Thursday, November 11, 2010

THE FLOWER I CAN BLOOM

MY SANE SELF

People sometimes tell me that I have changed. But all I actually did was that I simply adapted- something like "survival of the fittest". Dinosaurs reduced its size, giraffe grew its neck, camel grew its hump, I grew another "self". This "self" which saves me from becoming insane to myself. No matter how "mad" I might seem to the world around me, in my own world I am the sanest. And the best part is that I am so sane to myself that I don't need any social confirmation.

Well this entire change ofcourse did happen over a period of time. Its like a very slow process. I can actually draw a flow chart which probably would start with anger, then pain, then fragmentation, then re-organisation. Other than the re-organisation part every thing was quite involuntary. It was during re-organisation probably that I became conscious. Conscious of the fact that my "self" cannot really go back to its earlier form. In order to rescue my "endangered self" I had to numb a lot many things. And I did. I numbed my so-called "foolish" romanticism, I numbed my dreamy existence, I numbed my effortless instinctive inclination towards "being passionate". I didnt hurt them. I just gave them strong sedatives so that they can go to sleep forever...and now they sleep in peace. And this worked. I survived in a very sane way.

But life is funny at times now and it makes me laugh. People from the past just reappear to tell me its a pity that I have changed. All I want to them is that - "Excuse me!! Have you heard about something called adaptation." There is no bitterness about life that I have. I love life. But only thing that pisses me off is this entire gimmick that people put up by saying "its sad to see you changed". I just want to say - "Hello, its my very own survival strategy...my creation. I give credits to myself for this. You better respect it. If you cant, then you need more study on evolution".

Now I dont dream like I used to. But I still dream. My dreams are now completely in sync with my realities. And I am happy that I could do it. I am happy that my sane self does not compromise. My sane self does not "strive to be happy"; it just remains honest.


MY DREAMY SELF


The other day somebody asked me about my dreams. I had to reply with a lot of difficulty. I realized somewhere inconsciously I have probably stopped dreaming. Or probably many of my dreams are dead and buried. I started replying in very short sentences. Like "I want to be financially independent" and "I want somebody's company for a lifetime". Very regular and expected answers. Then I tried concentrating and thought about it. My dreams...


Probably I dream of creating "magic moments" in my life. I believe its these "magic moments" which make us fall in love with life, these moments are like energy pills that keep us energised for sometime. Then these moments are lost in time and we wait for some more to happen. But there are few clauses about these moments. its generally limited to only few people. It really does not happen spontaneously with everyone. And mostly its one at a time. Otherwise, there is no "pure magic" happening.


Then as its true for all other kinds of magic, the magic in a relationship is subject to the situation. For example, too much distance or too much closeness might spoil the magic. Also, since magic is not very material, trying to give it a very material form mostly makes the magic disappear. I wonder how many married couples really have magical moments. Most of the married people I know are no more looking for magic in their conjugal relationship. Moreover, this magic is created between two individuals. Too many participants can spoil the show!


This magic happens generally when there are no "adjustments" and "compromises" with the "self". Two individuals create a magic with their honest "self"s. Later on, if any one "self" gets tampered the magic leaves.


Also there is this entire thing about space. Magic is created in space. So, in order to make the magic happen there needs to be some space for that magic to happen. Magic just cant happen for 24X7. Moreover, there needs to be some mysteries and secrets getting nurtured somewhere in the relationship. Otherwise, monotony wins over all magics. Most married people atleast do complain about boredom if not about something else after few years of marriage. Then they require other ingredients to make the relationship more meaningful. Because magic is no more working. Then they have vacations and children together. The magic hardly returns. Children are magical by themselves but hardly any contribution to the magic in the relationship. Then each his or her own magical world with friends, clubs, shopping, addiction, work and sometimes with someone else. They try creating magical moments again in their life.


Essentially, most of us feel the need for some magic or the other in our lives. And I want it too. Only that I probably think little differently. But the need is the same.


Hence, today I dream of having my own space and also magic moments. Difficult yes. But atleast its defined. And its easy. Only the other person needs to think like I do. Thats the difficult part. The rest is simple. A house with two rooms. We can stay together and yet enjoy our own space. We will just need to respect each other's space. And the magic is already there. Its not about "shutting doors". Its not about opening up for newer magic. Thats all. In my mind its all very honest and simple.


I dont want to change anybody and nobody should want to change me. One person might want to keep things around him organised and the other person might not. One person might be in a habit of reading at night and the other person might just want to watch television. So, what happens then?


These personal habits become integral part of one's existence. Two people have different habits, tastes, preferences. And they have these for years. So, do we compromise on these? Or do we compromise on the magic? But actually there is no need to compromise on either. Its just a matter of understanding and valuing each of these. And then there are more chances of retaining the magic in a relationship or creating new magic around us. This is my dream. Is there any fellow dreamers?


Friday, October 1, 2010

To see beyond loneliness

When I was a kid, I used to spend some good 3-4 hours alone at home everyday. My mother used to be a teacher in a morning school and my father a regular office goer. My mother used to be back by noon. I used to be alone at home for the entire morning and I used to love it.
My parents were neither too strict nor too protective. (And I always had a very loving family). But still I used to love the freedom of being alone. The freedom of being idle, the freedom of spending time with myself. Once, I started understanding the concept of "boredom", I felt that I got bored also - at least at times and to some extent. But still I used to look forward to those 3-4 hours when I used to be alone.

Later on I discovered what I used to enjoy was the "space". I found that this "space" is very different from "being lonely" - "this space" is enjoyable but "that loneliness" is perhaps much more than just enjoyable.

I have seen many loners almost having an obsessive craving for cleanliness. I know somebody whose "passion" for "keeping things in place" almost makes him despise guests who get big carry bags. There are many loners who feel cooking is a way of survival. They need to cook even while people around them are fatally unwell. Some have obsessions about fragrances - from bathroom to bed everything should smell nice. Probably most loners develop some habits that keep them reminding about their senses. Thats the world they create and everyday they work towards making that world better.

Loneliness mostly arrives in our unaware moments. It comes in different packages - a melancholic evening when you are alone at home, with a feeling of nostalgia while visiting your hometown, on an idle afternoon sitting in the balcony, while walking on a crowded street for long, or when you are on a long bus or train journey. These loneliness sometimes are more like “temporary luxuries” that life provided for some of us.

Some loneliness are more difficult as they bring along pain. The pain of not being able to relate to the crowd, the pain of re-discovering ourselves, the pain of making us believe that we are still the “same”. But it becomes more painful as we, atleast for sometime, live in constant denial of that loneliness.

Once we accept it a new door opens. This door, welcomes you with a strange light. Once you enter the light almost blinds you. When you are able to see again, you look around to see the magnificient landscape. And you feel there are hidden adventures, secret treasures everywhere around you.

We often make loneliness an enemy by fighting it, often curse it. That’s because we stand in front of the door and keep wondering and guessing about the strange light. One brave step and a whole new world opens up with all its brilliance. It’s the endless “space”, its boundless freedom. You can become a kid again. Its something as wonderful as a kaleidoscope. You wouldn’t know the brilliance of lights and patterns inside, till you put your eye to it.

Loneliness is as natural as the cosmos. Just as you cant run away or fight against the cosmos, you cant run from loneliness. You can only enjoy cosmos by becoming a part of it, by keeping all your senses open to it. Its sure to surprise you with innumerable realizations…and ofcourse pleasures.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I Exist. I Float.

I don't know whether its Alzheimer’s. But it happens with me. There are parts of my life that I forget. Even if its quite recent. I am sure (almost) that this happens with most of us. (Atleast I hope so!)

I dont know when it started or whether I always had it. There have been times when I have failed to introduce my classmates to people. Or I have met people on the road and spoken at length but could not remember their names for the life of me or could not recollect how exactly I know her. Then there are things that I don’t remember at one point and remember that later on when I am least expecting them.

Also “forgetting things” I feel is a part of our internal survival strategy. We forget bad memories much faster.

I have a job that makes me travel extensively. But hardly have I had distinct memory about any one trip. People and incidents from some of those trips keep popping up very spontaneously making me find new gems of life, unfolding new mysteries and making me see different colours of this life.

I have forgotten most things about most of my love affairs. I generally lose the chronology first and memories soon form a kind of blur. But what remains is a sense. A sense of floatation…as if I am lying on a plank and I am floating in a huge huge ocean. I rise and fall with the waves, and I lie there enjoying the dance and sound of the waves. There is no fear of drowning and there is a feeling of an endless journey.

I remember one such trip made to Santiniketan (it was not strictly an official trip though). This visit was made on one of those Poush Mela days. This festival attracts a lot of tourists. And there is another kind of people who also flock in groups during this festival. The Bauls. My knowledge about this sect is very limited. But inspite of that I have a special inclination for Baul music.

This festival makes it impossible to do a last minute hotel booking. Thankfully one of my colleagues had a relative who had a house in Santiniketan. We reached quite late for the fair and hence missed out most of the day’s program. By the time we could reach the huge fair ground the crowd was thinning down. The Baul programs were all over. But I really wanted to listen to “live” Baul. I kept repeating that.

We had angels as our hosts ( and some other day I will definitely come back to tell you about the abode they have built there). Our host (Parthada) just said that he would try. He started walking with is long strides (he is a “tall” man). We followed. We walked for almost a mile across the mela compound. And then we reached a semi-lit place where I could see a silhouette of a very big tent.

“This is the Baul tent. Wait here. I will request one of them to sing for us”. Ofcourse our host and all of us were welcomed to the tent. There was hardly any space to walk through the sleeping Bauls. But somehow (led by Parthada) we managed to reach this old man. This old man used to be a very famous Baul singer in his own time. But now he does not sing anymore. So it was one of his “disciple” (or son I don’t remember) who started singing.

I had been to few of these “Baul parties” organised by some posh elite city clubs. I have also heard group of Bauls sing in house parties. But sitting there in a Baul tent, with the other Bauls and listening to Baul songs makes it a different experience altogether. I looked around to see the other Bauls. All cramped up in the freezing cold (it was December), on the unclean grass, under extremely dirty quilts, mostly stoned due to high consumption of marijuana. But this poverty does not reduce the passion in their song. I kept wondering. And then quite unconsciously my mind trailed away. The Baul singer, the rhythmic pull of the ektara string, the smell of smoke, marijuana and wet grass, everything made me close my eyes. And again I had this feeling of floatation. As if there is eternal peace. As if I am a part of a whole. As if my existence is like a drop in a ocean.

Ofcourse that Baul session could not last long as it was quite late already…past midnight. But that dream state lasted for some time. While walking back I could still hear the iktara playing. That night lying on the bed I thought about all those Bauls. Did all of them actually “live” in a state where real and virtual merge? In that state often “virtuality” overrides the realities of life. That is why probably it hardly matters whether they are sleeping on grass or on a bed.

Next day Parthada (our host) told me about that old Baul. Its believed that he is now on the verge of insanity. I remembered his eyes…they were lost somewhere…probably in that ocean which promises eternal journey no matter how old you get. You can probably sail in that ocean whenever there is this urge to escape the real world. And then someday you might never return. No matter how mad you might seem to others, you will be happy forever.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

THE MONKS WHO COULD SELL THEIR FERRARIS

"Swades" happens to be one of the few ShahRukh Khan movies that I liked. I was always sceptical about the character of the protagonist "Mohan Bhargava". This man leaves his entire life and career in US to come back to his native village. Do people like "Mohan Bhargava" really exist in real life?

Then I met few of them.

I was in Chennai for fieldwork. I was supposed to take an interview of a professor in IIT Chennai. By the time I could reach the entrance of the IIT campus, I was feeling dead tired (thanks to the heat and traffic of Chennai). After the cursory enquiry at the entrance, I was allowed in. The moment my auto entered the campus, I felt that was in a different world. So pristine, so green. Such tranquility but yet not very far from the "madding crowd". It took me some time to locate the quarter of the person I was supposed to meet. I pressed the calling bell.

A young man opened the gate : "Yes"

"Mr. ........?"(I dont remember his name)

"I was supposed to come for an interview if you remember..." I tried introducing myself once he confirmd that he was Mr...........

"Yes, yes, please come in"...the warmth in his welcome almost touched me.

We sat on a bamboo mattress. We started talking.

He told me that he is himself an IITian. And that he started teaching very recently. After completion of his studies like many of his other friends he joined a big corporate. He moved to one of the posh areas in one of the biggest metros. He made frequent foreign trips both for work and leisure. Life then gave (and promised much more!) all sorts of luxuries. He was buying real estates all over the country in order to get some redemption from tax. Life was really "cool" and he was enjoying it. But this "merry"-go-round did not last for long. After about 3 yrs he came back to IIT as a professor.Now he does not even belong to the bracket of tax payers. Then why did he do that? What made him leave all such comforts that he was enjoying to a 200 square feet IIT quarter? Inspite of his young age, why could money and luxuries not keep him bound for long?

He tried to explain, "I can't tell you the feeling. I was increasingly feeling the need to reconnect to myself. I know it sounds cliche but that is exactly how you feel. You dont feel an ounce of passion about anything around you. As if there is lack of harmony in the things which you are doing? As if something is terribly wrong somewhere and you do not know what it is? Then I knew its about the place where I was spending 9-10 hours every day. There was absolutely no sense of belonging. Each and everyday started with a feeling of fatigue. It was mechanical. "Proving" and "acheiving" was only about outsmarting others. I knew I had to come out of that whirlpool."

I could see the disgust in his face.


And the I could also see the relief. "During that phase the only place that kept coming back to me was my IIT campus. I just wanted to be here to breathe properly once again. I wanted to see those faces of eager learners. I wanted to share my thoughts without the sense of outsmarting anybody. And then I quit my job." He smiled like a child. And I saw a "happy monk".

On my way back to hotel, I remembered meeting another IITian. He is an uncle of a friend of mine. My friend always used to speak about her uncle. I often felt that this uncle is a perfect maverick. He was a professor in IIT Kharagpur ( now retired). Some years back he had "adopted" a village. This village "Balrampur" which was located "near" to the IIT campus (not really near urban standards though...it takes 40 mins from the IIT campus on a two-wheeler) was really not able to gain much attention from any Government body. Hence, residents of the village had been surviving without electricity, water from tube-well, primary schools, government hospitals, etcera, etcetera. This man after spending some years in one of those "developed dream" countries came back to teach in IIT Kharagpur. Very soon he bought a piece of land in this village and started building a "home" there. And then he got electricity to this village after lot of fewd with the Government bodies. He started a school in the house which he had built. All this happened much before "Swades" was even conjured. This world which he had created, to which he belonged is able to give him much more than anything that any first world country could offer.


What did these men have or do in order to make such massive change in perspective possible? Is this about the closed, discipline, peaceful life of IIT campus that makes a "monk" possible out of a common man (co-incidentally both mentioned here are fro IIT)? Or their early experience of "too much" comfort that makes a philanthroper out of them? Or is it that these people are born with a kind self realisation, a clarity of vision? There might be a truth in each of these possibilities and probably each of these things are true to some extent.


These people are also probably born with a strong conscience that does not make them forget their roots. Most of us keep losing parts of us as we move on with life. But for them its different. They remain in control, they integrate parts of their life once they see them going apart. They are the ones who can hear the sounds of harmony in the nature around, they see this world with a special sense of empathy. They see the magic in the colours of nature and they hear the rhythm of the harmony in the world around just like the monks do sitting in the silence of the monastries.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming back



There are many things in life about which its difficult to blog...incidents, emotions, problems, people, etc. And mistakes...




Mistakes of not holding hands...




Relationships mostly came to me with a lot of pain. But still I would still say life was good to me. Almost always.




Its just so wonderful to know and live with people who has the courage to love me inspite of all my faults, all my withdrawals, all my negations...




When in pain, one's existence is often fragmented...you seem lost...not recognising emotions, not knowing yourself...one just craves for some synchrony in the things that keep happening around you.




And suddenly you see a pattern in the smiling faces around you, in the words that keep dropping unaware...




This pattern seems familiar...this pattern I knew some years ago...




It comes to me in drops and then comes rushing...canteen, classrooms, stairs, movie halls, smiles, laughs, hands held tight...And then the mistake of letting go...those hands...which I could see stretched...I kept walking away as if I heard nothing...




I have walked miles away...But I can still hear you all...




Is this an illusion...I am afraid to turn back..




All I need to do is to turn around...I know I will have to find out...




Now now now..Turn




What is this? Its me. I see myself...I see myself smiling and happy...who is she? Is this an illusion? Is this me? Is this an image or my imagination?




I try touching her with shivering fingers...I cannot. What is this? Am I dreaming?




"Who are you?", I shout at it. "Who, who...please tell me"




And then there is another me...smiling...talking...happy..




"Who are you all? Tell me. Tell me. Why do you all look like me?"




And then there face starts changing...I know these faces, I know them all..memories from past come rushig back...college, canteen, movie halls...




"I do not understand. What is this happening?"




They all smile at me. There are tears in my eyes..."Please tell me"




And then it dawns in me...i know what all this means.




I left a part of me here. In between my friends...with each of them. I lived fragmented all this time not knowing where it existed...now knowing that "friendship is the best kind of love"




I stretch my hands...in hope, in fear, in happiness










Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feeling gifted

I was in Asansol for a long fieldwork and I happened to interview one LIC agent. I went to his house for the interview. It was a one room low-ceiling house. The ceiling was so low that somebody reasonably tall could actually touch the ceiling. Well, thankfully, the people in the residing in that house were all short. It was a afamily of three- the LIC agent, his wife and his 16 years old son. I started the interview with regular introduction and I saw the LIC agent listening to every word of mine. Then he introduced himself. As he spoke I discovered, he is more than what his shabby shirt and torn pants could hold.

He attended literary sessions, he read Camus, he could name the most recent poets of Bengal. I could see he was just not another LIC agent. His identity extended beyond what he had to do for his living. He didn’t stoop to his situation, his poverty, his obligations. Somewhere inside him I saw a hero who wants to dream big time. He wants his son to become a scientist. He doesn’t want his son to pursue an MBA or in any other “money making” profession. He wants his son to be a dreamer too- dreaming about new discoveries and inventions.

I was there doing my work and I had wasted full 2 hours of his. But yet when I got up to leave, he invited me for a dinner. And he had asked his wife to cook mutton just because I was supposed to visit. Mutton is expensive and I felt guilty. I had to leave for other interviews. I thanked him and left. But before I left, I saw a glimpse of the “king” in that LIC agent. At that moment, I felt gifted to have met a real king, a real hero. Life’s miseries failed to rob him off his heroism, his generosities and his dreams.

There are gifts for us at every turn of life; we often do not see them. In this journey called “life”, names and faces get lost soon. But what remains is a “gift”.