Looking Forward to Looking Back
And the big reveal
This is a special newsletter and it’s divided into two parts.
Part 1 — Retrospective
I’d first met the word retrospect at a Naseeruddin Shah talk. His autobiography was out and it was an interview which I’ve mostly forgotten, except this line: “life makes sense in retrospect.” Till today I remember how that sentence made me feel, like a nod in the dark. I was so much younger than I am now, hoping to one day be the writer I dreamed of becoming, at the very start of my dreaming.
This line arrived in my life much before my work with Tall Tales began. If you don’t know, Tall Tales is an organisation where we tell true stories from our lives on stage. Since I’ve gotten involved, I started mining my own life for personal stories that I could tell. The stories that could entertain, that allowed me stand naked in my thoughts, vulnerable, revealing my desires and feelings to a strange motley of people who I never knew but would shape my sphere of friends for the next few years. Who knew I’d find a sentence that I’d need to make sense of my past, right at the cusp of starting a new adventure with Tall Tales where all I did was look at life in retrospect and help others do the same.
If you write everyday, you’ll start to notice patterns in your voice and like everything else, I go through phases when I’m using a word more often. Retrospect is one such word in recent times. But I’m not just using it way too often, I’m also looking back at my life viewing it as a sequence of events that mishmash together to form a whole, the mosaic of my existence, trying to piece together how I reached the place I’m at now. How did my fears and vulnerabilities and stupidity lead me on a journey to stand at the cusp of a grand new adventure? All I can think now is how grateful I am to everyone who helped me along the way, as I fulfil this dream, the best gift I could ever give myself to kickstart the fourth decade of my life.
What’s happening? I’m moving to London to pursue a MA in Creative Writing. Finally!
Not many know this, but this is not my first attempt at applying for my Masters in Creative Writing. I’ve applied twice before this and for many other similar courses in the UK in the past 10 years of my career. They never reached fruition. Not because the universities did not want me, but because there was always something holding me back, be it finances, the net of land mines our parents set up which they claim is love, responsibilities and an abject misunderstanding of the possibilities that are open to me. So I put my head down, considering each loss of possibility a personal failure and kept trudging along the path I wanted to walk. It’s not been easy.
The seeds of this dream had been sown long, long before I’d even started on those four engineering years I barely remember. It’s taken me ten long years to finally achieve this dream, but it’s happening. It’s for real this time. I waited to tell anyone until my Visa arrived. And it has. I’m really going.
Part 2 — Possibilities
Back in school, I was always quite good with math. Even in college later. I still miss math from time to time. But there is one part of math I do not miss: probabilities. Probable outcomes, especially in numbers, goes over my head. I’m unable to reconcile the fact when math is so based in firm facts and figures, how can it lead to a probable path? This feels so wrong. I never understood the concept, and like all writers, I have, in my own way, abused my misunderstanding to create stories with multiple probabilities and possibilities. Because what do you do with the unknown? You imagine and fill in the gaps.
But I think I’m starting to understand. Not probabilities, but possibilities. Suddenly, looking back at my life, at all the things I’d done, the mistakes I’ve made, the paths I’ve taken, the paths I’ve chosen to leave behind, each one a mishmash of possibilities that rose and sunk to get me here. It’s a beautiful mosaic I leave behind. I’m excited to one day re-examine it, write it all down and maybe understand how it all interconnects, because it does. But that is a task for a future me. Right now, as of this time and moment, I’m excited to see the possibilities that my future holds. I wonder what stories await me, how they’d connect and interconnect with each other? For once, I’m not looking back but toward the future. It makes no sense to me right now, how much ever I try to fill it up with my imagination. And that’s what excites me. For once, my life, my reality is richer than my imagination.
Maybe one day I’ll look back and write about it too. After all, life only makes sense in retrospect, right?
PS: This will be final newsletter from India. Next month forward, my newsletters will be coming from London. I don’t know what shape they’ll take, but there are many layers to this move to London and through the upcoming months I’ll untangle them one by one. Stay tuned to join me on this adventure.
I wanted to rename this section as “Brands I’ll miss” but I feared it’ll be too nostalgic. Of course, I’m also told that I’ll find better versions of these things, even numerous, while I’m in the UK. But just because I may find a replacement for them, doesn’t mean I didn’t love them as much as I did.
There are so many homegrown Indian brands that have been doing some amazing stuff. I’m always on the lookout for them to find niche products and support Indie brands as much as I can. Here are a few things I’ve fallen in love with:
From fighting over a single bottle of Spicy Guava to getting tons of Salted Kokum wherever I go, Moonshine has become my default drink for years now. It’s tasty, high on alcohol and doesn’t have the lingering headache that beer gives you. Also, NO HANGOVER — and it’s gluten free! After all, it’s mead and not beer. Go grab a pint, and give me a small cheers when you do.
When the century old company I’d been buying my notebooks from died thanks to the ill implementation of GST in our country, I went on a frenzy hunt to find the next notebook and paper maker who could suit my needs (which is to find fountain pen friendly paper). After years of searching, I found Ayush Paper. Simple notebooks, with amazing paper. Whatever ink and nib combo you throw at it, it all just works. I trust their paper blindly and it’s my stationary store of choice, specifically for notebooks. They do a lot more too, check ’em out!
Not many people know this but I love collecting bags. Each bag serves a different purpose and most bags I’ve bought have marked a start to a new journey. I’d been eyeing this company for ages, Mokobara. They seemed to be doing things in the bag and luggage space that no one else is. It wasn’t just that their products looked stylish and classy, but their design is user friendly with features that actually seemed helpful. I have their Transit Backpack as my main backpack now and I wish I had enough money to buy their suitcases — which I’ve heard are excellent as well.
Am I biased? Yes. This is a company started by my friend Michael Burns. While I know the people behind the scenes, they do make some amazing candles. Simple candles, but with extraordinary and unique flavours. Like French Fries, Gasoline, and Your Ex Boyfriend. This is just a teaser for what they have. I currently use the Chocolate Churros and the Antique Shop. Packed with unique fragrances, this is a brand you shouldn’t miss out on.
Also, there are several minimal clothing brands, specifically tailored to men that I’ve found, love and have been enjoying for a while. Like —
I finally have some.
The third article in my series of articles for aspiring writers. You can read the earlier ones here.
A publication called About me Stories asked me to do a piece for them many month ago. I finally found the time to pen one and they published it this month.
3. On a Bad Hair Day
I told my 11th story with Tall Tales this month which was also my final performance with in India for a very long long time. There is no video, for now. I like my stories live only. But maybe one day I’ll decide to put it up. Maybe. But for all those who caught it live, thank You!
Words to End On
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
- Bilbo Baggins | J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)
You’re reading a newsletter by Akshay Gajria. This newsletter is delivered to your inbox on the 30th of every month and on the 15th of the next month on Medium. You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram. If you found what you read helpful, you can consider tipping him by buying him a cup of tea (or three) here or reading his ebook (linked below). You can learn more about his work at akshaygajria.com