Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walking new roads

It’s difficult to ignore certain ideas.

Last Saturday morning we were visiting our neighbours in the locality, to invite the kids for our son’s birthday party that evening. Just then she remembered that there was a recent death in one of the houses. We were in a fix whether to invite them or not, whether it would be appropriate to interrupt their mourning, so just to be sure, we spoke to one of the neighbours.

‘You’re right, but it’s okay, you can invite the kids for the party. It’s an old lady who passed away, and while I’m sure they must be feeling sad for the loss, she was almost 98, so you know....’

I guess this wouldn't have been the scene if someone younger had died, say someone in their 50s or 40s. What's the threshold age after which death becomes acceptable and non-mourning—even expected? You cross that age and, without anyone mentioning it, there’s an unwritten assumption that it’s okay for you to die. What’s that threshold age? 70? 80?

A long time ago, I was visiting some distant relatives with my Dad. There was an old lady in their house, very old and she was kept in an outhouse. Apparently, she was the one who’d looked after dad when he was a kid, so I was half expecting a sentimental scene since he was meeting her after a long time. Nothing like that happened. Dad spoke to her, standing at a distance, probably feeling embarassed and awkward with his emotions. Of course she was in tears. But what struck me was the utter neglect of that household towards this woman. It looked as if their contempt was for the fact that she wasn’t dead yet, inspite of being old enough to leave. She was absolutely unwanted!

Such things may not happen in every family but why do we carry these assumptions? Young—you’re not supposed to die and if you die, it’s terrible. Old—you can live but if you stay long enough, it begins to get difficult. I have some relatives who have crossed this threshold and are still hanging on. I’m sure their deaths will come as a relief to those around although nobody will dare speak it out.

Why is this so?

One could argue that it's because of health, where the elder person has become fragile and beyond treatment, so people around him would wish that he'd depart peacefully. But imagine a younger person who's in ill-health and beyond medical care. I don't think their departure would be welcomed with the same detachment as that of an older person. Whenever we hear that someone has passed away and if he's around 40-60, the immediate reaction is 'so young?', but if he's more than 75, it's a muted silence. If he's less than 30 or worse, even less, the expression turns to horror. I've wondered why. Why should we feel this variance in emotions --since we know very well that death is a reality for young and old alike?

Is it inbuilt in us, an evolutionary mechanism similar to what's found in Nature where the Old naturally gives place to the New, the fresh? Or is it handed down to us by society? A society where youth and strength is revered and the old are carefully pushed aside--for economic and utilitarian purposes? Are we born with this world-view or does our environment fit us with this paradigm?

So many paradigms go unquestioned in our daily lives. Recently I came across this arguement against the 5 day work-week? Who made this rule that we should work for 5 days and then relax on weekends? Why do we accept it so blindly? Why not work on weekends and then relax for 5 days? Really! How many of us even begin to think in this direction?

Then there's this dominant idea, that what you see, hear, touch and sense is only real. Nothing else. Anything other than these must be your 'imagination' or 'hallucination' and hence should fall outside the boundary of 'reality'. That which is validated by the scientific community(?) is only to be accepted but if something that you believe goes against the grain, then you're a freak! I observe this when we speak about 2012! 'What's the proof?' is the question. 'What do the scientists say about this?' Speak about meditations, about shift in consciousness, about expanding awareness. Speak about entering a New Age of peace and prosperity, about the collapse of old systems and the birth of new ones. Or about experiencing things directly, subjectively with the help of spiritual practices and hence 'knowing' reality--- and you'll invite wonderful smiles.

At the other end, if enough people get to speak about it, such things might soon come to be accepted--not because anyone has directly experienced it, but because so many are speaking about it, hence it must be true, somehow!

If there's a choice between accepting a direct subjective truth or going with a popular belief--something that's validated by those around us, how many of us would choose our inner voice? How many of us would risk unpopularity and trust our gut feeling?

Coming back to the initial idea, in the first place, why is death feared and despised? Is it because we don't know what exists beyond that? Is it because our identity is so totally glued to our physical selves that we shudder to even think about the deterioration and demise of this finite self? Who gave us this paradigm that we are just this physical self, and death is the end--the black hole?

As someone said, 'the spiritual isn't hidden, it's ignored.' Maybe true, but again there's this question. Why do we ignore it? Is it an inbuilt paradigm or something that's handed down to us?

When the existing paradigms are getting screwed up, are we willing to consider new ones? Or do we wait for the majority vote to even begin 'un-ignoring' what was ignored all along?

What does it take to shake us out of our rut? To make us sit up and take notice? To pay attention to our gut?

pic from

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Humour and Pathos

If you haven't let out a hearty laugh, God help you!

* * *

Have you watched 'Raincoat'? Good movie but what really has stayed in me and is still ringing deep is this tremendous song by Shubha Mudgal. Been listening to 'Mathura Nagarpathi....' for the umpteenth time since last morning.

Then you have this line:

Biraha ke aasoon kab ke pahuch daali, Phir kaahe darad jagaav

(She has wiped off those tears of separation long back, so why are you opening those wounds now?')

You can listen here. And a good translation can be found here.

As they say in Enigma, 'Turn off the lights, take a deep breath and listen...'

Just wonderful!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chotu rant

Two things happened. One, a long awaited dream got fulfilled, when I purchased a Dell inspiron Laptop. Which means that I can browse/chat/blog/translate late into the night, sitting in the comfort of my small room instead of having to use the common terminal a floor below. Wife and son too have joined the party. He loves Tom and Jerry on Youtube. She's revelling in the new discoveries she's making in the virtual world. Loads of movie and music downloads in the pipeline. Rashomon, An unfinished Life, what not...

Two. When I opened the shiny new laptop and began explaining its features, there were murmurs of approval and congratulations. But amidst these, the congratulating voice was repeatedly getting choked. Lots of clearing throats, all of a sudden.

I know why this happens because it happened to me when I couldn't swallow the fact that my juniors were getting a better salary. My throat got blocked and I had to repeatedly clear it. The emotion found an outlet through my body.

Not that I blame someone for feeling jealous because I could get a beautiful gadget. It's my hard earned money, my long cherished wish, so if you can't enjoy the comfort/success of someone close to you but would rather hide it behind a false smile and artificial words, be warned that your body is speaking the truth. That's all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Small things

If you wanna do something, just do it, don't speak about it. I told her last night that I'd want to meditate once tejas falls asleep. 'Atleast for an hour', I thought. And it never happened. Tiredness overtook my will to wake up, get out of bed and sit for meditations.

Would I have done it had I not spoken about it? 'If you want to do something and you're desperate enough, you'll do it no matter what. Why put the blame on something external for your lack of will?'

Maybe not speaking about a goal is also a part of that Will do to something. A tiny part. The major part must be one's desperation and passion to pursue a goal, to do something one finds important.