People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within. Nowhere you can go is more peaceful—more free of interruptions—than your own soul. Especially if you have other things to rely on. An instant’s recollection and there it is: complete tranquillity. And by tranquillity I mean a kind of harmony.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Kavitha Rao’s book, The Librarian, scanned against a backpack as background.

Tomorrow, I take a taxi and another taxiing thing and yet another taxi to Gangtok. I overpacked and weeded out the necessary stuff and then realised my misatke and inverted the selection and then tried to stick to the 7kg luggage limit and then went to Blossoms after an early end to a meeting (awkward after) and weighed my priorities again—against pulp this time—and ended up with four new paperbacks and of the four is this thing that clearly isn’t helping an early-onset-midlife-crisis. The others are mostly harmless. What happens? The city is singing traffic at one in the night.

We begin to think we know what the water feels like to the fishes. But it’s not always like fur and ash and the cleanest tooth. At night, they say, the water can be different. At night, when it’s very cold, it can be like the tongue of a cat. At night, when it’s very very cold, it’s like cracked glass. Or honey. Or forgiveness, they say, ha ha.

— Dave Eggers, What The Water Feels Like To The Fishes

I was twenty years old. When you are twenty years old, and twenty-one, and twenty-two, and twenty-three, and twenty-four, what you want from people is that they tell you about you. When you are twenty years old, and twenty-one, and twenty-two, and twenty-three, you watch the world for the way it watches you. Do people laugh when you make a joke, do they kiss you when you lean into them at a party? Yes? Aha—so that’s who you are. But these people themselves, laughing, kissing and not-kissing, they themselves are young, and so then you begin to think, if you’re twenty or twenty-one, when you are young, that these people are not to be trusted, your contemporaries, your screwed-up friends and girlfriends—that it’s not because of you that they kissed you, but because of them, something about them, those narcissists, whereas you were asking about you, what did they think of you? Now you have no idea. This is why it’s so important to meet your heroes while you are young, so they can tell you.

— Keith Gessen, All The Sad Young Literary Men

As Duane Elgin has famously defined it, voluntary simplicity is ‘a manner of living that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich,… a deliberate choice to live with less in the belief that more life will be returned to us in the process.’ According to the most prominent historian of the Simplicity Movement, David Shi, the primary attributes of the simple life include: thoughtful frugality; a suspicion of luxuries; a reverence and respect for nature; a desire for self-sufficiency; a commitment to conscientious rather than conspicuous consumption; a privileging of creativity and contemplation over possessions; an aesthetic preference for minimalism and functionality; and a sense of responsibility for the just uses of the world’s resources. More concisely, Shi defines voluntary simplicity as ‘enlightened material restraint.’
Voluntary simplicity , furthermore, does not mean indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not mean living in a cave, giving up all the benefits of electricity, or rejecting modern medicine. But it does question the assumption that science and technology are always the most reliable paths to health, happiness, and sustainability. […] Voluntary simplicity, then, involves taking a thoughtfully sceptical stance in relation to technology and science, rejecting those aspects which seem to cost more than they come to, all things considered.

— Samuel Alexander: Reimagining the Good Life Beyond Consumer Culture (Paper, link)

Citing David Shi, The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture and Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

Post the sunglassed and sunglazed and felt-longer-than-it-actually-was walk from the studio to Radha theatre, post daydreaming choosing a seat at random in an otherwise empty auditorium like the many golden old midnights of Gurgaon, post the closed-yet-open-for-pedestrians railway bridge where this lady was trying to remember what 127 Hours was called (she explained everything except the boulder in Malayalam as we crossed the bridge in a civilised single file), post all that and the slithering queue for the few not-yet-sold-out seats for ’96, this.

View From the Cheap Seats (Neil Gaiman), essays and speeches on people, places, word-things, world-things. Nooru Simhaasanangal (A Hundred Thrones, Jeyamohan), novel on people and their places in the world. Aanadoctor (Elephant-Doctor, Jeyamohan), novel on people-people, people-animals and animal-animals. Uravidangal (Sources, Jeyamohan), notes on a life well-lived. (It seems the Matrubhumi article ill-quotes a lot of truly beautiful stuff from this book. Now I know.) Kayar Murkukayaanu (The Noose Tightens, Kalpetta Narayanan Maash), similar to ‘Cheap Seats’ in its content; way more lyrical in its prose. Sons of Thunder: Writing from the Fast Lane: A Motorcycling Anthology (Editor: Neil Bradford), texts on motorcycles, etc. Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami), well, Murakami.

‘മഴയീരം കൊണ്ടുവന്ത് എന്‍വീട്ടില്‍ കുടിവെയ്പേന്‍
തളിരില്ലാ എന്‍വീട്ടില്‍ വിതയെല്ലാം മുളയാതും’
(മഴയുടെ ഈര്‍പ്പം കൊണ്ടുവന്ന് എന്റെ വീട്ടില്‍ കുടിയിരുത്തണം,
തളിരില്ലാത്ത എന്റെ വീട്ടില്‍ വിത്തുകള്‍ എല്ലാം മുളച്ചുപൊന്തും)

Bring home the rain’s wetness and let my barren house sprout life. (Literal translation, lyrical disaster.)

1991 മാര്‍ച്ചിലെ ഒരു സായാഹ്നത്തില്‍ ദേവതാരുക്കള്‍ തണല്‍വിരിച്ച മധുര കാര്‍ഷിക കോളജിലെ ഇടവഴികളിലൂടെ ഇരുവരും നടന്നു. തിരികേ ധര്‍മപുരിയിലെത്തിയ ജയമോഹന്‍ അവള്‍ക്ക് പത്തു പേജ് നീണ്ട കത്തെഴുതി…
‘ഒരു പെണ്‍കുട്ടിക്കും ഇത് താങ്ങാന്‍ കഴിയുമെന്ന് ഞാന്‍ വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നില്ല… 54-ാം വയസ്സിലായിരുന്നു അമ്മയുടെ ആത്മഹത്യ. വാര്‍ധക്യത്തിലെ ആത്മഹത്യകള്‍ക്ക് പിന്നിലുള്ളത് ഒരുതരം ദര്‍ശനമായിരുന്നിരിക്കണം. 'ജയ ജയ' എന്ന അമ്മയുടെ വിളികള്‍ എന്നെ ഭ്രാന്തുപിടിപ്പിച്ചിരുന്നു. ആശ്വാസത്തിനായി ചാരായ ഷാപ്പിലെത്തിയപ്പോള്‍ കുടിക്കരുതെന്ന് അച്ഛന്റെ ഓര്‍മപ്പെടുത്തല്‍…
കുമ്പളയിലെ റെയില്‍വേ ട്രാക്കില്‍ ജീവിതം ഹോമിക്കാനായി കാത്തുനിന്നു. ഒടുക്കം അതുപേക്ഷിച്ച് ഏകാകിയായി യാത്ര തുടര്‍ന്നു. ഇന്ത്യ കണ്ടു. ഇപ്പോള്‍ എഴുത്തുകാരനായി, എന്റെ ജീവിതം എഴുത്താണ്, ഇതില്‍നിന്നും പണമോ പ്രശസ്തിയോ കിട്ടില്ല. ഞാന്‍ ഒരു ജീവിത പരാജയത്തിനാണ് ആക്കംകൂട്ടുന്നത്. ഇഷ്ടമുണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ ഒപ്പം കൂടുക.’

Arun P Gopi in conversation with Arunmozhi and Jeyamohan, Matrubhumi Weekend Supplement, 29 July 2018. On love, letters and love-letters. High-enough-resolution scan here. Online version (Malayalam), here. I’ve attempted a partial translation, on S’s request, here.

Do not misunderstand. I think that the computer is a marvelous instrument. I think the computer has nothing to do with creative work. You are not going to be a creative genius just because you have a computer. In fact the chances are you will be just the opposite. You just will be a computer operator. But the speed and the efficiency are simply incomparable. A comp in the old days consisted of type and artwork and color and Photostats and color prints. Can you imagine how long that took, and how much it cost to do? You do it in half an hour today; it used to take two weeks, literally two weeks. There is something wrong in that, too, because it does not give you time to be contemplative. You do not have time to sit and think about it, and it keeps kicking you in your rear end as you go along. You know it keeps kicking you. You cannot stop to think about it because it is just too damn fast.

Paul Rand, Conversations with Students (Michael Kroeger, Princeton Architectural Press, NY).

It is impossible to decide what to quote from the book full of gems. Wish I’d read it before the current courses I am helping the students with, started. (The Vijayawada Library is full of pleasant surprises.) I’ve been raving about the NID: Structure-Culture Document for weeks now, and the tail-end of Rand in Conversation is strangely reminiscent.