Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Two stories, a memory and some random notes

A story is coming up from memory repeatedly. There’s a king ruling a province and once he is cursed, as a result of which he gets donkey’s ears. Nobody knows this because the king wraps a big turban around his head covering the long ears. A few days later the royal barber arrives for his work and there’s no way he cannot notice the unusual ears sticking out above the king’s whiskers. ‘Tell this to another soul,’ warns the king, ‘and I’ll have your head chopped’.

The trembling barber reveals the secret to his wife and tells her to keep her mouth shut if she wants him alive. The poor lady, she stomachs it and in no time, develops ulcers and a terrible pain—her belly expands as if in labour and she can’t bear the ordeal. The couple are in a fix—say it out and the husband dies, keep the secret and the wife might die of pain. Finally they find a way out. One night they walk out of the town to a graveyard where the husband digs a pit and the wife leans over and blurts out, ‘The King has donkey ears’, thrice. She is instantly relieved of the pain and the husband covers the pit and buries the secret forever.

Stomaching someone’s secret is no mean feat. The urge to share must be a natural human trait...more than a trait, it must be a terrible itch that gets activated the moment a secret enters a human system. In order to conceal a secret, the secret receiver has to fight immensely against this natural sharing itch. Spicier the secret, intense is the urge. Even great masters aren’t immune from this urge, as we discovered to our horror when we received very personal details about someone else through the grapevine...details that were probably shared with immense trust.

Even Mother Earth can't hold the secret of the King's ears for too long. It grows a tree from the pit where the barber's wife buried the secret. Someone cuts the tree and makes a musical instrument from its bark. When a musician drums the instrument, it sings 'King has donkey ears'...and soon the secret is out in the world.

I had a friend in my school days, an intelligent and slightly mischievous chap. Once, in a surge of friendly love and enthusiasm he let me in on a few notorious details about himself. A few weeks later we had a fall-out over a trivial issue. Now this fellow---he lived in constant terror that I would gossip all those juicy details with other classmates. I noticed his discomfort, and being the indecent rascal that I discovered I was, I began pretending to tell others these exact details whenever he was within earshot. The horrified look on his face, the exasperated sense of betrayal that his eyes expressed— hauntingly unforgettable!!

We never patched up and after a while he got over the potential embarrassment and stopped giving a shit. My enthusiasm and feeling of power soon gave way to a sense of guilt and shame. Looks funny now.... but I suffered as if I had let down my sweetheart because of my dirty urge to gossip.

Why a secret can’t remain inside someone for too long...has some mythological shades as well. The great war of Mahabharata has ended. The entire warrior race is almost wiped out in the bloodshed. At this point, King Yudhishtira comes to know that their sworn enemy, Karna, was none other than their elder brother, born out of wedlock to their mother! And they had killed him brutally just a few days ago! More importantly, their mother knew his identity all along but concealed the secret fearing shame and guilt. Only if she had let out the secret....this pointless war, killing of ones own kith and kin for kingdom, this horrible bloodshed—all could’ve been averted but for the hidden secret....and the King lets out a curse for all women, ‘You shall be incapable of hiding a secret henceforth’.

 So...from then onwards, they say, you can’t hold a secret inside! 

I guess, this cock and bull story of King Yudhishtira’s curse looks more like a justification....added into mythology by someone who betrayed another’s secrets and suffered immensely with guilt.

(the movie ‘Kalyug’ by Shyam Benegal portrays this moment with tremendous intensity---the modern character who is modelled after Arjuna...he loses his mental balance and goes mad when he realises the truth that Karna was his brother.)

* * *

Why do we share our most precious secrets with someone else? On what criteria do we choose one or two to entrust them with our innermost darkness(?). Is it an act of love, a display of trust towards another soul? Aren’t we aware that once a truth travels from one mouth to another ear, it’s a matter of time (and bad luck) before it might get leaked and reach another dozen ears...and so on? I believe....deep secrets are shared between people where an immense trust and love bridges the gap of two dense bodies, thus forming an inseparable bond between two hearts. Such a bonding could arise between two siblings, or friends, not necessarily between romantic partners. In that union of hearts things flow freely, uninhibitedly. Nothing is taboo, no information is a secret any longer. You talk to another as if you are talking to yourself. Sometimes, a secret which you dare not acknowledge to yourself also gets shared and revealed. 

Such a secret never travels. When the bonding is deeper than the deepest....a secret received..it goes down, down, all the way into the soul and dissolves, never to come out.

Opening up to another being about yourself...its like exposing your soul and standing totally naked at all levels. And if you can do it with everyone, with the whole world, then you are approaching greatness. Like Bahubali—the king turned saint, who stands bare naked, declaring with his act that he has nothing to hide. This transparency could be the beginning of your transcendence, your awakening.

And when that transparent light becomes one's very identity, the awakening will reach extraordinary heights....like it happened to him.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love

The river I stepped in once
exists no more.
It has flown down the rocks and boulders,
across valleys and plains
to reach the Ocean.
When I step in again
it isn't the same river anymore.

And I am not the same I
who stepped in once.
The naive, rash, wise, proud, kind man
died long ago.
I am not him.

It's a different man
entering a new river.
A new Earth greeting a newer Sky.
A different bird perching
on a totally different tree.

What remains the same
is the act
of a bird perching on a branch of the tree
a pair of feet splashing the dancing waters
a rain drop kissing the waiting Earth.

That act remains fresh
so does the throbbing energy
that drives the act.
The tenderness, yearning, longing
of the act
...remains eternal.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Three Mothers

(Couldn’t help translating this small piece from the book, ‘Mahanagara’ by Jogi. Call it a tribute to Motherhood or Womanhood, but for me, it’s nothing but lovely crispy writing, the kind I love to read and write myself)

That boy wasn't into studies but would watch his friends go to the ashrams, learn Vedas from the sages, and he too wanted to learn it all. So he goes to Gautama Rishi’s ashram. Gautama asks for his ‘gothra’. Not knowing his lineage, the boy comes back to his mother and asks ‘What’s my gothra?’

His mother says, ‘See, I was working as a maid in many houses and got pregnant in that period. So I don’t know exactly who your father is. Tell this to your guru.’

He goes and tells this to Gautama. While the other disciples laugh at him and taunt, the Guru appreciates his truthfulness and his mother’s frankness and names him as ‘Satya-kama’---a lover of truth. ‘You’re the son of Jaabaala, so you’re ‘Jaabaali’,’ he says. A Rishi is thus born in the name of his mother.

The nurturing mother, Jaabaala. She teaches her son to be truthful, and win over the World through this truthfulness. He becomes known by his mother’s name and she in turn, becomes famous through him. She is the one who nurtures.

Then, the second mother, Kunthi. She becomes a mother before marriage. And sets her son sail in the Ganges, fearing the Truth! Her son, Karna, becomes a benevolent giver. And places a higher value on his friendship than on the love towards his mother. The baby floating down the Ganges is picked up by a charioteer, and now grown up, Karna realises the truth of his birth. That truth doesn’t trouble him, nor does it make him pity his own condition. He doesn’t crave for his mother. Thus, she becomes the mother who makes her son transcend her necessity, who sets her child free from her bondage. If Karna had stayed with his mother he too would perhaps have lusted for power? But away from her, he never craved anything at anytime. He learnt to give not receive. He stayed with Duryodhana but never became like him. Such a life, he received from his Mother. Kunthi abandoned him and nurtured his greatness.

Jaabala is the Mother who nurtured and Kunthi is the Mother who abandoned. The third Mother is the one who destroys. The Mother of the Universe who also becomes the one who butchers mercilessly. A demon asks a boon that nobody but his mother should kill him. He’s sure that a mother will never kill. With that boon he unleashes havoc and suffering. Lord Krishna tries to kill him but fails. Then his wife, Satyabhaama, who’s born from an amsha of the Mother Goddess kills the demon. That Demon was Narakasura. When his troubles cross limits, the mother of the Universe arrives in some form to swallow him. To destroy is also a part of the Mother’s responsibility. Nurture, Abandon, Destroy—she knows all.
....
These three mothers, their strange stories—filled with pride, fortitude and fearlessness...and our puranas have various dimensions of this mother-son bonding. Just as you have a mother who killed her son, we also see a son who killed his mother. He is Parashurama. On the orders of his father, he cuts his mother down. Then when his pleased father confers a boon, he asks for the revival of his mother. He gives birth to his mother again. Now, is he a son to his mother, or is he a mother who birthed her again?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

In the land of chaos...

I am standing in a familiar place--a place with a sense of mild terror and impending chaos. This place, I know well enough because it used to be a constant reality for years together, almost a decade ago. I would think that this place has no exit, every door leading out would somehow lead back in, and I was resigned to staying here forever.

Yes, I had a wise and benign old man's guidance back then. But that never mitigated the anxiety even one bit. What took me out of that place of hopeless suffocation still remains a mystery. Maybe I'm banking on that mystery to bail me out this time round as well.

Sometimes you think you're all too powerful and in total control of the events and happenings in your life. And at times you feel, you don't have the strength to even move an inch, turn a finger or lift an eyelid. You could be right, but you could also be totally wrong both the times. When you think everything's in perfect control, something starts sliding down somewhere and your house of cards collapses. And when you think nothing's working, things start moving on their own. Rationality is a mess. I saw it happening twice when I was searching for a job--and something more than a job through the job-search.

I struggled for nearly 2 years, trying to break through one interview after another but in vain. I was in close proximity of clinching the deal but nope, something would crash. Then when I least expected it, there was a call, I walk in, get asked the right questions for which I have the perfect, confident answers, and in 2  hours I'm out, with a lovely offer letter in hand! Deliciously magical.

Giving up the struggle against invisible forces, I wait for the magic to strike again. I know it's a fantasy, but when the mystery arrives, I want to catch its tail and follow it...and see where it came from and where it returns to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Union....

 (I had found these characters long back...and the story was in suspended animation for a while. Now they have concluded their story, sort of, in this way. Someday I want to fill up what happened in between then and now.)

‘What are you---a spiritual seeker or a warrior?’ she murmured to herself as her slender fingers caressed the deep cut on his right shoulder. He moved gently in his sleep, his rugged body glistening in the moon-light----the ruggedness which he seemed to have acquired from the Tibetan highlands to which he had departed 7 years ago. Yet, there was a softness about him. In the way he had handled her. In the way he had gently brushed away her falling locks. In his very tender kisses!

Yet, he seemed to combine this gentleness with a careless ruthlessness of a warrior. The entire ashram of the late Maharshi Kanva had erupted in an unspoken joyful celebration when Vishwa arrived, on the morning of Vyaasa Purnima. The day dedicated to the worship of the Guru, the supreme Lord. The day the beloved Kanva had departed, years ago, plunging the ashram into a deep turmoil. The day after which Vishwa had departed with the Tibetan monks, on a seven year sabbatical, seeking supreme spiritual wisdom. Now on his arrival, the inhabitants of the ashram surrounded and embraced him, welcoming home a long lost son. As if welcoming the warmth of the Sun on ratha-saptami after an unusually long winter.

 And Sakhi....she watched with astonishment, since his arrival, a strange warmth spread through her being, gradually intensifying with every passing hour. Her thoughts were incoherent yet a silent melody strung them together. The usual talkative bundle of joy that she was, she was surprised at her own silent movements.

He had come on the fourth dawn. The three nights leading up to his arrival, Sakhi had seen him in her dreams. Her beloved Vishwa with long flowing hair, riding a white horse galloping ferociously down the hill. Yet with a tender calm appearance. A golden ear-ring glistening in his left ear. Soft eyes. She would wake up with a start everytime.

Now on arrival, their eyes met. And their glances spoke a hundred thousand conversations. As if no other words were needed to bridge their bonding. Her eyes followed him throughout the day as he moved around interacting with the inhabitants of the ashram. She saw him with the learned sages and Rishis, engaged in deep spiritual discussions. And listening patiently as the exasperated old Gowthami narrate her travails in maintaining an ever growing ashram, giving her gentle suggestions. His ease and friendliness with the young monks and children growing in the ashram’s care. And the thundering determination and ferocity with which he warned off the wicked tribesmen who had arrived at the gates, seeking their share in the ashram’s produce. ‘Are you the same bumbling, unsure Vishwa that I knew,’ she wondered. ‘How much have you changed? Are you still the same boy I knew from my young days, perhaps from eons ago? Do you still feel....’

And the night had answered her. By the moonlit night, beside the gurgling Bhagirathi river, under the Parijatha tree which showered scented flowers every minute, they found each other. Entwining bodies, like two rivers uniting and becoming one, they merged.

***
 
She moaned softly when his lips brushed against hers.

 He watched with fascination at the way her body responded to his touch. She was lying on the grass bed, eyes closed, lips parted slightly, writhing in soft pleasure. A delicate cloth barely covering her! When a soft breeze caressed her she moaned again.

 'Sakhi....O my Sakhi,' he whispered gently.

 The garden was cloaked in the misty embrace of the full moon. A soothing fragrance of jasmine flowers wafted through the cool night air. The parijaata tree which shaded the lovers was in full bloom...sprinkling its flowers with every touch of the breeze ...unabashed shedding of modesty. A flower slipped and dropped gently on her naked bosom and slid on his fingers. But...Sakhi was oblivious to everything. She was lost in her world...a world deep inside the soft secure warm embrace of Vishwa.

 'Sakhi...', he whispered again, as his hands caressed her locks. The gentle yet fiercely independent Sakhi he had left behind in Kanva’s ashram. The confident, worldly-wise girl who stood as a pillar to a spiritual legacy which could’ve been blown away without its custodians. Responsible and mature, yet vulnerable—bursting forth and blossoming with youthful vigour in his embrace. An Ocean awaiting a wandering river without knowing if the river would return. Not aware that the river thirsted for her as much as she yearned for it.

Her eyelids stirred. Soft Aquarian eyes. Vast and Pure...like the holy Mansarovar lake.

 'Are you for real?', she whispered. Her body ached with the intimate and intense pleasure it had just received in the passionate love with him. Every cell moaned in a sweet tiredness....craving for more, yet desiring to drop into a long relaxing sleep. Their eyes locked into one another and settled into deep conversations of stillness.

 She raised her hand slowly and caressed his cheeks, as if to reassure herself that she wasn't dreaming, that her beloved Vishwa had arrived back from across the Himalayas. 'Why did you come back?'  The very memory of their separation was enough to fill up her eyes. He bent forwards, kissed her eyelids--his lips wiped off her welling tears. 'I came for you, Sakhi.'

 And she raised herself to meet his lips...and their lips sealed and fused into one another. She clasped his head with her hands and amidst frantic gasps, allowed his tongue to push through her lips and explore her mouth, while his hands released and set free her clothes before going wild. Their bodies began to merge into one another, their breaths ebbed and flowed in rhythm, their heart-beats pulsated against one another in tandem. Hard rugged passion breaking through yielding softness--igniting hidden bliss vortexes, a scorching explosion coursed through their entwined heaving bodies, uniting them into one inseparable being. The fiercely passionate union reverberated across time and space and beyond, across multi-dimensional worlds and universes, across infinite life-times of a Soul---- a Soul which before time had split up into two Souls and, unable to bear the separation, would intensely seek a union again and again, merging and coalescing in multiple passionate ways. Tremendous energies bursting into one another, un-manifesting back into the Void.


 The river Bhagirathi which was witnessing their union, now splashed joyfully down the rocks below Kanva's ashram...hurrying towards the ocean...wondering, 'When I merge with my beloved, will my union be as magnificent? And will I too merge into the waiting arms of my beloved, never to be separated, like these two lovers?"

Friday, November 07, 2014

like....moving through a portal


 Suddenly I realise that, at the moment, I'm moving from one phase to another. I could've missed this realisation.

 And you look deeper and know that there are phases all over your life. Something ends. Something begins. It could be career changes. A shift from one house to another, one city to another. Moving out of school, out of college. Changing jobs. Ending friendships. Forging bonds. Building and starting something new.

 It's easy to feel sad and nostalgic for what you're leaving behind but I think one can say goodbye with immense gratitude and happiness. Give thanks for all the nourishment, growth, love, joy and lessons that the phase gave you. And let go before you move on to the new. Without bitterness or heaviness. Without emotional entanglements.

A new lesson learnt. Move through, without melancholy, with great Joy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Before you fly, reach out to the Edge....


On my way to office, I drive on the road that curves along the banks of Ulsoor lake, breathing in the fresh air moistened by the serene waters. And everyday i see him, sitting by the road side. He must be more than 70, in worn out dirty clothes, with his tools by the side. He repairs two-wheelers, mostly cycles and mostly fixes a punctured tyre. All the time that i've seen him, he's sitting there, looking nowhere, waiting for a broken bicycle to come his way so that he can fix it and make some money. A few times he lies down on the footpath, his toolkit becoming his pillow, the exhaustion of his age stretching on his fragile body. I pass by him wondering if I could be of help in any way, thinking about the inner fire that burns in this old man---the fire that keeps him going.

He's a man on the edge, and I see many such men and women, living on the edge. A fruit vendor who slices an assortment of fruits into a mouth-watering bowl for 20 Rs, a ground-nut vendor who fries nuts on his cart, standing all day, another lady sitting by the roadside stringing jasmine buds into long garlands, a family of husband, wife and girl frying bajji-bondas on a cold evening, an old muslim on weak legs pushing his vegetables cart over long empty roads.....  Their grit, their sorrow and anguish and fear, their hopes and beliefs and their helplessness---these intrigue me. What's their life like? How do they survive...on what hope? A day of rains and their business is washed out...maybe some of them have to sleep hungry. Yet they wake up the next day and promptly arrive at their place, with a hope of wading through another day. What is it that pushes them further or  pulls them along the rough and tough existence of everyday life? Is it an indomitable will? A tremendous love for life and its little-big joys? Or a harsh merciless existence that leaves them with no choice but to get up and fight each day? Or are they too numb to even think anything but to go on and on...just living, just existing.

And there's the crowd...the crowd to which I belong...the crowd that's secure in the center. A paycheck at the month end keeps them happy and calm. Their lives are secure and routine...and in a way dead! I can smell this death of life force....many times in myself. There's a yearning in this crowd, to reach out to something dangerous, something extra-ordinary...away from the humdrum of their bored, clock-work existence. This yearning perhaps drives them on weekends and on vacations, into hikes, journeys, expeditions...into entrepreneurial ventures....and again, they fall back into the comforting center, into the place which is as soothing as a grave.

The edge scares you because you can easily fall off the cliff and be annihilated. You want to move away from it...back to your secure existence, but this security begins to nauseate you and you start searching for the edge again. Maybe those on the edge fantasize and crave for the warmth of a safe existence, just as those who are bored in their ultra safe life want to go out into the edge and have their mettle tested. Call it duality, one of the many contradictions you wrestle with. And....maybe there's a state beyond the risk of the edge and the security of the center, but to reach it, one should know both the center and the edge. Then your energies shift, and you become oblivious to the edge or center--the Universe takes care of your needs as you set out on new journeys fueled by your heart's desire. Unbothered about the dangerous edge or the secure centre of the ground, you take off, vertically--a bird on flight. You become an explorer on daring new adventures!

Before setting off on such gritty adventures, I want to taste the edge again, away from my secure existence. I want to know how it feels...to stand close to annihilation, to the prospect of oblivion. I want to untie the rope that keeps me secure and also bound, and walk free, into thrilling dangerous zones. Shedding all my fears I want to stand naked and vulnerable to the forces of existence and test my faith in the grand Unknown, witness the way the Universe extends its hand to catch you when you jump off a cliff. 

And I wanna do it now!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Love breaks through....

Two lovers kissing
on the ascending escalator
of a shopping mall
is
nothing but
the dimension of love
opening up
and flooding
through
this uptight mundane world

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Let the River be...



 'I'm sorry eeshu....I scolded you the other day'

  'It's ok, dad. Forget it.'

 'No....I shouldn't have gotten angry at you. I feel bad.'

 'Then dad...Let's do one thing...let's sit in a time-travel ship, go back to that day, and make corrections there. Ok?'

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where can I find Condoms?


I’m at the super-market talking to the sales-boy. It’s a huge store and I can’t find the item I’m searching for. He’s a young lad…tall and lanky. Tired eyes! Sleepy! I’ve just bunked office, and am gleefully enjoying an afternoon’s freedom-- window shopping, reading from books on display…and I can’t help but wonder at this boy’s situation. Does he enjoy this job? Does it fulfill him or crush his soul? What money does he take home every week or month? Where does he live, in this big mad city? Where is he from? Why is he sleepy? What motivates him…where does he drawn his inspiration to work, to live…and to talk to a customer amidst his never ending activity of dusting shampoo bottles and arranging them neatly in the aisles?

I would’ve been a bit sad thinking about him, long back, but now I’m plain curious and amused. Before I can think of drawing him into a casual conversation another young man walks up to the sales-boy and asks, ‘Where can I find condoms?’

 The sales-boy looks at me once, turns to that young man and points down the aisle. We both watch him stride down, look up and down the racks…and kneel down at the display of a variety of condom packets.

Maybe I’d have ignored him but two things happened. The young condom guy peered across and gestured, and a young girl half emerged from across a rack, looked at him with a smile, then suddenly looked at us—curious onlookers-- and her smile turned to an embarrassed look before her face disappeared. I turned to the sales-boy and saw a medley of expressions ….amusement, suppressed glee, shyness. The bored look had vanished.

Yupp…it’s shameless to watch a young couple purchase a packet of condoms in a super-market…but I’ve always been shameless in a wide variety of ways. And this lovely drama of a confident young man, his super shy girl and an amused store clerk….when again will I get to bloody witness it? To hell with decorum, I’m sticking around, pretending to be searching for something in the same aisle (prayer sticks!!!) and trying to be as invisible as possible while watching the super dynamics of this ‘tense’ situation.

The young man must be around 25…he tosses and turns the various packets, weighs his options, turns around every now and then, requesting his girl to walk over. She must be around 19 or 20. She’s faking anger, inching towards him trying to muster courage and overcome her inhibition, and the moment another customer walks nearby, she turns away, pretending to be searching for something else. The store-clerk dusts the bottles…his eyes towards this couple every now and then. What’s he thinking? What’s that curious expression on his face? And would he be bothered if these two were buying a bottle of shampoo? (Would I be there, voyuering the three if they were purchasing shampoo?)

The Young man gets up, walks over to his girl, and whispers something. Her face turns red. He’s within earshot and he says, a bit aloud, as if revolting at the shyness that’s evolved around condom-purchase--- ‘this one’s ribbed…and its for enhanced pleasure. The second one…its super slim…and they say, it’s also for enhanced pleasure. Eh??? Which one shall we choose?’ She smacks him with her bag and flees, while he laughs and follows her.

I’m smiling to myself without reason, at the checkout counter, recounting the whole episode—his assertion, her shyness, the store-clerk’s amusement. The couple are walking out of the store, hand in hand. A whole lot of thoughts are ready to gush in….the curiosity that’s always there around sexual expression and anything connected to it (condoms), who are these two—they didn't look married, and where will they consummate their passion, hiding away from prying eyes? Maybe he dragged his unwilling girl to the super-market, making this condom-purchase a nice little adventure in their evolving love story. Maybe, the weary store-clerk has a girl, working in the same store or elsewhere, and watching this small episode might have given him the muster to talk to his girl. Maybe maybe…and the young couple vanish out of the doors…she punching him and he evading her hits with a boisterous laughter.