Introspection/Reflection

So here I am, a good forty-five minutes into the new year. For the first time, I’m not just getting home at this hour. I’m not exhausted from a party I half wanted to avoid altogether. I’m not dressed in uncomfortable clothes that I’ll be glad to get out of. I’m not dying to go to sleep.
For the first time, I am just awake as I would be on any other day past midnight. I’m snuggled in my warm blanket on my bed. I’ve enough juice in me to stay awake another hour or so. And I’ll tell you what, it feels great. I’m glad I didn’t go to any party. I stayed home instead. An introvert’s dream come true. Not that I can legitimately call myself an introvert. I can’t even call myself an extrovert. I’m something between those two narrow classifications.
Anyway, I wanted to take a moment (or hour) to write something here, on my unsaved new Sublime text document. I don’t really have any throwback, look-back, rewind of 2017 for myself. It’s just a few things I have began to notice, starting this new year.
I’ve always felt like I’ve been restricting myself. Psychologically. Like there is something in my head that stops me from doing things that I really want to do. Rarely, I allow myself to escape it’s grasps and go on an adventure. At that point, I do a little exploration, then settle on the thought that I’m not good enough at it, and retreat back to the prison that is my mind.
I noticed that I only go for something if I am certain of the perfection I can bring to it. I don’t take risks. I’m scared. ‘Of what?’ you may ask. I’m asking myself the same thing. Society? Status? Standard? Broken dreams? Shattered hopes? Regulations? Rules? Outrageous expectations?
In truth, it is all those things. Or maybe it is none. I don’t have it all figured out, obviously. Otherwise I would be doing something about it instead of tediously writing this vaguely detailed mess of an article. I don’t know why exactly I’m restrained. I can’t place my finger on it. It’s just something at the back of my head, warning me whenever I think of doing something out of the norm, or may not work out in a desired way. I’ve noticed that it consumes every shred that makes up my life, and casts a looming shadow over my individual, personal ambitions and inspirations.
My aspirations dwindle with time as the shadow grows thicker, darker over it, until they seem absurd and laughable, at the least. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to not dream too big, not hope for too much, not reach too far beyond the fence. I wasn’t like this as a child, was I? I can’t even tell. I don’t know anymore. My foundations have been warped by habit and my thoughts have been streamlined to use the most beaten path. There is no place for adventures, for discoveries, and that is the sad truth about adult life. As if that was not enough, I have also grown to be tremendously lazy. And I’m afraid, I’m all talk and no walk.
I’m trying to come up with a way to think freely again. To do what I want to do. To think absurd thoughts and to pursue ridiculous goals. That kind of action needs courage. It needs guts. Hell, it needs stupidity. But how? What chant do I read, what ritual do I complete, what god do I worship? Where is the path that will lead me back to where I should be? There is no answer to these questions.
There are many people who will tell you how to live your life. They will tell you ways to streamline it, to improvise it, to adapt it. All that is well and good, but what if the life you are living is not the one you want to live? None of those lectures and tips could help. And no one will know what kind of life is for you. Maybe not even yourself.
But that is the question, isn’t it? What kind of life do you want to live? How ironic that only by living further can you find the answer.
To all you people who have given me hope or even the tiniest bit of support, I want to thank you for sticking with me throughout. Because it seems to me like you have had more faith in me than I have had in myself.

I’ve recently come across marvelous works of art. I don’t mean Picasso or Da Vinci’s. I mean art much more modern, and in my opinion, often taken for granted, but not seriously enough. I’ve been listening to music. I don’t mean the repetitive drum beats or raging guitar solos. I mean the string of words put together so peculiarly to give such surprising meanings and revelations. The tone in the singer’s voice, the pitch, the volume. They give so much texture, they lay such emphasis and imbue definition into the syllables slipping off their tongues, like the steam rapidly escaping freshly cooked rice.
I’ve been reading books. Books that have the capacity to glue your imagination to them completely, isolating you from even your immediate surroundings. They are able to monopolize your attention and suck you into their vast worlds of fictitious characters and places that don’t exist.
I’ve been watching movies. Moving pictures on my screen that provide such expansive escape from the reality of this world, it’s a pity they don’t last longer than the typical couple hours tops. Videos so thought provoking that they make you question yourself at the foundation of your being, shaking your supposedly sturdy structure from it’s root.
There is so much great art in this world. So much insight and significance is hidden in such things that people nowadays have ridiculously easy access to. Yet, the creators of such art are not given enough regard as creators. They are thinkers, imagineers, they take scrap like random words and boring pictures and stray thumps and booms, and turn them into something of conceptual value, something that adds such powerful impact to the existence of humankind itself. Such art serves as more than just proof of sophistication. It is a reflective entity allowing us to reach within ourselves and uncover things we fear so that we can overcome them, and things we cherish so that we may remember them.

Artists these days are treated like dirt, everyone knows. But is anyone who claims to be an artist really one? An artist contributes to society, he uncovers ugly demons, buried and neglected. He puts in the spotlight beauty that’s been taken for granted and says “here is something you will miss when it is gone”. An artist is a maker of mirrors that allow retrospection. If you have not done any of these things, and have no intention of doing them, then you can not call yourself an artist. You are a mere somebody who is self-centered enough to delude yourself into thinking that you are capable to be referred to as one among the ranks of intellectual soldiers and fighters that have fought off dark evils of society. You, my friend, are an imposter. An artist would never claim to be an artist. He is deemed the title by those he has bettered through his work.

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Jupiter Jones

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The alarm sounded at the time it did every day. Instead of preparing the coffee like she had gotten accustomed to doing, Jupiter was sleeping in. She woke up with the alarm. However, there was no call for her to make the coffee. Her mother and aunt ignored the alarm. There was no work to be done today.

Jupiter couldn’t remember the last time there was a day off. The staff at the hotel had informed them the day before that their services would not be required for the next few days as the hotel would be under renovation. Usually on a hiccup like that, they would want to find something else to do, but given old age and lack of rest, the two senior ladies decided otherwise.

She hopped in the shower and got ready pretty quick. A few minutes after, there was a light knock on the main door. Her company had arrived.

She skipped over to meet Caine and Stinger as they waited in the hallway. “Is Her Majesty ready to go?” asked the former and kissed her lightly as she pulled the door shut behind her.

“That kind of contact would definitely give anyone the sickness” teased Stinger, following them as they headed towards the exit. Caine shot him a quick glace with something of a smile in spite of himself. “Does that mean I’m infected now?” Jupiter teased. “I was talking about him, Your Majesty.” he gestured towards Wise. “Well, he’s going to have to continue dealing with it.”

They got out to the street and hailed a cab. Of course they could have just flown and skated away, but Jupiter insisted on not using such special privileges until they were sure anyone she knew, like her family, would be unable to see it. She feared that frequent tampering with memory could cause some side effects. Of course she didn’t know if that was really the case, but better be safe than sorry.

Caine looked almost the same as when she had seen him last time. There was very slight recovery since then. He had mentioned that plenty of sleep did help him feel better, so she wasn’t seeing him as much as she would have liked, lest he skip the much needed rest. She had hoped for the bug to pass by now, but even she knew that was a long shot. Of course, he could just avoid a huge chunk of it by leaving earth, but it would come back to haunt him if he ever visited a seeded planet again. The only way out was the way through, and only after he fully recovers can he be free of it.

A little ways from the city, they paid the cab driver and took to the skies. The clouds were just barely discernible from the faintly lit sky. Jupiter imagined what Caine’s boots would seem like to an onlooker from far away. She herself had gotten hold of something like a floating skateboard. The shopkeeper had shown her quite a variety of devices, but she chose to stick with something she knew, having skated as a kid. She’d gotten pretty good with the movements lately, and could use her balance pretty well to steer in all directions. Caine and Stinger went a little slower than their usual speed.

They approached the ship that always waited for her at stand-by. It was one of the assets Jupiter acquired as a result of being the recurrence. A few months ago, she hadn’t even known that there was life beyond earth, but now here she was, the owner of nine populated planets and a spaceship among other things. She was royalty. She still wasn’t quite used to it. Tara, the ship’s captain, greeted them as they arrived.

Stinger went right in, eager to check up on the security and course set ahead for them. Caine pulled Jupiter close, whispering “I’ll see you in a couple of days. If the plague ends before that, I’ll see you much sooner.” She smiled. They bid each other a quiet goodbye, and Caine vanished into the dark of the planet.

Jupiter headed to her chamber to inspect the gown. She didn’t really have an idea of space gowns(are they even called that?), needing serious assistance from her groomers on picking one out. She just couldn’t settle on one, given how outlandish they all looked, quite literally so. But they had assured her of the choice to be a safe one, and well made for the occasion at hand.

As she went through these thoughts, Sanax Torrow stopped by, bringing her up to speed with the news of the past few days. He had become something of a right hand man for her, a personal assistant of sorts. He had served Seraphi Abrasax’s child Domitri who had died at quite a young age of two thousand many years ago. He seeked her out quite quickly after news of her ascending had gone out, as did many others who had hoped of Seraphi’s return. He had proven to be quite useful in helping her understand the ways and whims of this world, filling her in on all the millennia of history she had not been there to see. “We shall set course for Deshqe immediately” he assured her.

“Um..” his voice trailed, a little uncertain. “Yeah, what is it?” asked Jupiter.

“Is the commander quite sure of traveling such a large distance during the plague? It does not seem right, if I may be so bold” he stated. Stinger appeared from the hallway, as if on cue. “I’m quite sure, thank you for your concern” he answered, trying a plastic smile. With a deep bow towards Her Majesty, Sanax was off to take care of whatever it was he did to support Jupiter in her new role.

“Don’t be so easy to trust, Your Majesty. I dare say you are still very new to this world. Not that anyone would dream to threaten your position after what happened with Balem.” he quipped. “I’m trying” she admitted. “But like he said, this could be dangerous. There’s still some time to reconsider.” She knew he wouldn’t reconsider. She had already tried to get him to stay behind with Caine, but they both seemed pretty adamant about the decision, something about Caine having helped him through a rough spot.

Jupiter felt a sharp momentary tug of force. They were off.

Caine Wise

Caine woke with a start. Without wasting a moment he zipped out of bed and armed himself with the taser gun lying on the bedside table. He held the familiar weapon with unease, switching off the safety, and quietly inching his way into the corridor. However, he wasn’t as quiet as he would want to be.

“It’s me”, said a familiar voice before he turned the corner to the kitchen. Damn, he had given away his position. He didn’t loosen caution, though. He had to look to make sure. He aimed from behind the wall to find Stinger standing with his arms raised in surrender. He had a bag of food on the platform in front of him. Motioning towards it, he said “you need to eat something”. Caine finally relaxed, setting the gun down next to the couch.

“You could have told me you were coming” he whispered. He didn’t have much strength to go by as it was, and didn’t find it worth to spend such a huge chunk on speaking. “Jupiter was worried. Someone needed to be here. And by the looks of it, you aren’t getting any better.” Caine decided on not replying altogether. He would ask about the plague once he got some food in him.

As if having read his mind, Stinger answered “there’s still no news of it. Don’t know how long we will be shut in for. We’ll just have to wait it out.” Caine sulked into the couch, accepting a bowl of chicken soup. He drank cautiously, lest he burnt his tongue. Truthfully, he didn’t feel very weak on the inside. It was just that his body seemed to not cooperate with him – his skin, his ears, his tongue and his nose. It was like he was reduced to a regular human. He didn’t feel like a splice anymore.

He couldn’t imagine living this kind of life day in and day out. With all the senses he always took for granted dampened to a minimum, he was numb. He had felt something coming on the few times he spent considerable spells on seeded planets, but he never knew it could come to such an extent. It was rightly called visitor’s sickness. Planets are always wiped before being seeded. The bug was one of many precautions implemented in the process. Any humanoid but not human creature was targeted. It was quite the useful tactic.

It could last anywhere between a week and a year. It got worse with age, but it only happened once. He regretted not being done with it before. He didn’t enjoy Jupiter seeing him in this condition. He was paler than usual, the color drained from his skin, making his eyes and hair contrast more against it than they already did.

He felt better once he had something in his stomach. An instant energy boost is what it felt like. Not a humongous one, but a boost nonetheless. He kept at the rest of the food. Stinger decided not to disturb him as he nourished himself. He couldn’t bear to watch him that way. But then again, he himself had gone through the same thing a few years ago, and he was much older than Caine. The kid had it easy – comparatively that is.

Caine finished up the noodles and leaned back on the sofa. His nose seemed like it was clearing up already. Thank god for Asian food. “You wanna go for a spin?” Stinger was already up and zipping his leather jacket. Caine followed his lead in agreement.

They didn’t grab any car keys. They didn’t even have a car. What they had were boots and wings. Up on the roof of the building, Stinger released his wings from their resting position. They beautifully panned out, stretching about a couple of meters to either side. Caine could have done the same, had he been okay. Instead he activated his boots. And the two were off.

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The Rummager

She rummaged through the drawer, trying to find it. Shouldn’t something just stay where its kept? More often than she liked, things didn’t. The worst part was, she wouldn’t even know why! It required her to exercise intense focus so that she wouldn’t get distracted by everything else she came across in the drawer full of old things.

The longer she searched, the more she wanted to give up. Her mind kept revisiting memories that lay untouched for years together on contact with these objects. She had been in such situations before – they were time consuming, and often led to exhaustion. She didn’t need any more of that. So she simply decided to push away the many thoughts hatching in her head, comparable in quantity to drops falling on a downwind window on a rainy evening. The struggle was real, but not all battles could be won.

Suddenly she felt a familiar shape in the grip of her hand. It felt like a different lifetime now, since when she got it. It was a plain old key-chain she had used back in middle school. She remembered thinking how its elegance was a result of nothing more than its simplicity. As she lifted up the old piece of metal attached to a chain to examine it, she shifted her weight back so as to lean against the wall. She couldn’t fight anymore, and succumbed to the immense flood of emotion and thought filling her spirit.

She remembered how she locked the door while leaving and then walked through the snow to the bus stop every morning, the cold air that chipped at the exposed skin of her face. Her pink snow jacket, black gloves, wool cap and leather boots protected her from the frosty weather that she loved. She smiled at the memories, somewhat grateful for those experiences. It had been a decade and a half, and she could already sense the holes and gaps this stretch of time had introduced in her recollections. She wondered if it would get worse.

“Have you found it?” came a voice from the hallway, footsteps making way to her room.

“Not yet” she admitted. “Remember how cold it used to get in Connecticut?”

“Who wouldn’t! But you used to go play outside alone. No matter how cold it was, it never stopped you.”

She smiled at her brother, holding up the key-chain.

“Hmm, I wonder where mine went. Well I’ll just take yours if I can’t find it” he chuckled, starting to move further down the hall.

She gave him a short, narrow-eyed stare before he was out of sight and the smile made its way back onto her lips. She put the little piece of metal back where she found it and continued the search.

Plateauing out of College

So, I’m fresh out of college, and I’m going to join a job soon. Actually, I’d already left college in December because this last semester was an internship, but it was part of the curriculum. At the time I left, I felt a sort of liberation one would feel after a lecture that lasted an extra ten minutes longer, eating into your lunch break. It felt great, and I was glad to leave the place.

I came back home to stay with my parents during the internship. My room, my house, my parents, everything felt great to have back in my life except a few difficulties adjusting here and there. Some difficulties are still around, and I haven’t gotten completely into the stay-with-parents bit yet, but I’m working towards it.

Usually, when a big change happens in my life, I subconsciously prepare myself for it, and as the time gets closer, I draw my attention towards how things are going to change. This way it doesn’t turn into a fiasco, and everything goes smoothly by. It happened that way when we shifted houses, when I finished school, etc.

To be honest, college wasn’t a smooth ride. There were good days and bad days. Good friends, and friends who’ve become strangers. That happens to everyone, doesn’t it. My longest getting-outta-here transition was for college. I’d say it lasted for more than a year, which meant that midway into my 3-1 (halfway through college life) I was preparing to leave.

Unusually, my process was halted by unforeseen circumstances. In the last one year of college, I’d gone out of my comfort zone and stopped caring what other people thought, leading me to meet so many individuals I wouldn’t have otherwise met. They’ve added tremendous value to my last year at campus, thereby prohibiting me from wanting to leave it. But soon everyone departed, and I came to the realization that without the people I knew, college could never be the same.

Most of them had already left a whole semester before me, and that one semester really did test my patience. I ended up concentrating more on getting out of there than on leaving everything behind with a balanced mindset. Since this year started, little by little, I’ve become more attached to the memories from good times. Most of all, I’m starting to look back at what were considered mediocre habits and ways of life as precious opportunities made use of absentmindedly.

Being able to skip classes and step out of the campus for lunch, taking walks that lasted hours into the night till in-time, strolling over to Amul for an ice-cream on a whim, gazing up at the stars shining like scarce tiny lights scattered across the night sky. These memories were made all the better with the company I had around me. That’s what I miss most about college life. The sky wasn’t the clearest, but in the city you can barely see stars at all. Sure you could just go to the neighborhood shop and buy an ice-cream, but that atmosphere, that sense of being a part of something greater cannot be replicated.

I try not to get carried away by memories, it takes up too much time and energy to get back to my present life after it, but it gets to me sometimes. Good or bad, its all in the past, and I’m glad to say its not an experience I would switch for anything else. The largest fear I hold is that of forgetting something I’ve experienced that has had an impact on me. Irrespective, the impact still lives inside me, making me who I am.

I expect these feeling to grow stronger and creep up more often until I’m sick of them, or I find something that takes up more of my time than random thoughts. One must always look forward to what the future has in store!

To All Creators

There are thousands of people making videos on YouTube.

There are millions more who don’t. Some are too shy or nervous to speak their minds to a camera. Some just don’t want to do it. Some haven’t even thought about it.

But the truth is that it’s not easy being a YouTuber. I’m not just writing that down here for the sake of it. I tried building a channel. The first video I made, I had a good idea of what I was doing, and what exactly I wanted to say. It took a good 7-8 hours to complete the 3-min video. I uploaded it and added subtitles, so that people who couldn’t understand me could enjoy it as well. The video didn’t do bad, and I started to believe that I too could build a channel. I had never thought that something I had to say would get that much attention from the internet.

So I started to think. Think of ideas, ways to say what I might want to say, the different styles I could try in a video. Once in a while, something material enough would float through my mind, but I couldn’t build on it enough to see it possibly turning into an entire video. After a few days, I made and uploaded another video. Although I was satisfied with my editing and music selection, I felt the shots I’d shot weren’t good enough.

That’s when I started to doubt myself. After that, I just couldn’t get a good enough idea for a video. Boy, is it tough to think up something new every few days. When I’m sitting in my room, binge-watching YouTube, I really don’t think about how large an effort actually goes into making a video that the owner was satisfied with enough to put it up. It’s really difficult to make a video that you’re 100% happy with.

Oftentimes, so many people undermine the work that YouTubers do and the trouble they go through to give us – the rest of the world – entertainment for a few minutes. They leave terrible comments, degrading the owner (haters). I think it’s really cruel of people to do so. If you don’t like the content someone makes, you don’t need to let them know how dissatisfied you are with their work.

Nonetheless, so many YouTubers out there are still making videos. Actually, this could be extended to any form or art or entertainment. People still do what they do regardless of the haters. This must mean that the positive vibes they get from people exposed to their art still surpasses the negative. I suppose this means that humanity is not entirely doomed as of today.

If you are a creator, an artist, please continue doing what you do. The world would be a very dark place without you

The Road

Driving always made her feel better. It made her feel like she could be free, run away at her will. It was a liberating sensation, but she knew it was short-lived. That was a fact she chose not to dwell on. Why waste this precious time on something unfix-able? As she drove out of her neighborhood, she rolled down the windows, letting the fresh morning air wash over her. She remembered trying to wake up this early at first, and failing many times in doing so. She was glad she hadn’t given up – it was paying off. She maneuvered through the streets, through the sparse traffic, with no music to distract her. That was unusual. Ordinarily, she would turn the volume up enough to drown her thoughts. Today, she didn’t feel the need for it. She let herself think, knowing it was unhealthy to ignore things for so long. The main road was almost empty, and her car took a steady pace, taking her to her destination. She didn’t rush, and didn’t intend to either.

As she thought, she came to the conclusion that her life was much like this journey. The car was bound to it by gravity, and there was a single destination to reach. There were many paths leading to it, but this was the most widely used, trusted way to get there. Other cars went by, some faster, some slower. Everyone had their own destination, and no one else knew where one was headed. At different times of the day, different amounts of traffic dominated the street. She passed by them all the same, not knowing much about them, except being careful not to bump into them. Sometimes she found herself sharing the road with another driver for a length, until their paths separated, and they no longer traveled together.

She thought about how the road dictated her driving. She turned when it turned, slowed down at a speed breaker, drove more carefully on the slopes. And no matter how many times she drove on it, it would make her drive the same way that she did before. She had no control over the road, only over her car and how she drove it.
Just like she had no control over her life, only over herself and the way she lived.