I Run… Yet I Remain

Whenever I lose a dear one, am hurt by someone close, or when I make a mistake—I try to console myself. The collective wisdom asks me to learn from life-lessons and move on. But the anger and the angst keep hurting. Memories never fade. Sadness doesn’t leave. Good, bad or ugly—sounds, sights and smells linger. Yes, with time it becomes easier to forgive. But can we ever forget? I can’t. I run…Yet I remain.

People and experiences are never alike. There is no template for life questions, answers and lessons. Each time I cry, my tears are different. My laughter is never the same in every situation.

The way each tragedy kills is unique. Happiness gives joy in myriad hues. We can’t copy- paste life’s dimensions, times and relationships. Perceptions differ and keep changing. These can’t be framed in formulae.

We live and die moment to moment. And each moment we are reborn, we are different—so is the world. My thoughts echo in Heraclitus’s words: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts Series

Self Portrait: Fireside Thoughts

Fireside Thoughts-Self Portrait

Living Bridges And Walk Of My Life

I was awestruck when I encountered ‘Umkar’—the jaw-dropping ‘living root bridge’—while exploring the woods of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The breathing roots of trees met, merged, and melted into a spectacular living bridge. ‘Umkar’ called me to connect, lured me to climb,  urged me to cross.

The primitive relationship between trees and people echoes in these living-root-bridges, such as the legendary ‘Double Decker’ of Nongriat village. Villagers of West Jaintia and East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya create these marvels from the living aerial roots of Ficus Elastica—Indian rubber tree. 

The merging bridges signify the possibilities emerging from enduring bonds among humans, and between humans and nature. These bridges implore us to build, not to burn or break. Trees and roots teach us the ancient law of existence, infinity, and eternity—to rise but to retain and remain rooted.

Walking in the whistling woods is the walk of my life—a journey within and without. Sights, scents, and sounds of surroundings seduce my senses; heart wonders, mind wanders. The wind caresses; the morning warmth envelops and spurs me to sing Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Dawn enchants me, dusk enthralls. The stars and the moon play hide and seek among the silhouettes touching my melancholy.

I hear children laugh and clap when the birds coo and flap. My eyes see a lass flutter her eyelashes when the butterflies dart and flit. Swinging trees remind me of dancing lads drunk on youth.

The walk of life takes me to times, people, and places—near, far, and forgotten. Nostalgia overpowers, reason raises existential questions. The heart hums Tagore’s “Ekla Cholo Re”, while the wind whispers: “I am with you in your quest.” I discover the search is never complete, the journey never ends.

Great minds join my life-walks. I regain the lost paradise when the music of a Mozart or a Beethoven seeps into my soul. The world is worth and a wonder when a Wordsworth or a Wodehouse exhilarates with his words. My thoughts ask people petty and pompous to ‘take a walk’, but never with me. I imagine scenarios from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” when I see dogs on the leash—what if the roles are reversed?

People closer than closeness betray. Men and women use even the beautiful and the fragile—a flower, a ‘Parijat’—to deceive. Parijat wilts, love withers, memory mourns, treachery torments.

If we forget the count of time, forsake the weight of living, and embrace nature with abandon, we can drown in the ecstasy of “dolce far niente”—the sweet pleasure of doing nothing. Exhorts us Mary Shelley—to live by leaving: 

“Let us… seek peace… near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies. Let us leave ‘life’, that we may live.”

Nature’s rhythms sing songs of bliss. Its spirit tells stories of love and kindness. Her sounds are symphonies of silence and solitude. With nature in the heart, soul breaks into a dance; the Wordsworth in us serendipitously finds a hidden beauty.  But this mysterious temptress never reveals all. It delights with the innocence of a nymph and entices with the coquetry of a woman wily and wanton. 

Mother nature provides shelter, solace, and sustenance. She gives us sense, sensitivity, and sanity, and sanitizes our souls. We return to roots and answer our calling when we come home to her. She invites us to feast on her, on life—to drink and devour from its abundance. Forever fecund, life pours from her pores; but we kill this very life. We pilfer, pillage, plunder.

The universe is unity. Humanity, the most conscious member of this singularity, must keep the harmony intact for its survival. Call it an epiphany, or awakening of ecological conscience—we share the pulse of existence, and in this sharing lie human hope and destiny.

“Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts -Trees Series”

The edited version of this article was published in The Economic Times dt. 11.01.2021: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/the-speaking-tree/the-living-bridges/

Images

  • Umkar Living Root Bridge Pic: Sukumar Bardoloi;
  • Double Decker Living Root Bridge: Arshiya Urveeja Bose

In Search of Mergings

Rooted apart, trees crave to unite, intertwine, interlock. They grow to reach out and connect. Their trunks long to meet, branches yearn to mingle, roots lust to merge. They sway in unison and sing the song of togetherness with whispering winds, or in silence. Trees dance in euphoria when they touch and embrace.

I see it every day when I look out of my window, when I take a walk in the park, or when I pass through a forest. Trees support each other, give space, share, and spread the shadows—but never sinister. Trees are the same everywhere.

Humans too are the same everywhere. But they differ from trees. They grow apart when they grow. They seek separation, not closeness. Proximity causes anxiety, affection is affected, feelings are faked.

Trees put me to thoughts like none else. I wish humans were less like humans and more like trees.

Robert Macfarlane captures the magic:

“I think of good love as something that roots, not rots, over time, and of the hyphae that are weaving through the ground below me, reaching out through the soil in search of mergings.”

“Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts”—‘Trees Series’.

Pic: Jacaranda sings n sways to meet mingle n merge

Jacaranda Pic

Soul has no Secrets which Behaviour doesn’t Reveal

Recently I read a true story. Takeaways:
There are two kinds of advisors in this world:

(a) Those- who hear both sides of the story, filter all exaggerated nonsense and obvious lies, and give advice based on basic principles of truth, fairness, equity and empathy… If they err, they err on the side of kindness;
And
(b) Those who hear only one side and ill-advise—gloating in their bookish knowledge and wisdom without considering human values, and short and long-term repercussions. They put a price to each emotion and act, and dig long forgotten graves to bring skeletons out. They do enormous harm to all.

The ill-advisor and the ill-advised either have no soul or have sold it.

As a wise person had said— “Soul has no secrets which behaviour doesn’t reveal.” 

david-marcu-14AOIsSRsPs-unsplash

Wise in Foolishness

Religious rituals perhaps have their logic and use, but they don’t sit easy on my shoulders.

Not for me the rituals with no relation to the real. If feelings glisten my eyes, if emotions touch my heart, if sentiments stir my soul—I am alive. And being so alive exhilarates me.

If I can keep my sanity, achieve equanimity, and forgive myself and others for the dark deeds… I would have found Nirvana.

I believe—I am good enough if I am human, and better if humane.

My prayers were answered whenever parents held my hand; I find heaven in the smile of innocent children; I see Gods in the humans who are kind.

My simple routines uplift me—work gives me a high, reading a good book delights me, I am buoyed when I don’t write nonsense.

I am intoxicated in nature’s embrace; I am thrilled when children bring out the child in me; I am awesome and in awe of myself with friends.

My little rituals and elaborate idiosyncrasies—brewing a heady mix of Earl Grey, Assam, and Darjeeling for 3 minutes for that perfect cocktail in a cup, admiring swaying Jacaranda from my window every 33 minutes, listening to Richard Clayderman’s ‘Souvenirs En France’, ‘Theme from Romeo & Juliet’, and ‘Ballade Pour Adeline’ (only in that sequence) for 13 minutes in the shower every morning—transcend me.

These unadulterated rituals and routines fulfil me and reward me a life uncluttered, uncomplicated, and uncompromised. These put my feet firmly on the terra firma and the head high in the heavens while my middle meddles with the mundane.

I am religious about my rationality, fanatic about my fancies, and stubborn about my story. I don’t pretend, nor do I fake.

Perhaps I am wise in my foolishness.

“Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts” Series

These are my personal thoughts. The intent is not to criticise or belittle anyone or any views.

Jacaranda Tree

Cede & Concede… Lose Senses & Control

Decided to cede control? Cede all the way… And sooner the better.

Putting someone on the steering wheel and continuing to caution and correct from the back seat is a perfect recipe for disaster. The driver has a nervous breakdown; many times the passengers are burdened with broken bones and the unfortunate others suffer collateral damages. Two drivers are too many.

Having ceded management and control of affairs at home or work, why be a leech? It is foolish to nag, instruct, and enquire repeatedly. Trust people, let them make mistakes and learn on the job.

Try to pull the reins forever and be sure to lose respect… and self-respect. Limit yourself to offer help in changing the punctured tyre or filling the tank. Be subtle when pointing out a wrong turn.

Sit back in the back seat and enjoy the luxury of being driven around; after all, you have driven the people crazy all your life. Feel and fly like a bird and sing “Una Paloma Blanca” at the top of your voice. Consume chilled Corona*, sip nimboo-paani**, or savour a Shandy. Be sozzled, spill—it makes sense to lose senses… and control.

*the bottled version; ** lemonade

Wondering Mind & Wandering Thoughts Series

Image: LA Times

JPEG-backseat driving-LA Times

Not Lived If Never Lost

We have not lived if never been lost…

Wandering in whispering woods or in wondering thought,

Wrong to question, weird to believe…

Wily wilderness waits, wanton as I live.

The deeper I immerse, loftier I emerge…

Where conscious n unconscious meet n merge,

Swingers are silent and shadows sway n prance…

Living are still, dead and deadwood sing n dance.

Where when who why and what, is it worth n wise to ask…

Winter winds in the willows whistle, whether weather ever will mask,

Wistful wishes weave wonder worlds within and without…

Wait, it’s wound n waste; weary will wilts, whims whimper for a way out.

Photo: @rosenfeld.mandy

Moving Tree… Journey Through Roots, Spirit n Time

I am rooted, I remain…but to rise roll n run /

I resist, I rest…yet restless I rustle n rush /

I am recluse, I am restricted…only to rove ride n race /

I resign, I am reigned…but I ramble reach n return /

I am restrained, I retire…yet raring roused n rampant.

I stand, I am still…but to sweep sway n swing /

I stay, I surrender…yet I speed sprint n spring /

I sit, I straddle…only to start stir n stride /

I snooze, I am static…but swift spirited n sprite /

I sleep, I settle…yet I sail slip n slide.

 I am tied, I am timed…but to tread trend n travel /

I tremble, I tumble; yet I trip twist n twirl /

I am trapped, I am trounced; only to touch tour n turn /

I am torn, I am tranquil; but I try trek n trace /

I am tired, I am troubled; yet I tour transit n traverse.

My Tree Series

Pic: Linde Lanjouw – unsplash

Is Social Media Turning Us into Zombies?

My following article (titled as above) was published in The Deccan Herald, Bangalore on 28.9.2020. Link:

https://epaper.deccanherald.com/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=28999f660bc&imageview=0

Article reproduced below:

The hard-hitting documentary trending on Netflix—“The Social Dilemma”—begins with eerie music and a chilling quote that alludes to social media as a curse. In this, several executives who held top positions in social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter warn about the existential crisis caused by these manipulative organizations.

It hits us hard with several facts we are unaware of, or continue to ignore. The covert aim of the ‘free’ platforms is to monetise the social media use. They constantly track, collect, and analyse data on every facet of our lives. The advertisers on the social media misuse this data to predict and influence buyers’ behaviour. We, the unaware users, are the products being bought and sold. It is a market trading in “human futures”.

Social media companies treat people as specimens. They deploy experimental tools such as Persuasion Psychology, Growth Hacking, and A/B testing to manipulate behaviour at the subliminal level for multiplying users and their engagement. The social networks lure, push, pull, and even annoy us into doing what they want. These platforms programme our preferences for people, places, and pleasures. They seduce us to buy a product or service which we never wanted. These networks decide how should we live. 

Social media companies exploit social, biological, and evolutionary instincts, and pander to our ‘reward/approval seeking’ tendency. They keep nudging us to ‘like’, check, chat, comment, view, share—the list is endless. We have moved away from user-driven tool-based technology environment to an addiction and manipulation-oriented system. This dopamine releasing drug turns us into addicts and morphs us into zombies and robots.

Social media pandemic has permeated our psyches and penetrated our lives. It has entered our bedrooms and invaded our boardrooms. It tempts us while we sleep, lounges with us in our living rooms, dines with us, and accompanies us to toilet. This pest drives out with us, and sits on our shoulders in school, office, and parties. The fake forces us to forget family and friends. Social media has appropriated our essential resources: time, mind, and free will for making intelligent choices. 

Social media exploits human weaknesses, conditions people, and causes depression. Children and young-adults suffer most—they stay glued to screens for hours, seeking self-worth from pseudo social approval. This self-deception disillusions and disorients. An increasing number of pre-teens and teens are harming and killing themselves after getting hooked to social media.

The agony and insanity caused by manipulation of our minds and behaviour by social media come alive in “The Scream” painted by Edvard Munch, which i have posted here.                

Unlike Wikipedia, social media tells different versions of truth to different people. It changes the reality based on which we act. These platforms create and disseminate fake news. They spread conspiracy theories which can influence elections, create social unrests, and destabilise democracies. To achieve such results through social networking sites is easy because they are fast, cheap, and effective. Social media has circulated claims, counter claims, and lies about Covid-19 pandemic, Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and climate change. Fake news spreads faster and generates more money for social media companies.

Social media is dangerous because the advances in this technology are exponential as compared to evolution of the human mind. Powered by artificial intelligence, this has become an existential threat for the humanity because of its ability to bring out the worst in society. 

Why is it difficult to shake the monkey off our backs? The documentary answers: it gives us both—Utopia and Dystopia. Social media is an enormous problem, but it has made significant contributions. It is neither possible nor advisable to shut off this engine. Yet serious considerations of ethics, conscience, and humanity remain. The social networks are changing who we are. This raises grave questions for civilisation, and our present and future. 

The crux is the manner in which social media companies earn. Making money is not immoral, but manipulation is. Companies are acting as de facto governments. Stringent laws govern harmful businesses such as illegal drugs, human trafficking, and trading in human organs. Then why not laws for these social media companies which manipulate our minds? 

The responsibility to correct this state of affairs lies with these companies, the governments, the civil society, and the individuals.

These platforms must self-regulate and operate with ethics. They have to dump their manipulative tactics and technologies. This is their responsibility because they created them.

Governments need to regulate the social media platforms with strict laws, penalties, and punishments. The civil society can debate, generate awareness, and engage with these platforms, governments, and public for creating collective will for reforms.

As individuals we must say ‘NO’, and demand that these technologies do not treat us as lab-rats and manipulate us. We have to switch off notifications, remove unwanted apps, and limit screen time for ourselves and our children. Most designers of social media either do not allow, or give limited supervised social media access to their children. We better exercise our mind, will, and choice.

Social media is a problem that needs a solution. The answer lies not in destroying these platforms, but in reforming them. We have to control these controllers. We can’t allow them to hack our happiness. Smart phones are making us phoney. The social media is changing us into anti-social. We have to stop this.

https://epaper.deccanherald.com/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=28999f660bc&imageview=0

लफ्जों  के  लिबास  नहीं  होते ! Words are Naked !

जो  बातें  कभी  जाहिर  नहीं  होती

खामोशियाँ  जिक्र  कर  जाती  हैं

लिहाज  का  क्या  कहें

लफ्जों  के  लिबास  नहीं  होते

काफिले  चलते  रहते  हैं

कारवां  जाता  है  गुजर 

क्या  खोया  क्या  पाया

रिश्तों  में  हिसाब   नहीं  होते

परछाइयां  धुँधली  हैं

पर  खोया  चेहरा  ढूँढ़ते  रहते  हैं

आईने  पे  सायों  की  जमी  हैं  परतें 

अधूरे  ख्वाब  कभी  पूरे  नहीं  होते

हवाएं  न  जाने  कहाँ  उड़ा  ले  जाती  हैं

परिंदे  परेशां  नहीं  होते

ऊंचे  आकाश  में  छुपी  है  समंदर  की  गहराई 

ख्यालों  के  कभी  दायरे  नहीं  होते

बनावटी  बातें  जो  हैं …उनसे

कभी  कभी  नमी  का  अंदेशा  तो  होता  है

पर  लफ्जों  की  धोकेबाज़ी  से

दिलों  के  रेगिस्तान  हरे  नहीं  होते

बेगानों  में  अपनों  को  खोजते  हैं

और  दूरियों  में  नजदीकियां

दहलीज  पे  खड़ी  ज़िन्दगी देती  है दस्तक    

धड़कनों  के  दरमियाँ  फासले  नहीं  होते

ख्वाइशों की हसरतों  से  हैरत  क्यूँ ,

फितरत  को  जब  हरकतों  से  फुर्सत  नहीं

उधार  की  ज़िन्दगी  से  नाराज  क्यूँ 

हमराज  अक्सर  हमसफ़र  नहीं  होते

क्या  इंसानियत  के  चर्चे 

क्या  हैवानियत  के  किस्से

शख़्शियत   के  कई  अंदाज  हैं  ये 

हासियों  में  बंटी   ज़िन्दगी  के  मायने  नहीं  होते

Pic : Amanda APS