Friday, December 24, 2010

Hogenakkal Falls

18 Dec 2010

A tour from office had been planned to Hogenakkal water falls.
I did not know if it was the right season. The rains had stopped. But then, it was an opportunity to have the society of my colleagues, most of whom I do not yet know very well yet.

A KSRTC bus had been booked. In fact 2 of them. But it turned out that many of them dropped out in the last minute. So one bus was enough.

The tour had been very well planned. Coordinators had been appointed to help people and they went the extra mile to make it as convenient to us all as possible. They gave wake up calls to each one in the morning, called up again to inform us of the bus’s arrival to our stop, picked us up, cross checaked with a central coordinator to make sure they missed no one and waited at stops when people delayed and bought food packets for everyone for breakfast and more...

The two buses having picked people along two different routes, met at the crossroads of Nice road and Kanakpura road.

After a few hours, the landscape changed and we found ourselves in the midst of hills.
I though this place was in Karnataka, going by its name but it is actually in Tamil Nadu in the border region. All sign posts were in Tamil and people spoke Tamil too.

We were accosted by women who were trying to see home cooked food to us.
Having had lunch in a restaurant, we started walking towards the waterfall.

All of us waited while one of us bargained with the coracle boatmen.
Finally, it was agreed that for rupees 150 per head we would all go for a coracle ride where we would sail on the Kaveri and shown the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka water falls.

Starting point of our sail.

Soon after we had started, we disembarked from the boat for some sight seeing.

On one side, the land was covered with rocks and water in between them.

On the other side were the water falls. These were apparently Tamil Nadu water falls.

The fall wasn’t very high but there was much water gushing through rocks and roar made it seem mighty.

We walked some more and the view became wide as it opened to the main stream of the river to which all the falls joined.

We climbed up a vantage point. This was the view on one side. Our coracles that had carried us, were once more on water ready for the next lap of the trip.

This was the view on the other side.

The landscape is full of rocks and creeks into which the river divides itself with the result that there are many small waterfalls at different points, small distances, making it very fulfilling. You get the experience of seeing many waterfalls.

We started our second lap. Our coracle first went close to the fall where water sprayed on us and then we sailed on the main stream, tranquil and serene, appearing innocent as if having no memory of the roar and bounce, foam and spray it had caused just some distance behind.

The vantage point from which I took these pictures above.

Our boatman in blue amused us by turning our coracle round and round making it seem to an onlooker as if we were caught in a whirlpool.
The scenary in the distance became complete and we had a panoramic view of our surroundings. When our heads ached, we begged him to stop and he did.

The flanking the river rocks were different in their colour and shape.

A vendor of snacks … reminded me of Dal Lake in Srinagar.

This was our second stop.
From here we walked till we reached a point where we had to ford the river on our feet and get to the other side where we would see the Karnataka falls.

Perhaps the water was not deep enough for a coracle to sail on. The river bed had sharp rocks and I realized it was my mistake in removing my footwear.

We walked and reached this vantage point.

And lo!

The river after the fall.

When the river swelled in rainy season, these rocks would submerge and the fall would be more beautiful.

We returned the same way and walked to the next stop from where our coracle would take us close to the banks where the bed was sandy and we could play all we wanted.

As we began sailing, I asked our man in blue if I could stand in the coracle, to which he said I could if I could keep my balance; he would sail without any difficulty. So I stood for a while and then sat down as my friends implored me to. In retrospect, it was such a risk!
Thats life! In retrospect, so many things we did seem like such a big risk!
I haave often wondered if the present is the right time to evaluate the past. More about this later.

We sailed on and suddenly our oarsman jumped down into the water and we realized it was shallow there. All of us got down too. After some hesitation, I sat down in neck deep water, first fearful and then comfortable.

Half an hour later, we jumped back into our coracle again, sailing towards the banks.

I bought a change of clothes from a shop and joined my colleagues for some tea and biscuits.

Each one enjoyed in their own way, depending on their individual stage of evolution.

What’s most important is to let others enjoy too. Shouting and hooting, screaming and guffawing, surely make enjoyment sparse for the sensitive among us who seek the sound, sight, touch, smell and feel of nature alone.

We all need to jolt ourselves out of noise and wake up to hark the sounds of nature – of birds chirping, of water spraying, of the river murmuring, of the trees swishing and swaying and of the silence of the hills.

As we enter the abode of other beings, of plants and animals, let us walk in soft steps, let us talk in whispers, breathe gently even, so that they see us not as intruders but as guests come to meet them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Beginning of Music

My earliest memories of music date back to a time when I was 4 years old or so.
When I think about that music, what comes to my mind without a willing effort on my part to recollect, is our home in Mysore, a National Panasonic tape recorder of that time and cassettes of Balamurali and MS Subbalakshmi. I can also see my father pacing the hall up and down clapping his hands as he played the tala, enjoying the music, occasionally singing himself.

He had bought the tape recorder in Agra for 1100 rupees. That was his first tape recorder. It was black in colour. The button for recording was red I think. It did not stand on a surface but slept. I downloaded these pictures from the net that look very ssimilar to the device I remember vaguely.

When you press the eject button a glass panel opened upwards like the hood of a car.

You inserted a cassette and closed the hood. Behind this was a porous surface. Rows and columns of holes. Thats probably where the sound came from. Seems like another lifetime now.

I even remember the songs that played often. And sure, there was enough of ‘replaying’ these songs since we did not have too many cassettes but only a few select ones.

‘Shreeman Narayana’, ‘Nanati Baduku’ by MSS, ‘Pahi Rama Prabho’, ‘Paluke Bangara Mayena’ by Balamurali…among others.

I used to sing the first two lines of ‘Yendaro Mahanu Bhavulu’ (one among Thyagaraja’s Pancharatna Keertanas), much to the delight of my parents. They would tell visitors (mostly relatives) about it who would ask me to sing it for them. They would pat me after I finished and remark about what a lovely voice I had.

That’s probably when my father began to cherish a dream – to train me in Carnatic classical music.
A dream which I remain guilty of not fulfilling.

There was classical music in the family. Most of them in the family were capable either of singing a few keertanas or varnas. All of them could identify a few ragas. And some of them had performed on stage.

By the time I had reached the age of seven, my maternal aunts had managed to teach me a few Kannada folk songs, Bhavageethe and a few Devaranamas.

While in Sira, I and mom learnt to play the Veena for a year.
I remember how I broke one of the strings and sat in fear as our teacher mounted a new string on the instrument.

Just when it was the right time for my father to find me a tutor for training in Carnatic Vocal, he was transferred to Bharuch, Gujarat.

Having nothing much to do with the plenty of free time that I had, I started learning Hindustani from a teacher who lived close by. When Urvi, my neighbour, playmate and a student of the same teacher, suggested the idea to my parents, they thought why not? What is the harm in it? A few rupees every month… until we go back to the South and enroll her in vocal training…

The classes were in the morning. Not very early. Sevenish I think.
I would walk to our Sir’s house. The harmonium was a necessary accompaniment as we sang.
All the harmoniums were stacked in one room.
We had our preferences. Not all of them produced the same sound quality. Not all of them were new. Also not all of them looked good.
There was one particular new and good looking harmonium producing fine sound that everyone vied for. Since it was first come, first serve, the one who came early got to keep that harmonium for that day. I had to choose between my favourite harmonium and a few extra minutes of sleep. Most of the times, I chose the former.

The first song I learnt, if I remember correctly, was “Beet Jaat Barkha Rut, Sajna Nahi…Yeri Yeri Yeri Pyari…Dadur Bole Papiha Bole…”
When I sang this at home one day before my parents, they seemed quite impressed. I remember I was seated on the teapoy and my parents on the floor, facing me, close to my feet. That’s probably when they took interest in my Hindustani lessons.

After finishing our lessons, we would delight ourselves, exploring the harmonium.
After some experimenting, trial and error, I could play the then famous song from the film Tezaab “Ek do teen”.
I would play this tune every day until I could do it perfectly without fumbling and faltering on the keypad of the harmonium.
I remember the keys even to this day and whenever I have laid my hands on a keypad since then, this is the first song I have played.

The most memorable of all songs that I learnt in those few months was ‘Shyama Sundara Madana Mohana”. This is a song that I can sing even today. This is a song that my relatives still remember. When I had visited my grandparents during the summer vacation that followed, I had sung this song and all had taken an instant liking to this simple but touching song.

I myself felt ecstatic when I reached the higher notes in a crescendo.

Shyama Sundara Madana Mohana Jaago Mere Lala.
Jaago Mere lala, Jago mere lala, jago mere lala

Prathah bhanu prakat bhaye
Gwala bala milane aaye
Tumhare daras dwaro thado
Mohana murali wala

Jago mere lala, jaago mere lala.

And when I sang the line Mohana Murali wala, we would be all smiles because my brother’s name is Murali and in those days of childhood, this coincidence was such a big deal.

Within a few months, I became Sir’s favourite. He would sometimes start the morning class with my singing. He would ask me to sing Shyam Sundar and smile and rock as I sang.

I would have continued learning but my father had been transferred to Ahmedabad. So I had to be content with a certificate after the exam. I said bye to my music teacher and moved on.

Thus music flowed into and ebbed out of my life, lingering now, receding now, crossing my path occasionally here and there.

I had no clue that that very soon, music was to enter my life, as an epiphany does, not to cross my path, not to linger temporarily, but to stay forever, to be my companion for the rest of my life and to possess me and to dwell in my soul until death.

After sometime of moving to Ahmedabad, we were expecting relatives from the South. And surely, they came. Rama, her husband Srinidhi, her in laws and Vatsa uncle, my father’s cousin.

A tour had been planned.
Ranakpur, Udaipur, Mount Abu, Chittod Garh and other places...

So one morning, we started a journey.
After which life would never be the same for me.

Vatsa uncle had got with him several cassettes. As the taxi moved, the cassette started playing. I was listening to most of these songs for the first time.
They were Mukesh hits.
As the songs replayed, they started growing on me.
As days passed, I knew the lyrics of these songs by heart.
My father, who listened to classical music mostly, and who preferred a silent drive, grew more and more annoyed when the music just didn’t stop.

But the songs played on and on to my delight, thanks to two men Vatsa uncle and Srinidhi uncle.

…Sajan re jhoot mat bolo, O jaane wale ho sake to laut ke aana, Kayi sadiyon se kai janmon se tere pyar ko tarse mera man, Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal se, Raaste ka patthar, Taaron mein sajke apne sooraj se, Chal ri sajni ab kya soche, Chandan Sa badan, Suhana safar, Ruk ja o jaanewali ruk ja

My father swore he would never undertake another journey in a group. He would travel with his family or alone.

When we returned home, I was singing aloud as if I had known the songs all my life.
My affair with old Hindi film music had begun.

One unexpected day, heaven threw an apple.
My father brought home 2 cassettes of Mukesh hits. And I would play them on my tape recorder all the time. These were really old hits that even my Hindi speaking neighbours had not heard. Mukesh was still imitating KL Saigal in some of these songs and had not yet discovered his own voice.

…Zinda hoon is tarah ke game zindagi nahi, Dil jalta hai to jal ne de, Nain hamare saanjh satare
Mubarak ho sabko …main to deewana, Ye kaun chitraakar hai, Haan maine bhi pyar kiya, Hum chal rahe the, Main to har mod par tujh ko doonga sada

A few months later we moved to Bangalore as my dad was transferred again.
My grandmother’s transistor became instrumental in the fortification of my liaison with music.
Vividh Bharati. That was the channel I would tune into after 10 in the night. Aap ki Farmaaish, Bhoole Bisre Geet and Man Chaahe Geet. I would listen to old songs every day. To the resentment of my father.

On some days I would tune in at noon when I came home for lunch from school.

The family went to bed by 10:30.
I shared my room with my grandmother. I would take the transistor to my bed and reduce the volume so I would not disturb anyone.
On some days, I would doze off and my mother would announce the next morning that the radio was on the whole night.
I was afraid they would make this an excuse for taking the radio away from me.

The back pages of all my note books were filled with these songs. I would write down the title of every new song that I discovered. Sometimes I would take down the complete lyrics.

While in bed listening to the radio, I would commit to my memory a song with the intention of noting it down the next morning. On some unfortunate mornings, I would wake up not being able to recollect the song. I would rake my brain for days. What a relief I felt when I would recollect it at last! I would quickly write it down before I forgot it again.

To avoid such tension I began going to bed with a notebook and pen placed beside my pillow. I would scribble in big letters in the dark leaving enough space between the letters so I would have no difficulty deciphering them the next day.

Every Sunday, I would set the alarm clock to ring at 7 and wake up by 7 10, finally having won the battle with sleep, just to watch Rangoli on Doordarshan. I would lie on my sofa as I watched the program. Sometimes I would doze off and then wake up with a start wondering if I missed a good song.

Kishore, Lata, Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Day, Hemanth Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Talat Mehmood, Mahendra Kapoor, Asha... they sang to me day and night...

All these songs mixed with my blood and flowed in my veins. They pumped new life into me and gave expression to my feelings. They gave identity and a name to each one of my feelings. They helped me tell one emotion from the other in the bundle of confusion and obscurity of tumult in my heart.
They turned my moroseness and gloom into beautiful poignancy. They made sorrow savourable and turned my melancholy into philosophy.

There have been many many songs that I have associated with one or the other life situation. In fact, there has been a song for every situation.

When my grandfather died, we were still in Ahmedabad. And my grandparents were in Chaamarajanagar, a town in Mysore district. The cremation would be over by the time we reached. We would not be able to make it in time to see him for the last time. My father was disheartened.

We flew to Bangalore and from there drove to Chamarajanagar in a taxi in the dark of the night.
Nobody said a word.

Months later, I recollected that taxi-drive and imagined that as we drove, the song from Mukesh, “O Jaane Wale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana” played.
I imagined that my father, usually controlled and too embarrassed to be demonstrative of his feelings, let his carapace split, for once, gave vent to his bottled up grief and shed a tear, as he listened to that song.

That, if I can recollect correctly, was the first time I attempted to associate music with a life situation.

In the year 2006, Cognizant gifted a 30 GB Apple iPod to each employee as it celebrated a turnover of 1 billion dollars. From here and there and everywhere, I collected songs and stored them in my iPod.
With over 3000 songs in it, it is pretty much the summation of all the music I have in my life today. And therefore, it is one of my most valued possessions.
Many a day, I go to bed, with my iPod and fall back on music. I close my eyes and soar to heights or sink to the rock bottom depending on whether it is the crest or trough of my emotional life.

During the phases of emotional stasis, I turn on the radio and listen to whatever is playing.

Today, surrounded by my laptop, iPod, walkman phone and a website to download free music from, I look back fondly at the cassettes, tapes, my grandmother’s radio, and the national Panasonic tape recorder that have all played their role in a very important part of my life.

That tour of 20 years ago itself is forgotten, smudged and blurred. Those forts, palaces, temples and lakes and forests…

What remained at the end of that journey was the beginning of music.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grief Of Parting. From Prison.

We get so used to the cage that when the door is opened, we are reluctant to fly.

That’s how we are. Lovers of our own imprisonment.
Prisoners of our own making.

Like Clothing.
We have had a second skin on us ever since the time we can remember, that we are uncomfortable with our nakedness even for a few seconds.
When opportunities to commune completely with the elements present themselves, we shun them and keep the barrier of clothes intact.
Even when we change from one attire to another, we do it skillfully in such a way that at no time during the changing are we completely exposed to our own eyes.
Even when we are all alone with no one around us, we cannot bear to see our own body. We quickly grab a piece of cloth and cover up.
How we grimace at nudity and how we love our clothes!

Like death.
How weird that we mourn death!
We forget that this body is a just a trap of flesh. We forget that this world is an illusion, a conjecture. We forget that it’s the birthright of the soul to be liberated.
Instead of feeling relieved that at last this penitential journey is completed, that we are one incarnation closer to salvation, a few more births and then it will be eternal bliss and peace, we try to perpetuate this illusion of a life and weep when the time has come to break free from the fetters of body.

Like love.
It’s that phase where you don’t have to make an effort anymore. To keep his thoughts out of your mind.
The feverishness that made you toss and turn your body and mind is subsiding gradually.
You find yourself thinking about him. But only now and then.
You waited so long that it came to end. Not because you found him but because hope died.
Grief exhausted itself. Thirst spent itself.
You feel quite fine these days actually.

And that what is worrying you.
Because it’s over.
It had given you preoccupation, purpose and anchor for so long. Your life had something and someone to revolve around.
Now that you are going to be liberated, you don’t know where to go, whom to wait for, what to look forward to, what to pray for, what to dream of.

Your heart is set free but it knows not where to go.

It feels so empty inside.
You carried the load for so long that when it was taken off, you feel so light that you wonder if you actually exist.

Getting over a person you loved hurts.
You know it’s good for you.
It wasn’t meant to be. It only meant endless and futile waiting.

But it hurts. You wish
…’pain though it was, may it go on
… may it not leave the heart it dwelt in for so long.’

That’s how we are.
Lovers of our own imprisonment.
Prisoners of our own making.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ismat Apa Ke Naam

Never imagined story narration calling itself drama could be actually so effective.
It was a laughter riot.
After booking the tickets, when I learnt that the play was made of three actors narrating one story each, I wondered how it was going to be. I knew it would be out of ordinary for sure.
For it was going to be the first of its kind that I was going to watch. And then it was Nasir himself.
I hoped it wasn’t going to be another abstract play. The other Nasir I watched – Waiting For Godot – was so abstract, so absurd – it was perhaps the best representative of its genre.

So I was in Chowdiah, on the 2nd December at 8 PM.

It was a full house. The kind I haven’t seen before.
Seated in the Qth row, with a tall man seated right in front of me, I had to crane my neck sideways to my right or left to be able to see the stage.

The first act was the story Chui Mui – by Heeba Shah.

The stage setting was very appropriate. It was simple and adequate.
The screen providing the backdrop was a white sheet with pictures of simple pillars of Persian architecture in black outlines suiting the period in which the stories were set.

There was a bed at the centre with bolsters on it serving to depict a most conducive set up for story-telling.
Light and shadow were projected on the stage to create the effect of train windows. A simple, subtle and effective technique of stage set up. In fact, it couldn’t have been done any other way. Using property on stage instead would have been an overkill and not at all ingenious.

As the actor narrated the story animatedly, modulating her voice, loudness and pitch, bringing in the necessary intonations, shifting her position on the bed, occasionally getting down to the stage, the story came to life in all its vividness.

The fact of there being just one man on stage made no difference at all.

It was wise and thoughtful of the actors to occasionally translate certain Urdu/Hindustani words into Hindi/English for the benefit of the audience, now far removed from the languages of pure blood.

It was story about women witnessing childbirth in a train.
What remains of it in my mind now is the irony it brought out; a rich comfortable woman taking utmost care of herself during pregnancy goes through miscarriage after miscarriage; whereas a poor destitute woman, perhaps a labourer, gives birth in a train without any assistance from anyone, cuts the umbilical cord of the baby with a nail cutter borrowed from the women looking on, grimacing at her, clasps the baby to her bosom once, and then cleans the train with a mop cloth leaving no trace of blood, and then rests in a corner with her newborn like someone resting after some minor household chore.

The story begins light and humorous and becomes serious and touching towards the end.

While the story itself is touching, it’s the way the actor builds the picture in your mind through her animated narration that deserves commending.
The subtle sound effects and the background music completed the act.

2nd story – Mughal Bachhe – By Ratna Pathak

A dark skinned boy married a fair skinned beautiful girl. When friends and relatives point out the contrast, though jokingly, the boy hurts his ego and to prove a point to himself, his bride and the society, he decides not to unveil her as per custom but commands her unveil herself.

The bride, initially to adhere to custom and later out of pride refuses to come out of her veil unless her groom unveils her himself.
The groom meanwhile periodically disappears from the town in order to teach her a lesson, reappears with the hope that his bride is now repentant for not obeying his command and will humour him this time. But alas!
He indulges in other women during his escapades but the pride of his unrelenting bride hurts him all the time.
The battle of ego goes on for 40 years or so. By this time the bride has grown old, her pride not strong as before and she prepares to accept defeat. She walks to him slowly and just when she I about to remove her veil her groom drops dead before her.

The story is meant to illustrate (among other things), the ego of a typical Mughal that did not crumble long after their glory mingled with dust. Hence the title “Mughal Bachhe”.

This one was humour from the beginning till the end.

3rd story – Gharwali – by Nasiruddeen Shah

By this time, I was hurting, what with my having to crane my neck to my right and left and the tall man in front of me showing no signs of shifting in his seat.

I quickly moved to an empty seat 2 – 3 rows before me. I got closer to the stage right in time to watch the best part of the show.

Nasir was dressed in white, top to bottom, in loose fitting clothes having flairs looking somewhat comical and frivolous. This appearance of his was going to prove most suitable for and add effect to the lively rendering of a sequence of comical scenes that were to come.

The actor begins with a character sketch of Lajo, the flirtatious beautiful girl in the neighbourhood. Having no particular house to live in and no particular place to go, one fine day, she barges into Mirza’s house and announces that she will work as a maid.
Mirza, an unmarried middle aged man reluctant to keep her tells her that he has no money to pay her. To this, Lajo says she wants no money, leaving Mirza with no other choice but to agree to keep her.

The story then moves on to Lajo wooing Mirza, Mirza controlling himself with all the will he can summon, Lajo’s skirmishes with everyone in the neighbourhood including the milkman, the postman, shopkeers and boys in the neighbourhood, Mirza’s chastising her as if she were his own, Lajo’s pleasure at being thus chastised, the boy next door flying kite from the roof just to see Lajo bathing under the tap…………., Mirza gradually losing control over himself, until one fine night Lajo grabbed the dilly dallying Mirza and took him to bed. And then they get married.

Once married, Mirza takes Lajo for granted and spends most of his time outside. Lajo who was never excited about marriage since the very beginning, now blames marriage for the neglect she suffers from Mirza. One day, Mirza, upset about her conduct, divorces her.

With this nasty marriage business having come to an end, once again, they live together happily as they did before.

It was a laughter riot. Nasiruddeen was brilliant. If not for his animated, effervescent rendition, the humour in the story would have been lost on the audience.

A must watch.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Importance of Breathing Earnest!

September 2002. Mysore.
My friend Priya called up to tell me there was some course happening close by. Followers of this guru were conducting it. She said he was very popular and travelled all over the world most of the time. Whenever he was in Bangalore, people thronged his ashram to see him. That was the first time I heard of art of living and of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
I and brother decided to attended the course. Priya was there too.
It was a six day program with 2 hours a day in the evening.
24.09.2002 – 29.09.2002.
The venue was Geetha school auditorium and we were all under the tutelage of a certain Dr. Jagadeesh. We were taught the Sudarshana Kriya.
I remember what effect it had had upon us then. Fingers and limbs had stiffened and tears were flowing. My brother who had to drive the scooter back home had relaxed for a good while before riding so his fingers had become flexible again.
Interspersed with this were other teachings – one I remember was – expectations reduce the joy of life. And the first thing we were made to do was meet everyone and say “I belong to you”. It was funny and sometimes awkward when you stood facing a person to whom you did not want to belong!

We were asked to practice the Kriya everyday for 1 Mandala – 48 days.
I did it for 20 days or so and stopped.

2 years ago I joined Sumeru, an IT firm whose profits go to Art of Living, whose office is situated in the Ashram campus. Although not a devotee of the guru in the commonly understood sense of the term, I had wanted to do the basic course once again, having experienced the effect of it before. And having always known the effectiveness of breathing techniques.
After 20 months of dilly dallying, I finally enrolled myself for the course.

1st – 3rd October, 2010

I did the art of living basic course in the ashram.

Chandrashekhar and Manjari were our teachers.

The venue was the Buddha hall on the third floor of the Lotus Temple in the ashram. Marble floored, white, elevated, surrounded by windows on all sides allowing plenty of fresh air and light, and most importantly, calm, this atmosphere was most conducive to learning.

We began by meeting each other and saying ‘Sangacchadhwam’ to one another (not I belong to you).

(The teachers asked us to say to one another “Sanga Chhadhwam”. This was incorrect – you cannot split the word. It is one. I am usually disappointed when people don’t have even a basic working knowledge of Sanskrit. I raised my hand and politely explained that the word was derived from the Sanskrit root “Gam” from which come Gachhaami, Gacchaati etc. Gacchadhwaam was in plural form, 1st person and ‘Sangacchadhwam’ meant “May you go together” or “Together, may you go”.
And no sooner had I finished my small speech than the teacher said to us again Say to each other “Sanga Chhadhwam”. I quietly accepted defeat not wanting to hurt their ego, and not wanting to be seen by others as trying to show off)

This time, I made notes while they talked to us.
Most of the concepts were known to me already, an avid reader of books, as I am.
In fact, there is such an abundance of motivational literature, motivational speakers, motivation/transformation programs today, that it is difficult to be blown away by any teaching or any
talk. Most of it seems redundant.

The take away, of course, was the Sudarshana Kriya. This time, it took me more effort than it did 8 years ago. Our teachers were not very experienced as most of the experienced ones were in another course meant for teachers! The result was, most of the talking was done by us, the participants and we got to appear so smart and learned!

One of the participants was a Mr. Khan. While all of us struggled to remain seated in Vajrasana for a few minutes, our teacher remarked that it must be easy for Mr. Khan as he was used to sitting in that posture during Namaz.

The 2nd day of the course happened to be the 2nd of October. Chandrashekhar (one of our teachers) brought the subject of Gandhi and said India got freedom because of him. This triggered an unexpected discussion and one of the ladies began “He made one mistake, because of which yesterday was a Bandh, and also today. (This was the time of Ayodhya Verdict). He said Hindu Muslim bhai bhai and that was such a mistake… and she went on for a while as I looked at Mr. Khan who was sitting quietly in a far corner, wondering whether he was listening, whether he was following her speech.

Today, the 3rd of December marks the completion of 60 days of Kriya! It also marks the completion of 2 years of working in Sumeru. I also got my salary revision letter today. I gave dairy milk chocolates to all at work. Even as I write this, I am biting into a dairy milk! Congrats!

Below is the summary of the teaching, just for the record.
There are 3 types of listening.
1. Intellectual listening
2. Emotional listening
3. A combination of the two is proper listening
While first two are incomplete listening, the third is complete listening.

I was reminded of the piece of talk on the same subject (listening) given by our teacher in the Landmark Forum basic course. That was more about how we are already judging as we are listening instead of simply listening.
A proper question is one where a sincere answer is needed. Turn a question into a wonder. A wonder needs no answer. (I wonder what the purpose of human life is!)
There are seven levels of existence - body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego, Self or Being
What is Prana? Breath.

That’s what is usually said.
But Prana specifically means oxygen. And prani’s are all those that inhale oxygen. Plants breathe too but they breathe carbon dioxide and not oxygen hence they are not pranis. I wanted to share this but stopped myself.
Humans have four sources of energy - sleep, food, knowledge, breath

Food - what we eat and how much we eat matter.
Eat as much as will fill both hands joined together.
Human body is designed for vegetarian food. Non-veg food takes 72 hours to be fully digested, Veg food, only 4-6 hours. Fruits and vegetables are digested easily.

Further, food can be classified as
Satvik, Tamsik (old food, stale - make you lethargic), Rajasik - fried, sweet, spicy - instant energy – make you overactive. Satvik food is recommended.

Knowledge can be inspirational or negative.
70% of toxins in our body are released through breath. We use only 30% of our breath.

Breath and mind are connected like string and kite. When we are angry we breathe fast. When we take deep breath, our anger subsides.

We tend to take for granted those that are closest to us. Breath is closest to us.
Opposite values complement each other
In the realm of the mind, there is no trying. Either we do it or we don’t. Try implies no 100% effort.
Can you try to sleep? Can you try to forget??
If you resist it persists.
How do we feel about future?

I said – it depends on present and hence our confidence levels. We glorify past, we imagine a perfect future. Very often, we also have imaginary fears too.

The teachers said : If we are too happy we fear we will lose everything

What has happened is inevitable - accept it. Live in the present moment.
What do we take responsibility for? What do we not take responsibility for? (assignment)

What I said: I take responsibility for everything in this universe. This is universe is a fabric of finely woven threads, if you pull one thread, the fabric is changed/affected. We are responsible for the Iraq war and we are responsible for the glacier melting in Antarctica.
There is a delicate balance between all entities in this world and I cannot think of one thing I can point to and say ‘I am not responsible for this.’

What our teachers said after hearing us all.
We take responsibility for what belongs to us, not for what does belong to us. So responsibility increases belongingness.
When we take responsibility we become powerful, else we complain.
We are responsible for our actions as well as non actions
When things go right, we claim we have done it.
When things go wrong, we blame others.
kuch janke chalo, kuch manke chalo, sabko gale lagake chalo.
Do not see intention behind others’ mistake.
Accept people and situations as they are. Forgive yourself and others.
Love is the only emotion true to our nature. All other emotions are a play of angels.
The universe is ever changing. But what about the one observing the change? It must be unchanging. Therefore it is able to perceive the change.
That unchanging reference point in this ever changing world is the Atma.
Direction and control are of the intellect
Emotion is of the mind

Animals have mind but no intellect. Man has both. Intellect controls the mind.
Mind and intellect combination is unique as fingerprint, but Atma is identical to us all.
The more subtle, the more pervasive; mind more subtle than body, hence more pervasive.
Atma more pervasive than mind and intellect
Chitta - memory - a record of all our experiences. When there is no memory, we are free.
The nature of memory is to cling to negativity.
But we need memory. For our own security.
Memory is like rare view mirror. Don’t drive a car looking at rare view mirror all the time.
Meditation is not just to concentrate, but also to deconcentrate.
Spirituality is the birth right of all.
Ignorance is bliss - When you don’t know the outcome of the game you are playing.
Don’t be a football – of other people. (Direct your life yourself)
In between sessions, we were expected to complete assignments given to us. These were mostly questions we were asked to ponder.

What do I want in life?
Make a list of all things that bother you.
What do I expect from this course?
When will you be happy? What do you want in order to be happy?
Perform a random act of kindness
When did you come to this planet? How long do you intend to stay here? When you are here, what do you want to do?
Where are you? Who what are you? Who are you?
On the last day, even as some of them were aspiring to meet the guru, someone brought message of the guru’s presence on the floor below ours. When we went down we saw him in the midst of a group of people. He saw us, did not speak to anyone in particular but smiled, waved and departed.
We were told some guru stories – miracles that took place in the lives of people after they started practicing the Kriya, miraculous healing in cases where doctors had given up hopes etc.
The various breathing techniques we were taught…

Ujjai breath – characterized by emphasis on throat - slightly closed throat - hissing sound. Takes longer to move in and out. Opens pathways to get more prana into our system.
3 stage Pranayama in Ujjai - hands on hip bone, hands at the armpit, hands on back with elbows pointing to the sky
All 3layers of lungs will be opened when we breathe this way.
Bhastrika - Normal breath (not Ujjai), forceful expulsion.

Omkar is the primordial and universal sound
All religions have it - amen(christianity), ameen(islam), hum(parsi),shalom(jews), aum – Hinduism.
Aum – consists of a, u, m
The three sounds that Aum is composed of correspond to the below:
Brahmasthan (stomuch) - creative energy (stomuch, abdomen)
Vishnusthan (chest) - lungs, heart - feeling, emotion from this area
Shivasthan - head - destroy - intellect destroys innocence, Shiva destroys ignorance

Panchakosha meditation. Aura meditation

Sudarshana Kriya – is rhythmic breathing technique. It’s a purifying action, gives proper vision. We align with the rhythm of the self through the Sudarshana Kriya.

We do the Kriya in normal breath, not in Ujjai.
Setting the rhythm using ‘soham’. Follow the rhythm 100%. Do not resist any sensation, do not sleep, do not meditate and keep your eyes closed.

The 3 stages of pranayama in Vajrasana – breathe in ujjai
Bhastrika in Vajrasana - Normal breath - forceful expulsion
Soham – in Sukhasan - normal breath - effortless breathing and slightly forceful breath out - 3 rounds of Soham

We were made to participate in several processes.

Bowing process - Dishapranaam
East - attachment and entanglement, South - lust, obsession, West - greed jealousy, North - anger, arrogance
Bowing down again to express gratitude to earth, sun, parents and ancestors.

Life story - group activity – narrate your life story to the other person in your group

Looking at one other, accept them completely.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sesame And Lilies - John Ruskin

This work was done in 1864.

This is not a book to be reviewed but a book to be revered. A book that one should make special effort to understand in its context and time, especially because of the wide chasm that separates today and the author’s period and the differences in social, political, economic, religious and other conditions that make the two worlds seem universes apart.

Ruskin attacked the current political economy.

It is very easy to read a few pages and then think the ideas anachronistic but it is difficult and important to understand the spirit underlying the words and to figure out how they can be applied to today’s life and situations.

The two lectures expound the subject of books & reading and the education of women.
The usefulness of the ideas of the author in today’s world lies in our ability to appreciate the following essence of the ideas.
The lecture on ‘books’ emphasizes the importance of reading and the necessity to assess a book’s worth before reading it.
The second lecture, on the education of women, though not very agreeable, provokes women to enquire into their role in the society, in this world and educate themselves to become equal to their roles.
The role of women as I observe has become more important in today’s time where there is a profusion of radical feminists revolting with a vengeance and creating imbalance and disharmony rather than helping women to lead lives in accordance with their true essence.

The language is of a high standard. Puritanical as the author himself is, needless to say, his writing is impeccable. Such is the standard, that each line could be a quotation in itself.

The interesting trivia about this book is that the cover, a moss green velvet gives the book an antique feel and makes my bookshelf look awe inspiring and its owner erudite. I picked it up at Select Bookshop upon Mr. Murthy's suggestion.

Ruskin was born in the middle of the industrial revolution which wrought changes in the lives of people. The salient features of this revolution were power driven machinery and the growth of large factories. Common land was put to private use. People had to sell their farms and become hired labourers at very low wages. Bulk of rural population was now a class without property and dependent upon an employing class. People drifted to the towns. Skilled craftsmen became 'hands' in a factory.

In 1825, 3 million of wage earners were children earning very low wages. Combination laws prevented formation of trade unions or participation in strikes. Most of the necessities of life were heavily taxed. There was no state education and the hours of work made it impossible for parents to hand down traditional knowledge.

Slums were built for workers. England was the richest country in the world but at the cost of 1000's of children worked or starved to death.

Ruskin, influenced by Thomas Carlyle, the great political prophet of his age, opposed this worship of greed on moral grounds and set himself to work out a saner political economy which should recognize that self interest is only one of the motives that move men; that the only true wealth of a nation is healthy happy citizens who have as far as possible, developed their faculties, are satisfying their creative and artistic instead of merely their acquisitive instincts.

The 2 lectures in this book were delivered at Manchester in 1864 and published the next year. Together they form a small tractate on education - education from books and the proper education of women.

He considers novels as books of the hour - 'strictly speaking, not books at all'. Later he banned from his ideal library, many of the world's greatest literary treasures.

He was too much influenced by his over-puritanical upbringing and judged all books by the extent to which they included morality.

The second lecture too reads a little oddly these days since the position of women has completely changed. But it must be remembered that Ruskin wrote for the well to do women of his time who lived sheltered lives in dependence upon their parents and husbands and especially for young unmarried women who normally spent all time in pleasure. He regards women as created solely for the benefit of men and does nothing to support the pioneers of his day who were pressing for woman suffrage.

Although he himself denounced the economic evils of her age, his ideal woman is not expected to question the source of the wealth provided by her father/husband.
His ideal woman has to cook for the sick poor, sew garments for poor children and all.

Yet there remains in these lectures much that is of value in our own age.

His method was always trenchant, his language often violent; but a prophet inspired by indignation and pity does not speak comfortable words.

Notes I made from the book.

1st Lecture – King’s Treasures

…We fancy glamour and riches, celebrities and ignore the genuine commoners around us all the time.

…Definition of a book - A book is written not to multiply the voice merely, not to carry it merely, but to preserve it. The author has something to say which he perceives to be true and useful, or helpfully beautiful. So far as he knows, no one has yet said it; so far as he knows, no one else can say it. He is bound to say it, clearly and melodiously if he may; clearly at all events. In the sum of his life, he finds this to be the thing, or group of things, manifest to him; - this is the piece of true knowledge, or sight, which his share of sunshine and earth has permitted him to seize. He would fain set it down forever; engrave it on rock, if he could; saying, "this is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another; my life was as the vapour, and is not; but this I saw and knew: this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory." That is his "writing"; it is, in his small human way, and with whatever degree of true inspiration is in him, his inscription or scripture. That is a 'Book'.

Though many of us will not agree to his definition especially in today's time when all kinds of ramblings and musings see print and sell like hot cakes. - this work definitely gives an understanding of the standards and outlook of people at that time (another era). This book surely draws our attention to the necessity of assessing the true worth and value add of books before reading them.

…Speaking of our approach towards a book the author says the following. You should rise to the level of the author, he will not stoop to you. You must have a true desire to be taught by them (book writers) and to enter into their thoughts. To enter into theirs, observe; not to find your own expressed by them.
Very ready we are to say of a book "how good this is – that’s exactly what I think" But the right feeling is "How strange that is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I do not now, I hope I shall someday." Go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours. Step into the author's shoes. Annihilate yourself.

…Good and bad words - puritanical ideas
A well educated gentleman may not know many languages, may have read very few books. But whatever language he knows, he knows precisely; whatever word he pronounces, he pronounces rightly; above all, he is learned in the peerage of words; knows the words of true descent and ancient blood, at a glance, from words of modern canaille; remembers all their ancestry - their inter-marriages, distantest relationships, and the extent to which they were admitted, and offices they held, among the national noblesse of words at any time, and in any country. The accent, or turn of expression of a single sentence will at once mark a scholar. And this is so strongly felt, so conclusively admitted, by educated persons, that a false accent or a mistaken syllable is enough in the parliament of any civilized nation, to assign to a man a certain degree of inferior standing forever.

The book is full of absolutes. There is hardly anything left to relativity.
This aspect of writing - the stark classification the author makes of almost everything into good and bad, right and wrong, do’s and don’ts, reflects one aspect of those times – all was either black or white and greys were not very popular in contrast with the situation of today, a time when there are more grey shades than have ever been at any time in the past.
In fact, greys have become the only legitimate shades and anyone who thinks, sees black and white is termed fanatic.
We call them all judgmental and narrow in outlook.

…Most men's minds are indeed little better than rough heath wilderness, neglected and stubborn, partly barren, partly overgrown with pestilent brakes and venomous wind sown herbage of evil surmise; that the first thing you have to do for them, and yourself, is eagerly and scornfully to set fire to this; burn all the jungle into wholesome ash-heaps, and then plough and sow. All the true literary work before you, for life, must begin with obedience to that order, "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns."

Interesting definition of vulgarity
…The ennobling difference between one man and another, and between one animal and another is precisely in this, that one feels more than another. If we were sponges, sensation might not be easily got for us; if we were earthworms, liable every instant to be cut in two by the spade, too much sensation might not be good for us. But being human creatures, it is good for us; we are only human in so far as we are sensitive, and our honour is precisely in proportion to our passion.

…The essence of all vulgarity lies in want of sensation; simple and innocent vulgarity is merely an untrained and undeveloped bluntness of body and mind; but in true inbred vulgarity, there is a deathful callousness, which, in extremity, becomes capable of every sort of bestial habit and crime, without fear, without pleasure, without horror and without pity. It is in the blunt hand and the dead heart, in the diseased habit, in the hardened conscience, that men become vulgar.

…True passion is disciplined and tested passion, not the first passion that comes. The first that come are the vain, the false, the treacherous; if you yield to them, they will lead you wildly and far, in vain pursuit, in hollow enthusiasm, till you have no true purpose and no true passion left.
Any feeling possible to humanity is in itself not wrong, but only wrong when undisciplined.

…We are furious at a small private wrong while we are polite to a boundless public one: we are still brave to death, though incapable of discerning true cause for battle…

…Taking the example of the Swiss vintagers of Zurich expressing their Christian thanks for the gift of the vine, by assembling in knots in the 'tower of the vineyards', and slowly loading and firing horse pistols from morning till evening, the author says “it is pitiful to have dim conceptions of duty; more pitiful to have conceptions like these, of mirth.”

…The justice we do not execute, we mimic in the novel and on the stage; for the beauty we destroy in nature, we substitute the metamorphosis of the pantomime, and (the human nature of us imperatively requiring awe and sorrow of some kind) for the noble grief we should have borne with our fellows, and the pure tears we should have wept with them, we gloat over the pathos of the police court, and gather the night due of the grave.

…We are still kind at heart; still capable of virtue, but only as children are. Chalmers, at the end of his long life, having had much power with the public, being plagued in some serious matter by a reference to "public opinion", uttered the impatient exclamation, "The public is just a great baby". the reason I have allowed all these graver subjects of thought to mix themselves up with an enquiry into methods of reading, is that, the more I see of our national faults or miseries, the more they resolve themselves into conditions of childish illiterateness, and want of education in the most ordinary habits of thought. It is, I repeat, not vice, not selfishness, not dullness of brain, which we have to lament; but an unreachable schoolboy's recklessness, only differing from the true schoolboy's in its incapacity of being helped, because it acknowledges no master.

…Scythia was the old name of southern Russia…

Kings and how they should rule
…Enlargement of a king's dominion meant the same thing as the increase of a private man's estate. Kings who think so, however powerful can no more be the true kings of the nation than gad flies are the kings of a horse; they suck it, and may drive it wild, but do not guide it. The true kings rule quietly, if at all, and hate ruling.

…Estimate your dominion by the force of it, not geographical boundaries.
It matters very little whether Trent cuts you a cantel out here, or Rhine round you a castle less there. It does matter to you whether you can turn your people as you can Trent. Whether your people hate you and die by you or love you and live by you. You may measure your dominion by multitudes, better than by miles.

…Very few kings have ever laid up treasures that need no guarding - treasures of which, the more the thieves there were, the better! Broidered robe only to be rent-helm and sword only to be dimmed, jewel and gold only to be scattered-there have been 3 kinds of kings who have gathered these. The fourth kind of treasure - wisdom- and the fourth kind of king?

…We should bring up our peasants to a book exercise instead of a bayonet exercise, organized drill maintained with pay, and good generalship, armies of thinkers instead of armies of stabbers! - find national amusement in reading rooms as well as rifle grounds; give prizes for a fair shot at a fact, as well as for a leaden splash on a target.

…French and England- France and England literally buy panic of each other; they pay, each of them, for ten thousand thousand pounds worth of terror a year. Now suppose, instead of buying these, 10 millions’ worth of panic annually, they made up their minds to be at peace with each other - and buy 10 millions' worth of knowledge annually; founding royal libraries, royal art galleries, royal museums, royal gardens and places of rest. Might it not be better for them?

2nd lecture – Queen’s gardens

…There are no heroes in Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare has no heroes, he has only heroines. The catastrophe of every play is caused always by the folly of a man; the redemption, if there be any, is by the wisdom and virtue of a woman.
Women redeem men.

…Exceptions in Shakespeare's play. There is only one weak woman - Ophelia; and it is because she fails Hamlet at the critical moment, and is not, and cannot in her nature be a guide to him when he needs her most. Such in broad light, is Shakespeare's testimony to the position and character of women in human life.

…Walter Scott, Dante. With Walter Scott too, it is the woman who watches over, teaches and guides the youth; it is never, by any chance, the youth who watches over or educates his mistress.

(All the above reminds me of Tagore’ ideal woman.)

…We are foolish and without excuse foolish, in speaking of the 'superiority' of one sex to the other, as if they could be compared in similar things. Each has what the other has not; each completes the other, and is completed by the other; they are in nothing alike, and the happiness and perfection of both depends on each asking and receiving from the other what the other only can give.

…The best romance becomes dangerous, if, by its excitement, it renders the ordinary course of life uninteresting, and increases the morbid thirst for useless acquaintance with scenes in which we shall never be called upon to act.

…Each will gather from the novel, food for their disposition. Those who are naturally proud and envious will learn from Thackeray to despise humanity; those who are naturally gentle, to pity it; those who are naturally shallow, to laugh at it. So, also, there might be a serviceable power in novels to bring before us, in vividness, a human truth which we had before dimly conceived;

…Observe the word 'state' - we have got into a loose way of using it. It means literally the standing and stability of a thing; and you have the full force of it in the derived word 'statue' - ' the immovable thing'. A king's majesty or state then, and the right of a kingdom to be called a state, depends on the movelessness of both: - without tremor, without quiver of balance; established and enthroned upon a foundation of eternal law which nothing can alter nor overthrow.

Good art was possible only in a nation morally sound...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Meeting The Mongoloid On The Moon

It was a full moon. In a clear sky. I wondered if he was looking at the moon too. Did he even remember his promise, made 10 years ago?

On the quiet road that leads to Chamundi hills, I would go for my evening walk. It was a narrow road flanked by tamarind trees on both sides. A lone road like a ‘Sphagetti dropped from heaven’. Beyond the trees were stretches of open fields and farms. On one side was Lalitha Mahal, white and majestic. On the other, was the Chamundi hill. And beyond all, in the west was the setting sun.
Retired men, young men and women and home makers, walked this road in the evening. But there weren’t too many of them.
Cyclists peddled to nearby villages. An occasional lorry passed, shearing the stillness of the atmosphere and sending the walkers to the mud trail off the gravel. For a while. After which they hopped back to the road which was all theirs, until the next lorry. City buses with people visiting Chamundi hills passed up and down, now and then, but not too often.
On the whole, it was serene and charming.

That was Mysore, ten years ago. It remains the same to this day. More or less.

A little after two kilometers of walking on this stretch, just before the uphill climb began, there was the Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre on my right (IVAC). This was my stop. My only one. I would walk up to this, sit in front of its entrance for a while and start my march homewards.
By the way, this was part of my weight gaining program. It was meant to improve my appetite.

When I became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t drinking any water during this hour long walk, I made a slight change to my routine.
I would walk to the security boy guarding the entrance to IVAC and ask him for water.
He was a boy. Perhaps 18. Or 19. But no more than 20. He had Mongoloid features. I thought he was either from the North east or Tibet. I even asked him but I don’t remember now what he said. He was ebullient and talkative.
He would hand me a bottle. I would drink a little and return it with a ‘thanks’.
For the first few days, that was all; I would drink from the bottle, say thanks and return.

After this went on for a few days, we started talking. He asked me what I did, where I lived, and so on.
I asked him where he was from, how often he visited home and so on. We conversed in Hindi.

Once I became conscious of hygiene after some provocation from my father and asked the boy if the water was not 'jhootha' (had they drunk from the same bottle touching it to their mouth?) And I was assured it was not 'jhootha', with a smile. So I continued drinking his water.

Every day, I would find him at the entrance with the water bottle ready. He knew the usual time when I reached that spot and he was there to greet me.
If I did not go for my walk someday, he would ask me the next day where I had been and if all was well.

On certain days, when I did not find him at the gate, my eyes would search for him. Another guard would hand me the bottle and when I asked where this boy was, he would tell me that he had not come to work or something.

One fine day, I was invited for a tour of the campus by the security people. This was not the usual for them but since they saw me regularly, I became their chosen one.
I don’t remember if the boy was there at that time or not.
I went to the place in the next few days however, taking care to wear a proper dress and not my walking pyjamas. I had a tour of the campus, learnt that it was an exotic place with all kinds of Ayurvedic treatments. It was an expensive place. Someday, I thought, I would go back, when I could afford it all.

I shared a particular matter with the boy.
There had been this guy who had been following me on his bike everyday during my evening walk. He had never tried to talk to me, nor was he menacing. But he followed me nevertheless. He would slow down enough so I would take notice, so he could give me a knowing look and smile a half smile. And then he was gone.
On my return journey homeward, the same would happen.
Once in a way, I would find him sitting on a bench where the road turned, where I turned towards my stop. I knew he was looking at me and I would turn my head the other way.

I am not a person who shares my personal matters with people readily. And very seldom, I seek advice. But I know not why, I shared this incident with the boy and also asked him what I should do. To my surprise, the boy happened to be very thoughtful.
He said that the guy had shown definite interest in me but he had kept his distance and never come too close. He had not transgressed the limits of propriety and therefore I should not do anything yet.

Days passed. One day, when it was getting dark, the boy offered to walk with me some distance as it was not very safe. I agreed. As we walked, we chatted about this and that. And then when I said he should return to his post, he left reluctantly.
After that day, once in a way he would walk with me.

One fine day, he told me he was leaving. To his home town. Once for all.
On the last day, our last meeting, he gave me a letter, which he said I should open only after reaching home. Handing the letter to me, he said, "Whenever you want to meet me, look at the moon. I shall look at the moon too, and there, on the moon, our eyes will meet'. That’s how we will keep in touch.” And I agreed, smiling at his innocence.
I was touched to know such innocence still existed, unaffected by the 'practical ideas of communication and correspondence' of the modern day.

I walked home and put the letter on my wardrobe shelf. I did not open it for several days. It was there in front of me peering from the midst of papers, textbooks, clothes... I would think... tomorrow. I shall read it tomorrow. I don’t remember now whether I read it later at all or it remains unread to this day. I don’t know why I put it away... and if I have read it, I don’t remember the contents of it.

I never really looked at the moon after that day, intending to meet him.
He was just a security guard who gave me water to drink, whom I got used to, whom I liked as long as it lasted. And whom I forgot after a few days.

But today, as I look at the moon, I think of him and wonder if he remembers his promise, made in all sincerity and solemnity that evening. Is he still innocent like he was that day? Does he look at the moon, think of me and smile?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Summer's Redemption

Wish there were orchards and orchards of it. Mango. Come summer. And you find golden, pink, peach tender blossom on Mango trees obscuring its leaves and branches from view. The colour of the blossom depends on sunlight, and the stage of the blossoming – just blossomed, turning into fruit…

The otherwise quiet inconspicuous mango tree suddenly becomes the most special tree.
In an urban surrounding full of glass finished buildings, the lone mango tree seems to assert that ‘this is still India’.
It brings fond memories of your grandmother’s ancestral house, the backyard of which had a mango tree. Essentially. During festivities, when you needed mango leaves to make festoons to embellish the entrance to your home, you didn’t have to go far in search of the mango tree unlike today. You just had to go to your backyard.
Those afternoons spent in its cool shades! You did not count those afternoons. Who knew they were numbered?
You suddenly miss the cuckoo. When you heard its calls as you ambled in the garden, you craned your neck and searched the mango tree’s branches and leaves to see where it was. You returned the call of the cuckoo, trying your best to imitate it, to hear it coo once more, so you could locate it. The thick foliage made it so difficult.
It’s been so long since you heard the call of the cuckoo. Now you will have to travel several miles, away from the city, to find the cuckoo.

The mango tree. It fills you with anticipation. Anticipation of the mango fruit. The flavor, the colour, the taste. Such an exotic fruit. The fruit of summer.
Yes. The fruit is the redemption of summer.

Ah! The untimely rain that destroys mango crop!
Whatever happened to ‘Prakriti Dharma’? We have lost the right to ask that question now.
I pray anyway. May it not rain…not now…

These were pictures taken at work.

These were pictures taken on the way to work. I got down from the cab, took pictures from different angles even as passersby looked at me askance. And then I walked to the nearby bus stop, boarded the bus to office.