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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Friends, Not Lovers !

Relatively speaking, all relationships except love and friendship are governed by legal, social, religious, economic or political sanctions.  Friendship and love have no written or unwritten contract (lawyers are too expensive). However, friendship flows naturally (despite unnatural tendencies in some), whereas love has compulsions (of unmentionable benefits). Let’s juxtapose these relationships:

In a love relationship, we love, sacrifice and give (do we have any options), but we also consciously or unconsciously presume, demand and take for granted (our birth-rights). In love, we care and cuddle (hoping quid pro quo), but at times we are mean and jealous (genetic predispositions), and subtly or not so subtly pressurise and control (natural instincts). Friends do not compare, compete or complain, nor do they expect, exasperate or exacerbate (who will let them without a contract).

A lover can leave one and take two, but you don’t discard a friend in favour of another. Either one is a friend, or one is not. In love the joining date may be blurred on the postcard from the past, but the termination letter is clearly and neatly dated. Friendship is neither by appointment nor is there any expiry printed on it. Oscar Wilde is succinct “Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer”.

I can indulge with friends five or fifty, but can’t eat, drink or dance with lovers two or twenty without having my skull split open on all sides. Can you imagine back-slapping bonhomie among your past, present and future lovers? As Nietzsche said “Love is blind. Friendship closes its eyes”. If I may philosophise further: falling in love blindly is an eye opener, and friendship is an open and shut case.

As friends we are at our unhindered best… nice, naked and naughty…perfect partners in peccadilloes. With friends we can let our hair down yet keep the chins up. Borrowing from Robert Bloch, friendship is like pee in the pants; everyone can see it, but only we can feel the warm tingling sensation inside.

Yes, friends are sometimes pain- in- the- ass, but never hemorrhoids.

I will take my lover (yours too if you like) as my friend anytime, but not vice versa.

(This is written in good humour and not to belittle any relationship)

Still !

Still I am…

And distill my stillness still,

Some substance and residue plenty to fill…

Yet, in stillness how I distill;

                    Here, there, wherever…

                    I wonder, I wander everywhere,

                    Neither satiated nor had my kill…

                    Yet I am so still;

Fleeting  memories fill times bygone…

Fluttering thoughts find future untold,

Aloft near or beyond the distant hill…

Asunder, yet so close, It’s love or fear you instill ?

                    Stoic and neurotic, heroic and meek…

                    I am resilient, I am weak,

                    What couldn’t be, was not to be…

                    In the remnant you, what do I seek ?

Still I am…

And distill my stillness still,

Some substance and residue plenty to fill…

Yet, in stillness how I distill !

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.

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The seductive art of conversation…where have we lost it ?

Where have we lost those thought provoking, soul satisfying conversations…which delight our hearts,  soar our moods and illuminate our minds…..those rewarding conversations from which we come out with a deep sense of satisfaction, feeling all is well with the world ?

Many a times, do we not indulge in the inane and the mundane, the banal and the vapid….making us literally die of ennui ? Do we not end up talking about people and issues…shallow n superficial…. leaving us with feelings of waste and emptiness ?

Why have we forgotten what a treat it is to savour the scintillating conversations laced with stimulating ideas, how captivating is brilliant repartee, how delightful is the needle sharp wit, how charming is the subtle n nuanced humour ?

The exciting give and take, the enthusiastic sharing, the amalgam and the synthesis of divergent yet non-judgmental views, the meeting of intelligent minds, leave us enriched, enlightened, enthralled….and provide fodder for thought, reflection and contemplation.

Connoisseurs will agree that a great conversation is a rare vintage wine….sparkling, heady,  intoxicating….drowning our senses in its effervescence and exuberance , enlivening us with sheer pleasure, and giving us a heavenly high.

CHEERS !!!

BOOKS WHICH SCORCH THE SOUL AND WARM THE COCKLES OF HEART!

Some books compel us to search within and look beyond….. writings which have sprung from deep, uncommon understanding of life and exceptional sensitiveness to human emotions.

These books uplift us and deepen our belief in undying human spirit and its innate goodness…books which have painted life’s unblemished glory and its ugly underbelly, leaving an indelible impact on our world-view and thoughts about humanity, life and existence.

Books which speak of relationships enduring and gone sour….love and betrayal….trust and treachery…. bonds built and friendships forgotten. Books which take us on a journey of commitment and compromise, hope and despair, and triumph and tragedy.

These are the stories of lust, loneliness and longings; of naked needs, dogged desires and primitive yearnings; of dreams shut and shattered. These are the tales of agony and ecstasy, dignity and depravity, passions, perversions and perfidy.

Books which are the poignant tales of the moment to moment uncertainty of survival and struggle to stay alive; of life wasted, lost and regained; of now or never dilemmas; of simplicity of being, complexity of relationships, and difficulty of existence.

These are writings of epic proportions describing human entrapment, its helplessness to accept life on its own terms, and hopelessness to sink its soul and sell its sovereignty.

These are the sagas of sangfroid and sagacity, of righteousness, of character and decency.

Some such books which have moved me are:

  • Roots (Alex Haley)
  • The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
  • The Good Earth (Pearl S Buck)
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips (James Hilton)
  • To Kill A Mocking Bird (Harper Lee)
  • The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  • Educated (Tara Westover)
  • Of Mice & Men (Steinbeck)
  • Beloved (Toni Morrison)

         (not in order of preference)

There are quite a few, but these immediately spring to mind.

Such books give us a sense of the whole much more complete…which satiate yet leave us wanting ….and after reading these the heart is light and aroma of goodness lingers.

Please do share your list of such books.

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Guilty are those who impose Guilt !

For hiding their own guilt or guilty-conscience, some people perpetually impose guilt on others…in ways subtle or crude. They swing like pendulum from being extremely aggressive to wearing sorrow on their sleeves. They resort to emotional blackmail, portray themselves as pathetic losers, and sport underdog’s hangdog expression. Else they shout and sulk; throw threats, taunts and tantrums; issue ultimatums, lock themselves, become incommunicado, inflict injuries and abuses on themselves, and leave home food untouched (but hog secretly).

They play victim to victimize. Those who impose guilt are the ones who are guilty. Let’s not be guilty of feeling guilty due to someone else’s guilt.

Guilty Sulking

From Attachment to Attachments To Attachment to Detachments.

My good friend n cousin Lalita often cautions me about the perils of attachment.

Confession: Narcissist to the core, I am attached to myself, my body and its appendages. Am attached to amazing tendencies and hypocrisies (I practice what I hate in others and don’t what I preach). Am attached to my achievements (read failures) and failures (showcased as achievements). Am attached to fantastic fetishes and hilariously hideous habits (e.g. acting feline or admiring that imaginary dimple on my cheek).

Am attached to creatures which include some friends, few loved ones, fewer relatives, no Exs, and all animals & enemies. Am attached to the real which is unreal, and to the fake which is surreal. Am thus attached to myriad possibilities, prejudices and pretensions….the good, the bad, the ugly, and of course the beautiful Me.

To cut the crap, I am attached to the bad in me (which others like) and to the good in others (which I dislike).

And when I tried to shake off attachments, I became attached to detachment.  Try detaching and soon the detachment attaches you to its own attachments….passions of mind or obsessions of the heart.

I now wonder: I am attached to the attachments or the attachments are attached to me ? Am perplexed: I am attachedly detached or detachedly attached ? Ohhh Niru, whither Nirvana ?

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Sophistication of intelligent minds reflects in the sensitiveness of their souls.

A TALE OF TWO….IN THE CONTEXT OF MY PARENTS

Parents are at Bangalore since mid-November 2019. I tend to their medical needs when they are here…doctors, hospitals, the regimen…and of late I have realized I often lose patience and become irritated when father reminds repeatedly about something. I might hide behind the justification that in the hurly-burly household scenario where 10 humans try their best to remain sane and humane…competing for peace, coping with the pace, jostling for space…nerves do get frayed at times. But what is a family, if not confusion and chaos?

I am ashamed of myself as I compare in my mind and recall how Antima tends to their needs- medical and more at Guwahati…without losing patience, without ever getting annoyed…replies umpteen times… calmly, affectionately…as if talking to toddlers aged two….with love and kindness and a happy smiling face…coaxing them to eat, cajoling to take medicine, persuading to venture out, encouraging to have some fun….. giving them her time, empathy and the warmth of sunshine in the winter of their lives (neither bragging nor blaming, and despite a full-time job and domestic affairs in her hair).

Sophistication of intelligent minds, such as Antima’s, reflects in the sensitiveness of their souls.

Stories such as these must be told…not to belittle contributions of anyone, but for lessons to be learnt…i am learning mine!

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Fat Weddings, Slim Bodies and More.….

Let’s laugh at the antics (including our own) displayed in the weddings we attend:

Highlights in Lowlights: This misfortune befalls the well-heeled sooner or later….all dressed up, everywhere to go, and a heel breaks……all hell breaks loose. Many a slips show, and intentionally oblivious of the obvious, we pretend ignorance as the show must go on. Who wants to be branded as a spoilsport? And just when we are beginning to be intoxicated with the exotic smells emanating from the beauties, a silent killer scent from an unknown orifice makes us flee the scene in great haste. You present your best face to become the Facebook darling, but you are caught on camera at your worst with mouth agape full of saliva-mixed morsels, ketchup dripping down your chin, and eyes wide open with utter glee.…depicting you as Dracula in a horror movie.

Man vs Woman: Whereas men like me display narcissistic tendencies refusing to change their stripes, women exhibit abundant selfless love for self and selfies with pouting lips.

A Women Exclusive: Fatter the weddings…..slimmer the bodies, with slim turning into slimmer and slimmer vanishing into thin air.

Spirited Spiritual Men: And what with the clean-shaven, the moustached, the goateed and the bearded sneaking out to the openly secret watering hole… suddenly there is vacuum, as if balloon is emtied of half its gas….and we find famine of the masculine, only the feminine populating the pandals in powder pink and pale purple.

Love n Longing: Amidst tumultuous cacophony, some try to steal still moments. Setting out in canoes or sitting under canopies, they weave themes of their dreams. Hoping and hopping from event to event and changing attires but not the attitudes, they wink and hoodwink to keep the rendezvous.

Touching: Bride side or groom side…is besides the point; the unwanted are kept at arm’s length. And for the privileged ones, hugs are from far and back slapping is inflicted in measured manner, lest the wrinkles creep into clothes and conversations. Husky cries, coooes and croonings of …how are you….oh my…you look so good….where were you hiding all these years….. begin with vigorous air-kissing and culminate into even more vigorous air kissing and never-to-be-kept promises of “let’s keep in touch”. Touching indeed.

The last laugh: And the one, who like me did not have the misfortune of going to an English-medium school, has the last laugh pronouncing “am in the middle of bedding”, when a friend inquires about his whereabouts. Hilarious… definitely. Scandalous…may be. But scarce are scarlet cheeks… like onions these days.  : )

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