I intend to end up there…

“Often, when life takes us where we don’t want to go, that’s where we find what we truly need.”

I read the above quote in some book recently. My sir often shares his wisdom that resistance to anything creates pain. That is why yielding or surrender has so much importance in any spiritual path or for our mental well-being.

Often resistance comes when we want or do not want something while we get/do not get that thing. Result is pain. Though I try my best to get things my way, at some threshold point, I realize the futility and then accept (as if I have an option 🙂 ) whatever happens with resignation. I always have this feeling later, why did I resist it first and suffer. I could have avoided all that suffering if I had accepted it first.

I find that whenever I use my mind, I complicate things royally. Most importantly, I have only become better (my version of better, not yours) with what happened. All the major decisions of my life just happened – My father gave me self-esteem (oh, I resisted mightily to come and live with my parents after spending my childhood with my aunt). marriage gave me tolerance and humility; my son taught me joy and empathy; the job I landed out of necessity taught me love for my work. It expanded my mind.

Oh, yes and there are many things which I desired, worked for and got. Numerous things / relationships. Some of them made me happy and some of them made me suffer. But all of them taught me something or the other and made me richer.

What is common, though, is that I had to or will have to leave all of them behind – at some point or other. Do I regret leaving them behind? I don’t think so. When on a journey, you cannot carry the places you’ve visited. You move on. I used to suffer while moving on. These days I have become a little wiser. I realize the inevitability of moving on – no matter what. That is what age brings in. Or as I read in the book Twilight, “When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end”. This life itself is far beyond any of my expectations. The fact that I was born itself is a blessing. This universe of mine with all its glory exists for me because I am born (which fortunately or unfortunately was not my decision) and alive.

Though it looks like I’ve been flitting from one thing to another, each person and event has left an indelible mark on me. Each conversation/communication has left a piece of that other person in me and has left a piece of me in the other person. So much so that this me is not me – but a compound of so many people or events.

I don’t know where I am.

At times I plunge to the bottom of the sea,

at times, rise up like the Sun.

At times, the universe is pregnant by me,

at times I give birth to it. (Rumi)

Many a times, the past feels like a dream. I just don’t feel as if I have travelled all those years – through all those events and people and places. It’s as if the current me is the only one alive – untouched by anything past. But I know this one is the product of all those years of experiences even if I fail to remember that.

Don’t think, this doesn’t leave me bewildered. On days I decide to feel confused, I feel highly confused by my life, its direction, the things I’ve done, things I’ve left undone. Then I happened to read this and felt at peace:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there. (Rumi)

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Sum or part?

I was reading a book by victoria alexander (a romance, of course ) where I came across the following sentence:
“Viewed from a distance, a painting seems complete. Perfect. But upon close inspection one sees each stroke, each dab of color, each nuance of the artist’s hand.”

Then I remembered the Gestalt theory: “the whole is other than the sum of the parts”.

First I thought both are contradictory. But then…

Everything is a culmination of the parts. I am what I am because of so many circumstances. When you strip me part by part, stroke by stroke, will you understand me? I guess not. You might not have reacted the way I have reacted under certain circumstances. There is only me with the unique circumstance which have made me into myself. That way I am other than the sum of my parts. But then, I have this huge doubt. Am I the parts that make me or is there a separate me? If I am just the parts, then there are so many parts and strokes, and which one is me? And if I am other than the parts, how can I say that I am the sum total of my parts? I know… I am as confused as you are here .

I don’t think I need an answer to my question. As I read somewhere, “Sometimes it’s best if questions are left unanswered. Because then you can spend the evening wondering what the answer was.”
I am all for spending evenings wondering answers to my questions. It is really wonderful…. Just imagine the possible answers! I can choose one answer which amuses me at that time. And for the same question, I can choose some other answer some other time, depending on my mood at that time! Isn’t this freedom?

May be there are times when seeing the whole is comfortable and there are times seeing the parts is comfortable, I guess. It’s always better to see the parts when one has to face an unpleasant circumstance or person where it will help lessen the bitter feelings attached to that. And it’s better to see and enjoy the whole when one sees something joyous/pleasant, when it can kill the joy if we strip it part by part. Selective vision!

I love this Aesop fable. A Man and a Lion were discussing the relative strength of men and lions in general. The Man contended that he and his fellows were stronger than lions by reason of their greater intelligence. ‘Come now with me,’ he cried, ‘and I will soon prove that I am right.’ So he took him into the public gardens and showed him a statue of Hercules overcoming the Lion and tearing his mouth in two. ‘That is all very well,’ said the Lion, ‘but proves nothing, for it was a man who made the statue.’ We can easily represent things as we wish them to be.

And why shouldn’t we? One can look at the whole when one’s spouse says “I love you” rather than ripping it piece by piece and see the individual strokes when he/she says “I regret the day I married you”. You know it means nothing either way :D. After all, we are here only so many number of years. Why make it unpleasant? Whole or parts, it just doesn’t matter.

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Sane as in’Sane’

“You are reading all wrong books, that is why you have a pimple on your face”, said my father accusingly. I need to tell you that the said pimple was a small mosquito bite (I never ever had a simple pimple in my entire life – not even during my adolescence). I just glared at him. The book I was reading was a Sidney Sheldon. Me at that time was a voracious reader and I was always worried when my father will peep over my shoulder to see what I am reading. Most of the times, he will just walk in and take the book from my hand and look at the page I am reading, Unfortunately for me, I will be reading the only compromising page in that entire book! And then I will have to listen to his lecture that this is the reason for the slight discolouration on my face. Bah! I never used to go near the television because you know what songs are like and the movies. Heaven forbid I got a rash on my skin later! It always used to be “Me being your father knows what is right and you are an ignorant girl”. I always indulged him because well, it amused me. So when he passed away, I decided to marry. I needed somebody to tell me “what is good” for me.

“Marriage is a great destroyer of logic, but I do think it’s a benefit to begin with a sane husband.” Said a character in one of the books I read. The immediate response was “God bless all those who have a sane husband. I should know being married to one. Always hovering in between clouds, I thought marrying a sane person will be my anchor to the terra firma (oh, I never intended to come down permanently J). At least that is what the symbolism of Kali with one foot on Shiva meant to me.

I started getting glimpses of that sanity immediately as we went on honeymoon. We went to Kodai and stayed on his bank’s guest house. There was another couple who had come to honeymoon from some other branch. So both the sane husbands decided to take one single cab so that we can go round. “That way we can share the expenses, why waste money unnecessarily”! Even now my husband will ask “what is wrong with that?”. I wish somebody could enlighten him!

So this sane rational being in my life started guiding my each step.
“Why do you have to buy a Rajastani miniature painted centre table when you can buy an ordinary one for half the price”? (They are not the same!)
“If you want to buy gold I’ll buy for you. But why do you spend so much money on artificial jewellery?” (Why indeed!)
“Why do you have to go to class for studying that craft, you learn other things on your own from internet” (I just want to, simple)
“why do you need meditation now that you’ve a family” (I never needed one before!)
“if you are doing Tanjore painting, I agree it is value for money, but why do you have to do paper cuts, paper flowers and fill the house with bits of paper” (I just love making them)
“I don’t understand why you want to go to places which you haven’t been before and where you don’t know the language as well. We will go somewhere we are familiar with for the vacation” (any sense!)
“We won’t go to that place because it’s not in our plan” (The fun is in deciding where to go after going to the bus stop!)

“THE PROBLEM WITH marriage, Lottie Graham reflected, was that there was such a difference, between what one dreamed the matrimonial state would be like and, well, the reality”. Another piece of wisdom from one of the novels i read recently. I realized it much later. The problem with marriage is also that one get used to the idea, one learns to live with it. So the ‘insane’ me started telling the ‘sane’ half,

“Well, I want to buy that costly table because I just want it, if you want logic, I don’t have one”.
“I want to go to this place even though it’s not planned but I agree not to talk to strangers and listen to you when we are there” (don’t ask me whether I followed it :D)
“I love cutting papers but I agree to gift them to people when occasion demands”
“because I’m meditating I am a bit okay for a family life, just imagine if I don’t do it how unreasonable I will become. I am doing it for your peace of mind” (the best joke I’ve ever made).

I always had this feeling, why is that some men have more than one wife (not all, but…) but why women are not known (the operative word is “known”) to marry more than one man! Another one of the characters in my book answered it thus: “I didn’t want to marry. Once was more than enough.” Well, may be men are searching for the one ‘sane’ woman who can make them happy, but we are insanely wise because we know that an ‘insane’ man is a myth. And we need a ‘sane’ person to cover our backs no matter what mischief we are up to. And also because once is “more than enough!”. Just imagine if we, heaven forbid, became sane! Imagine two sane people living together! Where will all the Rajastani miniature painted centre table artists go? Where will all the artificial jewelry manufacturers go? Most importantly, where will all my paper cuts go? Oh, I refuse to imagine a world without them.

I don’t mind sanity as long as it’s not expected of me. I am happy with my sane man as he is always there to do things sensibly and whatever mess I make he is there to straighten them out. And I don’t mind him calling me insane because “I rather like being considered mad. It’s a wonderful excuse for bad behavior.”

And whenever things go too rational for me, I just tell him “if you don’t agree to this, I am going to write a blog about you and your behaviour”. It never fails to deliver. 😀

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December and one grey hair…

The mountain’s head is white
And mine is too
December dies, the year
Runs out its string as all things do
– Yuan Mei (1716-1798)

So another year has passed. Oh, and yes, I acquired one (yes, just one :D) grey hair too. Like rivers flowing faster and faster as they reach the ocean, it looks as if time is flying by faster every year as you approach your destination (or another beginning, as how you look at it). What with annual reviews, performance appraisals etc (in the work front), one tend to think about an appraisal about one’s life too . Funny, every new year brings out a flash back of things undone, conflicts unresolved, love withheld, books unread, knowledge not acquired, goals not set, etc. But then as days fly by we tend to get caught up in day to day matters, till another new year and another post mortem.

“Kairos is an Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While Chronos refers to chronological time, Kairos signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. In our busy world, it’s important that know and practice the difference. Cultivating our sense of Kairos allows us to make space for and appreciate the special moments in our lives….”

The above is an excerpt from some book I was reading recently (or was it in some webpage I was browsing? I really don’t remember). I just stopped here and thought about it. Of late, I am realizing my fast approaching senility and the sudden panic it unleashes “oh-god-what-have-i-done-with-my-life” or rather “oh-god-what-all-have-i-left-undone”. I hope you understand the feeling. So when I read the above para, I really had to look back for those special moments or Kairos – the time in which something special happened.

And I realized that my life is full of such ‘special moments’. Those moments where nothing great (according to others) happened but then it’s etched on your heart. Which gives you pleasure whenever you recall it. A moment where time stood still and you lost sense of yourself. A moment in time where you were content. Where there was no hunger.

And those moments are all insignificant and normal. Easily attainable. Like the moment when I was a child and was racing my uncle to a village 10 kms away – following a path on the banks of a river. Or the first time I caught the gaze of a boy in my class and realized that he’s been doing it often (oh, nothing happened – it’s just part of adolescence). Or the moment I used to sit with my father on the terrace talking about anything and everything. Or the moments, early in the morning, when I just cuddle up with my husband, doing nothing. Or just looking at my son sleeping… Oh, there are countless moments like that which fills our life. Those are times we don’t need anything further. We feel secured. Like we are inside our Mother’s womb. May be that is why we don’t remember them often. Because they don’t cause havoc on our emotions.

I realize that we tend to carry those moments and emotions which disturbs us emotionally and which leaves us so dissatisfied that we tend to feel that that is the sum total of our life. I wonder why is it so? When our entire life is full of moments which are filled with contentment, why do we dwell on all those disturbing emotions? Or is it that every moment is a Kairos if we accept it as it is?

I don’t know the answer. I read a Russian saying in a book recently – “It does not matter where you live, just so long as you are not hungry”. It is true. Hunger is not only hunger for food. Wanting anything is hunger. If I could remember all those moments when I was sated, I could look back at a life fully lived. I guess those moments far outweigh the hungry moments in my life.

Thoughtfully,

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My favourite time of the year…

This is my favourite time of the year. Christmas and New Year! The lights and the cheer brightens the soul. This is also the time of giving. So i thought i’ll make this for my husband’s friend – for christmas 🙂

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The edge.

She says: “It’s a simple thing, my lord, and… and has traveled.” She would not use the word shabby. The duke says: “So have you, and so have I. So have we all in our various ways. None of us are the less for it.”

I was reading a regency romance recently. In that the heroine had some nativity dolls which she inherited from her mother which they had a tradition of setting up during Christmas – this one was old and used. She thought the aristocracy will laugh at her old dolls – which was her treasure. So when the duke requests her to display them the above conversation occurs.

It’s so true. We are ashamed that we have travelled. We are afraid of what we have or have not done. We are ashamed to present ourselves as we are to others – what if they laugh at us? One thing I have found out in life is that if I have done a mistake, others have done it too – may be in some other context. We are the culmination of our own choices. We only become richer and richer day by day because of our experiences. So where is the question of being ashamed?

Each moment we walk on the edge. We live on the edge. Each moment is a bardo. Life is not meant to be safe. It’s the danger, the action that makes a life. But where is the risk, danger for ordinary people like us – one may ask? If we think deeply, we know each moment we are taking a risk. We really do not know whether the breath that goes out will come in again. I am not exaggerating. It is so.

Most of the times we do not realize it. The moment we become aware of the risks we are taking, life becomes interesting. It is just a matter of being aware – of the balancing act we do each second.

 “It feels wrong not to want safety, but the edge is where everything happens. The edge is where things change. It’s decision, and action, and creation. It’s birth and death. It’s life. Doesn’t everyone live on the edge, anyway?”

I love doing things which I am afraid of. Like that ice flier ride I took recently. I am afraid of heights. I feel dizzy if I look down from even the first floor. From the ice flier, I could only see ice crevasses some 3000 ft down. My stomach churned. My husband told me not to look down. But I couldn’t stop myself. The fear, the thrill, the beauty of the pristine snow…

Whenever I try to conform, try to be content, I get restless. I thought standing on one of the sides is rather safe. Then I realized, from the edge I walk every moment, it’s a deep crevasse both sides. Can I stop walking… Can I stop living? Absolutely no.

I love this danger called life. I love this creation of me each moment. I am afraid, I am thrilled that I’m walking on the edge each moment. I might fall down next moment… but so what? Things are as they are. We are. Why qualify anything? None of us are the less for anything.

“The ancient masters slept without dreams and woke up without worries. Their food was plain. Their breath came from deep inside them. They didn’t cling to life, weren’t anxious about death. They emerged without desire and reentered without resistance. They came easily; they went easily. They didn’t forget where they were from; they didn’t ask where they were going. They took everything as it came, gladly, and walked into death without fear. They accepted life as a gift, and they handed it back gratefully, – Chuang-tzu

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Why i never made my way to a man’s heart?

The day my son said “my amma’s rasam is the best” was the day a great mystery was revealed to me.  Well, I need to give some background data for you to comprehend my statement.

 

My foray into kitchen was when I was ten. No, not exactly true, the first one was when I was 8 months old and I went into the kitchen and fell on a sharp-edged container and had to be sewed up.  After that I refused to do anything with kitchen till I was ten. I was brought up by my spinster aunt and she had gone to work.  I saw a recipe for a sweet in a children’s magazine and thought of making it – it read so simple.  The thing is I did not know (till I got married that is) how to differentiate between the various dals and I obviously mixed up the ingredients. The final product, after it cooled, refused to separate itself from the pan.  When my aunt came, I was fighting with the pan for my share of the sweet.  She looked at the scene once and grabbed the pot and threw it outside into the waste disposal pit.  With that my second foray came to a close.  Me being wiser never bothered to venture into the kitchen till…. Wait I’ve to tell you that gradually.

 

“Since you’ve decided to marry my daughter, I must warn you that you are going to die of starvation” was how my mom greeted my husband when he came home the first time after we decided to get married.  She sounded so smug and happy about the prospect.  I don’t remember what my husband replied to that or in his own language he was ‘too intoxicated to think anything better’ at that time. I  made it clear from the beginning (see, certain things have to be stated upfront) that if the way to his heart is through his stomach then I’ll never make it there.  More than that I couldn’t think of the prospect of being in a stomach which is full of the food which I prepared :D.  I was very clear that cooking is definitely one of my ‘cannot do’ things.

 

So I got married  and the same day went to live with him in a house he rented – left to my own devices.  The first thing I had to learn what which dal is what and how to identify different oils.  My husband said he can survive on curd rice (he’s not into risk taking – even a little) and I need not bother much.  After eating curd rice for a couple of days we left to my mother-in-law’s place for a week.  Like all sons, my husband was (and still is) all praise for his mother’s cooking.  I found out then that it is true – she is a great cook.   When I told her that my cooking knowledge is ‘zero’, she told me “It’s no big deal, I will teach you”.  She gave me the preliminary lessons so that her son can survive without much damage.  I learnt to make a sambar, some vegetables and rice.  The art of making rotis was later on added.

 

One day my husband told me that his friend is coming home for lunch and so I called my mom-in-law and got some recipes (this friend himself is a good cook, so I was told).  I put the pressure cooker with rice, dal, vegetables etc.  It was nearly 30 minutes and the cooker remained silent.  After some time I heard something flying by and realized that it’s the safety valve of the cooker.  I thought it’s going to burst.  My husband had gone somewhere outside.  First I ran into the kitchen and switched off the stove and ran outside (if the cooker explodes will the gas cylinder also explode?!).  Waited safely for ten minutes and then took the cooker and kept it in the courtyard to cool.  See, I forgot to pour water inside the cooker J.  I had to do all over again and my husband’s friend ate his lunch – no need to ask how it was.  The food was half cooked and I don’t know whether it had any taste at all :D.

 

We survived some time with curd rice again.  By then my mom sent me a huge bottle full of salted mango with instruction to shake it every other day (“you can make chutney for emergency” – she doesn’t know that everyday was an emergency for me).  I placed it on the top shelf and did as instructed a couple of times and then totally forgot about it.  One night I dreamt that bottle and the mango reminding me to shake it.  Next morning, as my husband and myself were exiting home for office, I remembered my dream and told my husband “in my dreams the mango asked me to shake the bottle, see I didn’t do it for nearly 10 days, it’s missing me.  I will just go in give it a couple of shakes quickly and come back”.  So he waited near the gate and I ran into the kitchen reached the top shelf took out the bottle and gave it a big shake.  The next thing I remembered was my hands full of blood and the bottle in pieces all over the floor along with the mangoes and salt water.  My husband came in running and asked” I heard a ‘boom’ and then glass breaking what happened?”.   I was looking at my hand and wondering what happened.  He saw the blood and asked me to come out of the kitchen without hurting my feet on the glass pieces.  Then I washed my hands and took out the glass pieces.  He took me to a nearby hospital and my fingers needed stitches in two places.  He told me “if your mom sends you anything, I’m going throw that out with a thanks and if you dream anything else about kitchen from now onwards you’re not going to do it”.  (my mom later told me that “don’t you know that you’ve to keep the bottle open for a couple of minutes before shaking”.  Well…).

 

The next great episode happened like this.  One Saturday I thought of going for a head massage.  I had kept a pot of drinking water for boiling an hour back and forgot about it.  Husband had gone working and I locked the house and left.  The weather being fine I thought I’ll walk my way to the parlour (which was nearly 5kms from my house) and was half way through.  Then I remembered  the water and ‘panicky’ is an understatement to what I felt then.  I immediately took an auto and rushed home.  When I reached the corner of the main road from where I have to take a turn to my house, I asked the auto driver to stop.  I was staying in an independent house with the owner staying upstairs.  I thought (forget the logic, there is none) that the pot would have started burning and the gas would have burst (my greatest fear) with the landlady upstairs – God knows what will be the condition of the house.  Will I be held responsible.  Will the landlady survive?  There might be police and fire engine.  So, it is safe to get down at a distance.  So, I got down and quickly looked for anything unusual near my house.  There was no crowd.  So I went near step by step (it could happen any moment, you see) and still nothing happened.  So I went inside, cautiously opened the main door and went inside the kitchen.  The water had evaporated long long ago and the pot was burning red.  Switched off the stove, threw the pot inside the sink and poured water  and then threw it away (I am certainly not going to tell this to my husband, you see).

 

A few days later.  One day one of my colleagues brought “kalkand bath” to office and it was yummy.  So I asked him (yes ‘him’.  For he had made it) how to prepare that.  He told me how.  One weekend I thought of attempting the sweet.  This time I had to use a hammer to break it and while I was trying to break it with a hammer my mom dropped in and enquired what ‘that thing’ was.  I told her it’s my version of ‘kalkand bath’ and she laughed.  When we went to my mom’s place next weekend, she gave my husband a plate full of some sweet and he told her it’s very good.  “That”, said she with a smug expression “is called kalkand bath”.  I decided that day that come what may I’ll master the art of cooking.

 

With regular cuts and burns (minor incidents, daily incidents rather – even now), I moved to Bangalore along with my husband.  There, my colleague happened to be a great cook.  So, I used to pester her daily to give me recipes for whatever she brought that day.  One day she got fed up and gave me a book, ‘hundred rice varieties’ and said “you keep it, and don’t ask me for recipes again”.  Till now that has been my bible.  After my son was born I had a cook doing the dirty job for an year and then I came back to Chennai where I was left to my own devices.  By then, with regular tips from my mother in law, I slowly improved my cooking (?!) skills. 

 

These days my son swear by my rasam.  Oh, yes, the mystery.  I used to wonder why every man swears by his mother’s food.  I used to envy all those mothers who could make anything they touch taste heavenly.  Now I know.  No matter how you cook, for your son your rasam is better than ambrosia.  Now I don’t envy any of them mothers for, you see, i have also got a son who vouches that I’m the best (in anything and everything, including cooking).

 

However, what I consider the crowning glory of my cooking existence, is the day when my mom came to me and asked me to give her the recipe for my rasam powder.  And I replied with a smirk, “see amma, I don’t know the measurement.  I put in a little of this and a little of that, I don’t really measure….”.  ha.. ha… ha..

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