OCD Street Tiles

Not many people know that I have a certain degree of OCD. So I was interested to see this metapicture photo shared on facebook, titled ‘Worst thing that can happen to OCD people’:

funny-OCD-person-sidewalk

The sense of utter discomfort I felt was surprisingly sharp and immediate. I was itching to go pull up the tile and put it back the right way. I wondered what abominable people could have left it like this.

Then I read the comments below and the most liked comment was:

‘What bothers me is that even if this was lined up “correctly” it still wouldn’t fit.’

I glanced at the photo, did a mental realignment, and it did fit, so I wrote that as a reply to the comment.

Partly to satisfy myself, and mostly to soothe my sudden spike of OCD, I decided I needed to do something. So I actually reoriented it in Photoshop:

funny-OCD-person-sidewalk-2

There’s  a problem there with the corners because of the white bar at the bottom in the original photo. I left that unedited.

But it fits. So there.

Wait, the grey squares on the tile don’t line up with the ones on the pavement though. Maybe that’s what the commenter meant.

Shit.

Anecdotes of Europe #1: The Tipsies of Rome

For a long time I’ve been thinking of blogging about some experiences I had in Europe during my summer Europe trip of 2011. I decided I’d write them down in a single blog post as a series of small anecdotes. I sat down today to write it, and found that just one of the anecdotes gets very long. So I decided finally that I’ll write separate posts for each, and name them all in a series: Anecdotes of Europe. So this shall be the first of them. Hope you enjoy them, and do leave some form of feedback.

It was the evening of 29 May 2011 that I reached Rome for a weekend trip with a friend named Vishal. We left the station to take a look at the Colosseum. After we had spent some time there and it was getting late at night, we discovered, as was common with us, that we had no place to spend the night. We took the usual decision, that of staying in the station for the night. So we returned to the station, Roma Termini, the only big train station in Rome.IMG_2251

We went and sat down on the fixed metal benches inside the station. We decided we needed some sleep, so I clipped my camera bag and backpack through the metal arm of the bench using the carabiner climbing clip on my backpack. Then I buried my head on the backpack and tried to get some sleep. Vishal told me before snoozing off that he is a very light sleeper, and that he’ll wake up if there’s any problem and also early in the morning, so I needn’t worry about anything.

I couldn’t fall asleep very easily. I watched Vishal doze off. I stared around at the station that was now near-deserted. This station had been so lively in the morning, bustling with people, tourists, and Roman youths wooing beautiful girls who were giving away promotional cans of Coke Zero (I remember this because of the girls). There were very few people left in the station now. I thought of Howrah station in Kolkata and chuckled inside.

Then I noticed something else. The station had two gates on either end, and thus formed an open corridor for pedestrians taking a shortcut from one side to the other. Our bench was right in the middle of that corridor, so quite a few people were passing us regularly as they walked through the station. This situation made it even more uncomfortable for me to drift peacefully off to sleep.

Some time later I discovered that the street outside the gate that we were facing had a late night pub, and from this pub there issued a steady stream of drunken people, almost all of whom chose to walk through the station. This is not good, I thought. My DSLR cost a lot of money, and we had our passports, rail passes and a fair amount of cash with us. I glanced at Vishal. He was sleeping comfortably. I was tired as hell and all worn-out, but I couldn’t sleep in the middle of this.

After a while though, the weariness and strain of all the travel and walking lulled me into a deep sleep. I didn’t know then that my apprehensions would very soon be justified.

I don’t know how much later, I felt a sudden tug at whatever was supporting my head. I opened my eyes to find that my backpack was moving away from under my head. I blinked and looked up to find… this mountain. Towering over me, well over 6 feet tall, was this very strongly built black man, almost on the verge of portly. He had a clean, smooth bald head. I swear, he must have been Mike Tyson or a close bloodline. He wore a three-piece suit, and was towing a travel suitcase with wheels. With his other hand, he was pulling at my camera bag that was under my seat. This being clipped on to my backpack was causing it to be tugged away from under my head. His huge head was right in front of my face and he reeked of alcohol that sent my head spinning.

I was scared. Not shit scared, because I could still think and rationalize, but scared nevertheless. I noted out of the corner of my eyes that Vishal was still sleeping.

I looked at this man, mastered all my courage, and said something to the effect of ‘Hey man, what are you doing?’

Realizing from my movements and voice that I was awake, he let go of my camera bag, stood up and looked at me. I think then that he tried to say something, as if to give some justification for what he was doing. But before I could hear him properly, he walked away from the bench, lugging his suitcase behind him.

I looked at Vishal. He was sleeping like a baby. I tried to wake him. No response. I shook him, it didn’t work. Light sleep, huh. Finally I slapped him moderately hard and he woke with bleary red unfocused eyes that gave me quite a scare. I seriously thought I had booted his system while his mind was still being downloaded.

Thankfully he came to terms with his surroundings in a few seconds, and I explained to him what had happened. We decided we’d give sleep another go and hopefully get some rest till morning.

Vishal had just nodded off and I was still awake, when one long, lanky person, shabbily dressed in a T-shirt and very dirty jeans, came and flopped heavily down on the seat between Vishal and me. This sudden jerk jolted Vishal into wakefulness, who saw this man and immediately got pretty scared.

This guy laid his hands in front and started saying something in Italian through a hazy drunken drawl. I looked at his hands. They were dirty as hell. They were black and greasy as if he had been clawing through all the city’s refuse the whole day. He kept talking, as I kept staring at his hands. Then he suddenly leaned back very rapidly and the bench shook. Vishal immediately jolted upright, his face now clearly betraying undiluted fear.

The station had a golf cart in which two policemen would patrol round in intervals. Yes, it was a golf cart. I wish I could say ‘a patrol car shaped like a golf cart’, but it was a plain golf cart, with perhaps ‘Police’ written on it and a symbol. This golf cart had been around a few times, without any use whatsoever. It came around now, and I hoped they’d take the guy away or something. But no, they whirred by in front of us, without so much as a second glance.

The guy now started saying something in a low voice, leaning in towards me. I told him, ‘Hey, I don’t know what you’re saying, okay? I speak English.’ He stared at my face, seeming to understand. Then he tried something in English, but he was only drawling unintelligibly. He kept showing me those abominable palms as he spoke, as if explaining something about them. At the conclusion of his monologue, he put a dirty hand on the jeans of my right leg, slightly above my knee, and nodding gently as if he was speaking to his closest friend, he kept saying, ‘So you understand. So you see.’

That was it for me. I was really pissed off. But at the same time I felt a little funny at all this. I told him, ‘No, I don’t understand. I don’t see anything.’

He stared at my face again for a while, then stood up and teetered away.

Phew, I thought.

At this time the policemen in the golf cart came and stopped in front of us. One of them said, ‘the station is closing. You’ll have to leave.’

What? I thought.  A station, closing?  What is this place? How can a station, the only station in such a big city, just close like that?

Nevertheless, we got up and went outside. It was two in the morning.

Great iron grills rose up slowly and dramatically from the ground and the gates were closed. I stared at this in disbelief and suddenly felt such a fondness for Howrah station again.

The station, we heard, would open again at four. Vishal and I climbed a concrete wall of the subway entrance in front of the station and sat there dangling our legs. There were drunken people all around, coming out of the pub, and broken alcohol bottles littered the street. There were a few sober people around too. We discussed whether we should go in the pub for a while, to pass the time and to be somewhere safer than the streets, but we had stuff with us so we dropped the idea. There was a McDonald’s café, but it had closed at two.

There was a bus terminus beside the station, and I watched in surprise as buses arrived at intervals, packed full of people at this dead of the night, sober, normal people, adults and younger people, men and women, all appeared to be dressed for work, who got off the bus and immediately dissipated in all directions.

After a while when we got very sleepy again, we decided we’d sleep like true homeless people on the pavement outside the station. We walked there and saw already a few people sleeping. They were also travellers seemingly waiting for the station to open again. We found a spot, I clipped everything to my arm, and went to sleep. This time it was a peaceful, unbroken, deep sleep.

The sleep was broken only a couple of hours later by Vishal who told me that the station had opened again. We trudged back in, sat at the benches again, and slept right off.

In the morning we woke again to commotion and hustle and sunlight, people, shopkeepers, travellers and beautiful Roman girls in black tees distributing free Coke Zero. I looked around and couldn’t believe what this place had been at night.

Oh well, that’s Italy, I thought, as we put on our backpacks for another day of adventure.

My First Steps to Lucid Dreaming

I think last night I took some of my real beginning steps to lucid dreaming.

Let me briefly summarize what lucid dreaming is. It is a highly aware form of dreaming in which you have complete knowledge that you are dreaming and can willfully direct the course of events and happenings in your dream. This art can be practised.

I think I came across this phenomenon (among many other delightful things) while roaming about on StumbleUpon. I tried the exercises on the websites a long time, perhaps a year or two, ago, and I think they worked a bit. They instructed that I keep a notebook, a dream journal, handy on the bed as I go to sleep. If I wake up in the middle of a dream, I was to jot down whatever I could remember in the notebook.

I had dreamt of the death of a close relative. I woke up and wrote down in the notebook, sleepily, just the name of the relative, because I really didn’t have the strength or the will to write any more. Then I went back to sleep.

I woke in the morning to discover I’d never even tried out the plan of keeping a notebook on my bed. The whole thing had been a dream. But I remembered clearly which relative I had dreamed of as dying.

So I guess that was probably my very first step to lucid dreaming, a long time back. Then the next step was last night, or what I suspect as early this morning. (It’s weird how you still preserve a sense of time while you sleep. Maybe it’s a false, distorted sense, but nevertheless a considerably clear sense.) I’ll try to describe to you the dream I had in all the detail I can master.

I had many dreams last night, all very confused and possibly interwoven. I’ll skip the irrelevant ones and get to the one that was important.

It was a remote, wild place, possibly somewhere in the mountains. A storm was raging at night and it was raining and very muddy all around. There was either some natural or man-made calamity going on, and we were stuck and needed to get out of there. I vaguely remember that my mother and sister were there.

I think I was outside on the street in front of a wooden bench of some small tea-shop in the middle of this, when I remembered about lucid dreaming.

The very next thing I remember is that I was lying flat, face down on the ground in a comfortable position, and was feeling as if I was being sucked downwards in a strong sudden whoosh. It was a floating, weightless sensation as if I were swimming effortlessly on water, at the same time that I was sinking very fast downwards in response to some great force pulling me in. It was a very passive, light sensation, like you have when you have downed some glasses.

I was tremendously happy. I remembered an interview of a guy who’d just been able to dream lucidly and was very happy. (It was a real interview I had watched in a BBC video in my laptop. See, that’s how in lucid dreaming you are much more conscious and can access your conscious memory like you normally do. You don’t experience the reduction of consciousness or mental abilities that you usually have in a dream.) I was happy, for I knew this was happening because I had identified that I was in a dream, and as an immediate consequence was being sucked out of it. I think my flat, face down posture was actually my awareness of my own body that was sleeping on the bed, dreaming. So, my first lucid dream, I thought happily.

I started feeling an increasing pressure on top of me, though, particularly on my head, as I kept sinking like that. As if I were going down deep into water and the pressure on top of me was building. I tried to keep calm, telling myself that this is all in the dream. No matter how bad this gets, you’re actually all fine on a bed, sleeping, and no real bodily harm will be done. Keep calm, I told myself, but panic was rising.

Suddenly I was out of the sensation. But I wasn’t on my bed. I was standing in a brightly lit, expensively decorated, majestic corridor, like in some palace. It didn’t seem weird at that time that I didn’t wake up on my bed.

The corridor had no doors or windows opening laterally. It was narrow, and just went on forwards, pillar after pillar, very brightly lit, until it ended at a narrow vertical piece of wall. At the foot of this wall there was a very expensively decorated, majestic trunk.

I approached the trunk and was looking at it. I think I also crouched and touched it.

Then I think the dream ended or something. I think what I felt was that my sleep was getting lighter and I was gaining waking consciousness. You know when at the end of a dream you’re waking up and you know you’re conscious but you still try to continue the dream, adding to it consciously but it’s not as much fun any more? I think that’s what was happening. I was disappointed.

I told myself, ‘you need to get out of this. For that, you have to open your eyes.’ I had done this before when I was on the operation table for my fractured wrist and under sedative drugs. That was one hell of a trip I’ll talk about some other time.

And sure enough, as I opened my very heavy eyes with a lot of deliberation, I realized that I rose at once from all the confused layers of dreams and saw the bedsheet under me. White with interweaving patterns of green. It was a calculated, deliberate, forced action, not very pleasing, to have to wake like that. But it was very real. I could tell that I was now awake and my head was working clearly.

I was sleepy still though. Nevertheless I tried to analyze my dreams a bit. I realized that the first bit, being sucked out of that dream within a dream, was closer to lucid dreaming. I also realized that I had ‘woken’ from it into another dream which was much less lucid, in the sense that I wasn’t as conscious in it. It was very vague and I wasn’t directing the course of events or thinking too much by myself or making decisions. It had been more like watching TV. And I also realized that waking from that hadn’t been like lucid dreaming at all. The dream had just faded away and I had slowly woken up, trying to continue it using my conscious self, which is not lucid dreaming at all.

I was disappointed. I think I went back to sleep.

I woke up much later. I was on a blue, purple and red bedsheet. I checked it carefully. I couldn’t believe it. There is no white and green bedsheet in the house, nor do I remember having slept on one. This bedsheet, though, I remembered.

I think my mother was waking me up. It was midday. There was a lot of sun around. I realized that the first lucid-like dream, the second vague dream, and the third very conscious, very real, waking up and analysis, had all been dreams. Dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Four layers. I stared at my mother’s face for a while, I think. Then I remembered to ask myself one of the lucid dreaming exercise questions: ‘Is this a dream?’ Because I was seriously not sure any more how long this would continue.

Fortunately, that’s where it stopped. It’s the same blue-purple bedsheet on which I am sitting right now as I write this. But it was one hell of an experience. I am looking forward to more adventures soon. I am pretty sure lucid dreaming works, and I will see this to the end.

Have you ever had any unusual experiences with dreams? Let me know; it will be interesting.

What is this writing?

Something funny happened today. Two of my college friends and I were lounging around in one of the classrooms of the college after hours. Because it has this sexy AC. There was this big clean inviting blackboard in front, and I just went ahead and scribbled some stuff on it in a way I had taught myself when I was in school:

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Here it is from up close:

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We were taking these photos and transferring them on a laptop and doing related useless stuff when suddenly one of my junior students, A, entered the room, followed by Professor P, Head of Department of Physics and another professor, probably, who I don’t know. And I thought, shit.

They ambled into the room. Their gaze fell upon the board. Now that looks like some serious Arabic or Klingon or aboriginal script, so they kept staring at it. And I thought again, shit.

Professor P asked, ‘what is written here?’ My heart accelerated mildly. I thought at the back of my head that it’s going to take some time for them to figure this out. This can be salvaged comfortably.

A explained immediately how it was written. Shit came to my mind. He had seen me do this before some time.

Okay, we don’t know what it means, or who wrote it. We were just in the room, I thought.

P asked, ‘who wrote this?’ A pointed to me and said it was me; it couldn’t have been anyone else.

You know what came to my mind? Right.

I had to intervene before it all went out of control. I raced up towards the board from behind as the professors stood reading it. The second professor was already saying, ‘I can tell what the first word is…’

I grabbed a duster and started wiping it off, saying, ‘Sir, I’ll show you. I’ll show you right now how it’s written.’

Professor P started saying he wanted to know what was written. I kept  erasing until I had wiped the whole thing clean.

Then I took a chalk and said, ‘Look, Sir, I’ll write your name.’ And I wrote his name. He was impressed.

I came back to my seat. The professors took their seats as A started explaining some physics stuff on the board.

My friends and I stayed for a while in the room, then got the hell out of there when we couldn’t stop sniggering.

This time

This time there will be no poetry

No songs, no tearful prose

No floating into thoughtscape as I

stare at the tiny lights that play

across the walls of my dark room.

 

No, this time will be dry.

Functional, minimal, standard.

Only the necessary detachment procedures

as I relish the realization

of having got over emotion.

 

This time I can save time

for the things that count

work, produce, live as before

and revel in my growing strength

as weakness dies an early, sad death in me.