Sit down

Witness the flow. 

Ma

Please allow me to introduce my favourite person to you. She is just about the nicest creatures I’ve known. Pa isn’t too bad. (Don’t tell him I said that about him). He’s a good man, really. Over years, our relationship has evolved. Among other things, it has mellowed now.

They’ve both retired after a hectic life as doctors and it is nice to see them relax and do their thing. Pa tends to be a lot more worried, almost paranoid about things, as much as he likes to travel. Ma is of a cooler temperament, one must say. They’ve recently been to London and Edinburgh, and from there, to the US to be my sister. Ma had worked in Edinburgh for a year. This was close to 3 decades ago. For sometime now, she has wanted to go back and meet the friends she made during her stay.

She sent me this note (edited) on email. It says a lot about her.

This was on our way to San Diego. We were in line for security check. The procedure is different in each airport. Here one had to remove foot wear as well. While one person told me I need not remove them, just a little away I was asked to remove them. Already am anxious and there is the difficulty in trying to understand their pronunciation. To my anxiety, my bag was kept aside. A lady opened the bag after scanning with a detector she was holding and picked the objects that one is not supposed to carry in the cabin. Scrutiny was thorough. She then placed all the items, may be 4, inside a plastic bag and returned saying “All yours.” I was so relieved that my articles were not thrown away. When I mentioned this to Nithya, she said the items were returned only because they conformed to the specifications to be met  with and not as any special favour shown to me.😊

Nithya, incidentally, is my sister. Life is beautiful.

 

Us

Those moments of intimacy

when all I knew was you, 

bereft of any privacy

though souls awake, there were few.

They may see like a long time ago,

if only I could just live on.

For I know I must go,

to the beyond, and on.

Those moments, the oneness

they come back to haunt me

with the sweet smell of togetherness 

that could only be we.

Was it us, I wonder,

now that you’ve turned away,

And I’m torn asunder

by that one sway

that’s come about in my life.

I ask myself, what do I do?

For there may be love, laughter, even strife,

but that’s that life, without you?

What’s that you’re buying?

There’s been some noise around the ban on various single use plastics. I support the ban. I can see others support it too. And others yet trying to make it work. Despite the fact that I have pangs about people losing their livelihood and others being ‘inconvenienced.’ Funny. Plastic was undoubtedly introduced to make our lives more convenient. I had learnt to reduce plastic use early on. I think my parents got it from me and became better than me at it. Or may be they taught me, I don’t remember. Either ways, the problem, though, isn’t just that.

Garbage. I’ve been thinking I should do something about it.

That’s all I do – I think. I don’t ‘do’. I hope to change that, this year. Pick one thing. I’m picking the crap that you throw away. Like I picked the plastic bottle from atop and walked back half a dozen times as I was descending, because I would pause to take in the view, leave the bottle behind and remember only a little later, to go back. I finally dumped it in the first dustbin I found. Sadly, I didn’t find any until I had descended all the way down. Your crap. It was just a plastic bottle. There was more. I could have carried a sack and picked more. I didn’t.

This post is an attempt to get started. I wish I sustain myself. I pray for strength, for perseverance. I wish also for help. Those of you are are reading and wish to get associated with the cause, feel free to write to me. We’ll figure something together. Given who I am, I could do with some help. I can do the physical work. Someone please take up the cerebral stuff, will you?

Garbage. I have two huge bins that overflow, right across the street. I see that at the street corner a dozen times a day. I believe I’ve been normalised, if that’s the right way to put it. I want to change that. I want to stop accepting such things. At least one thing. I propose education, lobbying / legal routes & personal discipline as three ways to work towards it.

Garbage. It increases with consumption. You can’t escape that. The more you consume, the more crap you produce. Ever eat too much? The solution isn’t just banning plastics – because alternatives will easily be developed. They are, already. Soon we’ll have aluminium foil, cloth bags, those seedy cloth-bad like things and God knows what else. If it only a question of money & convenience, then we don’t think of the long term consequences. Money and convenience are as much our friends as they are foes. We have to be taught that, early on. Any single use ‘thing’ by definition is unsustainable. We must work towards reducing consumption of any kind and at least of packaging in particular. For instance, I carry bags when I step out of the house. I have half a dozen of them & I pick one or more according to the purpose. I have one stashed away in my laptop & travel bags, and one in my car. I just use them as much as possible. In fourteen years, I’ve used three phones. The third one is three years old. I am tempted to buy a newer and ‘better’ one. And I put off the temptation. This holds good for many other things. Reminds me of my home grown stalactites and stalagmites. Gee. Am I proud of remembering those terms! I’ve been steadfast in living with this refrigerator, even though it makes me slog. Over the years, with increasing frequency, I must add. Is anyone willing to take it from me? That may be an incentive to buy another one. I promise not to be sentimental about it.

Garbage. We must segregate it first. Then educate others to do it. And then we must lobby with the system for door to door collection at appointed times and in accordance with strictly enforced rules. Garbage can get out of homes only through people appointed to do the job, according to the rules set. People who violate must find rotting garbage left behind in their homes / premises. There’s no other way out. If I can just dump it somewhere, why would I care?

Garbage. Why would people segregate it? That it is collected once a day at the appointed time is the only incentive, I guess. We educate people to make the ‘right’ choices in life. What is ‘right’ can of course vary with time & place, but choice we must make – that’s at once a boon and a curse for the human race. And at this point of time in our evolution, I think this is one of those unavoidable choices. And how we choose can make all the difference. I won’t have anybody after me. I’m hoping the garbage truck will pick me up one day. Not the same for many of you, is it?

That apart, ever think how if there was one thing we could help our children with, it is the ability to make wise choices? Is that the crux of education itself, I wonder.

So please think about it. and unlike me, I hope you act as well.

 

The road trip

I like the road. I don’t know why. Or may be I do, but that isn’t what I want to write about. Then again, may be it is. For a student of Vedanta such as I am, life is a sojourn. Today, I wished farewell to a friend. We weren’t the thickest of friends. In fact, we were nothing like each other. I couldn’t stand him at times. I am sure it was mutual, given how crass I may have been in his eyes and viewed from his value systems. We had had our good times and bad. The last time I met him, as always, I asked him the forbidden question. He was his enthusiastic self. He promised me that we could meet after he was back from his travel, and his wife reprimanded him – it was festival day and she reminded him also that his health doesn’t afford him such vices.

I had invited a couple of friends to watch a movie with me. I didn’t tell them which one, and they were kind enough to oblige me anyway. I like giving people surprises. I don’t know how they took it. I liked the movie. I’ve wondered what makes me pick the movies that I watch. It is different things. If it is on the big screen, though, it may be the premise. It is the premise – of a black man, hiring a white man from the Bronx, to chauffeur him to the southern states in America in the 60’s – that fascinated me. This wasn’t just another road movie.

The two men form an unlikely friendship. They are chalk and cheese. This isn’t scripted, mind you – I think I saw somewhere that it is inspired from real life. So (pardon the cliche) we have a ‘cultured’ highly educated musician played by a black guy and a crass, cussing friend-chicken eating Italian American. Tony won’t be a man Friday, his job is to drive and he makes that clear. It is interesting, when the porter brings the bags and they both look at each other. Tony won’t make a move, until finally the porter loads the bags on to the car. The porter, interestingly, is Asian.

Dr Don Shirley, on the other hand, hasn’t ever eaten friend chicken – least of all with his fingers; he hasn’t visited the bar downtown and cussing is below his dignity. Regal as he may be, he realises that he needs to drive south. He is on a mission and Tony may be his best bet, in his assessment. There is irony from the word go, and this is as much about class as it is about skin colour.

Don is a musician, and the music in the movie was a highlight for me. More so, because it is accentuated by the visuals – the Don Shirley Trio playing in the most sophisticated places, to the most ‘cultured’ audiences. I was fascinated by the thing that is the piano. It is so massive, and to watch an artist’s fingers dance on it is an experience – those were some of the most memorable scenes for me, coupled with the music in the background.

As they travel, we get to see the racist America that was. Is it still that way even now, only superficially different, I wondered. Their journey together is eventful, and teaches many a lesson. Don, who would look down upon Tony, ends up at his very home for Christmas. And this is the Tony, giving Don a warm hub and welcoming him home. The Tony, who in the opening scene, throws away a pair of glasses because a couple of black repairmen drank out of them.

As different as they may both have been, they both seem to carry their set of values. There’s a certain sense of honesty. And yet, we see them being at odds, and learning, and evolving. After all, isn’t that what life is about – growth and evolution?

I am grateful for having had the company of people different from me. And I wish for more, so that then, I may overcome my small mind and grow to be a better person. When he left, and when I saw that body lie there, I could only recollect the good times we had together. And there were quite a few. After all, we had worked together and he was my neighbour for a few years as well.

Go well, my friend. If we met in another life, I shall wish that we were even more different from each other, and that our paths cross again, to begin another friendship. Until then, the scotch that you so relished can wait.

 

Milestones

It used to happen especially when I rode a motorcycle. I would notice the odometer now and then. And I’d only see it when the reading was just short of it, and then again, when it is crossed it.

1000, 5000, 10000, 50000…Every one of those milestones passed away in a similar manner. I would think that I ought to capture it when it happens. Take a picture of it perhaps. I wasn’t yet exposed to digital photography, and certainly not to social media. Not that I wanted to post the picture, if I could, bak then, but I would want to save it for posterity. To tell my non-existent grandkids, perhaps. Or sometimes just to look back and reminisce. After all, those two wheels had traversed long distances with me, over a significant period of time. They had seen many places, experienced many a challenge. None of it happened. I would miss every milestone. Until one day when I gave away my motorcycle. 

Much later, it happened again. Only this time, I wasn’t sure if I ought to be proud of the milestone. 10,000 isn’t a small number. Not by my standards. Even though it fades in comparison with what others have done. Why compare? I don’t, but the way we are brought up, at times, it is inevitable that the mind throws up comparisons with others.

I don’t feel like celebrating that number. And in that sense, I am glad I missed the milestone this time, if at all it is one. It showed me a whole new world, exposed me to several new facets, and some old ones. One of them being strong feelings – be it love or hatred. I wonder sometimes if the hatred spewed around is nothing but love for the opposite – be it a person or a way of thinking. 

More importantly, it changed the way I communicated. Brevity is the soul of wit, they say. And it certainly made me think of how I could say what I wanted to, within the constraints. I still impose the constraint on myself, even though they’ve freed us of it. Or have they, really? Willy-nilly, it pushed me to the shallow. Is it the nature of such a form of communication, or is it my inability? I would just skim and scroll, not really engage. And the few times I tried to, I would inevitably be disappointed. 

The biggest blow though was that it took me away from here. It wasn’t a blow, but more of a surreptitious move.Looking back, I hadn’t seen it coming. Slowly, depth gave way to the exact opposite. I would amuse myself momentarily. I would be angry, and even that would be momentary. It is the online equivalent of window shopping – an act that I have seldom indulged in. 

What has come of it? Some new experiences, new learning. And a significant loss, of words. Literally. In hindsight, the latter definitely outweighs the former. Here’s to 10,000 plus of those pithy footprints on the Internet. And with that, a reminder to myself, to engage more, to learn and work more deeply. And to write more. 

Tathaastu. 

Living through it all, stoically. 

Merku Thodarchi Malai is the story of a landless labourer in the Western Ghats. At one level, the plot is quite simple. It shows life in all its hues – birth, wedding, working, fighting, laughing and ultimately death too. At another level, it is the complex, extremely painful and sad story of a landless labourer. 

That is the heavy part. It makes you sad, it shakes you, it makes you question things, including the worth of your own existence. One has to deal with it, if you want to watch this movie. And watch it you must, if you asked me. 

That apart, I went into the cinema out of curiosity. I had heard of it of course, but that wasn’t the only reason; I was primarily interested in the hills. You do get to see some of it, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. If I had to think of one thing that let me down about the movie, it would be just this. And mildly so. The script only could lend itself that much to showing the hills. Those bits were delightful. They made me nostalgic, not only about the Western Ghats per se, but about the hills. I think I am as much a sea as a mountain person. If I had to choose, I’d find a place with both, perhaps. Beach at the foot of the mountain. And yet, there’s something about the mountains. They tend to draw me back. I had forgotten that feeling in all these years, except being reminded of it briefly when I went up there and broke my foot, and had to come back. Not tumbling, thankfully, but on a wheelchair. I felt it was a calling. I resolved to heed to it. I hope I do. I must. 

Every single frame in the movie is worth framing, literally. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, despite otherwise being a person who struggles to focus. I can be very focused as well, just as there are other contradictions that I am full of. Whoever it is, I realise, has played very well with light, especially in the scenes of dawn, dusk and night. I couldn’t help but envy the protagonist, just as I felt sad at his helplessness. He lives a simpler life. So simple, that you see him & others growing old, but more importantly, growing weary. This is a life where faith plays an important role, and the concept of faith has been presented in a wholly uncomplicated manner. Sanatana Dharma allows you to pray to a stone, literally, and so it is that simple. In this case, a pile of stones or even a tree.

There’s music by the Maestro. In the background. Unobtrusive, yet accentuating the overall aesthetic at just the appropriate places. And the songs remind me of something else I was perhaps missing. Music in general, and his music in particular. I realised I am a fan. The me, who understands fandom and still somehow thinks it is silly. 

Funnily enough, I had put out my tickets for sale. I was exhausted, I needed to rest. I tend to buy tickets now and then, and then not go. It has happened several times. This afternoon, I was trying to take a nap when I got called on my phone. It irritated me briefly as I couldn’t sleep afterwards. It was raining. I decided to go. After all I had the rain for company. The way it rained, I thought it would be a small adventure to drive out anyway. It is another thing that it stopped raining the moment I decided to go, something that one is otherwise thankful for. 

For once, I didn’t complain. My companion is in everybody, and everything. Every moment.