Saturday, March 25, 2006
"25" reminds me...recently, my parents celebrated their Silver Anniversary...now that was something! 25 years of togetherness, love, sharing and learning...of watching lives take birth and shape before their eyes. One day to celebrate that was not nearly enough, but when I look at them, I really feel that through every joyous moment, every shared sorrow, every resolved quarrel and every little joke, there is a common thread of strength and hope. To me, that is the real celebration. Someday, I hope you all experience this with someone wonderful by your side. God Bless!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Last night, Presley breathed his last...
It was surprisingly disturbing for me. When we had bought these fish, we had been told not to expect them to live for more than a fortnight or more than a month, max. I think it is to our credit that they lived in good health for well over one year and Elvis is still in good health, although I can tell that he misses his companion. I never realised when I got so attached to them...or to the idea of having them around.
Over the last couple of days, Presley showed signs of illness and we did all we could to treat him, but the sluggishness and the lack of appetite simply did not leave. It was as if he had given up on the desire to live and wanted nothing more than a quiet passing. Yesterday, when their large glass bowl was cleaned, Presley was put into a smaller bowl of medicated water, in the hope that he would show some improvement the next day. Most other people who saw him declared outright that his time had come, but somehow it was very hard for me to let go. Elvis seemed equally resilient to this idea...even when Presley was in the bowl, I had seen Elvis swimming under him and trying to push him up...almost as if to say "C'mon man! Move! What's come over you".
Later that night, I went to check on him one last time and found that he had turned over on his side. Even in my state of denial, I was certain that no defense mechanism would work at this point. In a last desperate act, I put Presley back in the big bowl, hoping against hope that something there would revive him. Unfortunately, he just sank to the bottom of the bowl, flapping a fin feebly. Elvis, in the meantime had dived to his side and just remained by him, very still, eyes fixed on his brother. This was the second wondrous demonstration of the attachment I saw between them (and my secret thought is that in some way, the Universe had conspired to allow Elvis and Presley to bid one another farewell). My family came to the scene shortly afterwards and asked me to put Presley back in the small bowl as any unseen infection he had could infect Elvis. I couldn't argue with that so I did as I was told. There was nothing much to do at that point, except pray for his pain to be lessened so I retired to my room, intending to return only in the morning.
Just before I went to sleep, I got an uncontrollable urge to go give hands-on healing to Presley...I couldn't fight it so before I knew what I was doing, I was in the kitchen placing my hands on the bowl and invoking Reiki to help him in any way. At that point, this little fellow, who had become quite inert, suddenly wiggled, one, two, three times...and then slowly went quite still. I knew that I had witnessed his life leaving him and I prayed that his soul reach its next incarnation soon.
Nothing could make Illusion more apparent. This little fish, that I had spent hours watching and playing with, was now nothing but a husk/shell which its indomitable spirit had left, in order to assume its new form. Looking at the body lying so inelegantly on its side and beginning to bloat, I could hardly imagine that it was Presley...and then it struck me...it was NOT Presley...it was just Presley's garment. He was now out shopping for new clothes and I hope he's found something even more beautiful than his old ones.
Godspeed, Presley, my friend! Godspeed!
Thursday, March 16, 2006
There is anger in my thoughts...the red haze enshrouding all consciousness...
And an unseen pain wracks me from within...
A silent wail seeks to part the lips that will not open,
And the clenched fists cause pain only to themselves...
There are no tears, no tantrums and none to blame...
In a moment, I realise that I am left alone...silent and aching,
No physician possesses the balm I need; none may prescribe a remedy...
I alone must confront myself...as cause, as effect and as the cure...
Strangely, in that moment of choice, the gloom is broken, the haze lifted...and I can breathe again!
I dedicate this poem to all those individuals who come to this city, dreaming about and hoping for the future that they never actually realise. This place, the economic capital of India, is more than just the cash-rich, glamorous metropolitan that it is made out to be. It is a city in whose streets you will find traces of lives that rose from almost nothing to dizzying heights and it is also a massive cemetery of countless aspirations that could never see the light of reality. The bright lights of the Queen’s Necklace and the proud skyscrapers that dot the skyline, seem to mock the vast slums in many parts of the city where often, a family gathers under the flame of a lantern and eats the one meal of the day, cooked on a kerosene stove.
My intention is hardly as socialistic as it may sound; I do not mean to say that the opulence of the rich in this city is undeserved and needs to be redistributed. Wealth, in Bombay, can hardly be gathered without hard work, intelligence and significant risk- taking. Those who have achieved it, are certainly worthy of respect to a certain degree. Regardless of their professions, the rich were not always as wealthy as they are today and would have had to start somewhere. There must have been something in their thought and actions that took them far ahead of ‘square one’ when millions still struggle in the same place.
In this, my reasoning may have a somewhat Functionalist flavour. I do not want to dismiss any aspect of the life of this city as an aberration, and I likewise refuse to believe that any individual has a life devoid of meaning. There is a greater scheme to things that we may not always look at, and when we do, we may find that we do not always like what we see. The drug addicts, who sprawl helplessly on Marine Lines, languishing in their self wrought filth and gloom, seem to serve no purpose at all in society, apart from being blemishes and social malformations. However, if there was some way of knowing it, one might be able to calculate the number of people, who, looking at them, realised the ill effects of drug addiction, and made a silent mental resolve never to touch the substances. In this way, even these apparently pathetic and useless individuals, serve a purpose…they have made examples of themselves, however unintentionally, and their lives are constant reminders of what can happen if you are not discerning enough.
The reason I am taking this convoluted stream of thought, is only to arrive at one conclusion…the fact that no life is meaningless, no matter how weighted it may be with failure. This city attracts people from all over India, possibly even from neighbouring nations, all of whom wish to strike gold and make something spectacular of their lives. Most of them fail to do this, because Bombay is most unforgiving to a man who gives up hope. When starting small, as is usually the case with all newcomers here, there are bound to be serious setbacks, failures, instances of being cheated etc. The difference between the man who will rise as a phoenix and the one who will flounder in the ashes of defeat is that the former will never give up on his dream and will refuse to blame circumstances for what has happened to him. In the last lines of the poem I offer an alternative, a solution to the person who feels that situations have just worked against him. To look at oneself and one’s miscalculations as the root of the problem might be quite easy, but many will tend to leave it at that and drown in their self-pity/loathing. Instead, one must learn to believe that he is the only one who can really make a difference to life. Life in a place like this is going to be full of hurdles…ultimately we are the only ones who can carry ourselves over them.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Let me tell you about my friend Aastha (Hindi for "Faith"). I feel like writing about her because having her around reminds me consistently of the fact that there are volumes to be experienced from life's simplest experiences.
You know, there are people who don't really have to do anything other then be themselves to become the life of the party...the unabashed laughter that rings out loud just when people are busy trying to look "appropriate"? Well, that's Aastha for you!
She's the person who will work hard to make sure that a project is completed efficiently, but will refuse to let the demands of the situation dampen her free spirit. She is the planner who will not only think about, but go ahead and arrange a whole bunch of party games that transform a run-of-the-mill "get-together" into a hilarious, memorable evening. She is the traveller who can infect even a rather home-bound chap with a desire to breathe the air and walk the land of beautiful new places, even if they are miles away from hearth and home...and she is the photographer who is always, always handy with her digicam, taking snaps of everything that is beautiful...right from the smiles of her friends to the glory of clouds and sunburst.
I learn something from all my friends...so I ask myself now, what have I learnt from Aastha? It's difficult to speak of in an abstract sense, so let me just answer myself with some very concrete examples: I've learnt that there is a whole world of board-games that I was too lazy to bother about earlier, but which I've rediscovered a liking for, once I saw my friend's child-like love for the same, and watched this innocent enthusiasm infect others who had lost this aspect of their childhoods. I've learnt that heartfelt laughter is one of the best sounds that one can listen for especially if you are laughing at yourself. I've learnt that its OK to put your foot in your mouth every once in a while, if you have the courage to admit you made a mistake. [...this could take a while, and it would probably start sounding a little redundant ... maybe even embarrass Aastha, so I'll stop with the "I've learnt"s.]
Let me end by saying that there are few other people in their 20s who will dance in the rain as unreservedly, or value the transient beauty of a rainbow as highly as my friend, Aastha. If this little write-up makes you take note of someone like this in your life, or if it even makes you think about the value that such things have for yourself...well, mission accomplished!
Saturday, March 11, 2006
What I saw was simply this...there was a narrow winding path leading through some patches of cultivated land. On either side of it were the sun-bleached remnants of harvested fields, in which I imagined the labour of some diligent farmer. Most interestingly, somewhere in the middle of it was a single tree.
This tree was by no means something that would catch your attention, if not for its unique position...it was the only tree in the picture...left kin-less for at least a hundred metres on all sides. It had well proportioned limbs and an abundance of dark green leaves. Its shade was like a wide-brimmed hat, exaggerated impressively by the late afternoon sun...and then the vision was gone, replaced by other flashes of the countryside as my car sped along towards its destination.
The scene reminded me of something that we often experience in life and a quaint pattern of metaphors unfolded. I saw every individual in the farmer... ploughing, sowing the field of life and reaping the harvest of his actions. In the path I saw the route that each person takes in his/her attempt to attain something fruitful, each step leading somewhere. Finally, in the shape of the tree, I saw a unique person...someone who enfolds the individual with his/her love and allows him/her to shed their worries, share their fears and find solace before he/she is recharged and is able to proceed on the path of life with new energy, quite like the farmer who seeks the shade of the tree at midday, for a little meal and a nap. The tree is always there for the farmer, it listens to his silent thoughts without judgement and opinion and it offers its shade unconditionally. The farmer leaves its shade each day with renewed vigour, able to take on the the remaining challenges of his day.
Do you have such a person in your life? I think you do...The next time you are conscious of him or her, do a little something to show your appreciation. The tree never demands anything of the farmer, but if, by chance he waters it, it is delighted.