Tag Archives: choice

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

Play

Being

You now, do.

Windows open,

Closed doors say, “Come, do.”

But just sit there, and breathe.

In, and out. Out, then in. Life.

Talk to the breeze hugging your skin.

Listen to Time travelling for you.

Rejoice! Relax. Be very you. Now. Here.

jh

___________________________________________________________

I could claim credit for the title, but I can’t, even though I might have thought of it. Alas, Osho thought of it before me.
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Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointment comes with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly. Continue reading Only disappointment

Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointments come with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly.  Continue reading Only disappointment

Shelling, and then hoping

The oysters weren’t quite done yet. Noon breeze caressed him gently, bringing with it the aromas of something yummy. “Something yummy” in Jeremy’s dictionary was oysters. He especially loved the ones they made at The Drunken Crab. Jeremy lazily drew whorls on the outside of his beer mug. He was enjoying the breeze more than the beer. And since it was only very seldom that he allowed himself to enjoy, he was taking his time. Or rather, he’d put it on hold.

Jeremy Y was a strange man. He grew up in a suburban mansion with two parents, two dogs and many goldfish. The latter gave way to many of their kind over the years, but there were always many of them. His parents, Emily and Wilfred, were rich heirs of very rich people who liked to live big. But these things were not that made him strange. It was his incongruous existence at the mansion viz a viz everything and everybody; in fact his incongruity every where. He did not fit in. No, he wasn’t a square peg in a round hole. He was a football trying to snug it in inside a highway tunnel.

Jeremy was home-tutored. And that made things worse. He didn’t have to meet anyone except the tutor who was — to Jeremy — a non-entity anyway. You see, Jeremy did not like people. He did not like places or things or people. He did not like being. He did not like.

But he was sitting here, smelling oysters, the only exception.

And he was wondering whether it was really true. Had he really got married last week? He found himself startled each time this question sneaked in. Kathy was a sweet girl, and was everything his parents would want in a daughter-in-law. Well-groomed, and rich. It didn’t take them long to decide that the two should get married. Jeremy wasn’t asked. He was told. He was always told the next thing to do, so he listened this time as well, and obeyed. Somehow, he was certain Kathy wouldn’t have had it any different than them either. The rich people they lived with and around were clever in ensuring their richness got replenished with every occasion — weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, divorces. This knowledge relieved him of any trace of guilt that might have visited him about having married a girl without intending to ever be a husband.

Unsuspecting, Kathy walked in.

“Hi! Did you see the rainbow?”

He could never have seen one if it pounded drums in his ears.

“Umm, not really. Well, yes. On TV.”

Kathy’s laughter reminded him of the tinkling bells in this mother’s charm bracelet. There were times when he really listened for something that might take this endless cold out of his chest and every time it was the bracelet that rang in his years, but only to be dumbed by Emily’s sticky-like-toffee laughter.

“Where’ve you been living? Come out here,” chimed Kathy with a sunshine-y tinkle.

He reluctantly got up and even more reluctantly put his hand in hers. Together, they stepped out of the trendy coconut-leaf shack. The drizzle had just given way to a downpour. The rainbow to their right was fading rapidly, and would vanish before he could think of coming up with an excuse to get inside. It, the rainbow, was not going to permit him a view just yet.

Jeremy was in any case interested in other things Goa had to offer. He hadn’t picked it for his honeymoon for rainbows. He had other plans.

“Yeah. There it was. I saw it,” he obliged. And then mumbled a wry “Pity, it got washed away.” Kathy’s enthusiasm was made of stronger stuff. She cried with childish pleasure at the sight of fishermen coming out of the ocean, hopefully with prized catches. She ran towards them and called for him. Jeremy shuffled along the formless sand, glad that the Goan rain had gone as soon as it’d come.

The fishermen were prepared for enthusiastic tourists from the western world.

“Hello, Miss,” said a youngish sea-farer, his skin the color of sun-baked earth.

“Hello to you! Did you get some good catch?”

“Not today, Miss. Just some pomfret and a lot of oysters.”

“Lot of oysters, hmm? Isn’t that good?”

“Not much demand in this season.”

“Can I pick one?” Jeremy’s curiosity got the better of him.

“Yes, yes. Try one, no.”

“Try one?”

“Yes, yes. Open and put in mouth.” He washed one in the sea and handed it to Kathy. She pretended to pry it open to put the smelly meat in her mouth. She didn’t have the stomach for this.

Jeremy, on the other hand, worked it like he’d been doing it all his life. He’d eaten oysters, of course. But this was different.

When the meat dropped in his mouth, he felt an animal surge of triumph. The sticky flesh nudged the insides of his mouth, the weighty smell clung to his throat as he slowly, deliberately chewed the flesh.

“Mm. Very nice.”

Kathy looked at him, surprised. “You know, this is the closest you’ve come to appreciating something? What is it about this oyster?”

“It is a whole world in a shell,” he said as he glanced at her astonished face. Turning away, he was surprised to sense that animal in his chest again. It howled. Just for a bit.

“Thank you,” he said to the fisherman and began walking away. Kathy threw her still unopened mollusk and caught up with him.

“You say strange things.”

Jeremy shrugged and led the way to the Drunken Crab.

Josef, the restaurant’s very young chef, was looking around with two plates in his hands, “Ah, there you are Mr. Y. Thought you’d chickened out. Oysters aren’t for every one. Here, oysters in white wine and celery sauce.”

Kathy, sitting down, looked at the sea and said, “I’ve change my mind. I’ll have your pomfret masala after all.”

Josef didn’t seem much bothered. Probably there’d be more takers of wine-and-celery oysters, “Sure, right away,” he boomed and weaved gracefully through the tables. Kathy couldn’t help following him with her eyes. Jeremy was looking at the sea, his sandy hair protesting against the breeze, his mouth thoughtfully churning the sea-juices.

Picking up the beer pitcher, Kathy poured herself a generous pint, sipped at it, and, licking the froth mustache, pointed out a motorcyclist, “They seem to have a lot of those here. They’re available on rent. The bikes.”

“Hmm,” said Jeremy, doing nothing to hide his disinterest.

Kathy’s enthusiasm had finally caught up with the rainbow. “Did you marry me for any reason other than my father’s money?”

“Hm? Yes, of course,” he made some effort to focus his eyes on hers. “My parents wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Kathy looked away, unable to believe what she’d just heard. And what it implied.

<> <> <>

As a child, Jeremy was quite remarkable. He was inert. So inert, he could be the rug underneath his mother’s Chippendale, and no one would notice. But even more remarkable was his persistent, insistent need to keep away. Jeremy Y was painfully suspicious of everything and everybody. He was quite adept at shrugging off people because he’d practiced over the years to build an impenetrable barbed shell around him. Well, almost.

During a holiday at Aunt Josephine’s ocean home, where his parents had sent him with a hope to soothe his frightfully morbid nerves, 10-year old Jeremy was looking at the deep ocean, stretching out to eternity.

The sea did soothe him. He looked endlessly at the endless troughs and swells, allowing the whispering breeze to lull him out of his apathy. He was so engrossed in this therapeutic daze that he didn’t notice a boy about his age approach him. By the time he did notice him, the visitor had almost sat down next to him. Jeremy’s armor was back up.
“Haven’t seen you around before.”

The sea must’ve made the armor rusty. The normal Jeremy would have kept mulishly quiet, but this day was different “I am visiting my aunt here,” he nodded towards the house below.

“Ms. J’s your aunt? She’s one swell lady.”

Jeremy’s grunt was non-committal.

Marty didn’t seem to notice Jeremy’s disinterest, “You ever fished for oysters?”

“No. I’ve never fished,” said Jeremy and continued to look at the sea. Much to his own surprise, he added, “Seeing an ocean for the first time. It is… very different.”

Strange things happen. It was strange for Jeremy to volunteer more conversation than necessary. He hardly ever got beyond monosyllables and callously truncated sentences. It was probably the stress of this new interaction that became so overwhelming that he got up to leave.

“Hey! Wanna join me help my Dad unload oysters?”

“Where?” Jeremy found himself saying.

“Right down there. Race you,” the boy ran down the gentle slope, Jeremy jogging behind him with no intention of racing, his eyes on the deep blue below. He could feel something changing in him; something filling the empty depths inside.

The friendly new acquaintance won. His dad’s boat was about to moor at the pier. Jeremy saw a pile of brownish green shells on the boat. Oysters were served often at home, but given his general disinterest, he’d never tried them.

The boat was a bright traffic-light green. Her name, Sally Flier, was painted in white along the hull. The boy waved to his father, “Hey, watcha got?”

“Guess you were right about the mood, son. Didn’t get much.” He was now tying Sally Flier to the pier. They chuckled at some secret joke, father and son. Jeremy tried not to look at them. It was embarrassing to see such warmth.

“Who’s your friend?”

“He wants to help me help you. He’s visiting Ms. J, aren’t you umm..?”

Jeremy gave his name and heard himself saying, “Yes sir, I’d like to help.”

“All right then, heave ‘em out and help me load ‘em on the truck. Marty, show how.”

Marty got on the boat and told Jeremy to lift out the load. Jeremy heard the sound of oysters rubbing against each other, he felt the salt-laden air cover him with a crisp blanket of life. As he stood beside Marty’s father, mostly useless, because his partner’s sure hands and muscular body didn’t require much from him, he felt surer and more secure than he’d ever been.

They got the load on the truck; and while he was removing sand from inside his shoes, Jeremy saw his reflection on the rear-view mirror. He was smiling.

Marty came around and picked a couple of oysters, throwing one at Jeremy.

“Open it.”

Jeremy turned it over. He wasn’t quite sure how to, but was reluctant to ask.

“Here, lemme show you,” he pried one open and held it out for Jeremy to see. The pink flesh looked too raw. He’d never seen anything like it. Pink, and gooey. Inviting, somehow.

“Dad says they have an entire world in them.” Marty had begun eating them in a sort of meditative tempo. Jeremy was still, meditatively, on the first one. The raw meat was leathery and soft – a marshmallow with more masculinity than you could ask for.

The rest of the day was a fog in Jeremy’s head. That one oyster opened up a whole new world for him. The sea was bluer than it was in the morning, Aunt Josephine less meddlesome. His parents seemed like specters from a world that didn’t matter.

Jeremy was one with the sea and the oyster’s world was no longer a clammed-up non-entity. It nourished him.

<> <> <>

Evening had set in. The waves had found a deeper urge to embrace the skies. They poured in, one after the other, as Kathy, a solitary figure, walked the beach. This was something she had planned for her honeymoon. But she had not thought that the do-nothing days would be alone.

Marriage wasn’t something she was trained to expect anything from. She knew it had to be with someone her parents would eventually find. Sweet Kathy was never the kind to argue or question, she just accommodated. When she saw Jeremy for the first time, she was impressed with his haughty, disinterested air. She smiled with her girlish fantasy, wondering how his expression would change when he knew her more. His expression hadn’t changed. He hadn’t bothered to know her. What she thought was aristocratic pomp for the benefit of the masses was in fact what Jeremy Y was — a cold fish. Would her marriage be what everyone had promised her it would be, after all — strange lives, hand-in-hand, roboting their way to fuller coffers? That is not what she’d secretly dreamed of. Where was her knight? Even a rusty armor would do.

Jeremy leaned against the wooden pillar, arms tied in an unrelenting cross. Those who had been around him would have thought he was looking as usual at the sea. But those who had been around him did not know him. He wasn’t looking at the sea. He was looking at his wife’s lonely figure drawing whorls (he assumed) on the sand with her toes. Her pretty skirt with periwinkle flowers flagged gayly in the breeze. Her auburn hair flipped. She had movement around her. Quite different from his mother’s well-coiffed hair and crisp dresses. He was watching movement. Something he wasn’t accustomed to doing.

And it scared him.

Even though she was far away from the cottage pillar where he was, he thought he could smell her mild gardenia scent. His mother always used a spicy musk. Musk. Why was he thinking about musk when gardenia was something he’d found himself getting drawn to for as long as he could remember? Why must he always look at what he did not like? Always the same things. Pretension, sacrifice, force, manipulation.  Musk. And here she was, this almost-free figure in white encased in a soft, gentle perfume, so far from all those things that made him crawl into a mother-of-pearl case he hated so much, but stayed on in because it saved him from all those things. She was so far, and she wasn’t a cage.

He shuddered and it wasn’t the Goa breeze. It must’ve been the sudden invasion of emotions he knew had no use in his world. But hadn’t they? Should he go out there and help her tame her unruly hair? He made to go, but thought otherwise and looked at his watch instead. Time for dinner. Oysters. The word brought new energy in him. But what was this new feeling? Did the word just bring some impatience within him? A sort of boredom that the rest of the world made him feel? Surely not the oysters!

This was turning out to be very different from what he’s planned for his honeymoon — spend a day or two in Panaji with Kathy just to keep up the charade, and then catch a bus to south Goa to the bungalow he’d taken special pains to purchase. And then vanish from the world that had Chippendale furniture and indecent cacophony. He’d arranged for everything. And yet, here he was, with Kathy, still in Panaji after four days. Why?

He found himself walking towards her. Before he even realized his unusual action, he was close enough to her. She looked up at him and then looked away. Was it the setting sun or a strange something that made her eyes reflect the ocean? He was mesmerized.

“I..”

“You.”

“I…um. Will you.. um.”

“Will I what?” Kathy spat with surprising ferocity.

“I came here to invite you for dinner.”

“Oysters again.”

“Actually, I was wondering if you’d like to order tonight. Anything. As long as it isn’t clammy.”

Of old lessons

Originally posted on 30 September, 2010

When in doubt, run to friends. Their station in life or the grades they got in school regardless, they will come up with responses that light up your life. Serious, concerned, pertinent answers or witty, in-your-face humour. Years back, I ran (virtually) to friends, implored them to help me remove the cobwebs in my head. I take life too seriously, you see. It becomes a humongous task to not analyse my contributions in my own life. This particular situation arose from the doubt that I was probably being too impatient with humanity in particular and myself in general. So, I did what I feel most comfortable doing. I wrote. And sent mails to a few friends who I knew would be honest. The following is an excerpt.

“I am introspecting again… It’s like spring cleaning…. I need your feelings on this. It may seem strange, but I’d like to know my faults/weaknesses/what have you. I am terribly uncomfortable with saccharine praise. Is it possible for a person to do things and not make ANY mistake?… There needs to be a not-so-nice bit in people somewhere.  All this praise makes me feel unnecessary conceit… I look for validity of all that we see around. I want to believe. In compliments, smiles, expressions of approval. And try as I may, I don’t see any validity. It’s a lonely place to be in.

…Cynicism makes me dizzy with fear. I am alone here in this world, usually. Loneliness is the last thing any of us chooses, right? I fear spending my time peeping at the world from behind a veil made of cocksure I-am-okay-by-myself attitude. … that loving is a lonely thing to do. And it is such a sorry plight. I am scared, because I have stepped into this threshold of accepting loneliness as the only way out of an insane desperation in search of something that is so wonderfully wholesome, that it overwhelms you for the rest of your life.”

(You must grant me bravery. Now that I am reading these words after a gap of seemingly zillion years, I admit I must’ve been quite a character back then. Who spring cleans the nice bits? Why analyse when you can live? Whatever. It was back then.)

And they wrote back. And lit up my life. Good Samaritans, all.

Don’t lose your spirit trying too hard!

OK just don’t sound so cocky when you answer calls. You might scare people away.

Forcing humility or self-evaluation has no value attached to it.

Conceit is not a problem as long as it is not apparent.

Talk because you want to, because you want to share. And there shouldn’t be the feeling of wanting to say the right things to get approval.

Each one’s emotional investment in a relationship can never be to the same degree as yours.

You simply have to be able to open your mind and speak.

I honestly believe that even though we lend power to everyone for the way we feel..at the end of the day we believe in ourselves through other’s eyes because it’s convenient. It’s easier to blame others than one’s own self.

Try doing things for some one else. Unless that coincides with what you want  to do too, it’s a strain, you have to push yourself, things don’t go right, everything is generally miserable because we are trying to go against nature.

…..and you definitely don’t need their (people who don’t know better) adulations.

Anything they don’t understand, they just idolize and antagonize.

I see the shelves at bookstores crammed with books on improvement, and how to live a better life… everyone seems hell bent on trying to teach the world how to live and how to improve (and wonder of wonders, the reviews point out that it actually works for people!!) I say this again – I’m not evolved enough to understand how I can improve by accepting parameters set by people whose views on life, and whose beliefs are probably poles apart from mine.

What we have to learn is  that every minute we live is important . Everything we do, think, see, taste, smell, blah, blah is important.

Look for peace within you. If you are not calm , no amount of love from the outside can be a balm. You are your own disease and your own medicine.

Well, phew. That’s a lot of lessons in a short time. Begone, unnecessary ‘introspection’! Reading and re-reading this (and all the other stuff they wrote) reminded me of the importance of simplicity.

We spend our times wondering whether or not we did the right thing. Or whether we received what we deserve. It can become an overwhelming whirlpool. Getting out of it requires much more than the knowledge of swimming. And some don’t even know that.

In such situations, skepticism may become necessary. Cynicism, however, is just hogwash.

(Skepticism – it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.)

(Cynic is one who “shows a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, and is wont to express this by sneers and sarcasm.”)

My leanings towards a lonely road of disappointment at the moral and emotional inadequacies? They were curbed.

I have believed (and thankfully still do) in living and letting live (one friend did point out some enlightened souls like Mr. Axl Rose who believe in living and letting die). In the path of leading such a seemingly indifferent life, I may and do encounter times when I want control. Control things for the sake of love or self-preservation or both. But as long as my own harmless existence is not threatened, it is suicidal to want to be in control. As long as I remember to sip from my own wellspring of soul-wisdom from time to time, things normally turn out just fine!

Let Me Be

Here’s another of my very old notes. The picture is not so old. It was taken last year during Diwali — the festival of lights. The photographer had had a drink too many, the light was dim, and it resulted in a masterpiece of a photo: Me and Moti. But this post is actually about what’s written below.

If this feeling of uncertainty about myself did not overwhelm me so much, I’d feel less hassled with people’s impressions of me. The more I drown myself in self-admonishment, the more I pave way for others to invade my well being.

This post was first published on November 2, 2010. Here’s the link. Like in all my old posts, the image here has been added very recently. If this reblogging is too quick for your taste and time, do accommodate! This phase won’t last forever.

A Jumble of Excess

I have an indefatigable sweet tooth for supporting the underdog.

Take, for instance, stem roses. No, they’re not the underdogs. They are the underdoggers. Other flowers almost never get a chance on the edgewise, what with the well-known popularity of these cornucopias of divinity. And this has almost always helped me indulge my sweet tooth mentioned above. But that’s not all — I didn’t think much of roses, especially the ones that make it to the bouquets. Until very recently, that is. If roses were people, I thought,  the very elegant stem rose would be a classy, beautiful, snooty, vain, middle-aged woman. Not my type. (Except the middle-aged bit — middle age is a necessary evil, I’ve realised with time. But I digress.)

You must understand that it makes me uncomfortable to choose anything. It might be because this essentially neutral brain of mine feels alarmed at choosing one over the other. It is actually over the other that discomfits me. In the case of roses, I have found a comfortable position.

Climber and wild roses are, to me, like that person who brings in life wherever they go. My special liking for these varieties helped me begin to see a stem rose-person in a different light. When I look at it now, I realise that the snootiness I see there is, in fact, none of my business. I can just choose to not be around it, because I have life-bringers to choose instead. So, after all these years of mind-rallying against certain roses because

a. I want to support the underdog instead

b. these certain roses aren’t my type

I could stop the spinning caused by choosing over, because I am choosing instead. It was just a matter of one word, and there is now an indescribably wonderful sense of peace in some tiny corner of my mind. I can even see the classiness and elegance sometimes, instead of the vanity.

Phew.

But not so fast! Most of this strange mind of mine is still on a continous spin of choosing, not choosing, supporting, rejecting. It buzzes frantically for the longest time,  and then short-circuits, my poor mind. And then all you can see is a Jumble of Excess.

Superior beliefs

Is there anything like a superior belief? Belief, in my definition, is interchangeable with faith. And faith, for all sensible creatures, should build and create peace. As long as it does that, its superiority is self-evident. To believe that the tangent of your faith is the only superior one is a folly. And, sadly, our world is seething with it. The religious, economic, social anarchy in not just my country, but yours, too is a proof of just this one apparently small mistake. If I look closely, I am on the verge of following this erroneous path of self-promotion at least a dozen times everyday. I quail at the thought of the sheer number of people sitting in all corners of this world, believing that theirs is the mightiest — a dozen times a day. No wonder people lose their minds and then go on to produce peace-annihilating bombs in their kitchens, run governments, control religious institutions, harp about human rights, and make monetary policies.

If God, financial robustness, or social harmony were to be acquired by the belief of one self-promoting sect, we would have reached Utopia in the Middle Ages.

The Lovable and The Lovable

Moti, our peace-loving dog, isn’t aware that people fight to protect what’s dearest to them. He likes to protect his territory, but looks askance if he’s faced with aggression that’s willing to bare its sharp teeth at times.

Bulu, our assertive dog, likes to play as long as it’s not yet time to retaliate to a challenge. When faced with even the slightest bit of aggression or threat to his territory, he knows and sees nothing but a fitting reply to it.

We love them both, of course. But differently. Bulu’s boisterous play time is our time of joy and heart-overwhelming love. Moti’s gentle licking or companionable pawing is for us an assurance of life. To choose one over the other would be difficult, but to not choose one instead of the other for what they’re best at giving would be impossible.

Absorbent?

Turkey invented the Turkish towel, havalu, to indulge a rich bride before her wedding day. The Ottoman Empire knew how to luxuriate in the finest of things, as those of us who have used these pieces of fine craftsmanship know already. Such softness, such absorbency. Such weight, such thickness.

The Indian sun is enthusiastic most of the time, in most of the places, so the thickness of a Turkish towel wouldn’t be much of a problem — most houses don’t have laundry dryers, the sun ‘s heat, which is aplenty, does the job beautifully. (And oh, the divine smell!) But absorbent? The Indian towel, known as gamccha in most Hindi-speaking parts, is handwoven cotton, without the piling. It absorbs, and then dries quickly, even in monsoons. Where does the thick, piled, heavy Turkish dream stand? Well, to me, nowhere. But not to most, only because it is said that the Turkish towel is the ultimate in luxury.

To decide whether to choose or reject one of the most important pieces of cloth on the basis of fashion and trend is nothing but the wretchedness of an indiscriminately absorbent mind.

Act with reserve

India has held its head up high through centuries of organised division of people on the basis of their birth — caste to be exact. The head has remained high despite all evidences against the pertinence of this system initially started to categorise with the intention of delineating the professions, privileges, and responsibilities on the basis of skills and expertise, and not birth. For hundreds of years now, the caste system has become rigid, intolerant and downright nonsensical. But apparently not for long.

In 1993, a mandate proposing educational and social equality of the ‘backward classes’ was implemented. The Mandal Commission was met with enthusiastic jubilation by the said classes, matched only by the outrage of the ‘upper’ ones. The Commission is designed to give reservation of educational seats and professional jobs to the classes that have received little or no educational, professional and hence social facilities over time — just on the basis of their caste.

It seems justified on paper. These people have had enough of discrimination, it is time the discrimination moved in their favour.

____________________________

I could go on with all that’s churning in my head, but I am going to wait. I am going to wait for a wild, or climber rose to show me I can keep my sanity amidst all this involuntary spinning of thoughts wanting to oust the vain, and the snooty. Oh, and also the blind.

Of living, eating, and forgetting

It is raining as I write this. And it was raining when I took the pictures below. And it will continue to rain indefinitely until the monsoon season decides to leave this country. A land at once sated, and harassed. Patience is a virtue you might wish to keep a good stock of while you visit this blog in the coming days, for it will have more of rain. And of the places I visit. Today, feast your eyes on life, as the world lives it. The levels of struggle, the extent of including the unnecessary, may differ from communities to communities, species to species, but the world does live on these — struggle for comfort, struggle for food, and the occasional indulgences.

Adat bazaar at Nainital -- the place we will see today. Adat means a wholesale market for vegetables and fruits, and sometimes grains.
Sitting on a high perch, I looked at the intense interest people have in the one thing that is arguably the basis for all life -- food.
Wholesale vendors look for bulk sales, retail vendors look for the best bargain.
Like these mangoes, most vegetables come to Nainital from the outside. The terrain of the town is such that not much can be grown here.
This lady is oblivious to the sounds of haggling, rain, triumph at a good bargain, despair at the grumbling stomach. She reads her newspaper among her ivy and geraniums.
This man under the umbrella has deft fingers.
To fill this carton with carrots....
... he chops off the unnecessary with a knife. Sometimes two, or three carrots at once. Where do the scraps go? We'll see.
This porter is one of the many, who make life in a hill station like this livable. They carry anything from grocery bags to fridges to homes that are right up on the mountains where no vehicle goes. Where these young boys in their Adidas shoes will not dream of going in slippers.
These women were probably devastated. Outsiders, they did not know it could rain; and the steep climb didn't add to the comfort. But there's always a shoulder to lean on when you're with friends, no?
Though I love the normal fuschia, I am beginning to like these with a white bottom. They display the contrasts so well.
Forgive me for adding the unnecessary. I just love the look of wood. If only we planted more trees to make up for the ones we fell.
This police woman was careful to not let wet splashes ruin her kurta. Holding the umbrella with one hand, she grabbed the flailing cloth with the other. What would she do, if she had a handbag, I wonder.
This young lady was enjoying the drizzle, for it had become a drizzle by this time. Showing off her ponytail (or was it happiness radiating through the ponytail?), she looked around with great interest.
These people don't look too happy, now, do they?
Ah, a lawyer. Walking to the High Court nearby. I love his pinstriped trousers. Don't you?
Jalebis and pakoras. And copious amounts of oil in the middle kadahi. 🙂
These school kids were wondering if they could leave the tiffin boxes their mothers had packed for them somewhere around here, and, when they needed to eat during the school recess, they could sneak into the canteen outside of their school. Tiffin boxes a cumbersome to carry.
Another unnecessary picture. It is here because I love letter boxes. Much more than the email inboxes. And I love the canisters for milk in the background, too.
The clouds were closing in again, the wind vane surprisingly silent.
This fruit section of the market attracts few people. It is expensive.
Our sparrow friend hopped on this electricity line, obviously pleased at the short-term respite from the falling water.
It never ceases to amaze me -- the incredible amount of wires and cables and lines we have to depend on. So many connections, such ugly ones. And so necessary.
Sometimes ugliness has a virtue -- of being quaint, and most of all, of being useful. Someone has tied wires around this tired gutter. It is almost as good as it needs to be!
This monkey stole a roti (chapati) from a shop nearby. By the time I could divert my attention from the drain, he had already tried his loot. And got bored with it, for some reason.
Moving on to the rooftop, he did something more exciting -- got himself de-liced.
And then, returned the favour. The pleasure was doubled, for as he discovered subsequently, lice are tastier than rotis.
Potatoes. The one vegetable that everyone HAS to like. Oh? You don't? Think of all the wow-energy it gives you! For cheap, too. Hill people in India love this vegetable, for it is one of the few things they can grow, it is tastier than the ones found in the plains, and it is comfortably priced.
Grain sacks, brooms, shoppers and wealth. Of sorts.
A local mithai shop. Sweetmeats. The brown thing is chocolate barfi. A favourite among the tourists.
Back to what drove me to sit on this perch in the first place. The sheer energy of this place!
And all for this.
A porter carrying apple cartons to I do not know where. I wonder what they do to their drenched clothes once their day is done. Once it is time to settle in wherever they settle in for the night. Do they have spares?
This caller was calling for gourd takers. He has a humungous task. People usually do not like gourds.
And look at this, this feat of mankind. Standing here for at least a century, defiant. Though it might seem like it is neglected by the successors of the ones who made it, it is simply a matter of choosing aging over botox. Oh, chuckle all you wish. It is indeed so. The day you become as wise as I am today, you'll know.
Laugh at my foolishness. I'll laugh with you. Things are meant to be maintained, of course -- so that they don't leak, look good. But if things are functioning well the way they are, beauty can be found anywhere -- so that the resources can be saved.
Speaking of which, I wish we had not discovered the virtues of a CFL. It is inelegant, and gives off the worst light possible. What resources are we saving?
For whom?
I wonder if these tomatoes will go all pulpy by the time this person takes the sack to his small roadside shop somewhere in the other end of the town. Do you know?
These are more patient witnesses of this bazaar. They might.
This person kept coming up to adjust the plastic roof above his shop.
And here comes my favourite part of the outing!
His master directed him carefully through the veggies.
But not carefully enough! Ha! What a catch! He got one big potato, all for himself!
After he unloaded the wares, the master didn't forget to cover our potato-lover with a sheet of plastic. It helps against the rain.
And now, he's found a tomato!
But this man could use some chai. And an umbrella. Shivering like he could shake off the cold, he kept looking for mangoes.
And here's our scrap user. Remember the scraps from de-greened carrots? This man's companion was collecting edible waste from all the stalls, dumping them here. But the man couldn't wait for her to come back to sit with him and eat. He began his feast without her.
She's got her week's requirement. And is now looking for some fruits. Eventually, she just went away. Perhaps they were not to her taste.
There is such a difference between use and misuse, wouldn't you say? A few years back, this bazaar scene would have made me furious. Why is there so much disorganisation? Why can't they make proper shops? What about the ones who see food in front of them, but have to eat the waste? There are so many questions that probably need no answering. Or perhaps they are answered without words.
Like everything else, everything that is not else, lives. And life is about survival.
But what about reaching for the sky?
What about achieving that one extra inch of height, so that you are higher than the others? Better, efficient, creative, beautiful.
I do not know. But I do know that with time, and harsh drops of rain, only the one who focuses on the necessary will win. In their own right.
I leave you with the images of these birds, who wouldn't say "I lose", no matter the intensity of the rain.
Defiant,
Grumpy,
Each dealing with the rain in their own way,
Some patient, some otherwise,
Some wishing I'd stop analysing.

This is for you, Rosie.

About things old

Nostalgia is another silly thing among the very many silly things we like to shelter. Well, I like sheltering it. On a day tiresome with aimlessness, for example, I can rummage through it and fish out an appropriate memory to feel nostalgic about. And then, all’s almost less tiresome, though not necessarily less aimless. Today was one such day. No work, some unavoidable grocery shopping, a nagging feeling of not having written anything to keep my writing cells exercised. After countless minutes in front of the computer with nothing constructive to show for, I decided to take out my camera, and start looking for subjects in our summer garden. Nature’s bounty is an ethereal nostalgia in itself, wouldn’t you say? It dragged me in, letting my being soak in its simple love.

It is difficult to accept simple love as it is. To forget you are not wearing slippers, the grass blades are jostling with the sharp silver oak leaf edges to kiss your feet, the sun is blinding your already struggling vision. But once you do, all is well. As I drifted from flower to flower, bird to bird, I remembered how these simple things brought back memories that could never get complicated even if they spent a day with adulthood as we know it.

Many people misunderstand adult behaviour as a bland and rigid means to sensible living. How sad! Actions, like everything else in this world, are servants of choice. You can choose to be unencumbered yet sensible  or shove yourself and the witnesses of your action down a morose drainpipe. But choices aside, I feel that actions have a beautiful prospect not only because they get stored in the memory bank to come back as nostalgia, but also because they can be guileless and uncomplicated, if you choose to make them so. Never mind if they are sometimes completely crazy and downright suicidal.

When we went out for weekend trips to magical lands on our beloved bike, we liked to cover the entire distance on one day. The ride was almost always an accelerated version of drifting. B refused to wear glasses, so the wind’s blast would make his eyes water. And I? I also refused to keep it sane. I’d open my mouth to fill in the wind. The strong gush would fill my mouth with excited air. The next best thing was to look at myself in the rear-view mirror, and listen to the gush of the wind. It stormed in, making the lips part, the cheeks bulge and ripple hideously, and making me look like some startled fish who wasn’t afraid of showing the entire landscape of the inside of its mouth. Did I mention I loved it? I loved it, even though the air brought with it B’s eye-water, countless small insects and probably even more countless particles of dust. When we reached our destination, B would feast his eyes on the greens and I, well, I had to first raid the resort’s usually low supply of water to clean out the now completely dried out fish-mouth. And then I’d go gather more memories.

Memories just accumulate, don’t they? Some stay back to refresh and revitalise, some may have been a pain when they were happening, but years later, they seem to be the stuff for nostalgia.

Another recurring memory is of a time when I was in college and doubling up as an online hotel bookings girl. Life was full of dreams and fluff. And shopping lists. Well, no, none of that has changed yet, but in those days, dreams and fluff and shopping lists constituted the bulk of routine. The fights with the other girls to receive a particular agent’s phone call just to hear his honey-dipped steel voice; the numerous trips to the best libraries in the city in the belief that they would magically transport me to all those places I read about; the much-loved trips in auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) to the local road-side clothes and junk-jewellery market to get the best cheap spiffy-looking dress; the after-shopping visits to cold-coffee-and-sandwich places to sit and discuss the loot. By the time it was mid-month, all the money would be gone. Poof. And then, for the next fifteen days, it’d be hostel food, bus rides, sorry thoughts of suddenly distant dreams, and impatient wait for the next month.

These two aren’t the only memory-trips I took while I was taking the following pictures. There were numerous. And they all left me with more life than I could hope for on a lazy summer day. The tiniest of things merged with the most innocuous of memories. Everything turned, for some odd reason, anything but aimless.

 
 
 
 

Live, Die, Repeat.

From: http://www.seemslegit.com

A Brief Discussion of Reincarnation and the World Cup of Cricket. And Heaven and Baseball, too.

My blogging friend Charles of Mostly Bright Ideas and I have been regularly sparring over the vast differences in thoughts and choices between our worlds. However, there are some moments of clarity and acceptance. During one such moment, we decided to co-author a post attempting to highlight the dissimilar sensibilities and the futility of trying to bridge the gap instead of taking a boat once in a while to admire the other side of the shore.

Large-hearted and brave that he is, Charles decided to watch the Cricket World Cup Final on April 2; a game which, I suspect, would be confusing for a baseball appreciator. Unfortunately for him, there were no live telecasts. The video stream was a torture, what with the tremendous traffic. The confusion and the exasperating streaming must have caused the nervous twitch that he immediately complained about.

PV: That’s what you get if you watch it through a medium that can get clogged with millions of visitors who couldn’t make it to the stadium or see a live broadcast. People here jostle everywhere, even in morgues, to watch their heroes play.

MBI: India really is a different place, isn’t it? Where I come from, people in morgues hardly move at all. They certainly don’t jostle.

PV: Really? Ours sometimes get a new lease on life to watch cricket before they’re re-born and come back. Do morgues there have no living people, by the way?

MBI: To be honest, I’ve never really been to a morgue. For all I know they may have Super Bowl parties and Sunday brunch. But this idea of reincarnation is intriguing. Do you think people in the West understand it?

PV: I’m not sure. You tell me.

MBI: I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but my concept is that reincarnation is a process that allows individuals to eventually close the gap between their true selves and the lives they’ve been living. It’s a kind of course correction. Our actions and attitudes either pull us closer or push us farther away from our destination. And because we’re slow learners, it may take many lives on Earth to get it right. Is that even close?

I should have listened to him when he said I’d sooner or later regret firing him.

PV: Yes, very. You must have been paying attention in your past life. When you say our actions and attitudes decide our course, you are spot on. The crux, however, is the destination. What is it that you’d want? Take birth again as a sultan with a formidable harem, or perhaps a rock star with a steely voice? Or would you rather leave all that behind and renounce this blow-hot blow-cold world?

Whatever you want, make a decision and live it. You will find yourself enjoying it in the next birth. If you have been good, the Moksha (or Liberation) will be yours. Okay, if not the next, then the one after that.

MBI: You say I’m spot on, but that answer surprised me. I thought the destination had already been decided — by the Universe, or something — and that we’re born with some mission to accomplish, but we have no idea what it is. So we spend our lives flailing around in the dark, hoping to find a path that at least takes us in the right direction. And to make matters worse, we can’t remember the lessons we learned, or were supposed to learn, in previous lives. That last part really had me confused.

PV: I knew I’d rejoiced too soon at your suspiciously quick comprehension. If you want to understand reincarnation, you will first have to understand the terms. Then it should be self-explanatory. I hope.

You previously said reincarnation is like a course correction, and that our actions determine whether we find our destination. According to the belief we are discussing, a soul, which is as old as the Universe (or something) and just a tiny part of it, sheds a body after it dies, much like changing worn-out clothes. It keeps on doing so, seeking the next mountain to climb or the next election to win, until it realises that desires are actually a means for eternal discontent. In this journey, it keeps correcting its course, or at least it’s supposed to. And it is believed that this will eventually lead the soul to its final destination, Moksha.

Oh? They're finally here, then. It's better to be born a bison than a pink Cadillac-driving struggling wannabe.

MBI: Do you find the idea of Liberation a little unsettling? Does it seem like one long boring transparent Nothingness? Similar to an eternal Heaven, only without the angels and ice cream?

PV: About the boring, transparent Nothingness minus the angels and ice cream: again, I wouldn’t know. I am still in this world with sinfully pink Cadillacs and brilliant diamonds that could blind even the brightest of glow worms.

MBI: Here’s something else I’ve been wondering. Are these beliefs about reincarnation necessarily tied to what is traditionally thought of as religious doctrine? Or are they embedded in the secular culture?

PV: No, they’re not tied to religious doctrines at all. That would undermine their validity, I’d say. These are concepts that have been derived from, believe it or not, a rare scientific and spiritual collaboration over centuries. They are a part of the culture in which people here grow up. Most, of course, do not waste their time in counting the previous births or the remaining ones before attaining Moksha, but almost all are aware that every action has a reaction — Karma. You keep adding to your kitty of actions, good or bad. And see if it gets you Nothingness or A Glorious Muddle. It’s entirely your choice.

MBI: But who would prefer Nothingness? I’d take the Glorious Muddle, just because something is almost always better than nothing. Or have I missed it again?

Blast this Karma. They're gaining in on me in this birth.

PV: Maybe. But I can see why you would think that way. Why pursue something you don’t know about; something that’s going to turn out to be Nothing anyway? What would Heaven be like, I wonder. It does seem to be Glorious, without the Muddle. Or not?

MBI: I can only repeat what I was taught. Or how I interpreted what I was taught. My image of Heaven was a place where the soul goes after it leaves the physical body. A place of eternal joy. All of the negative experiences and emotions linked to mortal life are gone. But consciousness remains. When in Heaven, I would know that I was there. That seems to be a strong difference. When the soul reaches Moksha, where is it? Does it even make sense to ask where?

PV: The where would be everywhere. But even that isn’t accurate. Our languages are too limited to express some of these ideas. Where is Heaven? Everywhere, somewhere, or nowhere?

MBI: As kids, we all pictured it as up, in the sky. And Hell was down.

PV: Inside the Earth?

MBI: That’s hard to say. Down, but not necessarily under the ground.

PV: It’s a different way of thinking. Completely different.

MBI: When I took Spanish in high school, the teacher told us that we would be on our way to learning the language when we stopped translating in our heads and began thinking in Spanish. I’ve always remembered that advice, yet as I read about and watch the cricket match, I can’t help trying to make sense of it by translating every play into the language of baseball. Even when I consciously tell myself not to, I do it anyway. I have a feeling that, as nations and societies struggle to understand and relate to each other, there’s a similar tendency that gets in their way. We keep looking at other people and filtering what we see through our own familiar lenses.

PV: And different religious groups do the same. I don’t think there’s a solution to that. If your concept of the afterlife is some kind of eternal reward, you may struggle to find the same thing in our notion of Liberation. If you watch a cricket match and keep waiting for someone to hit a “home run,” you will be frustrated. But I want to ask you: when the batsman hits the ball in baseball, why does he throw his bat?

MBI: I noticed that in cricket, the hitter runs with the bat. That seems awkward. In baseball, once the batter hits the ball, he’s no longer a batter; he becomes a runner, and running with the bat makes no sense. But again, we’re both looking at the other’s sport from a biased point of view.

PV: That’s true.

MBI: In baseball, a team plays a full season of games. And with each one, the players, managers, and coaches work to make improvements, fill gaps, let go of weaknesses, and build on strengths. The team hopes to eventually make its way though the playoffs and into the World Series. Would you say life, death, and reincarnation are similar to that process?

PV: No. I wouldn’t. You’ve oversimplified again. Reincarnation has nothing at all to do with baseball. However, it’s very much like what a cricket team goes through in order to get to the World Cup finals. You win the final match, and that may be as close to Liberation as you can get without leaving this Earth.

The last I remember, we'd won the Super Bowl. Is this Heaven?

Only greed

It is only greed. But it ruins.

Let it be known, I am not just thinking of that 4th bar of chocolate. And who am I to tell you of your choice of poison? I just know from experience that Greed is a clever sneak that waits for you to feel insecure with what you currently have. And then, it pounces, ravaging your promises, resolutions, values and scruples. It is not easy to fight it. You know it, don’t you? But is it impossible? Adidas thinks there is no such thing as impossible (Impossible is Nothing, the adverts scream). No wonder it is admired the world over. Even if it isn’t, it’s doing good.

Greed and I have been reluctant companions ever since I can remember. Well, reluctant me, at any rate. Ankur’s birthday party is engraved in my mind even though it’s been 30 years or so. (I must’ve been four or five). There was nothing remarkable about the party, no not even the cake. But his room, where I’d ventured during my exploration of his home, had the most wondrous collection of pencils and erasers and sharpeners. The best in the world, surely. And it was inhuman to let him have it all. My enthusiastic companion pounced. The frock I was wearing had no pockets. I had to think of something, and quick, because the voices from the party zone told me that someone was going to come looking for me. I gathered all that I could, picked up my frock to my chest and shoved them all into the temporary pocket this ingenious trick had created. Walking gracefully, as I am wont to, I said my ‘byes to an aghast Ankur, and ran out of the door. Or almost.

“Priya! Stop. Would you like a bag to carry that?”

“What, aunty?”

“There’s something you’re holding along with your frock.”

“No there’s nothing, aunty. I just feel like walking like this.”

“It’s not a good idea, Priya. Let that frock go.”

I usually manage to attend parties without being the toast of it. Or even be invisible at the point where the light occasionally limes. They call it limelight, I think. But at that moment, all eyes were on me. If I said no and ran away, my mother’s teachings of listening to elders would all go wasted. If I listened to Ankur’s mother, I’d lose the treasure. The choice was difficult. After a moment’s hesitation, my hands let go of the frock. The pencils and erasers and sharpeners fell at the doorstep. I had lost the treasure.  And I ran back home as fast as I could. Greed lost.*

Unbridled desire to own more, and apparently better, had succeeded in pouncing, nevertheless.

I now keep my frock well in place, thank you very much (the ingenious ideas have advanced with age), but I do find myself greeding after less interesting things like a quiet night under the stars. How do you get that? How does one steal a quiet night under the stars? But that’s not a part of this essay. The question I wish to ask is, how does one stop feeling greedy for the inaccessible or the extra cheese? Or why stop at all (for the more adventurous)?

This sin of excess wouldn’t have survived as long as humans themselves (we know our propensities) if it were easy to eliminate it. Who’d want to get rid of a thing that gives the kind of joy it does? However ruinous it may be.

Sadhus and saints talk of meditation. Sit, and think of what greed does to you. Concentrate on the evils of excess. Focus on the one energy that makes this world worth living in. Thank God there’s more of us walking the planet. It would’ve been such a moderate world if these killers-of-joy had been allowed to have their way. There’s no possible way to stop the Devil from throwing in carrots when I am trying to look at the One Energy. No, sorry. Perhaps meditating on the sins of excesses is not such a good idea, after all. At least not in my opinion.

Try focusing on what you have, if you ask me. And while you’re at it, it’ll answer the “Why stop?”

* If you are wondering about what happened after that, here’s the rest of the story:

My mother was surprised at my early return. Ankur was my best friend and it was surprising that I came back so soon. I just made some silly excuse and hid my pounding heart. The next morning, Ankur and his mother came with all the things I’d coveted from him. He wanted to give them to me, his mother informed. He ran away after putting them on my lap (I was sitting on the verandah floor). My mother later asked me if I wanted to keep them. Strangely, I did not. So, I went back to his home, and gave him all of them back.

It took much toing and froing, as you see, to realise that I did not want to overcrowd what I already had.

The word ‘aunty’ needs to be explained here. Aunt, as it is used in the west, precedes the name and is always capitalised, like Aunt Pinktoes. The same goes for ‘Uncle’ — Uncle Browneyes. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

In India, the British legacy has been customised a little. First, everyone who’s much older to you is an aunt or uncle, regardless of whether there’s love lost or a relation thrust. Second, the word always follows the name. And it is always aunty and not aunt. Like Pinktoes aunty. And Browneyes uncle, of course.

Only love

Generations in a family love and hate. Usually, it is the love that makes it to photo galleries.

It is only love. Or is it? I would never say ‘love’ and ‘only’ in the same sentence. Or allow ‘only’ to come any closer than two paragraphs. Never. Because — it is an emotion that punches you at a point (still unknown to science, philosophy, religion, and whatever else likes to blow its trumpet)  with such heart-numbing, heart-stupidifying precision that you see stars, feel winded enough to wonder whether you had ever in your life breathed at all, smell heaven from wherever you are, cry bitter tears, and sweet too, see hell everywhere else, or right here — all at once. An emotion like no other. Only? I am not off my rocker.

Why in the world am I writing about it, then? Something that can’t be quantified, judged or in most cases, expressed in words? No, not because it is Valentine’s Week, as the retail market is wont to call it. (Today is Promise Day, by the way.) Perhaps it is because I feel obligated to continue the sequence of emotions I have promised myself to cover in this category. And probably because I love. And so do you. Same pinch. (Or punch).

But I confess there is no purpose, no message to give, no angst to release, no thoughts to share. At the end of this post, you will be right where you started. Some things still have to be done, however. So, for all these reasons, and my love for sparring with the undoable, I am going ahead.

Our dogs' love for killing the grass takes precedence over our love for a breathtakingly green patch. Such is life.

The beauty and horror of love could spin us around a million times over, and back. In fact, it has! Heartaches float invisibly, acting like catalysts to give birth to music, paintings, photos, sculptures. The Wheel, even. And there are even more healed hearts to revolutionise art and science and sports and religion. And the retail market, as we all know. Haven’t you noticed how they fuel all of our planet’s existence, demise and rebirth?  Isn’t it justified, then, to think that it is so, so very empty to try to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings? And yet – surprise of all surprises! – it is so meaningful to express it through a card, send in chocolates or big diamond rings. Whatever the choice.

The horror begins when things come to choice, actually.

You simply love biking. And you love your spouse and children, who’d rather sit in the garden and count the bushes. You love counting the bushes and you love them, too, of course. But you have to choose. Bike or Bush. (The latter with your family thrown in as a bonus). Choose both? Choose one? Choose none and run away with a tattoo-maker? Like everything else in the 21st century, there are options galore! (In fact, I suspect it must be for the love of things and misery that we’ve decided to inundate our closets with options. And throw the skeletons out. We have evolved, Darwin.)

So, back to love options. They do cause hyperventilation of all kinds, don’t they, now? And yet we go on. It is a many-splendoured thing, after all.

A tacit understanding of trials and past glories could be love, too. My brother's fascination for sharks must have come from his belief that he was on the Titanic in his last birth and was eaten by a shark on his way down. I believed the same, except I thought I had drowned. We discovered our common belief much later, when we were adults and found it all right to share our hitherto hidden nightmares. After we'd talked about it, the words 'shark' and 'drown' never had the same meaning for us again. And though there is no glory in being eaten by a shark or in drowning, there was love in the understanding.

It is the phenomenon that makes people understand without having to use language. It is the energy that can make a person rise up and say, “I am alive, because I love. And am loved.” It is the lovesome succor for the soul that makes people get up in the morning to make bed tea for their loved one. Or do something else that is their cup of tea. Love, not surprisingly, needs no words to understand. And yet, surprisingly again, words make so much difference. Or gestures. Perhaps love cannot survive without a carrier, regardless of what it is.

The splendours of love. Who’s to count them? And how? And more importantly, why? As long as love for one is there, floating through the mists of life, at once illuminating and relaxing, never tugging at a love for another, there is hope.



About burning embers and pecking at reflective windows

The Truth Within

First hear, then understand, and then, leaving all distractions, shut your mind to outside influences and devote yourself to developing the truth within you. There is the danger of frittering away your energies by taking up an idea only for its novelty, and then giving it up for another that is newer.

Take one thing up and do it, and see the end of it, and before you have seen the end, do not give it up. He who can become mad with an idea, he alone sees light.

Swami Vivekananda

Humbug.

One of the babblers in our garden is mad about the windows. Or is it his own reflection he finds threatening? I wonder. He comes and pecks at each one, turn after turn. Peck, peck, peck. He is so insistent, in fact , that the dogs have given up trying to shoo him away (and they are known to be quite dogged already). Quite mad. How did he get the idea of finding a competitor or a companion on the other side of the window? How did he get so mad about the prospect of beaking at the window? But then what is it to me? I am concerned with getting mad about an idea long enough to see light. And finding the truth within.

If I peck at each reflection I see, I might reach a personal nirvana at some point in time. Once the insistent tap-tapping has punctured holes in the indefatigable titanium of my fantasy-plane, light just might beam in. So, maybe, Swami Vivekananda’s concept may not be humbug after all. I’d reverently jotted these lines of his on my writing practise notebook, quite sure of my determination to finish one story. That was about 6 years back. I haven’t finished a single story. But I am still mad about the pecking. Honestly. And unlike the babbler, I do not see a competitor on the window pane. I see just the pane. It can be quite tiresome to communicate with a blank sheet of glass. But I admit it has its virtues, too. I can go on to explore each section, make patterns, fly off and come back and see if there’s a drifting feather stuck on to it. Yes. Maybe that is it. Maybe the stories need a drifting feather to see their completion.

Just one big fleck of something to justify the pecking! (Image courtesy blazer8696 at Flickr.com)

The Caveman must have discovered the virtues of rhubarb*. Or it may have been The Neanderthal Man. It matters not. It does bother me, however, that before He saw the virtues of the Red Stalk, He must’ve eaten the lush greens of it. What made him get mad with the idea enough to jeopardise health over and over again. Had it not been for His burning desire to find more veggies to make pies with, we’d have been stuck with broccoli. Bless Him.

And bless Him for seamlessly bringing me to another concept that has been burning holes in my brain for a number of years. Fire. Fire is a concept, because

a. Its figurative aspect can make you grow crazy

b. The fact that all people sitting around a fire will hypnotically stare at it till the time there’s some rhubarb pie distraction (and subsequently go back to the staring) makes for a reasonable research concept.

I am concerned with b.

Well, fire consumes, doesn’t it?

If there were a better way to express being consumed with an idea than fire, I’d use it. Perhaps this is why people sitting around fire cannot take their eyes off it.

Much like being mad with an idea. And I suppose the light that it gives will stand aside for a more brilliant one, once you see the end of it.

*While I was looking for an interesting rhubarb picture on Wikipedia, I came across this singular piece of trivia. It is absolutely not related to being mad about an idea: Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction in taxes paid. (I decided not to use a rhubarb picture, by the way).

Intent is everything.

If I can get up in the morning with a feeling of excitement about much to do, I know I am doing good. Many times, the much-to-do is unexciting in more ways than one, but if I can accomplish the difficult task of seeing beyond the unexciting and looking at the consequence my action is expected to have, I will be able to still feel that very-welcome excitement. For even the most unpleasant tasks, if done with the right intent in mind, (seemingly) magically result in something pleasant.

That’ll be all, thank you

Lend this post a little patience, and read this excerpt

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

“But the Solar System!” I protested.

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

Mister Sherlock Holmes must’ve startled not only Dr. Watson, who was to become his trusted friend later, but also the readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book called A Study in Scarlet. When I first read this as a dreamy-headed school girl, I was amused at the thought of someone choosing to not know information thrust at him. Someone after my heart, he seemed to be. But I wouldn’t have the audacity to tell my Maths teacher that algorithms and calculus were of no use to me, would I? So I just allowed myself a chuckle or two. Coming back to Mr. Holmes’ philosophy, let me tell you that after subsequent re-reads (and there’ve been many), I began to see some logic in what he has so succinctly put (Forgive me if I mention him as if he did walk this earth) -“…for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before…”

Fast forward to today’s world, where I maintain three e-mail accounts, one for business, two for pleasure (!). The latter ones are inundated with forwarded mails promising good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and several other things that could easily put Mr. Holmes’ spartan mind-room in a spin. And I receive a good amount of them on a daily basis. How will my poor room look like with all the clutter? The pink kittens waving at me, mewing that the world is beautiful; the world’s swankiest hotel rooms telling me I’ve earned zilch; the lovely maple trees in Canada reminding me I love red autumn but will probably not see it today. So much information. Such temptation for a curious mind. It is difficult to handle. Much like a supermarket full of mouth-watering food, or that onslaught of mean reminders at school that probably eating 650.5 calories per day will make me look like whatshername. I’ve been tired of these various suns vying for attention for some time now. Suns that tell me to revolve, just for this one moment.

I open these mails and text messages, not read them and go back to the Inbox to open another. This routine is mainly because I do not like unread mails and I do not wish to read forwards.  Since I do not wish to delete them either, I keep them in store for a rainy day when I might need good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and one of the several other things. During this routine, however, someone’s solar system does come within my radar’s sensors, and I add a furniture or two to my not-so-spartan mind-room. The room had to protest. It had to happen. One such promised keep-up-with-the-world forward broke my camel’s back today.

It was a video of mama elephant delivering baby elephant in Bali zoo. How splendid the work of Mother Nature! Despite foreboding of something unpleasant about to come, I kept watching the mother struggle to get the baby out. It did finally come out, along with ponds full of its mother’s body fluids. The presenter was in awe. He had to be, he’s an elephant watcher. But what was I doing, watching the video? I did feel a certain sense of awe, being privy to Mother Elephant’s personal success, and her patience and concern, but why, really should I watch a recorded video of elephant delivery? That is when the back broke.

Information overload is another in the list of immoderate indulgences we face on a daily basis. And like all other things, we notice it only when it is time to consult a  commercial guru. No one else is equipped to handle such blatant imbalance. At least that is what the gurus tell us. Don’t you think it is like having an invisible hand controlling your own and forcing you to eat, eat, eat? All along it is your own hand, actually. But you have to go to someone to help you beat the stars out of the invisible hand so that you can control your own. Phew. So much work will make any self-respecting 21st century citizen say “I’m beat.”

Just a little help from Holmes will be enough, though. I said ‘No!’ to algorithms and calculus back in school and am walking with my head held high, regardless. I might have had the experience of watching an elephant birth while I’d rather have not stared at my computer screen. But I’d like to say now, “That’ll be all.”

Only vanity

It is only vanity. But if you wish to avoid too much exposure to mine, stop right now. The following post is about ‘I’.

In my quest to explore the emotions we humans feel, the one that has often made me stop and throw a confused glance in all possible directions is Vanity. Armed with my own set of virtues, I like to observe and analyse people’s bag of this remarkable emotion (sin, some like to call it), including my own. I find myself quite short of virtues to deal with this one, however. But it makes for an insightful study, so I’ve continued to explore its depths.

To begin handling a concept, you need to know what it means. But like all things I handle, I’ve never had a definition for Vanity.  Perhaps this is the reason my mind feels boggled each time I hear the word. (Oh. And I herewith reveal that all things  I handle leave my mind very boggled. So there.)

Before I began typing this piece on my observations, I sought help at my trusted dictionary.com and it came up with this: “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit“. While this definition is very definitive (as it should be), I found myself veering towards the example sentence. “Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.”

Given the premise that vanity is a feeling of excessive pride in one’s qualities and/or achievements, I suppose he wouldn’t have seen it coming. (Excessive) pride is blind. But, if he were a not-vain person, would not being elected not be a blow to his acceptable level of pride? I do not have an answer for this, despite my own set of pride-worthy virtues.

To reach a conclusion, I’ll have to dig further.

I have a onerous memory of often hearing the phrases ‘superiority complex‘ and ‘inferiority complex‘ when I was but a little girl. (yes, I rarely hear them these days). I don’t quite remember where I heard them. Could’ve come from my mother who’d had psychology as a subject in college, or could’ve been Juhi or Pallavi or any of those girls who thought they knew the world. I also remember one (or all) of them declaring that superiority complex arises from an inferiority complex. How interesting. Here, I reach my partial view.

All those people who stand out because of a generous share of pride in their heads usually betray a lot of insecurity from time to time. Not always, of course. They are too insecure to betray themselves as a routine. Vanity is much like how Friedrich Nietzsche puts it. “…is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.” I’d have liked this to have come from my head, but it hasn’t. My vanity does feel a little threatened, but I am going to presently coddle it with reminders that I made these words famous on this blog. That should put it to rest for a while.

It is quite safe to call ego-coddling a global pastime. And I am going to call it just that. Since vanity is nothing but hugging ego till it becomes nauseous with too much attention, the result normally is a bilious substitute to confident humility. The most dangerous (and stinking) result of such a situation is very subtle. Unlike other emotions, this one fails to recognise itself and save the world from its own evil. Vanity is considered to be Satan’s ‘favorite sin’, after all. Embarrassingly, it is the most prevalent one, too. Perhaps the reason is because people don’t wish to expose their actual level of confidence. Show of confidence is unfortunately equated with lack of humility.

I’d like to see people admitting very difficult things like “I do not know” “Yes, I made a mistake” “He/She is a great/beautiful/deserving person” “Yes, I do need to change this attitude”. It is a long list. The people breaching its importance are as many as there are. And most of these suffer from a superiority complex morphed out from an inferiority complex.

Satan must be a happy guy.

 

Jack? Master? or Nothing Much?

B the Wise One and I, his inadequate wife have been at each other’s throats. No, don’t begin thinking “oh there goes another cute couple” already. We’re quite okay otherwise, thank you very much. The problem is, he is the kind of guy who will do anything to block out all that threatens a dialogue with his passion. The current one or whichever. But passion. While I, the Inadequate One, like to say “Bring it on.” One? Two? Ten? I have numerous passions. “How can you give everything your all? There can only be one passion, anyway. Or two, perhaps”, he states with supreme (and unusual, mind you) ignorance. He finds it very difficult to believe I want to spend my time making the just right tea, paint a just OK painting, keep the house as ‘warm-looking’ as possible, remove all hair from everywhere, passably bake breads and buns and cakes, make very spicy pickles and ginger ale. Blah. He doesn’t even get time to say phew. “Wouldn’t you like to do one thing the best possible way?” he said.

And that’s what stopped me from drifting away to the cineraria I’ve been trying to sprout.

I do not know best.

Maybe that’s what makes me flit between numerous things in day, week, month, or even a year. Someone once told me a long time ago about people choosing to excel a trade or remain mediocre in it and many others. Choice of being mediocre. Who’d choose that anyway? Well, yours truly, does in fact. Though I can’t say I’ve not dreamt of (or don’t still do) being cordially invited to an Oprah Special. It would be fun and quite a treat to my existing vanity. Not that being OWN’s special guest will essentially make me the best. But her show does invite successful people, I’m told. Masters in their profession, of their difficulties and what have you. So, I do dream of doing very good at whatever I choose to pick up. But if that restricts me to just one (or two) things, I’d rather pick mediocrity. Where’s the spice tray, man?

I am straying from B and I, though. B is a dog lover. Since this post is turning out to be without a picture, I’ll showcase our two devils (and then get back to passionate entreaties in favour of mediocrity).

Here’s Bulu.

Meet Moti.

I love them too.

But I can see the Alaska cruise, as well. We’d promised each other, B and I, that we’d take this trip someday. We adopted dogs instead. And will never leave them in a kennel to explore the world. B is blissfully passionate about them. I am too, like I said. But, for the lack of a better means of differentiation, you could say I am the Passion Jack. while he is the Passion Master. He could spend hours sitting, looking at the dogs. Being with them (and me, if I’m allowed to break the reverie). And talk of Great Dane legs and Pug eyes and Bull Mastiff height. Does he come across as a dog freak? Well, he is, but not as crazy-like as it may seem. He does get up from his reverie, make coffee, write the stuff he’s writing, walk the dogs. Did the word ‘dog’ come back? Yes it did. So, this person I’ve met and married, who likes to keep his passions simple,  never really wanders too far from this love of his. He dotes on them, gets up excruciatingly early to walk them, ensures they get very clean water, raw meat diet, and an indulgence in ruining my garden. And much more. For a person who lives his passion, my interest in that beautiful saree there or the awesome photo frame here or the latest bread-baking tip to get a result you don’t have to shove under your rockery is mind-boggling. Why this division of labour? And how come similarly excited responses to painting as well as photography as well as embroidery and volleyball?

Interests are about making choices. No one says there is only one interesting thing in the world. But most choose a manageable few and concentrate on them. Not me. Back in college, a friend of mine used to joke about not asking me for my choice of food or restaurant or movie, because I’d say that I’d enjoy them all anyway. No particular choice. It tickled her to see I didn’t want to make a choice. I was equally thrilled about all the options. (Well, fear not. I’ve mellowed considerably, especially after having ordered bamboo shoots in oyster sauce and having to surreptitiously close all the valves inside my nose when the dish escaped the kitchen, carried out by the very proud chef. Our heads turned in slo-mo to see its steam wafting all over the eatery, almost killing everybody with its exotic, well, smell.  It was all my friends could do to keep a straight face. Or when I cringed on the very comfortable chair at a home theatre after having insisted my companions chose the movie. We watched a movie called Kidnapped and it turned out to be soft porn. My companion watchers were an eclectic collection of very conservative relatives, who knew not about the American Film Industry. Since then, I have no qualms in sharing my knowledge here and there. And making choices, too.)

But I am, generally, very thrilled about many things. I’ve tried many of them out. Like making stained glass collectibles, and selling them. Or doing several things as ‘hobbies’, growing junipers on rocks, sketching little girls with coloured pens, I could go on and on with the list. The point I’m trying to make is, even if I’ll never reach even close to perfection in any of them, I will have tasted a bit of their wonder. Isn’t that, in itself, perfection? Tasting various wonders. Perfect life, no?

Only fear

It is only fear. Not a big deal, if you think clearly. No, I am not forgetting that when you are afraid, something inexplicable happens to your think-clearly cluster of grey matter. But, strange as it may seem, it is the very key to getting rid of all your angst. Think clearly, reason and drive the vile thing out.

Why get rid of fear? Well, not just because you get tagged a wimp, but also because of darker, scarier places it locks you up in. That should suffice as an answer. If it doesn’t you probably belong to a group of people who believe fear is positive for motivation. Well, not always. And this post is about those other times.

That brings us to the question of how thinking clearly will help. It is very complicated to even begin attempting it, very simple to talk about. I am picking the easier of the two, and writing on how I believe you can stop fear from savaging you.

I have always believed that my set of fears (yes, I admit here and now, there is a set of fears in my secret box) have accumulated over the years because I am too afraid of telling them to get the hell out of my life. They get collected, without my knowledge, mostly. And when I do notice the latest addition, I am too smashed under the load of others to yell “Get out”. What disturbs me the most about fear is what it makes you do, at times. If you look deeply, almost every action you scorn, laugh, scowl at in others (or, if you are brave, in yourself) is a result of some sort of fear. Let me explain with examples. I am told I use semantics, and vaguely, too.

Example 1. Ms. J

Behaviour: Nasty, irritable, hot-tongued

Fear: Afraid someone will someday tell her on her face that she was wrong about her claims that she would make a great entrepreneur. She’s not an entrepreneur. She sits at home and makes life miserable. For everyone.

Connection: She would die before hearing about her failure (a failure possibly only she sees) from others. Preempting people’s reactions, she acts and reacts to imaginary pointing fingers. Frustrated with her fear of failure and consequent embarrassment, she is all set to rock people’s boats before they do hers.

Is anyone interested in rocking her boat? No. Sadly, she’s doing it herself.

Example 2: Mr. F

Behaviour: Constantly ‘in-touch’ with people, volunteering running errands, giving advice, hosting meals.. an endless list

Fear: Of loneliness

Connection: This one is quite simple, really. He doesn’t want to face a moment without ‘someone’ to make him feel wanted and appreciated. He is running around with his bag, collecting camaraderie. Sometimes it does help. Sometimes it makes him an obsessive fool, afraid to be with his own self. The loneliness doesn’t go, because as people say, you must be friends with yourself first.

Could Mr. F shake hands with himself? No. Sadly, he’s more lonely than he ever was.

Fear makes me shudder.

I’ve handled some of my own, mind you. Well, my lily liver is not watery all the way. And the only thing that has helped me get past  these… things is the knowledge that

a. I am afraid

b. I don’t need to be

I may not be much of an expert on this, but this page proves I am not alone when I talk of the importance of points a. and b. above.

So, my mantra for shooing away weeds of angst is taking the first step of admitting there is a certain fear. Of coming early for an appointment, of painting the worst painting of the century, of turning around and seeing my Maths teacher grinning at me.. Oh there are plenty, still.

You see, the moment I accept there is a certain fear, its consequences flash very succinctly in my head. That’s when I am able to (mostly) choose “You won’t get me.” over “Yes, master.”

Yeah. One day my set will be non-existent. I am getting there.