Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who let the beast out?

I'm a story junkie. Infact we all are. Any significant incident, and you can trace it back to some familiar story, novel, movie where something similar could've happened. There's a novel about armageddon, wherein a scientist discovers a faraway star that's speeding towards earth on a collision course. He tries to transfer this vital information to the concerned authorities without letting the general public know about it. But somehow the news leaks out, and as the government tries to find measures to deflect the star and save our planet, mayhem breaks out. The media portrays this future event as the end of the world and civilization. People go berseck. All morality and fear is lost as the beast hidden inside man comes out. If we're going to die tomorrow, why care about anything, any consequences, any guilt or any hell-heaven? It's a bizzare story but absolutely feasible. Completely normal, healthy people can go mad and they have done it.

Last week, when Dr. rajkumar, the popular kannada movie hero passed away at 78, the way people behaved brought this story into memory. The beast had come out and there was going to be no control over it. Six people including a policeman died in the mayhem and several others were injured. Life came to a standstill in otherwise unsympathetic, carefree Bangalore. The visual media showed live pictures of the mob clashing with the police, pelting stones at a policevan and attacking a police constable who was trying to escape the stones.

It was not the end of the world when rajkumar died but what prompted these people to go berseck is still unknown. Maybe the mob needs a reason, however trivial it may be, to forget all the learnt ways of civic behaviour and go back to its primitive roots. Such extreme behaviour was visible even some 15 years ago when, Rajkumar was at his peak and anything said against him wasn't tolerated by his ardent fans.

Maybe the beast is hidden within all of us and is only waiting for an opportunity to emerge out. It needs a slight prompting, ---religion, caste, hero-worship, nationality, etc provide that impetus for the beast to emerge. I can take care of the animal inside me and ensure that under no circumstance does this negative energy come out. But if the same is happening with the other person, with a mob in the streets, what can I do? Or what can we, as commoners do about it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I find 10 minutes to sit and meditate. The clock's ticking fast, it's almost 9 and i've to hurry to office. But still i try to forget the busyness and hurried pace of life and close my eyes. Soon i'm drawn in into the calm and soothing inner world. It's like a womb i left long ago, i don't want to step out of it, i'd give anything to stay there forever....

Sometime back, i wrote a small piece on introversion here. I also linked to an article published in Atlantic online. Strangely, many bloggers had written about this same article, at around the same time. And as it happens sometimes,the responses and comments that were written by others were more interesting than the main post (It happens with me. Nick writes good comments to my posts, so does val.) I found a very interesting comment(by Nishant ramachandran) on extroverts and introverts in this place, which was almost like a commentary on human behaviour. I wanted to link to it earlier but am doing it now. It's worth reading over and over and contemplating. Whoever trivialises blogging should read this.

I'm in the company of death, once again. A close friend's mother passes away two days back. He stays quite far away, and i can't bring myself to call him up and console him( how's it done--i'm horrible at it). I rationalise that he could be in sorrow and not in a mood to talk, or that he's busy with all the duties, etc, but archana urges me to just call up and talk anything. I ring him up this morning, and after an awkward silence, ask him, how are things at home and how it all happened. He opens up, talks at length about his mom's ailment, how he wished for a painless death for her, how his dad's feeling lost now, etc. I just listen. He continues to speak. I remember an idea i picked up in some book( Must be 'Healing words'). It says, the first and last thing you do in such a situation is to keep quite and listen. Become an ear. That's enough. I follow it. After 10 minutes i keep down the phone knowing well that he's a little less burdened now. Stangely i also feel unburdened and light.

You can't have enough of time, isn't it? My usual complaint is that i don't have time for important things in my life, and all my time is spent in earning my bread or doing trivial things. It's strange where you find the antidote to your troubles. Overheard this as i was drinking tender coconut juice by the roadside this morning:- ' if you want to do something, just do it NOW. Make up your mind and you'll automatically find time to do it. You'll not find leisure time to pursue all of those dreams--you need to squeeze time in between all the routine works and schedules and start pursuing your goals. Otherwise, one day you'll be on your deathbed, and all these dreams will still be on paper. Do it now, or just shut up.'

Well said. Will try to follow it.

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........