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.

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Where are you?

When I eat, when I drink,

as I go to bed, pretty much on the brink,

and then as I wake up – hoping that I never did,

for sometimes, I wish someone put the lid

on my life and shut it, forever. 

Work I do for what else is there?

Life, I live for death isn’t fair

We strive, if only to stay up and stare,

at the roof on lonely nights,

bereft of all meaning the mind is caught in a blight

And if there was ever anything that I wanted,

more than my own less than precious life

is to get over this inner strife

of forever searching, seeking, struggling 

for that one look of kindness. 

And when I don’t find it, the eyes fill with non-existent tears,

yet only I may know all the fear,

of living with you, yet being without you,

so much that my soul this feeling may sear.

As days go by, I look back into the moments that were but few,

all I hear myself ask, is where are you? 

Arise! Awake!

Don’t take things to your heart, my friend. It is important to feel, no doubt. Sometimes, it is feeling, more than anything else that moves us to do something. Yet, I say, don’t be disheartened.

I believe there is a large scheme of things. Adversity is made to strengthen us. Remember, even this will pass away. And you will come out stronger. You must. There’s no other way.

Did you say that things are tough for you, that life has been tough on you? Since when did a brave-heart like you fear, and complain about circumstances? Since when did you give up? Don’t you know that our circumstances are entirely our making? If you complain about fate, I remind you about freewill.

So stop whining. And get up!

Do you sincerely want something?

Is it just?

Then don’t stop before you get it. More importantly, don’t forget to put every ounce of effort into it. And never ever give up.

Wake up, young India. A belated Happy National Youth Day to you.

The silence of the hills

The little I saw of Dehradun as we drove out from the Railway Station, headed to Uttarkashi, was nothing like I had remembered. And why not? I had, after all, visited the town more than two decades ago. I was struck ‎by a pang as I left the town. There is a very visible impression , perhaps scars, that humans are leaving on earth. No doubt mountaineering has contributed to it too, and significantly in the recent times.

The rest of the drive was very different. The 140 odd km we had to cover was mostly through the hills. At dawn, it was all a misty grey of various shades. At one point, I noticed that a valley we were crossing was brightening up. When I look to my rear, I found a hill, hiding the sunrise on one side. Consequently, half the valley was painted golden yellow and it was slowly spreading as we drove. 

For the next hour or so, that was how it was. The hills were part yellow, part dark, depending on where the sunlight fell. It was a sight to behold, and for a change, I just soaked in, rather than reach out to my device to click pictures. 

Slowly, it brightened up, and by mid morning, the sun was shining bright enough to make me squint at times. The sights all along, until we reached our desti‎nation, was alternatively brown and green. The hills closer to us looked dark green where there were trees. At some places, it was shades of brown.

“Winter would be here soon‎. The pilgrimages shut down. And water will become scarce, ” said Omkar Singh, who was driving me to my destination. It was apt that my driver had to be named so. My earliest memory of this place goes back to a time when we were motorcycling. I had stopped for a cup of tea and had enquired about riding in the night. The rules prevented it, I was told; but otherwise I had nothing to fear. “Not even the animals harm you here. This is Dev Bhumi.”

As I mull over these thoughts, I do feel an unmistakable sense of divinity in these parts. And then, out of nowhere appears my first sighting. The snow capped Himalayas. This time, we stop. I take a picture, but in those moments, all my thoughts seem to cease. A calmness descends upon me as I stand there, watching in silence. ‎

I am here, for you.

I have been meaning to write more, this year. If the last few years were to go by, then I may have written a bit more in this year, owing obviously, to that month long posting challenge that I had taken up.

I have also been meaning to write, in particular about the tree. I don’t have one particular tree in my mind as I write this. I am sure I would recall many of them, if I thought enough about it, but that isn’t the idea.

I am absolutely fascinated with the three. And no matter how many I see in the different places that I’ve been blessed enough to go to, my fascination with it doesn’t end. Sometimes, it is small, at other times, bigger than you first think it is. It isn’t until you stop and stare, crane your neck up and all around, that you realise how really vast it has grown. You wonder how old the tree would be, for it to have grown so big.

The three doesn’t need much. Save the initial days when someone must water it and protect it, consciously. Once it is on its own, the tree just lives with the help of precipitation, and without doubt, help from all the other creatures that come together in this wondrous phenomenon called nature.

Now, here’s the best part. It isn’t just there. It is fascinating how it can be such a vast, yet quiet living being. It is life! We may not perceive it as we may perceive life, in say, a dog or a human being. Not only does it live, it seems to support life too, in many ways – it cools, is home to other creatures & is helpful in many amny other ways.

I can not imagine how many times people may have sought shade under its branches. I have done it countless times, and I admit that I haven’t been conscious of it always. As a kid, I have my fondest memories associated with the tree because I would find every chance to climb on it. Among other things, it gave a wondrous sense of adventure to climb a tree. The sense of victory, after having climbed the most difficult one, was an unspeakable emotion in those days. I can not describe it adequately enough, save to suggest, that if you haven’t done it yet, I would strongly recommend that you do it. And your children do, too.

The tree is truly a miracle. If you don’t believe in God or miracles, surely you derive joys in the wonderful workings of nature? I wish that you and I are kind to it. The tree.

Crazyvians

There is one person who loves dogs and cats so much, that strays outside of our office are fed and groomed. Those not exactly fond of quadrupedals need to be wary of these furry friends lounging at the entrance.

Yet another young chap will be kind enough to inform you before the start of the meeting, that he needs a break – to  run down the street to grab a cup of tea. “I’ll be back in ten”, he’d say only to never return, leaving some of us to wonder if he is alright. A phone call would reveal that our man, in his absent-mindedness, forgot about the impending meeting and settled down for a conversation with someone at the tea-shop.

Some don’t seem to go home at all; they are hanging around till late every evening. Others’ routine unfolds with clockwork like precision. They are in on time, and at the stroke of their exit time, they are seen leaving. It is so precise, that I could calibrate my watch with their entry and exit, if I needed to.

Some are sports geeks, the latest fad being running a marathon. A lot many are foodies, always ready to partake any food that is presented to them. Some are engineers, others social workers, yet others ex-teachers, and not to mention the management graduates. While EZVians may be a very diverse bunch, in terms of their education, their personalities, the languages they speak or food they prefer, there also seems to be some common things uniting them. For one, I have never seen anyone shirk work or frown at the prospect of a task. In fact it is always the opposite – people are always enthusiastic about pitching in. This is despite the fact that the best of our ideas seem to creep up in the last minute, and involve significant effort. And significantly, all of them (save me, perhaps!) are of a pleasant disposition and are in general smiling.

I am thankful to EZV for bringing in a diverse, passionate and genuinely warm set of people into my life. Every single one of them inspires me in different ways – something that I seem to need, quite often.

Home is where the heart is

As children, we would ask each other, ‘What is your native place?’. I did learn eventually that it was not appropriate usage and that the correct way to ask the question is perhaps, ‘Where do you come from?’ or ‘Where do you belong?’. In India, as I travel and meet different people, I find it quite commonplace to be asked questions regarding my religion, caste, and even my marital status, leave alone where I am from.

My paternal grandfather was born in Lalgudi and grew up in Pollachi. His wife was from Coimbatore. My own father was born and grew up in Mettupalayam. My maternal grandmother was from North Paravur, while her husband was from Alwaye, while they both lived most of their life in Coimbatore, where my mother was born. And I was myself born and raised in Pondicherry.

So where I am from? In this talk, Pico Iyer raises this interesting question about where one’s home is, and says, ‘…home means less a piece of soil and more a piece of soul…’. A lot of people have strong feelings towards places. They like some places a lot, and I have observed people vehemently talk about disliking some places too! I have never been able to relate to the latter, of disliking a place. Of all the places I have ever traveled to, I have not disliked any of them. I am able to relate to every one of them in unique ways, be it the food, the sights, the customs or the people – one or the other thing resonates in me and I take with me a piece of it wherever I go. Like my friend Rani.

Every time I am asked where I am from, I think of the following verse written by one of the greatest philosophers from this country –

माता पार्वती देवी पिता देवो महेश्वरः
बान्धवाः शिवभक्ताश्च स्वदेशो भुवनत्रयम् ॥ *

For more than a decade now, I have lived in one of the oldest modern cities of this country. For those who aren’t from here, it can get annoying. The night life sucks and the booze, even more so, they say. The weather is warm & humid, and sometimes, it gets warmer. It has had a reputation of being ‘conservative’, which I have failed to understand fully well. Like any other place, I have grown to like this city. While I am still unsure about the idea of ‘home’, I am grateful to EZV for having afforded me to soak into Madras, a city that is unique like any other.

* – My Mother is Devi Parvati, and my Father is Deva Maheswara,
My Friends are the devotees of Shiva, and my Country is all the Three Worlds.