Author Archives: Bharti Athray

Are you lying your way through life?

There are those amongst us who are dying a little every day. I don’t know them when I see them but I do know it is a very large number. They are those men and women who are living their lives as lies – they let their dreams fall by the way side as they began to work for large corporates, for paid vacations, for stability. They gave up on their teenage dreams because they fell in love and decided to start a family.

It is so ironic, is it not, that you fall in love with someone because of the dreams they dream, because of the incredible life they see for themselves and yet, as soon as you decide to get together, you almost force the person to give up on that dream because it does not put food on the table each night. It is such a sad story, the story of so many many young couples, who today spend their lives waiting for the next holiday, the next big car, the next new gadget.

All of this because they are quietly dying inside. Of course, you will never know that when you meet them, they seem so happy, so perfect, with their jet-setting lives, you wonder what could possibly be wrong with such people. Yet pick up the papers and you will see, the star couple that till a few weeks ago was being celebrated as the perfect pair are now applying for divorce.

Leading CEOs and their illustrious wives are being accused of murder of their children… seriously, are these signs of a happy, balanced society? Personally, I think not. I believe somewhere in the race to get ahead, to look eternally young, to have the better phone and laptop, to have more followers than all your friends on twitter, you have built yourself a castle of lies and are now stuck inside it.

At this point, I am reminded of a serial I caught bits of recently: on Escobar, the Cuban druglord of the eighties. There is the part where he is on the run and he reaches his father’s home in an unheard of village. His father lets him stay out of courtesy, and there is a scene where Escobar tries to convince his father that he has become a great man. To which his father says, he is ashamed of him, of what he has become.

That is such a truth, it hit me straight in the heart. See, we go from day to day, moving around in our worlds, where we are all heroes to someone. Even Escobar for all his wrongdoings, had fans and people who swore allegiance to him till their last breath.

But this is a make-believe world, that we have created for ourselves. Our social media persona, our blogs, our instagram accounts – through each of these we choose what part of our personalities we want to show the world. The lives that we are living today are uni-dimensional, and so completely out of balance. Every aspect that we share about ourselves, our lunches and dinners with family and friends, the foods we make in our kitchens, the private moments we share with our children… it is all captured with the selfish objective of uploading the images on to the social media.

And those of us who do it regularly have figured out what gets the likes and what does not. To me, we are all constantly manipulating the outside world, put things out that we know others will like, these to me are half-truths. When I see pictures of lunches and dinners with family and friends on public media, I cannot help but wonder how such a private moment of caring justifies being shared with the world. Why? Why would anyone do that? Except to tell others that they hung out with so and so if that person is important, or just to get people to say, Oh Wow!

I have yet to see a negative comment on personal pictures shared, for the simple reason that what happens in your personal life, unless it is an achievement of some kind, does not really matter to the world outside. But uploading these images and getting people to put some silly meaningless comments, I feel one is trivializing the moment and the event. But then that is my perspective, and I come from a world where I had just a handful of friends who knew just some of my secrets.

May be my point of view varies because putting your life out there in the public domain to me appears crass. Most of my social media accounts do not even have my photo in the profile, as I find it embarrassing – I do. I come from the time when you let your actions speak louder than words, and today times have changed.

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Today, you can get shouting from rooftops, long before you have taken even a single step towards your goal. It is called ‘market testing’. And depending on how convincing your spiel is, you are sure to get a few likes, followers, some thumsup and such. I hope one of these days you will begin to realize that this false world is what is killing you. You may have a 1000 fans and yet not one of them may know your deep dark secret. You may have a hundred followers, but nobody you can pick up the phone and chat with when you are feeling low. So what are these people really worth to your real life?

I think those of us who gave up our dreams long ago and now look to this new world to give us acceptance, we absolutely need to figure this out. What are these fans, followers and comments really worth? Are we using these new counts to hide our own deficiencies? Are the happy pictures a cover up for the sadness the world feels inside? Is social media a true mirror of our society or is it just a mirage? Only time will tell.

~ bharti athray

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Why men should be writing a journal

It makes you a better person, you get to complete your thoughts, and you will lead a more meaningful life.

In my personal experience, I have found journal writing as an acceptable trait amongst women; but very few men I know actually write journals. As I work with this topic of journal writing, and its many benefits to me as an individual, I began to wonder why men do not write journals as frequently as women do?

This realization was a surprise to me as some of my earliest inspiration for journal writing came from men who made it a life habit to write diaries and journals, namely Thomas Jefferson, Issac Newton, John D Rockefeller … these are some of my favourite journal keepers and I can read about their journal writing habits over and over again. And the more I read, the more it appears that these men used their journal to record their habits, ideas and responses to the world around them, and over the years used these records to better themselves.

So this brings me back to my current question: why are men not writing journals as much as they used to? Possible answers: Too busy, nothing to say, nothing to write, no time, I am too tired to write by the time I get home… the reasons are endless. But in my opinion, journal writing is a process that forces you to introspect.

Does your work often leave you with a thousand voices in your head, each one telling you to do a different thing? Are you sometimes over-awed by the amount of work piled on your table, unable to decide where to start? Is the internet pushing too much information towards you and pushing your brain towards overload? Well, journal writing can help.

I know this sounds like I am coming up with a single solution, no matter what your problem, but it is not really that. The fact is there are different kinds of journals you can keep – some for your secret thoughts, others for your goals and plans, yet one may be just a record of the people you have met and found something interesting about… to name but a few.

If you have never had a journal, I urge you to get one. It does not have to be fancy and expensive, just get something you are comfortable with and something you feel nice holding in your hands. Initially you may find it difficult to decide what to write, and you may want to start with just putting down the thoughts that float around in your head.

If after the first couple of days, you run out of thoughts, you can try opinions, or issues that are bothering you, you can pen down your thoughts on issues impacting your neighbourhood, city or even the world. Sure, you may ask ‘what is the use?’ But do it all the same. You see, when you begin to write something down, your mind begins to solve a puzzle. The points you put down will surprise you… don’t worry about making sense, and writing in your best English. You just need to put your thoughts down, that is all.

Do this often enough and you will find yourself feeling lighter, because you have shared your innermost thoughts and feelings with your journal. You will find it easier to deal with the world outside. You don’t always have to be the tough guy, it’s ok to get upset and rant a bit.

And for those idea seekers amongst you, your journal is a great way to keep track of your many ideas that pop up in your mind all day long. Capture them, pen them down and come back to your thoughts days, weeks or even years later. Your ideas will still be there for you to access.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to keep a journal, a book by your bed, that it would be a sad thing if you did not make the time to write your thoughts down. Each of us is unique and has his own perspective on life. The myriad ways of looking at a situation is what makes our lives richer. So join the tribe of journal writers, and celebrate your uniqueness by penning it down for posterity!

~ bharti athray

Image source: http://www.daan-mag.com/index.php/2016/03/10/the-mind-journal/

BEING IN THE NOW

The night was still young, the errant crackers from somewhere faraway still continued to burst in the Diwali sky. I looked at my watch: 2.25 am. I had overhead someone earlier in the evening mention that 10.30 pm was the curfew time for crackers this year. Obviously the message had not gotten around enough.

I sat in the dark of my bedroom, my little boy fast asleep behind me. I sat at the edge of the bed, looking through the glass window and the iron railings beyond it. The fireworks would light up the dark sky and then within seconds it would be dark again. I sat listening to my son’s breath, sometimes light, something a little drawn. The smoke of the crackers had given him a congestion.

As I listened, I slowly began to notice another sound of breathing. I dared not move, because I was afraid I would lose it. As I focused, I realized it was my breath, gently going in and coming out. I sat still, this was one of the few moments I was in the ‘Now’. I wanted it to last forever.

In a while, I began to feel my nerve throbbing at my temple. I watched silently, it had been so long since I had experienced this stillness. The lights in the house on the other side of the road sparkled and twinkled, and I wondered if the throbbing at my temple was keeping pace with the flickering lights.

At last, I heaved a sigh, and lost the throbbing. I could not feel it anymore. My heart beat in my chest and I wondered at the peace that the night full of fireworks had brought. May be the coming year would let me find the stillness more often. I mulled over my routine, wondering how often I could afford to stay up so late and find myself. Just as I tried to sort through the jumble of my mind, another rocket swooshed into the sky at a distance, and burst into 5 different coloured flames. It was a beautiful sight, and I worried about the smoke. The spell was broken, the moment had passed. I was still no more.

~ bharti athray

My thoughts and reality

A wild thought races across my mind
A cheetah chasing the deer across the flatlands
I wait, close my eyes to focus on the deer
Yet the details escape me – What was I thinking?

They run faraway into the sunlit horizon of my mind
Till all I can see are two hazy forms running.
A little fuzzball, like a bear cub
Waddles over to the forefront of my thoughts.

My attention shifts, I can see better now.
It’s an idea to create, to do something interesting
To create a soft tactile pillow, soft to touch
Fun to play with. I watch the little bear cub.

Ever so slowly as it rambles around the grass
I see it changing shape, slowing down.
A soft brown felt pillow sits on my sofa.

My son hugs it tight
as he watches his favourite cartoon show
On a sultry summer evening.

~ Bharti Athray

How journal writing has helped me become a better person

I have always been a writer: I have written diaries, journals, stories, poems, observations, essays and articles. My home is full of diaries and journals written over 20 years ago, half full diaries and lots more.

By profession, I am an advertising copywriter, so writing is something I do for a living. When I look at my writing graph, I realize I wrote a lot more for myself before I took on professional writing. Once it becomes a job, you just feel you don’t want to come home and do the same thing.

Life took over and I stopped writing

This became a gap of some five or six years when life took over, soon after I got married – I was writing very little. Most of my unfinished diaries are from that period. It was a tough time for me, I had had my first boy, my job was going through change as I needed something that would allow me Mommy time, and the stress of being a new mother was taking a toll on me. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was to write. I just didn’t have the time, or so I made myself believe.

It was years later, after my son started schooling and I got into some kind of a routine with better time management and a clear understanding that my life had changed forever that I began writing again.

Now I am writing again

While I am still not as regular as I would like to be with my daily journal writing, I do manage to do so at least a couple of times a week. As the habit has built, with me penning down all my thoughts, angst, worries and ideas in my journal, I have realized I am growing as an individual. When I read my jottings from a year ago, it is interesting to note the changes in my life, my responses to various occurrences and I can now catch and stop myself from reacting impulsively. This awareness, this observation has enabled me to truly respond to life instead of merely reacting to stuff.

How journal writing has helped me

This has meant fewer arguments with family and friends, fewer occasions that I feel someone was saying stuff just to hurt me; and even when an event unfolds, I am prepared to walk away from a conversation that I know is heading in the wrong direction.

These learnings, these insights have come to me through journal writing, making this a meaningful process for me. As this becomes easier, I also find space within my mind to create writing that is more creative and I now find it easier to write poems, short stories and essays once again. 

My writing defines me

My learning from this experience has been that if you see yourself as a writer, make the time to get back to your writing. For most of us, it is what defines us as individuals, just as clothes define a fashionista and paintings define an artist. Get back to your passion, your craft and you will see small changes that will move your life to a whole new level.

Write, even if it is just for 10 minutes each day

If you are struggling with time, or content, don’t worry too much about it. Writing for just 10 minutes every day, or just expressing your opinion on some current affairs issue, will slowly but surely help you get back into the groove of writing. So don’t despair over the days you have not been writing, start off today and stick with the habit.

If you find this sharing meaningful, do let me know. If you are struggling with the writing habit, feel free to share your writing with me. Sometimes, just getting a feedback can be a good enough reason to get you writing. I would be happy to help out a fellow writer in anyway I can!

~ bharti athray

A moment in time

A moment in time –
Hangs like a fine needle
On a long white thread.

I watch the needle swing,
Ever so lightly
In the gentle morning breeze.

The silence lulls my senses.

I take in the moment… the cars, the signal,
the honking seems to come
from somewhere far away.

The summer sun beats down
Upon the metal of my car, my heavy eyelids droop…

Suddenly the needle on the white thread
is thrown about.

A wild gust of wind seems to sweep
across my consciousness,

I shake my head, trying to come to grips with where I am.

The loud horns are
close behind me, the signal has turned
Green. I must move.

The single moment in time – it has passed.

~ bharti athray

What should you write about every day

I think this a challenge each writer faces when we decide to make writing a habit. After the initial burst of energy, things slow down and you often find yourself wondering what you should be writing about. After all, if you are writing for a blog, or your diary which you hope one day will be published, you do want to make your stuff readable. In my experience, my eternal sources of inspiration are as follows:

  1. Material that I read. I find it extremely useful to read a novel, an article or listen to news or stories on the radio and share my views and opinions on the same. It makes you think about the content and forces you to take a stance – which I feel most of the writers in the public forum tend to shy away from.
  2. My environment. I have found that when I have the goal of writing an article, my mind begins to look for inspiration in each object. It could be a green bottle of water that makes me question the beginnings of coloured bottles and takes my mind back to an article I read almost 20 years ago about the glass blowers of Austria; it could be the pillow on my bed and I wonder about the earliest references to pillows, the wooden headrest used by the Japanese… making me want to do a bit of research to discover why they chose such a hard material to rest their heads on at the end of the day.
  3. My favourite poems. I have loved reading poetry since my early days and I could read and re-read poems by Keats, Shelly, Yeats and some more contemporary names forever. I find their use of language to be a craft mastered to perfection. I read sections of their work and am inspired to match the metre and cadence in their pieces. A tall task but worth striving for.
  4. Everyday incidences. This is one of my favourite sources where I try to pen experiences and stories that have happened to me, or have been shared with me. To convert an incident into a written document is one of the writer’s biggest challenges, as you have only words. Often words don’t do justice to the emotions and thoughts that we experience in a given situation. Which means, a situation that was filled with excitement and tension can sound very watered down once you put it down on paper. I like capturing those moments and seeing if I am able to do justice with my writing and story-telling skills.

Apart from these, of course there are others like online prompts and a word a day activities that one could choose, but I often find it difficult to connect to those. What are your inspirations to keep writing every day? Do share.

Image source: www.readbrightly.com