Thursday, June 28, 2007

Through the haze

'He's a fantastic leader. We loved to work under him. Somehow he took care of everything and we never felt any pressure, any stress. And when he left, I wondered, how'd I stay here? I too wanted to follow him and work with him.'

I'd read 'Waiting for the Mahatma' in our college library, long back and this novel remains fresh in memory as if I'd read it yesterday. It narrates the story of coming of age of a young man, in the backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle. And his evolution happens in the company of Mahatma Gandhi--a man of collossal stature, yet one who attends to the minute details of the lives of his followers--a true leader who inspired an entire generation to brave all odds for a great cause.

A friend forwarded this amazing video of the Mahatma --about what could've happened if he had communicated to the entire human race. Maybe we'd be living in a much better world, with more awareness and a greater self-reliance. The fountain of positivity, strength and wisdom is present within each one of us. Until we find it, maybe we all need leaders like Gandhi to remind us of these possibilities.

And the opening quote is what a friend told me about our CEO.

In one moment of clarity, I seem to sense the futility of my everyday life. I stop for a moment to ask myself where I am heading and what I am doing with my most precious commodity--time. Many activities appear futile and monotonous--devoid of joy and meaning. I want to go deep into this, deep to the root of this frustration, and find how to free myself, find out the true purpose of my life and begin to live that purpose. Before I can do that I'm back to the treadmill, back to the flow of everyday life, lost amidst the never ending rush of thoughts.

'Catch it. Hold on to it the next time you face that moment. Drop everything and pursue that thought.'


' I said, he recognises that you've arrived, just by the sound when you keep the helmet in the corner.'


' And look how he springs up, how he smiles now, after not having seen you for the whole day.'

Tejas lets out a loud shriek and guffaws. We make faces and he laughs uncontrollably. I begin to fake a hiccup and he shrieks again. We continue to tickle him until Mom scolds. 'Don't overdo it. Not good for him.'

'By next November, he'll be one year old.'

Where was this kid--two years ago? And now, he's so much a part of our lives, a part of our being. He's growing up--crawling, shouting, learning to recognise, eat, refusing to eat, indicating when he wants to piss, wondering at new faces and new sounds---the way we grew up. He'll learn a thousand things, become independent, make friends, discover life, experience the world, earn his living, find his purpose, create his destiny....and one day, he'll hold his baby in his arms and wonder similarly. Cycle of life.

'His first birthday is nearing.'

'Yeah, what's the plan? I don't like that drama-- cutting a cake, inviting all the kids of the locality, make them sit like dolls, give them something to eat---somehow it suffocates.'

'Then, how do you celebrate it, meaningfully? You can't ignore those around us, your parents, your people. The kid should not feel neglected. There has to be a celebration and if you choose, without formality, without artificiality.'

'Let's think over. We're used to one way. Maybe there are a hundred other ways. Something wherein the kid feels important, cared for and blessed. It should be a happy occasion for all the near and dear ones......'

Friday, June 22, 2007

Small talk....

The drizzle is now a steady downpour. Occasionally there's cold spray from the open window.

'Do you feel scared?'

'No pappa, I...I don't'.

'It's okay to admit your fears. Nothing shameful about it. Even if you don't express it to anyone, it's enough if you admit and acknowledge it within, instead of living in self-denial. To see that it's natural to be afraid, to be fearful of certain things. Making your peace with it. And then doing whatever your fear stops you from doing.'

'Pappa, are you scared of anything?'

'Constricted places! When you were a baby, there would be newsreports about small kids falling into open borewells. Some kids came out safe but quite a few weren't so lucky. I'd imagine their plight--stuck inside the belly of Mother earth, unable to move either way, gasping for breath, hungry, tired, bleeding, scared--it'd make my hair stand on end. I'd imagine myself in their places and it'd choke me. I don't think I'm over it yet, but it doesn't bother me.'


'And of falling from heights. Not exactly the fear of heights. I'd hold you tight whenever we climbed up the stairs to our room, fearing at times lest there be a slip.......! And again, street dogs. There were incidents of kids getting mauled by streetdogs. I had a tremendous fear of these animals because there were a few dogs in our locality and all the kids would play on the streets every evening.'

'Is it okay to be afraid?'

'To be afraid means that you're responsive and alive. It means that you have an active interest in something. And as long as your fear doesn't choke you, doesn't keep you in a rut, it's fine even if you don't overcome it. For example, you may fear the dark. But if you can still walk across the dark passage from your room to the living room, without screaming, it's fine. Only when this fear makes you curled up in a corner should you take notice.'



'Then what, pappa? What do you do then?'

'Figure it out yourself. One thing you're sure, you can't live with that fear anymore. It'll stop you from living a normal life, doing what you must do, what you've always loved to do. So either you choose to live with your fears or you decide to eliminate them completely and live fearlessly, live a fuller life.'

'But how? How do I get rid of my fears?'

'There's no one size fits all answer. Each fear is unique, each person is. You figure out your own answer, you carve your own path to freedom.'


' I'll tell you what a friend said, long time back. Each fear arises at a particular level, he said. And once you contemplate deeply on the root of this fear, you'll come across something you're attached to. Practice detachment at that level. Try and get rid of possesiveness towards that thing. Accept that that thing doesn't belong to you, that you came here alone and will eventually return alone. With this detachment arises fearlessness. But it takes practice. And dedication. And the result--the freedom from fear--is far more worth than the effort that goes into it. The joy of fearlessness. The adventure you'll have!'


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Leaving your nest

'It's the migratory season,' says Fayaz, with a sly smile.

A cold wave constantly circulates above us--you lift your hand and you feel it. This must be the coldest part of the entire office. A few months
back, not a single day would pass without one of us calling up
maintainence, telling them to reduce the chill from the Air-conditioner.

There are dreary faces all around. The pay hike was announced two days back, and 99% are dissatisfied. It's more so in our team, after we broke all previous records and set new standards in the number of defects detected in an application. The hike in salary is grossly disproportionate to the performance. The only guy who's all smiles is Fayaz, the team leader. He must've had a good raise.

Coffee arrives. The boy is clean shaven and looks different without his stubble. He smiles. 'I'm leaving. This is my last month here.'

There are tiny droplets on the window pane. The drizzle outside is barely visible. A feeble song from someone's system--a chartbuster. Here now and gone tomorrow. Then another popular song will capture the hearts and this one fades away. Nobody misses anything. Nobody misses anybody. And why do you expect to be missed?

'Are you looking for a new job?' The colleague in the next cubicle whispers, after making sure that Fayaz is out of hearing distance.

'Planning. Need to brush up a bit on basics. There's no more growth here.'

The guy who'd joined this company along with me, two years back, left for a multinational barely last week. We talked about him for a day and then forgot. Almost everyone around are pruning their feathers for a new flight.

'Don't be in a hurry,' says Archana, as I hand over the revised salary papers. 'Think before you decide to shift.'

Tejas is busy with his new toy-- a small baby elephant which squeaks if you squeeze it. He got scared the first time he heard the squeaky sound. Then slowly he's made friends with this new toy. He picks it up, examines it thoroughly and then puts it into his mouth before throwing it away.

'He's growing fast--more than the kids of his age,' A natural pride in her voice.'He wants to stand up and run around. Now he's learnt a new syllable---ooooo.'

Tejas looks up at her, then at me and cackles up. A whole life stretches before him--an adventure filled with perils and triumphs, learnings and mistakes. As he grows up, he'll be joining new nests, leaving behind the old ones, and building his own nests in the process. And that's part of his growth--shifting from nest to nest. You'll stagnate if you fear the adventure and stay inside your cocoon, inside your safety.

'Bring him new toys tomorrow.'


Friday, June 01, 2007

Walking alone

My native village is a small picturesque place, nestled between a curving river on one side and the gigantic expanse of the Arabian sea on the other. It bakes in the summers and soaks wet in the fiery monsoons. The people are lazy, humourous, opinionated, contented, city-bound---like me. My childhood was, to a large part an anticipation of the one month every year, wherein we'd finish the annual exams, hop onto a dirty bus one hot april night at Bangalore bus-stand, and wake up the next morning smelling the fresh aroma of the salt-soaked air of Kumta.

For one month we'd forget all worries and lose ourselves in joyful abandon, pampered by granny and grandpa, swinging under the sapota tree, hurling stones at ripe mango fruits high up in the trees, building caves and canals and watching them get washed away by the approaching waves of the sea, sit by the silent river and listen to the never-ending rustle of the peapul leaves as birds returned home against darkening skies......sit around a fire where grandma prepared rice rotis, waiting to be dipped in hot, succulent prawn curry, listen to the local 'real' ghost-stories from uncle's friend and scream after waking up to nightmares, get up early and get dressed to attend the local fair, throw ripe bananas at the huge chariot of the Goddess, bring home a ripe jack-fruit and fight over who gets the most pieces, fill up a small tank with water drawn from a well, remove all clothes and jump into the tank and swim around until mid-noon.....

Of course, there were moments of pain and humiliation but they were obscured by a seemingly carefree time, filled with fun and frolick.

All of these came rushing into memory when a close relative from that village visited us last week, bringing with him delicacies, a simple dress for our tiny tot and an unspoken affection. And reminded me that it had been six years since I last visited his village. And told happily that his daughter had finished the tenth standard exams in flying colours. And long after he left, I suddenly realized that I hadn't sent any gift to his little daughter, whom I'd cradled in my arms when she was a child and who now has grown into a shy girl who makes her dad proud.

And when Archana reminded me last night, not to lose myself in my work and pursuits, not to lose my connections with relatives and friends, not to be stone-like.........