Thank you Mother!

Thank you dear mother for giving me life…
To believe that after two boys, a girl in your family would be nice
To take that decision, so many years back
When your two sons were already like a lively wolf pack!
To plunge headlong once more, into active motherhood
Knowing that your time would be ours now, probably, for good
To have hapily made that choice, with a smile on your gentle face
Always believing our presence in your life was Gods most benign grace
You brought us up, through frustrations and tears, happiness and laughter
Chiselling and mounding our being, like a wise, master-crafter
Keeping the larger picture in mind, you guided us with care
Giving us wide wings and deep values, you nudged us to take to the air
As the three of us live our lives, it’s around you that we fly
Like once you did for us mother, now on you, we keep a watchful eye
We want bliss and happiness around you mom, never sadness or strife
That will be our small gift to you….
To YOU, who chose to give us life…

A Beautiful Awakening

She was sitting some distance away from me. Alone, just like me. We were both waiting patiently. Our eyes met and we shared a smile.  Then she got busy looking out of the window and I scrutinised the busy scene around me.

People were coming and going, there was the sound of conversation and laughter in the air. Life was unfolding at a leisurely pace that Saturday afternoon… Next time I glanced at her she had covered her head and her hands were folded, she had bowed her head and seemed to be saying a prayer…for the food the waiter had placed in front of her…at that time it almost seemed like a very brave thing to do in full public view. Yet, here she was, in a busy restaurant, oblivious to the curiosity of strangers and the sniggers of some. Giving thanks…

Since then till now, such a scene has never repeated itself in front of me. Mostly food is consumed almost unconsciously, conversation flowing between mouthfuls, phone calls being attended while holding a piece of bread in the hand..

At a retreat conducted by the venerable Thic Naht Hahn, he introduced us to food meditation. In this, we were all given a fruit.

Before eating it, we were asked to savour it’s colour, texture and fragrance. Then we were asked to think about the many people who’s contribution had made it possible for this fruit to be in our hand. And finally, we were asked to savour every bite with every sense we have and relish it to the fullest…in silence.

It was a beautiful awakening…by two very different yet very evolved souls…

If I had my Life to Live Over..

 (written after she found out she was dying from cancer).
 I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth
would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
 I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted
in storage.
 I would have talked less and listened more.
 I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was
stained, or the sofa faded.
 I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much
less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
 I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his
 I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
 I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day
because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
 I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
 I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more
while watching life.
 I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t
show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

 Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every
moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only
chance in life to assist God in a miracle..
 When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later… Now
go get washed up for dinner.’ There would have been more ‘I love you’s,
more ‘I’m sorry’s.’
 But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute; look
at it and really see it; live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE
 Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what
 Instead, let’s cherish the relationships we have with those who do love

ek chup..sau sukh…

A painful throat condition rendered me speechless, literally.  There was quiet celebration amongst the kids as reality hit that there wouldn’t be any sound coming from me for a few days. Without the benefit of speech, I was completely lost. Talking as a way of expressing everything I felt was always taken for granted. Without it, there was a sense of helplessness.  

I started looking towards the happenings around me as one does cinema. Earlier, I used to drag my point of view behind me wherever I went, eager to push it into every conversation.  Without that pressure now, I focussed on the person in front of me, on the voice, the facial expressions and the content of speech and I found out that quite often there was a mismatch between what a person was saying and what the eyes were expressing. How often had I overlooked this vital connection when dealing with people or my children?

 As I lived in silence, I started quietening the mind as well. I started noticing the level of unnecessary noise everywhere.  On the phone, in the streets, in shops, restaurants, bus-stops, on television and radios too, everywhere people were talking so much louder than they needed to.

Did anyone even realise, I wondered? Quite often the sound was harsh, crass and unpleasant to the ear. Talking, for most people seemed like an unconscious behaviour, just like breathing or blinking. Something requiring no thought.

My silence became a new teacher and it reintroduced me to myself. I read somewhere that silence is not mere noiselessness. It is friendly and loving, all-embracing, peace-giving. A body lacking silence will reveal its agitation through fidgeting, restlessness, hyperactivity, scratching, shuffling.  Useless physical activity quite often reflects a cluttered mind…..  silence taught me to listen and also taught me the importance of distilling my thoughts before opening my mouth.  A calm, measured speech gives peace to the listener as well. A person talking too fast and too loudly can aggravate and raise the level of stress of the listener too.

“Ek chup… Sau Sukh” Grand-mother always used to say. Not every thought needs to be expressed. Choose silence sometimes, especially at those times when you cannot trust the words that will tumble out….

When Was The Last Time…..

I heard this line in an advertisement some time back and have never forgotten it since.

 It gives me a sense of excitement and hope. It tells me that there are still things out there that have the power to shake me out of my adult complacency and bring a spark of pure, undiluted fun into an otherwise ordinary, predictable day. It makes me believe there are journeys to be started and dances to be danced….yet.

As children, life was full of mystery and excitement. Every day was savoured and devoured with such enthusiasm.  The running around, talking to one’s own self, making stories along the way, gave a buzz to life. There was no monotony. Imagination ran wild and untamed. The concept of making mistakes didn’t exist in that pure world. There was a sense of immediacy, to try out new things, grab new experiences.

I thought back to the last time I surprised myself by doing something totally new and unexpected, spontaneously.  I had to think really long and hard…and still came up with no satisfactory answer. I remembered many things that I did want to do…

Like just jump into the rain during the last monsoon but never did, buy a bicycle and go on a long ride but never did or set an alarm for 4 in the morning and go for a drive when there is no traffic on the road but never did…

Then, ten days back someone asked me if I had registered myself.

“Registered for what?” I asked with curiosity.

“The Delhi Half Marathon,” he said. I almost choked.

“I have never run a marathon,” I mumbled.

 “Neither have I, but I really want to” he replied.

 So we both registered, for the Special Category you see, because he is wheelchair bound.

Sometimes we let opportunities pass us by simply because we can afford to. In cases where this is not an option, there is so much more value for that which we take for granted…he wanted to run but couldn’t, I could but…..

The list of excuses is endless…

The Magic Within

One little stick is all that I can see. It is in the ground where it was planted many days back. The solitary leaf that was hanging, alerting me to it’s being alive, has long since fallen off. Now it is just a thin brown stick. I pass it every day during my walk and look for signs of life in it. I touch it gently, it doesn’t feel dead. There is something vital, something silent in it still, some force moving through it, sustaining it from within. I wait patiently… water it diligently… urge it to grow…

 Many days later, just when I have given up hope, but when the plant itself is ready, a small little green nib of a leaf makes its tentative way through an opening I had never noticed before. Within days, that, which I had thought of as dead, is vibrant and lively again. Nature takes its time. It is the most important lesson I learn. One cannot hurry it…

I think of the times I’ve been impatient with myself, for not being faster, smarter, quicker, brighter.. worked myself up to an irritated state.  My immaturity made me rely on the purely visible aspect, completely overlooking the very important energy flowing under the surface.

  Magic was unfolding but I didn’t have the eyes to see it. My own growth as a person was invisible to me. So many times things are done before one is really ready for it. Yet, one is egged on by desires of other people.  We forget that no fruit ripens overnight.  It is a slow, magical process, needing immense nurturing and protection.  It takes time.  

Being amidst nature, seeing its ebb and flow, seeing first-hand, the cycle of birth, death, rejuvenation..brings the picture of all life into clearer, sharper, perspective. Those completely in sync with their true nature, don’t let people hurry them, they refuse to rise to any bait. They attempt to be unified within. As the opening lines of ‘Desiderata’ so eloquently states, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence …”

Everytime I feel things are not going well, I think of that little shoot, full of hidden mysteries, having a world of action within but letting no one get a hint of just what it was in the process of creating. All events in life are hiding results in them, only our patience and time will bring them forth, till then, all we can do is ‘hang in there’ and even if we look dead to the world, there’s still a surprising amount of life in us…

I Am A Caterpillar Too

Once, not too long ago, I asked the gardener to change the indoor plants in the living room. Dutifully, he removed them and brought in several new pots with lush green foliage. As he left, we got down to the business of cleaning the mess of fallen mud and debris.

As the maid was sweeping she screamed loudly and dropped the broom. She had been scared by a dark green caterpillar. I reassured her that it must’ve fallen from the new pots and that she should just sweep it into the balcony. While talking to her, I noticed some more caterpillars making their way under sofas and other low lying furniture. I kept quiet, so as not to alarm her further. I made a mental note to remove the furniture and clean thoroughly after she left. However, one thing led to another and I completely forgot about the caterpillars.

One day, I was sitting at the dining table, having coffee when I saw, coming from under the sofas and other furniture… butterflies. Gorgeous, colourful butterflies flitting around as though they belonged in my living room, a truly miraculous sight!

Those caterpillars which had creeped us out not too long back had metamorphosed into these beautiful butterflies.

They had each found a dark, quiet spot and done their growing up there. When the time was right, they had shed the darkness and chosen to move into the light.

I am doing my own growing up too, at my own pace. Just like the caterpillars let their instinct guide them, my instinct tells me that we each are exactly as we are supposed to be. We are in different stages of evolution but no one can stop us from becoming the butterflies we are meant to be…

A Moment…

On a sun-drenched patch in the lawn
An old, frayed blanket, carelessly thrown
On this I languidly lie
Observing the cool, blue, winter sky
Birds dance and twitter overhead
While unmoving in the sun, I play dead
I wait for the Koels sweet and lilting call
To reach me through leaves that rustle and fall
But she’s flown to warmer climes
Keeping perfect pace with changing times
As the evening shadows are gently cast
I enjoy…this beautiful moment too won’t last

Thank You Dad!

Unbeknown to mom, dad’s lively mind hatched a plan that included his three kids, his scooter and a long journey.  The occasion was our summer break and the reason was my mom’s sudden departure to her hometown, making dad realise that taking care of us was going to require more than just good intention.

The ‘three’ included me and my two brothers, at that time, all aged between seven and ten, the scooter was an old green ‘Bajaj’ (I think) and the journey was from Dehradun to Amritsar via Chandigarh. Dad did all the planning like the army officer that he was. He told us that this was a course in adventure, which got all of us hugely excited and cooperative at the same time.

We set off early in the morning, one kid in front, two and a bag at the back. Some hours into the journey, we hit the mountainous road, it was all uphill from thereon. My heart ached for the scooter as it laboured it’s way up with its heavy cargo. My brother suggested throwing me off, with his typical elder- brotherly love as he saw everyone overtaking us with aplomb. If the climb was tough, the descent saw us hurtle down on sheer momentum. “Pug nu farr” my dad yelled as his turban threatened to fly off, my brother slapped his hand on dad’s head, averting a catastrophe that was to hound us many times during our long and adventurous journey.

Upon reaching Chandigarh, our relatives almost fell as they observed our small, blackened faces and our bow legs. They insisted that we abort our journey right away.  But, by now we were all bitten by the bug of being outdoors, on the road, eating at dhabas and stopping at wide open fields with tube wells gushing ice-cold water. Sitting together in a tight circle we discussed our journey animatedly. We couldn’t wait to be on our way to Amritsar and to the Verka milk booths dotting the highway.

The fragrance of the sugarcane fields, the taste of freshly made dal and roti somehow become the flavour of childhood and the wind in the hair the spirit which always uplifts. Time goes on..when we meet now, my brothers and I shake our heads in amazement at what dad so happily undertook.

That one trip gave us something that all of us cherish till date. It transformed us like nothing else has since. Dad’s love for life and good humour through all its ups and downs chiselled our own attitude. His belief that the next turn will hold a better view keeps us going till date. He taught us that you don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy, you just have to make your mind up. The bonding that we experienced through our journey was the best gift a dad could have given his children, for all this and more… Thank you Dad!

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