May the light and magic show continue!

A lot of things have happened in the past couple of months. A lot of confusion prevailed. We met a lot of positive and inspiring people. We realized the importance of protecting our own internal (and infinite) energies and not allowing it to be contaminated by the noise and fears of the external society. We went through a spell of bad health, partly fueled by needless stress. In the process of recovery, we killed some bad habits. Life is becoming better now. While there was always excitement and happiness in ‘the future’, I, especially, have made a shift and am bringing that excitement and happiness into my today. I don’t want to wait and depend on tomorrow for being in my best spirits – It has to happen today.

I have quit my job as an engineer and will be joining a school, working as a teacher in the coming months. While the insecurity of leaving a high paying job scared me for almost two years, I have been chipping away at it and now I am finally comfortable to take the plunge to lower salaries. It is ironic and sad, how a teacher is poorly paid, considering the importance of the role. However, we’re looking forward to revisiting some of our textbooks from about two decades back, and are really excited to re-learn everything, with several new mindsets that these two decades have helped grow. Along with the now available and fantastic online exposure (articles, videos, blog posts, info-graphics, etc) I really can’t wait to make some notes!

Recently I stumbled on this photograph, taken against the backdrop of a dark sea at night. It reminds me that it is time for the light and magic show to continue, and become stronger.

Let there be Light, and Magic.

Let there be Light, and Magic.

 

Boundarylessness

I did not think that I would be writing a book review anytime. But some books are special, and deserve to be ‘shared’. I recently finished  reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and loved it. Sharing a few thoughts!

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“A heron flew over the bamboo forest—and Siddhartha accepted the heron into his soul, flew over forest and mountains, was a heron, ate fish, felt the pangs of a heron’s hunger, spoke the heron’s croak, died a heron’s death. A dead jackal was lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha’s soul slipped inside the body, was the dead jackal, lay on the banks, got bloated, stank, decayed, was dismembered by hyenas, was skinned by vultures, turned into a skeleton, turned to dust, was blown across the fields. And Siddhartha’s soul returned, had died, had decayed, was scattered as dust, had tasted the gloomy intoxication of the cycle, awaited in new thirst like a hunter in the gap, where he could escape from the cycle, where the end of the causes, where an eternity without suffering began. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped out of his self into thousands of other forms, was an animal, was carrion, was stone, was wood, was water, and awoke every time to find his old self again, sun shone or moon, was his self again, turned round in the cycle, felt thirst, overcame the thirst, felt new thirst.”

The first time I read these words, I could not connect with them at all. I thought it was exaggerated. I thought Siddhartha was mad. At times, I thought I was foolish in not being able to comprehend what was being said through these words.

But, a few years later, a few months ago, I had an experience. After two months of a hot, intense, unrelenting Indian summer, I went to the forest, and saw the burnt, dried grass. I saw the droopy leaves. I saw the lake drying up. At night, I saw elephants drinking water, herds of deer drinking water. The next morning, I touched the soil – hard, hot, dry. Imagine a day in this weather, outdoors. Imagine an entire season filled with days like this.

I became the elephant, I felt thirsty, I showered dust and mud on my back, I twirled my trunk around clumps of grass and uprooted them searching for moisture below the top layer, I dug my tusks and turned the soil over, I looked upwards towards the blinding sun, I waited, I waited for night to arrive, I waited, I saw clouds roll in, I smelt the rain, saw the lightning, felt the fat raindrops. I experienced and imagined the relief elephants may be experiencing.

It was time to re-read the book.

I loved the book this time.

Beginning at a young age, Siddhartha seems to realise that the sum of his knowledge, the teachings of the holy books and the debates and daily rituals do not add up to something that satisfies him. The whole seems to be something different than the sum of several individual things (nirvana or moksha or enlightenment seems not to be a formulaic combination of operations), but something other than that. The whole is something other than the sum of the individual parts – something that only he can seek, only he can find and experience for himself. No other definition will do. I had recently read about Gestalt Psychology and this connection rang true in my head. I was also reminded of this quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti – “The description is not the described; I can describe the mountain, but the description is not the mountain, and if you are caught up in the description, as most people are, then you will never see the mountain”. Having been in the mountains, and having experienced the magic, the power, the energy in them, I could empathise. The same went for what Siddhartha says in the book.

Emotions and events are captured beautifully in the book, even in the translation; for example, just before setting off on his path, after his father has not agreed with his view, there is a line which says – “Then the father realised that Siddhartha could no longer remain with him – that he had already left him.” This happens at day break, when “the first light of day entered the room”. Beautiful. I could visualise the entire scene and could feel the tension, the resolve and the emotions in that room. I am waiting to read the original German text now, just to see how it reads out.

His subsequent journey into ‘Sansara’ was tumultuous, with both ups and downs, and yet necessary. It was his nature, I think, to immerse himself completely in whatever he did, and see the connection and the separation it had from his previous life. Seeing the illusions of life firsthand, he nevertheless learns some very important lessons about love – how you cannot completely isolate loving someone and hating someone. He went into the opposite extreme of his Samana state and went deep into the lifestyle of the town-dwellers. Ultimately tired of it, he cycles out of it, after almost being driven to the point of killing himself, but realises that having experienced it first hand, he has an understanding about the life of greed, power, the pleasures of the world and the riches, and that with this understanding he has the clarity to continue again on his path..Siddhartha ”the pleasure-monger” and Siddhartha ”the man of property” had to die if he wanted to kill the old Self in him and start anew.

A critical difference between seeking and finding is highlighted, with seeking shown as being limiting, since it is a conscious thing. You have a goal, you get obsessed with achieving it, and you see nothing but the goal. On the other hand, finding is ”to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal”. I find it very difficult to untwine my understanding from that of the book’s philosophy – you can’t have just goals, and you can’t just be seekers. There seems to be the need for a balance between the two. Sometimes, things have to be seeked and found, including your own self.

At the end of the book, it is mentioned that the Buddha is there everywhere, inside the sinner, just like there exists a robber who is present inside the Brahmin. The world is not black and white, atleast not always, it is also cyclical, and connected – “The stone is just a stone, but perhaps because within the cycle of change, it can also become man and spirit, it is also of importance”.

This book has many more layers to it, many of which will take a long time to be reached. Till the next reading…

“Hey! You want to take Selfie?”

Continuing on our train ride to Goa (part 1: https://gabbartrip.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/go-goa/), we saw a girl and a boy sitting together on the doorstep of the train – Indian trains have doors which can be opened anytime (The Ticket-checker, or any other person from the Railways, may or may not frown). I knew we would be entering the hilly Western Ghat region soon, which is home to some extraordinary scenery. We took our place, standing behind the above-mentioned, below-seated couple. Peeping out of a moving door-shaped-slit at the immense vastness in front of us, we saw the typical lush green valleys and the dense vegetation around.

Soon, tunnels started lining up; the train chugged through them serially, alternating between bright Indian summer sunshine and dark tunnel darkness.

The two of them in front of us, fired their cameras furiously, and that’s when the memorable question was asked: “Hey, You want to take selfie?” I think the shot in demand was them as the subject with half of the train in a tunnel, and maybe the mouth of the tunnel in the frame too. Come to think of it, a frame like that can indeed make a good photograph.

A strange and funny thing happens when trains go through tunnels here – people start howling and screaming! The bogies in front could be heard first, the wave moving to our bogie and increasing in pitch as the bogie behind us followed ours into the tunnel. Suddenly, the train is abuzz, innocent smiles all around, and people start moving towards one side of the train. The reason for all this was the famous Dudhsagar waterfalls (https://gabbartrip.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/freefalling/), and everyone, including us, wanted to take a look.

The train slithered around a bend, and there it was. Lots of cheering, and then another memorable dialog, the girl in front (the one sitting at the doorstep) telling a guy friend of hers: “Hey, don’t be shy, ra! Come, sit on my lap”!

In a few minutes, we were speeding through the flat plains and crossed fields with deep red soil. The tracks seemed to be rural highways, as school kids walked on them, people sat on them while chatting on their mobiles – the elevated rails with the inclined stone ballast making it comfortable for the knees and the back.

Soon, the train pulled in at Margao, and the sea beckoned, stronger than ever.

 

Wish me luck universe !

It’s been quite an incredible 4 months, I would not know from where to begin penning it all down. So many events, both outside and inside ; feels like I have been on a self – spun merry-go-round , slowing down only to be spun faster, and feeling dizzy each time I slowed down. The trick, as I am slowly figuring out, to enjoying the merry-go-round – which was the intention behind getting on it in the first place, is to find my own rate of spinning – a self-sustainable joyful pace. And as I find that pace, the views become calming and exciting, instead of distressing and fleeting.

One of the views has been of working with differently-abled children at a local NGO which addresses the needs of children from the lower income groups. When I started volunteering a month back, I was overwhelmed – overwhelmed by the disturbing stories of emotional and physical abuse behind a lot of the kids , overwhelmed at the same time by their incredible and indomitable capacities of happiness and love. Now that the amplitude and the period of my pendulum-like emotions have decided to move towards a state of equilibrium, I find myself face-to-face with an explosion of facts.

This is my first experience of working with an NGO, first experience as an art educator/therapist, first experience of working with children, first experience of potentially getting involved in the running of an NGO, basically a lot of firsts. I am extremely excited and nervous of the unknowns here, trillions of butterflies multiplying billions of times in my stomach, and I have ideas and thoughts flooding my mind every second.

Ironically, the children are proving to be my pacemakers, helping me find that self-sustainable joyful pace I find so extremely crucial, my personal elixir concocted from the extensive talks with Rp.

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I pray that I will be the best version of myself daily, and that my views will be those of smiling faces. Here’s also to the realization of yet another dream! And in case I haven’t thanked you enough universe, THANK YOU!

Home sweet Home. Home ?

Returned to Bangalore on the 28th of March. A year back around the same time, I had been elated at the thought of being back in India, truly excited. Now that I am here, I feel different , not as jubilant as I had been about the idea of being back. India too feels different – almost unfamiliar in so many ways. I see Europe as well now. I miss my forest and the lake , feel quite disoriented without them. The silence which I befriended on my walks in the woods, seems a little sensitive to the sounds here; in the same manner as how the sounds I befriended in India, had been sensitive to the new found silence of the woods . I had been extremely confused about this when I landed here , the first two months my mind was but a fog. It has begun to lift a little, and one thing I have begun to see clearly now  – ‘home’ is no longer about belonging , I feel a part of everywhere; home is wherever I want to be at that moment in time .

It’s incredible how your world grows with you , and how real perspectives are. You are never really in the same place twice, not truly. And each perspective offers such brilliant views, it feels unfair to compare.

Some views from my ‘new’ home .