Changing Dynamics


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Tiredness Level: 1000

Excerpts from Europe: Part Seven

Today has been the most interesting day for me in terms of learning and social interaction with the group. We pretty much saw all of Prague in a day, completely on foot – which is no mean feat. The blisters on my heel tell that story explicitly. However, we are at a stage where the tiredness level has taken us over the honeymoon period.

Speaking to different people at different times and spending some quality alone time has changed my perspective completely. Having been obviously guarded at the beginning of this trip, I feel like Prague is the turning point. The true colours of our personalities are starting to show without any pomp or politeness and we are dealing with it. It is the make or break.

Regardless of that, it seems like we can do nothing but make the best of these situations, develop our confidence knowing that this is the practice ground for real life. There are no more half measures or tentative movements – we haven’t got any time for that. Prague has taught us that the bold are rewarded (but not always the first time) and that the best place to leave our inhibitions is at the bottom of a glass. Roll on, Berlin.

Beaut shot of rural Prague on the train

Beaut shot of rural Prague on the train

Incredible India


Whilst you are reading this, I am on a plane to the subcontinent where my ancestry began. I have no idea what the time is yet, I am probably squashed like a sardine in an aluminium tin and the musk is going to hit me like a freight train when the plane doors open, but you know what? I am going home for the first time. I am actually going to touch down in India.

Whilst I am writing this, just before going to the airport for the flight, I can feel my hands are starting to get a bit clammier and my head feels heavier. All the excitement of the last few months of planning the trip of a lifetime is starting to set it, and the gravity of the situation is dawning on me. The real headache is not knowing what to expect. Getting varied second-hand reports from all sorts of people has made me confused – it has made it daunting because India seems to be, as a friend put it…interesting.

That is a loaded word. It isn’t particularly positive or negative. It is just curious. A place where over a billion people live and work – a part of me believes that India has got something for everyone. But what do I want to get out of this trip? What part of the real India do I want to see? Will I get to see the real India at all? I hope so. But I am going to have to throw myself into it.

The title of this post comes from an advertising campaign that the Indian Tourist Board ran when I was a kid. Slightly adapted, the ‘!ncredible India’ campaign made me fall in love with the place. The colour from Holi, the beautiful sunscapes of Goa and the bustling hive of Mumbai and Delhi made it seem like a wonderland. Then as I grew up, I realised how this affinity with the place became more and more stretched.

India isn’t by any means perfect. A large majority of the population is poor and lives in slums. It is overpopulated, overcrowded and overheated. It is bubbling hotpot of political corruption. Women are not treated with respect. The healthcare system is a sham. But, there is something that India has that makes it incredible.

It has history. Culture. An air of pomp and grandeur. It is a paradise. And I am going to spend a month exploring it. This will be my last post for a while because I will be busy discovering. A trip to catch up on 19 years.

I will tell you all about when I come back. But I don’t think it will fit on a postcard. Namaste.

The Centenary Post


Dear Reader,

I have been writing to you for over three years now and I can honestly say that they have been some of the best of my life. With this, I write my 100th love letter…to you. You, who has stood over my shoulder every time I have picked up the pen, putting a hand on it when I couldn’t find the words to write.

I’ll be honest, early on I didn’t think that you would turn up. When I first started writing, if you had told me that I would have written to you 100 times then I would have laughed. I never really thought it was possible to keep this conversation going…I thought I would run out of things to say. But the funny thing about this process is that with every letter, my voice just gets bigger and bigger.

I have told you extremely intimate things about the hardest parts of my life. I have spoken to you about things that have troubled me, made me think and infuriated me. I wanted to share my successes with you and ask you what you thought about issues that affect us all. I liked hearing your opinion. It made me think that I wasn’t alone.

It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes these conversations are difficult because we don’t always agree. But I have realised that it is better to say something, than to stand silently by. We have talked together, shared together and cried together. You have poured your heart out to me and I have loved getting to know you a little better each time, as I myself have given you a piece of mine.

The most important thing is that it has been a journey. A mountain of 100 steps that we have climbed knowing that with each new perspective, we overcome ignorance and can see further onto the horizon. I have fallen. You have carried me. There are points when it has felt pointless, but you have always kept me hungry which has kept the conversation going.

And now here we stand, at the first peak looking out at what we have done. What we have created here. It is actually quite emotional knowing that this started with one small letter, Starts and Beginnings, with no real idea of what the future was going to hold.

I hope that you will continue to reply to me as I write to you,

I hope that you have found it as enlightening as I have,

Let’s continue walking together,

Forever yours,

Hiran

28.08.14

(60) Days of Summer


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Today is my last night. I have become accustomed to long summer months of freedom, where a year of stress is relieved. Knowing that there is no plan, other than the one that I have set myself, is something that you rarely have the chance or the time to do. Nevertheless, this summer has been the perfect time to relax and recollect on all of the summers that have come before.

I have always tried to make the most of the free time I have. Before it gets to July, I had already planned out how the two months were going to pan out – one week at this company, two weeks volunteering here, a few days here and there at home. I don’t stop running. I am almost busier when I am supposed to be free. So close friends of mine have always joked that I don’t really know what the real definition of relaxation is, because I seem to do the opposite.

I love it, but this year I realised that I never really took time off. When I was supposed to be just chilling at a mate’s house, I was on a week long course. When I should have been playing in the park, I was too busy organising work experience. When I should have enjoyed being a kid, I was too busy trying to grow up. Trying to prove that age was not going to stop me from walking into boardrooms or working with decision makers. And making sure that adults took me seriously.

I don’t regret any of the decisions that I made, but I wanted to give myself a chance to do the things I missed out on. And in true hyper-organised style, I wrote down a list of things that I wanted to achieve so I could cross them off. The picture of that list is at the top. And as you can see, I am chuffed with how much I have done. But at the same time, I wanted to feed my soul. It wasn’t enough to do things, but to enjoy doing nothing productively.

I started reading again for pleasure, ditching academics for storytellers. I cooked knowing that it made my happy, rather than out of necessity. I wanted to run outside because the weather was so beautiful, not just because I wanted to drop a few. I made the effort to break bread with people that inspired/scared/loved me because I wanted to spend time with them, not because I hadn’t seen them in a while. I got into designing again and smiled through the long hours of editing on Photoshop. After 19 years, I finally took a deep breath and learned how to ride a bicycle – this was one of my proudest moments. Most of all though, I made time for me.

Some of these things probably mean nothing to you. Most people are shocked when they find out I can’t ride a bike. But the truth is, there were a lot of things that I just didn’t make time for, because I was preparing for a future. Now I want to live it.

And that is the only thing that I can say to you that is noteworthy. On this last real night of my childhood, when I feel like I am finally becoming the adult I was too eager to become: I am so glad that I was a kid. That I felt the innocence. That I made the mistakes. That I looked stupid and embarrassed myself. That I believed the world could sort itself out. And that the most important people were my Mum and Dad – and they were like superheroes.

Because isn’t that what the world really needs? Child-like optimism. Through the 60 (or more likely 600) days of summer, all of these things one way or another were true and they made me happier than anything. I didn’t feel stress or frustration or loss. I just felt free.

Now I have stopped running, and I’m ready to fly.

Rhyme


 

I have always been jealous of poets. If you gave me a piece of paper and asked me to write a love letter, or an essay, or a blog then I would bring something to the table. I would not hesitate. By the time you finished reading this sentence, I would already be biting my lip deep in thought, scrawling down some ideas with a chewed biro. But I have never grasped poetry.

When students were burning their anthologies after they finished their English exams, I kept mine. I was never a devotee of Shakespeare but even my numbskull worked out he was a genius. I read Shelley’s Ozymandias 10 times the first time I saw it because it taught me about hubris. All of these words might not mean anything to you but they broadened my mind. Yet metre, rhyme and verse seemed to be ancient – relics of a middle-aged white man’s canon that I had no means of accessing, other than through old textbooks at school…

…then years later, sitting in a café in East London I was too young to appreciate, I heard someone rhyme on a microphone. I was not a fan of rap, nor its connotations, but this was different. This person wore a Trilby, read out of a Moleskine and rolled up the bottom of their jeans. The words rhymed, but they didn’t talk about daffodils or a rose by any other name, but about their Mum and leaving home. The words danced. And I closed my eyes and I felt the hair on the back of my neck move to the beat.

Spoken word changed the way I thought about poetry and hip-hop. It breathed life into something that I could never revive. But I never felt the confidence to write a single line, so I just listened and absorbed the words of George the Poet and Akala. Anthony Anaxagorou and Dean Atta. Kate Tempest and Dizraeli. Sarah Kay. Names are not important, but these talisman and women made me believe that finally the lines need to be written.

And so this is a call to those of you that like poetry or spoken word. Speak to me. Give me some advice. I have no idea where to start, but I know that the evolution of writing for me, ends in rhyme. If you have written, performed or just appreciate something then please start a conversation with me. From Khalil Gibran to Doctor Seuss, I am a sponge.

I made a bet with someone to write at least one poem and to share it with them. I now have a month left to fulfil it. If it is good then I have confirmed that I will perform it to an audience. This could be the start of something big. Watch this space.

Make the Mistake


garland-of-flowers

I recently wrote a post about breaking connections. Every relationship is a piece of rope and when they no longer become a support, it is important to cut them and forget about the fray. In my mind, when I was writing those words I could see a version of myself cutting those ties. A future, better Hiran having the confidence to say goodbye to a person that once meant so much. How optimistic I was.

The truth is that personal strength is often built with tissue paper. We wrap it around ourselves, the bonds getting stronger and stronger in the hope that it will provide us with some sort of protection. But all it takes is a splash of water to show us that this new-found confidence can be washed away and broken.

For me, it was a photograph. Seeing an image of an unrealised future was enough to make me doubt whether the threads of an old rope were still tugging at my chest. And I gave in for a second. I let my guard down again. The pit of my stomach started to throb as the layers of hurt that I had painted over started to scratch through to the surface. In the heat of that moment, the only thing that I felt like doing was writing this down.

There wasn’t a clear focus or understanding. It was just meant to show that infallibility is real. Real people fall. Even though I may write about strength and conviction, it may be more as a pep talk to myself than anything else. These words represent the person that I long to be, not necessarily the person I am now. So now as I reflect on my former, better self, how am I supposed to get rest knowing that unknowingly I have stumbled backwards, rather than striving forwards?

I was wrong. Some relationships are worth saving. But you need to cut them to realise which ones mean the most. The truth is that sooner or later these cords will be cut forever and we will have no control over them. At some point, the people that walk and laugh and weep in front of us will be nothing more than a photograph with a garland of flowers stretched across it.

So make the mistake. Talk to the person that you have been dying to talk to, even when you know you shouldn’t. Play by your own rules. Take your time. Do something stupid. If it means that that pain in your stomach can subside for a few minutes and you can crack a smile then why not? Life is too short to hold grudges or suppress your feelings.

Today, only a matter of minutes ago, I tried to reach out to someone who broke a piece of my heart. Who lied and toyed with my emotions. Who made me feel like I was the only person and no one at all. Who broke all my rules. And it doesn’t matter what they say, because this time it is for me.

Because I missed them.

And I needed to hear the sound of their voice one more time.

And if they are reading this, then I hope desperately they felt the same way too.  

Missed Opportunities


 

Slightly distasteful?

Slightly distasteful?

Excerpts from Europe: Part Six

When we first walked out of the station in Prague, I fell in love with it. Having seen the character of Budapest and the veneer of Vienna, Prague was a perfect balance of the two. It instantly had the feel of being a busy city, but at the same time, the pockets of a quiet suburb that instantly appealed to me. It reminded me of home.

Then we got into the tourist shops. Prague is notorious for being the centre of a once strong Jewish community that has to some extent slowly rescinded in the years up until now. Even one of our group, of Jewish heritage, was excited to see a bit of the history. Then we saw a Hitler face mask literally two metres from the Jewish district. Our whole perception of Prague changed in an instant.

This city is a gimmick, a place for the flocks of idle tourists to experience culture (at a reasonable price). It was thoroughly disappointing – a missed opportunity for a town and country that is dripping with history. This was accentuated by the fact that Prague runs a large pub crawl, of you guessed it, tourists, run by British reps. The clubs in Prague tend to cater to their clients.

By 1 o’clock we hustled our way to the third bar/club, Roxy, which epitomised our first night in Prague. It was not authentic – it seemed to rip off its more Western partners – although it didn’t stop us having a good night. The fact that we missed various “opportunities” (think of that what you will) at these clubs due to the watered down drinks was a frustration for me. It seems like I had run the 100m and ducked out of the photo finish.

Although, everything is a learning curve – and we are learning as we go along. We have to expect mistakes, trip-ups, fits of passion and emotion; especially as we get more and more tired. But we need to push through it, the best is yet to come. All of us can feel it. And we don’t want to miss out.

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Another city, another club.

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