Friday, March 27, 2015

Yoda-Air-Ninjas | Breathe. Be.

I learnt anapana and vipassana meditation at the ten day Vipassana course (Sohna road, other locations as well) as S.N. Goenka ji taught it. Please register here and attend their course asap. 
You are not your thoughts
You are not even the feeling preceding them
You are
I am.
I am not…
I am not not…
I am.
Be. Breathe, be.
Be, breathe be breathe be breathe be.
When in pain. Breathe. Be
When angry. Breathe. Be.
When happy. Breathe. Be
When blocked when sick when happy when waiting when tired when cranky when furious when overwhelmed underwhelmed alone transcendental
Breathe. Be.
How to be?
Sit cross legged. Lace your fingers, or place the cup of one hand in the cup of the other. (Presumably, you have at most two)
Close your eyes.
Notice your nose. Observe its component parts. Observe the upper lip, the entrance to the nasal passages, the said nasal passages, the flare of your nostrils as the air rushes out.
Place yoda-air-ninjas at the entrance to your nasal passageways. The yoda-air ninjaslove watching air go in and out of your nostrils all day.
Yoda-air-ninjas don’t mind their minds wandering. They always come back to watch air going in and out. They observe its changing temperature, whether it goes in and out of both nostrils together, or just one, or what.
They observe what the breath feels like on the upper lip and on the pink fleshy inside of yoda-air-ninja-spaceship-human-nose.
Do this everywhere. Do this all the time. When you want to smoke/bite your nails/rock back and forth. Focus on your breath.
Don’t regulate it, just observe it. Activate your yoda-air-ninjas. Anything eluding you will come back – that forgotten password, lost errand, fogged over inspiration, the right words. Everything.
Ten minutes in the morning. Group meditation every Sunday for one hour.
Use something like this as background music. Breathe hard if you start falling asleep. Feel free to move, stretch in between. With time, try to stay still for as long as you can, eventually leading up to an hour. 

Stayed tuned here

Monday, June 16, 2014


Sometimes there's so much joy
It becomes hard to breathe


Because will it last?
What if you don't remember how it feels?

Come home

Dear child

It comes, as fast as it goes.


Enjoy it while it lasts

Come back to yoursel(ves) once its dust

Musical dopamine #1

A few years ago, I wouldn't be caught dead listening to something with the unabashed pop feel of this track.

The original is poppier and busier, with a strangely Indian sounding sample by Gold Panda opening it.

Goldroom takes "You (Hahaha)" and elevates it to a whole other level by stripping away the Gold Panda sample, adding punchy basslines, tricky grooves, and a signature aural firework sound marking the chorus. So that when you hit 3:08 and the cannons go off, you know you're in nu disco land. 

And what a wonderful world it is.

The song is about learning to walk away, a lesson we could all could use. 
My favourite line is "choke when you see love grow" and “you were meant to be alone” which she says a thousand times as the song fades out.

The chorus is what will hook you, with the very unusual “hahahaha” preceding the matter of fact “I was right” and (too bad) “you fucked it up.”

Gentle, groovy beratement amplified by classic Goldroom. It couldn’t get any better.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I'm sharing my story because I know it will resonate with a fair few people. What I have experienced over the past few months seems to be happening to people I know and love dearly - souls travel together, so I guess that makes sense. 

I went to law school because my career counsellor in class 10 said my power motivation and desire to help would be best served by doing law. Of course, once you get into the best law school in the country, you go. I went and fell in love, and made the most of this crazy, strangely blessed institution with its whacky inhabitants and high ideals. A lot of the time, I wanted to be studying just the liberal arts, like my sister in the States. Law school seemed worth it because of the people and the strength of the qualification. There was little dancing, and little-r introspection. There was a lot of living, exploring, pushing boundaries, forming an identity, trying to break it down, escapism in action, blind thrashing around. I love that I did what I did, no regrets. But I'm glad to have got past that stage. 

Law school was followed by a short stint at Google HK, the BEST place to work for sharp, driven and fun people. HK was very good for me, I spent quality time with myself, flaneuring, thinking, being. But that being was somewhat unconscious. And then I went to my dream NGO, the Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad where Gagan boss gave me the kind of project I always wanted to work on - moving towards the rule of law in 15 villages of Rajasthan and Gujarat. It was to be an intervention that would marry legal empowerment and socio-cultural change - perfect perfect perfect. My NGO was fantastic, I was travelling a LOT, met lovely people in Ahmedabad - everything was fine and yet something wasn't right. I had that feeling for a few months before shit really started hitting the fan. 

I wasn't eating or sleeping properly, my heart was sore, I felt alienated from my creative side, lonely (not alone), somewhat bored in a wonderful but somewhat limited city.. Going to the field (Lambadiya) with my wonderful colleagues was an unforgettable experience. I met the funnest, most grounded, motivated, brave and committed people - I could see the stars, we all had daal batti three times a day and laughed about our madness in working in such far flung areas.. we joked about the police and the rule of law (or its lack), how rule of law was suddenly a phrase that our colleagues had latched onto and were using in everyday life. I met a sarpanch with Bhagat Singh posters in his home; we rode long distances to conduct FGDs - engaging, among others, with tipsy and enraged villagers, garrulous old men, nubile young wives and excited children. 

I should have been so happy, doing what I thought I always wanted to do. 

I wasn't sad. I just wasn't happy. I wasn't feeling, when feeling was all I ever knew I had. The ability to feel, relate, get angry, empathize. 

When I could no longer concentrate on anything (at all), when I had to ask my junior colleague to help me out with tasks because the smallest thing had the potential to trigger a panic attack, when my self esteem had hit the kind of low I had last experienced as a confused teenager in school, when all I could think of during a training program was about jumping off the terrace - that's when my parents stepped in and I came back to Delhi.

We went to: a shrink, a healer, met some of my closest friends. My nani came over and stayed for a long time. There were good days and bad days. Most days were just days to get through. I tried going to court, working with a judge - wonderful office but I was just in no state to work, much less on something I didn't really want to do. I avoided my friends, treated myself and people around me like shit, stayed in bed for days, rejecting myself and my family. I had three false epiphanies, thinking I was over the hill and would stay strong. They turned into disappointment. 

I had all these questions (I'd always had them, but this time they were genuinely existential) about the purpose of life, social injustice, realizing your potential, your own true purpose etc. Life didn't seem worth living. I decided not to get out of bed until I was inspired to do something. 

And then one day I jumped out at the thought of taking pictures. All the time. And then suddenly I had a reason to live that was just about me. Not about my family or friends, but me, Aqseer. 

Slowly I started getting answers. Some from the healer, some from these incredible books that my aunt suggested (A New Earth, Journey of Souls, Many Lives Many Masters - full list below). Things started falling into place. I went to my guruji and danced after ages - and I felt so alive. And happy. And alive. I applied to Global Music Institute for vocal lessons on an impulse - just allowing my gut to guide me. The application process involved composing a song - and thus I got to fulfill an old dream - of singing and recording at least one song. I loved that process. Reading A New Earth and learning about karma helped me come to peace with my role in social justice - I accepted that wanting to work in the development sector was not a process based interest, but an ends based one - my concern with the greatest possible impact I could achieve - all ego. (Read A New Earth to understand what I mean by ego here.) 

And so I decided to focus on the PROCESS that I loved engaging in for its own sake. I started paying close attention to what I genuinely enjoyed doing. And that slow process of self discovery has lead me to - dance, vocal lessons, photography and healing practices. 

Love, and light to you. If you're not happy, do something about it. Create your reality, don't wait for life to happen to you. 

Read all of the below. And text if you want to talk. 


1)      A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
2)      The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
3)      Let the Power be with You – Shivi Dua
4)      Journey of Souls – Michael Newton
5)      Autobiography of a Yogi – Padmahansa Yogananda
6)      Many Lives Many Masters, Miracles Happen – Brian Weiss
7)      Waiting for Autumn – Scott Blum
8)      The Celestine Prophecy, The Twelfth Insight – James Redfield
9)      Commentaries on Living - J.D. Krishnamurti
10)   The Grand Design - Stephen Hawking

Monday, April 29, 2013

What I have learnt since graduation

1.       The only way to live is to be present.
o   This is hard for me to do, so I got a tattoo to remind myself to embrace the here and now
o   By extension, FOMO is your biggest enemy
2.       The quality of longing (nostalgia) is bittersweet. It is a light and deep ache that dives in and out of your aura, touching recesses of your memory just enough to madden you, but not enough for the picture to become clear in your head, not enough to relive the memory. All our experience is ephemeral, there is nothing but this very moment, and look, there it goes, whizzing past your bemused face.
o   If you were happy in your now, you wouldn’t bother with memories of college. Save it.
3.       Your job should enable you to learn, create, maintain yourself, socialize and follow your passion, fulfil your purpose
4.       The way to find this job is to stop being a risk averse coward, to trust yourself, figure out your talents, skill set and marry it with your career goals, what you would like to be remembered for
5.       Don’t let your routine trick you. You might have a schedule and things you do at a set time on most days, but no two moments are alike and most of them are worth paying attention to. Or would be if you paid attention to them.
6.       Life is a step in the evolution of your soul. There is no ultimate purpose to life, because there is no way to answer the why of existence. If you say life is an elaborate test designed to identify super souls that resemble god, well, you still don’t know why these super souls need to exist at all
7.       Kids haven’t understood mortality and aren’t jaded enough to question the meaning of existence. They are good people to learn from
8.       Boredom (no internet helps), alone-ness and deadlines are the biggest drivers of creativity. Humans will do anything to give direction to the voices in our heads
9.       Moments of unity, oblivion, mindlessness are rare, and worth pursuing. You might chance upon them dancing a club, sitting on a rock facing the ocean, in the arms of a partner, on the back of a bike. When they come, they’re worth holding onto. But the hunt for oblivion shouldn’t turn into escapism
10.   Most intelligent beings suffer from existential angst. Not enough recognize or acknowledge this. It’s easier to blindly live from day to day, consuming but not creating, smoking cigarettes to mark the passage of time. We do not know how to be idle, and its killing us.
11.   The way to be idle is to calm down and meditate (four deep breaths or a look around with a real sense of wonder is all it takes), then do something productive with your time and energy. There is no excuse to be bored – there’s too much to learn, do, see, observe, eat, experience
12.   Alone is okay
13.   And the only way to be happy is to be self sufficient.  Test yourself. Can you handle being alone in a distant village without Facebook and dinner plans? Will you find yourself running around like a headless chicken, looking for stimuli and someone to share every stray thought with, or will you take the time to look at the stars and breathe in the cleaner air?
14.   This is not to say that loving or needing another person makes you weak. It takes strength to allow another person in and give them the chance to break your heart to smithereens. But making another person the centre of your universe and being dependent on them is a recipe for disaster. Ditto trying to fix someone else or their problems. Co-dependence is a nightmare and the biggest cause of insane phone bills. You are not worthy because you are great at helping people. You are worthy. Full stop.
15.   Being in love and loving someone is a decision and continuous work
16.   Everything that life throws you is a lesson in disguise. You could look at it that way and try to learn the lesson, or you could feel sorry for yourself and blame everyone and everything but yourself. Act like things will work out, and they will
17.   You are extraordinarily powerful in shaping the course of your life. Think something, manifest it, and it will happen. If it doesn’t, it is for a good reason. It’s up to you to figure out what that is.
o   The universe sends all the answers, stay on the ride.  
18.   There is no way to prove any of this. Belief systems, like M-theory, are ways of understanding the world and making the most of it. Believing that I am in control of my life, that it has a purpose and that sometimes it’s okay to surrender to what the universe is trying to do for me keeps me sane, even happy
19.   When you abuse your body in any way, you’re abusing yourself. Your body is not under-nourished or overfed, you are. Look in the mirror and say sorry, not to your body, to yourself. Why are you disrespecting yourself? How do you expect to be respected and loved when you can’t do the same for yourself? How do you expect to respect and love someone else when you can’t respect and love yourself?
20.   Sometimes, it’s good to let conflict happen. There would be very little if we could find some way to contain alterity or conflate identities, or make them irrelevant
21.   In the end, what matters is what you experienced, what you created, and the relationships you growed 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


We’re ridiculous, honestly.

We expect people in power to do what is best for the people who aren’t.

Men, upper castes, the government, the rich, the educated, the liberals. Some of them will, most of them won’t.

Why would maulvis want women entering the sanctum sanctorum of their prized masjids, mucking up the interiors, lessening the pride, privilege and power associated with the restricted access?

Why would half naked priests want to let us into their temples and risk feeling as ordinary as us?

Why would the government want the population to be educated, strident and questioning? A resigned janta expecting no more than TV and a few annas thrown their way before elections is far more manageable.

If the government undertook community building initiatives, or tried to do anything long term about the Naxals, they would actually have to earn their votes instead of dividing them up; and isn’t that too much to expect them to sign up for voluntarily? 

EVERYONE takes shortcuts. People in power are no exception.

We, are to blame.

 For being naive. For thinking that people in power will check themselves. For expecting them to do what’s best for us. For helping sustain the status quo.

Family halls at Muslim restaurants, “aurat masjids”, sit at home when you’re bleeding from your vagina because you are impure, never mind that YOU WOULD NOT EXIST IF I DID NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO MENSTRUATE YOU TURD, separate coaches for women, separate temples for dalits; we let them disenfranchise us, deprive us and then ghettoize us.

We then thank them properly for carving out reservations in a system so wracked with inequality and lack of opportunity that really, they should thank us for being the placid cattle that we have emulated this entire time. 

I have been to upwards of fifty BPL Muslim households in three states these past few months. A few things are the same. The interiors are clean, the exterior usually filthy, the woman is home, sometimes educated, capable of working, but not allowed to by her husband, who obviously would rather his children starve than allow his wife to do everyone the favour of making a little extra on the side. They know NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING about government schemes that are allegedly used as the carrots to buy their votes. They have given up on the public education system. They have no expectations of the government. They make do. They smile. THEY SMILE. THEY ARE NOT ANGRY.

And this gets me, every single time. Actually no, that’s a lie. It got to me today. I wasn’t angry this entire time.

Today, in the one room house of a young woman who supports her family of five by cleaning homes in far away “Mumbai”, TODAY, I felt anger. So far, not having encountered anything like what you see in Slumdog or read about in Shantaram, I was not convinced I was seeing the reality of living below the poverty line. I wanted to see desperate, undignified poverty. I was met with families that like buying clothes, and shoes, and dressing up, and cable, and jewellery, that like food and drink and a good time; but do all of this on infinitesimal budgets and live day to day.

Today, my twentieth day doing this work, today I felt anger. Felt something. Anger at their condition, anger that her father nearly reached his deathbed trying to get his house constructed under the great Awas Yojna named, obviously named, after Dear Departed Mrs. Gandhi, after whom the antarashtriya hawaiadda of the home of the 84 riots is also, oh so appropriately named.

And through the telling of this tale of her father’s debilitation, she smiles, checks her phone, talks to her nieces and nephews and despite repeated requests not to, gets up and makes five cups of tea. They cannot afford five cups of tea. They cannot afford one extra packet of milk a day; she was telling me that five minutes into the interview and making me the most amazing chai at the end of it. There is resignation, and bravery; courage and fortitude and generosity, but there is no anger that can be translated into action.


Because decades of incompetence and a uniquely patronizing attitude has, in a masterstroke, got us to expect nothing of the government. As long as there is a semblance of law and order, hell, a government, and some platitudes, some show of governance and better things to come, we are content.

As long as men buy us flowers and pretend to give a shit when we’re menstruating, pregnant or weeping, we are content.

Do not grope or rape us, kind masters, that is all we can ask of your uncontrollable sexual appetites and wild, wilful natures; we will gladly make ourselves scarce in public, and speak softly, remain invisible so as not to cause any strain to your sensory organs or sensibilities. Thank you ever so kindly for allowing us to breathe and get through a lifetime without our vaginas being torn asunder by your ever mighty penii that we dare not question, literally or figuratively lest you beat our brains out of our skulls. Thank you again for allowing me to go to school and giving me some milk when I was young so I could push your inheritor out of my body after producing five undesirable young girls that you can ill afford. In return for being allowed to live without being raped, and for the privilege of being yours, I will wear forty five marks of ownership, change my last name, give up my rights to property, sweep, dust, clean after you, cook for you, whatever you like master, whatever we can afford, stroke your ego, absorb your anger, tell myself you love me when you slap me so hard it leaves marks on my face, kill myself looking after the five girls and one, crown jewel of a son, collapse my family and friends with yours, forget my life before you were kind enough to take me off of my father’s hands and never, ever, threaten your virile and treacherous masculinity. Is that good enough sire? Or shall I throw some marital rape and all of my parent’s earnings in? Oh and vaginal douches and tightening creams, yes, of course, I will maintain my figure, vaginal elasticity and sweet breath for you. Of course, sire, of course.

I cannot speak for dalits, adivasis and minorities.

In our childish belief that those in power will do right by us, we have surrendered everything we had, our rage included.

Let’s get real. We’ve got to fight. Nothing is coming our way on a silver platter. Nor can we expect it to.