The Professional Hobbyist

My first post under a new category called ‘Musings’. There are myriad thoughts that arise intermittently and lead me to speculate about alternate viewpoints.I am starting this category, just to hear your thoughts on some of these subjects. The intention is not to arrive at specific conclusions nor to enforce any preconceived ideas or opinions,but to just exchange free flowing thoughts.

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‘Hobby’ by definition implies an activity done during one’s leisure time for pleasure. For anyone who’s very passionate about their hobbies, the definition itself could border on the insipid. But nevertheless, the underlying intent doesn’t vary – that it is done during one’s leisure time , suggesting one has an absolute choice in deciding when and whether to pursue. I think therein lies the crux – hobby is something that’s freewheeling, rather than getting straight-jacketed into specific schedules and timelines.

As more and more people transition their hobbies or interests into full fledged businesses, the question that often crops upĀ  in my mind, is whether the essence of a hobby still holds good. One very important constituent of a hobby, is that one has a choice to pursue it when one wants and the moment when one changes this very intrinsic nature, does it cease to offer the same enjoyment and the sense of carefree liberation , it otherwise would have afforded. Business, of course, implies a monetary compensation imposing a very rigid outline on how the hobby progresses but at times, this carefree aspect is robbed, the moment one is under a compulsion of any sort.

Blogging networks and the blogging world throws up several interesting gauntlets.One such blogging mantra suggests one to keep updating one’s blog every week. This, to my mind immediately becomes a compulsion. Can one be a serious blogger and still consider blogging a hobby ? Plausibly, that’s when a hobby meta-morphs into a more serious pursuit and one strives to excel at it rather than it merely serving to add a relaxing distraction in life.

It can be argued whether a hobby which doesn’t result in any discernible output, is less amenable to the pressures of achieving perfection – wherein the focus is more on the ‘doing’ rather than the creation itself. For instance, reading would have definitely qualified to be one such pursuit, where one could have retreated to a private world away from the constant pressures of proving oneself. I would have presumed bird watching as well, to be a personal pursuit with out undue pressure,but now I know better.We are ‘facebooked’ and the more we ‘do’ something, the more we promote it. The minute we have an audience,there is always a need to showcase and everyday desires are not far behind.

Would you still continue a hobby if there was no audience ? Nobody to appreciate what you did. Some of course, are more audience driven than others eg. blogging. But there are others, which could obviate the need to showcase and hence could be more pursuant to an unadulterated relaxation.

If you have converted a hobby into a profession, do you still derive the same amount of joy and relaxation vis a vis when it was not ? Do share your thoughts !

The List

I finally break the silence on my blog with a first-time fiction on a guest blog for Sid Balachandran – Author at I Wrote Those, Photographer at I Took Those, winner of more awards than my fingers can handle, a cooking enthusiast who can whip up eye-popping scrumptious chocolate sinfuls and last but not the least, a work-at-home Dad ! Now that’s what’s called breaking stereotypes ! Sid maintains delightful catalogs of his parenting escapades at Daddy Journals.

A wonderful blogger friend, I got introduced to Sid through his most delightful post about an ever-perennial problem – Finding the right pair of Jeans. Here’s his kickass post – Fashionista ? I think not!

Sid is a master in the craft of fiction.So, when he invited me to write a fiction post for his blog, I went ‘Ulp’. Fortunately he gave me enough time to hammer something together, so here I am – with my first-ever true-blue fiction !

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Buy groceries. Pay bills.

Indu crossed out items from the to-do list, on the laptop and leaned back with a palpable sense of relief. Only few more left to go. Unfinished things rankled and nipped at the edges of her consciousness. Resigning to the fact that ‘Cleaning the closet’ was too daunting to be attempted immediately, she stretched wearily and headed to the bathroom.TheListThe street lights were casting long shadows through the window. The haggard reflection in the bathroom mirror revealed an average looking woman. With the hair pulled back severely away from the face, into a tight bun and the round horn-rimmed glasses, her face appeared unflatteringly mousy. Shoulder length hair tumbled down as the strangling metal pins were pulled out and neatly stacked inside the medicine cabinet. Deciding to take a quick shower, she ran the hot water in the tub. A strange prickling sensation caused her to glance at the door which creaked open slowly inwards. She suppressed a scream, as the bottle in her hand fell with a dull clunk and scattered small white pills all over the floor.

Read the full post on Sid’s blog…
http://www.iwrotethose.com/2015/05/06/the-list-by-asha-vishwanathan/

Compassion – Where art thou ?

This above all; to thine own self be true,
And it must follow,as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

– William Shakespeare

Everyday reports in the newspaper of barbaric killings by ISIS, Boko Haram and other terror organizations have jarred our sensibilities by the sheer intensity of their violence.And every time, I am plagued by the apparent ease with which a human being is able to transgress into such perversions. Are political,religious or economic inducements sufficient to bring out this horrendous aspect in a man? More often than not, I could only view them as maniacal and in the process, classify them as sub-human. Until I realized that this was perhaps the same emotion which controlled them too.

Compassion

History has been replete with instances where human beings have descended to such barbaric acts that humanity can only shiver in its grave. It is the process wherein a human dehumanizes the other so completely that no conceivable relation to the other can then be established.This formed the basis for nearly all the genocides in the world.

An ability to establish oneness and connection with another, forms the basis of compassion. Compassion – the singular emotion which is direly needed in today’s world.Different religions espouse this central thought in their philosophies. Keeping aside the inherent mis-interpretations that each religion has given rise to, compassion is a salve for humanism – where being ‘human’ is far more critical than being religious.Compassion encompasses empathy along with action.It differs from altruism where emotional attachment is not mandated and neither is it comparable to empathy, where despite the emotional involvement, it needn’t translate into action.Nonetheless, rather than splitting hair on these variations, any proclivity towards altruism or empathy is only to be appreciated and viewed as a stepping stone to attaining true compassion.

The ability to be compassionate can be intrinsic to an individual,but interestingly, it can also be consciously developed.In this age of bloodshed, the ability to be compassionate to oneself and to others is the one gift we can give ourselves and our children.

Haile Selassie says “It is much easier to show compassion to animals. They are never wicked.” Everybody’s latitude for compassion would vary and so would it also be undeniably linked, to the object of compassion.But even that residual innate quality would succumb to the everyday onslaught of inconsideration that we show, not because we deliberately intend to but because many a times,we even forget to spare a thought to the existence of an alternate way.

So prior to become ‘compassionate’, lies the state of being ‘considerate’. Its akin to learning A ahead of Z.

Are we considerate with ourselves ? – When we constantly disparage ourselves on our looks, our achievements and our capabilities. When we are overly harsh with ourselves for not living up to our standards, when we take our achievements for granted and our failures as our scars.

Are we considerate at home ? With our family ? – While demanding and taking our family for granted. When we place undue burden on our children as we try to mold them in our cast. When we fail to appreciate a spouse as a person who could have independent needs and desires.

Are we considerate at work ? With our colleagues ? – When our demands are unfair. When we absolve ourselves for our failures and steal someone’s limelight.When our subordinates become ‘resources’ in the true sense of the word.

Are we considerate towards the place where we live ? – When we unabashedly litter our surroundings because it’s not ‘my’ headache.When we play loud music in the dead of night.

Are we considerate on the road ? – When we constantly get overcome with road rage.When we don’t abide by any traffic rules.When we forget that the five minutes we save on traffic is not a life-changing deal.

And finally,

Are we considerate towards people ? – When we encounter people with differing views, different religious practices, different sexual orientations. When we sit on judgement on every differing view.

It is said that to practice tolerance one needs to put oneself in another person’s shoes.It’s facile to ridicule another based on their beliefs and value systems, but it’s much harder to introspect and understand the context. This is not to condone unlawful or antisocial behavior, but simply to acknowledge those, that are different to ours. Social transformations are not ushered by people who are judgmental, instead it is by people who are compassionate and yet,steadfast about their causes.

Our children will become who you are.So be, who you want them to be. – Anonymous

In being who we are, we determine our future generation.The answer to the question of whether humanity will survive the onslaught of intolerance and hatred, lies with us.We can choose how we wish to answer it.


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This post is written for ‘1000 Voices of Compassion’ where 1000 bloggers from across the world decided to lend their voices for Peace and Compassion on Feb 20th.

Further Reading :
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-ways-to-deepen-your-compassion-to-help-other-people/
http://zenhabits.net/a-guide-to-cultivating-compassion-in-your-life-with-7-practices/

ASUS Indiblogger Meet

Indiblogger announced the ASUS meet,
I too rushed in to reserve my seat.
We got off to a rocking start,
With ear splitting music , my drums threatened to part.

Then waiters came laden with goodies,
A treat to all the foodies.
But vegetarian fare far and few,
I finally spotted some and got my due.




A game we played of sharing personal stuff,
People gave all things, including their fluff.
Some gave a key chain and some, a chocolate,
But some, over a ginger and clove too, met.

Old friends I met and some strangers too,
Shared laughter and banter flew.
When Bloggers meet, they wait to spring,
At slightest hint, their blog and writing.

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Then came Asus Product Manager Mr Chu,
Who gave a presentation of all features new.
PC ET2040 and EeBook 205,
ASUS promises to be a competitive buy.

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Fun and games again for a bit,
Showcasing blogging in a skit
But finally it was time for the awaited event
Minor obstacles were not a deterrent.

Off we ran towards the food
To be in time before the brood
Heaped plates and conversations collude
Spreading bonhomie with every morsel chewed.

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Finally I too headed back satiated,
And hope you will not leave this post unappreciated.
And forgive me these cheesy lines,
For bloggers come in all shades and kinds.

An oil slick amidst the Hungry Tide

Just a short while ago, I hadn’t the remotest clue of what an Orcaella or the Irrawaddy Dolphin was.But within a span of two months, I encountered it twice. Two days ago, I glanced at the papers and it jumped out at me.A huge oil slick off the coast of Sunderbans had endangered several lives including that of the Irrawaddy dolphins.Somehow,this struck closer home as I had just finished Amitav Ghosh’s book ‘The Hungry Tide’. Human activities continue to threaten the fragile ecological balances existing worldwide as we doggedly pursue our blinkered journey towards self-annihilation drowning out the few dissenting voices of naturalists and environmentalists. Piyali Roy, the main protagonist of the book is one such lone voice.
The_Hungry_Tide
Fiction set in rich contexts exploring a historical setting or those examining the uniqueness of a particular locale is always an intriguing read.But it transforms into a magical journey in the hands of adept authors like Amitav Ghosh when the characterization takes on a different dimension altogether.’The Hungry Tide’,set in the Sunderbans, brings to life all the magic, mystique, intrigue and perils of the place that one could possibly associate it with. The lives of people for whom change is enduring, living is indeterminate, survival – a daily odds; those who are aware that the very ground they stand on, could be swallowed up the very next minute. It portrays the psyche of such people who encounter death on a daily basis but nevertheless, life elsewhere is unthinkable. They are the inhabitants of the tide country. And with such a narrative, not only are you riveted by an engaging plot but also absorb the essence of a place and time painstakingly sketched by an author’s extensive research.

The protagonists of ‘The Hungry Tide’ are as unlikely a bunch one could envisage. A young cetologist, Piyali Roy, whose life’s ambition is to study the habits of the little known Irrawaddy dolphin.An illiterate rustic fisherman, Fokir.And Kanai, a suave city-bred translator, who is summoned to Lucibari – a remote,unreachable and hostile island in the Sunderbans, for a very curious reason.In typical Ghosh’s style, each of them is very expansively portrayed.Piyali comes across as a resilient woman; passionate about her scientific work and single minded in her pursuit,enabling her to overcome the harsh extremes that her work imposes.She also happens to be a woman, who’s still searching for her identity and discovers her answers in the remote Sunderbans amidst the congregations of the Irrawaddy dolphins.Fokir, though an illiterate fisherman and a man seemingly so far removed from the scientific and highly educated Piyali, still remarkably congruent in his passion for the flora and fauna of the mangroves.And hence, it comes as no surprise that when fate throws Piyali and Fokir together, they connect. A primal bond that renders language superfluous, barely acknowledged yet resilient enough to withstand a storm. And finally there was Kanai.Out of all of them, it is his mutable character with the shades of grey which would have been the trickiest to portray.At one instant, his character smacks of superficiality and conceit but at the very next, it also manages to elicit sympathy for the struggles of a reasonable mind against the prejudices that form the bedrock of his upbringing.Confident to the point of arrogance,but also possessing a remarkable sense of intuition, Kanai rises above himself when he’s put to the ultimate test.He arrives in Lucibari on a strange mission – that of reading his dead uncle’s diary which chronicles his last days before the massacre of Morichjhanpi,when the government of West Bengal forcibly evicted thousands of refugees.And in that dairy,he again encounters his childhood friend,Kusum, who is an ephemeral presence throughout the novel, entwining the past with the present.

It’s a novel which explores many facets – about human bonds that transcends barriers, about rising above oneself, about life in the Sunderbans but above all, I felt it was a novel about exploring one’s identity and the human spirit. Finding that elusive purpose divergent from materialistic pursuits. It also poses several thought-provoking questions when environmentalism comes into conflict with humanism. Does the plight of the Sunderban tigers far outweigh the plight of human refugees ? Though the novel is a good 400 pages, my interest hardly flagged even through the arcane descriptions the author provides on the habitat and the etymology of the Irrawaddy dolphins.

And thus it was, that I came to know of the existence of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin and of the wonder that is the Sunderbans and of the remarkable people of the tide country. In light of my almost personal acquaintance with the animal through the eyes of the cetologist, it was even more distressing to read of the oil slick off the Sunderbans that threatens to disastrously tilt the scales.The need of the hour is to join forces to save the last of the wonderful creatures that depend on these fragile eco-systems. The hungry tide has risen and it shall not be stopped by the narrow confines of national boundaries.

File Photo: Irrawaddy Dolphin

File Photo: Irrawaddy Dolphin

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