The Fault Lines

death looms

like it always has

the specter more apparent now

reminds us to live, but how?

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A dip

A prayer

A plea for salvation

Turned the holy unholy

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they’re all like us

dying to survive

ours by money

theirs by mutation

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The Physical Absence

I wanted to write about the impact my uncle’s death has brought to me but the mind is numb. Yet it is looking for an aperture to tell the world what a great man he was. In the best words known to me.

I never liked a certain distance that the word ‘uncle’ brought with it. My uncle was my second father. It sounds quite nice in my native language. Valliachan ~ Big Father. That’s what he was. In shape and role. I never quite understood his ways growing up. I perceived him to be short-tempered, fierce and unyielding to life. There used to be a certain fear when I used to visit him in my younger days.

Growing up, I realized that the fear I held was reverence in its rawest form. I found him to be an omnipresent figure; taking genuine interest in what I did and what my plans were. But never in an overbearing fashion.

Gradually, reverence took on the form of blind admiration. I was a spectator to the wonderful ways in which he connected with people and conducted himself in times of stress. I described him to my friends as a complete man. He was unapologetic about helping people; even when their circumstances got better. He had great intuition as well. He could read you like a book. He would know how to ask the right questions and most importantly, when to ask them. He did things to make the lives of others easier, without being asked to. He did them out of the love and generosity in his heart.

We lost him to a cardiac arrest. Nothing brought solace. We couldn’t imagine a life without him – it was plain scary. He had such a towering presence over all our lives, and was a constant figure in all our ups and downs.

His last WhatsApp forward to me was about how water is harmful to health because it is the common mixer with rum, coke, vodka and gin and injures all our organs. There were many such innocuous forwards that we discussed during our time together. In fact some would go on for hours. Once, we talked at length about a certain industrialist in our country and how he sided with the fact that what the industrialist did was good for our country despite holding the opposite sentiment in his heart. In hindsight, I felt that he only engaged in the conversation and took an opposite stance to get me talking. I’m one of the many introverted people in the family and he didn’t want me to live in my own head – in front of him, at least. So we dissected topics concerning education, startups, the future of work, data security and even how water could be the reason why our organs are injured. Every time we spoke, there was so much to exchange – information, recipes, dad jokes, love, respect and a certain fondness that I will never be able to explain.

I understand that none of us are getting out alive. But would the reality of certain loss and the fragility of life make us better grievers?

I Do Have Interesting Stuff at Home

Going forward, the pandemic will share the same spotlight with the weather when it comes to conversation topics. Everybody is going to have their own version of “Feels like”.

As someone with a sense of adventure, I confess that I rejoiced in the chaos a bit during its initial days. There was no certainty about when lockdowns would be lifted, when we could go back to work and most importantly, whether my grocery run would be successful. This forced my comfort-habituated mind to think creatively about how to use my time, conserve body energy, and keep the mind healthy. I took to art and its various forms as my parallel reality.

Having never had the chance to use my micro lens (okay, add a bit of procrastination to the lack of opportunities), I began observing things around me to shoot. I was amazed at the subjects I had at my disposal considering I lived minimally.

A pattern on my shorts
Well, bread
Match point
Quaran-tea-ne essentials
The future looks bright and yellow!

The Ravelogues – Woman on the Bus

She looked forlorn.
Like someone had placed the weight of the world on her shoulders and she was too tired to resist. It seemed like her song playlist didn’t do much to lift her spirits.

The side of her head was pressed against the window with her hairstrands making its imprint on the pane. She looked outside but it was clear that she was distracted by the blurry silhouettes and lights, formed by objects in motion.

Something on her phone caught her attention. She smiled briefly but without sincerity. A 4 year old waved at her in traffic and a biker revved his engine to get her attention. She had nothing for them.

The eyes. I was fixated on her eyes. They were shielded by long, thick, black eyelashes. Every time a thought crossed her mind, she blinked slowly and with effort. The color of her pupils seemed black and I imagined getting a closer, longer look at them and seeing the center of the universe, if the color of the universe was liquid black.

She locked eyes with mine for a brief tenth of a second.

I smiled at her. She returned it.

There was something so familiar about her. The way she moved.

“Last stop!”, said the conductor with a nonchalant hand motion.

I rose from my seat. So did she.

We left together, as one.

The Ravelogues is a series that decrypts thoughts of people, places and things that the author finds interesting.

The Ravelogues – Brazil

The original travelogue was written in March of 2013 for a college report. This post is an adaptation.

tl;dr Brazil. Much wow.

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It was the trip of a lifetime.

From the airplane, the first glimpse we got of Rio was the silhouettes of small islands. Once we flew over them and approached the landing strip, the visual of head and taillights of cars stuck in a jam created the image of a beautifully woven gold and ruby necklace from a distance.

Landing in Brazil

The sights that we took in in the following days took our breaths away and transported us to another world, in the non-literal sense too. Everything about the city brought in us, a sense of serenity and celebration. The happy-go-lucky spirit of the Brazilians. The beaches. The flora and fauna. The food and drinks. Even the air we breathed. We didn’t feel like tourists and that was one of the best things about being in Brazil.

The verdict: Brazil – ‘virgin beauty’.

Discovering Rio de Janeiro

We were taken on a city tour during the first day in Rio. We headed for Christ the Redeemer situated in the Corcavado Mountains after breakfast and I can vouch for the fact that group digestion was quick thanks to the presence of adrenalin transmitted by the itinerary.

A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. In spite of the rains that morning, our spirits could not be dampened.

Our zesty bus tour guide, Luiza gave us a lot of information to digest but had our full attention. All our heads and ears were perked, like dogs at the slightest sound of a wrapper, whenever she would point to a building and relay its history to us. Once we got close to the peak, we got the first glimpse of Christ the Redeemer and it would forever be etched in our minds! It was like Christ welcoming us with arms wide open.

Our next stop was Escadaria Selaron or the Selaron steps. Wonderfully constructed with a myriad of colours in mosaic and tiles put together by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron, it was a project that started out as a hobby but soon became an obsession. Selaron began renovating dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. He found he was constantly out of money so he sold paintings to fund his work. It turned into a long and exhaustive expedition but he eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors. There were interesting square tiles showcasing snippets of the countries that had contributed to the Escadaria Selaron project and the 20 of us silently competed to capture the best photo for bragging rights on the bus!

Arriving at: Sao Sebastiao Cathedral.

Giving out the first impression of a re-engineered pyramid, the cathedral boasted of tall and imposing contemporary-stained glass paintings on the inside. The paintings were a bit hard to decipher which added to the unusual charm of the cathedral and inspired faith in something greater. <Insert quote on the meaning of life>. And as if to symbolically bless us for our short prayers at the Cathedral, it started raining right after we stepped out. <Insert quote about how God gives you signs, and not just the ones on the road>

We loved every bit of Rio and it seemed like Rio was returning the favour.

I have to sugarcoat (Pun intended) the description of our next destination, Pao de Acucar (the Sugarloaf Mountain). A ten-minute cable car ride that runs up two mountains and allows for more breathtaking scenic views of Rio took us to the top of the mountain where the coast of the city could be seen. Again this time, the clouds wanted to play hide and seek.

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Michelin Day in Angra Dos Reis

Now it must be mentioned to the reader that the intention of traveling here was for business and a modicum of leisure. So far, the latter got all the attention.

Michelin was one among the many companies that were associated with the Grenoble Ecole de Management. About 6 of us were assigned to work on two Michelin live business cases. [Note: Live business cases (LBCs) are graded papers that were a part of our Master’s course. LBCs were real business problems that companies faced and presented to the student community in order to source viable solutions.]

A 3 hour bus ride to Angra dos Reis got us to Vila Gale, a five-star resort where over 300 South-American Michelin employees were present to attend the annual company convention. Upon arrival, we felt very welcomed thanks to Mr. Jose Tarantini and the entire operations team at Michelin. A video and photo shoot of the Michelin Day was organized by Michelin.

After a meaty lunch, we got down to work. The groups working on the Michelin Live Business Case were given the opportunity to address their questions and gain more insight into the company’s history in Latin America. The Michelin reps answered our questions patiently and gave us additional information of Michelin’s business operations in Brazil. The Q&A session was highly informative not only for the Live Business Case students but also for other groups as well. Moreover, the opportunity to interact with the Michelin’s management dignitaries was rewarding.

At the end of the presentation, Michelin was kind enough to let us use the resort facilities and we put on our swimwear and headed straight to the beach. Hello, leisure. Sorry we got a bit distracted.

The Chamber of Commerce, Sao Paolo

The Camara de Comercio Franca-Brasil (CCFB) is the French chamber of commerce in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The CCFB is devoted to developing and improving the economic, trade, cultural, social and industrial ties between France and Brazil. The members of CCFB can benefit from a robust network of 900 fellow members. Being the students of a French business school, it was useful for us to understand a bit about the commercial alliances between France and Brazil.

Ms Lorraine Leal, our presenter for the day, was descriptive about the working styles and cultural structure of Brazil – something that we were all curious to know. Through her, we learnt that Brazil is a great market for companies with a growing middle class population with an appetite to spend. This is one of the reasons why despite the problems of bureaucracy, theft and violence, it still remains attractive as a market. We were startled to learn that in certain industries like cosmetics; products are 3 times more expensive than France. As Brazil is a melting pot of cultures, there is demand for every kind of product in the market. Another interesting fact we discovered was that Brazil offers consumers a very flexible and easy payment system. Up to 36 payments in installments can be made for purchasing a product. Because of this, goods are more affordable for the middle class and people living in Favelas.

Now, all good things must come to an end

Hotel Unique was where we decided to say bye bye. With a grand dinner, unlimited drinks and a healthy dose of bonhomie, no tears were shed that night.

The hotel’s rooftop terrace displays amazing views of the city and that was where we spent most of our time. A fascinating crimson red swimming pool lined one section of the wall and in no time, it was known to the hotel visitors that we were children stuck in adult bodies. The underestimation of the force of a push got our friend (and his vodka cranberry drink) in the red pool. This was deemed as a ‘Cirque du so-lame’ show but we got the drunk attention of the visiting crowd and ended up having more conversations per person that night.

It was a perfect finale for the trip.

The Ravelogues is a series that decrypts thoughts of people, places and things that the author finds interesting.

The Ravelogues – Thinking, Fast and Slow

I knew it. Right from the moment I was chosen.

I’m not for the light reader browsing for something heavy to read. I’m not for the heavy reader too. I’m not quite sure what my reader type is. My contents are such.

Pardon the pessimism but based on how often I’m picked up, I’m sure that only a handful have read me without enduring much pain – the author and his editor. System 2 and System 1 respectively.

Most, if not all my readers situate System 1 minds when it comes to me. Fast. Impulsive. And may I add, Regretful. I’ve spent 37 months in my current place with 33 other books. I’m the product of a lifetime’s research, thoughtfully distilled into 499 pages and written with strong purpose – to give ordinary, happy humans a peek into their own minds. But here I am, mutely watching index fingers pass by me and pick a lighter kin. I’m the kind of book that people pick up on a whim; like leather pants. The kind that they hope, upon picking a copy, will mix genres up nicely for them in their bookshelves.

“The most thought-provoking book of our times” said a review.

It qualifies as the most honest blurb if the thought was ‘Should I read this today or never?’

The Ravelogues is a series that decrypts thoughts of people, places and things that the author finds interesting.

The Ravelogues – Three and Free

I wonder what time it is. I have a pretty pink watch but I don’t know how to read time. Haha! Maybe I’ll ask Mama if it is time for school. Got to wear my new dress and show off its satin purple bows. But first, time to brush. Haha, just kidding! I’ve got to audit my toy box. Hey, Piggy is missing.

“Mama, where is Piggy?”

“I don’t know. Come here and brush your teeth!”

“But I must find Piggy”

Hmm, Mama doesn’t think finding Piggy is important. Ok, let me retrace his steps last night. We watched TV together and then he wanted a ride…. Oh wait, a forgotten piece of candy on the table. Must lick it to recall its taste.

“Come here!!!!”

Mama isn’t serious about me brushing my teeth, yet. Let me go and see what’s on TV.

“NICKYYYY!”

Ok, that was the last call. Maybe now I’ll go and present myself before the angry human in the bathroom.

Argh, brushing has got to be the most boring activity of the day. I can see inside Mama’s nose when she’s brushing my teeth. Let me stick a finger in and see how far it goes. Oops!

“NICKYYYY!”

Breakfast is boring too and I don’t think I should be eating from a blue plate.

“Mama, I want to eat in the red plate”

How nice would it be if my smiley jam sandwich could talk to me? Ok, I’m done licking the eyes and smile off. Mama can feed me the rest of the boring mass.

“Eat your eggs fast! Okay, last spoon and it’s over. We are getting late for school.”

Haha, Mama isn’t serious yet. Got to cycle around and find Piggy. I wonder if the other toys ate him. Papa said bacon comes from Piggy.

“NICKYYYY!”

I don’t think I should be wearing blue shoes with yellow socks.

Yellow with yellow is nice.

Or maybe white because Papa is wearing a white shirt today.

Or maybe pink because Piggy is pink.

How about I wear this frilly green dress to school.

Or maybe just these shorts.

My pajamas are not a bad idea too.

“NICKYYYY!”

Okay, the mind is made up. Frilly green with yellow shoes and pink socks. Loud and bright enough for Piggy to find me.

The Ravelogues is a series that decrypts thoughts of people, places and things that the author finds interesting.