Saturday, April 01, 2006

An ordinary life

It's late evening. The tree over there is filled with pink flowers. This park is always full of people yet it's also very serene and silent. Those who come here seem to follow an unwritten law---never make noise when you are with nature. An old man sits nearby on a bench, eyes closed, face tightened up in deep thought. Why is he here? What's going on behind those tightly shut eyes? A couple sit at a distance, playing with their one-year old. The baby is chubby and wide eyed. Archana points out to him and says, 'Look, that kid is staring at you.'

A new day. A new year. Ugadi is the day when the new year starts for Hindus. There's a festive atmosphere in our houses even though we live in the modern world, in an IT hub. The roots still exist although your wings are strong. Mango leaves are strung together and hung on the door. The portico is cleaned and Rangoli is drawn in different designs in front of the doorstep. Children are given an oil bath and later they dress up in new clothes. Sweets are prepared and some people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings. Elobarate rituals are conducted in the houses of the pious but mostly ( like in our house), there's a simple worship of the household diety. Then the food is offered to the deceased elders(it's believed that they come in the form of crows to eat them) and then we feast on the delicacies.

In the evening, many people throng the temples to worship God on this auspicious day. In North India, the sites of piligrimage are overcrowded with devotees eager to take a holy dip in the sacred waters. This bath is supposed to remove all your sins(or karmas) and ensure liberation. People eat jaggery and neem to symbolise that life is both sweet and bitter and you need to accept both with equanimity. We welcome the new year and offer our respects to this personality.

Festivals draw us together and rekindle the joyous spirit in us. To be joyous and happy is our nature even if the modern world is hell bent upon dulling us into pessimism. And you don't need a festival to be happy--you can do that everyday. Maybe that's what Zen is all about.

Why does Zen attract me so much? A friend joked that i must've been born in Japan in some previous life and must have been a zen monk. I first read about Zen in one of Osho's books--'And the flowers showered'. Osho has the knack of making even the mundane very attractive but still I found an immediate affinity with that philosophy. When Bodhidharma took buddhism to china in the 6th century and, it later fused with taoism and went to Japan, an entire new spiritual path took birth. This religion also found its practitioners in the warriors of Japan, the samurai, who found many a parellel between their way of life and this dynamic religion. Zen has flowered since then and today, it has spread its wings outside japan. Countless books have been written about this religion---To put it succintly, it is all about living in the now, in this moment, and celebrating life. Zen doesn't believe in God---it says, God is this life, this moment, this existence now.

You are already enlightened, but have forgotten it. To remind you of your own enlightenment, and enabling you to live in that heightened sense of awareness is the aim of Zen. To find fulfillment and oneness with the dullest thing and also the most subtle thing---to feel oneness with the chirping birds and flowing river....

Two months back, when I was sitting on the banks of the River Godavari, my memory was filled with vivid images from the past --rather an imagined past. In my childhood, I'd come across a beautiful novel about an orphaned young man growing up near the banks of river Godavari. It was the story of coming of age of this young man, who finds inspiration and a zest to live in a girl ,slightly elder to him, but married. He admires her but can't have her. She knows of his love but stays distant, encouraging him in a motherly way. Providence separates them--fifty years hence, when he has reached the pinnacle of success and fulfillment, he sets out in search of this woman who inspired him towards great heights... this was the river that witnessed the flow of events in the writers imagination. In a way, this piece of nature had inspired the writer to etch out those characters and as I sat in that silence, I felt I was that young man--aspiring to reach heights and yearning for an inspiration to set out towards impossible dreams!

The park where I'm sitting right now was once such an inspiration to me. In those days, I was struggling with my characters and storylines, and then I'd sit here in the early mornings or late evenings, listening to the birds chirping in the bamboo shade, watching people walk past. I'd observe these people and imagine what their lives could be, what drove them,what made them smile or walk with downcast faces, what made them sit alone in a park staring into nothing... Maybe someone also sat at a distance observing me, calculating about my motivations, thinking why i look so hasseled and lost...

Today i'm here again after a long gap. The same people hurry past each other--jogging, walking briskly, exercising as they move, meandering leisurely. Equations have changed in my life. I wonder about the aimless way of life I lead in those days, and compare that with the contented and inspired atmosphere i find in myself these days. A friend's advice springs up into memory--'When you are contented, when you are ecstatic, think about death!' Hmmm....My mind wanders towards death, that of others, that of my own,.... and automatically, i think of life, of birth, of this wonder called creation...

Two days back, I reach home late at night and find archana staring intensly at a black object in her hand. I sit next to her puzzled and she points to a white speck on that black object and says:--'You know what this is. They say, the heartbeat of this speck is 112 beats per minute. It's already 6 weeks old and look how tiny it is.' She's beaming!

We are expecting our first baby by this year-end. Me, a pappa! I know, there are millions out there who've passed through this phase, but still it's special. Special because, for me, this is the first experience. Me feels warm. Me feels joyous. Me feels pampered and cuddled. Like a puppy. Mmmmmmm........


  1. Congratulations to you both! "Archana has a different glow in her these days" you noted. Of course!

    Interesting observations on the nature of Zen. Maybe we were monks together many lifetimes ago?!! Who knows. We must just live as much in the here and now as we can. Enjoy the changes, you have many joyous ones ahead!

  2. CONGRATS!!!

    I too noticed the glow comment on the last installment, but it was more or less a passing thought, from one ear to the other, then out!:-p

  3. That sounds like a wonderful park, much like one I knew when I lived in St. Louis.

    I think we remember the “old ways” and holidays—holy days—because they are infuses somewhere within us even if we live in modernity. Someday I shall write a post on mythos and logos and how both are important, like the two halves of our brains.

    I, too, am drawn to Zen and have been for 40 years. I live no where near Japan.

  4. Val...Thank you. I don't practice Zen as such, like a true follower. My path is different but i find many stiking similarities between the two. So in a way, i'm a zen monk even now in an indirect way. The most wonderful quality that i find in zen teachings is the reverence and love for the ordinary life. May be that's the essence of all religions.

    Jen...Thanks a lot. It's kinda funny---you can tell if a woman is a mother but can't do the same with the man. I've seen--even a young girl of 23-24 looks so much mature and contented when she's pregnant.

    Nick---Staying close to nature brings us closer to our own 'Nature'. This, i experience in parks, on river banks or on the sea-shore. Or sometimes when you look up at the star studded sky, you feel you're in a way looking at yourself. Nothing else on earth can give you that joy.

  5. Congratulations.That was so touching.Good luck on your new journey.

  6. hey ........congrats Vishwa ....
    heard of this song .....
    listen well while i tell u a story
    of boy and a girl in the spring .....
    will find a link and sent it to you .......okai ....


  7. Edu....Thanks. And same from here.

    Ash...long time no see. Why? Yeah, send me the link. Me got a worldspace connection recently, so totally drowned in music.