Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Before you fly, reach out to the Edge....


On my way to office, I drive on the road that curves along the banks of Ulsoor lake, breathing in the fresh air moistened by the serene waters. And everyday i see him, sitting by the road side. He must be more than 70, in worn out dirty clothes, with his tools by the side. He repairs two-wheelers, mostly cycles and mostly fixes a punctured tyre. All the time that i've seen him, he's sitting there, looking nowhere, waiting for a broken bicycle to come his way so that he can fix it and make some money. A few times he lies down on the footpath, his toolkit becoming his pillow, the exhaustion of his age stretching on his fragile body. I pass by him wondering if I could be of help in any way, thinking about the inner fire that burns in this old man---the fire that keeps him going.

He's a man on the edge, and I see many such men and women, living on the edge. A fruit vendor who slices an assortment of fruits into a mouth-watering bowl for 20 Rs, a ground-nut vendor who fries nuts on his cart, standing all day, another lady sitting by the roadside stringing jasmine buds into long garlands, a family of husband, wife and girl frying bajji-bondas on a cold evening, an old muslim on weak legs pushing his vegetables cart over long empty roads.....  Their grit, their sorrow and anguish and fear, their hopes and beliefs and their helplessness---these intrigue me. What's their life like? How do they survive...on what hope? A day of rains and their business is washed out...maybe some of them have to sleep hungry. Yet they wake up the next day and promptly arrive at their place, with a hope of wading through another day. What is it that pushes them further or  pulls them along the rough and tough existence of everyday life? Is it an indomitable will? A tremendous love for life and its little-big joys? Or a harsh merciless existence that leaves them with no choice but to get up and fight each day? Or are they too numb to even think anything but to go on and on...just living, just existing.

And there's the crowd...the crowd to which I belong...the crowd that's secure in the center. A paycheck at the month end keeps them happy and calm. Their lives are secure and routine...and in a way dead! I can smell this death of life force....many times in myself. There's a yearning in this crowd, to reach out to something dangerous, something extra-ordinary...away from the humdrum of their bored, clock-work existence. This yearning perhaps drives them on weekends and on vacations, into hikes, journeys, expeditions...into entrepreneurial ventures....and again, they fall back into the comforting center, into the place which is as soothing as a grave.

The edge scares you because you can easily fall off the cliff and be annihilated. You want to move away from it...back to your secure existence, but this security begins to nauseate you and you start searching for the edge again. Maybe those on the edge fantasize and crave for the warmth of a safe existence, just as those who are bored in their ultra safe life want to go out into the edge and have their mettle tested. Call it duality, one of the many contradictions you wrestle with. And....maybe there's a state beyond the risk of the edge and the security of the center, but to reach it, one should know both the center and the edge. Then your energies shift, and you become oblivious to the edge or center--the Universe takes care of your needs as you set out on new journeys fueled by your heart's desire. Unbothered about the dangerous edge or the secure centre of the ground, you take off, vertically--a bird on flight. You become an explorer on daring new adventures!

Before setting off on such gritty adventures, I want to taste the edge again, away from my secure existence. I want to know how it feels...to stand close to annihilation, to the prospect of oblivion. I want to untie the rope that keeps me secure and also bound, and walk free, into thrilling dangerous zones. Shedding all my fears I want to stand naked and vulnerable to the forces of existence and test my faith in the grand Unknown, witness the way the Universe extends its hand to catch you when you jump off a cliff. 

And I wanna do it now!