Eye, Me & Myself

Me with my new glasses

The misadventures of the new smartphone generation: Admit it – we are all suffering from the inescapable ‘Digital Eye Syndrome.’

For a soul who was constantly on a laptop for close to 10-12 hours everyday, and at times even more, it was natural to have my eyes affected badly. To add to that, I never spared them even after getting away from the laptop; I continued to consume absolute trash on my smartphone, further torturing the windows to my soul.

There came a time when my eyesight could be best described as looking at the world through a butter paper. The same clarity reflected in my life vision. “Where am I going?, Why can’t I see my future?, What is the meaning to this digital existence?” I had over-fatigued my eyes and it would be in good faith for their sake alone, to undertake remedial action straightaway before I spiral gradually and permanently towards blindness.

I began accounting my time on screens, both laptop and smartphone. Realizing it was way too much for two little eyes in a 24-hour cycle, I made quick changes. Apart from work related reading, I restricted screen time to the absolutely necessary only. But, one can never get away in this digital age – there’s always a screen near you!

I also visited the eye doctor and he wasn’t interested in listening to the symptoms – blurred vision [check], double vision [check], pain in the eyes [check], pain in the head [check], pain in the … [ok, never mind!] He was just proceeding with different types of eye tests, all the while nodding at the symptoms that are now generic, not just restricted to the IT workers.

“No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

The fact that you are finally able to book an appointment with him, in the next month, with Lady Luck favouring you over countless weak-sighted others, is a milestone of an achievement. Getting through to Kaun Banega Crorepati is way easier, I tell you!

A poster on his entrance extolled the virtues of eye donation, quite teasingly. I went back in, after having been diagnosed with a bad case of the Digital eye, and both long and near-sightedness, and asked in all innocence, “I am not eligible to donate my eyes, right?” “Wrong! Even a blind person can donate their eyes as long as their cornea is healthy, just ensure you (rather your corpse) is taken to the nearby government hospital within four hours of death.”

This immediately got noted down in my ‘Did you know?’ list.

Talking about interesting facts, the lady before me was asked to visit again after an HIV test. I was more embarrassed than her to hear the doctor’s assistant yell out the name of the government AIDS testing center. For a moment, I was quite muddled: Am I visiting an eye doctor or what? So it seems that STDs also affect the functioning of the eyes. One more to jot down in my ‘Did you know?’ list.

Now I look at the bright side of things. Because after all, “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.” I could get scarlet fever and go blind. I could get meningitis and go blind. In all likelihood, I could have an evil kid poke a pencil into my eyes, and cause blindness, not to mention severe shock and bleeding, too!

I indulge in eye exercises, these are all over the internet and that’s the irony of it! I meditate, the side effect of which is restoration of the eye and nasal muscles. I also give them adequate rest – you see they are your precious pair after all – the windows to your soul.

They say hindsight is always 20:20. Looking back now, I see many things I could have done differently. In fact, I have a growing list of things I’d like to tell my 18-year-old self, the time since I have been staring at a computer monitor. So, I caution my nieces, my friends and other folks to ration their screen time. Also, anti-glare screens and glasses do not make much of a difference.

Eye exercises, vitamin A-enriched foods and adequate rest are the only three  weapons in your arsenal. Save your eyes, save your world in this digital age!

The Joy of Journaling

A close friend of mine, a mother in her late 30’s, feels a sudden sensation of ‘the world going round and round’, while waiting for her son’s school bus one afternoon. Next thing she remembers – parents of other kids hovering over, trying to talk her back to reality. Regaining consciousness, she is escorted back to her den, to her existential blackhole: nothing escapes her home. All her anxieties, lists of things to do, expectations to live up to, just about everything had taken a toll on her. They just made themselves home, they had no way to get out.

The blackouts had turned frequent. She joined Sri Sri’s Art of Living, alongside taking medications for low blood pressure. ‘I feel so good, you should try it, too!” she sang to me.

The therapeutic benefits of a meditation course have been proven time and again, but there is not much about the positive changes brought about by the simple act of ‘writing a journal.’

I began writing a journal as an 8-year-old. It may have not lasted even 8 days, given my extreme anxiety and sleepless nights over being spied on by my siblings. Reminiscing the entries, they were mostly a vivid description of my dreams, the ones you see with shuteye. One was about how I had discovered a particular mountain, just like other climbers had, with no gravitational pull on one side. The people ahead of me, slowly jumped down, giving wings to their ultimate dreams, and were soon floating about in air, maybe 1500 kms above sea level.

It’s now or never. I got off too. I became a bird, just gliding real slow all around.

Jotting it all down on those pages was so much bliss: the very act of recalling the feeling of being a bird, talking about my wish to, perhaps someday, set out on a discovery mission for the magic mountain.

Another entry I remember is about how my mother taught me to ‘fly a butterfly like a kite’ while returning from school, and how I instantly rejected the idea, because passing a thread through butterfly wings might be hurting them. The other entries in the little journal may have been imaginary stuff – I can’t recollect any more. All I know is me tearing off the pages and then tearing each page into little pieces – me, the human shredding machine!

Later, I tried again but encountered only false starts. The fear of someone finding my diary lying about minding its own business, reading it and knowing the goings-on in my mind, was too extreme for me.

So, I stuck to blogging – logging on the world wide web. It was not personal anymore. I weaved cryptic words into little poems to express what I was feeling inside. I made fictional accounts of fictional characters, actually telling my story. People read them as poetry and fiction, not a soul knew the stories hidden between the lines. This was fun, but not as liberating.

Your diary is your road to inner peace. Your diary is your friend, your philosopher and your guide.

So I stuck to personal diary writing again – late last year, and have been going strong till date. It’s the best part of my day; I look forward to putting pen to paper and jotting down whatever comes to my mind that time.

Therapists have long proven the benefits of keeping a journal, specially after going through trauma you can’t explain to another soul. History is replete with famous people and their diaries, without which we wouldn’t have known their humane side. Inventors, Philosophers, Visionaries, Artists, Shapers of our world have maintained notes or journals of their random thoughts throughout the day. Explorers loved their travel journals while Thinkers loved their book of ideas.

The Anne Frank Diary is a classic window to the joy of journaling. Hiding from Nazis, this Jewish girl all of 12 copes with her anxieties, dreams and aspirations and the eternal fear of being caught, by making time to write the day’s happenings, and her ideas about growing up to be an adult.

Whatever be your standing in life, it can always be tackled by writing away your fears and worries, your anxieties and hurt feelings. I believe like reading, writing too, is to your mind, what exercise is to your body. It can purge out the toxins just when the pen touches the paper, the ink flushes out the unwanted.

Moreover, it helps bring clarity at the times you are quite muddled. In this age of instant gratification and mindless scrolling, swiping and virtual escapism, a diary is a real thing; you can savour it at leisure, look it up for ideas or just ogle at the vintage beauty of a bygone era, still very much yours.

Your diary is your road to inner peace. Your diary is your friend, your philosopher and your guide. Write your own story. Own your day. Jot down things that brought you joy and also those that made you cry, things you’d love to do, friends you’d love to make and places you’d love to visit. Go on… discover the daily joy of journaling!

Your age is your discount!

This April the 4th I turned 38. It may not be a big deal, in fact it is just a number, but it is a significant one nevertheless. From a size ‘M’, I’ve grown to a size ‘L’ if comfort is what I’m looking for. I need to stub out a few beard hairs every week, else risk looking like ‘she-man’. I carry around a tyre like a stationary hula-hoop around my waist.

I’ve begun to eat more than I need, exercise less than I must, talk more than I should, listen less than what is good for me.

I’ve begun to eat more than I need, exercise less than I must, talk more than I should, listen less than what is good for me.

My thought processes have chosen their absolute paths around my cranium and the connected nervous system. Everything there is to learn in life to sustain a decent livelihood has been done with, and my grey cells have gone into hibernation. I feel a terrifying vaccum inside me is sucking in everything from my insides, forming a lump of non-renewable mass to be never transformed into energy or set anything into motion again in life.

Apparently, this is what is termed as mid-life crisis, or the perceived notion of reaching a ‘dead end’ in one’s journey, because everybody (read society) says so!

The so-called ‘People of the Society’ now have a fair understanding about me, and by that qualification, they can now advise me on what exactly I should be doing in the 38th year of my life.

Happy 38

A coincidence off-late made me mull over my age. It so happened that I was seated at a popular Chinese takeaway, waiting for my parcel, when right adjacent to me was a standee, displaying loudly: “Your Age is your Discount”. A beauty salon was looking to boost its haircut sales.

I wondered, “Can my age be discounted in real life?

38 tells me how much grey has begun to set in; how fatigued is my body; it nudges me to go for a health check up so I could wring any hereditary or lifestyle diseases right away while the nasty things are still in stealth mode. 38 tells me I’m closer to 40!

38 defines where I am in life with respect to where I should’ve been in life as per my life goals. It tells my government to put me in the next demographic. It tells the people around me that I have now arrived at a ‘big’ juncture in my life, that I should now take life seriously, that I need to now worry about my aging body and not flush my eggs down the toilet bowl – and here is where it all ends, sadly!

38 also throws up some very vital questions: Am I sporting an age-appropriate waistline? Should I colour my greys? Have I under-achieved compared to my peers? Do my friends and family miss me? Does my age bother my other half? Can I still reach the finishing line? Am I a failure?

Wait… these don’t look like vital questions, in fact, these aren’t even questions!

These are fears implanted over the generations, in you and me; like a wheel it goes on and on in a never ending cyclic path, consuming every fresh idea that comes its way.

These are fears implanted over the generations, in you and me; like a wheel it goes on and on in a never ending cyclic path, consuming every fresh idea that comes its way. Satan’s other name is Fear!

Age can be discounted had we been told how many years we would exist. Let’s suppose a human life was designed to live fully till 100 years, and then the aging process would set in. In this imaginary world, I could avail a 38% discount the whole of this year, and really look forward to turning 39.

But, we are mortal beings with no number attached to the lives that die every second. They could be 3 or 8 or 38, and still mean so much to the people in their lives.

The only way to keep going on is to ‘unlearn’ everything they tell you to. Stay in the ‘now’ and not worry about the future and certainly not about age, because as someone wise once sang, “Que sera, sera.”

Cheers to all of us who are 38 years ‘young’ this year!