Category: Notes to Myself


New Year

This year is a good year. The main goals are not many. Just simple few things. And most of all, I want to “Empty my mind, and fill it with Awareness”.

Everything else will follow.

Life is here and now – always. But in practical sense, life is to be lived, loved, and just slow down like watching a movie in slow motion.

Love to me, and love to my wife and kid. And love to all life around me.

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Redemption – my first attempt at short story
In Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 at 10:37 pm
There are times when footsteps of the mind halt in mid-air, like those rain-filled clouds of July debating the downpour. Held only by a string of breaths that caress the restless thoughts, it just floats on aimlessly. Ana was walking along a path, in a park, lined by trees whose crowns had formed a vast green canopy. The park was stretched across on a vast piece of land, located at the center of the city. Most of the trees were old. Their stems were wide, gray and scrubby. Some of them were covered with deep green mosses, giving them a woolly look.
“They seem like tired hands of an old man, trying to hold on to dear life with whatever is left,” she thought. The sun was bright, and made patches of light on the dark gravel. A particular tree was in full bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering all its branches. Shaken by the slight wind, some had fallen, and lay scattered all around. She was careful not to step over any of these flowers. She always was. She could not help but smile, staring at those flowers dancing, and whirling with the breeze. They were beautiful, yes. And, for a while, she had thrown open the windows and one could see her soul sparkling through, like two large dews holding the sun.
She had slept fitfully last night. The night was warm, and humid. And, there were noises inside her head. Her eyes had held the specters of people from her past. Amidst the noise, she had seen them living the times she had long forgotten. She didn’t know they were still alive. But, last night the doors that had long forbidden her past to walk into her present, were thrown open by a voice she had come to like, and perhaps love. She had not seen the man. She had only heard him. His voice was like soothing chuckles of a quiet river on a warm sunny day. He had touched her like no man ever did. Every time he spoke to her, his voice seemed to creep into her coldness like the slow trickle of warm blood.
“Couple of days ago, a lady friend of mine was sexually harassed. She had a job out of town, and had to spend the night, with her boss, in a trailer. At 3.30 in the morning, he crawled into her bed and made suggestion about what they could do to pass an hour or so. She had refused. And so lost her job. And, now she wonders whether to let him get away with it, or take him to court . . .” she remembered him saying last night. And, that was it. Those words, riding his voice, had knocked at the very doors she had closed tight on her festering past. The specters were aroused, and had danced all night long. Celebrating perhaps their newfound freedom.
“That’s so common. It’s happening all the time.” was only she could say. But beneath those cold, indifferent words, hell was rousing storms. In the darkness of her bedroom, long after the voice had hung up, tears had flown like the rivers of the wild. And the torments that had lain latent in her veins rose to shred her apart. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her about his friend. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her at all last night. And yet, despite that wish, she was aware of this strange desire to be with him now. Just the sight of his face would have quieted those storms.
“How does he look like?” she wondered. “He has evaded all my questions about his looks. I wonder why. But what does it matter? I wish I were with him now. I wish I could hold his hands, and walk along this road, talking about these flowers and the wind that dances with them. Today it’s like the-morning-after – so quiet; the sun and a breeze like the sigh of a spent lover playing along. I wish I could see him.”
And that made her more miserable. The faint pain in her heart had refused to go away. She was drawn to its dull ache. Hands, flashed before her eyes, snaking into places even the sun was forbidden from. Feelings that were hitherto unknown, mixed with confusion had crept into her blood and ran riots. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?” were questions that remained unspoken. And in response the groveling hands had sneaked deeper into her tenderness. If you step on a loosely held piece of snow, they crack, and you tumble down the face of an avalanche. Perhaps the doors to her past were so wearied and beaten down by the winds of time that a little breeze tore it down like a house of cards.
“Strange is the nature of desire. Years ago, it had left me a feeling like a used rag. And at times, like now, it makes me want to snuggle up to someone, and bask in the warm sun by the riverside, where butterflies would flap their bright mottled wings silently, and the stillness of the moment would buzz like honeybees. I would sit by the bank, and dip my legs in the cool, crisp water. The pebbles, worn smooth by the ever-loving touch of the river, would seem to hold time in their hearts. O my, how I wish I could walk out of this skin and flesh, and wash my blood off in this clear stream, and be clean, again.
But wait! Could memories be ever washed – the memories of those touches that had sought pleasures in my softness? Could I ever shred them to pieces and throw them to the wind?”
A squirrel ran past her, and climbed the nearest tree. Halfway up the stump, it stopped and stared at her. Its furry coat gleamed in the streak of sun falling down, and eyes sparkled back a sense of innocence that was strangely heart-warming. She felt like caressing its skin. Then suddenly it scurried up along the stump, and vanished somewhere among the branches. The emptiness, however, remained lingering.
“And this is how the mind gets tired, running around with the waves of thoughts, trying to figure out, reason, measure, weigh, and judge. Ana, this is why men have always felt like flying. Because, in flying, there is a peculiar sense of release”, She heard him saying.
She was walking past the row of benches that were mostly occupied. An old woman was reading the morning newspaper. Her gray hairs fell straight down to her shoulder. She had her glasses perched up her nose. Ana walked up and sat beside her. She needed to talk. She needed a release.
She wished she were with someone else, with a past different than hers. “How about swapping yours with mine, grandma?”, she thought aloud. Or rather, the thoughts blurted out into words, tired perhaps of being stifled for years. The old woman was startled. She glanced up at her with a curious look, and smiled. Ana didn’t realize she had thought aloud.
“Is anything wrong, child?”
“Nothing, but everything, I guess. How have you been all these years? Must have been a truly wonderful journey all along. Yes, must have been. Else how do you explain your sitting here early in the morning, reading a newspaper, with this contented look on your face? I wish I were you.”
“And I wish I were you, my child! So young and beautiful! You remind me of my days I had spent in the lap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, so many years ago. Pristine white snows adorning the blue, scraggy rocks. At the base lay the vast rolling plains of African Savannah. We had been to Serengeti National Park. During the days that followed, we saw the primal nature of life and death.
There cannot be anything more beautiful on the face of earth than witnessing death stalking life, every single moment, and every single breath. It all seemed like a surreal world where violent passion for life reigned supreme. A passion, so raw and violent, and yet so beautiful. You could see this in every streak of blood that poured out of a struggling young gazelle.”
Ana was wonder struck. The old woman had spoken with such richness of vision that it all lay bared before her eyes. For a moment she was empty, devoid of longing, and poised like a drop of water hanging from the leaf blade after a heavy shower.
“Love life, child, for what it’s worth. The sheer beauty of every single moment could drive you crazy only if you stare back at what’s passing by. Moments come and go, taking away what you were in that moment and leaving behind what you could be the next moment. Why carry the burden of a lifetime when you could wash them away in this flowing tides?
You are born anew, every moment, from that timeless womb that wraps you and me.”
Ana didn’t know what to say. She only heard her breath. And saw a smile, through the haze of mist that clouded her mind, she had longed to see. It was he, smiling.
“Strange, how these voices can keep on going. I push them out of the door, and they start banging on the windowpane like raindrops, hitting the glass, and then flowing down in small streams. I listen to them for a while, and realize they wouldn’t stop. It’s the monsoon of my life.”
Blue green water lay stretched before her. The lake was not so big. It was beautiful though. On other days, people could be seen rowing quietly across the placid water. Suddenly, a kingfisher shot up from a dead branch sticking out of the still water, and floated in mid air, beating its wings frantically. And, then dropped itself into the water. Ripples went out from the place it had hit. Moments later, it emerged with a fish in its beak. The sun was breaking out of the trees.
Ana got up, walked to the edge which was lined with reeds, and grasses. Dragonflies were hovering over the water. She stopped. There was a peculiar silence out there. She listened closely hoping to listen to buzz of their wings. But all what she heard was a constant buzz of silence ringing in her ears. “Be careful, child. The water is deep in there, and the soil is still wet from last night’s rain,” the old woman warned her. Ana walked on along the bank. She was past everything now. She sat down by a rock, with her legs dipped in the water.
“There are things that we don’t need anymore, and yet somehow we forget to throw them away. They keep on lying around for years right before us. But we live our life as if they don’t exist. Somehow we get comfortable and familiar with their invisible presence. They become the part of our lives. And so essential they become that we would miss them if they cease to be.”
The fishes swam in and started playing around her legs. A smile broke lose and stretched like a rainbow around her pretty face.
The kingfisher flew out again into the open air, out of the woods.
Somewhere, in those same moments, a man shot his 35 years old wife and a 9 years old son at point blank range, and then killed himself. He had left a note for his parents stating the reason. He was tired of carrying his life. And so had decided to put it down.
And he did.
By a pool of blood.
//27th May 2003

(Found this draft in my archive, written 6 years ago…)

There are times when footsteps of the mind halt in mid-air, like those rain-filled clouds of July debating the downpour. Held only by a string of breaths that caress the restless thoughts, it just floats on aimlessly. Ana was walking along a path, in a park, lined by trees whose crowns had formed a vast green canopy. The park was stretched across on a vast piece of land, located at the center of the city. Most of the trees were old. Their stems were wide, gray and scrubby. Some of them were covered with deep green mosses, giving them a woolly look.

“They seem like tired hands of an old man, trying to hold on to dear life with whatever is left,” she thought. The sun was bright, and made patches of light on the dark gravel. A particular tree was in full bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering all its branches. Shaken by the slight wind, some had fallen, and lay scattered all around. She was careful not to step over any of these flowers. She always was. She could not help but smile, staring at those flowers dancing, and whirling with the breeze. They were beautiful, yes. And, for a while, she had thrown open the windows and one could see her soul sparkling through, like two large dews holding the sun.

She had slept fitfully last night. The night was warm, and humid. And, there were noises inside her head. Her eyes had held the specters of people from her past. Amidst the noise, she had seen them living the times she had long forgotten. She didn’t know they were still alive. But, last night the doors that had long forbidden her past to walk into her present, were thrown open by a voice she had come to like, and perhaps love. She had not seen the man. She had only heard him. His voice was like soothing chuckles of a quiet river on a warm sunny day. He had touched her like no man ever did. Every time he spoke to her, his voice seemed to creep into her coldness like the slow trickle of warm blood.

“Couple of days ago, a lady friend of mine was sexually harassed. She had a job out of town, and had to spend the night, with her boss, in a trailer. At 3.30 in the morning, he crawled into her bed and made suggestion about what they could do to pass an hour or so. She had refused. And so lost her job. And, now she wonders whether to let him get away with it, or take him to court . . .” she remembered him saying last night. And, that was it. Those words, riding his voice, had knocked at the very doors she had closed tight on her festering past. The specters were aroused, and had danced all night long. Celebrating perhaps their newfound freedom.

“That’s so common. It’s happening all the time.” was only she could say. But beneath those cold, indifferent words, hell was rousing storms. In the darkness of her bedroom, long after the voice had hung up, tears had flown like the rivers of the wild. And the torments that had lain latent in her veins rose to shred her apart. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her about his friend. She had wished he hadn’t spoken to her at all last night. And yet, despite that wish, she was aware of this strange desire to be with him now. Just the sight of his face would have quieted those storms.

“How does he look like?” she wondered. “He has evaded all my questions about his looks. I wonder why. But what does it matter? I wish I were with him now. I wish I could hold his hands, and walk along this road, talking about these flowers and the wind that dances with them. Today it’s like the-morning-after – so quiet; the sun and a breeze like the sigh of a spent lover playing along. I wish I could see him.”

And that made her more miserable. The faint pain in her heart had refused to go away. She was drawn to its dull ache. Hands, flashed before her eyes, snaking into places even the sun was forbidden from. Feelings that were hitherto unknown, mixed with confusion had crept into her blood and ran riots. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?” were questions that remained unspoken. And in response the groveling hands had sneaked deeper into her tenderness. If you step on a loosely held piece of snow, they crack, and you tumble down the face of an avalanche. Perhaps the doors to her past were so wearied and beaten down by the winds of time that a little breeze tore it down like a house of cards.

“Strange is the nature of desire. Years ago, it had left me a feeling like a used rag. And at times, like now, it makes me want to snuggle up to someone, and bask in the warm sun by the riverside, where butterflies would flap their bright mottled wings silently, and the stillness of the moment would buzz like honeybees. I would sit by the bank, and dip my legs in the cool, crisp water. The pebbles, worn smooth by the ever-loving touch of the river, would seem to hold time in their hearts. O my, how I wish I could walk out of this skin and flesh, and wash my blood off in this clear stream, and be clean, again.

But wait! Could memories be ever washed – the memories of those touches that had sought pleasures in my softness? Could I ever shred them to pieces and throw them to the wind?”

A squirrel ran past her, and climbed the nearest tree. Halfway up the stump, it stopped and stared at her. Its furry coat gleamed in the streak of sun falling down, and eyes sparkled back a sense of innocence that was strangely heart-warming. She felt like caressing its skin. Then suddenly it scurried up along the stump, and vanished somewhere among the branches. The emptiness, however, remained lingering.

“And this is how the mind gets tired, running around with the waves of thoughts, trying to figure out, reason, measure, weigh, and judge. Ana, this is why men have always felt like flying. Because, in flying, there is a peculiar sense of release”, She heard him saying.

She was walking past the row of benches that were mostly occupied. An old woman was reading the morning newspaper. Her gray hairs fell straight down to her shoulder. She had her glasses perched up her nose. Ana walked up and sat beside her. She needed to talk. She needed a release.

She wished she were with someone else, with a past different than hers. “How about swapping yours with mine, grandma?”, she thought aloud. Or rather, the thoughts blurted out into words, tired perhaps of being stifled for years. The old woman was startled. She glanced up at her with a curious look, and smiled. Ana didn’t realize she had thought aloud.

“Is anything wrong, child?”

“Nothing, but everything, I guess. How have you been all these years? Must have been a truly wonderful journey all along. Yes, must have been. Else how do you explain your sitting here early in the morning, reading a newspaper, with this contented look on your face? I wish I were you.”

“And I wish I were you, my child! So young and beautiful! You remind me of my days I had spent in the lap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, so many years ago. Pristine white snows adorning the blue, scraggy rocks. At the base lay the vast rolling plains of African Savannah. We had been to Serengeti National Park. During the days that followed, we saw the primal nature of life and death.

There cannot be anything more beautiful on the face of earth than witnessing death stalking life, every single moment, and every single breath. It all seemed like a surreal world where violent passion for life reigned supreme. A passion, so raw and violent, and yet so beautiful. You could see this in every streak of blood that poured out of a struggling young gazelle.”

Ana was wonder struck. The old woman had spoken with such richness of vision that it all lay bared before her eyes. For a moment she was empty, devoid of longing, and poised like a drop of water hanging from the leaf blade after a heavy shower.

“Love life, child, for what it’s worth. The sheer beauty of every single moment could drive you crazy only if you stare back at what’s passing by. Moments come and go, taking away what you were in that moment and leaving behind what you could be the next moment. Why carry the burden of a lifetime when you could wash them away in this flowing tides?

You are born anew, every moment, from that timeless womb that wraps you and me.”

Ana didn’t know what to say. She only heard her breath. And saw a smile, through the haze of mist that clouded her mind, she had longed to see. It was he, smiling.

“Strange, how these voices can keep on going. I push them out of the door, and they start banging on the windowpane like raindrops, hitting the glass, and then flowing down in small streams. I listen to them for a while, and realize they wouldn’t stop. It’s the monsoon of my life.”

Blue green water lay stretched before her. The lake was not so big. It was beautiful though. On other days, people could be seen rowing quietly across the placid water. Suddenly, a kingfisher shot up from a dead branch sticking out of the still water, and floated in mid air, beating its wings frantically. And, then dropped itself into the water. Ripples went out from the place it had hit. Moments later, it emerged with a fish in its beak. The sun was breaking out of the trees.

Ana got up, walked to the edge which was lined with reeds, and grasses. Dragonflies were hovering over the water. She stopped. There was a peculiar silence out there. She listened closely hoping to listen to buzz of their wings. But all what she heard was a constant buzz of silence ringing in her ears. “Be careful, child. The water is deep in there, and the soil is still wet from last night’s rain,” the old woman warned her. Ana walked on along the bank. She was past everything now. She sat down by a rock, with her legs dipped in the water.

“There are things that we don’t need anymore, and yet somehow we forget to throw them away. They keep on lying around for years right before us. But we live our life as if they don’t exist. Somehow we get comfortable and familiar with their invisible presence. They become the part of our lives. And so essential they become that we would miss them if they cease to be.”

The fishes swam in and started playing around her legs. A smile broke lose and stretched like a rainbow around her pretty face.

The kingfisher flew out again into the open air, out of the woods.

Somewhere, in those same moments, a man shot his 35 years old wife and a 9 years old son at point blank range, and then killed himself. He had left a note for his parents stating the reason. He was tired of carrying his life. And so had decided to put it down.

And he did.

By a pool of blood.

//27th May 2003

There is no love of life without despair of life. I hear him pronounce this through the pages written some good 70 years ago. Sitting here, alone, I find this phrase demanding attention, drawing me to focus on absurdity that life is. Time seems to have come to a halt. The constant din of ceiling fan wheezing above adds to this sense of timelessness. The hand of this table clock keeps on ticking. And nothing exists at this moment, but this strange desire to cling to life – knowing very well that she holds forth no promises, only a sense of familiarity. But then, even death redeems nothing. Or does he?

I do not know. I cannot know. For all I know is this that I have soaked in enough sun to live on. A smile from the girl walking across the street is enough for me to fall in love with her and with life. The sea-green water breaking on the shores is enough for me to set the sail to some distant land. Watching a toddler crawl on his belly is enough to drive me to reach out for the heights I aim for. And, watching men suffer is enough for me to denounce this very life I so dearly cling to. For all I know is I ride the waves. And death would stale my ride.

But why this tenacity to live on? Has life given me enough reasons to believe that redemption is her ultimate gift? Has she given me enough reasons to believe that everything would turn out just the way I want? That when I die I would be led the way to heaven? That my memories would be respected by posterity? That my fame would outlive even the very stones I kick with my dirty boots? No. And yet, I find this strange, unexplained desire to cling to life, make love to her every living moment – knowing very well that once I die, I would have no more befitting words than “Eternal Regrets” to embellish my tomb.

I had met a man once, a year and a half ago, when I was visiting the Banaras Hindu University. He earned his living by singing devotional songs at the gate of temple of Shiva. He was alone and had no one to turn to in this old age. He had been there for past 20 years, and during all these years, never once did he see the God he loved so dearly; and yet he lived on.

And then, on my way back, there was this man I met on the train to New Delhi; a poor, half-naked monk, embittered by life, and haunted by his past. All his life he has been trying to come to terms with the sins he had committed some decades ago. He was a ranker in the Indian Army, and in one hockey match, in the heat of the moment, had smashed his stick on one of his fellow player and had killed him. That was some good 15 yrs ago. Since then he had been on the run. God for him had become a meaningless phrase. And yet, he lived on.

There are men and women I saw on the streets of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, picking foods from the city dumps, rearing their child on the roads, and waiting for hours, in long queues, for 2 pints of water from the local municipal water tanks. Their knee-high shacks leave no room for any movement, whatsoever. Privacy is a luxury they cannot afford. And the sea (I speak, here, of the fishermen living along the coast of Madras) could swell anytime and wash them away. The sight makes me throw up in disgust. And yet, they live on.

The life enamors them as much as she did Alexander, the Great.

But there are men who choose to turn away. Giving up life and her pleasures. But I wonder whether that serves any purpose. Death, to me, is a dream, as much as life is, or rather a transition between dreams. And all they do, by giving up life, is scuffle around from dream to dream.

There was once this strange old hag. She had a way with the spirits. She lived alone and had nothing much significant left to be done in her life. One day she received five thousand francs from a sister who had died bequeathing her the money. Now this money had to be invested properly. The woman remained true to herself. At that time, a lease had expired on one small patch of land behind the local church, and the proprietor had erected a tomb on it. Made of black granite stones, the tomb stood out in a grand way. The woman liked it so much that she bought it for four thousand francs. Then she got her name carved out in gold on the door to the tomb. Satisfied with her investment (now that the investment was secured from any political upheavals, or changes in stock market rates), she ended up paying herself a daily visit to her final resting-place. That was the only time she came out for a walk. She would go down into the chamber and kneel on the prie-dieu and pray for hours together. It was in these moments that she stood before the realization of what she was and what she would become. And this continued for as long as she can remember. One day a symbolic gesture even made her realize that in the eyes of the world she was dead. On All-Saints-day, arriving later than usual, she found some violets scattered respectfully around the entrance to her tomb. Some visitor, having seen the grave empty of any offerings, may have strewn the flowers to respect her long neglected memories.

Such is death. And such is life. Dreams, and nothing more.

I had once thought this life to be a chance, so short and precious that it would be sinful to waste. One is prompted to work, to do something worthwhile. But one would waste ones life, if by doing one loses oneself. Life is to be lived in the constant awareness of this self, and never by any rules of the book.
All my life, I was urged to live a virtuous life; asked to choose the right over the wrong. But the more I live, the more they become a haze, a mist of confused notions – these choices, I mean. I do not wish to choose any longer. To live a moral, ethical and just life is an oxymoron; for how can one love ones life and yet be moral? How can one live ones life and yet be just? “To long for morality when one is a man of passion is to yield to injustice the very moment one speaks of justice. Man sometimes seems to me a walking bundle of injustice”.

What does it matter – all these prattles about morality and ethics, Of justice and equality, Of religion and God? To be selfish is ones only religion. Can you imagine life minus the acts of her cruelty? I have seen a baby mountain-eagle tearing apart its weaker brother and pushing him out of the nest, over the cliff! One day, this same baby would grow up and spread its wings to the chilly wind and fly off over the rock. And you would stare agape at its magnificent beauty and power; you would look around and see the mountains, with ice capping the dull gray rocks, and that same eagle soaring high up in the electric blue sky, and, in that moment of inspiration, you would perhaps even write a poem; or perhaps cry out with utter passion, “Life IS beautiful!!!”. Indeed.

One cannot live ones life and be just, moral, ethical at the same time. One cannot be anything at all. One simply lives. Or rather one is lived. Some slaughtered mankind in death camps. Some tried to prevent further killings.

Someone bored into the heart of nature and brought back the secret to unlock energy out of matter. And some used that secret to make nukes. Men were burnt in gas chambers and the grease was used to make soaps for human consumption.

For ages, tribes of men across the world venerated the Swastika. This symbol stood for joy, laughter, happiness and good luck. People placed it on their doors to ward of evil. But during the last war, millions shivered at the very sight of it, because for them, it was harbinger of unspeakable terror and death – the symbol of Evil itself, the symbol of Nazi regime.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” – said the plank over the wrought iron gates to Auschwitz I, meaning, ‘work will make you free’ – an adage from karmic philosophy. How ironic men can be! But then it is in the nature of man. And thy shall do what thy nature commands of you. Men ride the waves, slipping down to the trough and then rising up the crest. There cannot be anything otherwise.

One moment I am the lecher, drooling over some nubile young lady, and the other moment I am the Buddha, ready to worship the very same lady I desired…. Life is the eternal golden braid – with strands of good and evil enlaced. To pick at the strands is like to pick at the very fiber of life. And if you are insistent, then life itself will come apart. Or become more enmeshed.

This, perhaps, explains my sense of despair. And this, perhaps, also explains the exhilarating joy at my being alive. The love of life and the despair of life co-exist, in this very moment and in all the moments yet to come, like strands of good and evil, thoroughly enlaced and makes me what I am.

And there is no love of life without despair of life.

(The ‘him’ I mention here is a writer named Albert Camus, who once wrote the opening phrase ‘There is no love of life without despair of life’ in one of his Essays “The wrong side and the right side” way back in 1937. He happens to be the youngest writer awarded the Nobel for Lit.)

//Jan 2001