, with a blocked nose, inflamed throat, and possibly conjunctivitis.

the conjunctivitis (or whatever it is) doesn't seem to trouble me at all.

the only time i realized I'm battling a respiratory infection, is after a 50 metre flat out sprint, when catching my breath was downright painful and needed consciously controlled breathing. but I'm sure I'd have survived (albeit a bit more uncomfortably) if I just let my body control its breathing while I focused on the pain or maybe distracted myself with watching this fistfight that was happening on the road near the bus I'm in.

it got me thinking: my body is never (and possibly never has been) 100% functional in its optimum capacity. it's always in a state of graceful degradation, but there's so much of redundancy and compensation mechanisms built in, that a fully functional human is probably pointless, and maybe also pointlessly unattainable.

and then i look around at the stuff humans have built. we have built everything to operate at close to optimum parameters. we build fail safe systems, redundancy, feedback systems, but at what level? it doesn't even come close to where primordial living systems are at.

to me, humans are very far from building any sort of self-sustaining lifelike system, not because the stuff we build is rather limited in its ability to gracefully degrade and adapt under adverse conditions, but because the stuff we build is too simple to bother putting such abilities in. the complexity of even the most simplest forms of life fascinates me and fills me with awe.

Monday, March 09, 2015

just a minute

my commute usually runs like clockwork. there's a plan a, plan b and plan c, each with tweaks defined for each situation. i wasn't prepared for today though.

I left from home one minute late, expecting to follow plan a: bike to borivali station (west) and take the office bus. however, a traffic snarl on the way caused me to miss the bus. since I realized too late that i wasn't gonna make it, i was unable to follow plan b (the other office bus) - that requires me to take an alternative route, and park in a different spot. i decided to take plan c: the AC bus.

when i reached the AC stop, there was a huge line, and the bus was packed. i decided to wait in queue for the next bus, as I didn't fancy standing for over an hour (i still haven't worked out where the non AC buses start from, that would be a viable plan d). the next bus arrived a few minutes later. I got a seat. brought my ticket, settled in with my headphones,  when suddenly everyone started alighting the bus. i waited a few moments before I realized they were all boarding the next bus, and the driver himself wasn't in this bus either.

I followed the herd into the rapidly filling next bus, sorely cursing my decision to not look for the non AC bus stop when i had first arrived here today. I got the last available seat, thankfully. and then people started getting back out and into the first bus!

apparently the bus was giving trouble but the driver "fixed" it, and it will now be leaving after all. the bus was now full, and there was no chance of a seat. i complained to the conductor that I left the previous bus because I wanted to sit, and thanks to this confusion, i have lost my seat in this bus as well. i asked for a refund of my ticket, but he refused.

a couple of other people joined in the chorus asking for a refund, but the conductor was adamant. i resigned myself to my apparent fate, and moved away from the argument. the bus started moving, and others suggested that we swap our tickets with people who haven't purchased theirs yet. I started asking around, but before I could find someone to swap with, the conductor relented and exchanged my ticket for a refund. the bus dropped the three of us at the next stop, and the couple disappeared before I could ask them how they were planning to travel.

luckily for me, the next stop was adjacent to the non-ac bus stop. and luckily, non AC buses run emptier than ac at that time. and a bus arrived in the next minute.

i got my seat.

i'm on my way to office.

that one minute and a few bad decisions cost me about an hour and a half.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

crazy lollipops

I still haven't gotten my head fully around time dilation at relativistic speeds (yeah, even though I watched interstellar for the second time last weekend), but i have noticed one thing: time seems to slow down when i'm physically moving. and it somehow seems to go faster than it should, when i'm either doing nothing, or doing something mental. (no, not mental as in crazy, but mental as in with my mind)

take yesterday evening, for example. i was working till 5:28 PM. that's when i started packing my bag to leave from office, and simultaneously realized i need to pee and am incredibly hungry. and my phone rang too.

packing done, I walked to the washroom, did my business, and paced my way to the elevator lobby. smack in the middle of rush hour, with everyone waiting to catch an elevator down... with me the only guy waiting to catch one going up. 5 minutes of wait later, i hung up and was headed to the cafeteria, wondering if I should step out and give away my precious spot, or wimp out and go back down.

a quick glance at my watch told me I have 6 minutes to get back into the elevator, or I'd miss the bus.

paced past the packaged stuff counter, the guy at the counter wasn't there (i was half contemplating buying a packet of biscuits, if he was). so u made up my mind. parceled chicken lollipops it is.

entered the cafeteria, and there was no rush anywhere. i eyed the regular snacks. nothing I could parcel (or that I'd particularly fancy eating). I confirmed that lollipops were on today's special menu, and brought the token for it. gave the token, while I fished out the bag u used to hold my breakfast on my way to work in the morning.

four generously sized, warm, crisp chicken lollipops, with chilly garlic sauce.

three minutes to go.

I dipped each lollypop into the sauce and mopped up generous quantities of it, then dropped them into the plastic bag. stuffed the top with paper napkins. stuffed the plastic bag into the paper bag.

and that's when i realized i had no way to shut the plastic bag (or the paper bag around it, for that matter). i balanced the bags as nicely as I could, vertically, inside my office bag. it was a very risky thing to do, as I had my headphones, tab, ipod and whatnot in there, with nothing to save them from the chilly garlic sauce, should it tip over. but there was no time to think now. under a minute left.

made it back to the elevator lobby. staring at my watch, watching the seconds tick.

checked my phone, because my watch is a minute and a half fast, and i was cutting it close.

when the elevator arrived, it was 5:42 PM, the absolute latest I can catch the elevator and make it for the bus. luckily, it had room for me. I nudged others aside to get in (i'm sure they saw my backpack and figured I was racing for the bus)

the elevator filled up, and started descending through the building. people getting off and on at every other floor. at one point, the elevator doors refused to close because it was overloaded, and i had to hold my composure while the last two ladies who entered last, silently debated among themselves who should get off the elevator. i opened my bag to check that everything was intact.

5:43 PM; i'm on the 9th floor (the cafeteria is on the 13th)

5:44 PM; i'm on the ground floor, and need to dash down three floors of stairs to the basement, across the parking lot, and find my bus.

except that i can't run, because it'd topple the paper bag inside my backpack.

i speed walked, found my bus. seated myself next to my friend (he leaves his desk at 5:25 PM daily, to catch a window seat with a fan).

he told me that I missed chicken lollipops in the cafeteria today, they would have been nice.

I grinned at him, as I opened the bag, and told him that I didn't.

Monday, January 26, 2015

excited

the things we believe in, have power over us
-kris, many times over

it used to be funny, how everything falls into place together. but now, it's just a calm sort of beautiful. I remember the times when things going awesomely would scare me, because I would take it as a warning that everything was about to fall apart. i believed (and still believe) that everything balances itself. but I'm not scared anymore. I think I've stopped being scared of the future. not because i don't think terrible things can or will happen, but because I feel that nothing can be truly terrible anymore. I have realized that every moment prepares me for the next, and it looks like I'm being prepared for something great.

I know that the world doesn't see me like I see myself, and i'm quite sure that my idea (illusion to some, maybe) of greatness is eclipsed by the lives of the people I look up to, but I think I'm making steps in the right direction. i hope that, just like them, I stop seeing myself and those around me for what we are, but what we can be. it's not easy to break free from my boundaries of perception, into the realm of imagination.

my physical and social life is quite predictable, I think. unless something drastic is on its way, most aspects of my physical and social life seem to go on as planned, with a few blips here and there, a few unknown variables.

what I have never really tried to predict though, is my mind.

I used to think I'm slowing down, but I realize now that it's just a matter of perception. as i pile on years of thought, there is a momentum. but even though it's more difficult to be as nimble as I used to be, I have sacrificed my agility for force. and though I'm happy how it's turned out so far, I realize there's absolutely no way I can predict what's going to happen next.

i can't change the world, but i can change my world. and as I find better ways to do it, better reasons to do it, better ways to enjoy the results of change, i'm getting happier at leaving things behind. sometimes for others to find, but most of the time, just because I don't need them anymore.

life has never seemed this exciting before.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

eye2eye

travelling by public transport is much more interesting than the office bus. somehow people in the office bus inevitably end up sleeping. also, Mumbai AC buses have weird seating with plenty of rear facing seats, so there are always people to look at.

still, most people either stare vacantly or fixatedly at one or a few things, with a passive expression on. they're either blank or hiding behind a mask.

not this one lady though. her big brown eyes were constantly shifting, and she seemed to be actually focusing on her surroundings, even though I couldn't tell what it was all around us that she was constantly focusing on. her eyes would dart around, twitch, stare, follow things around that I couldn't see. there was barely a still moment with them.

but what was more startling were her expressions. she'd be constantly switching between a frown, a scowl, a little twitch of the mouth, a grimace, half a smile, and an expression that could be best described as momentary surprise. i still cannot conceive what would make someone run through the entire gamut of facial expressions in less than a minute, and keep at it for half an hour, while standing in the aisle of a bus.

it was as if she was dreaming with her eyes open.

we finally made eye contact. we stared at each other unflinchingly for a couple of seconds. she, with a scowl, and me, with my poker face. I wanted to show her what I just wrote about her eyes, but she twitched her lips, flicked her hair, and looked away momentarily, only to glance back. I shifted my gaze away.

her eyes no longer dart about. she now stares vacantly out of the bus window.

i guess she's awake again.