Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully

Category: Friendship (page 1 of 2)

Silence is the witness

That day,

When you looked into my eyes
There was no need to speak,
The silence affirmed,
To our love so blind.

But today,

Our eyes don’t meet,
Over years, love grows weak,
And we are led apart by a silence,
Of a different kind.

 

———

Photo : Hose Chamoli via Unsplash

 

Lola and the River

In summertime, the river is a channel narrow,
A trickle, it flows, as if in deep sorrow

And even though the river bank turns into a desert,
The river remains a friend she would never ever desert.

In monsoon, it floods, as clouds cry a river,
It flows with a fury, she hadn’t seen ever

And even though for safety, she has to run away,
For the river, she would kneel down and silently pray.

In winter, the river freezes to ice,
It’s a miracle of nature, a superb surprise,

From her warm company and the songs she would sing,
The ice melted slowly, to the arrival of spring.

In springtime the river has a gentle flow,
She’s ecstatic and so is her water buffalo

And nature responds to her love and deep wish
The river is full of flowers and fish.

Seasons change but to the river she is always nice,
Her life is a sign, a subtle advice,

For Little Lola she knew,
A truth simple,
That people are rivers,
And rivers are people.

Image : Delphi De La Rua via Unsplash

 

An Invitation to Childhood

It was the early hours of the evening. I was seated on a comfortable chair, writing. Somehow this setting reminded me of my school days. Since I don’t write so much with pens and pencils these days, writing on paper took me back in time in a way.

The parting sun lit up my room in a particularly reminiscent hue. One that reminded me that I used be itching to go outside the house to play with my friends as a child at this time in the evening.

Then, all of sudden, I heard an evocative shout.

‘Did someone call out my name from the street outside my house?’ I wondered.

I looked out from the window with hope.

It was the ghost of my past.
He looked into my eyes lovingly and spoke,

‘Remember how you used to sit next to this window sill, waiting to hear your friends call out your name to play cricket in the evening?
Remember those inviting shouts that was once music to your ears?

And do you remember how over years, calls got more sophisticated? How the shouting was replaced by a short high pitched whistle, a clap in a familiar cadence, just to keep all questionable sneaking out discreet?

The sound of the screeching footsteps of a friend, suggesting his arrival from afar, and towards the end of teenage, the gasps of an old handed down Kinetic Honda, which you crashed into a lamppost on your friend’s birthday?
You must at least remember how you’d listen for your childhood crush’s voice that would filter through the songs of sparrows in the park?

Do you remember these sounds, my old friend?’ asked the harmless ghost.
His gentle whisper echoed in my heart all night long.

In that moment, I realised how deprived of these sounds my life had become.
These days, a friend would usually text me from outside my house or place a phone call. The hollering has disappeared.

Earphones keep me distanced from all those sounds my ears were so trained to decipher. My ears long for the high pitched blip of an Instant messenger notification, not for the dying horn of an old Kinetic Honda.

And in all these years, the battle of bandwidths has attenuated the life out of a little sparrow, the background music of my childhood.
As with the sparrow, the sounds of my childhood are also facing extinction.

Maybe, the next time I visit a friend, I am going to shout out for him, just how I used to back in the day.
Maybe, he will come out with a smile laced with surprise, and I’ll smile back, with an invitation back to where we belong.

I long for the release in that holler.
And maybe, in that act, a sparrow would find hope to resurrect, and bring back life and song to my silent little world.

 

 

Are you being a true friend?

The internet tells me I have more than a 1000 friends in the online ecosystem.
There’s a good chance that you share a similar story.

But how does one get to know who their real friends are? Not just among the friends in the online space, but also in their physical world?

I feel there is way to find the answer.
And the answer is in the questions they ask you.

Even if we have been friends with someone for a while, we can spend years not going beyond the same old questions-

How are you?’
‘What’s happening?’
‘How’s work?’

You know the list !

But amid the cacophony of the same old peripheral questions, there will be a friend who’s questions will pierce straight through your heart.

He’ll ask questions that compel you to come up with answers you already have, to questions you don’t.

What is your dream?’
‘What do you fear?’
‘Are you happy?’
‘Can I help?’

These are simple questions,
and they must be attended to.

These questions can only emanate from the heart of a true friend.

Who is a true friend you’d ask.

In my opinion, a true friend is someone to whom your growth matters just as much as their own.

You can be friends with hundreds of people, but if you want to be a true friend to a chosen few, you must ask these questions to them.

And time and again, in the interest of fostering meaningful growth,
To form a deeper personal bond,
One must ask these questions,
To himself.

So,
As a good friend,
May I ask,

‘What’s your dream?’
‘And what’s holding you back?’

And, coming back to the question,
Who’s a true friend?

The answer is in the questions they ask you.

I hope you find a friend in me,
A friend in you.

 

 

The song of an old Denim

At last, the surprise I’d been longing for years
Elated, I find, myself in tears

The surprise of light and warmth such
Of daylight and a Human’s touch.

I’m a denim, a pair of jeans old
Left years ago in a closet cold

Had I known back then, I would shout
That maybe I would never make it out

But today we meet, and I rest in your palm
And I lead you drifting into an ocean calm

Of reveries and memories from an innocent space
That was left behind with your life’s pace.

I’m blue, patched up, tattered with a bloodstain
I remind you of times of frolic and pain

Nestled safely in each warp and weft
Are stories of how you laughed and wept

Remember how casually you’d check a pocket slot
And in an old crumpled note find a Jackpot?

I’m not a mirror, I show much beyond what can be seen,
Perhaps in disguise, I am the fabled time machine.

And now we’re old, but that’s no reason to be sad,
I’m a friend, a reminder of all friends you’ve ever had.

I am dated fashion, but timeless memories I hold
Could I, for any price, ever be sold?

We do share a longing, as much as it’s pure,
You can’t wear me, and I don’t fit you anymore.

But it’s time to part ways, lay me in the closet again
Come back to me as you feel, the memories I shall forever contain…

And from an ocean of Nostalgia, I summon a tear ripe,
You hold me close and your eyes you wipe

And in that moistness,
In my dark enclosure,
I fall asleep again,
To this emotional closure.

What a half marathon taught me about cultivating lasting friendships

It’s a matter of great privilege to have an enduring friendship. Even more so, when you can still do things together with the same friends who you grew up with.

I feel fortunate on that regard. I still have my childhood friends around who are proactive and find ways to do things together.

Recently, two of my friends and I decided to participate in a running event. One of them and myself were participating in a half marathon and the other hand chosen a 10 kilometer run.

I was apprehensive about my ability to run such a long distance, as were my friends, but since we were all in the challenge together, it made things easier on some level.

But there was one hang up we faced four days before the run. My friends had already registered for the event and I, because of my indecision and procrastination, hadn’t enrolled yet.
On checking the website, we came to know that the event was sold out and I couldn’t officially be part of the run.

It was a bit disappointing to us all.
We wanted to do this together.
But fate seemed to have other plans.

So did I.

The night before the run, I told my friends that I was going to run as well. I would run from home at the same time they start at the official start line, and run the half marathon distance as planned. So even if I would not be running on the same path as them, I would be running at the same time on the streets of the same city.
They happily agreed to the idea.

At 5:30 am the next morning, we all started to run together, on our own paths, in our own realities.
I ran about alone in the city with an app on my phone telling me about my progress with each kilometer.

Once I was past my 7 km mark, I took a turn on the road that coincided with the official race path!

I took a little detour and timed my run such that the distance I had covered coincided with that of other participants at the 11km mark on the racetrack.

And once I reached the 11km mark, I was on par with other runners on the official path to the finish line.

That felt magical, to be running on the official track out of pure chance!

Having other runners run alongside helped me with pushing myself in the later half of the race. I didn’t have a bib number attached on my chest as others but I was a runner just the same.

At the 17 kilometer mark, I saw a runner from behind who I could recognise anyday out of a huge crowd.

It was my friend !

He seemed to be having some trouble during the run. He looked tired and was walking for a brief stretch.

But I believed he could do much better. I breezed past him on the track and patted him on the back.
The surprise of finding me on the official racetrack filled him with great joy.
A sudden rush of energy took over him.

From that point on, he raced onward with all his might running past me within a kilometer.

I was happy to see him go full throttle as he blended in with other runners beyond my sight.

Eventually, we ended the race at the official finishing spot, relishing each other’s achievement and the togetherness that came along with it.

In that moment of celebration past the finish line, I also found a great lesson about friendship and the paths we take in our life.

In life, past a certain age, all our friends take different paths in our lives. Part of it is voluntary and a part out of pure chance.
And often, we feel distant and disillusioned by the notion of an enduring friendship.

But we need to realise that at some point in our lives, our path will diverge from the ones each of our friends take.

We still need to keep running on our own paths, forever trusting in our self and the connection we share with people who we believe in.

At some point, sooner or later, our paths will coincide, for all path lead to the same end, if followed with courage and complete honesty.

We all have to, at our own pace, persevere, and keep on running on our own path with faith that’s complete and unwavering.

And if we tread the path of our own choosing in our lives and go all the way,
We are bound to find the confluence we’ve always longed for,
With the people we have always loved.

So, is there a reason to feel sad when our paths diverge with that of the people we love?

No.

As long as they are true in their heart for their pursuit and you are in your own,
And you both persevere,
You will always find each other when your paths meet,
Forever happy with each other’s growth.

Tread with faith
And persevere.
The friendship will endure.

It’s only a matter of time.

What I learnt about brotherhood after having a Nepali Thali

It was my maiden visit to Kathmandu, Nepal.
My country India and Nepal share a common history, ancestry, culture and religion with each other,
ties that can be traced back to many millennia.

So, I wasn’t much surprised when I found as much a sense of familiarity as a deep sense of novelty with Nepal at first glance. The people dressed the same as Indians did, the vehicles on the road were the same as back home and so was the nonchalant acceptance of chaos on the streets.
Even the shops had much of their stock imported from India.
Much to my surprise, I could even use Indian currency to shop in Nepal.
In many senses, Nepal felt like a younger brother to India.

To me, the most lasting cultural experience in a new country is the culinary delights it has to offer. Walking unsuspectingly along a backpackers’ ghetto, I looked around for signs of authentic Nepali cuisine.
I spotted a restaurant where locals were having their afternoon meal. Its warm and inviting energy beckoned me in.

The first dish on the menu was Nepali Khana Set Thali. Without another thought, I placed an order for one.

Within minutes, I had Thali (Plate) on my table.
The Thali was made of a copper alloy, with a couple of small bowls arranged on the side.
The contents looked quite similar to a Thali back in India.
A dollop of steaming hot rice, a bowlful of Dal (Lentil soup), a curry of potatoes and peas, a green spinach stir fry, a dried leafy fermented vegetable preparation, three different pickles and a token salad of one slice each of carrot, radish and cucumber.

By the looks of it, I was expecting a much similar taste as that of a regular Indian meal.
But boy was I wrong !
Each subsequent bite only took me by delightful surprise.

The rice was pearly and mildly sticky, cooked to perfection, tasty even just by itself. The dal was a perfect masquerade, looking every bit like the India dal but having a teasingly peculiar flavor, spiced delicately but by no means spicy.
The potatoes and peas, blended easily with whatever else you chose to eat it with.
The greens were cooked just right, minimally, with the right amount of water retained to keep it succulent. It was the perfect example of how to cook greens, right to the sweet spot.

I was particularly surprised by the fermented mustard leaf preparation called ‘Gundruk’, a flavor reminiscent of Punjabi Sarson da saag but tasting nothing like it.
Then, came the deal breaker trio of pickles. A spiced radish slice fermented just right and nuggets of soybean peppered with chilli and coriander.
As surprisingly flavorful as they were, the icing on the cake was the red achaar on the Thali.
At first I could not even tell what it was made of. Each time I tasted it, it whispered one of the ingredients to my tantalised toungue.
With a base of Nepali tomatoes, it had undertones of local chilli (khursani) , coriander , salt and the soul of Nepal in some way. It had a tangy yet citrus aftertaste, a heavenly blend of ingredients.

Each morsel of the meal had such personality, it felt as if I was having an intimate meeting Nepal with each bite.
Ofcourse, I asked for second portions of each dish and ate as avidly as the first time.

Satiated with this surprise of an experience, with a loosened belt, I sat back wondering..

It is likely that many of the ingredients in this Thaali were imported from India. Yet, each and every dish, can stand on its own,
working together to create an experience even better than the sum of its parts.

In a way, my preconceived notion about Nepal was proven to be wrong within the first few hours.

It was quite akin to the experience of brotherhood.
An elder brother undoubtedly has a deep influence on his younger sibling. And sometimes it is taken for granted by the elder one how his younger brother would imitate much of what he does.
Being a younger brother in real life, I have been through this imitation game.
Hence, I could understand why I expected a Nepal Thali (Say younger brother) would be quite similar to the character of the Indian Thali (Elder sibling).

But it is a moment of great pride to realise how a younger brother has its own individual voice, despite the common background and upbringing.

Through this culinary experience, despite being the younger sibling in my family,
I could feel the elation of an elder sibling when he realises that his younger brother has always had such a distinct and pleasing character.
Much of it has also to do with my lack of exposure and awareness about the Nepali cuisine and culture.

But now,
My respect and admiration for Nepali culture has found firm ground in my heart.

I see the Thali in front of me at the moment. I finished everything on the plate but the salad.
Neatly arranged still,
There are three slices of Carrot, Radish and Cucumber,
Shades of orange, white and green,
Reminding me of the Indian flag, feebly hinting at our common culture despite our distinct geopolitical reality.

I smile.
And deep in my heart,
I know I will have many more Nepali Thalis to relish this unique experience,
Of the perfect blend of
familiarity and novelty.

Finding honest critique in the age of constant gratification

In today’s age of hyper-connectedness it is easier than ever before to share your your life, your work of art with the world.
We have cleverly designed platforms that we choose to express ourself through.
While these social media platforms have simplified the act of expression,
It has also sowed inside us, a seed of constant hunger,
Of seeking validation.

Today, the act of creating itself cannot find the isolation it needs.
We are busy sharing that we are going to do something, we have just started doing something…..Up until we are finished with doing something.
We fail to shut the door on the world to actually get to the process of creating something without distractions.
It is the result of the clever architecture of these platforms that are dictating our behavior and psychology.
We need to feel we are relevant,
We matter…
We are but,
human after all.

As a contemporary artist, I’ve always felt the process of creation never finds the isolation, incubation and single minded dedication it calls for.
The continuum of creation is always interfered by the parallel world of validation (read social media) we choose to dabble with.
In a way we are driven to be ‘Like’ minded .

This culture is detrimental to an artist’s growth in the long run in my opinion.

Once an artist shares his labor of love, he expects people to take notice, like it and share it with the community at large.
The feedback comes through a single click,
A like button, a heart shaped button and their many cousins…
This cursory appraisal is only valued when it comes in numbers.
There is no way of knowing how much what you created affected another person.
Maybe a masterpiece of a portrait you worked on for months got 20 thumbs up and a goofy selfie of yours got 200.

But maybe the 20 people were moved by your art, and majority of the 200 encouraged you out of habit and the prospect of reciprocity.

A pertinent question here is,

‘How does an artist find honest critique amid this culture of numbers, of short attention spans and a juggernaut of new feed?’

Here is where good old friendship and mentorship stands strong.

On social media you’re more likely to find cursory attention than love, virulent hatred than critique.

A friend or a mentor on the other hand, cares about your growth. You are more likely to find honest opinion, encouragement and suggestions about avenues to grow, when you share your art with them.
It is a matter of privilege to have these handful of people around.

If you still wish to get a sense of how many lives you touched through your art through social media,
Look for how many people took out the time to write something about your art.
Did anyone feel moved enough to leave you a comment?
The written word means so much more than ten thousand clicks on an icon.
What would you remember more,
A number or an emotion you stirred in someone’s heart through your art?

As an artist, for the sake of better art, we need to stay clear from the culture of constant gratification.

Only when we give ourself the isolation to work with all our heart,
Can our work add up to something remarkable.

Also, as responsible consumers of content, we should choose the written word to express our feelings more often than giving someone a thumbs up.
We are capable of being more articulate about our emotions than that !

Once we look at life as art in making and choose to voice our opinions in a more conscious manner, we will enable a better atmosphere for art to find expression and constructive critique.
And Life,
as art,
will inevitably,
Thrive.

 

 

Who is a friend?

How we define a friend changes with age doesn’t it?
I remember when I was little, anyone who would choose to share time and space with me was my friend. And what an eclectic mix of friends did I have !
The carpenter working at home was my friend, so was the lady selling Jamun berries on the street. The scientist uncle who introduced me to the wonderous night sky to the toddler rocking in the pram next door,
The immediate world around me was full of friends!

But over time, as it happens to all of us, the group of friends narrowed down to a chosen few. We had limited time on our hands and had only so much of our attention we could give to people around.
Friends became our world but that world also shrunk considerably as compared to childhood.

We share a mysterious friendship with a childhood friend. Even if we haven’t talked to them in years, the moment we hear their voice over a phone call, we feel a profound camaraderie.
Why is that?

A few reason I can think of that could explain it :

1) A childhood friend reminds us of our roots, of who we were,
Of where we’re coming from. (Past)

2) They not only serve as a repository of nostalgia but also a messenger that informs us how much we’ve grown from who we used to be. (Present)

3) And most importantly, they care about our growth, about where we are headed. (Future)

It is a precious bond indeed.

Over the course of my bicycle journey I experienced an emotion I had never experienced before.
I felt a deep sense of friendship towards people who I was meeting for the first time. It almost felt as if they were all similar to a childhood friend in some mysterious way.

I realised that most of the people I met on the road exhibited one of the three above mentioned qualities

For instance, a little Thai kid on Phuket beach who lit a bonfire for me reminded me of my playful and exuberant childhood. He reminded me of where I came from. (Past)

A sister teaching her brother how to ride a bicycle on the street reminded of how difficult it was for me to learn to do the same. It had taken me several months.
And today, I’m fearlessly Bicycling into the unknown.
They reminded me of how far I’ve come.(Present)

Or an old Thai grandma who on realising that I had a long uphill ride to finish before sundown, chose to push my bicycle while I was riding to help me get to the destination.
She helped in whatever way she could because my growth, my progress mattered to her at some level. (Future)

These experiences only opened up my mind to consider everyone I meet as a friend.
Every beginner reminds me of who I was, where I started, where I’m coming from.

Every expert, through his work, helps me yearn for betterment. Despite not knowing me personally, I still see a friend in them because I’m sure my growth would matter to them if they came to know how much they inspire me.

Every contemporary guides me about my growth over the course of time I’ve known them.

I am of the firm belief that we can only design a better world if we all grow together, collectively.

For the growth of the world, personal growth is indispensable.

How do I see the growth of the world in the light of friendship?

To me, a friend is someone whose growth matters to me.
If I wish to see positive growth in the world, I need to see the same in the individual, in each human being.

In the interest of engineering a better world, we ought to care about each other’s growth, even that of a stranger’s.

Having this worldview helps to cultivate compassion towards everyone around us.

Your growth matters to me,
And hence, You are a friend in my heart.

I hope, in your heart,
I too am a friend.

And I believe,
Our collective growth,
Our collective friendship and brotherhood
Will engineer the change in the world we all wish to see.

What do you think, my friend ?

 

On importance of old school friendship in the age of social media

We are living in times where we dwell in two worlds at the same time. One is the real physical world, where all our interactions happen, and one is the virtual world, where we curate how we want our life to be seen as.

In the real world, a person experiences a whole range of emotions. On one hand he experiences pain, sorrow, rejection, depression, anxiety, diffidence…
On the other hand he also experiences pleasure, happiness, exuberance, emancipation and a sense of confidence.
The real world is a kaleidoscopic experience of all these myraid emotions.

But in the virtual world one dwells in, one always projects the happier state of being. All pictures shared by someone, be it of a momentous point in life to the banal selfie stream, it all has a positive connotation.
On social media, everyone is happy.
All seems to be well.

But is it?

If our life was seen only through our curated virtual identity, all of us are living an incredible life with no trace of pain or sorrow.
But deep inside, we all experience challenging emotions as much as we enjoy positive ones.

Our indulgence with social media has consumed our time and mind space which would earlier be engaged with real conversations with friends.
With friends, we would talk about what pains us and what makes us happy in the same breath.
But now we don’t have time to speak to a friend. For some reason the dopamine rush of social media validation eclipses the experience a real friendship promises.

This culture of curating a happy state of being comes at a cost. The challenging emotions like sorrow and diffidence that test our character are being avoided at all cost.
But how will one shape his character holistically if he is in such a state of avoidance ?

In life, one should always strive to have a space to speak about what pains him, what makes him sad and how lonely he feels at times.
For such a space to exist, trust is a must.
And that can only be found in the company of a trustworthy friend.

Speaking about challenging emotions brings forth clarity in one’s mind about who he is, while avoidance only enfeebles and diffuses his identity.

If you wish to have great emotional health, foster a trustworthy friendship. And share things with a friend as frequently as you share your curated happy state of being in the virtual world.
It will do wonders to your understanding of your own self.

To your wholistic growth,
To acceptance of happiness and sorrow as it comes.

 

 

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