Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Personal Islands



Back in high school, and even during medical school for that matter, I was always notorious as a student who never paid attention in class. I would spend the long hours during dreadfully boring lectures, engrossed in drawing, or doodling if you may call it, on my notebooks. While on the absolute contrary, my over zealous colleagues, would be scribbling away every word that our professor would utter, irrespective of whether he was making any sense.
Human psychology interests me to a great degree, and being the truly self obsessed person that I am, there hasn't been a day when I have not over scrutinized my self, over every trivial detail.
Now as I look back, the one thing I would constantly draw in my book, were islands.
I was, and am obsessed with them. I would draw islands of various shapes and sizes, make up stories about island kingdoms, and so on and so forth.
I suppose it never occurred to me so as to why I was so obsessed with the concept of an island. But now as I look back and try to comprehend my juvenile leanings, it makes all the more sense.
They say you are what you eat, or in this case what you draw.
Frankly, any creative outburst if I may call it so, is personally a reflection of your inner self. Even the clothes you wear, the food you eat, or the way you arrange and choose furniture can speak volumes about yourself.
And therefore, in retrospect, in my case what reflected me was what I drew.
And that was an island.
Now, what is unique about an island?
I suppose, is its sheer isolation. Apart, aloof and untouched by all and sundry.
Inaccessible, remote and unscathed. Beyond anyone's reach. And surrounded by the vastness of the ocean. Nestled amongst its great waves.
To me an island signifies isolation and security .
And I suppose that's who I really am.
To me, seclusion meant comfort. It meant security from a dozen prying eyes. It meant being by my self. Rather than hobnob with those I had little or no interest in.
I am not a loner though. I made a ton of great friends. And though I claim myself to be anti social, I am quite friendly and approachable by default.
But by the end of the day, I always craved solitude.
To be alone, unwatched and beyond anyone's scrutiny.
Somehow I found it to be more of an ease to be by myself than to be burdened by social obligations. I always have loved being on my own personal island.
Though not meaning to sound pompous, for most of the time, humans have always bored me. I cannot say why. It could be on account of not having any siblings, or the fact that I have more or less lived in hostels and boarding schools for a great deal of time. Either way I have always ended up feeling that no one has truly understood me.
I always detested going to parties and get togethers and make small talk with people I barely know. My first instinct on such occasions, would be bolt away as soon as possible.
There is a reason I like to blend with people I am intimately close to. And that's so I can be myself. A few choice guests on my private island if I do say so myself.

The thing about being on an island is that you are your own master. Its your own world that no one can trespass. No one can question you, or judge you.
Yes, humans are social by default. But than not all of us are born with human instincts.
Given the choice I would rather be on my island than allow any trespassers.
But I have been often reprimanded for that attitude.
Its just that when I meet people, I feel obligated to act and behave in a certain way, so much so that I have ended up putting on so may masks, that even those who claim to know me might not know me at all. When in society, one is always expected to be something what society wants one to be. To be consistently charming, productive, sociable and bendable to their every whim. You spend so much time being someone you'd rather not be, and in consequence lose out on being yourself.
Like Shakespere said, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players"
We don on masks to be identified and sought out, but frankly to me, the more masks you don, the more distant you become from your true self, and lose out on being an individual.
As all things in life, everything comes at an advantage and a disadvantage.
While not everyone can remain secluded, there are times when one ought to be by oneself.
If we let hundreds of people define who you are and what you are meant to do, there may come a time, when you realise, that you have been living someone else's life all along.
I suppose everything needs to exist in a certain balance. Be it seclusion or socialization.
Now when I look back, a lot of artists, thinkers and leaders, were often dubbed to be eccentric. Because they would always appear aloof, babbling to themselves, because, they would prefer their own company rather than be amongst those who could never understand them. They despised influence and were rebels in their own right.
If they had allowed trespassers on their islands, it would have yielded to influence, and the dilution of the individual spirit.
The world then would have never heard of a Picasso, or an Einstein or a Mozart.
I do not wish to don on myself the tag of a genius, but I certainly do brand my self to be individual in my own right. And for the time being I cannot allow anyone to trespass on my land.
I am what I am. And not what someone makes out me to be.
For those who wish to judge me, they shall never get to see the real me. The masks I own are plenty. But I do make it a point to remove them when I am by myself. And retire by the end of the day to my island.
Untouched, unseen and unscathed, far far away.

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixellou, http://www.flickr.com/photos/storm-crypt, http://www.flickr.com/photos/elijah, http://www.flickr.com/photos/todojuanjo, http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomasfano.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Home Is Where The Heart Is



They say time flies by when you're having fun. Well, if that is to be believed, then I guess I'm having a blast!
Its been seven months since I returned back home. And frankly it only seems like yesterday, when I arrived home from the airport, all puffy eyed, from the overwhelming emotion of parting with my closest friends, and not to mention the utter exhaustion I suffered on account of over 10 hours of air travel.
My parents were overjoyed nevertheless, reuniting with me after a spell of six long years. But throughout the course of my first day of returning back home, I could never partake in their joy, as I wondered desolately so as to how will I suddenly fit in, in the new world suddenly thrust upon me. Its strange actually, when after a long period of time, even familiar faces seem unfamiliar. And your own home seems like foreign ground, where you are unsure, whether or not you belong here.
Thus, through these tempest of emotions, I wondered in apprehension, so as to what course my life shall take.
But if I had only known then, so as to how things will turn up, I doubt I would have fretted so unnecessarily.
As things turned out, I found myself getting used to my home and surroundings much faster than I imagined. And to my utter relief, I actually felt a good sense of belonging.
Gone were my apprehensions and fears, and I felt really good being taken care of by my loving family, finally being able to partake in their joy of my return.
In life, there are many bitter sacrifices to be made, and in the course of things, time really forces you to reconsider, so as to whether the sacrifices you made were indeed worth it.
In the pursuit of my education abroad, I missed my home my family, and my people. Its one thing to say that you have left your family and home to pursue or goals and dreams, and its another thing to live it.
A lot of things in life are easier said than done. And this is one of them.
Dont get me wrong, the six years I spent abroad were the best years of my life. I attribute it to the fact that you develop as a person only when your by your self. But I guess, after accomplishing what you sought to do, its always nice to return home.
In my earlier posts I have ranted about my country, the narrow mindedness of my people, and the dearth of even the most basic human attributes that plague my land. And at the same time, I have heaped praises on St.Petersburg, the surrogate city that took care of me for the amount of time I spent there.
But lets face it, its not home.
You home is the place you live in, amidst all the faults and the issues. But that's what makes it home.
Its like say back home, the wallpapers peeling, the plumbings faulty, and the roof leaks every time it rains. Then on the other hand, you have, say the Ritz hotel. Its a wonderful place to be, with great people, fine food, and a spectacular room.
But irrespective of however long you stay at the Ritz, its not home. You'll always be a guest at the Ritz, and in the due course of time you might even begin to miss the familiar aroma the emanated from the kitchen, or the creaks in the flooring in your hallway.
The same goes for all those who venture abroad. You'll always be a guest. A guest that people may love. But a guest nonetheless.
One needs a home to belong.
As much as I enjoyed every single instance of my stay abroad, I can never really say I belonged there. They were not my people.
Besides, irrespective of how much I tend to criticize my country, I cannot dream of leaving it ever again. The emotional upheaval is far too profound to bear. To constantly uproot yourself from one place to another.
Back in India, after I cleared my rather gruelling exam, I realised that I wouldn't have made it without the support of my family. People who made things so much easier for me to bear.
When you're by your self , there is no support system to aid you in your time of need.
Back home there is.
People may brag about how their homes an awful place to be, or how they feel suffocated amidst their family. If that is indeed so, then its a pity.
Its easy to escape your people saying they're difficult, or impossible to live with. But if that's how you feel about relationships, you might one day pretty much end up alone.
Every relationship is tough. But that's where you need to work on them and make it successful.
My parents might not agree with everything I say or do, but that doesn't stop me from reinforcing my point of view. We have maddening arguments, and terrific fights. But by the end of the day we're family, and alls well again. Not once have I thought that, "God these people are crazy, I can't live here any more."
Its letting go of small squabbles and being able to live with one another in a home as a family defines you as being human.
It wont take even a moment hesitation to pack my bags, leave home, live abroad and settle in a comfortable clean country.
But I'm done being a guest.
And irrespective of the shortcomings in my country, its home. For the better or for the worse.
As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "there's no place like home"!PS: The photos you see above, are some random shots of my home. A personal touch kind of thing!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alls Well That Ends Well



Its been a while since I last posted on my blog, and frankly I cannot express in mere words how glad I am to be writing this post, after such a long hiatus.
For all who were aware, and for those who weren't, the reason for my self imposed exile from my blog, was due to the fact that I was studying for a really important medical examination, back home in India. An exam that grants recognition to foreign degrees, and makes us eligible to practice here in India. A license exam if you may call it so.
Now frankly, the exam is quite gruelling by itself, and by no means child's play. It was nevertheless imperative I give the exam, otherwise, without the recognition, a foreign graduate is pretty much stuck in limbo without any official recognition whatsoever.
Ever since I returned to India, there has been no other thought more paramount in my mind than to clear the examination as soon as possible. Especially after hearing horror stories, of those who kept trying and trying for years without success, and finally losing nearly three to four years, or perhaps even more of their precious time, and eventually jeopardizing their medical career.
On another front, most of my friends opted to join what are known as "coaching classes", to clear the exam. Its a common practice here in India, whereas au contraire I chose not to.
My friends were flabbergasted, and were quite curt in telling me that without those "miraculous" classes I stood little chance of passing. I have always found it so, that in life a lot of people are more prompt in telling you what you cannot do, rather than what you can do.
Nevertheless, undeterred, and not falling prey to the hype the classes generate, I chose to remain home and study for the exam by myself.
Besides, I have always been the sort of person that seldom pays attention in class anyway. I was always busy doodling while the professor went on an on rendering his rather insipid lecture.
Needless, to say I sacrificed a great deal while studying. I missed writing, painting, and frankly it has been over a year since I ventured into a movie theatre.
And all through, I had this morbid dread so as to whether or not my efforts would bear fruit, and whether or not my friends prediction of a certain doom, that awaited those who chose not to attend classes would come true.
For if I did not clear this time, I could see myself spiralling into gloom, and possibly towards a realm of self pity and bitter remorse. From which I doubt I would have ever been able to recover the strength to fight the battle yet again.
But by the grace of good fortune, and Divine intervention, I managed to clear the exam with flying colours, being amongst the 20% of the students who passed altogether.
It was while travelling back to the airport that I realised in disbelief, while checking the results of the exam online on my cell phone, that I had cleared the exam, and was now free.
Emotions of relief, gratification and happiness beyond words came flooding back, and while through all this I realised I was rather hungry, and ordered myself a scrumptious breakfast in the airport lobby, awaiting my flight back home.
And while munching on my baked beans on toast came the flood of congratulatory phone calls from my near and dear ones. All glad that we had passed one of the most dreaded exams ever.
What awaits me now is a three month break, during which I intend to selfishly indulge myself in all that I missed during the long hours pouring over medical literature. After which shall begin my internship in a hospital nearby.
The moral of the story is, that it takes great perseverance in trudging along a path most humans would rather avoid. And when someone usually dissuades you from perusing the path you choose, its not that they are concerned about you, but the fact that they wish to trust upon their own personal insecurity upon you.
Besides, the exam has had a more profound personal victory rather than just an academic one.
The personal victory being the fact that if I could pull this through, there's precious little that can stand in my way in the future.
The same lesson goes for everyone else as well.
Never let fellow humans tell you what you can or cannot do. Insecure beings can never support one another. Their refuge lies in mutual despair.
The day you begin to have faith in yourself and the path you have chosen, would be the day you will most certainly be declared a victor.
For only after trudging relentlessly through the road less travelled, one can truly say,
Alls well that ends well.