mortal mettle

Like a shipwrecked vessel adrift at sea, our earthly lives are but a fleeting voyage. As transient travelers treading the sands of time, we journey together under endless skies, our footprints traced temporarily along the shores of eternity. Though our mortal shells erode, our spirits sail on. (Photographed and styled by The Border of a Mind Studios from a beach in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)

We all try to avoid thinking about it, but death comes for us all eventually. Though it makes us uncomfortable, reflecting on our mortality can inspire us to live more purposefully. When the clock of life stops ticking, fret not about the lifeless body you leave behind. Your loved ones will take good care of it—they’ll dress you up nicely in a white shroud before sending you off on your final journey.

Many will come to see you off – some taking time off work, others rearranging plans. They’ll stand around chatting like at a high school reunion before you set off on your last journey.

Your possessions – that Ukulele lying around you never learned to play, the fancy plates at home you never used, the clothes that hung unworn in your closet – they’ll all be passed on, sold off, or tossed out quicker than last night’s leftovers. The details of your material life will go on without you.

At the office, they’ll have your replacement before your obituary hits the papers. Your workload will be passed on seamlessly like a baton in a relay race.

Your finances and assets will go to your next of kin. Don’t be surprised if you continue to be analyzed and criticized even in death – people always have opinions, after all.

True friends will mourn you for a time, shedding tears over memories you made together. But the river of life keeps flowing, and they’ll soon be back to their routines. As for fairweather friends, they’ll forget you faster than a fleeting TikTok trend.

Your pets might tilt their heads confused, wondering where you went, but they’ll bond with their new owners soon enough. Loyalty has its limits.

Your smiling face in those photos on the mantle will gather dust, gradually relegated to boxes in the attic to fade from memory.

Your home will echo with emptiness for a while, but will soon be filled with the noise of someone else living your life.

In time, the pain will subside, the calls will taper off, and you’ll become just another name etched into stone, a distant memory.

For you, though, the real adventure is just beginning. A new phase of existence where worldly possessions and status symbols are meaningless. Where you take only what you gave – your compassion, wisdom, and light.

While you glance at these writings, let us remind each other to live and love fully now. Build spiritual wealth by touching lives. That’s the only currency that lasts. Make your mark on this world, because your chance is finite. But your soul is infinite.

human glow

Grains of wonder, speckled remnants of discoveries made along the shoreline. Tiny treasures cling to Ehan’s small toes, each step a keepsake of joyful play by the sea.

You know those little unfiltered moments that feel so human and real? I’m obsessed. The messy morning hair, the big yawns when you first wake up, the way your shirt rides up when you stretch. How the wind playfully tussles your locks when you’re outside. The kind of full-bellied laugh that makes your eyes water. Sleepy, dreamy eyes that say you stayed up too late talking. The butterflies in your stomach when you have a crush. An innocent smile that keeps growing into laughter until you’re crying happy tears. Bumping shoulders with someone as you walk side-by-side unable to contain your excitement. Blushing and stumbling over your words when you get all giddy. Those rare times when we can just be our true, unguarded selves, without pretense or self-consciousness. Just pure, raw, natural human moments. We don’t appreciate these fleeting instants enough. It’s the unfiltered realness of people that makes me fall in love with humanity.

voyage’s vision

Somewhere in Zanzibar

None of us hit the open road purely for kicks. We grab those suitcases and gas up the car because we’re driven by something deeper—a fundamental human need to explore new horizons. With each new mile unfurling under our wheels, we can feel the routine and familiarity of home fading behind us. And as we immerse ourselves in places where people speak different languages, eat different foods, live different lives, something inside us begins to shift and expand.

It’s like our minds are tired old sponges, thirsty for new sights, sounds, and experiences to soak up. And little by little, each small discovery accumulation leads to a subtle but profound change in our perspective.

When we finally return home again, initially it seems like nothing has changed on the surface. Our houses, our streets, our neighborhoods—they appear just as we left them. But deep down, we know something is different. Because we have been transformed from within. The way we see the world and our place in it has been altered in some subtle but significant way.

So, while we may not set out just for thrills, the truth is that travel satiates our soul’s deepest appetite. And by enriching our inner lives, it changes everything.

the trek within

In the darkest valley, when all seems lost and failure looms, success flickers in the act of rising once again. In waking at despair’s midnight, abandoned and impoverished, and finding the will to face the coming dawn. Every new day survived is a small success. Original photograph by Nasna Nassir. Styled by Ajmal,

The road to success is not a straightforward highway to a glittering destination, but rather a winding footpath through darkened woods, lit only by the inner sparks of courage. No wise guide sets the course, each must follow their own inner compass.

For one lost in a fog of a drinking addiction, success may be a week freed from drink, a first glimpse of sunlight. For another trapped in creative drought, success could be three pages written after months adrift in a sea of blank pages. To someone recovering from illness, success may be simply taking six steps unaided, after legs long robbed of their strength. Success is not crossing the finish line but taking the next step, however faltering, on the onward trail.

Success isn’t about the sparkling Ferrari in your driveway, or the penthouse with a view. It’s not about the designer shoes that line your closet or the VIP contacts in your shiny new maxed out phone. It’s not about the Instagram-worthy photos of your family vacation in Bora Bora or the sprawling vacation home in Cape Cod. True success dazzles not in manifestations of wealth that fade like stars at dawn, but rather glitters in small precious gems of everyday life. In a child’s smile, a lover’s kiss, the quiet satisfaction of work done well. It blooms when one tends the garden of their character, watering discipline and nourishing perseverance. Success is about finding the strength to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, when you’ve hit rock bottom. It’s about staring into the abyss, when everything feels like a dead end, and choosing to take that first step back towards the light. You see, success is not about the glitz and glamour. It’s about resilience, perseverance, and the audacity to keep on keeping on, even when everything feels lost.

In the darkest valley, when all seems lost and failure looms, success flickers in the act of rising once again. In waking at despair’s midnight, abandoned and impoverished, and finding the will to face the coming dawn. Every new day survived is a small success. Each breath, each tiny act of courage to march onward – that is the true measure. For when all is shadows, the next step is everything. Success isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s not about reaching the top of the mountain, but the climb itself. It’s about the grit, the sweat, the tears, and the laughter along the way. It’s about standing tall, dusting yourself off, and being able to say, “I’m still here. I’m still fighting.” Now, isn’t that something?

storied scents

..”Most of our childhood is stored not in photos, but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, textures of carpet.

-Alain de Botton

Memory of my late velumma’s (Grandmother) homemade cashew fry has me transported through time quicker than a jaunt to the moon! The memory of one aromatic bite and I’m the nine-year-old again, perched on a stool watching her work her magic over the woodfire stove in our old ancestral home in Varandarapilly in Kerala. The sizzle of the nuts in the ancient iron kadai, the wisps of sweet-smelling smoke swirling through the air – it ignites a nostalgia in me brighter than the orange kanikkonna flowers blooming outside.

Isn’t it funny how taste and smell can conjure entire scenes from the past, as vivid as the day they happened? Marcel Proust had his madeleines, I have my velumma’s cashew fry. I wonder what smells unlock the vault of memories hidden away in your mind?

For me, one whiff returns me to carefree days spent in my old ancestral home, climbing trees with my cousins, getting underfoot in the kitchen on aromatic biriyanis, sneaking extra kozhikodan haluvas when no one was looking. Those moments, rich with the spice-perfumed air and chatter of my extended family, are seared into my being like ingredients in those secret recipes lost in time.

The taste of hot, crispy cutlets and strong tea takes me back to trips into town with my Uppa and little brother. Walking hand-in-hand down dusty roads under the sweltering sun to our favorite spot – the Indian Coffee House. Crowding around a rickety table, sipping tea poured expertly from tall glass tumblers by the coffee house staff wearing their signature long white hats, and us devouring cutlets and laughing together. Those simple pleasures engraved on my heart forever.

So go ahead – take a bite, breathe it in, let the nostalgia wash over you like the monsoon rains. The photos may fade with time, but these memories are simmered into the essence of who we are. Each flavor tells a story that connects us to our roots. And isn’t that just comforting as velumma’s cashew fry? I know you also would have such memories to bring back. Write them to me if you have time.

sunset strolls

The amber glow of the setting sun stretches across the sky as my son and I step out onto the corridors. His tiny hand slips into mine, those perfect little fingers curling trustingly around my own. With our first steps, I feel the brush of his tiny fingernails against my skin. How many small discoveries has he made just today, hand-in-hand with his dad? For him, the world is an endless horizon of wonder yet to be explored.

I’m reminded of a treasured childhood memory that my own father recently shared with me. He described how he used to walk with his father, my grandfather, when he was just a young boy. Together they would set out on adventures, my father’s tiny hand clutching my grandfather’s weathered fingers. As they walked, my father would run his small fingers over my grandfather’s nails, tracing the contours and creases earned through years of hard work. For my father, those nails represented security and guidance. My grandfather’s hand was his anchor as he took his first steps into the vast world unfolding before him.

Decades later, as my grandfather took his final breaths, my father narrates that was overcome with the urge to once again feel those familiar fingernails. He reached for my grandfather’s hand and cradled it tenderly in his own. In that instant, he was transported back to his childhood when the world brimmed with promise and potential. Though it pained him beyond words to lose his father, my grandfather’s wisdom and empathy would persist through his son and future generations.

As I watch my young son experience each new sunset as a marvel, I’m filled with immense gratitude. One day, if I’m fortunate, he may walk with his own child in this same way, their tiny hand discovering the world while anchored securely in his. And one day, though my son will never meet him, a faint glimmer of my grandfather’s spark will glow within that child, lighting their way through new horizons, God willing.

For now, I give my son’s hand a gentle, knowing squeeze as the sun dips below the skyline. In his eyes, I see his grandfather’s spirit, that untarnished sense of awe and wonder. And in my heart, I offer up a quiet thank you – both for this present moment, and for all the future sunsets we have yet to witness together, again by the will of God. Each moment has a story and a memory to kindle. Never let a day pass without being in awe and grateful for whatever you’ve experienced on that day.

permanent address

My father had forwarded a beautiful message and it was thought provoking. This being my garden of thoughts, I feel this needs to be here. I’ve refined it with some modifications and I’m posting it here.

Somewhere during a stop in the village of Mahonda on the island of Unguja

The Permanent Address

I was 9 years old when my father received orders of transfer to a small village in Rajasthan. We were living in Ahmedabad at the time, and my father was in the process of building a new house next to our ancestral home.

I had witnessed him grapple with countless numbers, managing loan accounts of his staff, assessing fixed deposits, and leaving question marks scattered over blank spaces in the total.

Building a house is a once-in-a-lifetime effort for most people, so everyone goes Building a home is often a singular endeavor, a once-in-a-lifetime investment that pushes one to the limit. Despite all efforts, one always finds their dream home one room short. Renowned poet Javed Akhtar, captures this sentiment eloquently, “In Bombay, there’s but one sorrow, everyone’s home lacks one more room.”

The joint family home that I grew up in housed 14 people, from the ages of 5 to 95. Now, I observe both houses standing deserted, with nature reclaiming the garden that my mother once lovingly nurtured. The Plum, the Moringa, a few Sorrowless trees, Neem and Bodhi, persist. Yet, all aesthetic pleasures are ephemeral and delicate, succumbing to the relentless law of entropy. The vibrant blooms have all vanished. I often ponder about the fate of the peacock family that used to feed from my mother’s hand. Where are the nightingales, sparrows, parrots, pied flycatchers, cuckoos, and the large group of monkeys that would periodically disrupt the tranquility?

Once people leave, a home becomes a house. I didn’t feel like selling the house at first, but now I don’t feel like going back either. Time has taken away ten of the fourteen people who once lived here. Wandering through our neighborhood, I observe a similar destiny befalling numerous homes, once teeming with life, now lying dormant or replaced.

Why do we stretch and stress to build houses? In most cases our kids won’t need it or worse fight over it. What is this human folly of attempting permanent ownership in a leased life with an uncertain tenure given by a landlord whose terms are non-negotiable and there is no court of appeal. One day, all we have built with love and EMIs will either be demolished, fought over, sold, or lie in ruins. Every time I fill out a form that asks for my “permanent address,” I smile at the human folly.

There is a Zen story about an old monk who walked into a king’s palace and demanded to spend the night. The guards told him that this was a palace, not an inn. But the monk replied, “I came here a few decades ago, and someone was staying here then. A few years later, someone else took the throne. And so it has continued. Any place where the occupant keeps changing is an inn.

George Carlin once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.

As houses get bigger, families get smaller. When the house is full of people, we crave privacy. And when the nest empties, we crave company.

Birds and Animals must be laughing at us humans that give up living in order to build their dream home and in the end depart the Inn they mistook as a PERMANENT RESIDENCE.

escape artist within

Imagine this: you wake up one morning, feeling restless and bored. You check your phone, hoping to find something interesting or exciting to do. But all you see are the same old messages, emails, notifications, and news. You sigh and get out of bed, dragging yourself to the bathroom. You brush your teeth, take a shower, and get dressed. You look at yourself in the mirror, wondering if this is all there is to life.

You go to work, where you spend hours doing tasks that don’t inspire you or challenge you. You deal with deadlines, meetings, emails, and calls. You try to be productive and efficient, but you feel like you’re just going through the motions. You don’t have any passion or purpose for what you do. You’re just doing it because you have to.

You come home, feeling tired and drained. You eat dinner, watch some TV, browse some social media, and maybe read a book or play a game. You try to relax and unwind, but you feel like you’re just wasting time. You don’t have any hobbies or interests that make you happy or fulfilled. You’re just doing it because you have nothing else to do.

You go to bed, hoping to fall asleep quickly and forget about your boring day. But as you lie in the dark, you can’t help but think: is this it? Is this what life is supposed to be like? Is this what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my days? You feel trapped and hopeless. You want to escape, but you don’t know how.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Many people feel like they’re stuck in a rut, living a life that doesn’t match their true desires or potential. They feel like they’re missing out on something more meaningful and satisfying. They feel like they’re living someone else’s life, not their own.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape from this cycle of boredom and discontentment. You can create a life that is aligned with your authentic self and your deepest passions. You can live a life that is rich and rewarding, full of joy and adventure within your soul. No one else can do it for us. This is a repurposing that should happen within us.

Below is a mind map that might help.

Brush strokes of my 2 year old son | archives of The Border Of a Mind

First, you must find your why. You must ask yourself what is the reason for your existence, what is the meaning of your life, what is the dream that you have in your heart. You must listen to your soul, not to your mind or to others. You must find your passion, your purpose, and your joy.

Second, you must make a plan. You must decide how you will pursue your why, how you will achieve your dream, how you will live according to your values. You must be realistic, but not pessimistic. You must be flexible, but not indecisive. You must be courageous, but not reckless.

Third, you must take action. You must start moving towards your why, even if you don’t know all the details or all the risks. You must trust in the signs and the synchronicities that the universe will send you along the way. You must overcome the obstacles and the fears that will try to stop you. You must follow your intuition and your heart.

Fourth, you must enjoy the journey. You must not focus only on the destination or the result, but also on the process and the experience. You must not compare yourself to others or judge yourself too harshly, but also appreciate your progress and your growth. You must not stress over the problems or the challenges, but also celebrate the beauty and the wonder of life.

I hope this post inspires you to take the first step today.
Remember that you are not alone in this journey.

being tender

In the rush of life, we immerse ourselves in, it seems that tenderness has become a rare and precious commodity. We often forget the value of being kind and gentle, like the soft skin on our eyelids. Tenderness is a sweet collision of emotions that encompasses vulnerability, love, caring, kindness, hope, and warmth. It is an experience that we all crave and need.

The beauty of tenderness is found in the smallest things we do. It can be manifested in the way we kiss with a loved one, how we peel a banana, turn the pages of a book, or brush a hair off someone’s forehead. When we do something tenderly, we slow down, relish the moment, and find unexpected pleasure in the little things.

Tenderness is also about listening, empathizing, and understanding. It is about being present, holding someone’s hand, feeling their pain, and offering comfort. In today’s world, where even the smallest aspects can ensue into something to be anxious about, tenderness is especially important.

Let us take a moment to pause and appreciate the tenderness in our lives. Let us embrace the beauty of vulnerability and love, and be kind, gentle, and caring towards ourselves and others. In a world that can be cold and harsh, a little tenderness can go a long way in healing our souls. Let’s go.

fleeting intersections

the uncredited multitudes, whose names we neglect as we leave the theater, collectively create the movie’s essence. So too in our lives

As I traverse through the three and a half decades of my existence, I grapple with the transient nature of human connections. It is a reality that eludes romanticism or poetic grace. To those who have traversed my life’s path and those yet to do so: My love is yours. My longing, unending. Should you ever yearn for a return to me, you shall find the rear entrance unlocked.

In the world of cinema, it is not the musical accompaniment that entices the audience, yet it remains an indispensable element in enriching our visual and emotional experience at the theatre. So too, in life, are the myriad souls who subtly enhance our existence, though they may not occupy the limelight. The Careem cabbie suffusing your commute with good cheer. The office attendant who grasps the precise alchemy for your tea and coffee. The building maintenance expert who diligently rectifies an issue that has been gnawing at you. The familiar autorickshaw driver gifting you a hometown mango without embarrassment. The pediatrician offering a lolly pop to your toddler son after a checkup. The pharmacist who devotes extra moments to elucidate a doctor’s prescription with tenderness. In life, as in film, we focus on the stars – our lovers, family, friends. Yet the uncredited multitudes, whose names we neglect as we leave the theater, collectively create the movie’s essence. So too in our lives. Yet, it is those unsung heroes, whose names blur into the background as we exit the theater of life, that contribute to the wholeness of our life’s narrative. Think about it for a while.