Friday, September 05, 2008

Dawn..still far away

You think that you're super detached. You think you're not sentimental. You pride yourself in your aloofness, in your stoicness. No, you aren't. You are very much human even if you have difficulty in accepting it.

A colleague leaves for another company after 4 years and you have a lump in the throat. He isn't a best friend, infact he's a pain sometimes, but this long association ends in a snap. And with this, something in you dies too. Where did this tenderness arrive from? You had become hard and opaque; you'd deliberately killed all soft feelings and turned rigid over many years. What was it that mellowed you? Made you responsive! Sensitive!

I know hunger. I've felt its pangs, an immense burning sensation that clouds everything--your judgement, your reasoning, the very awareness that you're a human being. Long back, when I was travelling a long distance with very little money and even little inner strength, I spent nearly two days eating two packets of biscuits and an apple. By the time I reached half the journey, I was mad with hunger and could barely walk. So when I hear the adage, 'The greatest God is the food God,' I agree wholeheartedly. You can speak lofty ideals only after your stomach is full. When hunger strikes everything else goes out of the window and what's left is a pure animal who's intent on surviving, nothing else. If there's anyone who's an exception to this, I haven't met him/her yet and would definetly like to know them.

There are reports of food riots breaking out in flood ravaged bihar. The administration has failed to cope up with the devastation there and much of the relief sent by the government is eaten up by the middle men, with only a trickle reaching the needy. What follows is pure survivalism. Hungry villagers armed with sticks and sickels have attacked the food godowns, grabbing sacks of rice and wheat, carrying them back to the waiting stomachs at home. It takes only a river to flood and a pathetic administration to fail and you have authentic human nature coming out.

Maybe you don't need such extreme situations too-- a small push will do. A funny thing happens every afternoon at the restuarant near my workplace. The crowd that collects at the food counter is a healthy mix of officials, executives, technicians and people from all walks of life. We buy the tickets at the entrance, hand it over to the servers at the food counter and wait patiently for the food to arrive. If there are 10 people who've ordered Masala dosa and the server brings 4 at a time, it's a sight to watch people jump over one another to grab these dishes. At that moment you aren't a manager or an executive from a Multi national, drawing a six figure income every month. You're a bloody stomach. And sometimes the cook comes out and peeks at us with a wry smile. He's no longer a poor cook ekeing out a living preparing dishes in a modest restuarant. For one moment, he's God.

'Everyone does everything for his stomach and for a peice of cloth,' sang a saint. How cool would it be if one could bypass the need to eat in order to survive! Maybe we could draw nourishment from the sun directly, the way plants do. And have no need to work, earn, struggle. Wishful thinking. Why not?

Amidst a never ending effort for a secure base, for stability, beating your hands frantically attempting not to drown, there are sudden flashes. That everything is just fine as it is. That you're better off swimming in the current and there's no need to panic, to reach the shore or find any destination. You're at home right now, here, in this very place and moment. Such moments arrive unheralded, at unlikely places--say, when I'm in the middle of the busy traffic, or under the shower, or while surfing the channels or observing my son at play....

And these moments are so fleeting that in an instant, you're back to your anxious self. You're again in the flux, in the struggle, fighting, seeking, hoping. But you know that the moment comes again. That it's not a freak occurance. That the relaxedness is your default state of living to which you'll go back soon. That you need to find ways to set up roots in that stillness, in that carefreeness.

'To utter the truth you need a simple courage,' he said. 'To accept something as true itself requires great courage. I hate to hurt others but is it because I'm scared that once hurt, they may pounce on me? Or do I have a genuine concern for their well being?'

'You might have a real concern for them...'

'Mmm. I think not. I'm scared that they'll attack me. Or maybe stay away from me and I'll become alone. Or even, if someone's hurt, it makes me feel wretched and I don't like feeling that way...'

I thought for a while and said, 'What do you want to do then?'

'Just speak the truth. And live quietly after that. No f pretense. I'm tired.'

I sit alone in the dead of the night, listening to crickets, barking dogs from another universe and the thud of my fingers on the keyboard. For one moment, I wonder what I'm doing here, putting my thoughts down, for what purpose. I have work to do, a waiting headache in the office tomorrow, followed by a possible dinner with friends in the evening and a relaxing weekend after that. I have several journeys to traverse, new lessons to learn and, inspite of bitterness and anxiety, a rewarding life to explore and celebrate. I stand on the threshold of new discoveries and an exciting tomorrow. When I'm truly tired of thinking and feeling for myself, I stand up and try to expand a bit, try to look ahead and around. No, I can't empathise with others. Expandedness is an empty word for me; I can only feel for a select few around me.

I'd love to expand, to feel the oneness with others, other beings, other things. I'd love to feel this Love--pure and pristine. Taste it. What's it like?

I'll find this Love. When I cease, it shall be found....


  1. Vishwa...

    about the hunger pangs...
    well our hostel mess was in proportion smaller for such a large student population. the long queues at the breakfast table for some 'bad' food and the icy glares at the students who were a little early to be in front of you to have a seat and some food. I have found it disturbing when I had a seat for bf and a hundred eyes staring at my plate for the seat I don't know about the food though......

    also reminds me of scene from the movie devil wears prads at Star bucks!!
    Hunger just makes you to kill!! god forbid.

    tc, Ash

  2. Ash...after so long. How're you?

    Memories of hunger are hard to erase, isn't it?

  3. Vishwa, my dear friend! I believe that you are much less detached and stoic than you claim. I also believe that you are much more of a philosopher than an servant of those who exist for the merchant's profit and gain.

    Almost 40 years ago a very wise and dear friend shared the poem below with me and said that I was a man too gentle to live among wolves. Her words and James Kavanaugh’s poem have influenced my life ever since.

    My friend, I believe that you, too, are a man too gentle to live among wolves—and so I share this poem with you, as a blessing:

    There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves

    There are men too gentle to live among wolves
    Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
    And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
    There are men too gentle for a savage world
    Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
    And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.

    There are men too gentle to live among wolves
    Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
    And murder them for a merchant's profit and gain.
    There are men to gentle for a corporate world
    Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
    And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.

    There are men too gentle too live amount wolves
    Who devour them with appetite and search
    For other men to prey upon and such their childhood dry.
    There are men to gentle for an accountant's world
    Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
    And search for beauty in the mystery of the sky.

    There are men too gentle too live among wolves
    Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove
    Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant's world
    Unless they have a gentle one to love.

    ~ James Kavanaugh

  4. most memories are difficult to erase! even a passing thought or a sight or a conversation (other's too) comes back most of the times in time

    cya :)

  5. Nick....thanks for sharing the poem. How're you? Just yesterday, we were discussing you. Hope you're keeping fine!