Saturday, December 29, 2012

Take me to that place

Take me to that place where
I can see but I need no eyes,
I can hear but I need no ears,
I can fly but I need no wings,
I can walk but I need no limbs.

Take me to that place where
I can breathe but I need no lungs,
I can smell but I need no nose,
I can taste but I need no tongue,
I can feel but I need no skin.

Take me to that place where
I can listen to the light
and watch the sound,
I can taste a fragrance
and drink the wind.

Take me to that place …

I dedicate this poem to my yoga teacher Pradeep Ullal and Ramudu during whose meditation sessions, this poem came to me. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Space and time

Stars seem smaller than the moon,
while my finger can hide the sun.

Earth to me looks flatter than it is;
my breath is louder than outer noise.

The sky is small enough to fit my eye,
while my hands easily enclose the sea.

Yesterday affects me the most,
while yesteryear is a sketchy haze.

The imminent stimulates the most,
distant future is an unsolved maze.

Closeness breeds relative disproportion,
while distance puts things in perspective.

The whole game is played on space and time.
The closer you get, the bigger the illusion.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Who am I? - a short story

“And the CEO of the year is Mr. Ben Richardson,” said the presenter to an audience that stood up to applaud the winner. Ben himself was fairly subdued in his reaction, almost belying the prestige of the award which was informally called ‘The Business Booker’. Some would call it confidence, some arrogance of being the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company at just thirty two years.

Ben watched the recording repeatedly, wondering what prevented his joy at that moment of a lifetime. During his short acceptance speech, Ben knew he looked at the audience but did not see them. His eyes were gazing somewhere beyond, while he was probing something deep within.

Lost in his internal conflict, Ben missed a few knocks at the door. It was Jim, his happy-go-lucky friend from school. He tripped and spilt martini as Ben opened the door. Ben chortled at the smudges on Jim’s black jacket and white shirt.

“Ben, what the hell are you doing all alone in this room?” asked Jim with a slur, looking around after recovering.


“Nothing?” asked Jim, confused, “The corporate bigwigs are in the next hall celebrating your achievement. You should be out there, not here.”

“Hmn,” said Ben indifferently as he sat on the black, leather sofa that sucked him in. 

“Is that all you’ve to say? What’s the matter Ben?” a concerned Jim sat next to Ben gently placing his hand on Ben’s shoulder and the glass on the table, “Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?”

“Hmn,” Ben nodded.

“Ben, you are the subject of everyone’s envy,” an annoyed Jim got up and raised his voice under the assumed authority of a friend, “for having achieved all this by thirty-two. And this HMN is all you’ve to say?” Jim almost stumbled back into the sofa as he finished.


Jim sighed in annoyance and moved away from Ben.   

“I ask again Ben,” he turned anxiously, “what’s the matter? Aren’t you going to tell your best friend?”

“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” Ben ran his fingers through his hair, shaking his head.

“Has something happened that I’m not aware of?” Jim asked, looking grave.

“These are the things I always worked for: success, recognition, achievement,” Ben got up and walked a few steps placing his hands in his black, Gucci trousers pockets. He turned before adding, “But now that I’ve achieved everything I possibly can, there is a vacuum.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Jim as relief replaced the concern on his face, “I think I know what you are talking about. It’s lonely at the top, isn’t it?”


“No? Then?”

“I feel like I know so much about the outside world, but …”

“But what?” asked Jim, worried again.

“But I know nothing about myself, my real identity,” Ben sighed.

“What?” asked a perplexed Jim with a wry face, “What do you mean?”

“Who do you think am I?”

“You should be the first person capable of answering this question my friend,” said Jim, guffawing.

“Is it? If you think it is so easy, why don’t you try?” Ben challenged Jim.

“You are Ben Richardson,” Jim said smugly, knowing that he can’t get wrong.

“That’s my name,” clarified Ben, “Who am I?”

“What the hell is the difference?” asked Jim, flummoxed.

“That is my name Jim,” Ben moved towards Jim in an attempt to clarify his point, “It is a tag for all of us to identify me. What if we were all identified by numbers? Would I be any different if my name was Jack or 512?”

“You mean,” said Jim as he understood Ben’s perspective, “a rose by any other name …”


“Aaah!” Jim exclaimed as he finally understood what Ben was getting to, “Ok. You are the CEO of a fortune 500 company.”

“That’s my designation. Who am I?”

“You are American.”

“That’s my nationality.”

“You are one of the youngest billionaires in the world.”

“That’s my wealth.”

“You are a man.”

“That’s my gender.”

Jim then took a break as he brooded for the next possible answer.

“You are a husband to a wife and a son to your parents.”

“Those are my relations. Who am I?”

“You are a human.”

“That is just a physical form.”

“You are a bloody idiot hell bent on ruining my heavenly inebriation,” Jim lost it.

“Gave up?” Ben chuckled.

“Yes,” Jim raised his hands in exasperated surrender as Ben continued smiling, “can’t argue with an intelligent fool.”

“Damn,” Jim walked away from Ben in frustration and whispered, “Why the hell did I enter this room? 
When logic failed, Jim resorted to the next best thing.

“You have achieved so much without answering this question,” Jim pleaded sincerely, “What stops you from going on? How does this one question suddenly become so important?

“This question seems to be the most important question of my life right now,” said Ben calmly, “I can give up my whole corporate life to get the answer to this.”

“But why is it pertinent now, in this moment of your life?” Jim cried.

“I don’t know. All I know is it’s important right now,” Ben affirmed.

“Stop acting like a pregnant woman,” Jim rebuked Ben.
Ben glared at Jim.

“Why do you care Ben?” not finding anything better, Jim began to plead, “You have everything: a beautiful wife, a great job, a profitable company, happy shareholders. What more do you want?”

“More,” Ben chuckled before turning serious again, “That is the word, isn’t it? M-O-R-E More. Are you really sure I shouldn’t want more when greed is exactly what we have created around us?”

“Looks like you need a break,” Jim suggested when pleading also failed.

“Bloody hell I do,” Ben affirmed.

“Where do you want to go?” Jim asked, encouraged by the first sign of agreement from Ben, “Miami, Rio, Switzerland, Bali, Dubai or Thailand. Tell me. I want you back Ben. I’m not comfortable with this avatar of yours.”

“India,” said Ben with sparkle in his eyes.  

“India?” cried a shocked Jim, “What the hell is there in India except a suffocating crowd of a billion people and a few call centers. You can’t even buy food there without getting sick.”

“May be the best that India has to offer cannot be bought, it has to be sought,” Ben asserted calmly.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I will get my answer there.”


The next day while returning from office, Ben, for a change, did not work in his chauffeur driven Bentley. A day old stubble shined in the crimson of the setting sun that peeked through roadside buildings. His tie was loose at the neck. Black Calvin Klein jacket with satin lapel lay beside him. The route felt almost new to him for he was always too lost in his work to notice the life around him. However, Ben did not really register whatever he saw as he was still wrecking his mind to find the answer.

Suddenly, Ben’s eyes registered something that broke his chain of thoughts and made him sit up.

A bearded monk with knotty, unkempt hair was entering a garden wearing a simple saffron dhoti and wrapped in a shawl. He had no footwear.  The anachronism of a monk in Manhattan struck Ben.

“Pull over the car,” he ordered impulsively.

Ben ran towards the garden entrance wearing his jacket looking for the monk.

“Excuse me, Excuse me,” Ben called out as he reached close enough.

“Yes Ben,” said the monk as he turned.

“How do you know my name?” a shocked Ben asked, his mouth agape.

“That’s not the most important question you want answer to, correct Ben?” the monk smiled benignly.
Ben didn’t know what to say. His mind went numb, his heart pounded, his mouth didn’t know how to close and his wide open eyes forgot how to blink.

“mmn … wh … who am I?” Ben heard himself ask.

“I hope you are not expecting the normal answer from me,” the monk started walking further, Ben followed involuntarily.

“Of course not.”

“I don’t think you can understand the answer,” said the monk, throwing a challenge at Ben.
The monk’s questioning Ben’s intelligence brought his pride into play and jerked him back to his senses.

“Well, you are doubting the intelligence of one of the smartest kids on the block,” Ben said indignantly, “You know that my smartness has made me the one of the richest men in the world?”

“Then why can’t your intelligence and wealth make you happy?” the monk threw Ben off-guard.
Embarrassed, Ben cleared his throat as the only response he could muster.  

“I’m sorry,” said Ben sincerely, “I was just swept over by the ego. Please tell me who I am.”

“Ok,” said the monk as he turned towards Ben, “You are the unseen behind the seen, the nothing that holds the everything, the unmanifest that projects the manifest. You are the changeless substratum that supports the ever-changing. You can see, but you have no eyes. You can hear, but you need no ears. You can do, but you choose to just be. You are the spirit that is observing and experiencing itself through you and through all that you do with your body and mind.”

“Thank you, but I’m afraid I don’t get you,” said Ben, confused and hesitant.

“I know you don’t,” the monk chuckled, “You wish to know your spirit through words, which are the creation of the mind. They are labels which are mind’s attempts to comprehend life. Your limited mind cannot grasp what is essentially limitless. The English vocabulary has not evolved enough for me to give you a peek into your soul. Can any word truly give you an experience? Can the four letters L-O-V-E truly reflect the magnificence of the experience of ‘love’?”

Ben tried catching the monk’s words like pearls falling from the sky. He, however, still struggled to comprehend.

“I don’t think I still get you,” Ben pleaded, “please give me the answer.”

“You cannot get the answer Ben,” the monk said sanguinely, “You have to experience the answer. It cannot be told to you, for your true self is beyond words. You cannot ask this question to the outer world, for you have to seek the answer in the inner universe. You cannot think the answer, for your very thought prevents you from seeing deeper. You have to silence the voices in your head to hear the whispers from beyond.”
The monk came closer to Ben and held his hand with his chapped but strangely warm hands.

“Close your eyes Ben,” said the monk with such hypnotizing love and peace that Ben could only follow him. Every subsequent statement took Ben deeper into tranquility, “Stay in the moment. Go within. Simply witness your thoughts. Just observe them as they come and go. Feel your breath. As the thoughts wane, be with the silence.”

Saying this, the monk left Ben’s hand. Ben felt the moment. He spread his hands as if embracing the wind. It’s chillness no longer mattered to him.

“In this silence,” Ben heard the monk’s voice “you access your true essence, the stuff that you are. You are now ready to receive the message from your ‘self’.”

Ben stayed that way welcoming the moment, the wind, the fragrance, the eternity and the universe into his fold.  He could hear his breath over the din of the traffic. Moments after moments collected in the lap of his eternal self that kept him still. Ben lost the sense of time. His breathing slowed down, he smiled as he started accessing the bliss of his being. He felt the hair on his skin raising, mouth started twitching, his chest started heaving, his hands started shivering and eyes started watering.

“I … I see the Himalayas,” he spurted with tears of joy gushing from the corners of his eyes.

When Ben opened his eyes, the sun had long set while the garden lights had come to life. The monk was not around but that didn’t stop Ben’s most genuine smile in days and glow from within. Ben knew where he would find the monk and experience his answer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


When I look at the sky,
I don't see the sky;
I see the limitless universe
pouring in my limited eye.