“When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.” – Yoda, Return of the Jedi

I was (re)watching The Return of the Jedi the other day, and this exchange between Yoda and Skywalker made me gasp for breath. As usual, I exaggerate. 

Surprisingly, it was not the image of my looks at 900 that disturbed me the most, and I think that had to do with the world average mortality rate of less than a tenth of that. 

So, naturally, I got worried about how I would look at the more believable 90, assuming my junk-laden city lifestyle even allows me to survive that long. Considering my imagination is limited given my mediocre intelligence, I seek the intelligence of search engines out there – and surprisingly, the images brought by the algorithm do precisely the opposite of what I was hoping for.

Even with all those age-defying state-of-the-art remedies out there, it does not look like we have advanced that much against age.

Yes, you must be wearing sunscreen every time you step out in the sun (and sometimes without the sun for the habit), you may buy the last advanced age-defying serum from the shelf, you may spend three hours in the gym every day, you may have defeated bugs bunny and popeye in the carrot/salad/spinach-eating contest.

But the truth remains: cells are born, they mature, and eventually die. 

It’s ingrained in our DNA. We might be able to slow down the aging process, but not to the extent they showed in In Time – the Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried starrer. 

The wrinkles have a way of catching up… eventually. I wonder though, if seeing myself growing old is more painful than people telling me that I am?

Would I be less gloomy and more prepped if I somehow brought myself to accept this eventuality if not embrace it?

Would I be less depressed and anxious about the things I can’t control?

While secretly thinking, ‘would that reduce my stress levels enough to reduce the cortisol production in my body, thus reducing inflammation in my body and slowing, if not halting, the pace of aging? 

Of course, I can’t claim to know the answers to these questions. I do not. There is only one Yoda, and he breathed his last quite a while ago.

But one thing I do.

My favorite Yoda quote this is.

The Vintage Man – How Well Do You Know Your Cars?

Now and then, I would have an urge to figure out my IQ, driven mainly by ubiquitous android or iOS Logo quiz apps on every website I am on. They claim to tell you your IQ based on your performance on their quizzes. Guess the company names by looking at their logos- what better way to know how intelligent you are! 

If you don’t understand the symbols around you, you can’t be smart, can you? 

Neither my words nor my logic.

Well, I digress. The point being, I love cars, beautiful looking cars. The thing is, I don’t know much about them, except for their brand logos. 

Unfortunately, I think I can only categorize a car as a sedan, hatchback, or SUV, and that on a good day. Maybe just big or small is the best categorization you could get out of me on a bad day.

I digress again. Last year, on a nice summer day, while I was walking down the street after a visit to my nearby café, I noticed a car, the car didn’t look very modern actually. It seemed like one of those vintage cars I sometimes see on “Comedians in cars getting coffee” (For those of you that don’t Netflix as much, it’s a very popular comedy/chat show). 

Just a vintage car, you might say? 

At least I know that I thought that. 

But no! It was as if Darth Vader had appeared with his royal vehicle, living the law-abiding life, waiting at the intersection for the traffic light to go green. 

It seemed as if in that minute, he had enamored everyone in the 300-meter radius; everyone’s eyes were on this alien road dweller. People were spellbound, ogling at them both – the vehicle and its driver, trying to unravel the mystery of how they came to be together. 

Some people took leave of their reservations and started whistling; the driver, a sport, acknowledged the kind gesture and honked in return. 

The Gods of traffic lights couldn’t let that idyllic anomaly go on for long, could they? 

The light turned green soon enough, the driver sped past in his alien vehicle, and that cute little downtown corner was back to its chaotic existence, but those 30 seconds of red light seemed like a few hours in a utopian world. At least for me. 

My only regret: I wasn’t facing the vehicle, so I didn’t get a look at the logo – and hence, Je suis desole, never got to know what brand or make of the car was. All my hopes of evoking that enamor from random strangers were flushed down the drain, assuming I were ever able to get that royal ride for myself one day.

I learned some critical lessons that day, which I hope stay with me, for long.

“Never trust what logo quiz say your IQ is” (the creators for these and ‘does trump have a higher IQ than Obama’ quiz are most probably the same) 

AND

“Know your cars.”

In a world full of logo quizzes every step of the way, tread lightly.

What’s with your accent?

It happens to be dinner time, and I am eating AND watching this TV series. In one of the scenes, this guy is going about telling people that he is a cop/a Fed/a spy, whichever is convenient in the situation. 

At best, people throw a confused look, and at worst, they exclaim, “Oh yeah? What’s with the accent?” 

Naturally, in a world these people can make sense of, a Fed/cop/spy can’t have an accent. It just doesn’t sit right.

Of course, I take it personally. After all, where’s the fun in watching something if you don’t picture yourself in the protagonist’s shoes. It’s freakishly easy for me to create this world in my mind, where I am this guy, and people are mocking my accent

If someone said that to me as they did to that guy, I could see myself reacting in either of these two ways:

  1. Start bawling like a kid right there, which is quite embarrassing considering the grown-ass woman that I am
  2. Smack the perpetrator in the face

As you can see, both of these reactions aren’t ideal and rightfully sit on two ends of the situational response spectrum. Both of them reflect a lack of maturity and emotional resilience to differing degrees.

I consider a middle route between the two, maybe just tears welling in the eyes and me slapping the perpetrator lightly on their face, but that response seems even more pitiable, so I drop it off my simulation.

Thankfully, my attention returns to the show soon enough, and I catch the guy’s response to the perpetrator.

Poker face followed by ‘Oh yeah, what’s with yours?”

What the hell! Why didn’t I think of that!?

Sense returns to me eventually, and I have this epiphany, “Who doesn’t?”

Take that, perp!

Do You “Speak Easy”?

I love the sitcom Seinfeld very much, at least the first few seasons. A lot of wisdom in my life comes straight from the TV show. 

The Contest aside (the most famous episode of Seinfeld), there are lots of things worth remembering from that show, but one that hit home was the one from Seinfeld’s comic bit:

“I saw a study that said speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. Number two was death. This means to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Just allow me to talk, and I promise you will regret it. God save you if you happen to be a close friend AND ask to have a chat! 

I have been asked very politely to stop talking and (hyena) laughing. On one occasion at work, a colleague came from the other side of the floor, a couple of medium-size meeting rooms away, enquiring about the culprit making that sound. 

The irony of it was that I was the first person she asked. 

That lady didn’t know it was me (at least that’s what I told myself!). Having had my laughter compared to a hyena’s, it hurt because of how villainous they were to Simba and his dad in The Lion King. Growing up, they topped my “enemy animals” list.

Anyway, long story short, I have now accepted that I laugh that way and have learned not to take offense when someone accidentally points that out to me. 

As for talking, in all likelihood, I have probably convinced you about my potential of the pace with which I can pour out the mind-numbing stuff. 

Having accomplished that, I will get to the point.

The point is that there is some truth to the notion that people detest public speaking. 

I am no personal trainer, so I can only speak from my own experience, either receiving presentations or delivering them. Curiously, I find myself reasonably comfortable in either of the situations below:

  1. You are my friend, and I know nothing about the topic at hand 
  2. You are not my friend, and I know everything about the topic at hand 

In the former case, despite no knowledge or agenda of where the conversation is headed, I can talk endlessly mostly because my friends are darlings, and I know they will not judge me if I make mistakes. 

I made sure not to befriend the grammar police. I don’t like them much, mostly because I can never get my sentences right (enough for them).

I would be primarily comfortable in the latter case because I know the content pretty well, even if I don’t know the people I am doing the presentation for. 

Please don’t try going by Shawn Mendes’ advice in his song “Nothing holding me back”; picturing your audience rather unclad isn’t going to help.

And wouldn’t public speaking be a cakewalk if it was always either of the two scenarios above? 

But who am I kidding? 

These are extremes on a spectrum. Most of the presentations I have to do are to strangers and about the topics that I am not an expert on. I have no friendly faces to find solace in, and neither is my knowledge of the topic 100%. So double whammy! 

So to conquer my fear of making a complete fool of myself in a conference room full of people that have authority to have me fired, I find myself turning to age-old Buddhist advice of finding the middle path, a way between the comfortable extremes – the one where I imagine a few friendly faces in the sea of strangers and convince myself that despite my less than 100% command of the content, no one is posing a question that I am going to be (fully) stumped by. 

At the very minimum, the synapses are going to respond to my brain’s request of at least being able to manage ‘I don’t have the answer for you right now, but I will be sure to get back to you on this”. 

It’s counterintuitive, but what also seems to help is me saying “Devil may care” right before I start my rant, a.k.a presentation. That appears to talk me off the ledge.

I am still somewhere within the extremes, much closer to the hopeless novice than the silver-tongued charmer, but I know that I would rather be alive and talking than be dead and be talked about. 

No offense to Seinfeld. 

Hee. Hee. Hee.

Have You Ever Had Yourself a Bazinga! Moment?

There is a good chance that you would have heard about Big Bang Theory, and I don’t mean the scientific phenomenon that formed our universe, but the famous American TV series. You probably would have seen it too. 

And if you have, you either loved it or hated it immensely. For some reason, there are only opposites for this one. 

Either way, there is a good chance you might have come across Sheldon Cooper’s classic ‘Bazinga!’

Sheldon Cooper, a genius but socially awkward theoretical physicist, revels in his ability to pull what he calls ‘practical jokes’ on his friends by saying ‘Bazinga!’ after a false statement.

The Bazinga is supposed to be surprising the somewhat confused victim. 

a screenshot of a scene of bazinga from big bang theory
A Bazinga moment from The Big Bang Theory

So why the sudden rant?

On one of the days when my willpower defeated the electromagnetic force of attraction between me and my couch (and Netflix), I stepped out on a glorious summer day with a tote bag with a book in it. 

Today’s the day I will have tea and croissant, sit in a corner, and slowly sip my tea while it turns juice cold while making sure that the superpowers vested in me by the God of Klutz, I don’t spill a single drop on my book. 

I envy infants/ little kids sometimes; they can wear bibs in public without being embarrassed about it. There is glory in being able to spill things and still walk around without a care in the world. 

So here I am, reading away, mainly concentrating on my book, when suddenly I hear a song being played. 

Now, this little joint always plays songs, and for some reason, I end up going there when they are playing The Weeknd’s latest. 

But this time, it’s different. This is not your traditional song. This is a song from a faraway country that my parents call their own. 

I remember it because I have seen them playing it at home. I know all the lyrics. ‘Well, this is a pleasant surprise,’ I mumble and go back to my reading.

Five sentences down, I am distracted again—this time by the server at the cafe singing at the top of his voice. 

Lo and behold! 

It’s the same song. 

Typically, I won’t be surprised, but I am now. This guy speaks an entirely different language, not the one the song is in. He doesn’t know what the words mean, but he doesn’t care. Not a care in the world. 

I feel a sharp pang of jealousy that quickly converts into shame and regret. 

I know what the words are; I know what they mean, hell! I even have all the lyrics memorized, but I wouldn’t dare to sing that in public.

And it’s not because I can’t sing, Mind you, I can; I pride myself in being a slightly better upgrade from your typical bathroom singer. 

I don’t sing because, for some reason, I care about other people and what they would think about me if I did.

They would judge me to be using a language that’s alien to most here. 

They would brand me a freak and look at me with pity or disgust from the corner of their eyes. Speaking to each other in hushed tones about me. 

I’m not too fond of the limelight, definitely not of this kind. So I take the easy way out. 

But that easy way isn’t easy anymore. This random stranger has opened my eyes to a truth I don’t want to see, and it’s a sharp jab to the soul. I am patiently waiting for him to make a mistake with the lyrics, which could be a salve to the ache I am feeling. 

But No! The damned guy knows the lyrics perfectly! I hate him. I am almost tempted to ask him where he learned everything, but I stop myself. 

When I have 50 more pages to finish before this edge-of-the-seat thriller ends, do I really want to spend time on small talk? 

There is no clear answer, but I consider the episode a one-off, myself Bazinga’ed, and move on.

Why Take a Chance?

There is a good chance you have come across either of the following cliches : 

  • No gain without pain
  • Success comes with sacrifice

I think the idea behind these thoughts being so commonplace is that we all tend to see at least some value in them. After all, who wouldn’t describe practicing WWE moves at home on your younger/older sibling as a quality use of their time? 

You have been trained for the off chance that walking down a dark street in some city, if someone pounces at you, you have just the right move to ram their head against that broken leg of that dilapidated cot. 

Granted that the scale is heavily tilted towards the side of pains, what with years of childhood training to perfect the craft and at least a couple of scars to show for it, the day you get to use them – Boy o Boy! What a feeling of pride!

Often the pain may not even be physical but psychological, like wanting to read a Harry Potter book (the fifth one) with your midterm math exams looming over your head. The allure of the secret defense order in this wizarding world is just too much to bear. 

You see yourself robotically reaching out to that thick book tucked (hidden) cozily in your bedside drawer when you had your trig books lying shamelessly on your bed, crying out for a little bit of attention. 

You read Sirius Black’s family history and half heartedly and painfully stow the book away to work out the math of distance between buildings and an onlooker eyeing them with a weird angle. It hurts very much, but you do it regardless because later, when you are all grown up, you will have a job that will pay for all the books you would have earned the right to forever banish trig or calculus books from your personal space.

You make calculated decisions based on Pains (Cost) vs Gains (Benefit) analysis. You make them feel good about yourself. 

Yes, there are occasions when you doubt your choices based on this logic, but then you quickly skim through your introductory Psychology textbook about the benefits of delayed gratification.

What better way to test a kid’s patience than having them drool over marshmallows and pretzel sticks!

Yes, there definitely is some merit to the premise and the conclusion of these studies. That’s what you console yourself with. 

Those people experimenting at Stanford definitely know what they are doing. If they are smart enough to say it’s true, who are you, a mere mortal, to argue?

All is well in your world until one random day, you lay your eyes on this harmless-looking book titled “Three men in a boat,” written by a guy who happens to have the same first and last name. You find it curious. In all your naive glory, you flip over the first page of the book…

And your life is never the same again. In this book, frequently mistaken to be only humorous, you find life lessons that impart to you the wisdom of the sages, the kind that lets you live your life unapologetically, idiotically and (mostly)in (idyllic)peace. There may or may not be gains to be had, but a land without pain seems worth getting citizenship of.

And you are a transformed person!

You don’t set the alarm to wake up in the mornings anymore. You have donated all your trigs and calculus books. You don’t have to hide your Harry Potters in your bedside drawer. You give in to your laziness and stop toasting your bread – what difference does it make anyway? 

You have decided that life from now on is going to be painless. And then, as if by a stroke of luck (or a signal from the force field, if you will), you find this gem:

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? – Edgar Bergen

The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Review

Did you know they had lotteries back in the 1800s? I didn’t. 

So I was intrigued when I laid my eyes on The Lottery, written by Maria Edgeworth. 

And thus began my 48-page journey into the exploration of lottery and its perception amongst the masses – then and now.

The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around a diligent working-class family, a man named Maurice, his dedicated and empathetic wife Elleen, and their young kid George. Maurice’s aunt, an older woman named Mrs. Dolly, comes down to live with them. They are on about living their life, mostly in peace, somewhat peppered by Mrs. Dolly’s harmless tantrums until one day, the discussion is directed to the subject of lotteries.

Mrs. Dolly is vehemently in favor of buying lotteries; after all, what’s there to lose? Seeing that this argument doesn’t seem to sway Maurice much, she appeals to his love for the kid and the hope of making a better life for him.

Surely, a man should try his luck, if not for his own, at least for his children’s sake!

Mr. Deane, a friend of Maurice, whom Mrs. Dolly isn’t particularly fond of, vehemently opposed lotteries. The dangers were too grave for an individual and his family’s present and the future.

If a man set his heart upon the turning of the lottery wheel, he would leave off putting his hand to anything the whole year around, grow idle, and may be drunken, then at the year’s end, if he have a blank, what is he to do for his rent, and for his wife and children, that have nothing to depend upon but him and his industry

Being the trusted friend that Mr. Deane was, the family decides not to entertain the idea of lotteries any more. Mrs. Dolly takes to another one of her tantrums to express her disapproval of the family decision.

She was so low that even her accustomed dose of brandy, in her tea, had no effect.

maria edgeworth the lottery book cover
The Lottery

Maurice finally succumbed and purchased the lottery ticket to appease Mrs. Dolly. Lo and Behold! Their ticket did win a handsome prize of five thousand dollars. Mrs. Dolly was over the moon hearing the news and immediately started thinking of their plans. New house, new coach, anything that would make them sophisticated. She advises Maurice not to work, as it would not reflect well on a family as wealthy as theirs to be working to make money.

Maurice obliged but found himself with nothing to do. He wasn’t accustomed to living his days doing nothing.

He gaped and gaped, and lounged about every morning and looked a hundred times at his new watch, and put it to his ear to listen whether it was going, the time seemed to him to pass so slowly.

The family, mainly Maurice and Mrs. Dolly, got accustomed to this new life; while the former spent a lot of his time outside the home, the latter indulged even more in her alcoholic pursuits.

Brandy and peppermint, taken together, was an infallible remedy for all complaints, low spirits included.

One night, Maurice, who looked utterly disturbed and tormented, confided in his wife that he had lost all of their fortunes on the gaming table. His wife Elleen, although wholly saddened by the news, continued to stay by his side, consoling and comforting him. They get similar information from Mrs. Dolly, who seems to have squandered her wealth with all her drinking. Not soon after, she has a terrible accident, resulting in a broken leg and a fractured skull, and later succumbs to the injuries.

With the help of an acquaintance and Mr. Dean, the family soon finds a way to live their honest, diligent life again, swearing never to let the lottery sway them. Nothing is more important than good character and the importance of a loving and supporting family.

A good character and domestic happiness, which can not be won in any lottery, are worth more than the five thousand or even the ten thousand pound prize, let any Mrs Dolly in Christendom say what she will, to the contrary.

The Lottery: Review and My Thoughts

Yea, I hear you. None of this is news. It wasn’t news to me either. But isn’t it curious to see how we as humans did not change in two centuries? 

We apparently, brought and squandered lottery wins then, and surprise, surprise! We continue to pride ourselves in doing that now. I was surprised the other day when I read the article on the proportion of lottery winners that end up bankrupt. 

MIND BLOWN.

From the way Edgeworth introduced Mrs. Dolly’s character, you could sense she was a ticking time bomb. Her take on no good ‘bookish’ laddies was hilarious. 

She had seen a deal of life, she said, and never saw no good come of bookish bodies; and she was sorry to see that her own darling George, was taking to the bookish line, and that his mother encouraged him in it.

Believe in the spin of the wheels and stay away from books to live the ‘good life’ – the advice has ‘wisdom’ written all over it.

All jokes aside, what stood out the most to me was this little nugget, which resonated with me, bringing back memories of my mother’s advice all those years ago.

Suffering for folly does nobody any good unless it makes them wiser in the future.

Odds are in favor of that one. 

Wanna bet?

Do you take a break from doing ‘Nothing’? I do!

Every now and then, I indulge my mind’s whims. Let it run wild.

Not that you don’t know it already if you are a working individual, but Monday blues are the worst! Unless you are one of the unicorns that love the work they do, in which case, I hate you.

But this is about me and not you, so I will focus on the topic – which was – yes, Monday blues! 

My only effective way to cope with it is to dedicate Monday evenings to mindless movie watching. These movies are carefully chosen for me to ‘relax.’ I don’t like to be inspired on Mondays; that job is better done on Fridays. 

These movies are carefully chosen to use minimal brainpower; they are supposed to make me feel good or feel nothing. They can’t be too interesting, lest it makes me go into a wondering spree; they can’t be too dull. I have to be able to sit through them.

So one of those Mondays, I happened to watch a movie about a guy who was a millionaire, trying to lure/trick single moms into dating him. Women, drawn to his charming personality, would mostly love hanging around this guy, but those ‘romances’ were almost always cut short the moment the conversation drifted to the man’s occupation.

Here is a paraphrased version of the conversation for you

Woman: So what are you doing these days?
Man: I am on a break.
Woman: A break from what?
Man: Break from a break.
Woman (confused): So you have never worked in your life?
Man : Yea, something like that.

screenshot of a scene from the movie 'about a boy' showing hugh grant and rachel weisz
A scene from the movie About a Boy

Now, this single mom is from a working-class family; she finds it repulsive for a respectable man to do nothing but live off royalties. The fact that he is a millionaire does not mean anything to her. This apparent ‘relationship’ gets nipped in the bud.

I am writing about a movie I watched on a Monday, which made me break a pact I made with myself – never to watch movies that make you wonder. 

And yet, wonder I did, for days after. And I still do.

The guy lives the lavish life, doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

How incredible is that! 

I even thought of a whole movie starring me doing nothing. Well, I won’t be as useless as him, I guess. I like to read, the most random things I can find. I will probably make more constructive use of my time to perfect the art of using chopsticks. I may even add ten more words of French to my vocabulary. How about that! 

I may hire an assistant to manage my calendar, but seeing that there is nothing to handle, maybe she/he will quit of her own accord, or I will dramatically fire them. 

Maybe I will get one of those cool beach houses they keep rubbing into my face in that sitcom I watch on non-Monday weekdays. 

Perhaps I will call TV a telly to confuse my friends. 

Maybe I will hire that angry chef to be my butler.

What else would I do? Let me think.

I seem to be drawing a blank now. I have dreamed of this day to be doing nothing all my life, but now that it is here, I am not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would.

Without the fear of money running out, what will motivate me to get out of bed to be or do something?

What will I do with 10 hours of idle time every weekday? I know chopsticks are hard, but they are not hard enough to need 51052*40 hours of my life. Who would have thought doing nothing could be that hard?

Leslie Nelson apparently, when she said:

“Doing nothing is very hard to do. You never know when you’re finished.”

Who am I to disagree with Leslie Nelson?

Shit , Shit, Shittttt!!!!!

You probably imagine something went (horribly) wrong when I say this. It’s only natural to use expletives to let the frustration out. Isn’t it? 

And you would be right in drawing that conclusion. 99% of the time. Just not this once.

Fast forward, or rewind if you please, to the scene in the movie Aviator, where Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Howard Hughes, seems to be stuck at the phrase, ”Show me the blueprints,” repeating it umpteen times to the confusion and then horror of his colleague. 

Hughes doesn’t seem to notice anything off. He doesn’t realize he is doing that.

Now, why the sudden rant about this? The reason being that I recently watched a standup special on Netflix, where I suddenly felt myself paying attention to what the guy had to say, which for the past half hour I had no success doing. (Watching Netflix is a better use of time than chewing up your nails dry). 

So the guy was talking about the sudden urges he has to randomly say things (primarily expletives) without realizing that he was doing so. He would only come to know when his well-meaning wife reminded him not to do that.

It’s funny, the topics you can relate to strangers on, I am not particularly a fan of this guy’s work, and here I am hooked on to what he has to say. 

Why? 

Because he makes me realize that I have been doing that my whole life, mostly in showers randomly saying Shit or F%$& or range of other colorful expletives. For no damn reason, apparently. 

Now, why would I do that? The mystery is too much to bear. 

So naturally, I do a little experiment on myself.

So for the next week, I consciously made an effort to note down what I thought when I did my random shower shout. The results were interesting. Not to bog you down with details much, but let’s just say, every time I did something like that, I was thinking of an embarrassing incident or mistake from the past. 

And some of these incidents were more than two decades old!

Now, this was a fascinating revelation to me for two reasons. 

One – I didn’t expect my memory to be that sharp, like ever! Where was this frickin memory when I was sitting holed up in the library wasting away years of the ’good life, trying to memorize those horrible equations and formulae, only to forget them conveniently right before it mattered?

Two – I never thought I could care about such incidents this much to be expressing my frustration after a 20-year time lag on random shower days without even knowing. Maybe I just assumed I was over them, but I never was. 

So obviously, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the only one doing this.

For starters, I knew that that comedian did the same thing as me, but the fact that he is a professional comedian didn’t make for a good salve. 

Was I taking life advice from a comedian? For real? 

I must get professional here. 

Next step: a survey of my besties. Misery loves company, I gotta find me some more of it. 

Funnily enough, one confident soul came forth. His thing was that he would randomly blurt out one-liners and catchprases from movies, like ‘Aye, Aye, sir’, ‘Fire away,’.

And, unlike me, he would do that even when in public. He would realize he did it as soon as the words came out of his mouth, feeling embarrassed for himself and piquing the curiosity of or sometimes scaring some fine pedestrians in the process.

I laughed when he told me that; I felt a great sense of belonging—belonging to a group of random shouters and proud of it. 

We are all humans, all unique yet so similar. The feeling is humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

John Donne wasn’t wrong when he said, ‘No man is an island.’ 

So let’s maybe not try to be one?

Are you watching closely?

I call myself a Nolan fan, mostly of his earlier works (to be clear, I fully comprehend what went down in Interstellar and Tenet. wink, wink). The Prestige happens to be my favorite Christopher Nolan movie of all time. I must have seen it more than five times. And given how obsessed I am with it, that number will not be static.

So why the sudden rant about The Prestige?

There are many things I love about the movie, the passionate characters dedicated to their craft and their willingness to go to any levels necessary, the not-so-friendly competition between the magicians, the beautiful women that don’t shy away from holding a mirror to their men, the visionaries, the acolytes – you name it. 

But something from the movie that trumps them all in my little universe is the question, “Are you watching closely?”

Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale) during the famous scene in The Prestige

Borden would say that multiple times in the movie, enthralling the audience with his majestic magic tricks. The guy is cheeky enough to challenge his crowd into watching him closely, daring them to expose the flaw in his tricks.

He would not shy away from putting his happiness and even his life on the line for the love of the craft that he held so dear. 

Why does the fear of being exposed not threaten him? What infuses in him the bravery of the daredevil? Is it mastery of the craft? Is the attraction of the spotlight much too intriguing?

I have never found an answer that I could find satisfying enough for more than two days. 

Are you watching closely?

Like in the movie, this question works on so many levels.

Say I was watching closely, closely enough to have been able to find a flaw in his tricks? Where would that have got me? 

Maybe on that path of obsession to be looking for flaws in every magic trick from there on? And why just magic? Maybe that spilled over to every other area of my life? 

What if I watched every ‘good relationship’ closely enough to see the cracks in it? Maybe I started dissecting every argument I see being made so that I could see where all it had been patched to create the illusion of the truth? Perhaps I would even doubt the perfect relationship between a Mr. Fox and a Ms. Kelly from You’ve Got Mail

Mr. Fox and Ms. Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

After all, Mr. Fox only went back to see her on their blind date because she was pretty, did he not?

I wonder if watching everything closely would turn me into a disbeliever,a cynic? And do I want to be that?

I do want to see things for what they are. I do! But to what extent do I go? Where do I stop? At what point do I become a Hypocrite if I choose to close my eyes to the truth? And would happiness/contentment elude me if I do?

The real Richard Winters (left) and Damian Lewis, who plays the character of Richard Winters in Band of Brothers

I love Richard Winters from the Band of Brothers and Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (who doesn’t?), but I made it a point never to research them enough to get to a point where I could find a fly in that love ointment. I am not oblivious to the dangers of doing this. 

This logic (if you could even call it that) has a lot of flaws. I have researched enough about Ostrich burying their heads to make their problems disappear. Surprise, Surprise! That isn’t true either, but it is a Roman myth.

So if Alfred Borden were ever to ask me, “Are you watching closely?” he would have a question coming right back at him “Do I want to?”