Salvaging Sanity

I wonder how did I get in the habit of writing letters…..to nobody.

Words following words, messages stacking across the pages in the form of letters – addressed to someone other than myself but no one in particular. I have written incessantly as if it’s epistolary pleading to a being of questionable existence. Tantalizing words kept spreading their tendrils all over my body, tightening its grip, choking, suffocating me until I learned to contain them. Ironically, it’s an internal battle which seldom surfaces on my outer appearance. Amidst the intermittent pangs of insanity, they seemed the only reasonable action to salvage my fading sanity.

Prologue

I first thought of this post 9 months ago, sometime around the beginning of this year. Of course, that didn’t happen.  I couldn’t bring myself to write it because like a perceptible change in time that is a new year, you also want the new you – one who sheds off the burden, peels off the past that engulfs him. Well, things don’t work that way. The more you keep your it bottled, the stronger this concoction gets and it becomes increasingly harder to get rid of it until you set it free – whatever your way of doing that may be. Also, things don’t automatically become alright when you shift through this concept of time like traversing blocks of a human construct. It has to be made ok through conscious reconciliation.

The past two years felt like the toughest years of my life. This was also the time when some major changes happened – the people, the environment, the game – all of it were new. There were definitely good things that kept the light of fight alive. And a major weapon I had was to write it all down. I didn’t have anyone who could have listened patiently (it’s really tough man!) and I doubt if I would have done away with no writing at all even if I had. Believe me, I tried telling it. I did try hard.

It may have been the very first post this year on the blog – either this or ‘The Culture of Extremes‘ that still lies incomplete in my ever-growing drafts. But I couldn’t bring myself to give it a definite form. It was obscure, abstract and way more personal. And then it changed. Yes. Like any perishable item kept unpreserved over a significant period of time, this post also underwent an irreversible transformation. It didn’t remain the written account of the past two years. Instead, it became about this one.

Subconsciously, I had kept recording the moments of my insanity, moment of sinking thoughts and the instances when I felt I was imploding with the churning force of matter, in the personal notes on my phone. This is what it culminated to.

I know it’s totally haphazard. As much as I would have liked to recollect those moments with considerable accuracy, I have either forgotten them or outgrown them. I don’t exactly remember as to which thought, in particular, triggered each of these separate sentences. So I went discrete, even to myself and noted just the fleeting feeling of the moment. This way, it would also seem relatable to the reader even though the context might vary. Also, it has been presented verbatim in chronological order for the most part as was noted in those instances besides few grammatical corrections. Different paragraphs have been separated by the horizontal line.

Moments of Insanity

This withers my heart into a thousand pieces – insignificant bits of innocence slain by the cruelty of circumstances. Time, renewing everything I have held so dearly, keeping me bound in Saudade, drifting into the void, tied up – not moving, just living, just being. I bear this weight that is crushing my soul, pulling me down into the abyss of despair, teary eyes and shrinking heart, silent cries and shrieking screams from the pain I’m in. I wonder what could have I done differently.


I don’t know when it changed from imaginative to impulsive writing. When did my thumb start driving my mind instead of the other way round?


All my posts have been more of pushing out facts than voicing my thoughts and opinions. And this bugs me as a writer. What makes my writing different?


Sometimes, I can feel the chemical reactions happening inside my body. I’m not kidding. I could feel my feelings being affected in a mechanized predictable way.


All the impulsive decisions I have ever taken or maybe all the decisions I have ever taken have impulsively felt wrong. It happens just after the things go out of my control. The deed is done and it is to be decided whether it was right or wrong. But in that infinitesimal moment, it has felt wrong. Not the most optimum one for sure. And then I have chased my life making that decision correct. It has taken time for me to be at a position when I can say with surety that whatever I did was right.


My troubling dreams are so deeply rooted in the reality that I don’t know if it actually happened or were mere projections in my mind. They are becoming indistinguishable from real possibilities.


Frequently, I have been getting these stress hits, especially at night when all I think about are career prospects, my family and the direction life is heading to. It happens mostly late at night. I suddenly wake up and have a hard time sleeping. During the day, I can dissuade these feelings by getting involved in something that takes my mind off the situation but at night, when all is blank like the darkness that surrounds me and I am finally at the bed, inactive, all these thoughts come rushing in.


Looking inwards to probe my fundamental flaws, I see that I take a leap on trusting people more than what they deserve and that has eventually left my heartbroken. This optimistic heart of mine doesn’t refuse to give up and it is very much hopeful that someday it will find someone who appreciates my core values.


I listen to so many life-changing stuff – I read them in books, I get them for free during intellectually stimulating conversations and by listening to people who are smarter than me, people who possess much more life experience. And in those moments, I seem to grasp the meaning of it. I question myself about the characteristics of those habits, introspect my behavior in daily life and if I see the discrepancy, I decide how am I going to change from tomorrow. But when I try to remember those stuff on a random day when I feel uninspired or my actions let me down, I hardly seem to recall any of it. There is nothing but obscurity that prevails and the thoughts are miscible fluids than chunks of consolidated solids. I wonder what was the meaning of giving all those time to those activities? Does it amount to anything? Like it’s said about knowledge, I think, inspiration also works in the hindsight.


Does it matter? I have been asking this a lot lately, not in the act of play but in the afterthoughts.


There are instances when you realize that you are not in your senses. You can very well sense it – weird, isn’t it? And although you feel like making the situation better, you unintentionally keep making it worse. You seem to have no control and what comes out of your mouth adds fuel to the fire. While the intentions might have been very much the opposite, your actions further sabotage the dynamics.


What is it? What am I doing? This just doesn’t stop. One after the other, it keeps on coming. The same thing. The same stuff. Repetition. Loop whose end is not within my sight. How long will it continue? How long would I have to keep going through the tedious process again and again? Even though I’m progressing, all the work seems futile because it’s no longer discernible. It takes a toll on me mentally, seeping into my veins, clogging up my neurons, putting a mental haze in front of my eyes.


I am tired of telling people to do something or to act in a way derived from my own experience but they go ahead and do whatever they want to anyway, with total disregard to my feelings. As if I don’t matter at all. Am I so insignificant?


I feel like the concept of love evades me. I don’t even know what is it anymore? For a better part of life, I have believed in it diligently but then the circumstances sometimes dwindle even your core beliefs. It feels like trying to hold onto a fistful of sand, slowly dripping out of the crevices. But I keep wishing that I would hold onto at least one grain. How do I restore, reinstate this belief which is the fundamental reason for my existence?

Hold me close and hold me fast,

The magic spell you cast, 

La vi en rose;

Give your heart and soul to me

And life will always be

La vi en rose.

Salvaging Sanity

As of this moment, when the situation seems stable and I look back with a clear mind on everything I wrote above, I recall some of the actions that helped me cope up with them effectively. Consider this to be the sequel of everything I had mentioned in my ‘Lessons in Failing‘ post. The difference is that this post is more concerned about external factors while it was more about personal shortcomings in ‘Lessons in Failing’.

First of all, it’s decluttering and detachment. In the moments of insanity, we get so much entangled with the problem, fog our mind with all sorts of bubbling thoughts that we hardly see the solution lying in vicinity. It’s important to know what’s the most important thing to deal with at any particular moment. We fool ourselves when we think we can handle multiple things at once. The concurrent mental processes only divide the resources, so it’s essential to eliminate things that are not part of the pressing problem at hand. Keep them in dormant mode for a while till this one is resolved.

The ability to practice rationality is the highest of virtues. To be able to communicate (and be understood just as well) and to understand things from an objective perspective makes everything a whole lot easier. This is tougher than you realize, I’m telling you.

Also, calm the heck down. Things inevitably get worse when we get restless. Hence, request (if there are people involved) to leave it up to you if you are the one to solve it. Ignore things that prevent you from exercising that calmness. Breathe. It’s weird to think about how often do we forget to take deep breaths and think things through.

Identify things that excite you. Things that give you strength when you need it. Things that show you the vision of a better tomorrow. It has to be something larger than life. Yes. For once in life, devote yourself in pursuance of a goal that feels extremely hard to reach yet it gets you stoked every single day. For example, my fascination with space has always helped me in putting things into perspective which is basically making it insignificantly small and hence solvable.

The right people will eventually come. You will have discussions you always wanted. You will laugh and scream and gasp in awe. Things will start to fall in place, maybe not all of them because it’s a never-ending battle but that’s ok. This is me saying from the other side.

Just remember, if you find yourself in the valley, keep going because there is a peak too. And after that peak, maybe you would descend into another valley so that you return to exploring the depths again. Being at the peak for long may blind you because then all ridges, plains, and valleys merge into one. The mantra of ‘everything in moderation‘ is very much applicable everywhere.

And then there would be this one person who will make it all worth it. All the pain, all the struggles, all the fights, all the mysteries & crazy coincidences would confluence to place you at this juncture you will forever be grateful for. It would be a lot easier then onwards because then you would have someone by your side you can call a companion. You would be understood for who you truly have been. You would realize that you were not insane in thinking this way or believing in things that you always have believed in because sanity is not statistical.

Things will make more sense, actions would have more meanings and all these would be possible if you just keep going. It may take years but you have to keep moving patiently. Stagnation is crippling. It’s like putting a fence around yourself. You may call it your happy place but then you have restricted the things to come to you as much as you have stopped reaching out to them. Move because you can.


Author’s Note – This is my 100th post on this blog. Yep! It’s a century. It took me 6 years to reach here. It’s been a crazy journey so far and feels like I’m just getting started. For the next venture, I would like to take more risks in terms of things I write about, put forth my bold views and take up challenges that give greater value to my writing. Let’s see how it pans out. Till the next time, godspeed! 🚀

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Decoding Moddison

It all started one night at 3 about a month ago. Three words repeated in a musical rhythm so as to resemble the distant calling of one’s own subconsciousness.

Takes me away, takes me away, takes me away…

It wasn’t someone humming in the next room or singing on their balcony celebrating this summer night. Instead, it was inside, trapped and here to stay till resolved. What is it exactly? I had to find out. But you see I was not alone in this quest.

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So, this is where we start. 1957. Not the year or maybe the year. Maybe it’s the lakeside home address or the supermarket on 1957 Avenue Rd. Could it be that? Whatever it is, it’s the lead we have to follow. You see, this is an excerpt from a bigger story although just as complete in its own right. I didn’t know it first.

Is that it? There is a beginning and there is an end and it feels logical throughout.

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Or is there more to it? I had this intuition, a gut feeling that said there was and my search should go on. I read further and there were scattered hints pointing towards its possibility. And that brought me to ‘Moddison’ by Milo Greene – an epitome of the audio-visual symphony which is bound to leave you mesmerized.

Directed by Chad Huff for Milo Greene’s self-titled album, Moddison takes you on a metaphorical journey of a writer’s struggle with his story through an interplay of reality and fiction. To tie it to a single perception would be naivety because it’s brilliant subtlety leaves room for multiple interpretations.

Before we move further, here’s a question that’s been bugging me for years –

In this world of ~7.7 billion people, how probable is it to conceive an idea totally unique?

The premise is simple. You think of something that’s never been thought and execute it from scratch. Starting from square one, you move up the ladder without any past references.

My diverse work experience has made me realize how every new idea has a certain predecessor to it. We essentially stand on the shoulder of giants (so it’s said) which let me tell you, is made up of big monuments achievements and small incremental improvements. They are not as whole as such. Every irreversible reaction comprises of infinitesimal reversible steps and it is nearly impossible to track where exactly did the transition happen. And more importantly, what guarantees that someone else hasn’t thought of it?

Why do I ask it now? Well, 2 years ago, I thought of something similar. A love story, all musical with nothing but ambient sound for transitions. Non-linear storytelling that plays with subtlety. Minimal characters and the eyes show more than their actions. Hazy B-rolls, flashbacks, amazing romantic chemistry and a drama of everyday life that yields a tight narrative.

Watching Moddison made me realize if I had been my best version of a writer, this is what it would have turned out to be. I never completed the story, for one there was always this uncertainty of it ever getting made into a video. Also, I couldn’t make up my mind to hold up to the crazy expectations I had for the characters.

What if you fall in love with the character you are writing?

No, it’s not just an infatuation or sustained limerence. It’s thousands of words about her, countless hours of imagining her in scenarios, visiting real places in her company, road trip, dip in the lake, running through woods, sitting on the couch beside the fireplace, carefully crafting her doll face through your typewriter and choreographing a dance through pencil, intimate moments of embracing her character so as to live through it – you lady, you take my heart away.

But gradually she evades your control, takes over the senses and starts overshadowing rest of the story. You cannot develop other characters because now it’s all about her. You are aware of her fictional identity yet her actions affect you in a real way. What do you do? Do you avert your mind? Do you confront the distraction? Do you change the settings so she becomes like the rest? Do you write her unpredictable end in the midst of the story?

Remember, it started with you hitting the road to be on a journey of quintessential search for a character which will infuse life into the story you had been unable to write. You meet someone on the way, not exactly the one you needed but certainly an inspiration. Some physical characteristics transfer over and an alternate story is spun. You two meet at a store and then all the aforementioned things happen. The problem started when you wrote yourself into the story.

Now there exists a fictional version of yourself indistinguishable from your reality. The intention of ending a character has to transfer into certain physical action in the fictional version. The inevitable happens and it’s not completely your fault. She is detached and dead. It’s the end but she needs a proper burial, doesn’t she? Where do you go? The first place where you had gone when you two first met for real – the lakehouse. You are on the journey on the same road, in reality, restless like before, seeing similar things on the side as if the search is on once again for a new character with the end of previous one and the cycle continues till you break of it.


Why did I choose a video released almost 7 years ago to write about today? Did it really deserve a separate post? Well, apart from all the things that are incredible about ‘Moddison’, it also re-affirmed this esoteric co-dependency of music and visuals for me and how their symbiotic enhancement leads to an interwoven fabric of metaphysical symphony.

I remember watching one of Peter Mckinnon’s video about his tour to Epidemic Sound’s office and one of the creators told him that he usually watches video clips in order to make music. That’s exactly the opposite of what we, as video makers, do. While shooting a scene, there is usually a tune in our head which guides the shot – the camera angle, lighting, transitions, duration – everything. But that’s not how it’s done in a professional setting (for the most part). Clips are shot and then the music is made accordingly which was a surprising revelation to come out of my previous internship and watching tons of behind-the-scenes on YouTube.

May was filled with amazing music discoveries and my playlist grew subsequently. From The Oh Hellos‘ lyrical interpretation of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in Dear Wormwood to Maggie Rogers recounting her Alaska journey but Aditi Dot takes the cake. There are just so many but once again I would like to express my astonishment over the immeasurable breadth and unfathomable depth of music that exists – there is something for every mood and every emotion. It can evoke emotions that weren’t there, to begin with. Music is the purest medium of expression and it just so happens that we are transcended to a moment of detachment where the line between reality and dreams is blurred.

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The perks of hanging around in the right corner of YouTube. Also, the recommendation algorithm has got surprisingly good recently.

Celestial Happiness

I have a vivid memory of being absolutely content, the most peaceful and oddly happy I have been in recent times, even though for an ephemeral moment. And all of this because of an app.

Who would have thought?

We all have, on an average, 70-80 apps on our phone, right? For how many of them can you say that it gives you joy? Apparently not many, I assume. In fact, our experience has been contrary. Well, I have one and I’ll tell you why.

But for you to appreciate the intention, we would have to do a little time travel. Ready?

It’s sometime around December. Winter is at its full swing and the wall clock is ticking 2:35 AM. I have just finished my work for the day and put my laptop on hibernate. I got off my chair, ready to sleep. But you can see something is not right. There is just so much unease. I have had a series of painful days, had frequent dates with disappointments and it reflects on my weary face.

It’s pin-drop silence of the night. There is no sound except occasional barking of the street dogs and a spinning fan. Yeah! a fan and no, it’s not here or anywhere near my home (who would operate a fan in this chilly weather?). It’s a distant wave, carried over by the wind, attenuated to its last breath, now barely standing to make an ambient sound. Contrary to this, my mind is in complete turmoil, totally chaotic.

Remember any movie scene where everything is going calm and serene and suddenly there are noisy flashbacks and then back to the present. Yeah! that’s how it would have looked if you could see me and then inside my head back to back.

There is my younger brother, sleeping on the bed. The cutest little being. I lie down beside him and hold his tiny, warm hand in mine. I am wishing, I am praying for it to give me the strength to pass through yet another night like it always does. I can’t sleep because I don’t deserve it. And like most of us do, I open my phone and there is this notification –

Screenshot_2019-03-13-10-19-12-305_com.miui.home

So there is this football field-sized, 100 billion dollars incredible machine floating above us. For those who don’t know, it’s called the International Space Station and it is equipped with crazy high-definition cameras which beam back live view of our planet.

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International Space Station (ISS) 

I open the notification and there it is, our gigantic blue planet, rotating, and revolving (although not apparent in this frame), going on its course like it has for past billions of years. There is no music. In fact, there is no sound at all. There are no laughs or cries or screams or calls that make it there. All there is, are the breathtaking views as it passes over the Pacific Ocean, then ice covered Antarctica, the illuminated countries in the night time and lands covered in clouds in the day. It’s wheezing past over them faster than we humans could ever go here on earth.

I keep watching this stream unfold for minutes and suddenly my frantic gaze starts searching for something, almost subconsciously. The ISS was passing overhead my region and so I thought, even if the cameras might not resolve me and other people from that distance, I should be able to spot my problems.

Yeah! my problems. Apparently, my worries felt much bigger than the physical self, so it must be here, somewhere.

No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find it. How insignificant were they that I couldn’t see them from just 400km above?

And just like that, I felt a peculiar calm within. I was neither laughing nor smiling but I was oddly happy. It was different than all the other time I have been happy and this made me question if there was any equivalence between the two.

Gradually, I transformed into an amorphous being and blended in with the airglow that wraps the earth. I was the aurora over the northern hemisphere, dancing with the charged particles trapped in earth’s magnetic field. Then I broke free and got along with that tiny Hydrogen atom floating indefinitely in space. I was infinite.


There are two ways to reach the stars –

  1. You make an elaborate scenery inside your head. You fill it with the planets, stars, asteroids, comets and tiny little ions. You can make the binary system like two friends holding hands spinning around the circle, rejoicing. You can eliminate the bad stuff like the black holes, the pulsars, and all the explosions. There is no reason for it to be vacuum so you can fill it whatever you want – air, candies or your favorite fragrance (subsequently particles). You can hop on the cloud carpet and whizz past the galactic course and interplanetary garden. You can have it all. All you have to do is dream.
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A still from the movie ‘5cm per second’

  1. You dream, you imagine, you study and realize that it doesn’t just have to be inside your head. The secrets of the universe are guarded by certain physical laws whose key lies with precise mathematical calculations. The tryst for exploration has propelled humanity to venture into unknown and we must continue that endeavor.

Mind you, neither of them is easier than the other. If you adopt any one of them, you might as well be true to it.

I get to do both. By night, I dream of the world beyond and by day, I work on bringing those dreams to reality. Two worlds blend together. My dreams were grounded in reality to begin with. And that way, the stars feel all the more close.

Desperately, reaching recklessly toward the sky. Launching that massive object in search of something, almost overwhelmingly far in the distance.

I have felt my celestial bliss and superlunary happiness being an earthling. I have seen the worlds, just like our own, which are not so apparent to my “human” eyes. I have caught glimpses of the distant galaxies playing with Hubble’s images. I have traversed through interstellar space and looked back to our pale blue dot and realized – there is no reason for all the emotions to be confined on this fragile planet. It is so unfair this way.


Additional Notes –

  1. I almost completed this post once which I had been writing for the past 4 days but then because of the technical glitz with WordPress editor, the entire post got deleted. I couldn’t retrieve it even after multiple attempts. So, I rewrote this version from all the things I remembered.

In a way, this post is a tribute to an app but also so much more. Also, I don’t use ‘ISS HD Live‘ often so as to not overwhelm myself.

  1. The feature image is of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II performing the first untethered spacewalk during the mission STS-41-B. I wonder if he was scared to float into oblivion or the happiest he has ever been. Did he feel his celestial happiness?

  2. While we are on the topic, something interesting happened a few weeks ago. On March 2nd, SpaceX launched its inaugural Dragon2 capsule on DM-1 Mission. This spacecraft is meant for astronauts which brings up a new era of human spaceflight. On Sunday, March 3rd, it was about to dock with the ISS. I was watching the entire live stream and the docking almost felt like a scene from the Interstellar. At that instant, I knew I had to make this and so I did –

https://twitter.com/OrangeDurito/status/1102184114600333313

I posted this tweet in reply to Elon Musk’s tweet. Soon enough, it started gaining momentum and then I went to sleep, not knowing what I would wake up to. Overnight, my tweet exploded. There were hundreds of comments, thousands of retweets and my phone notifications kept going off. Senpai Musk himself has retweeted it and for the whole next day, I was kind of trending on the nerd Twitter 🙂

It was kind of distracting but I also realized how much power does a small creation hold. People got to realize how a sci-fi movie, released just 5 years ago, has been turned into reality by genuine human effort. We are living in revolutionary times indeed.

Pedaling Around

A clunky metallic sound echoed in the abandoned shed…

My stay at home has been transient ever since I left for my intermediate studies, then for college and now work. I have been to tons of different places all over the country since then, so much so that I forgot what the comfort of my home felt like. Obviously, counting my stupid stupid decision of not visiting home for one and half years would be the top factor. Have I written about that before?

Oh man! It was tough, to say the least. After my winter break in the junior year when I was about to leave my home, I said to my mother that the next time I come back, I would have achieved something significant. I was filled with a sense of purpose – my junior year internship was coming up (which I had yet to find) and then the placement seasons would begin. There was also this startup idea I had been keeping aside for years – all the real deal.

Melancholy started to dawn on me during the summers when the hostel was once again filled with silence and I was one of the few who had stayed back. Once again, I was bitten by the only thing I have been running away all my life. Things did improve afterward and that period proved to be transformative in a big way.

Anyway, the time was never succinct to relive those old memories. Home became more of a halt for the onward journey. I was rushing, for one there were always those projects to complete and secondly, now that I had seen a different world, enjoyed the change of scenery and tasted different food (home food is the best), how could I be tied down to this old place? Amazing, how quickly you come to your senses in your 20s.

For 6 years, it has rested at this place.

I removed the sheet half-covering it and took a quick glance of its overall health.

My bicycle.

It is covered in dust, tied in cobwebs, eroding in rust. The tires have gone flat – probably because the air leaked over time. Brakes are working fine but the chain has come off, so I put it on. After washing and greasing, the ride of my choice is ready for a round around my hometown.

It’s Sunday afternoon – my favorite time for a stroll. The sun overhead is signaling somewhere around midday. The dogs are catching their breath, perspiring through their tongue on this autumnal weather. People sitting on the chairs, soaking, basking in this comforting noon, reading newspapers. There aren’t any dumper trucks on the road, so I’m not worried about the dust. It’s not a little thing I’m making a fuss about – my hometown is surrounded by coal mines, so dust is a serious problem here.

At home, maa is finishing her daily chores and papa is in the garden – his favorite pass time activity on Sundays. He has asked me to pick up some flowering plants from the market. Things are moving slowly here as if coming to a halt. There is no commotion, no traffic noise, no shouting people and no loudspeaker blasting gibberish in the air. In fact, this part of the world has never been in a rush anyway.

I take my bicycle out of the door and do a quick trial runs – you know, just going some distance, then taking a turn, coming back to where you started and then taking the turn again to go the same spot where you had turned. It’s circle but elongated. Umm…I would say more like a rounded rectangle if you really want to visualize it. One final turn and then I am off.

Disclaimer – Minor bumps are ubiquitous here especially on the streets so I would omit that throughout. Although, you should know that they are there nonetheless.

The whirling wheels, rubber tires rubbing against the concrete road and, chains hitting those gear teeth on the push of the paddles…

The houses on both sides don’t go beyond two floors. They rarely have a terrace. Some are more like huts but these old cottages feel so refreshing today. Ah! how I got accustomed to the buildings & skyscrapers so fast. There are a lot of turns, one lane merging into another until you come out of the main road. On the way, I pass through the home of my once ‘best friend‘ whom I haven’t seen in years. I have moved on from a lot of people I had held dearly in some phase of my life and people have done the same to me as well. It took me some time but I have made peace with this fact now.

All the shops are on the other side of the road. From what I remember, not much has changed. Yeah, one general store in front has converted into a xerox shop, although I still prefer the old one, few meters away on the left. Beside that, is the old saloon. The barber identified me at once when I went there last Sunday. In this tiny town, identity is not something you keep to your own. Everyone knows everyone else.

You can never miss the fleet of snacks vendors on the pushcarts – samosa, jalebi, pakode, panipuri, chaat, cutlets – all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies being made and sold on the street. There has been a significant increase in their numbers lately and that means more options & better quality for us. It’s still afternoon so they are preparing their materials in advance for the evening when the whole place would be swept off with people for Sunday market.

I move further towards the old temple – one of many like everywhere in this country. It has always been the same and occasional renovations haven’t brought much change. The same old priest, after the morning offerings, is now sitting on the doorstep reading his scriptures. The air here is more fragrant because of all the incense sticks and flowers. Housewives usually visit the temple after they have finished their domestic chores.

I see the florist casually sprinkling water on the plants to keep them fresh. He keeps a display of all kinds of seeds, saplings, some plants with flowers blossoming. I picked marigold and jasmine for my garden and he delicately put it in a wrapper. There is more to this stretch but it would be a mere repetition of the elements I have already told you about. Instead, let me take you further down the main road which I had crossed earlier.

It’s the one which brings me to home from the city’s railway station. That side of the road has been traversed countless times but the other side has equally been trodden in the past. If you keep driving on this road for 4km and not take a turn anywhere, you would ultimately reach my school. This part has seen my morning rush and the afternoon panting and I have seen it changing from calm to chaos. Over a thousand trips of those uneven terrains which somehow always felt like having more ups than downs. Gravity played with us within and outside classrooms.

Somehow, I was always late for school. Even in exams. Then I went to college and there I was late for my classes too – early morning, afternoon, evening or even night classes. I joined work and I started going late there as well and I will tell you why. I was never late on the first day or even the second or even a few days after, for that matter. It takes some time to gauge how much I could push the official mark for a troublefree inclusion. I have always felt guilty to slip into this habit and reprimanded myself, after all, punctuality is a good trait to have. But in all rationality, you are late for things not because you are always at fault but also because that thing doesn’t truly draw you towards it. You are not excited enough to actually want it ahead of time.

If there are vehicles on the road, it has to have service shops, right? For me, it was that tiny bicycle shop – basically a hut where a weary mechanic would sit in his dirty grey shirt mending bicycles the entire day. No companion, no distraction and no regard to the traffic on the road, it was only him playing with his tools. I sometimes used to halt there to fill in my bicycle tires. It was harsh and really not an enjoyable addition to my already short breath.

The bank is a little further down on the other side of the road while the post-office is on the lane beside the bicycle shop – two of my frequently visited destinations apart from school. I actually went to the post-office on Friday as well. It was in the same desolate state – same letterbox, same counter and the same people on the other side. Bank was a bit critical in a sense there isn’t any designated place to park my bicycle. It is literally on the side of the road, always filled with people, so I had to be in the line and also be on the lookout for my bicycle.

There is a shortcut to my home from the bank. Remember, I went the market way earlier and then took the road and visited the bicycle shop? Well, the journey goes full circle from here. This time, it runs through the park on one side and a big playground on the other (the only one we have got here). The park is just for the namesake because it’s tiny, one half of it is filled with trees and no one really visit there. There is a pool in the middle which doesn’t have water and is now filled with stones. Its circumference is grazed by plum trees whose branches overhang on the boulevard.

I used to play cricket here – a sport which I don’t follow at all now but is basically considered a religion in India. Every Sunday after 11AM, sneaking past angry glances of my father, I was there inebriated on the spirit of this awesome sport, intoxicated on the mere taught of winning the bet of a meager sum. It was enough for us. Playing with a different set of people every week whom I hardly knew – childhood didn’t know how to act like strangers. I had to be back by 12:30 so as to not arouse suspicion.

On the other side, the big ground is where the adults played. We couldn’t have played there if they were playing, so we played in the park. Corporate tournaments happen here sometimes. The only Annual Sports Meet I remember about my primary school happened here as well. Today, no one is playing there. It’s all empty. Well, things had started changing when I was in middle school. People started moving out for education and jobs like I did while new kids were hardly keen on physical sports. Maybe some are but they are not to be seen today. Anyway, I had all the time to ride around the perimeter once and then I was on my way home.

Ooh! one little geeky thing – you see, when you drive past the park with enough speed, the air that reaches to your ear through the fences (or the slots in the boundary wall) would make a strange sound due to differential stream. It’s like beat (interference pattern due to two sounds of different frequencies interacting with each other) which always fascinated me. I still haven’t found a proper explanation for that sound and this is the closest I could get from what I have studied.

Now that I live in different places, people often ask me where I am from. All I tell them is the name of the city and never this part of my homeland. How much I wish I could show them this.


Song Highlight –

Kid Francescoli is an electro-pop music project of French origin. I first came to know about it when Casey Neistat used one of its songs at the end of his vlog. I was instantly hooked to that tune and searched for it online. I have come across plenty of amazing music videos and this one stands out even among them. As a person who sometimes dabbles into graphic design, a similar aesthetic being used in a music video certainly gripped my attention.

When The Odds Are Trolling

Have you ever taken a stand on the situation and shouted – “how the heck did this happen?” or sighed – “huh! what were the odds?” or, or frowned – “this is not what I expected”? Well then, you have got a company here.

My friends from the spaceflight community would know this –

18th December 2018 (UTC timing) – With 5[1] back to back rocket launches scheduled, this day was going to be written in history. The entire December has been a party for us space nerds but this was like a double bonanza. It has actually started feeling like we have ushered into a new era of space race.

But, but, the lauchapalooza turned into scrubapalooza when 4 out of 5 launches got scrubbed for 4 different reasons.

SPACEX – Falcon 9 with USAAF GPS-III 2 satellite – Out of family reading on first stage sensors

Blue Origin New Shepard with NASA Payload – Ground infrastructure issue

Arianespace – Soyuz CS01 mission – Bad weather conditions

ULA Delta IV Heavy with NROL-71 satellite – Scrubbed due to high winds

ISRO GSLV Mk-II with GSAT-7A satellite – Launched half hour later than first scheduled time but within the launch window

 

Huh! what were the chances of that? Let’s do a little bit of maths here, should we?

A rocket can either launch or stay hold on a particular day. So 2 possibilities.

Summing it over 5 independent launches, the probability of that all of them would be scrubbed is –

(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2}) = \frac{1}{32}

Ok, things are little weird with binary possibilities because compliment of \frac{1}{2} is also \frac{1}{2} and in any case, the probability would be \frac{1}{32} . For accuracy sake, we should actually take Probability of Go into account for each of those launches. The result would be an even smaller fraction considering weather wasn’t much of the issue for three of them. In a sense, nature actually picked the option which was the least probable.

At the time of writing this post, SpaceX has attempted its GPS-III launch for the 4th time in 5 days and it has been scrubbed again. By the time I would be posting this, hopefully, they will have a successful launch.

But this wasn’t the inspiration behind this post (although, it certainly contributed to some content and an interesting start, in my opinion). The topic first came into my mind at one cold morning of early December when I was standing at the train station. It was an overnight journey and I had another train to catch a few hours later. So I separated myself from the crowd and got to the waiting area. While standing there, I looked around and suddenly it struck me. The scenery felt rather odd.

I have been to that place numerous times before but that day it felt like being caught in the wee hours when it was still getting ready. I do accept that it was more of an internal feeling than an external cause yet it got me thinking – what are the odds of me witnessing it like this? It wasn’t even a planned trip.

Later that day, I took the most defeated walk of my recent memory. A plethora of emotions turned, twisted, collided and merged inside my head as my feet traced the road which stretched to eternity. I felt totally helpless, for now, I held a secret I couldn’t have divulged. On the other side, the usual place of my retreat wasn’t the same because of a sudden turn of events. I wished I could be a recluse, just for that day or the day later. Yet at that moment, I knew, I was the only strong bond holding all loose ends together.

You know those voices at the back of your head which shout the least favorable but probable outcomes? The one we shut down because either we don’t wanna face it or those we think are irrelevant – chances of later being less. What’s the way of safeguarding yourself? Would you turn and run away or would it take it head on as it comes?

There have been far too many such instances recently which led me to re-evaluate the odds of mere speculations. In a sense, this entire year has been like that. Facing the least expected. Fighting the odds which knocked on my door. I was cornered into my little space, confined in seclusion until I turned, looked it straight into the eye and decided to fight. Let’s see what all I can remember for the recap –

I started this year still working in a so-called core company. It was a well-respected Govt. job and I am grateful to it for giving a start to my professional career but it sucked the soul out of me. I constantly felt like I was downplaying myself but it paid well because of which I was finally able to finish my student loan within a year of graduating – that was my biggest relief (people spend years buried in debt). I started out at one place got transferred to another place in the second quarter and finally, after months of scrutiny, I resigned. Seriously, don’t get stuck in a shitty job and get out while you can. Life is too short but weigh your liabilities carefully before you take the risk.

I got a coveted fellowship but took a conscious decision of not taking it. It was after I took a hit of the quarter-life crisis. Relaxed, enjoyed with my bio-design buddies and traveled to a new place to stay with my friend while I applied to different jobs there. It felt like a tug-of-war between my fate and destiny. Things didn’t materialize according to my expectation but settling with alternatives meant neutralizing the risk I had taken. For two months, I fought with the question of ‘what actually that I should be focusing on?‘. Somewhere in between the process, I realized, I needed to re-calibrate my strategy to be able to do things I really want to do. Specialization is for ants but one should develop a strong core-skill first. Other things can be outsourced.

Image result for loving science explosm net

Sometimes you find your answer in unexpected places. Courtesy – Explosm.net

Owning to my responsibility of an elder brother, I came back to look after my brother’s preparation for upcoming exams while I turned my focus towards building a portfolio & planning for graduate studies. I realized that the break would be a little longer because application deadlines approached faster than I could have caught up. On the bright side, I have got time to gain research experience (although it has to be at the mercy of professors I have been mailing). This break has been a bitter-sweet phase but I got to consolidate my future career plans.

Somewhere in February, my school friend called me to talk about this idea about a 360-degree travel experience platform that he has been working on. I liked it and went on-board. For the next 2 months, we worked most part of the nights. We had a working product ready and hence, triplou.com was born.

Working on a startup besides full-time hectic job was a challenge and it certainly took a toll on my physical health. But it was all worth it when we saw the hits counter rising. We entered into few startup competitions in hope that it would bring us recognition (the cheapest and least expensive method of gaining credibility). Didn’t make it to some even after hefty write-up and a concise pitch-deck. Well, that’s how these B-Plan competitions go but it doesn’t lessen our worth. We are now in the finals of one – looking forward to it.

I met my family once in January when my brother’s son was born and then again when we celebrated my parents’ 25th anniversary. I took my niece for shopping and brought her favorite dress with my own money. Held my brother’s daughter like she is a part of me while she slept in my lap – the absolute best feeling of my entire life.

It was also a time to look at relationships from a critical perspective when I understood how each of them rests on a fragile delicate balance. The string is tightened by compromises made on both sides. Also, when we start romanticizing someone, somewhere along the line, it ceases to be about the person and start to be more about the very idea of that person being in our life. It’s not worth it if it is not reciprocated and you should rather spend time on things that make you special. Some people are non-linear humans after all. This story also inspired the plot for my upcoming short film ‘That Thing About Lost Chances‘.

The test also covered the syllabus of friendship when my best friend and I took the opposite stand on an issue which led him to pivot into a totally different career field. Felt like it was for all the wrong reasons and I tried my hardest to convince him. He later came back to his senses and found a rational reason behind his decision. That was certainly a difficult period to deal with but I learned that you don’t easily give up on people you love. You simply can’t.

On the other side, our WhatsApp group ‘Kerala Expedition‘ felt silent for the most part. It was occasional buzz ground but went on frequent hiatuses. It has started dawning on me how our lives have taken different turns after college. We still haven’t made our trip to Kerala, hence the name continues. All four of us are now living in four different cities preparing to pursue four different careers (the odds man!). We didn’t get together at one place even once but I met two of them when I went on the Bangalore trip.

On the creative front, the first half was rather slow and I don’t recall any significant even worth mentioning. By March, I was finally able to churn out my first video of the year -‘The New Kind‘. I made it as a channel trailer promising more frequent videos with more unique stories. It peaked up the momentum afterward and I was all geared but it has come to an absolute halt by the end of the year. Tons of footage has still not made it to the editing room.

I had planned to make a video series titled ‘The Job Experience‘ for which I have been shooting for the past one and half years. I wrote the script, organized the footage and I had nearly finished editing the first episode but then I had to give it a rest. My focus was shifted for the above-stated reasons so I can say that the place and time haven’t been favorable. It’s still in post-production and now scheduled for next year.

For the first time, I got to collaborate with my friend who is an excellent cinematographer to edit his travel video. It felt absolutely amazing editing those beautiful shots and the entire video came out really good. Finally, I was done editing my sister’s wedding video after she continued pestering me for a year and I gifted it to her on Raksha Bandhan. I also shot sort of a documentary on a person in whom I saw a reflection of my own story but I couldn’t edit that too. We went to some exotic places in the land obscura to shoot. Face that These are secluded places which not many people know about, made the experience even more exciting

some

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This lake right here is in a bear-prone forest in the middle of nowhere.

Blog posts which were highly unpolished in the first three quarters finally started taking shape in the fourth, There are still some incomplete ones which I need to finish. My writing grew more and more personal and started piling up in my personal notes rather than ending on this blog. Twitter became my micro-diary but some things are still better left unsaid. I also posted more on my tech blog than the previous year but not to my satisfaction. My reading this year, which was only confined to articles on random sites, finally returned toward novels as I got to complete a few books. I missed my yearly goal by a large margin though and honestly, it sucks!

On the consumption side, I only remember finishing my long-awaited fourth and fifth season of ‘Silicon Valley‘ and now think it is the best tech-comedy ever written. I got hang of Reddit way too much in the first half but got in my senses in second. Later, I got obsessed with videos about ‘Exploration‘ – from Antarctic sea to Amazon forests, hidden civilizations and the world beyond our blue marble. It was a manifestation of the phase I was going through. I looked up for things which would help me become far-sighted and not get bothered by immediate circumstances. It rekindled my tryst with space.

I also watched a lot of SNL sketches (I mean a lot). Some excellent channels were added to my subscription list which taught me a completely new way of looking things. Peter Mckinnon continued to be my push to get things done while discovering Everyday Astronaut & BPS.space is certainly one of the best things that came out of my otherwise random YouTube surfing. I think I teared up watching Rory’s Lake Life 5.

Music continued to be a big part of my existence. It is the voice of my conscience. I ventured to explore even more genres and worldly music this year- not just confining myself to songs I can understand. Music transcends comprehension. I looked into the heart of techno through Charlotte de Witte & trance music through Armin Van Buuren, fell in love with lofi hip-hop – all thanks to Cubic Radiation!

It is mostly people who make up for off-screen experiences and this year, I got to meet some really great ones who accompanied me on this journey – from the toughest guy I knew who broke down when the time came for us to depart to the apprentices who came forward with all their heart to make my stay less miserable at an unknown place. I particularly remember one guy I met through my colleague who wanted me to make a dance audition video for him. He worked as a janitor in the day but slogged his night hours for dance practice because it was his passion. It was my absolute privilege to oblige and a great experience to count for before I left that place. I met several other inspirational persons who showed how talent nurtures among adversity and constraints.

In conclusion, a major part of this year was spent on daydreaming, finding means of escape. I started detaching from things that were near and longed for those which were so distant. Lessons were learned the hard way as I wandered through another year of adulthood without a guide. Let me tell you the crux of it all[2].

Getting what you want, how you want it, whenever you want it, is about three very simple things –

  1. Find something you want
  2. Find out how to get it
  3. Get it.

Only you can get the trolling odds to turn into your favor.


Note – I know this post went quite long but eh! Hope I could pack some lessons in those words. Wish you all a very happy new year in advance. May your wishes come true and you achieve greater heights. Have a great one! 🙂

Footnotes –

1. If we count ISRO’s GSLV Mk-II launch early morning next day.

2. These are not my words but absolutely nails the lesson. I took it from one of Mio’s vlogs.

The feature image is that of Starman on a Tesla Roadster on his way to Mars. It was launched on Falcon Heavy, courtesy of SpaceX. Couldn’t have chosen a better image for my year in review.


Song highlight

This song is attached to a very personal memory of mine. Last year, while I was listening to this song, I actually lived it lyrics (see the odds here?). At that moment I had decided that I have to make a video on it. I had the entire storyboard in mind and I gave myself till this year’s Christmas. Well, that didn’t happen.

It was relatively easier to make videos in college because someone or the other would volunteer for the role. It has been so tough afterwards since I’m not doing it professionally. Anyway, this song is still on my list, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in this project, hit me up. Peace✌

Prize Unknown

More pressure I put on myself, more I seem to yield before my unwillingness.

What’s out there?

There are continuous clinks of the keyboard against the silent night and then just the silence until it is disturbed again by the continuous thuds of intermittent typing.

What do I seek?

There’s a story, larger than life, laying far beyond my reach. And I have parts of it, too many of them to make a comprehensive connection. Comprehension – yes! Wish I could dictate it to myself. Hearing over, making my own interpretation and gaining not loosing in translation. There is uncontainable blankness that extends as far as I see. On both sides, laying my sharp vision indistinguishable from its formidable blurriness. Zoom out.

As an engineer, I’m tempted to use equations. To find it out in the first place. Formulate it – an elegant relation of numbers and variables that would predict what I don’t see. Isn’t how it has been done so far? General theory of relativity, existence of gravitational waves or solar wind – it was all there on paper through maths, long before any of it were proven.

Maths has interesting ways of showing itself in our physical world. Fibonacci sequence, golden ratio, the ubiquitousness of π – so much so that we seem to believe it’s discovered no invented. But here I see too many variables to put diligently into a singular function that agrees with all my reality. If it isn’t a function, then we enter into the realm of alternate realities – too hard for me to verify. No, not that.

I have lost the concept of ‘impossible’ somewhere on the course of my discoveries that had me thrown myself into disbelief. Is it even possible? (let alone humanely possible) But it is and hence my loosening connection. I have been watching far too many documentaries about exploration, tracking down the precise point in recent history when mankind decided to venture beyond it’s perceived boundary.

I’m not interested in war. Not keen on learning about the greed to conquer territory. I’m fascinated by that inherent curiosity which led one to ask the very same question I am asking myself now, in ever so connected world. A simple question – what’s out there? and the unfailing endeavor, characteristic of humanity to entertain its curiosity.

The fear of unknown is subsided by the thrill of adventure. Adventure has uncertainty associated with it which more so fueled the inquisitiveness. The reason I talk about these grand discoveries is my will to see its manifestation over creation. This is the thing with me – the more power I wish to have over my creation, the more powerless it makes me feel as if it is embedded somewhere deep within. The same place where this curiosity arises from.

With that thrill of the chase, I move to the month of November. Don’t know if the prize is fictional as Terra Australis or as real as the Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt but farther I uncover this infinite mystery, a different kind of infinity it becomes. After all, not all infinities are equal. (another fun fact for the curious minds!)

Happy Halloween folks! Have a spooky one 🎃

 

Popsicle On The Ground Floor

It’s just few hours away that I pack my stuffs and leave the college. I’ve completed all my official procedures but there is this one thing left to do. Writing this bid-adieu blog post – my last post from college.

This blog has been one of the best things I did in college. Whenever I needed something to tell and didn’t want it to be limited to the audience I had physical interaction with, this blog presented itself as a sophisticated medium to vent out. Even after 3 years, it feels like beginning. I have a long way to go.

There are few major things on the top of my head to write in this blog post. Firstly about this abstract title I had put – ‘Popsicle On The Ground Floor‘. It’s hard to deduce any correlation of this childish rhetoric with anything I’m associated with. To be honest, it just popped in my head one day during my usual walk around the hostel area. As I tried to fit in to what I was going to write about, it gradually started making sense.

My (or better I put ours) whole college life was journey for a popsicle, a symbolism for reward in return for the efforts – popsicle of knowledge. We were made to believe that in order to get that reward, we would have to climb up, trudge and in fierce situations even crush others in order to be at the top. The trail of wisdom was transformed into a track for the rat race and it irked me often.

I was here to learn engineering, realize the importance of innovation and learn the art of real-life problem solving but this would have been nearly impossible had I confined myself within academic domains. All that most people worried about was marks and it infused a genuine hatred in me for the same.

Although I did find myself in the company of enthusiastic peers who were sincere towards their work. I learnt a lot from them. With time, I realized it was all within us throughout. Whatever we want to do in life, the itinerary for entire journey lie with us. But with the traditional path, the importance of a paper (degree) takes over the weight of our aspiration. Although I do comprehend the intangible value of our college education and I would be ever grateful to this place for providing me a compelling ambiance but the real reward was already there with us right from where we started and it will always be.

When I started my college, I told myself that the day I go out from here, I should be a person with no regrets. My entire endeavor here was channelized towards that one goal. But let me tell you this truth where the inconsistency lies – there will always be something small or big, major or minor, that will bother you till the last day or after. We as a naive being, venture into the pursuit of perfection but forget that ‘to err is human‘. It’s a good thing in a way that it shows you were not stagnant. It shows that you were striving to move forward and not remaining still.

One such thing that would always pinch me was to not put forward my entrepreneurial venture – Nightmeals. Yes this has been a secretive ordeal till date but I’m going to write about it openly today. Several times on this blog I have emphasized on the importance to publishing your work. When you attempt to do something revolutionary, you either succeed or you gain experience. But it can’t be called a success or failure if was never put it to test in the first place.

In our junior year, me and one of my friends decided to solve the huge cafeteria problem (food related problems in general) we had in hostels. We identified the pain points and devised a solution adorned with tons of features like opening/closing time, automatizing orders, collection & payment, etc. It was all there to reduce the unnecessary waiting time while your order was prepared or to cut down the hassle of coming all the way to the cafeteria only to find it closed. We felt the genuine requirement for it and Nightmeals was the perfect solution to assist students in this segment.

We were naive in terms of skills but the idea was well validated. Eventually we started working and things started coming together. We began to see our goal clearly and worked well beyond our usual academics & other occupations in order to achieve the traction. But what should have been otherwise extensive (and it would have if the entire thing lied under my control), the work kept on delaying.

The biggest mistake was to wait till it was all suited to launch. Just when we were ready, we screwed up with the code/database management and then our end semester examination approached. Afterwards we were churned up into vicious fight for placements. Things went downhill and the momentum lost was never regained. I’m planning to write about the tech specs of this fiasco on my tech-blog and the things I learnt from that, so keep eye on that.

The bottom line is that the idea that I cherished dearly for so long could never come to life. None one would know what shape it took, how it worked or even worse that it ever existed if not from the mere words written here. We lost it because we weren’t serious about it throughout. We eyed the end result but didn’t think about the journey thoroughly as like numerous wonderful ideas that die everyday somewhere. Takeaway – Discipline is the key.

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My regular readers would be well aware of my fascination with film-making in the last semester. I have embedded lots of my videos in my previous blog posts. If you haven’t checked out my YouTube channel, I would highly suggest you to (this blog is the only platform where I indulge in self promotion 😛 ). Here’s my latest video –

Making videos kept me really occupied during the last semester. Also it was a great way to escape from the eventual boredom that kicked in as the ending approached. Most of the times, I was thinking ideas for my next video, shooting, watching a lot of editing tutorials and later editing the footage. Initially most of the efforts were put in persuading my friends to be the subject of my videos but later, funny as it may sound, I started getting so many requests from my friends for casting them as my videos gained viewers’ attention.

Being in the college during a running semester meant that I would be spending most of the time within the campus (my room to be specific). This confinement of space gave me an opportunity to explore it from different perspectives. As is evident from my videos, all of them were shot in IITH except Vizag Diaries episodes.

Thing is, I seriously got into film-making and storytelling after shifting to my new dorm in permanent campus. I was in ODF earlier where our temporary campus was located, for 3 years. Now I wonder what all stuffs could I have done if I had started making movies right from my freshmen year. I did start learning cinematography there though (later borrowing DSLR camera from the seniors and photography club to learn) but again it’s about finishing and publishing. That happened only after shifting. So that’s that.

Few days back I went back there to get the no-dues signature from the workshop and I was able to picturize those familiar places as the lost canvas. I could have used them a little more. Although for my last visit this time, I didn’t forget to capture few footage as memorabilia – hostel area, old insti, the workshop and of course the foresty way to the workshop – and what better way for it for a film-maker than to make a film out of it. I’m currently working on the ODF montage but here’s the glimpse that I made using Google Photos –

https://goo.gl/photos/8hfig1cxg4DvVfBa7

As I sit in my room for the last time and write this post, I feel a bit nostalgic about leaving this place. This has been my home away from home for the past one year. All my creations, my critical decisions, my transformed self have come out of this – I have formed an everlasting memory. Leaving it does feel strange even though I’m very well aware of eternal legacy. This has been good, but it’s time to say good bye for even better tomorrow 🙂

Stay tuned. Peace! ✌