Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dialogue with myself

I go to sleep exhausted and wake up tired, its been happening for months now, today I decided to actually think about the reason, to sit down and take a long hard look at myself.

I have been going through my daily routine like an automaton, whether it is work or duties at home or watching a film or play..... I do not have any enthusiasm for anything. I have a sense of disconnect with everything around me. The world moves and I move in step with it, but my pace is slower. I find people around me fired with passion and I envy them. I have no real goal which I want to achieve, no mountain to climb, no song to sing. My life has had as much happiness or sadness as the other person, with a little variation in degree.

Since I was very young I used to do self analysis, which some have said is not the best thing to do. It helped me to understand myself better and while this was happening I found myself understanding others better, so if anyone chose to throw a barb at me I would look at him or her and try to reason why it was thrown. The barbs and the arrows flung at me always hurt but never very deeply and in time I learned to let them not hurt at all. I once tried to see whether they could be deflected without touching me, but then I would have lost the pleasure of feeling anything at all. Ah !!! Feeling!! Feelings of pleasure, of love, of joy and sorrow... I have had all those but somehow those feelings have not ever had passion. It was not always like this. When I started out with my working life or even before that in college or school there was a certain will to live and succeed. I seem to have lost it , this will to live so I continue to do what I do without any real feeling of happiness or sadness. I just continue to exist in a world among a millions of others and do not really know what I am doing here. Why can't I like so many others feel happiness deep down inside of me? Just the other day for example, when I was at a wedding of a relative, looking around I found people so alive, and I felt a certain lack in me. I was all dressed up like the others for the occasions but a sense of weariness was all I felt. It was as if I had wrapped myself in the trappings of socially acceptable behavior, all I could feel was a sense of complete detachment from it all.

I had been asked to take 'sanyas' two decades ago, but at that time I had not agreed , my thought was for my parents, I thought that I could be a support if I was around them. Perhaps I was wrong, for life continues with or without another, they would have had each other for support. Looking back always gives you a better perspective, if I had made a different decision then, perhaps this sense of disconnect with what is around me would not have been.

I wonder if given the opportunity, if I could ever love with abandon , work with unbridled enthusiasm, laugh with glee or dive into the depths of sorrow. I have felt all those, but where I am now I seem to have left it all behind and stand alone among crowds seeking a meaning for my very existence as it were.

I do not know why I am here, nor where I am going. I feel as if I am slowly giving up, I wish I could leave this mortal body, but not every wish can attain fruition, I will continue to live until then, with a show of enthusiasm for the world around me, much like the finery one wears for some occasion.

I look for answers but cannot find any.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Stanley Road Chronicles

It is an imposing structure for a home, but to me it was a place full of warmth love and laughter even in the bitter December cold.

I was introduced to its grandeur when I was nine months old, it had always been Mom's 'maika' and it was there that she went when Dad had to go on a foreign tour. There are some photos of my much older cousins looking at a baby, taken to keep my father updated of my well being. Those are photographs of other people's memories. My earliest ones are of reaching Allahabad station by train, to be received by a waiting crowd of cousins all older, and my masi who used to come there for the vacations from Benaras during her school break. A short drive and we were there, at the Gothic entrance, running into the cool haven of the high roofed house. Book shelves line one wall and on the other side was a grand carpeted staircase which led up to the room we stayed in. It was the room where my grandfather liked to stay ... with a study one one side, and a dressing room and huge bathing area on the other. The balcony attached to the room looked on to the lawns which were at two levels. The easy chairs must have been the ones in which he relaxed on a quiet evening.

Chameli would come running to meet my mother, she had looked after Mom after both her parents died, attended to all her personal needs when the young child girl needed tending  and care. Chameli was always happy to see the children of the one she had tended to with so much care and we were happiest to run to her quarters in the servants quarters and play with the children there, there were many... those of the driver, the cook , the games and simple, hopscotch and seven tiles were favorites.

There is an 'imli' tree which is right in the center of the huge courtyard where we used to spend hours throwing stones to enjoy the sour fruit. Just outside the huge drawing room is a smaller garden, where my cousins used to fly their kites... I wanted to be part of the exercise, and was handed over the spool much to my disappointment. After badgering them to let me fly a kite, I was finally given one which was one tenth the size of the normal one, much to my dismay.

Summer nights in small towns in those days were always spent sleeping outdoors....the charpais were laid out in a long row with the mosquito nets and after dinner and play we would retire there, the elders would come much later. Night sounds would be all around us.. the "siyaars" who we were told took away small children if they did not sleep early. One night I found that this true at all, although they came quite close and I had my eyes tightly shut with fear.

Meals were an event in Stanley Road .... a table for twelve could at times be too small for the number of people dining there. There would be ten at the minimum and the number would increase to fourteen or more when more cousins or aunts and uncles came there. But let me start with the breakfast first. There is a takhat  in the passage which goes around the bedrooms the steps of which lead to the courtyard. As children we sat on the takhat and ate our breakfast ... the kitchen was a good 100 meters away at least , shouts of 'Khansama.... toast le aao"  Khansama... fried egg banao".. my older cousins at their gracious best. The toasts would arrive crisp but cold having traipsed the distance from the western kitchen. I have since then always loved cold toasts!! I don't really remember any elder sitting there with us, perhaps they were in the dining room and possibly that was the reason for the temperature of the toasts.

The evenings would spent be in the "Gol kamra" or the round room, where uncles and aunts would sit together on another takhat  playing cards. A white cloth was spread to mark the start of the proceedings. We would watch with great enamor, each child attaching himself or herself to one as a lucky mascot. The mock anger and the shouts were amusing and great fun to witness. The game of cards was only abandoned when dinner was served and sometimes when the game was continued well after that. Most of the time though, everyone would sit and chat and then retire to the many rooms.

One thing which always bothered me as a child was the number of doors which led outside, each bedroom had a door, the bathrooms had a doors, the main entrance, the dining room, the entrance to the drawing room, there must have been someone to make sure all the doors were secure before leaving for the night and handing over the keys to the last man out, but I don't remember this very clearly, children normally are not concerned with the technicalities of how household are run.

My birthday used to fall in the winter vacations I remember a table placed in the upper garden laden with goodies in the evening. The party in the evening was for the other celebration but we used to watch from the "gol kamra" and wait for the wonderful dinner afterwards. What a feast it was, with the best of western and Indian food on the table, both kitchens must have been overactive since morning for this generous well laid meal.

The summer vacations were the longer ones, we would run to the "amrood ki bagiya" to buy the fruit for 5 naya paisa or was it 2? The shaded glade was like heaven in the heat of the afternoon. The dining room had a corner which had two pails filled with water in which mangoes were kept to cool, and while running around paying tag many a mango would disappear in the blink of an eye.Some of the games involved hiding and we would go upstairs and climb a rather small wall to reach the tiled roof used to be almost an adventure to climb up to the sloping tiled roof and balance oneself while pretending nonchalance.

The only restaurant was "Kwality" then and we would go there for a meal or an ice cream,all bundled into one car, the taste of the 'softies' still lingers.

There are so many memories attached to this almost home, a place which will remain dear to me for all the happy memories which make up my childhood. It is not really possible to put them all down,perhaps another chronicle will do the job.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Random thoughts.

The term existence has been on my mind since I last wrote about it. I do not know the answer to the question of why I am. Some of those I spoke to said that we are here to be be joyful, others were of the opinion that we are here for strengthening of ties be they familial or of friendship all which are loving and caring. The wiser ones have said we are here to spread love.In the last century, the decade of the'60's was the one where the flower children were selling the idea of  "Peace"  " Spread love not war" . The familiar peace symbol was a rage even in the '70's. These concepts became jaded as later in the '80's we saw a cataclysmic change in all manner of things. Peace and love gave way to commerce and competition, but that is not what is really on my mind now. So while love was spread thinly over two decades, a new breed of youth were emerging, who were very cool with love and peace and what have you but lets get on with our bread and butter shall we? The invigorating atmosphere of commerce and the lets get it done attitude was what made the cash registers roll and the freedom of living worth the hours of work put in to enjoy it. Freedom is a very easily used word, freedom from penury, from spouse, from stress can have all kinds of it. The thought that comes up here is that are we really free? We live our lives, for most it is a monotonous daily task of earning and then we want to be free for a few short days to enjoy the fruits of the labor. We are forever moving in concentric circles to be free from the circle we deliberately moved into. It gives meaning to our lives, this unending movement, this wanting to do something, be somebody, be the best perhaps in whatever we do. Most of the what we read today talks about excellence ... to excel in whatever one is doing. If everyone excelled would there be enough room at the top?Why can't we accept those that may not as somebodies too? We all want recognition to be that somebody, but aren't we already somebody ? If we do not get recognition do we cease to embody what we are already? And what are we really? All made up of flesh and bone brawn with a bit of brain thrown in? An efficient machine which runs with the help of the little brain. Our physicality is the similar to the other, give or take a foot and some inches.Inside us, we function in a similar way directed by the little grey. Similar physically but different because of the impressions that are left on the very same grey matter. Is our existence then what is impressed on to us, is it only the reaching of the heights of excellence, is it our wanting to be somebody which becomes the sole reason for which we really live? Or is it that which the greats have said... love peace and the spreading of joy the reaching of bliss. Are we born for achieving our goals (setting one's goals has gained prime importance, as has the interest in football ), and once we achieve them to aim for higher ones,to leave a mark for posterity to be remembered for the next few generations? Do we exist just for this?Is there anything higher than our own self gratifying needs, for whatever we do is for self gratification. Work, good deeds, prayers, happiness with friends,love for family ...even negatives like violence, corruption, all add up to the gratification of the self within us, the self within us which is untouched by what we do for its satisfaction.

I was told that we come into this world to realize the supreme truth. All that we do leads us towards this , our work, our pleasures our joys and sorrows, our relationships our searches and researches. In all of this  we are seeking that truth, that indelible supreme truth of realization.We search for galaxies, go to the moon, build houses on the earth, till the land...  all to find that which is the reason for which we are born. Some meditate to reach this, others do hard labor, very few find. We do what we do so that we can get something from what we do. With due respect to all those who meditate for bliss and joy,who sing joyously the songs of God, who pay devoutly to the Supreme, are we not doing everything for some gain?

Inside me there is a hollow, an emptiness which neither my breath nor my thoughts can touch... is this what I search for? The empty shell of my body covers it, the world weaves a web so sweet that it all but encompasses it, the emptiness remains, I embrace the hollow within.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Almost Silence

The silence of the night is upon me once again, an occasional honking on the road below me breaks the cocoon of the almost peace around me,an almost silence,an almost stillness. It will be much later that the still night will once again be calm and quiet the noise almost non existent in a city which never sleeps. Only the tapping of the keys and the sound of thoughts will break the stillness.

Just a few hours sitting in the midst of commerce I was surrounded by the noise of blatant activity. Movement of all kind, an expending of energy quite like in any normal day. I sat at my table and watched the dance of activity. The eyes looking outward could perceive the intensity of this energetic activity. Sounds which made up the day.... so varied but so similar in substance. People going about their daily chores, shops opening up to a new day, students on the way to school, screeching of brakes of an enthusiastic biker, haggling over the price of vegetables, the hum of the elevator. All of it part of an energy which is without and within, an energy which allows us to be a part of what is but which keeps us apart from what is. We are that which surrounds us all hurtling toward some unseen unknown goal, almost like the planets revolving around the sun, we revolve with our energies around our own limited suns, most of which are what we perceive to be our goals for a better existence. What is existence really? Is it just life which we live everyday with our emotional needs our physical wants our searches for perfection our spiritual leanings or is there something else? Why are we born , why do we give birth, why does this never ending cycle of birth/ death continue. What do we seek and why in that search for our center do we look around us sometimes with happiness and at other times with pain. Do we need to look within us more to find that we search for without?

I hear the cacophony , the noise we build up almost to counter the silence which is in us, almost as if we are afraid of facing it. We are social beings and so must interact , we must have music,literature, science commerce, at our disposal to make us whole and rounded beings . We must have the warmth of relationships the comfort of a home, the satisfaction of self sufficiency the happiness of nurturing. We need all these to assure ourselves,almost as if without these we would be inadequate, would we really ?

I search for a meaning for this existence, the more I search, the more silent I become, noise seems inconsequential , the almost silence becomes a haven.