Stranger

He drifted into yet another town, a stranger whose eyes belied his true age. He had stopped ageing otherwise since he embraced the life he really wanted to live. Eons had passed in but a few years and time had left him by the wayside.

As usual he made his way into the local tavern for a drink and some conversation. That’s how his journeys into any town always began. He radiated an aura of calmness, a serene oasis in the chaos that is life. Perhaps embracing chaos as the essence of his existence had lent him that air.

As soon as he saw her he knew this journey was different. She was sitting in a corner nursing her drink while reading Catch 22. She caught him looking. Her eyes were haunted and vulnerable; his eyes were full of mirth, experience and patience. A contrast that should have broken the prolonged glance but somehow it tied them together in an infinitesimal embrace. A multitude of data and desire was packed into that glance.

He wanted to talk to her, the desire more acute than any he had experienced leading up to that moment. Yet despite his worldliness and extroversion he just stole glances as he sipped nervously on his beer. This is all so illogical he thought; nature is what inspires me, I don’t know her, why do I feel this damned attraction. This weird longing that makes the yards between us seem packed with air denser than it had any right to be. His thoughts muddled and fantastical scenarios and stories spinning off as if driven by an autonomous mind; he sat there frowning and deeply perplexed.

Fantasy

He finished his first beer and ordered a second. His usual routine of striking up a conversation with a few locals was badly off tracks here. He just sat there sulking over his drink distraught with unreasonable grief. The grief he was familiar with as the one that he had experienced ages ago in another lifetime. An undefinable grief everybody knows sometime- of losing someone. But he barely knew her and theoretically he could still talk to her and something could happen.

As he was finishing the second drink she got up and left. While leaving she turned back and gave him a curious look. And then she was gone.

Another road not walked down. Perhaps another epic romance nipped in the bud. He smiled as he finished his beer. Another milestone on his journey to nowhere.

He shrugged and started talking to the stranger next to him.

By- Aseem Mahajan

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DadMore than 4 years have gone since I last heard your sage advice and received that unconditional love. Your voice is fading like faint whispers on the ether of time. Yet you live on through me and mom; through Aditya and your daughter in law; and through your grandson who you couldn’t see. What wonderful memories lay in store for you when your mortal sojourn ended? I can just imagine you holding your grandson and the bond that you would have forged with him, the adventures we would have had together, the support you would have given my every crazy idea and stupid notion while gently nudging me towards the sensible course of action.

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There is a huge vacuum you left which is like a bottomless abyss on the happiest of days. I have not built you into a larger than life figure because you already were so when alive. Your contentment with little; your unselfish acts some of which I discovered only after you were gone; your honesty and integrity; all these and much more made you my true role model as I grew up. Your sparkling eyes and quick smile; the gentleness of your being  suffusing me with calmness and enveloping me with a shield against the harsher truths of this world; these are the things forever lost to me. I might find true happiness with time but there will always be a degree of happiness I would never attain because you are gone.

images2To share my joy with you, to share my grief and doubts, to travel with you and your childish sense of wonder and delight, these are the things I will never stop missing. You were a kindred soul, a helping hand in the darkest of times and the most solid ray of sunshine on the cloudiest of days.

You were my dad, my best friend and the one guide who I always paid heed to.

I miss you dad, every day and always.

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Disclaimer: I am not trying to influence you to vote for any particular party- that is your discretion and right.

As we approach the election season social media in India has turned into a minefield with people posting/fighting/name calling / frothing at the mouth/ fuming and what not about and for the political outfit of their choice. So many of my friends have talked about blocking people who were launching vitriolic comments or basically flooding their feeds with anti this and pro that. While I wholeheartedly commend fellow Indians for being more politically conscious than ever, can we not keep our newly discovered love for all things political civilized?

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I personally feel that the right and duty to vote should be exercised unless circumstances (distance/ ill health) force you not to and if you are as passionate as you proclaim then nothing should be a barrier in your quest to vote.  Of all the people posting those links and then fighting over their veracity I wonder what miniscule fraction will actually go out to vote on the polling day. Those who hail one or the other as the reincarnation of the Messiah and who would solve all the ills and/or lead India to new heights of glory and shout from the ramparts ( social media pages) for the heathen to pay heed and vote for the one they have chosen, I have this question, will you even vote?

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For reducing social media to a ridiculous name calling site where respect for any contrary opinion is less than zilch, where torrents of personal attacks occur whenever someone doesn’t agree with your view, at least have the decency to go out and vote. Or shut up and keep your opinion to yourself or your immediate circle of friends and stop polluting the walls of us innocent bystanders. We are not apathetic, we are considerate. We discuss our ideas in a civilized manner and we will also vote in as much proportion as you will. We just don’t think that we can make the choice for our entire circle of acquaintances on Facebook or twitter by posting a hate filled post or tirade.

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The hallmark of any truly civilized nation is tolerance and brotherhood, if we lose them in the name of fighting the “good” fight for what we believe in, that too on a virtual medium, what are you really aspiring for?  Don’t you see a parallel in your militant activism and the stubborn refusal to even listen to anyone who has some contrary point of view and the current state of Indian politics? If we continue down this path we will get what we deserve- Continuation of the status quo of the muddy waters that Indian politics has always been.

If you can’t accept others’ opinion at least listen to them/ read them before commenting in a huff or launching an attack and if you disagree it can be done politely too. If you think their stand is ridiculous leave them alone as you are unlikely to win them over by your diatribes. Live and let live and may peace return soon to the war ravaged social media.

 

Aseem Mahajan

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Small April sobbed, I’m going to cry
Please give me a cloud to wipe my eye;
Then April Fool, she laughed instead
And smiled a rainbow overhead.-Anonymous

“A fellow who is always declaring he’s no fool, usually has his suspicions.”-Anonymous

 A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. ~Douglas Adams

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A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke-and that the joke is oneself.  ~Clifton Paul Fadiman

This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~Mark Twain

Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: It’s good to be silly at the right moment.
- Horace (65 BC – 8 BC)

So, rather than appear foolish afterward, I renounce seeming clever now.
- William of Baskerville in ‘The Name of the Rose’

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
- Colette (1873 – 1954

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I have great faith in fools – self-confidence, my friends call it.  ~Edgar Allan Poe

Men reach their sexual peak at eighteen.Women reach theirs at thirty-five.  Do you get the feeling that God is playing a practical joke?  ~Rita Rudner

“The world is full of fools; and he who would not wish to see one,
must not only shut himself up alone, but must also break his looking-glass.”-Bioleau

“Take all the fools out of this world and there wouldn’t be any fun living in it, or profit.”-Josh Billings

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh — at yourself.” ~ Ethel Barrymore

“You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, “My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!” ~ Dave Barry
 
“The full area of ignorance is not mapped. We are at present only exploring the fringes.” ~ JD Bernal
 
Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else. ~ Will Rogers
 
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. ~ Abraham Lincoln
 

“I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right.” – Albert Einstein

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.- Bertrand Russell

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” -Plato

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slide_341154_3516353_free “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus

But isn’t the search for the meaning of it all- life, universe and everything- a close second to the contemplation of the ultimate question-What is happiness?  How can I be happy?

Happiness is not as basic a concept that I thought it was. . I have never been able to master its meaning and the means to it elude the most of us. Many a times I think that I have defined what happiness means for me, but then the hollowness hits. I am hurtling again searching for the answer.

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Is happiness a gossamer tapestry weaved from delicate threads of fond memories and pleasurable ongoing experiences that make you smile?

Many of us think we know the results/ events that will bring us happiness but most of the time happiness is oh so fleeting, a hummingbird stuck in time but for a moment, then frittering away, an emotion with a whimsy of its own or so it seems.

To some happiness is loving someone, to some making others smile, to some landing a dream job, a sunrise does it for someone, traveling for many ,a good night out on town, a good time with friends, to someone making love and to someone just holding hands. To most, all of the above, and many many more such events that make up our time here on good old big blue.

I think I have to realign my thinking to seek happiness in everything I do rather than seek things to do that provide me happiness. That is , to be happy for longer than I am capable of being now. I am happy in certain small segment of my day and then the shroud of misery envelops me for the flimsiest of reasons. I want to make flimsy reasons the basis of my happiness and the big ones the cause of my occasional unhappiness. So to say reverse the parameters and their occurrence patterns within my routine.

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For example the highlight of one of my days – watching a small girl holding her father’s hand as she jumped down 3 stairs and the smile that lit up her angelic face. A genuine smile exchanged between me and her father. Such moments of a stranger’s joy shared in that ephemeral moment, of innocence remembered and of nostalgia for simpler times all rolled into an infinitesimal speck of time and space are what keep me going. What keeps me hoping that the world and my life is not as lost or as tedious as I am bound to believe in my darker times.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten” -Cesare Pavese

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Norway 1    

The open roads, the winding trails and cityscapes all brimming with stories, joys and sorrows of strangers and umpteen sights and sounds  to be seen and heard; and memories yet  to be forged ,

Vistas natural and man-made beckon to me with the alluring promise of experiencing the undiscovered,

As I go through my day I strain to clamp down on my daydreaming, to ignore the urges of my nomadic disposition,

But desire tends to take on its own form; I lose my sanity in flights of fantasies, which warp my sense of reality with a clamorous juxtaposition of fantasy over fact,

Fantasies constructed on gossamers of memories, of winds felt, of sights seen, of conversations and ephemeral friendships, showcasing possible alternate moments in my time stream,

The constant urge for new experiences, for  smiles shared with strangers, of the joy of discovering the unknown in as random a manner as possible, of being on the road with no hurry to get back to a home,

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These longings dominate my waking thoughts; make my existence drudgery and an incessant yearning for escape from the mundane,

To be out of my comfort zone in an as yet unknown land, the unknown providing me the happiness of discovery and the warmth of the unfamiliar,

What I seek is not defined in my mind, only the desire for setting out for its discovery is, a muddled timeline perhaps the bane of my existence,

What I seek I will not know when I set out to seek it, and may not even know when I find it, for I seek it with the aid of an itinerary whose very essence is randomness,

Hindsight or post facto rationalization perhaps my only tools to know, or to delude myself into thinking that I do, what it was I was looking for and whether I succeeded in discovering the same

Ultimately it is the journeys that I seek; the destinations are but an afterthought.

 

By: Aseem Mahajan

 

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Earth

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

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Then later:

“Look back again at the pale blue dot … Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn’t strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?”-  Carl Sagan

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