Jul 21, 2017

Mental illness awareness

I have been fighting depression for well over a decade and I have had personal and professional setbacks because of it. There have been many a times when I have felt like giving up. But I'm still here fighting, not just for myself but for others in my life who have stood by me.

I have been fortunate to have had the right people and the right intervention at the right stages. These include complex pharmacological interventions, lifestyle modifications, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and self-education. It took a lot of time building courage to accept myself, to share my burden with others, and to eventually sensitize others about mental illnesses. My battles have also given me strength to support others waging theirs, and it is this that now motivates me to carry on fighting my own.

At times such as this when the whole world is in shock and mourning after losing their idols, the best way to grieve is perhaps to simply look around you and accept, acknowledge, and support those fighting mental illnesses without ostracizing them.

May 8, 2017

Writing fiction - after a long time!

Despite my exposure to the various forms of science fiction, I remain on the side of not believing in fate or destiny, but there are times when things just seem to fall in place and even seem to happen for a reason. These are the same times when I have urges to simply stop anything I was doing and dwell in awe of the incredible ability of the human brain to assimilate all the streams of information flowing in, find seemingly relevant data, match them with patterns it is used to, associate them with emotions, etc., all in an effort to make the human feel rather special and consequential.

I did just this a few moments back. I reflected on the sequence of events that have unfolded, starting on Tuesday the second of May. I logged on my work PC as usual and was going about minding by business as usual when I got a message from my rather enthusiastic colleague.

“Hi, I hope you read in invitation for entries for Terribly Tiny Tales (TTTs) – for the editorial newsletter.”

“Yes, sort of.”

“Ummm, I hope you send in some.”

“I’ll try but I’m not sure if I’ll find time at work.”

“I have seen some of your captions on Instagram. I'm sure you can send in a dozen.”

“Thanks. I’ll try my best.”

I honestly did not have much confidence in writing fiction. My only previous attempt, almost a decade back, was when I was more active on this blog and participated in a challenge to write a short story. Then I thought I could pull it off. I tried and I failed - quite miserably. Unfortunately, or thankfully, I can’t find any traces for it on the blog.

Yet, I tried once more. I wrote The Visits within a few minutes. It’s not quite a TTT (50 to 100 words). I tried to write another one later in the day (Number Too), once again failing to quite meet the requirements for a TTT.

Since then I have written a few others, with only one qualifying as a TTT (Hi, Yes, No), with the others being either relatively longer yet short (Proof, Broken, Inspiration, Faith, Light, and Sparkle) or long enough as standalone short stories (June 16, 2100) or tentative first chapters in a book (Maybe I’ll See You Then and Cosmo).

I don’t quite know what changed to make me not suck at what I used to terrible at. Maybe it’s the books that I have read since then or maybe it is a pleasant by-product of all the discussions that I have had on the books as part of the book club that I’m a part of. Maybe it is the conversations that I have had with my writer friends (yes, I have a few of them). Or maybe it’s just that I have matured enough to string together something other than my experiences or opinion in a cohesive, interesting way. Whatever it is, it is fun!

To be honest, I’m quite surprised at what I was able to do in the six days or so since I restarted writing fiction. And I’m quite proud at what I have achieved. I have shared these with a few close friends, with most of them giving me positive feedback on most of my work.

I hope to continue writing. I will continue to share the shorter ones on Neverlast (my Tumblr). For the longer ones, I don’t know just yet. Maybe I’ll write sufficient stuff for a novel. :) Knock on wood.

Feb 25, 2017

Thank you - for all the inspiration

Considering I haven't updated the blog recently, I thought of cross-posting the following from a Facebook status update.
Almost three decades ago, my dad, who's a semi-professional mridangam player, gave me some lessons in mridangam, hoping that I would take it up as an instrument. I wasn't particularly interested in mridangam or Carnatic classical then and did not persist with it. Instead, I started tinkering with the Indian flute (inspired partly by my uncle, who wasa professional flautist) because I was more interested in popular music

Two decades ago, I picked up the guitar after being coaxed into it by my sister Vidhya Venkitachalam. Around then, I started jamming with my friend Sumit Pillai on drums, also picking up basic drumming concepts. After a couple of years with the guitar, I bought myself my first bass, starting my journey as a bass player. I have weilded the bass in most gigs since then, but I also have had some opportunities to perform at gigs on the guitar, shakers, and drums.

In the last few months, however, I have had the opportunity of re-exploring my "percussive" side, with several full-length gigs as a cajon/percussion player. I can't believe the kind of fun I have had doing that. Ironically enough, my cajon technique is rather similar to what my dad taught me for my mridangam (especially right hand), and I'm able to generate a rather unique snare sound with this technique. Talk about completing a circle!

At this time, I would like to thank the following people for inspiring/encouraging/helping/supporting me in various stages of my journey as a musician, especially in the context of cajon/percussion playing.

Thank you! <3
  • Aarifah Eve Rebello (for letting me "shake" at random gigs)
  • Abhishek Dasgupta (for pushing me at improving myself as a musician)
  • Anurag Mishra (for encouraging me at gigs)
  • Jairaj Joshi (for introducing me to the cajon)
  • Pritesh Prabhune (for inspiring me and helping me with concepts and tech)
  • Reinhardt Dias (for inspiring me)
  • Rohit Chabria (for gig opportunities and letting me use your cajon)
  • Roma Kunde (for constantly supporting and encouraging me)
  • Shaival Chatwani (for encouraging me)
  • Sharanya Natrajan (for gig opportunities and supporting and encouraging me)
  • Sumit Pillai (for all the years of jamming)
  • Teemeer Chimulkar (for gig opportunities, trusting in me, and supporting/encouraging me)
  • Varun Sood (for inspiring me, teaching me, and helping me bounce off ideas)
  • Vidhya Venkitachalam (for pushing me to take up guitar)
  • Vigneshkumar Venkatraman (for such an incredibly positive attitude and inspiring me)
  • Vijayalakshmy Venkitachalam (for marrying my Dad?)
  • Vishal Mallu (for inspiring me and lending the cajon)