Month: November 2011

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!

Faith And Love

Keeping a fast on Gurpurab ostensibly takes the place of Karva Chauth for many. It’s very simple and basic. No food or water till the evening when the full moon makes its appearance. After spotting the moon, a small prayer is said along with the husband and the fast broken with saag and meethi roti.

Some years back, I heard that a friend’s husband was travelling out of the country on Gurpurab day. They had never been separate on this special day and both looked forward to this simple ceremony in the evening. She went to drop him to the airport in the afternoon and he told her to break her fast as soon as she reached home. After all, love is in the heart and Guru Nanak will understand. They bantered about it for a while. He turned to enter the airport.

The wife came back to a quiet home and proceeded to occupy herself with cleaning it and putting the finishing touches to the saag and making the roti with a hole in the centre, through which she would look at the moon, say her prayers and break her fast.

She looked at her watch. She thought about her husband, now miles above, every minute taking him further.

She said a prayer for his safety and success of his business meeting. When the phone rang, she thought nothing of it. It must be her mother-in-law asking about her.

The call was from her husband, from the aeroplanes satellite phone. He had seen the moon!

Highway Of Life

The wide open road beckons once again and before long I find myself on the highway, soaking in the sights and sounds unique to our beautiful country. A long and leisurely drive, cutting across towns and villages of rural Punjab is an unforgettable experience.  Sharing the dark winding road with fellow travellers enriches my memory with indelible images.

I see a group of physically challenged people, all manoeuvring their wheel chairs, in single file, down the National Highway. Their banner is in Gurmukhi so I cannot understand what the purpose of this outing is but I am filled with awe at their courage and perseverance. Battling for space amongst the trucks and the fast moving vehicles is no mean task. The cars behind them are visibly impatient and urge them to hurry with relentless honking.  How long have they been on the road and how far they plan to go, I have no idea.  I wish now that I had stopped to have a chat with them.

Further on, one marathon runner breaks off from the little group he is running with to say a quick prayer at a wayside shrine. Winning can wait, he seems to say, this is more important. Thundering onto the road from a bylane come men and boys clad in blue, wielding spears and sitting without saddle, these nihangs are completely at ease with the high drama they’ve just caused amongst the unsuspecting drivers. Before I can reach for my camera they’ve gone off the road again in a huge cloud of dust. In no other part of the world can such visual delights come together in the 21st century. Each image worthy of being the centre spread of a lavish coffee table book.

The sheer number of mechanised vehicles vying for place is mind boggling. The engine of a scooter has been fitted successfully onto a rickshaw and is now standing between two huge trucks waiting for the traffic to move. I fear for the teenaged driver, even though it’s an emotion quite alien to him, I think.  A bullock cart shoots out from the fields onto the main road, phantom like. As it takes its rightful place amongst the trucks and a BMW its grandmotherly charioteer exhales a puff of smoke from the bidi she has been smoking. Calmly, she adjusts her pallu on her head and looks down disdainfully from her perch. The BMW is like a cheetah on a leash. This jam is going to be a long one.

Taking advantage of this impromptu stop, the truck drivers get off for a good scrath and stretch. A young lad, disembarks from the roof of a bus and proceeds towards a tree, keeping a wary eye on the slowly moving traffic as his friends joke and holler. Like magic, water, coconut and popcorn sellers materialise, creating a thriving business community in an instant.

As I drive along soaking in this unique experience, Kishore Kumar adds a melancholic touch with, ‘Zindagi ka safar…koi samjha nahi..koi jaana nahi’ I feel these bravehearts on the road understand and know life at a level very few in the world ever can or will….myself included.

The Day Heaven Touched Earth

The sound of the waves and the unmistakable pull of the sea guided my feet towards it. Being very early in the morning there was solitude all around.

I reached the magnificient openness of the beach and strolled to a cluster of huge rust colored boulders. Climbing the highes one, I sat down, surrounded by crisp air and the gentle sound of the lapping waves. Peace enveloped me as I became one with the splendid beauty of nature. The glorious orange of the morning sky and the sea changing color as if to keep up with it, took my breath away. It crossed my mind that this beauty could not be enhanced any further.
 
As if to prove me wrong, a single, pure string of Saxophone music flowed up towards me, enveloping me with unexplicable joy. it was like nothing I’d ever heard. It was pure, unstructured, radiant and vibrant all at once. The musician and the music a  perfect single entity. He seemed to be serenading the rising sun, eyes shut, hair flying in the air, revelling in his freedom. To me it seemed like the sun was rising faster as if to hear him better. Between these two amazing sights, I sat, watching someones meditation turn to prayer right in front of my eyes.

It dawned on me that creativity is an end in itself.

Regardless of whether there is a million strong audience or one listener or none at all. It came from the soul and was an ode to the Universal Spirit which is the biggest and most attentive audience. It is this that supports the artist through years of solitary practice and becomes his constant companion and in times like these also becomes his greatest admirer, listening to him with rapt attention, enthralled..as only a parent can be at the achievement of his child…

Simple Relaxation Exercise

this is a simple relaxation technique that can help you to de-stress by tensing and relaxing various muscle groups while either sitting or lying down.

Breathe in gently while tensing and breathe out while relaxing.

hands and arms: breathing in, clench your fists and tense your arms, slowly relax them while breathing out

shoulders: hunch your shoulders and pull them towards the ears, gradually settle as you breathe out

forehead: pull eyebrows togerher tightly, smooth them out and feel the eyelids become heavy ane relaxed

jaw: bite your back teeth together, gradually ease off

back of neck: pull your chin forward onto your chest, feel tightness, relax

breath: slow, long, steady. Focus on it, letting yourself go with each exhalation

Stomach: pull in the stomach muscles towards the spinal chord, gradually relaxing it

thighs: push your heels down hard against the floor, feeling the tightness in your thighs, let go

Calves: point your toes outward and downward, gradually let all tightness go

let all thoughts go further and further as you become aware of the relaxed feeling in the entire body. Think about a scene that always makes you peaceful. think of a time when you were happiest.

once you recognise how the body should feel when it is totally relaxed, you will become more aware of it tensing due to stress..

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