Saturday, December 31, 2011

And there is nothing else


I'm the flower bearing the fragrance
and the fragrance that graces the air.
I'm the wind that carries it far
and the nose that smells it too.

I'm the eye that sees the stars
and the mind that guesses their shapes.
I'm the stars burning bright far away
and the space that separates them.

I'm the chicken that is hacked
and the butcher that hacks it.
I'm the act of butchering as well
and the one who eats it.

I'm the sound that your ear hears
and the source that creates it.
I'm the touch that the skin feels
and the hand that tingles it.
I'm the taste the tongue gets
and the food that melts with it.

I'm the love that unites all
and the fear that separates.
I'm the God you love to love
and the devil you love to fear.
I'm this and that and
everything in between.

I'm the best virtue
and the worst vice.
I'm the one you laud
and that which you loathe.
I'm the best form you see
and the formless unseen.
I'm bigger than the universe and
smaller than an atom.
I'm what I'm and what I'm not,
I'm it all.
I'm all there is,
and there is nothing else.

Friday, December 02, 2011

मंज़िल

तन्हाई मेरा पेहला प्यार भी है 
और मेरा पेहला डर भी.
तुझसे जुदाई मेरी पेहली तमन्ना भी है 
और आखरी आरज़ू भी. 

तेरे बिना ही सबकुछ हूँ मैं 
पर तेरे बिना कुछ भी नहीं. 
किस सच को चुनना है मुझे 
इस बात से बेख़बर भी नहीं. 

तू मेरी मंज़िल नहीं 
ये पता है मुझे, 
फिर क्यों बार बार 
तू ऐसे सताए मुझे?

मेरी मंज़िल इसी पल में है 
पर मुकाम है मीलों दूर भी.
इस पल में और सब कुछ है 
काश होती थोड़ी ज़िन्दगी भी. 

जीना था मुझे खुलके 
जब तूने जकड़े रखा था,
अब जब कोई पकड़ नहीं 
तो क्यों जी नहीं पा रहा? 

ऐ खुदा मुझे ये बता 
क्यों बनाया मुझे तूने ऐसा? 
जो है उसे छोड़कर क्यों 
जो नहीं उसके पीछे मैं प्यासा? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Presence


I feel the tap of my foot as I walk
and the hum of my throat as I talk.

I hear the hiss of the wind in my ear
and the ruffle in the breeze of my hair.

I see the shift in the gear of my mind;
the future and the past it runs behind.

I see the guilt trips I take so often
and the anxieties I invite all of a sudden.

I witness the fear that traps me
and the delusions that lure me.

I take cognizance of every thought I think
and observe also its demise in a blink.

I accept these digressions and bless them as me,
they peter out as I let them just be.

As my thoughts dry, silence pervades;
as time ceases, the moment prevails.

The conscious me gives way to consciousness.
What remains is omnipresence and only presence.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When he chose

When he chose to hear his heart's symphony,
he became a musician.

When he chose to wrap his thoughts in words,
he became a poet.

When he chose not to curse,
he became blessed.

When he chose not to resist,
he became a channel.

When he chose not to be a hero or a villain,
he became divine.

When he chose not to do but to be,
he became a spirit.

When he chose not to 'mind',
he became the soul.

When he chose silence,
he became enlightened.

When he chose love,
he became God. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Backpackers trip from Dubai to Salalah

Four backpackers decided in four minutes to go for a four day spontaneous trip on a four-wheel drive. The trip involved more than 3000 kms of road trip from dazzling Dubai to scenic Salalah in Oman. The unplanned excursion, coupled with our total lack of preparation, had all the ingredients of making a colourful journey with emotions ranging from exhilaration to despair and ecstasy to fear, terrain from swathes of extreme desert to wild green forests to tempestuous seas.



The pitfalls of a totally unplanned trip were many, but having come out safely, we've created memories to last a lifetime. The trip had so many wow moments that with each we felt we had reached a peak of amazement, only to realize later that we concluded too soon.  

Here I list the events in increasing order of 'wow'ness. 

1. Driving through flood waters : We were cruising nicely between Ibri and Natih with an uneventful but comfortable journey behind us when we hit a roadblock. A string of vehicles had stopped ahead of us in the middle of nowhere, the only sources of light being the headlights. A bunch of Omani locals were perched on a small hill by the road side. We came out of the car to a loud gurgle of water streaming through forcefully across the road. We saw water gushing forcefully in what was otherwise an absolutely dry desert, with cars waiting on either side of the stream, their headlights dancing on the wild waters. Going back was not an option. So we moved on slowly, praying hard, after watching some other cars cross it. While in the stream, we could feel the force of water pushing the Prado, thumping against its body. We crossed it amidst wild cheers of jubilation and sighs of relief from all four of us. Half an hour later, however, we faced the second similar challenge. The flow here was more forceful than the previous one. Worse, we were the only ones at the spot. With no precedent or familiarity of the road, we needed a leap of faith to go through this one. We crossed it much more slowly and with fervent prayers. The celebration though was muted this time for we didn't know how many more we would face. Luckily, that was the last one. 



2. Entering Salala: I was sleeping when excited cries of my friends woke me. It was 6:30 am and mild mist was all around us. The windows were rolled down. The breeze had a cool, wet spunk that made us shiver mildly. The sun roof was also rolled back as I moved up. A sloppy road was swamped on both sides by a sheet of lush green grass covering the valley. The leaves of the trees rustled in the breeze. The whole ambiance had a salubrious naturalness to it. Rambling across lazily on the road were camels that ironically were a misfit in this part of the gulf. This became a wow moment for us because for the first time in the middle east, we saw a place where the only colour around us was 'a natural green' in the lap of mystic ease.



3. Sea water springs: We travelled westward from Salalah towards ‘Al Mughsayl beach’ where we saw for the first time almost white beach sand and clouds covering the mountain tops.  The road ahead reached the foothill of the distant mountains and disappeared into the clouds. 



But the real wow moment was at the ‘Al Marnif Cave.’ How many times in your life, can you bathe from water jetting up from the ground? No more words, just the video. 




4. From dry desert to thick forest in less than 2 kms: the best of Salala is in the wadis (valleys), not in the town, in the narrow alleys, not on the main roads and in the cradle of nature, not in the tomb of concrete. The mantra for astounding yourself is to take the most unassuming diversions off the main road, avoiding the popular and choosing the road less travelled. We did that and were treated to some of the best views of our lives. The most unbelievable experience is the temperature that drops in a space of one to two kms even as the terrain changes from hot desert to lush green forest, from dry plains to pleasant hilly springs with streams gurgling down forming small waterfalls every now and then. These beautiful valleys were ‘Ayn Tabraq’ and ‘Wadi Darbat.’





5. The caves: When nature chisels some gravity defying sculptures in the caves of a dense valley, you get the beauty of ‘Ayn Athun’. A picturesque drive through zig zag and steep roads takes you to this cavernous destination. Mild drizzles welcome you as you amble across smelling the sweet earthy perfume under the shade of trees on either side of the pathway. The trail opens into a large bowl amidst gasps of disbelief as you find yourself at the bottom staring at 20 meter high fossilized rocks showcasing brilliantly eerie contours. The carvings resemble snouts of various legendary predators hanging upside down ready to pounce on you any moment but frozen by some invisible power. A rendezvous of this place at night can spook you to death. Better go there in the day time.





6. Heaven on earth: We travelled east from Salalah with an aim to go along the beach road on the way to Muscat. After Sadah we crossed most of the dry hilly terrain and we were about to reach Hadbin when we all screamed simultaneously, our mouths left agape for a while, for what we saw felt like heaven on earth. Everything about that view was perfect. The booming Arabian sea to the right, almost white sand sheathing the landscape, hillocks peppered around stretching the oceanic tidal effect to land and a big black mountain at the far end next to the beach. The sand blanketed the landscape till the base of the mountain with clouds kissing the top. The play of light, the angelic whiteness, the hum of the waves, and the cold breeze hissing through our ears and flapping our clothes was the most divine moment of the journey.



7. sandwitched between roaring sea and imposing mountains: Soon after we crossed Hadbin, we screamed, yelled, laughed and cried our hearts out for a good 15 minutes because the mesmerizing beauty of the scene just wouldn’t end. We stopped hooting only when our divine spirits were bound by the physical limitations of our throats and bodies. This was by far the best moment of our journey. The sky displayed its bounty with a generous spread of clouds. The unencumbered breeze blew much more powerfully now. It carried with it the high tide of the seas that roared tumultuously, hitting the rocks next to our road splaying water all around. On the left were imposing mountains, at times perilously tilting over the roads, as if ready to attack if the sea dared to trespass. We felt sandwiched between two warring factions - the tenacity of water pitted against the dogged determination of rocks. This experience continued for almost 30 kms, by which time it became dark. At the end of that stretch we reached a dead end, facing a huge mountain in front and left of us, the sea to the right. Small rocks, big enough to smash a car, littered the ground all around us – it didn’t take us long to realize that we had reached a mountain blasting site. The only way forward was backward.



We enquired in the neighbouring villages and found that the road ahead was being constructed. Worse was the fact that the only way to go to Muscat was to go back to Salalah (200 kms) and then take another route. We were crestfallen and too shocked to whine, our shoulders were down as we started our long journey back. Nobody spoke for a while as all of us stared blankly outside the window into the darkness until one of us dared to see positivity in this. And then we all agreed that we would not have driven 200 kms to see some of the best visions of our life had we known that the road ahead was blocked. This suddenly brought the realization that whatever happened, happened for the best and couldn’t have happened in any other way. The thought cheered us and we started our singing and humming between the uproarious sea and the belligerent mountains. They had switched sides now, but were still at loggerheads.

8. The Mist: Upon reaching Salalah again we found that the hotels were full. So we had to drive back towards Dubai hoping to find some place to rest along the way. Just as we reached the outskirts of Salalah where the green valleys began, we hit clouds of thick mist that reduced the visibility to barely a meter. I was shaken out of my slumber once again by sighs of disbelief. The journey had many surprises but this one was the most dangerous, thanks to our unfamiliarity to the terrain. What could we do afterall, if we can’t even see? We reduced the speed to below 20 and allowed a local taxi to overtake us. We then followed it very closely until the visibility was slightly better. By then we were tired of these dangerous surprises. Our silent prayers were heard in that moment so we didn’t have any further surprises. The next day’s drive was largely uneventful.




I read somewhere that the quality of your life is defined by the answer to the question ‘when was the last time, you did something for the first time?’ Our proud answer is ‘last week.’


For all those who want to go on such excursions, here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Go with a map provided by Oman Visa authority when you enter Oman: We used different routes while going and coming The shorter route from Dubai to Salalah is : Dubai - Al Ain - Ibri - Adam - Al Ghabah - Hayma - Muqshin - Qitbit - Thumrayt - Salala. Note that Hatta route is much longer compared to Al Ain route if you want to go to Salalah. 
  2. Qitbit has a decent rest house where you can stay for the night. Hayma too has one.
  3. Don’t let your fuel tank go below half way point anytime. You can never be sure when the next petrol pump will come. However, the maps do indicate the petrol pumps with fair amount of accuracy.
  4. Take a good chunk of music cd, dvd, mp3s with you.
  5. The spellings of the names mentioned here and on the map are different from the actual signs. Actually, the spellings will differ between signboards too. So go by the phonetic version more than the actual spelling. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

सोच


सोच रहा हूँ की ये क्या सोच रहा हूँ मैं,
सोच सोच कर ये क्या खोज रहा हूँ मैं? 
सोच में इतना कैसे डूब गया?
की मैं सोच नहीं ये भी भूल गया. 

भीड़ में अकेला करती है सोच, 
और तन्हाई में भीड़ को चाहती भी. 
जो है पास उससे दूर करती है सोच,
और दूरी को नजदीकियां बनाती भी. 

मुझको मुझसे छुपाती है सोच,
और मुझे तुमसे मिलाती भी. 
मेरे अधूरेपन का एहसास है सोच, 
और वही तुमसे प्यार जताती भी. 

मेरे हर डर का जज़्बात है सोच,
और हिम्मत की हर आस भी. 
कभी पल से ज़िन्दगी छिनती है सोच,
और कभी ज़िन्दगी में पल भरती भी.  

साँसों में साँसें उलझाती है सोच, 
और कभी मुश्किलें सुलझाती भी. 
जीने की वो हर आरज़ू है सोच,
और मरने की हर तमन्ना भी. 

मेरे बचपन की वो यादें है सोच,
और बुढ़ापे की लाठी भी.  
मेरा कल, आज और कल है सोच,
पर मुझे बनाती और मिटाती भी. 

सोच नहीं तो क्या हूँ मैं? 
इस बात से अंजान हूँ मैं.
सोच नहीं तो मेरा अस्तित्व क्या है? 
सोच नहीं तो मेरी परिभाषा क्या है? 

मेरे जीवन की कहानी है ये सोच, 
घटना नहीं पर मेरा अनुवाद है सोच, 
मुझे मुझमें उलझाए रखना है इसको 
कुछ और ना सही, एक नशा है सोच.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The epiphany in Ramadan

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Mohammed was driving merrily, humming the Hindi song playing on FM when a loud, irritating honking from some mad fellow behind him drew his attention over the melody. He looked from the rear view mirror. A black Dodge Charger was behind him. 

Mohammed realized that it was the same car he honked at two minutes back as it tried to enter the main road from a service lane barely a couple of meters ahead of him. Mohammed had to swerve slightly even as he honked to draw the attention of the driver. Mohammed knew it was not his fault for he had the right of way by virtue of being on the main road. Mohammed was relieved that no damage was done. The matter was forgotten. He moved on. 

Apparently, Mohammed was wrong. On closer observation he found that the driver was wearing a white headscarf. In Dubai, this meant only one thing: Mohammed –and he prayed hard that the honking was not for him - had brushed a UAE national the wrong way. It was a bad state to be in as it is but Mohammed couldn’t have chosen a worse time: Ramadan, the month of fasting and 4 pm in the august heat – a perfect recipe for road rage. An Indian expat has a better chance at winning a bullfight in Spain than an argument with a starving , crossed UAE national. 

Mohammed had heard stories of plain-clothed CIDs roaming around Dubai catching law breakers. He pulled over fearing that if he had bumped into one of them then any further delay in complying would only make matters worse. Mohammed switched off the radio. The charger stopped parallel to him. Mohammed heard angry outburst as the window rolled down and the face behind the tinted glass revealed itself from top to bottom like a photo materializing on a slow internet connection. A black rope called ‘aqal’ securing a white headscarf called ‘gotra’, a tuft of white hair hanging lazily, lines marking the forehead, eyebrows kissing each other in livid frenzy portending of a soon to be materialized fountainhead of abuses, dark eyes glowering on its prey, a nose that was flushed red, cheeks hanging loosely over his face like an appendage and vibrating forcefully with every sound he produced, his mouth alternating between gnarling canines and spitting invectives - a fuming octogenarian hurling abuses in broken Hindi. 

“What do you bloody think of yourself, you mother**%$er? You think this is your dad’s road, you sister**%$er? Who gave you the license?” 

Mohammed’s heart sank. He couldn’t have chosen a worse luck – Ramadan, a hungry, angry UAE national and to top it all, an 80 something old man. The last factor increased manifold the odds against Mohammed who had occasionally seen impatient, temperamental, aged UAE nationals breaking in the queues at various government offices and forcing their way through. The authorities would give in meekly with those in the queue seeking consolation in exchange of frustrated glances. As the damage was done, Mohammed realized that the only way to prevent further murkiness was by surrendering. This was a battle he could not win, so he had to lose – in that loss was his pyrrhic victory. 

The old man jumped out of his car, repeating the same questions and abuses in the same order as if rehearsing a dialogue with the intensity of a maniacal actor. He placed his hands at the car door, tried shaking it violently. He yanked Mohammed’s seat belt, pushed the head cushion to startle him, all the while continuing to abuse. Mohammed was calm and non-reactive. That seemed to have angered the old man a lot more. 

“How dare you honk at me?” The old man revealed his real problem for the first time, “You bloody mother**%$er, not knowing how to drive and honking at me. How dare you? I will show you now.” 

“But you were in the service lane –” Mohammed couldn’t resist justifying, in-spite of having decided on surrender.

“Shut up you bastard,” the old man interrupted him thumping his frail, shaking hands on the car door and then in one frustrated motion punched Mohammed on his cheek.  

Mohammed’s heart stopped, his fists clenched, hair on his body stood up, the calmness on his face flushed out and was replaced by seething indignation. Although the old man’s mild punch did not hurt him, Mohammed could not stand being punched for something that was not his fault. He immediately transported himself into a virtual reality where he punched the old man and broke his jaw, punched him again causing him to bleed profusely, shoved him to the ground, crushed his head between the tar road and his hands and pulverized him to dust. 

Mohammed didn’t hear anything after that. He was shaking internally with a revenge he could not take, a rage he could not release, an insult he could not pay back – simply because he was stuck against a mad man in his own backyard. 

The old man blabbered a lot more, noted Mohammed’s car number and silently drove off. Mohammed stared blankly at the Charger that went off silently, quite a contrast from how it approached him. He sat there, livid, shivering and yet motionless as if the whole body had gone numb. The old man, having vented his anger and gratified his vanity, passed his state of being to Mohammed with that one touch – a game of passing the parcel. 

After what seemed like an eternity, Mohammed returned to his senses and blinked. He rolled up his window and drove off slowly. He didn’t bother to switch on the FM. 

At home, he tossed his office bag, sank into the sofa and kept staring blankly at the floor. His mind still replaying the punch and what he could’ve done in reciprocation, but didn’t. The shivering subsided but the suffering seemed to be growing with every passing moment. 

Mohammed thought that the spirit of the fast was broken in the way the old man acted. If a fasting man cannot take in the right sense a cautionary honk that ensures his own safety then who else will? Ego was at its peak when it should have been seeing the bottom. Whatever happened to compassion and forgiveness? Mohammed was drowning under a deluge of fundamental questions. He was tired and wanted to run away and stop the thoughts. 

He switched on the television to divert his mind. A monk with a divine peace on his face was addressing a small gathering. But Mohammed wasn’t interested. He tried to change the channel but the TV stopped responding. Having just had the most anti-spiritual experience, he was in no mood to listen to a spiritual discourse. He cursed his room-mate Kapil for watching this stupid babble and worsening his misery. Mohammed tried to ignore the proceedings but he was not at peace, the disturbing thoughts stalked him all the time. Reluctantly, he resigned to listening to the monk.

“Have you heard of the parable of the soul?” asked the monk with a simple, unadulterated smile. 

Mohammed sighed as he realized that the monk was about to give some moral science lecture. The camera showed some of his disciples shaking their head in response to the monk’s question. 

“There was once a soul who wanted to experience forgiveness.” said the monk, “The soul asks God to help it experience forgiveness as an aspect of Godliness. Another soul comes forward and offers itself for helping the first soul fulfill its wishes. But why will you do that asked the first soul. Because I love you said the second.”

Mohammed chuckled, not being able to gather what was going on. But in spite of himself, he started getting curious. 

“But what will you do to make me experience forgiveness asked the first soul." the monk continued, “We both will go to the physical universe, to the planet earth, and I will cause to hurt you in some way said the second. But if you love me, why will you hurt me, asked the first soul, confused. How else will you experience forgiveness my beloved if I do nothing that you perceive as hurt, asked the second soul rhetorically. 

I just ask one thing in return, the second soul added. Anything, said the first, overjoyed at getting the opportunity to gratify its desire.

When I do the worst possible harm to you, when I’m unkind to you, when I insult you for none of your fault, please remember who we both are, don’t forget the promise you made me. Don’t curse me for hurting you or you will not experience forgiveness, the very purpose of our interaction.

Oh, I will always remember you and my promise - my dearest one, promised the first soul.” 

The monk closed his eyes for a while and asked the gathering, “Do you remember your promises now?” 

The monk now opened his eyes and looked straight at the camera, “Whenever you have been hurt, have you remembered the promise you made to your beloved soul? Do you now recollect that any harm done to you is an opportunity for you to grow through forgiveness? Do you now realize that a hurt in the physical world is an act of highest love in the astral world?” 

The monk’s loving eyes pierced and startled Mohammed who instantly realized that the question was meant for him. Tears rolled down his eyes as he grasped the lesson behind the disturbing incident. He cried profusely at the revelation, at the feeling of true love and compassion, and for this most amazing remembrance. The tears washed away his anger, indignation, hurt and the feeling of revenge.  

The octogenarian was no longer a thorn of a memory. Mohammed had now remembered his true self and the promise he made to God through this old man. Mohammed not only forgave the old man but he also felt he could give him the biggest loving hug of his life if they ever met again. He even thanked his roommate for watching this channel, which gave him the biggest leap of faith during one of the toughest trials in his life. 

Mohammed now realized that life at every moment gave us a choice between modesty and pride, love and hatred, forgiveness and revenge, joy and suffering, compassion and anger, faith and doubt. The one we choose will define the quality of our lives. We may get where we want to be in any case, but choosing the first will make the journey much more enjoyable. 

Mohammed got goose-bumps as he realized that this learning was like an epiphany straight from Allah. A divine blessing that helped him live the spirit of Ramadan through forgiveness. 

Lost in deep thoughts, he inadvertently pressed the remote buttons and lo! The channel changed. Mohammed chuckled and looked up at the ceiling. He smiled, for he knew the secret now – the whole universe conspired to give him this experience. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Demystifying faith


Faith is a science that science has yet to fathom.
Faith is beyond hope.
Faith is the exhilaration of a kid knowing he is safe even as he is thrown playfully in the air.
Faith is the song of a lark that knows that night is about to die.
Faith is the swagger in the dance of a peacock welcoming the rain.
Faith is what makes you shiver in winter and perspire in summer.
Faith is what brings night after day and day after night.
Faith is a knowing of a certainty that it is given to you even before you ask.
Faith is a gratitude in advance for its deliverance.
Faith is a knowing that the question is not ‘if’ but ‘when.’
Faith is not having to worry.
Faith is not believing in an alternate possibility.
Faith is knowing that oneness. 
Faith is pure love.
Faith is surrender but not cowardice.
Science says seeing is believing.
Faith says believing is seeing.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

वो क्या है


चांदी की चादर ओढ़े नाचती हैं किरनें नदी पर
ख़ुशी की धुप में गुनगुनाती हैं यादें ज़मीन पर
गम की छाँव में झिलमिलाती है चांदनी रात
ज़िन्दगी की हर सोच पर आज करनी है कुछ बात

सोच के ताबूत में आज कैद है हर आवाज़
बांध की दीवारों में बंद है हर झील का साज़
काँटों के सेज पर बिची है हर फूल की सुहास
नियमों की मोहताज है आज हमारी हर सांस

प्रतिबन्ध का प्रतिबिम्ब है आज हर ज़िन्दगी
मुझे आज़ाद करो, ये कहती है हर बंदगी
इंसान ने इंसान को जकड़े रखा है क्यों?
खुदा की ज़मीन पर ये बेड़ियाँ है क्यों?

आज़ाद होना है, पर आज़ाद करना नहीं
जाना यहाँ से है, पर रहना फिरभी है यहीं
वो क्या है जो मैं समझ नहीं पाता हूँ
मेरी नासमझी है, या लोगों की अंधी आरज़ू

क्यों दुनिया की स्पर्धा में बिचड रहा हूँ मैं?
क्यों हर दुनियादारी से पिछड़ रहा हूँ मैं?
वो क्या है जो सदियों से ढूंढ रहा हूँ मैं?
वो क्या है जो सदियों से ढूंढ रहा हूँ मैं?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The slave that turned master

I once found a young one,
small, supple and docile. 
I fostered him in incubation 
to save him from the worldly guile.

We played a lot together.
It was fun, him with me. 
We got so used to each other, 
we became our mutual destiny.

As he grew, he changed form,
faithful and sturdy and strong.
He helped my tasks perform 
and scared the beasts that jungles throng. 

As if many lives woven in days,
he now mutated more rapidly. 
Daily, he revealed many facets:
the good, the bad and the ugly. 

He intrigued me and fascinated me,
he helped me and fed my dependence.
He entertained me and beguiled me,
he tricked and ruined my independence. 

He now danced at my fingertips,
like a puppet to a puppeteer.
But it was I for his keeps,
a pet that hid a monster. 

The beast was meant to serve me,
yet he managed to enslave me.
His mutations reflected my changing psychology,
this beast that I call ‘Technology’.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The hare and the tortoise

Once upon a time in a jungle,
there was a hare and a tortoise.
Proud was the hare of its feet - so nimble,
slow was his friend, but oh - so wise!

Bragged his way to glory one day,
the hare spoke thus, with a swagger,
“Heavy as a rock you better stay,
while I cut through the woods like a dagger.”

“What good are your feet that make you lumber?
Ugly, thick, can’t run you out of danger.
What use is your sheath, this constant encumber?
Every few spaces, it forces you to slumber.”

“Soft as a velvet, I am my dear friend,”
thus he mouthed his praises galore,
“swift as a lightning am I through the land,
and faster I get forever more.”

Wise as he was, the slow tortoise,
silence he chose over repartee.
He moved on, slowly, at his own pace,
without joining in the hare’s party.

The monkeys overhead started howling,
sounding a sudden alarm bell.
Scared, the hare ran off jumping
while the tortoise shriveled within his shell.

Soon enough, a jackal came hurtling,
bared its canines to tortoise for biting.
The tortoise’s bane was now his blessing,
for it sent the jackal further for hunting.

The tortoise moved on and later found,
tufts of velvet-soft hair strewn around,
and beautiful, bloody feet scattered on the ground,
the hare’s pride couldn’t keep him sound.

Saddened, the wise tortoise spoke aloud,
“Let pride never be the rudder of your life,
for your judgments, it will forever cloud,
and shred you to pieces with its sharp knife.”

“There is always someone faster than the fastest,
and surely there is, stronger than the strongest,
your real strength is but inside yourself, 
so learn to go within when facing a tempest." 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I dare life


My life is
a miracle waiting to happen,
a lark singing in the dawn,
a peacock ushering the rain,
a pleasure that follows the pain,
a lotus about to blossom,
a seed pushing earth’s bosom.

For I have now known
that I have nothing to do,
only to be what I choose to be,
and hear the voice of my heart,
and sing my soul’s tune without a doubt.

I’m beginning to believe,
that I’m the creator of my destiny.
To the universe, hence I declare my intention,
and dare life not to let me live my passion.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Laws of the Jungle


Lost in a forest, cricket sings.
Lost in a city, traffic stings.

Camouflage of the preys and the predators.
Crucible of the looted and the looters.

Survival of the fittest.
Survival of the richest.

After dark, don’t venture out of your zone.
At night, don’t loiter out of your home.

Live in your burrow.
Move only within your furrow.

Stay with the herd.
Merge in the crowd.

Hunt or get hunted.
Crush or get crushed.

The real jungle.
            The civilized jungle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Contradictions we love

We build technology to prevent physical labour,
then we build gyms to have us belabour.

We create a life that keeps us on the run
and invent escalators to prevent our walk.

We claim we value values more,
but to actors, over teachers, we pay more.

We claim God is good and money is worse,
so players make millions while preachers are paupers.

We cut the distances between cities,
yet widen the miles within families.

Everyone wants to go to heaven,
but no one wants to die.

We spend half our lives spoiling health chasing wealth,
then spend the rest chasing health spending wealth.

We think nothing of killing others when we feel right,
but call it criminal when a sufferer wants to die.

We want God to equally love everyone,
yet we brand ungodly anyone who loves more than one.

There is an inner tsunami in every single heart,
but surprised we’re at the watershed on earth.

The safer a country becomes
the more life insurance it sells.

We chemicalize our foods so they survive longer
even if they make our stay on the planet shorter.

Selfishness we loathe,
patriotism we laud.

The further we move from environment,
the more we call it development.

Suicide is when you kill yourself by hanging.
Commerce is when you kill yourself by smoking.

We deny the naturalness of sex and shame our teen
but when denial turns love to lust, we shout obscene.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Towards a new education system

Our current education system is fact rather than value based. However, even here, we have not done a great job at 'honestly' sticking to facts, for they are manipulated by various agenda. History is written by the victor instead of being a joint exercise involving all the parties. To transition the education to value based, I list below some concepts that can be taught to our kids.

These are listed in the book 'Conversations with God.' The purpose of sharing it here is to create an awareness of the new thought process and to expand the list. Someone may need it someday. Atleast the young parents can start teaching their kids some of these values.

I request all the readers to add their own thoughts to it.
  1. Understanding Power
  2. Peaceful Conflict Resolution 
  3. Elements of Loving Relationships
  4. Personhood and Self Creation 
  5. Body, Mind and Spirit: How They Function
  6. Engaging Creativity
  7. Celebrating Self, Valuing Others 
  8. Joyous Sexual Expression
  9. Fairness
  10. Tolerance
  11. Diversities and Similarities
  12. Ethical Economics
  13. Creative Consciousness and Mind Power
  14. Awareness and Wakefulness
  15. Honesty and Responsibility
  16. Visibility and Transparency
  17. Science and Spirituality
We may argue that most of these are taught in Moral Science. But the idea is not to have a couple of units in a year long course. The idea is to have these as year long courses from the very childhood. 

Here then is my list:
  1. Valuing team work 
  2. Learning to let-go 
  3. Winning is not everything 
  4. The art of sharing 
  5. The science of abundance 
  6. Redefining success and failure 
  7. Life is beautiful 
  8. Forgiveness 
  9. The art of acceptance 
Looking forward to your inputs. 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Quotes that occurred to me

1. Forgiveness is a favour you do to yourself, not to others
2. Be it arranged or love marriage on earth, it is all arranged with a lot of love in heaven
3. Life is all about creation. Even destruction is an act of creation - when you destroy a building, you create rubble.
4. God is an observer, not a judge- Conversations with God (CWG)
5. Faith is a science that science has yet to fathom
6. A medicine to one is a poison to another
7. If life was an advertisement, every problem would have an instant solution
8. Love, free, unconditional, God, unlimited, eternal. If you are not one of these, you are none of these -  (CWG).
9. Truth at various levels of reality is different and often apparently contradictory. Our level of evolution determines the truth we choose as our reality.
10. Outward complaint should never be at the expense of inner acceptance, love and forgiveness
11. Smoking Zone : A place full of fresh air where smokers go to pollute their lungs
12. Sex is the spirituality between two unwhole beings seeking wholeness. Spirituality is the sex between two whole beings sharing their wholeness
13. The more I fathom spirituality, the more I realize its proximity to sex. Wonder why mankind lauds one and pompously loathes another.
14. Envy is great for earth. It makes the world go green
15. Don't bother to be in the good books of everyone. You won't succeed. The feat has eluded even the Gods.
16. Your life is not about what your body is doing. Yet, what your body is doing is a reflection of what your life is about. - CWG
17. V-Day moral police: those who find making war in public better than making love
18. Pat your back when you overcome your tendency to classify things as better or worse, and simply accept them as different
19. Making your highest choice is only half the challenge; doing so without condemning the choices you reject completes the circle
20. The real character of a person is known not when the relationship starts but when it ends
21. Respect and obedience are not the same things. You can choose to disobey without being disrespectful.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The eyes

The eyes, they haunt me.
The essence in them taunts me.

The longing in those eyes pierces my heart.
Bottomless depth, soaked in water, a piece of art.

Innocent, revolting, not knowing reason;
only themselves, all around causing pain.

They tether you to the bearer,
never to let go to life another.

Love misplaced, misunderstood, even abused.
Will take a while for gloom to be released.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Dhobi Ghaat?

The movie captures four characters chasing their so near yet so elusive dream. Just as the dream appears right there, ready to be hugged, it evades them - in many ways – just like life. The story dribbles through umpteen curves, twists and turns, rises and falls from pinnacles of ecstasy to nadir of depression, from the hollow of dysfunction to the near-fulfillment of by-the-way desires.

Yasmin, the girl in videographed monologues is the voice of director’s soul in the movie. Remove everything else but Yasmin and the story still makes you gasp at the suppressed anger of the wronged woman. Yasmin is ‘the’ character of the movie. She pours her heart to the recording and in the process gives it the life it oozes. She makes you wonder at her simplicity, desire her conservative feminity, admire her festering mutiny and chuckle at the wisdom behind the façade of nonentity.

Amir Khan effectively straddles the various moods of a creative genius. He effortlessly segues through unflinching concentration during creative highs to glaring insecurity at Shai’s attempts to know him.

Shai and Munna share an uncomfortable camaraderie borne out of the overlap of their dreams and divisive compulsions of their backgrounds. They both desire something, settle for something else, igniting their corporal longing in the process which is brilliantly portrayed through Munna’s hesitance and shai’s glances.

All the characters in the movie live to realize a dream, and yet, someone, somewhere, disconnected, becomes an integral part of their lives, enough to take them along for a while.

The movie lets the characters go with the flow of their hearts, allows them to just be - without melodrama or value judgments. Pragmatism is relegated as the prerogative of the sidekicks.

The movie does not give any answer; instead, it leaves you with many questions. The artist in Kiran attempts to extricate the artist in the audience. Do you have the artist in you? Go watch the movie if you want answer to that question.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Old wine in a new bottle

Long back, I wrote a travelogue here on a wedding I attended. I was never satisfied with my description of the marriage, the bridal ensemble and all. So, I rewrote it.

==============================
My Best Friend's Wedding

The wheels squealed lazily at being forced to move after a short but a well deserved halt as the train chugged painfully, fighting the inertial resistance, taking its first 'steps' out of the station I boarded it from. I pushed my handbag up on the top berth, settled quietly in my seat and surveyed my sleeper class co-passengers: a sexagenarian man gazing blankly through the window, a family with two kids; parents too busy teaching their kids how to enjoy and the kids too busy doing what they do best - flouting those norms, and a young lad unabashedly staring at me as if I was the only known key to solving the Bermuda Triangle mystery. It didn't take me very long to get talking to them. An enquiry about their destination was all it took to be a part of the group. A couple of hours later we had discussed most of our nation's problems, almost solved them along the way, shared our lunches and became a family. It was so easy initiating a conversation with sleeper class passengers. Compare and contrast this with a reaction from a co-passenger in an AC compartment. A similar enquiry would fetch a suave verbal reply masking a curt non-verbal expression overtly portending of a cold shoulder of non-reciprocation for any further attempts at initiating a conversation. The puffed up egos actually keep the AC compartment, which is otherwise cold, quite cozy.

I was traveling by train after a long time. The recent nose-diving of flight fares made them affordable to us lesser mortals. That, coupled with the traveling allowance provided by my company, made traveling by train not just unenviable but also unglamourous. And yet, there was something about trains I missed while flying. Although flying has its own share of ecstasies in take-offs, landings and God's eye view of earth, a train journey is about a different romance altogether. The snail-pace of Indian trains affords us the luxury of sliding open the window and enjoying ourselves in the unadulterated countryside breeze in all its glory. Watching the scared cattle fleeing, the confused dogs barking, the kids cheering and the adult males leering has its own beauty when viewed from inside the fortified window of a train. Sooner or later, our quest for speed will introduce faster, new state-of-the-art trains. But then, we won't be able to stick our necks out of the door and experience the gush of wind slapping our faces. In our hurry to reach the destination, we miss out on enjoying ourselves through the journey. Ironically, while technology helps us connect faster with far off places, it disconnects us from our immediate neighbourhood.

I reached Bhuvaneshwar slightly before dawn. To my relief, it had rained the previous night, forcing mother earth to show its more pleasant form in the midst of scorching Indian summer. I pushed my handbag in before getting into a pick-up auto that was arranged for me. It seemed to glide over the broad, rain-washed roads of Bhuvaneshwar. Engrossed in the surreal morning experience, I failed to notice when the smooth boulevards segued into potholed bylanes and brought me to my destination.

I stood in front of a big, black, iron gate guarding a small bungalow. A black metallic sheet, high enough to keep peeping toms at bay, was welded into the gate. An average Indian would not be able to see through its top. However, its bottom was considerate enough to show ankles. I rang the bell and a known voice hollered from inside the bungalow. It ordered me to hold on lest I wake others up. Out of excitement, I forgot it was still early morning. I heard a barrage of instructions progressively getting louder as the bearer of the voice approached the gate. The person reached the gate and started opening a chained lock at the bottom. I could see only the palms and feet, for the miserly gate would let me see no more. Intricate design of Mehendi adorned her hands and feet. Amrita opened the door and we were face to face after three years. That night was her wedding.

Amrita looked at me for a moment, attempted a wry smile and carried on with her verbal tirade as if we had met only the day before. I noticed her as I entered the gate. Her big black eyes were a little swollen due to lack of sleep. Her black curly hair were parted in the middle and hurriedly bound by a clip at the nape, a tuft of hair near the temples hanging down and resting lightly over her collar-bone, her gums protruded as she rebuked me for nothing that I had done. A set of glass bangles and metallic bracelets clinked as she gestured with her wheatish brown hands.

Her house was full of guests but it didn’t look congested. As her only friend to attend her marriage from out-of-station, I was accorded celebrity treatment. We chatted for a couple of hours in the morning before we moved on with the chores.

“Could you tell me how you feel?” I asked her, curious to know what a girl feels on the eve of her marriage.
“Don’t ask that,” pat came the reply, “I won’t be able to control myself.”

The only child of her parents, Amrita would not have been able to control her emotions had she let them flow any closer. The pain of separation from their loving daughter, in spite of the pleasure of her getting married to a worthy individual, was giving her parents a torrid time. Amidst her parents’ frequent breakdowns, she was the only one who composed herself and kept the situation under control.

Towards the evening, her relatives took me to the marriage venue. A hall was booked in one of the better hotels of Bhuvaneshwar. The route from home to hotel was marked with pot-holed roads devoid of street-lights. But the cool, unpolluted breeze made the journey exhilarating and refreshing. The sigh of untamed breeze of Bhuvaneshwar invigorated my spirits.

We reached the marriage hall excited and ready for the event. The bride arrived later, looking exquisite in the bridal finery, different from the girl next door I met that morning. She wore a bright red silk sari brocaded with gold-threaded designs. The free end of the sari draped over her head signifying bridal modesty. She was bedecked with heavily ornate gold jewelry that seemed to have jumped out of the matching design in her sari. A larger than normal red circular bindi adorned the center of her forehead. Gold bracelets were stacked on her slender arms. Decorative red strip was painted along the edges of her feet each of which wore two pairs of golden toe-rings. A group of elderly ladies carefully chaperoned her past the marriage pavilion in the main hall to an adjacent room where she was seated on a soft-velvet brown sofa until the marriage rituals began. Like a typical shy Indian bride, Amrita kept looking down surveying the carpet near her feet as the ladies slowly led her to the sofa. I had never seen her walk as slowly as she did that evening. I could sense in her face a mixed feeling - an anticipation of the wedding, an apprehension about life after marriage, a fear of the unknown, a remorse for having to leave her parents and yet, an invitation to find a loving life-partner.

The groom, his family and guests arrived much later. There was excitement all around as the groom’s procession arrived in the hotel. They were seated in an adjacent hall. The groom was dressed in intricate design bearing cream Sherwani and a traditional turban over his head. We chatted for a while after I introduced myself. He came across as a simple, shy and a mature person, quite different from the bubbly Amrita. I thought he complemented her well.

The marriage rituals started around midnight. Alone and tired, I followed the rituals with intermittent naps. But I was lucky to be awake at the most important moments of the marriage. I saw the groom tying the mangalsutra around Amrita’s neck. I saw them exchanging their garlands and taking the rounds around the sacred fire. I got goose-bumps as I watched them.
Amrita later told me her thoughts at that moment.
“I felt like the Vedic mantras chanted during the rituals celestially bound me to him. As if going forward we would affect each other’s lives astrologically also and not only through physical proximity. It was an act of giving him the control of my life, the key to my emotions. In that moment, I gave him the power to make me happy or sad, to make or break my life."

"Can such a moment of entrusting my life to him be anything less than sacrosanct? The priest chanted those mantras perfunctorily as it’s a daily business for him. I paused for a moment to think about the other life I was making my own and the responsibilities that come with it. My knees grew weak as I wondered whether I was fit for such a responsibility. I gained strength from seeing my groom leading me. It dawned upon me that he was there to lift me when I would fall, and guide me when I would falter.”

The next morning was her Vidai – the ceremonial farewell. Knowing Amrita, who used to cry at the slightest thoughts of missing her parents, I expected the Vidai to be an emotional catharsis. However, she defied all expectations and didn’t let tears roll out. Quietly, she sat in the car and didn’t look at anyone for long. Our eyes met only once. I could see the pain of separation from family waiting to explode but marvelously controlled. The car left, unsettling the dust and leaving everyone’s heart with an emotional void in its wake.

I wondered why Indian girls leave their families after marriage to join the grooms family. It is easy to blame the patriarchal society. Another plausible reason emerged as I pondered deeper. An average boy has much bigger ego than a girl. So a girl is much more capable of accepting a new family as her own. She can better manage the complexities of adapting to differences. Spiritually speaking, the ego is one of the root causes of distancing yourself from God. Being born a woman is hence a mark of spiritual upliftment. Only a spiritually higher being can make bigger sacrifices to keep another family happy. Unfortunately, the feminists take this as another form of female discrimination.

Thanks to Amrita, my trip to Bhuvaneshwar was an experience worth living. I came back with quite a few memories to cherish and thoughts that made me wiser.