Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A small nudge will do....

Back from Chennai after a gruelling two day visit, attending the thread ceremony of my nephew. My brother-in-law is a Tamil Brahmin and hence the thread ceremony is an integral part of a young boy's life. As important(?) as marriage is. They say it's an initiation into the spiritual life wherein the initiate begins the pursuit of truth, in addition to his normal day to day matters. Then why is it not done for the daughter? And why not for people from other communities? And why does it stop with the recital of a few mantras and some rituals and doesn't go beyond into areas of meditation and silence?

Nonetheless, it was a good drama--all the rituals being played out meticulously, keeping the young boy seated on a platform for nearly 4 hours, making him recite mantras amidst spiraling smoke from the firepot, perform activities the significance of which none bothered to ask and the priests didn't bother to explain(if they new it) and ending it all in a grand meal, good social gathering and terrible exhaustion for the hosts. The aging grandpa looked happy, having witnessed his grandson's thread ceremony. His next goal is to stay alive to witness his granddaughter's wedding, once she reaches marriageable age.

It's a night ride back to Bangalore. Our seats get confirmed at the last moment and we get only upper berths. I approach a young girl and request her for an exchange. She obliges without hesitating. We put our son to sleep in the lower berth, wrap him up with the available blankets and sit huddled.

The cold wind seeping through the window slits keeps me awake throughout the night. Tejas turns and wakes up a couple of times. The girl whom we exchanged our berths with has friends at the other end of the compartment. She vanishes and returns after two hours, and heads towards the washroom. Soon a young man follows her. They emerge after an hour.

Having witnessed strict orthodoxy just a few hours ago, this strikes me as terribly funny. The priests and elders who officiated in the days ceremony would've brought the heavens down if they'd witnessed this but for the new generation, getting intimate before marriage would be a matter of personal choice and nothing to worry about. 'Do we need society's sanction to enjoy our own pleasures?' they'd say, with enough justification.

And it's interesting to note how different and divided we all are, in our attitudes towards sex and morality. This might be a normal event in a western society whereas a sure path to getting stoned to death in the Middle east. Somewhat ambivalent and confused here in our country. Maybe natural and a part of a healthy life in a tribal society.

I wonder at the predicament of that couple, wrestling inside the narrow and dirty toilet of Indian railways, fearing if some granny wakes up at night and knocks on the door.

Markets crash everywhere. Anil Ambani has supposedly incurred losses to the tune of 47000 crores(how many zeroes in there), so has every other hotshot. Other minnows closer home have big holes in their pockets. My colleague Pavan, who's a vociferous advocate of stocks, shares and investments is totally subdued today. 'Nearly a lakh gone,' he says. My sister sits at home, opens the internet and manages her shares online and earns a pot every month. All talk between she and her friends is about sensex, bear, bull, stock prices.....'Why don't you invest in shares?' and I reply, 'I don't understand the darned thing; but I will invest when I know what it is.' It's a gamble--put your money in banks or safe deposits and you get peanuts as interest. Invest in mutual funds and the share market--you swim in cash. Except that you never know when it hits you, when the flow drags you into the shithole.

What'll happen if tomorrow the banks crash? All of my earnings and savings are in safe deposits and fixed deposits. If there's a catastrope, war or collapse, then everything goes off in a whisker. The hold money has on our lives is enormous and just beyond our imagination. We never give it a second thought and just carry on with our lives as if the current utopia will continue and never degenerate. Money matters. Sometimes it defines your relationships. Crude as it may seem, many relationships are intimate because the glue is money. Remove it, Nothing remains. I know people who lost respect and value amongst their loved ones when their earning power diminished, when poverty struck.

A few days ago, I went to work with just a few rupees in my wallet, thinking that I'll withdraw money from the bank. None of the ATMs of my bank had any cash that day. The cheque book was at home and I was on the road, without a penny, wondering what to do for lunch, what to do if the tyre flattens, what to do if the traffic cop stops me and levies a fine for not carrying a particular document...You need the damned paper piece in your pocket and it makes you feel secure, feel relaxed. Remove it and you're out in the cold.

The fragility is really scary. Life in the modern world seems to revolve around flimsy concepts. An ever-widening web stretches around you, where everything is intimately connected with everything else and those things that matter most for you are beyond your control. The American economy goes into recession and life goes haywire here. The dollor rate drops and your company asks you to work on Saturdays too. A fuel price hike and auto rickshaw drivers go on strike demanding higher fares. Prices of all commodities rise sharply with the fuel price and your budget goes for a toss. You come back to counting what you've saved and what you can afford now. You build your dreams and plan your future based on these concepts. As long as you chug along, you are nothing but a cog in the wheel.

Time for a major rethink.

It's easy to anger you.


Just a couple of questions and you're edgy


Like--when will you do your son's thread ceremony?

It doesn't anger me. I don't like to follow anything blindly.

You think these rituals are useless? That those who follow these are fools?

I don't know about the fool part. Everone has the right to stupidity. I'm only concerned with what to refuse and what to allow so that the people I care about, who still believe in these things don't get offended. Kinda striking a balance between my liberty and their belief. Not slapping anyone. And not getting slapped. Balancing.

And I thought you were a rebel.

Rebel in the making. Trying to make sense of things. Throwing out some rubbish, slowly.

You're a show off.

Yes I am. Better than being an idiot.

What did you say? Come again...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holding on to random thoughts

Slices of adult life
* Slight pain at the back of the head. Then a bit of drowsiness, heaviness in the eyes, maybe because of staring at the computer screen for too long....

* A blogger describes himself as '.....earns his income working as a wageslave to an American Multinational'. Reading this brings a smirk. Why?

* Early evening. I stop working, take a stroll in the warm bylanes, get a pack of groundnuts. Munch as I walk for nearly 25 minutes. Relaxing!

* I raise my voice and as if on instinct, his face contorts. He begins to sob, uncontrollably. I console him, kick myself. Within no time he's back to his usual cheerful antics. Happiness and sorrow are the most fleeting elements in his world. So are most emotions. One minute he's angry, the next, cheerful, then curious, then sad and fearful, and then bored....when he sleeps, it's a delight to watch...he flops and sprawls as if nothing else matters! A child's heart.

I want to be that intense and that much detached with my own emotions!


Stories -they never vanish.

'There are two dogs inside everyone of us--a good dog and a bad dog---and both are fiercly fighting with each other, all the time'.

'Then, who wins?'

'The one you feed'

People from childhood--their behaviour, you never forget. An uncle of mine who was a terror, who beat us up mercilessly, who invoked such fear and anguish in us that we once plotted to drop a stone slab on his head from a tree--he's a normal guy, just like anyone else. Now growing old, forgetful, fragile, he comes visiting us once in a way. I cannot shake off that image of him, however hard I try. I can be polite with him, speak casually, joke a bit but it's an attempt to cover up the disgust and hatred that's seething underneath.


'Everyone wants that which they don't have.'

Mmm.... and once they get it?

Then it becomes something which they have and they don't want it anymore. So they now want something they don't have.

Madness, isn't it?

Do you realize it's madness? Really? Is there that strong realization of your own madness?

Yeah, it is.

Passing away

An old lady in our locality, well into her 90s passed away last week. Her relatives had gathered and there was much sorrow and chestbeating for quite sometime. The dust settled. Now there's no sign of that sorrow, that departure, that's as if she didn't exist at all. Maybe I'm wrong. Those closest to her might still be feeling the loss, the emptiness, though not expressing it.

It's not only a human body that dies. Everything dies. Everything. A moment dies. It's gone. Forever, never to return. Friendships die. So do memories. Things disintegrate. Ideas vanish. It's a carnival--things taking birth, shining and vanishing. Some do this act in a flash and some take time to disappear, and some take a hundred years. You and I can label these acts--call them birth, death, passing away. We can attach emotions to these acts. Feel ecstatic over a birth. Feel devastated over a passing away(or the reverse). Or go philosophical and say 'This too shall pass'.

'When you understand death, you know life', He said. The more I try to grasp this understanding, the more silence it brings. Soothing silence.

Future--Twenty years from now.

I'll be travelling in a space ship to a distant galaxy. I'll be able to teleport myself from bangalore to alaska and from there to japan and back to himalayas. Or divide myself into twenty different selves, go to 20 different earths and lead different lives. Living in Utopia.

No. Our earth will be a nuclear wasteland(if not ravaged by floods and famine). We'll be living in a post-apocalyptic world, living like cavemen-with no electricity, gadgets, fastfood, entertainment, employment--things that are taken for granted now. No, even a needle will not be available freely. It's back to the basics. Grow your own food. Find your own clothes and build your shelter. Group together in communities. Share. Survive first and then search for meaning.

A flowering of consciousness will occur somewhere between and within these two scenarios. And that makes the difference.

Looks crazy from here, but I bet, when 20 years pass gradually, it won't be a joke. Life is crazy sometimes.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Catch your breath and...

It's a funny feeling but real. Waking out of your slumber, you take up a task. You keep aside a hundred things, slog it out, sit late at nights, work insanely long hours, look again and again at the deadline, tell yourself not to panic and plough on. Finally you reach the finishing line and slump down.

It's one hell of a relief(similar to the one you experience in the toilet after controlling your bowels for too long). Soon the releif gives way to an emptyness. Something that filled your time, something you filled yourself into is no longer there. It's been reached, the target's achieved. And it no longer exists. You stand there alone, orphaned.

Why should you feel this loneliness, this sense of loss? What did Tensing and Hillary feel, standing on the summit of the world? Joyous. Or lost. Alone.

Tensing had no other peak to conquer. But life here has a million other battles yet to be fought, a million other raging rivers yet to be crossed. The loneliness remains as long as you look back fondly at the past. But you need to gird up your loins. Shake off the dust. A pat on the back for waking up at last. Time to learn how to walk. To run. To fly.

Time to understand this mystery called Life. To take a long and hard look at oneself. To know where you stand and where you need to be headed. To leave behind the familiar and soar into the unknown.

If you could wake up, you can soar. Just a matter of making up your mind. And a little passion. And some sweat.