Sundowners at Sunset ! My Lockdown & Quarantine Musings…Journey from Serious to Hilarious.

I suggest savour the end-piece before the beginning. As Jacques Torres said-“Life is short. Eat dessert first” 🍨😊

After enjoying more than 2 months of Guwahati lockdown, now I am relishing Bangalore’s 14 days mandatory home-quarantine. And I feel freer than ever…not suffocation, but spirit soaring in the solitude. The silence 🤐 is eloquent 🗣, the limits and limitations are liberating. What with the wondering mind, wandering imagination, free flying thoughts…you get the drift. 🕺

I feel my wants and expectations from self and others reducing, receding…while I delve into the nature within and without. When I have rendezvous with the nature in my nature, the soul breaks into song n dance. Whenever I embrace the nature outside…the sky painted in myriad hues 🌈, the distant blue-green hills 🌲, the silvery-golden moon 🌙, the gloriously orange sunset setting the horizon on fire 🌅, chirping birds 🦜, fluttering butterflies 🦋…the window to the world opens many a windows to my soul. Oh, is the wind caressing me, or is it me caressing the wind ?🌠

Deleting toxic thoughts in tandem with unwanted mails and messages, I am trying to clear the cobwebs crowding my mind. Living with myself and my life, in my time, on my terms…I am coming to terms with myself. Doing away with dependencies small and big, I am keeping and making others safe from me😜

In my own beautiful company and in the spirit of ‘Ekla Chalo Re’ (Walk Alone), I am delighted by the days, lighted by the nights, and always ignited by the thoughts 🚶‍♂️🤔

Not that I am drifting towards ‘Sanyas’(renunciation)…far from it, for I find ‘Nirvana’(enlightenment) in the things material which I love most…reading what I haven’t in my ever-growing list 📚and re-reading what I have📖, furiously writing my unadulterated thoughts, devouring chocolates 🍬like there is no tomorrow (oh..‘temptation’ is so tempting), smelling its exotic aroma while gulping down endless cups of ginger-lemon-mint tea ☕️, listening to unbelievably beautiful lyrics of a Guljar and heavenly music of a Rahman or a Chopin 🎼, and occasionally enjoying a classic movie. But one indulgence I sorely and surely miss is the occasional sunset sundowner with back-slapping, name-calling friends 👥🍻

I think I will always be materialistic as far as these things go; and I hasten to add dark sunglasses, blue blazers, silk scarves, and a hat-at-perfect-angle, to the list. I have no shame in voicing my hedonistically vile vices. Let the style adorn me, if not the substance 😎🎩

To me these material matters matter. For me it will never be “Mind vs Matter”, but: “Man Minds the Matter”. Sometimes material is immaterial, and immaterial is material…who can sit in judgment ? 🧐

I have no quarrels with anyone, but sometimes with myself…which find expression in my prose and poetry. To quote W.B. Yeats: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry”. And let me add: Out of love with others we weave dreams; out of love with ourselves we live life. So I dream. So I live 😊

From life flows death. Seriously in a lighter vein, I know none among clan or friends will have the heart to write my obituary.📜 So, to save you the cost, time and trouble of hiring a professional obituary writer, I pen my own obituary. Publish it posthumously by simply replacing ‘I’ with ‘he’, interspersed with ‘Niru’ or ‘bro’ (not ‘bhai’ of the supari fame or ‘bhaiya’ the milkman, please), and “Woh” (for those who were romantically inclined towards me 💗), to introduce variety in the mundane foregoing text. Be stingy in your praise by all means, but a bit you must shower (for it is customary not to criticize the dead, however bad, ugly or both) 😂. And don’t forget to add these immortal lines:

“Oft beaten by life n times, he was a man offbeat but not off-colour 🌈, hence can’t be written-off without an obituary. With many a wild whims and questionable quirks, he insisted on writing ✍️what people didn’t want to read, particularly enjoyed reading about farting habits of fat pet cats🐈possessed by pot-bellied petty pensioners, and freely prescribed pills for piles to priests, peasants and pedants. He was harmless enough not to be noticed, and observant enough to notice the bird-shit sitting quietly on the right of his left eyebrow 👁. He decided early on never to decide what decision was good for him, and that decidedly decided his fate 😔. Some loved him (not his fault), most disliked him (serves them right), and due to his mysteriously enigmatic and unlikely-likeable persona 🧟‍♀️, many are perpetually in the in-between space of neither here nor there…now reluctantly liking him for 23 seconds…then reluctantly disliking him for 43 seconds…and the reluctant cycle keeps repeating 🔄. May his soul RIP sheltered from self.”😎

If Not Now, When ?

For most, New Year resolutions vanish as fast as the eve’s euphoria and intoxication. But the year with a new date printed on it, returns every 12 months, to give us an opportunity to course correct or to cheat ourselves yet again. So, life trudges on with its pits and pitfalls, bumps and bloopers, and occasional highs and wets…and worrisome waits.

But the Covid-19 has turned life topsy-turvy…the way we work, live, meet, party and play…or do not. This catastrophe has cornered and compelled some, and coaxed and cajoled others to introspect, to resolve, and to act, to tackle the “new normal”.

Many, who had some free time gifted by the virus, have taken the bull by its horns…taking good care of their and family’s health, doing what they enjoy but never had much time to do, killing the habits which could turn them into a deadwood or deadbeat, learning new work and life skills to survive and flourish in times to come, and also preparing  their children to face the present and negotiate the future. Their serious and funny posts and interactions on social media, unveil not only the culinary creativity, but also care, concern and conscience.

I honestly admit…my check-list is replete with crosses, as I frittered away for the frivolous. And, if for some valid or invalid reasons, your check-list too, has more crosses than ticks, don’t worry. Heavens have not fallen, and we have not missed the bus yet. We just have to hop on. It is a journey, and there are no full stops.

Life will never be the same. Life has changed. Life is changing.

Let’s ask: Have we? Are we?

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

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Picture: David Marcu/Unsplash

Silent Musings of Solitude… Being More Human, More Humane & No One But Myself.

I had slowly slumped into sweet slumber in solitude’s shadow; now rising, I see subtle changes in my soaring spirit and style…in ever so nuanced thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Confined in shrunken spaces, I have found soul’s landscape is vast and expands forever. Sitting in solitude, I have looked at myself…barebones and naked. I was never a saint and will never be; but feel more evolved, when less involved. Oh, I am changing… and how; yet never, though short-changed time and again.

Now I have more of many that were less, and less of some which were more.

 Now I laugh often, cry frequently, complain little, speak less, love much more and am hurt easily. I am writing a bit and reading quite a bit; I rest more in the arms of music, lose myself completely in the lap of nature, and play plenty with my thoughts. I have always had love affairs with these stunning beauties, now I lust.

Full of faults and failures, but with less of presumptions and prejudices, I am now able to judge less and understand more. Now I search less for motives, and look more for compulsions behind behaviours. I suspect I am growing, but am sure about my ego….it is not.

I am now more at peace being less cynical, less critical; and happier being more content, more accepting of myself and others…as I am and as they are…with idiosyncrasies and imperfections, wrinkles and warts. Now I am better at tolerating the rituals I hate, braggadocio that I despise, and stupidity which I abhor; but I still shun sham, shrew and sarcasm with contempt and disgust.

I have now forgiven those who betrayed me, though can never forget their treachery; for, the tormenting wounds run deep and traumatising scars remain perpetually raw. And my memories reside within me forever, for my soul sucks and soaks deep…every bit, every drop, every ounce…be it nectar, be it poison.

Now I understand it is not necessary to have all the knowledge in the world, it is fine to possess less, and it is OK to stand second or third or even last in life’s lines. But I also realize it is awesome to love and be loved, it is indispensable to have integrity, and imperative not to break the trust…ever.

I had never found fault with frugality, now I see abundance in it; yet paradoxically, the hedonist in me constantly seeks the small little pleasures life has on offer.

I had always missed my family and friends, now I appreciate nothing and no one is more important. Feelings are heavy and moist remembering those in the family I have lost, and light and joyous thinking of those I have; and the naughty twinkle in my eyes now shines brighter at the slightest prospect of back-slapping bonhomie over beer with my friends. I hug unabashedly in my thoughts, those whom I love but dare not reveal; and I hug openly with my eyes and arms all those whom I love and can flaunt.

Now deep within I know it does not matter to miss out on many, but how important it is to hold on to a few who matter; and even as I extract more from life, I now give more of myself to such men and women.

I hear my thoughts echoing in these beautiful words of Pablo Neruda:

“…And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song — but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human….”

As my wondering thoughts trot into wandering feelings flowing into whispering words, I fathom:

My eyes were wide shut, but now I See…

I am more human, more humane, and no one but myself;

As I give more life to time and more time to life.

Picture: Keegan Houser/Unsplash.com                Self Portrait

When Good is Bad.

We can face the world, but it is difficult to face ourselves. Solitude compels us to look within. It brings us face to face with our ugly self; and forces us to vividly recall the injuries we have inflicted upon many including our close ones, and our unfairness in many a relationships born out of  selfishness, presumption, ego and  arrogance. Our soul knows us well, we can’t lie to it.

Selfishness invents justifications; integrity, empathy, and understanding do not need crutches of justification.

And within us, there is a kind of selfishness which lurks and masquerades as selflessness. Even while thinking for the good of our children, spouse, parents…we think from our angle…we look at their well-being through the prism of our own pleasure, our joy…not from the lens of their space, their feelings. If I am being kind, I do not realize that perhaps I am being unkind. If I am truthful, I don’t realize that truth also hurts. When I am trying to be righteous and upright in correcting others, it doesn’t occur to me that being so very correct is sometimes incorrect. We want to see the image of their happiness in our mirror, and the picture is always blurred. Many a times we try to be good for the selfish reason of feeling good, but is it really doing any good?

We forget the individual identities; that the fist is one, but fingers, though joined together at the base, are still separate; that at the very basic level, persons, persona, personalities and perceptions are all different.

Due to misplaced love and kindness, we grown-ups unconsciously tend to control…be it our adult children or our elderly parents. We try to decide what is good for them, and we preach and specify the ‘dos and don’ts’. Whereas our ‘for their own good’ instructions to children alienate them; the ‘kindly limits’ we set around our parents sometimes compromise their dignity, trample upon their feelings and sense of independence, and end up manipulating them.

Should we be so helpful to our grown-up children and our elders that they look helpless and feel hopeless? But we put them either in nappies or on pedestals. Needed or not, we constantly provide crutches.

We try to control (even if unconsciously and benevolently) because we have the arrogance to assume that we know better. Ceding this control sets everyone free, and there is nothing more beautiful than the sense of freedom.

Lifelong we don’t cease to parent children, and we parent our parents too. Grown-ups want to make their own decisions, at least some of those decisions. No one likes being coerced into a situation or an act. We need to be sensitive to their sense of shame and embarrassment arising out of unwanted dependence. What is needed is understanding and empathy, not control or sympathy. We are sensitive to what we want for them, but not to what they want for themselves.  

By doing away with parents’ responsibilities in totality (in order to give them so called ‘peace of mind’), we also snatch away their involvement and authority…be it personal, financial or pertaining to the family…making them redundant. There is nothing worse than being consigned to irrelevance.

So, let them be….so they can be themselves…in their space…with their identity and their perspective.

And let’s ask, not assume. For, there is no absolute in life. There is right and there is wrong, and in between are the doors of perception. And perceptions differ.

Photo Credit: Old Couple: wonsung.jang; 4 persons: Dimitri Houtteman (unsplash.com)

Chances We Take, Choices We Make.

The chances we take and the choices we make throughout our lives, decide the course of life. Life itself is a result of choices and chances.

Chances present choices before us. We make a choice to take a chance, and we take a chance in choosing that choice; for nothing is certain, and the calculated outcome is, at best, an intelligent guess.

We have no control over chances, which are circumstantial, and therefore, could result into good, bad or ugly; sample these: an understanding spouse (good), losing all the money in gambling (bad), infection by Covid-19 (ugly). However, we do have control over choices; though we can’t altogether cast aside the chance repercussions of our challenging choices.

This is true in all spheres of life and living at all times – education, occupation, love, marriage, or family setting. Confusing it is, but every challenge and each change is an outcome of this chance-choice conundrum.

To lighten the mood, take my case. I was at Guwahati and had the option of leaving for Bangalore just before the lockdown. But I took a chance and made the choice of staying back another week. My choice of taking a chance has confined me and confounded others. In this extended, albeit unintended overstay, I embrace embarrassment, while many lurk behind feigned amusement.

Choices create chances and chances cause choices. But we can make our choices independent of the chance-fate presented to us on a plate by the past. It is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to us by life. We can choose to build new alternatives. And we have the choice to act or not to act.

The chances we take…

And the choices we make,

Give us life, or drop by drop…

Bleed us to death.

                      Picture Credits: internet/unsplash.com

Shades of Life

“Life is a series of family photos in which you keep moving to the rear until finally you’re a portrait in the background.”

On a serious note, yes, as the polite tag of ‘seniority’ is thrust upon people, the world becomes increasingly irreverent to their relevance; and many retire and retreat to the rear, searching for dignity and solace in their confined corners.

In a lighter vein, unable to resist the temptation to be in the limelight, I keep elbowing my way from the rear; and I do so wearing dark shades, tinting my greying life colourful. And my portrait, though in the background, will be a sought after possession for Rayban.

One must look stylish even when one is no more. 

Solitude of Social Distancing

Due to the prevailing norms of social distancing, people are suffering from isolation anxiety and fear of solitude. In this context, following extracts from Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech are enlightening:

“There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song — but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny…

Our original guiding stars are struggle and hope. But there is no such thing as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope. In every human being are combined the most distant epochs, passivity, mistakes, sufferings, the pressing urgencies of our own time, the pace of history.”

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GOOD FROM THE EVIL!

CORONA VIRUS: A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

The fear of corona virus has slowed life resulting in forced idleness of various degrees. Not only work is affected, we can’t even pack off to a holiday destination. While we practice hygiene to ward off the dreaded virus, the unexpected leisure is the virus-sent opportunity to think and act, to teach and to learn.

Nothing is more important than helping children become better and responsible citizens. Of course, top priority now is teaching them cleanliness and protecting themselves from getting infected. But let us also give them our time to inculcate values, and to develop positive attitude, hobbies and habits.

We can utilize this time to nurture in our children values such as kindness, empathy, tolerance and respect for others and their views. This will build their character. Let’s tell them the importance of reading to widen their horizons and to deepen their understanding of life and times so as to develop a positive attitude and world-view, and to think deeper, broader and universal. Let’s present before them the pleasure to be derived from creative hobbies such as painting, writing, and other arts which help them to explore and to imagine, to delve within and to dive without. Let’s expose children to household chores and dignity of labour, and make them respect workers, maids, drivers, cooks and others.

Let’s show them by example value of money and savings, of considered spending and intelligent choices; to teach them basics of money matters such as writing expenses and keeping those within budget. Let’s convince them to avoid wastage of every resource- money, food, water, electricity, and to reuse, recycle and repair, and to be kind and considerate towards the environment. Children imbibe and emulate what they see. The mindless spectacle of stream of parcels delivered daily at home by Amazon and others makes their impressionable minds to think that  there is endless supply of easy money.

We must teach them by example that what matters is not materialism but goodness, knowledge, intelligence and being humane.

If we can give these life lessons to our children, I believe we would have given them the ultimate gift. The corollary benefit is that while teaching our children, we too will learn to be better human beings.

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WHEN FATHER DEPARTS !

Dreams and memories of father waft into my nights like puffy clouds… sobbing memories, crying dreams… descending in hordes. Memories which keep me awake; Dreams pulsating and alive; Emotions overwhelming n choking. Memories of his infectious laughter, his magical touch and that naughty twinkle in his eyes… memories which beckon, dreams which whisper… tiny tendrils of tender thoughts… maudlin eyes tired of crying at times, but remembrance always wet…

With age he mellowed and sparkled like a fine vintage wine, yet father was a child. Innocent in his maturity and playful in his seriousness, he kept the child within around too. Father was full of life and gave so much of himself and his love. He didn’t preach goodness, but showed it in his methods n manners. Fond of small little pleasures, and with impeccable taste for finer things, he was neither greedy nor a hoarder, nor was he casual in his words, approach and life-style.

Father gave his best and looked for the best in others. He stood tall but never made one feel small. He appreciated all that is good and beautiful and left the world a little better. So very humane, father was among a few good men, a rare breed. He lived and died on his own terms… with dignity and grace, and in his own inimitable style! I grieve that he is no more, but am thankful that he was.

My unspoken bonding with father was such that there was little to be said between two of us. His silence was eloquent, eyes spoke volumes, and his smile or a raised eyebrow conveyed it all. Feelings ran deep and our understanding grew without trying. I wish I had held his hand more often and little longer; I wish I had hugged him whenever and wherever and for no reason; I wish I had sat by his side silently watching the sunset, sun or no sun; I wish I had stolen more of his mornings, afternoons and evenings; I wish I had drunk and devoured more of him… oh, how I wish!

Father went away, but will always be with me. He lives in my laughter and cries, in my joys and sorrows, in my sky and universe, in my days and nights. He lives in my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings. He lives in my breaths, my memories and my moments. I bask in the warmth of his love, I shine in his reflected glory.

After he departed, people thus console and counsel: life goes on as it keeps flowing like a river. But as Heraclitus said, no man enters the same river again…for it is not the same river and he is no longer the same man.

Sri HCS Photograph