Monday, February 25, 2008

Without Glasses

I can't go to the gym without an iPod. Without the crutch of an iPod, I constantly fear that the sheer boredom of the gym, the pain of watching human automatons mechanically do the same thing over and over again, will push me into coma. So, I look at this mp3 player as a something that will shield me from the boredom. The funny thing is - Once the iPod is on, I never really listen to the music. Mind wanders, worries, and wanders even more. Most times, I can't recollect a single song that was played. But I never go to the gym without an mp3 player. This got me thinking about something.

My X Std CBSE English Prose carried a short story called 'Without Glasses'. It was a fascinating story, which I never forgot. The author loses his glasses and so cannot read books. The author does not really need to read a book. However, reading a book helps him go to sleep. In the course of searching for his glasses, he remembers that even when he had glasses, he really did not read much. He dozed off before he completed a sentence. He discovers that reading a book did not put him to sleep. It was the knowledge that he could read the book in case he wanted to - that put him to sleep. Without Glasses, he simply couldn't sleep. And, funnily enough, one usually does not need glasses to go to sleep.

As is inevitable, I began to extrapolate this concept to life itself. There are several crutches people use to 'just get through' something or simply get to the next state. The crutch, however irrelevant to our purpose, pretends to help us get there 'faster'. And we do want to reach the next state soon, don't we? The sheer 'whats next' attitude that is dominating our times is simply fascinating. There used to be a time when I waited endlessly for A.R.Rahman to release an album and would listen to his songs in minute detail. I'd try and catch all the funky instruments he'd use (the ones that can only be heard on a earphone) and spend hours listening to the same album several hundred times. Time seemed to be available in plenty and there was no hurry to get anywhere. Nowadays, any new album I hear, I can't wait for the next song to start and once it starts, I can't wait for the next song after that. Same with life events, work, projects and other 'milestones'. Once something gets over, there is a immediate need for 'what is next'.

Sometimes, I see everything I do as a crutch - that just helps me get to tomorrow, the next week or the next month. Everything I look forward to is just a tool that helps me look forward to something else. Transcient-ness prevails. And it is sometimes painful. Is work a crutch to get to the ultimate ambition of a peaceful, nothing-to-do retired life? Are family, children, career, crutches without which 80 years of life will become extremely boring? In school textbooks, stories and proverbs we are taught by wise men to enjoy the journey and not focus purely on the end. At that time one wondered - this is so obvious, its the journey that matters - why wouldn't people know that? I find it funny that it was so obvious once upon a time. As one grows old life becomes a series of 'lets get to the next part'. One is not as impressed by the romance of the journey as one is afraid of the journey going sour anytime. So one wants to quickly get to the end.

I was reminded of a time, 3-4 years ago, when the 'whats next' syndrome started really taking over my life. A colleague of mine - a very nice bright girl - stopped abruptly as we were rushing to a meeting in another building. She stopped to admire a flower and remarked to me how beautiful the flower looked. I laughed uncontrollably. I had never heard or seen anything as absurd as that. In the flowing adrenalin of that time - the flower seemed irrelevant to the customer presentations, hikes, bschool applications and the pursuit of what I called a 'career'. I laughed at the girl openly and was thankful that I wasn't as spaced out as she was. I told her that I was happy. Happy, that I was past the phase she was going through. No more, was I deluding myself that the journey mattered more than the result. Suchithra, almost had a hippie like care-free-ness about her. Didn't mind my remarks about structure, discipline and rigor. She read a novel at work, drew portraits of co-workers, wrote poems and constantly asked me and my team to enjoy life. To stop and smell the roses. But I was sure that the journey wasn't important. Ends were facts. Journey, was a silly romantic consolation story told by losers. I was dismissive of her 'dreami-ness', thought she slowed down the work and asked her to code better.

In the last couple of months, I met with 2 car accidents. Strongly believed that either one could have killed me. When I was in 8th std and my ambassador car hit a bus, I couldn't stop thinking about it for months. Last saturday, 'who won the toss' was in my mind seconds after I ran out of a crashed car. I was already thinking of the boredome of having to deal with the post-accident stuff. The moment of clarity when the car hit the one in front of it is as lucid as my apathy. I have been saying this 'dramatic event' to a few friends. As if that would induce fun into my journey. As if that would make the journey appear more interesting. Sometimes when I tell the 'accident story' to people - it does. Sometimes it does not. Now, I am not so sure. I hate to hurtle through time and see everything as a crutch. But I can neither ditch the iPod nor listen to the songs.


Nilu said...

A grown man writing futile things with a tinge of seriousness makes a sad reading. Possibly, a bit more than another pointing it out. But recursion and layers exist for a reason.

Sarang said...

A good change from the rest of the stuff I have read recently on your blog.

Jillu Madrasi said...

Without glasses -- I remember now. I thought that lesson was fairly unremarkable.

I guess there were some hidden layers to it...

Anonymous said...

ahem... r u sure that u r not going thro' a mid-life crisis?

Anush said...

reminds me of this:

may be it is peculiar to men, as seinfeld says :)

Our ears become more sensitive when we are listening to music even at normal levels during that time could hurt them, particularly so if you are not even paying attention :)

something tells me that you have a deep unfulfilled desire...

Arun Sundar said...

Idhu mid-life crisis'ey dhaan!

Anonymous said...

3 years back I was in engineering. I have never thought what next till I completed engineering. I never "ever" thought what I will do 5 years down the line. I was least bothered! I was extremely happy watching 4 films a day, completing stupid assignments, having road side bread omlette etc etc. I felt all I needed in life was a 15k salary and a bike. I don't understand what happened in life after that. Nowadays all I think about is what next, I need to do this. I suddenly get confused seeing someone else doing nothing (basically doing nothing useful according to me). He or she seems more happy and more contended and here, I am, pushing myself to reach somewhere. I "technically" did achieve a lot. Be it getting a top MBA or a top job (which I do consider as achievements). But I don't understand from when I got this fire in my belly. I was the happy go lucky guy just 2.5 years back and suddenly now I want to do a lot of things in life! Irony is I enjoyed life better then! And no, its not the greed for money. There is something beyond that which I don't understand.

I said...

brahmanan-ku enna gym vendi kadakku?

Babu said...

Damn u have good memory da....All I remember is "Grip of Prejudice" by E.R Braithwaite (Author of To Sir with Love)..that story touched me in many levels. This one "Without Glasses" I only remember him loosing glasses.....
I think the "what's next" comes into picture only when ur life is mechanical...try n do something different every week if not at least every month....that might change ur attitude towards life....

Well IPL will start soon ;-)...there u have good couple of months....change ur gang whom u hang out with...add spice to ur life.......u cannot be suffering a crisis pal....u r not a father yet...soo much do and see man....

Anonymous said...

Go on a vacation...let you hair down.
Stop thinking too much.

My 2 cents...


Anonymous said...

Funny, u didnt seem as sensitive or thoughtful in person, as in ur articles(no offense :)). Enjoy the 'now' time is easier said than done. Besides, living is hard, even for those of us with no real problems like poverty, broken home, etc. The mind is on automatic pilot for most of our day , and is conditioned to let down its guard only during weekends, or when we meet an old friend, etc. Getting it to be aware of every minute is tough.It takes a lot of mental discipline.

Karthik Sriram said...


Seems the Hawkeye of old has been lost to the busy life of a professional. We need more short stories and humorous stuff - I know I'm saying this when you have just said that you escaped unhurt from an accident - but I hope you get the drift.


Anonymous said...

If you are not careful, you will see only that you want to see.


Hawkeye said...


the grown man was, i guess, pointing out futility of life. judging by the comments it has not worked.




the lesson appealed to me for some reason and stayed in memory.


i am not going through a midlife crisis.


you scare me. after reading ur comment i have more guilt.


its a good thing. what you are going through. you should be happy.
but i resonated with almost everything you said.


ukkanthu achamanam panna thembu vendaama


i somehow am not a big fan of 20-20. so havent paid attention to whats happening with IPL. I didnt even know it was BCCI sponsored until few days ago.

i wrote the post in 1st person. it has not delivered the intended effect.. i realize that writing in 1st person can contribute negatively


:-). I have had more vacation than most people I know. I just started working after 2 years.


who are you? how did you meet me? mail:


you maybe write. I find less time to write nowadays.


youare right. what you said angered me in a different way. that makes me feel that what you said must be true.

Anonymous said...

me too remember "without glasses" was it by Sartre?
Just last week another friend and I discussed "Sixteen Oranges" (11th std. CBSE i think) I remember the lines "he ate his evidence, pips, peels and all"

Aslan said...

bloody fantastic

sexy said...







Padmanabhan said...

Been reading your old posts for a while and man, you are a genius.

vasanthapressroad said...

robert browning illa...robert lynd. now i can go to sleep.


it was seventeen oranges by bill naughton.