Thursday, July 14, 2011
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Like when your Mother-in-law exhibits MSoD when she sees you not wearing bangles anymore or that sacred mangalsutra. At times your mom and mom-in-law would together exhibit MSoD when they talk about their good old days when there was no domestic help and they did all the household work themselves including fetching water from the well and taking care of a brood of children and yet miraculously being far more healthy than ‘you’ when all you do is just cook a sparse meal and go to office.
By now you would have got used to your mother’s high standards of excellence but you still can’t escape being distraught when she shows acute MSoD when you are immobile in the hospital after surgery. The old lady in the next room too had a surgery like you yesterday and she already had her breakfast and is walking in the corridor, she would say. You somehow find the energy and launch into explaining the difference between laparascopic surgery and open surgery.
And then there are colleagues in office who get the sickness of MSoD when you try to discuss something you read in the newspaper that morning. ‘Do you find time to read the paper in the morning’ – such an innocuous question but there is a slew of underlying accusations – you shirker, how can you not feel guilty being outside the kitchen in the morning – you have your priorities all mixed up and so on and so forth. And listening to their discussing their culinary skills, housekeeping skills and parenting skills would give you a major inferiority complex, forget about their MSoD, when you talk like an ignoramus in those areas.
Then the feeling encompasses you when the boss walks into your cabin and invariably finds you talking over the phone or when the gymnasium instructor gives that look which says ‘how do you think you would shed weight if you make occasional visits to the gym?’
Well all is not lost. You can counter them by exhibiting MSoD yourself at all of them, if you remember and if you get a wee chance. And then there is your angelic daughter for whom you are everything. Hmmm..... not really. You realize that the day is not far off when she too would be inflicted with MSoD – but as of now she is only curious as to why I don’t apply make-up or atleast lipstick like X‘s mom or why can’t I bake a Barbie cake or why I scold and shout at her while Y’s mom is always sweet.
So the all permeating MSoD is here to stay and the sooner you get used to it the better it is for you. Maybe this sense of disapproval stems from the universal feeling of ‘My way or the highway.’ And with delusion of being an evolutionary biologist I try to trace the origins of MSoD. It is the remnants of evolutionary pressure of organizing ourselves into a society for survival. The individual who does not conform is shoe-horned to fit or else viewed with suspicion and treated with scorn.
Whatever it may be I have devised my set of ways for dealing with it:
1) Act as if you don’t get it. This robs them of the pleasure of seeing you affected.
2) Confront directly – saying in so many words, what is left unsaid.
3) Put on the face of a martyr – this would irk the other person and make him forget his MSoD.
4) Talk blandly – shorn of all feeling and you would be slotted as a ‘Gone case’ beyond redemption. And that is wonderful for you.
5) Exhibit sense of humour if you can find the stomach for it – tickle their ribs and they will forget their MSoD, if only for a while.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
- Lord Byron
Saturday, April 9, 2011
His father was the priest then and till his adolescence he would enjoy tagging along with his father during his school holidays. His teachers said he was a brilliant boy and that he would go places. During his teen years he stopped visiting the temple - his studies and cricket with his friends occupied most his time. When the time came to enter college he chose to study Physics as it was one subject that never ceased to fascinate him.
And then one day his father died. That was it. The family had no means of survival. He had to take up the responsibility and well-meaning family friends advised him to follow his father's footsteps to take up the readily available mantle of the priest. It was god's plan, they said. All that he knew was that he had to earn money to keep his family going. So he became the priest of the temple. Slowly he lost contact with his friends and went deeper and deeper into himself. His natural intelligence and talent for organization came to the fore and he invested all his time and energy in the temple. Slowly the temple grew and attracted devotees from far and near. There were 'more gods' in the temple now catering to the needs of the people and on festive occasions it was difficult to control the crowd. He became the chief priest and there were 3 or 4 junior priests under him.
Before he knew, years rolled by and he was already 50 years old. All that would happen in the life of a normal Indian male had happened and now his son was studying Physics in a College. To everyone he was a person to whom they could go for counselling, clarify whether a day was auspicious or not, to learn what was the appropriate puja to appease a god and so on and so forth. His calm demeanor and soft voice was soothing to the regular devotees of the temple. But inside he was highly agitated by his growing self-doubts and uncomfortable questions.
He tried to remember when the seeds of doubt about the existence of god was sown in his mind. Probably when the arrogant village headman who enjoyed trampling on those who worked under him showed keen interest in adorning the deity with gold and silver. Or when the corrupt bank officer insisted on making a large donation for the upkeep of the temple. Or when the other priests distributed 'prashad' dripping with ghee to the well-fed devotees when the village urchins stood outside the temple and watched longingly. Or maybe when he started studying his son's books and was intrigued enough to stay awake night after night studying when everyone slept.
Whatever it was, now he no longer believed in a theistic god who answered prayers, who enjoyed particular foods, who demanded offerings for appeasement and who was whimsical in doling out favors and was quite tolerable about misdeeds. The concept of an omnipotent, omniscient and beneficent god did not ring true given the happenings around him. He turned agnostic and was repulsed to see people everyday who acted as if they were the centre of the universe and prayed for petty things selfishly. He loathed getting up in the morning and having to go through the motions of adorning the deity, paying obeisance to it and performing pujas. He hated it when people came and requested him to perform a puja for their new car. He could not stand it when women - young and old, in shimmering silk sarees approached him to ask about the auspicious time to break their fast. Some days all he wanted to do was scream and shriek.
Torn between his conscience and his economic necessity he was at a loss to decide what he could do. Unfortunately he had not gained any employable skills other than learning a few sanskrit verses. But going through the charade was killing him slowly every day. He wondered how many more were there like him in the small temples dotted across the country as well as in the huge money spinning temples. He was resigned to his state and decided to perform his duty with a sense of detachment. When a group of noisy devotees entered the temple 'the agnostic priest' got up with a sigh and entered the sanctun sanctorum to perform the role he was supposed to execute. No time to think now; he would do that later. And he wondered where his thoughts would lead him....
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
If I should have a daughter.......
If I should have a daughter, instead of “MOM”, she's going to call me Point B
because that way she knows that no matter what happens
atleast she can always find her way to me.
And I am going to paint Solar Systems on the backs of her hands,
so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say
'Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.'
And she's going to learn that this life will hit you,
in the face,
wait for you to get back, just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs
how much they like the taste of air.
There's hurt here that cannot be fixed by Band aids or poetry
So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming
I'll make sure she knows she does not have to wear the cape all by herself.
Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers,
your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal.
Believe me, I've tried
And baby, I'll tell her, don't keep your nose up in the air like that
I know that trick, I've done it a million times
You're just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail
back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire
to see if you can save him.
Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him.
But I know she'll anyway, so instead I'll always keep an extra supply of chocolate
and rainboots nearby.
Because there's no heartbreak that chocolate can't fix
Ok, there's a few heartbreaks that chocolate can't fix
but that's what the rainboots are for, because rain will
wash away everything if you will.
I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat
To look through the microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind
Because that's the way my mom taught me.
That there'll be days like this
There'll be days like this my momma said
When you open your hands to catch & wind up with only blisters and bruises
When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly
And the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape
When your boots will fill with rain and you'll be up to your knees in disappointment
And those are the very days you've all the more reason to say thank you.
Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop
kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s swept away.
You will put the wind in winsome ... lose some
You will put the star in starting over and over.
And no matter how many landmines erupt in a minute
Be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to overtrusting, I'm pretty damn naive.
But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar
It can crumble so easily
But don't be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it
“Baby,” I'll tell her, “remember your mama is a worrier
and your papa is a warrior,
and you're the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.”
Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things
And always apologize when you've done something wrong.
But don't you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small, but don't ever stop singing.
And when they finally hand you heartache,
when they slip war and hatred under your door
and offer you handouts on street corners
of cynicism and defeat,
you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.
Friday, March 18, 2011
The calm handsome man driving the luxury car should be her husband. He was focused in his driving and was skilfully manoeuvring his vehicle unaware of his wife’s state. She looked simple and elegant in her sky blue cotton saree. I was observing them now for quite some time and was curious about what could have moved her to tears. It looked like she was more careful about her husband not noticing that she was crying, so much so that she did not mind strangers seeing her in tears. She tried to wipe her tears imperceptibly.
What could have been the preceding chain of events....Maybe the couple had a fight and the husband said something harsh to her. Or maybe she was regretting something she had said or did. Or were they listening to an old hindi song which made her wistful about the good old days? Was she thinking about how they had started their life filled with hope and enthusiasm and then forgot about living being caught in the web of their energy-sapping mundane activities?
Maybe today was a special day in their lives and her husband was oblivious to it making her sad. Or had she lost a loved one recently? Was she thinking of the lost opportunities in life and was consumed by regret and remorse? Did she long for her husband to comfort her while she rested her head on his shoulders? Probably she was wondering where she went wrong and lost the wonderful rapport she used to share with her husband. Familiarity surely has bred contempt in him, she must have thought. Though they were seated next to each other, they seemed to be far removed from each other.
I was tempted to smile at her and tell her, “Don’t worry; this too shall pass.” I also wanted to call her husband’s attention to his wife’s state of mind. Whatever was going on in the minds of these two individuals, I wanted to tell them , “Think of the bigger picture... Remember the shared joy and experiences of yore. Nothing is worth this sadness and don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. So bridge the gap and celebrate your life of togetherness...After all life is ephemeral and would slip away at the blink of an eye....”
The moral of the story is “Don’t think you should be idle while stuck at a traffic signal.... you can make a film, albeit in your mind, out of the hapless characters you see around you. Let your imagination run riot and give wings to your fantasy."
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
What I read in the LA Times was stupefying:
1. There is no looting in Japan in spite of the widespread devastation and abandoned homes and shops.
2. A 70 year old woman staying alone in a house and was trapped when a book shelf fell on her leg after the earthquake, apologised to the rescue workers for the trouble she caused when there were more people in worse situation waiting to be rescued.
3. When the transportation system resumed after being paralysed for hours, people waited in queues and boarded the trains patiently.
The International community is looking at the Japanese with awe and trying to understand the Japanese culture – what makes them tight lipped about what is happening and are they resigned to whatever happens as a result of having gone through a lot of turmoil both natural and man-made. In normal times the apologetic and cloyingly polite Japanese might get on the nerves of most people. But at precipitous times like these, the kindness and politeness serve as lubricants to get the wheels move smooth.
Another aspect is that the media now focuses less on playing the ‘guess game’ about the actual number of dead as a result of the twin catastrophe of earthquake and tsunami. The magnitude of the damage already done is overtaken by the possible disastrous consequence of the nuclear meltdown.
Amidst memories of Hiroshima / Nagasaki there is comparison of the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island with the present one. It was revealing to see the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan calmly stating that all the workers in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were withdrawn. A Security Analyst from Massachusetts responded anxiously: ‘I hope he does not mean that the nuclear plant has been abandoned. Maybe he is only saying that 1) most of the workers are withdrawn or that 2) a new set of workers would take over or that 3) they are taking International assistance to contain the damage.
On a scale of 1 to 7, the present nuclear crisis in Japan has been categorized as a 6 while that in Chernobyl was categorised as 7 and that in Three Mile Island as 5. Whether the 6 is tending towards 7 and not 5 as reported remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: there are lessons to be learnt, not only about whether 1) the eight hour back up was sufficient 2) the diesel generators were parked low leading to flooding 2) the filtration system was adequate and so on and so forth....but also equally importantly about the exemplary calmness, resilience and politeness exhibited by the amazing people of Japan.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The Dalai Lama said, "We must all be grateful that the Japanese government's disaster preparedness measures prevented the death and destruction from being much worse".
That seems to be a very intelligent statement.
The statement said "as a Buddhist monk who daily recites the Heart Sutra, the Dalai Lama felt it would be very good if Japanese Buddhists were to recite the Heart Sutra" for the victims and survivors of the quake and the tsunami."
"Such recitation may not only be helpful for those who have lost their precious lives, but may also help prevent further disasters in the future," the Dalai Lama said.
He said prayers to recite the Heart Sutra 100,000 times were being organised in Dharamsala for this purpose.
Hmmm...so?? What does he mean when he says that reciting the 'Heart Sutra' would be good for the victims and survivors. And it seems such recitations may hep in preventing future disasters. Well he was reciting....right? It did not seem to have helped. And why did he not reveal that 'wisdom' before and prevent this disaster?
I am also reminded of this.... A dear aunt asked me for my permission to 'bless me'....and I did not have the heart to say 'No I don't believe in that BS.' So she kept her hand on my head, closed her eyes and mumbled for a while... But what pained me was to hear from her that she had attended a 'Blessing course' in Bangalore under that Double Sri guy and that she can bless how many ever people she wants.
The moral of the story is that, if you want to appear as if you have contributed something or if you want to delude yourself to believe that you have helped in some way, then PRAY....or BLESS....
Friday, March 4, 2011
— Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation)