Sunday, August 27, 2017


She’s opinionated. She has her own views on different things. But she’s not rigid. She lends her ear to listen to what the other person has to say too. She’s the undiplomatic foil to the diplomatic me. She takes a stand as she sees it right. She also helps me take one by presenting her view. But she doesn’t force me to take a side if I don’t see the point. She talks a lot and ensures that the introvert in me isn’t active. But she also listens when spoken to. She lets me see the fun side when I become too organized. She acts as Chandler to the ‘sometimes’ Monica in me. She’s definitely the Rachel to the Ross in me. 

She’s beautiful. Not merely in her physical appearance, but in the way she goes out of her way to help people. She reads a lot. She has read a lot. But she still stays by my side if I reread a Rowling for the umpteenth time. Tamil books aren’t her forte. But that won’t stop her from pestering me to read a Sujatha or an Indira Soundarrajan or a Kalki Krishnamurthy. She’s a foodie with an eclectic taste. But that doesn’t stop her from appreciating the food I cook, however good or bad it tastes. 

She’s a feminist like me. She helps me see the tempered, liberal side of things when I see the radical side of things at times. She likes movies. No wonder then that we argue so much about a Tarantino or a Christopher Nolan or a Mani Ratnam. She writes well. She likes what I write. But that doesn’t stop her from criticizing my work when she sees the need for it. She’s my first and my best critic. 

I don’t know if she genuinely likes football. But she sits by my side and supports Chelsea whenever a match is on. I think she likes Cristiano Ronaldo. But that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating the beauty of Messi’s game. She loves Rafael Nadal. But she also acknowledges and appreciates the magic in Federer’s game. She’s not much of a cricket fan. But she’ll still sit in front of the TV when Dhoni is batting. She loves music. I love the way she finds me videos of a Hamsadhwani being played, just because I told her that I like it. She’s a big fan of AR Rahman. But she’s always by my side when I get immersed into the beauty of an Ilayaraja. 

She’s spiritual. But she never imposes her views on spirituality and religion on others. She’s actively social and socially active. I love the way she secures her spot in the sofa like Sheldon. I love the way she imagines herself to be Snape whenever she gets to say ‘Always’. I love the way she teases me with her ‘backpacking in Western Europe’ story when she’s in the mood. ;-) I love the way she tells me that I know nothing, like Jon Snow. I love the way she makes me binge watch FRIENDS when she realizes that I’m a bit down and not my usual self.  I love the way she enjoys a walk by the seaside with winds for whisper and waves for music. I love the way she is, for she loves me the way I am. I love her for what she is. She is. She exists. In the corners of my heart. In the chambers of my brain. She exists. In my dreams. In a parallel universe. I hope to meet her in real, someday.

The above passage was written in response to an often-asked-of-late question. :-) I let my creative juices flow a bit. Nothing more. Nothing less. Don’t imagine things. :-)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tales of a Teetotaler

**Insert a word that conveys the message that I am back again here**

Now that the ‘back again’ part has been taken care of, let me chide myself for my laziness. So many ideas had cropped up in my mind since my last blog post, but my laziness got the better of me. In the meantime, I started writing in and successfully completed the challenge that I set for myself – to review all the Oscar nominated films before the Academy Awards ceremony. Since Facebook is my de facto platform for movie reviews, I plan to utilize Medium for other kinds of articles that I’ve been planning to write for quite a long time. Come whatsoever, this blog remains the closest to my heart for this is a platform where I open up and share stories with a personal touch. I’ll ensure that it continues to be that.

As for today’s post, I’ve been planning to write this for long but something or the other kept resisting me. It has finally materialized today.

Disclaimer/Note: This post is not a Moral Science Lecture. It’s just my take on some of the real experiences that I’ve encountered. Also, considering the contents of this post, no names have been taken and in some cases, I’ve tried to mask the situation/surroundings so as not to reveal anything more than what’s written. Please note that not everyone may be comfortable reading what’s written in this post. If you are one of them, please stay away from this post.

The first time I came across this word was during my college days. Someone used that word to describe me and that’s when I learnt what that word meant. A teetotaller is a person who doesn’t drink alcohol. In other words, he abstains from drinking. I was thrilled at having discovered a word that described me. It was only later that I realized that word was not something to flaunt. During college days (UG days), I witnessed many a non-drinker in my class turn first-time drinkers and later, I saw many of them turn heavy drinkers. Towards the end of my college days, there were hardly 4 or 5 guys in my class of 60+ students who continued to be teetotalers and I kinda felt good that I was one of them.

The reality and cultural difference:
As time wore on and I moved out of Coimbatore for the first time to work in Odisha, I got a taste of the world outside my shell. It was different, it was difficult, but it was the reality. I was living in a shell. I was living in my comfort zone in a confined society. With that exposure to reality, my perceptions changed; my thought process changed and my mind opened up. I was able to accept a lot of things around me better. But through it all, I had some firm beliefs and values of my own and I stuck to them. My two year PG stint further enabled me to witness stuff that I had only seen in shady Hollywood films. There are stuff that I’ve witnessed and cannot write about. But over time, I learnt not to be prejudiced and accept people for who they are. This way, I was at peace with myself and was able to be friends with a lot of people. 

The question why and a bit of humiliation:
Social drinking is a norm in today’s society. Resisting it is seen as an abnormality by some. The question why I don’t drink has been posed to me on numerous occasions. People have insisted that I drink on many an occasion. I’ve been subjected to lectures on why I should drink. I’ve been grilled many times as to why I don’t drink. A girl who also happens to be a good friend, challenged me that she’ll turn me into a drinker before I finished my PG. She failed in that challenge, obviously. A friend who turned drinker after years of resistance, argued with me for over an hour as to why I should drink. I could sense a bit of guilt in him for he had given up his resistance and would have probably felt that turning me into a drinker would have vindicated his decision to drink.

The question then arises as to why I don’t drink. Some friends have tried to find out the same. They have lectured me on how moral values should be kept flexible and why it’s a necessity to drink, atleast socially, in today’s world. What they fail to grasp is that I have my own right to exercise my choice and follow the same. It’s not a question of values. It’s a matter of choice. It’s my choice that I chose not to drink. I do not understand why some people had/have difficulty in accepting this. I have accepted them for who they are. The least I could expect from them in return is reciprocation. A friend once told me that I was normal in every sense except for the fact that I don’t drink. A lady who I was reporting to while I was interning during my PG stint asked me if I drink. When I answered in the negative, she called me a loser. Once while discussing our expectations of future spouses with friends, I was scorned upon when I expressed my desire that my partner should also be a teetotaler like me. There are many such instances of humiliation that I’ve endured/keep enduring because of what is clearly my choice. For every article that you find about the ill effects of drinking, you’ll be presented with 10 articles that list out the benefits of drinking. Over time, I’ve become quite used to this humiliation and stuff and have learnt to take it all in my stride and move along.

Company for drinking:
One thing that I learnt in my corporate career is that it is ok to be a teetotaler and still have fun in social parties. In Jharsuguda, I learnt to be in the company of friends in drinking parties. I have soft drinks in such parties and partake in the funny conversations that happen in such scenarios.  It may be true that a sober me may not be able to sink in those conversations amidst people who are getting high. But I do my best to gel in and respect the invite extended to me. It’s also true that I don’t get invited to a lot of such parties, but I have no cause for complaint. Truth be told, I am not very comfortable being amidst drinkers once they start to lose their senses. I quietly slip away from such scenes when I sense people getting a bit too high and losing their senses. It’s also a fact that I do get invited to such parties from time to time and I try to honour those invites more often than not. Over time, I’ve learnt to revel in the fun despite being sober. 

But not all such parties are fun and memorable. Some of them are awful and forgettable. One such after – party incident is clearly etched in my mind. The said incident was when I had to endure quite a bad experience in getting a colleague home after a company party once. The person in question had one drink too many, threw up and was out flat. The responsibility of taking him home fell on my shoulders, along with a couple of other colleagues. The person in question was a bulky fellow who weighed about 120 kgs. It was almost midnight. You can imagine the trouble we had to go through to get that guy home. This incident happened in a small town in an era when there was no Ola or Uber. Being the only sober one, I had to drive a bike with a sleeping person and another colleague holding him as pillion riders. Despite the empty roads, it was one of the most challenging drives that I had ever done so far. Not to mention the cop we had to ‘handle’ along the way. In the end, we somehow managed to get him back home safe and sound. The whole experience left me so distraught that since then, I have never taken responsibility of anyone in such parties, who I know is bound to lose control.

Drunken Driving:
To all my friends who drink, I never advise not to drink or give any sermons of that sort. All I say to them is to drink responsibly. Also, if your friend/ colleague/ any other acquaintance is a non – drinker, kindly respect his/her choice and never make the mistake of insisting them to have a drink. Also please bear in mind your surroundings and the people around, when you drink. Never over – drink in any social gathering. I might sound like a lecturer already with the above points, but the reason I am putting them down here is because of what I’ve witnessed and experienced with people around me. Drinking should not cause any trouble to people around. In so many cases that I’ve witnessed, it is not just the person but his/her family members who get affected the most because of the person’s irresponsible drinking behavior. This was a classic case that I witnessed 3years ago and it again left me disturbed. The one thing that I always tell everyone and insist on is NEVER TO DRINK AND DRIVE. I personally know of 3 people (friends and friends of friends) who have lost their lives to this malaise. So please take this seriously. It’s certainly not a thrill to get behind the wheel when you’re drunk for you’re not only endangering your life, but also the lives of so many others on the road.

I have written this post here in the hope that you, the reader, would understand what teetotalers like me go through in the so – called ‘social drinking is a necessity in today’s world’ society and I hope that you take it the right spirit. Cheers to you! 👍

With this post, I’ve given vent to some of the thoughts that I had bottled up within me over the years. This blog is a good platform to pour my angst or observations or whatever and writing this here has certainly made me feel light. I take leave in the hope that I get to write more often here. Ciao.

- Ashwin Murali

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dear Ashwin, X years ago…

Hello there. As always, it’s been a while. I keep wishing that I needn’t say that. Hasn’t happened. Let’s see.

Coming to this post, I was inspired to write this about a year ago when I read this post of Uttara’s. She in turn, was inspired by this video. Ever since I read that post, the thought of writing a similar post has been at the back of my mind.  I turned 28 last week and the post came back to me. Felt that the time can’t be better to address my own self over the years. Let me just rack my brains and see what I would want to say to a younger Ashwin. Read on, if interested. Might be of interest to you too; if you wish to address your younger self, that is.

For my own convenience, I am imagining that I am travelling back in time to November 21st (my birthday) every year in the reverse chronological order. Let’s begin the journey.

Nov 21st, 2015 (27 years old):
Dear Ashwin, I know you’re having fun, but don’t lose sight of some of your goals - both personal and professional. Take utmost care of what you eat lest you end up in hospital one day. Don’t just pretend, but start work on the book that you’ve been wanting to write. You may not find as much time later. And please, take care of your savings. They’re there for a reason. Don’t touch them.

Nov 21st, 2014 (26 years old):
Dear Ashwin, you’ve been overworking yourself. Enough. Just take it easy and enjoy your last few months in IIM Kashipur. Go out. Travel. There are a lot of serene locations nearby. You may not get such a chance and time later. It’s good to be an optimist, but also be more realistic and less diplomatic. 

Nov 21st, 2013 (25 years old):
Dear Ashwin, you’ve been floating in the clouds ever since you came to Kashipur 4 months ago. Calm down and come back to earth. Focus on the things that matter. Abandon those trivial pursuits. You know what I mean. And by the way, please pay more attention in those Finance classes. They will come in handy in the future.

Nov 21st, 2012 (24 years old):
Dear Ashwin, you’ve given your CAT. Now don’t worry about the results. Things will happen if they’re meant to. You’ve been having a great time with your friends at TIME. Cherish these moments for you won’t get them back again. It’s not such a bad idea to take some time off for yourself. Will help you set your priorities right. Go on long drives. You’ll miss having your car with you in the coming years.

Nov 21st, 2011 (23 years old):
Dear Ashwin, looks like you’ve finally taken to the plant life in Jharsuguda. But don’t get too comfortable for things are about to change and you won’t be in Odisha for long. A lot of things will happen in the next few months. You’ll be required to take some bold decisions. Don’t shy away from them if you want your dreams realized. And yeah, don’t lose hope on Chelsea yet. Something extraordinary will happen at the end of the season. 😉

Nov 21st, 2010 (22 years old):
Dear Ashwin, I know you’re having a hard time adapting to the plant life in this place called Jharsuguda in Odisha. Trust me. You’ll adapt well. I know you’ve been binge-watching FRIENDS. Please do so without any regret. You’ll re-watch the whole series again. And again. And again. It will comfort you and bring a smile to your face like nothing else. Do hang out more. Don’t stay locked up in your room with your laptop all the time. There are some interesting people around. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ‘that’ girl has been smiling at you every time you go past her. 😉 Won’t hurt you to say “Hello!” and talk to her. 😉 Let language not deter you in any way. You’ll learn Hindi soon. And you’ll pick up bits of Odiya too. 

Nov 21st, 2009 (21 years old):
Dear Ashwin, You’ve done pretty well in engineering so far. Kudos! Your mini project was great. That success will make you attempt a very ambitious main project. Don’t. The project that you have in mind would require a bigger investment and will not succeed with the budget that you have in mind. Think of something less ambitious. And enjoy your time at home to the fullest. Very soon, you’ll land yourself a job that will take you away. 

Nov 21st, 2006 (18 years old):
Dear Ashwin, congrats on turning 18. While you apply for the driving license, do apply for that voter ID too. Else, you’ll find yourself without one, even after 10 years. Don’t fret about missing out on IIT. Trust me. You’ll do well with what you have. No matter what anyone says, don’t you ever think about giving up quizzing. It is something that will bring you laurels and give you an identity in the years to come. Looks like you’ve discovered that you can write as well. Great. Now take that advice of Chandru’s and start writing a blog soon. Writing is something that will again earn you an identity in the years to come.

Nov 21st, 2004 (16 years old):
Dear Ashwin, please give this IIT business a break and concentrate on school studies. Don’t ask anything more.

Nov 21st, 2001 (13 years old):
Dear Ashwin, looks like you really enjoyed the four Harry Potter books that Advaith lent you. Cherish them. There are three more books that will come and you’ll read them all again and again, multiple times. Also, look for more books to read. Ask mom. She’ll never say no to a book. Watching cartoons is fine, but books are better.

Nov 21st, 2000 (12 years old):
Dear Ashwin, it’s ok if you have not got the first rank. It’s not a big deal. You’ll get it one day. You will also fail one day. So don’t worry about these small things. Just enjoy yourself to the maximum. You’ve taken a liking to playing badminton, haven’t you? Or is it table tennis? Whatever be the game, spend an extra hour playing it. Playing a sport is something that will give you great joy and help you learn a lot.

Nov 21st, 1998 (10 years old):
Dear Ashwin, looks like you’ve started taking music lessons and are learning to play the veena. Looks like you have an interest in learning the keyboard too. Great. Please don’t give up on them. Music is something that will be your constant companion, both in times of joy and despair. There will come a day when you will regret not being able to produce some beautiful music with your own fingers. Don’t give that day a chance. Learn to play the instruments. You’ll love them in times to come.

Nov 21st, 1993 (5 years old):
Dear Ashwin, I can see that you’re very excited. You’re happy that you’ve welcomed a baby brother into this world. Take good care of him. You both will have lots of fun and will have lots of stories to tell in times to come. 

Nov 21st, 1988 (0 years old):
Dear little one, welcome to this world. You have wonderful parents and excellent people around you. Say ‘hi’ to them. You’re in for a great journey in this beautiful world. Yes. It’s a beautiful world. Don’t you let yourself be swayed from that view, no matter what people say. It’s a beautiful world and you’re going to have a wonderful life. Remember that. Always.

There you go. That’s it. Now let’s get back to the future.

Nov 21st, 2016 (28 years old):
Dear Ashwin, hi there. I am you. Just a week ahead in time. But this week has given me the time to introspect and tell you a few things that you must know and bear in mind as you move ahead. First and foremost, get out of your comfort zone. Nothing great ever came out of persons who sat in their zones of comfort. I know it’s nice and cozy but if you wish to progress and do the things you want to do, get out of that comfort zone. Write. And write more often. It’s not okay if you have thought about the story in your mind. It will take shape only when you put pen to paper. Only then will that book of yours will ever come out. Lately, you’ve been writing those film reviews on Facebook. The feedback has been positive too. Continue doing that. Also, there’s so much hate on social media these days. Don’t let that affect you. It’s not wise to be drawn into meaningless debates and trying to defend your point of view. Focus on some of the works that you’ve been wanting to do. That reminds me that your keyboard is lying idle for quite some time. It’s not a showcase material. Take it out and play it a little, every day. You haven’t solved the 4X4X4 Rubik’s cube yet. Do that. And please read more. When was the last time you sat with a book in your hand for hours together? Set some clear, achievable goals for the year ahead and work towards them. I am sure you will succeed. That’s all that I have to say.

So there you go. That ends my journey towards addressing self. 

To you, the reader, I wish a similar journey back in time. But please remember this. We can’t change the past. We can only learn from it and take the lessons forward towards a better future. Let’s progress towards that. 

Till we meet again. Ciao

-Ashwin Murali 

PS: Thank you, Uttara, for inspiring me to write this post.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

(High) Five Lessons from Bombay

Hello all! I’ve often wondered what’s the right greeting to be used here and quite too often, I’ve started a post with ‘I’m back’. So am using something different here. 

Coming to this post, I’ve wanted to write this for a long time, in different ways. But over time, I realized that there’s no point in saying a thing that has already been said in many ways by numerous people. 

When you want to talk about Bombay (I know it is Mumbai; but I prefer Bombay), no matter what you try to say, someone, somewhere would have already said that before. This recent post is a case in point. Here, the writer beautifully describes how life in Bombay is a struggle, yet you fall in love with it. A simple look at this page will show what various people from different walks of life had to say about Bombay. Funnily enough, I kinda agree with everything that has been said about this city. I am no different. I am totally in love with this city. It was not love at first sight. It took time. But once that love happened, it has only grown on me. 
Mumbai/Bombay: The real city of dreams

That being the case, I begin to wonder what endeared me to this city so much. How has it impacted me? What have I learnt from this city? Here are some musings:

1.      Mind your own business:
The most striking aspect of this city is how everyone minds their own business. Everyone is so busy here (or atleast, they seem to be) that nobody really has time to wonder what the other person is doing. Everyone minds their own lives and get on with it. I was amazed by this. I can be myself, unabashedly, without the fear of being judged. Not that I care about being judged or something, but this city is truly remarkable in this aspect.

2.      Never Complain:
Bombay is not perfect. No city is. Every city has its own problems. Yet, what amazes me is how little people complain in Bombay. The house rents are exorbitant, owning a house here will only be a dream for most, the traffic comes to a standstill on highways during rains, the local trains are almost always full, and so on. Yet, very few complain. They take it all in their stride and move on. A year in Bombay has made me realize that complaining will not solve any problem. This has really made my life better and that, I owe it to this city.
This pic perfectly sums up the 'never complain' attitude of the city

3.      Leave your egos behind; you are nothing/ nobody/no one:
I may sound like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, but it is true that in Bombay, you are no one. You may be someone/somebody, but that is only when you get into the league of Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and the likes. Until then, you are no one in Bombay. I learnt this truth soon enough. When I landed a job and came to this city last year, I was over the moon. I had my ego and I thought I was someone. But then, I realized soon that a degree from a top college and a job with a pretty pay package aren’t really achievements to be flaunted. I looked around and found people who have achieved much more, but were still counted as no one in this city. This city can have that humbling effect on you. Even in an area like quizzing, where I considered myself to be reasonable good, I realized my place soon enough. The city ‘s quiz scene showed me that I was an amateur at best, in the face of competition from some of the country’s best quizzers. Whatever little ego that I had in me was gone in the first few months. I realized that there’s a whole gamut of opportunities and to become someone in this city, it would require some real achievement, which would require hard work and dedication. The gist of it all is that this city shows your place soon enough and inspires you to aim higher.

4.      Move on:

You may have heard this many times. Whatever happens, life moves on. No city exemplifies this fact better than Bombay. Rain or shine, recession or depression, the crowds that you find bustling in the mornings and the evenings, will always be there. I was really surprised how no rain could stop these people from going about their routine. I learnt a very important lesson there. This spirit of the city helped me get over some tough times and move on. Even when this happened, it was this city’s spirit that helped me get on with life and return to normalcy. We all crib about so many things in our daily lives. I am no different. But there again, this city has brought about a change in me. I no longer dwell on those past mistakes. Whenever I feel low or I feel like cribbing, I take a local train ride to Dadar or Churchgate or Bandra. All it takes is a little walk amidst the bustling crowd or a simple, serene walk by the seaside to get my spirits back. That way, this city has taught me that no matter what, life will just move on and you should learn to move with it.

5.      Be independent:
We may be dependent on others for so many things and it may not be possible to be completely independent. But it is possible to live your life the way you want, without depending on others. This city provides the perfect platform for such a life. There are so many things that I started doing independently in this city, that I discovered a new self. I explored the city on my own for the first time. I discovered that there’s no better company than solitude. To be with self, is a discovery from within. I had friends joining me from time to time. I had Vibha accompanying me to the seaside or new eateries sometimes and I had Gaurav taking me to some Hindi films or Sandeep Saw accompanying me to some Tamil or Telugu films, now and then. But my best company has always been solitude. That independency is something that I started to enjoy. It helped me discover a new world and learn new things. I learnt cooking (I cook for myself everyday now and am a decent cook). I learnt to solve the Rubik’s Cube within 2 mins and am learning to solve a 4X4X4 cube next. I began to rediscover my interest in the keyboard. I rediscovered my love for teaching and that has helped me go to TIME and take classes on weekends for students preparing for CAT. There are so many other things that I keep exploring and learning every day that it is fair to say that I’ve gotten used to this independent life that this city has gifted me with. When people ask me about getting married and settling down, I tell them that marriage doesn’t figure in my scheme of things at all. Atleast for now. I am 27 and this city doesn’t compel you to conform to society’s rules like elsewhere. Maybe a year or two later, I may give it a thought. Till then, it’s me and my life. If you’re a girl and if you’re reading this and would be interested in getting married a year or two later, give me a ping. It may work. ;-) Who knows?

Silly jokes apart, what I mean to say is that, in this city, more than any other city in our country, I can choose to live my life the way I want, without worrying about the whims and fancies of the society’s rules and restrictions. I can go to the seaside at 2 AM and take an auto ride back without any fear of safety or getting fleeced. The best part is that, any girl can do the same thing in Bombay. I can get into a crowded local and not worry about getting out, for I know I will be helped out. I can go on and on. I feel that everyone should spend atleast a small part of their lives in this city, so that you understand what it means to be resilient.

With that, I’ve paid my small, long-pending tribute to this marvelous city that has been home to me for the past 16 months or so. With that done, I hope I can get over my laziness and write more of all that I’ve been wanting to write. Best of all, I hope I could get to work on my debut novel. Yes, it’s been on the cards for some time now, but my laziness has kept it at bay. I hope this post inspires me to get working on it again. Hope to catch you all with some interesting post soon. Ciao.

-Ashwin Murali

PS: I’ve not been paid a penny to write this post promoting Bombay/Mumbai. I wish that were the case, really. :P
PPS: Ignore that crude bit about marriage. I don’t want strangers pinging me.