Only dead fish go with the flow

Interesting set of numbers: 2020. 

Visual acuity at 2020 refers to the eyes’ ability for normal sharpness and clarity, and in tarot readings, an appearance of the angel 2020 indicates the guardian angels have arrived to ensure you rise to great heights. Superb! Isn’t it? It’s not a situation where just one or two of us have access to these numbers. It’s every single living organism on this planet. ALL OF US HAVE ACCESS TO 2020! That’s pretty darn monumental, I’d think? 

So what’s my thing for 2020? Go against the flow. Shudder!

I may not have visual acuity since age isn’t entirely on my side, but perhaps the angels have my back, just in case. I’m sure you’ve made some resolutions for yourself. As 2019 came to a close, I decided I’d do one thing: go against the flow. I’d have to mention my guru here, he was instrumental in guiding me on this path; unwittingly so. He said, “go with the flow, kiddo!” And in classic me style, I told him, “I’ve decided to do just the opposite.” So doc., if you are reading this, I know you’ll be smiling.

Remember that scene from Finding Nemo when Marlin tells his son not to touch the boat and he does?

You know how that turned out in the end, right? He was one fin small in the beginning but, by the end, he was ocean big! Aren’t all our lives one fin small to begin with?

Flow is interesting and widely researched in the creativity circles. What is flow, you ask? It’s certainly not the ability to solve problems or your scores on an IQ test. It is simply the moment where you’ve zoned everything out and the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness, and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. This flow is very different from “going with the flow.” Not everyone is gifted with this kind of flow. We’ll come to this creative flow later in the post.

Zen masters consistently advocate the path of least resistance. Bruce Lee said, “Be like water making its way through cracks.” Flowing water is essential for so many reasons. If for any reason, the flow stops, it builds up, and a deluge destroys everything. Yes, going with the flow yields results for the short term, but what happens then to your long term goals? This is where I believe going against the flow turns things around.

You’ve watched and heard documentaries about salmon spawning and olive ridley turtles returning to their places of birth to nest. Each of these creatures goes against the flow to birth new life. Adult salmons have to swim upstream, to lay eggs that eventually mature into salmon fry. But, the adults, they become martyrs for the new since they die in the very stream they navigated to, and they do this to ensure healthy fish swim back to spawn again.

Many species of turtles come back to nest at the very same spot where they hatched. They swim through the crashing surf and crawl up the beach searching for a safe spot where the female can lay up to 100 eggs before she drags herself back to the vast blue again. How does she do this? Scientists struggled to find an answer until recently. Turtles derive navigational information from the Earth’s geomagnetic field — a field humans cannot sense without the use of scientific instruments. So voila, these prehistoric giants have something inborn. And what do they use it for? Well, you know the answer to that.

Living a life that is ‘yours’ and one that is fulfilling take guts, and it is very, very hard to let go and take a risk; it is terrifying to give up security and constant cash flow among other things to dive into the unknown. But I’ll tell you, it is possible. There was a time, not so long ago, where I was in this terrible state of destitution (by that I mean, out on my ass with not even a penny to my name). Believe me when I tell you that deciding between lunch or dinner because two meals meant that much lesser money in hand, was bloody frightening. But, those days are behind me now, and I am stronger for it. The many things it taught me will be a post for another day. But go against the flow I did, and I wouldn’t trade that phase for anything. Ever. So when I say throw caution to the winds and do that thing YOU want to do, I am not speaking from a place of comfort and cushions. That shit is for the well-endowed. 

You may argue that it is even — shall we say — stupid (gasp!), the opposite of smart if I’m not writing a post that goes under the title of “Smart Habits for Rich Living tagline? Nah. Like I said, the more material wealth you amass, the more your happyness quotient shrinks! If you’ve seen a dried prune, you know how the shrinking happens! So go follow your heart. Nothing stupid about following your heart at any – and I do mean any– expense whatsoever! There’s nothing like sweet freedom! 

Believe me when I tell you the freedom to pursue your heart’s desires and to build on your passions is not over-rated.

So, the only thing that does go with the flow is dead fish! What’s your plan then. amigo?

The Great Indian Rail Toilet

In 1909, arising out of a desperate situation, Okil Chandra Sen wrote this letter to the Indian Railways:

Whether or not his letter or the following situation had the Indian Railways smacking a tiny chamber hole between boggies remains a mystery.

I’ve used the Indian railways for as long as I can remember. My father’s privileges as a railway employee gave us free rides across the country every year.

Thanks to these little perks, I began rail yatra when I was eight years old! So that sort of puts me in a distinguished place to recount my years as a faithful rail traveler. I can tell you with absolute certainty that much has changed since the 1980s.

While change is inevitable, there are also certain things as stubborn as a mule. In some other context, such stubbornness and determination would yield great achievements, but not in the context of a toilet. Look at it (actually, don’t since you might gag), we’ve maintained some steadfast dedication to stinking, dirty toilets. If we want to assign names of Greek gods to folks who can aim right while the wheels spin, then by golly you are a Greek God of all sorts.

If you’ve traveled by train, which most of us have, then you know how this rolls. If you haven’t, you’ve missed one heck of an experience. You thought six-flags has it down for the best roller coaster ride? I’ll laugh that loud, guttural laugh now…muahahaha. No! The craziest of all rides are inside the Indian railway toilet in a superfast express with your pants down! There…I said it.

If you are a woman, it’s a nightmare, but if you are a man, then it’s apocalyptic. The collateral damage is determined by the attire you wear (read my earlier post on wardrobe malfunction). Take, for instance, the sari…Your squatting expertise will determine your choice of Indian or Western ( many choices). Upon entering the toilet, it’s like a bar scene…bottoms up! You immediately hold the bottom of the sari up for fear of getting it wet. If it’s a salwar-kurta or leggings-kurta, then the problem is further compounded since you have to preen over your kurta to look past your falling hair and dupatta. You might be saved a lot of trouble if you wear pants, but nothing can save you if you are not a sure-footed person, if you know what I mean.

Sure-footed or not, what stares you in the eye next is near catastrophic. Why? Because once you get over the nervousness and paranoia of how to navigate this mysterious test of agility, balance and precision (feel like a tight-rope artist ?), you need to figure out where or what to hold. The confusion arises when you begin to look for a spot that is potentially germ free. Here’s where men make a grand entrance.

I’m not a man but I can only fathom the challenge of the flow in a moving locomotive. On a normal day, I have a horrendous time telling my ten-year-old that he cannot act like the sprinkler in the garden when he uses the toilet, but who ever listened to their mom, right? So I can’t imagine what it’s like for a man inside a rail toilet.

Perhaps the feeling is akin to where you aim for the bullseye on the dart board, but hit the wall instead. You know where you want to go but nothing in your humane power will let you get there. Reminds one of the scene where the Terminator holding the Beretta splays the T-1000 to smithereens. Precision is not for the directionally-challenged! Do I hear a groan? Come now, the number of times you’ve heard your mother, sister, girlfriend, wife tell you to aim right so she doesn’t have to clean-up after you, doesn’t ring true?

The funniest of all is when people wait in line outside, and the one who used the toilet steps out and no one, and I mean no one, wants to be anywhere near a two mile radius of the person who just made the exit. The avoidance techniques are worthy of full-length academic papers. There is the À la seconde, where the expectant waiter steps to the side or the Cambré, where the waist bends in all sorts of direction–forwards, backwards and sideways. Considering such precise ballet moves, one would think the same can be accomplished once inside the confines of the dreaded four walls. But, alas!

In the days when you could not count on a public toilet facility, an English woman was planning a trip to India – She registered to stay in a small guest house owned by the local schoolmaster. She was concerned as to whether the guest house contained a WC (Water Closet). She wrote to the schoolmaster inquiring of the facilities about the WC. The school master, not fluent in English asked the local priest if he knew the meaning of WC. Together they pondered possible meanings of the letters and concluded that the lady wanted to know if there was a “Wayside Chapel” near the house. That the letters could mean a bathroom, never entered their minds. So the schoolmaster wrote:

I take great pleasure in informing you that the WC is located 9 miles from the house. It is located in the middle of a grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and is open on Sundays and Thursdays. As there are many people expected in the summer months, I suggest you arrive early. There is, however, plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation especially if you are in the habit of going regularly. It may be of some interest to you that my daughter was married in the WC, since she met her husband there. It was a wonderful event. There were 10 people in every seat. It was wonderful to see the expressions on their faces. My wife, sadly, has been ill and unable to go recently. It has been almost a year since she went last, which pains her greatly. You will be pleased to know that many people bring their lunch and make a day of it.

Others prefer to wait till the last minute and arrive just in time! I would recommend that your ladyship plan to go on a Thursday, as there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. The newest addition is a bell which rings every time a person enters. We are holding a bazaar to provide plush seats for all since many feel it is long needed. I look forward to escorting you there myself and seating you in a place where you can be seen by all.

With deepest regards,
The Schoolmaster.”

No wonder the woman never visited India!!!