Akhil Sharma On The Trick of Life

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 Of Minds And Mixtapes 0 Comments

"Seven years into writing a novel, I started to lose my mind."
Yesterday I read a moving article by Akhil Sharma, the author of "Family Life", wherein he speaks about the time when he was struggling to complete his novel and having panic attacks because of that. "My mind had become uninhabitable," he writes, and goes on to explain how he tried something counter-intuitive to ease the overwhelming feeling that crippled him.
So, sitting on the bench by the river that day, I remembered having read in Reader’s Digest — a periodical my family has undue reverence for — that when you are feeling bad, one way to make yourself feel better is to pray for others. I began to pray for the people who were passing by. I prayed for the nanny pushing a stroller. I prayed for the young woman jogging by in spandex. I prayed for the little boy pedaling his bicycle. I prayed that each of them got the same things that I wanted for myself: that they have good health, peace of mind, financial security. By focusing on others and their needs, my own problems seemed less unique and, somehow, less pressing.

...I called my parents a few weeks ago on the second anniversary of my brother’s death. My father began telling me that he felt abandoned by my brother, that my brother’s dying feels like him leaving us. As he spoke, I started thinking: I love you. I love you. My usual response at this point would have been to tell my father that he needed to focus on the future, that what was past was past. Instead I told my father that he was wonderful, that he should think of how brave he had been to take care of his poor sick son for all those years, that his devotion had been heroic. However odd my reasons may seem, I am glad that I said this.
[Read full article here.]
Even though I’m not religious per se, I've been carrying this one odd piece of advice ever since. Sometimes when I stroll around the city or when in the bus, I’ll watch people go by and think of the complex and tangled lives they must lead —their worries, fears and hopes; how they might be hurrying home to see their family, how they might be planning a vacation they may in the end trade for EMIs on the apartment, how they might be reminding themselves to pick up that lightbulb they need. It somehow makes you love strangers in a funny way.

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 Jukebox Selection:

"People Help the People" by Birdy

English singer-songwriter Birdy (Jasmine van den Bogaerde) released this cover version of the song some years back. The original was by Cherry Ghost, an indie rock band from England. Birdy's rendition is simply gorgeous; her emotional panache adds to the original emotionality of the song lyrics and shows her true potential as a vocalist. Give it a listen:

"God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts
Guess he kissed the girls and made them cry
Those hard-faced queens of misadventure
God knows what is hiding in those weak and sunken lives
Fiery throne of muted angels
Giving love but getting nothing back oh"