Thank God, I had made only one resolution at the beginning of this year. It withered away long ago.
Wednesday, December 30
Thank God, I had made only one resolution at the beginning of this year. It withered away long ago.
Tuesday, December 29
If we are to justify
Our presence on this earth.
We must keep loving all our days,
Someone, anyone, anywhere
Outside our selves;
For even the sarus crane
Will grieve over its lost companion,
And the sea seal its mate.
Somewhere in life
There must be someone
To take your hand
And share the torrid day.
Without the touch of love there is no life,
Wednesday, December 16
Sunday, December 13
This celebrated picture that has become the icon of a gramophone record manufacturer, delivers a silent message: the nostalgia of a dog to the voice of its long lost master.
There is an irony in this trademark. When Francis Barraud, the English artist, who brilliantly conceived this idea and painted this beautiful picture wanted to sell this to Edison’s gramophone company, none of them wanted to take it. Their objection was the dog! “Dogs wouldn’t listen to music,” they said. They were correct in their human logic but grossly missed an opportunity to own one of the most beautiful trademarks humanity would ever produce. Here, in this painting, the fox terrier named Nipper is not listening to the music of his late master but just taking a little interest in his Master’s voice! Nipper was just curious enough to look sharply into the trumpet of the gramophone and to correlate that voice to his dear master’s.
Scientists who study animal behavior tells us that dogs cannot really understand our language: our music, our songs, and our complex speech systems. Instead, they have a strong correlation to our voice, our looks, our smell, and our behavior. It is from the softness and the toughness of our voice that animals understand our moods and our pitch. Nipper was just trying to do that.
Looking at Nipper, he tells us to realise the richness and the depth of individuality that is hidden in our voice that makes each of us so unique. Only when a voice is stilled forever does we realise the lack of it.
If all those voices that have been long lost in our life, or in our times, were to come alive, what would it be! I wonder about it often: if all those loved voices that passed away in time, and was never recorded were to come alive in our life, what a wonder it would be !! (Many times I wished to hear my long lost Aunt's voice... but it has been lost forever. Sometimes, I walk to her grave and sit by it , trying to listen to her. )
'Nipper' is more than a trademark... it is the magic of a million emotions coming alive in sounds that awake us to a life that we lived ago.
Long Live Dear Dear Nipper !!
Saturday, December 12
Thursday, December 10
Well, end of the year is fast approaching and 'total commitment' is a difficult proposition to ponder. Putting things in ‘total’ order, getting the 'total' priority in place, looking back into half-baked projects, taking them up to rework.... Oh! Some of them are too difficult....I shy away from them.
Then Lord, ‘total commitment’ haunts me. It starts in a little way with a big desire. It starts too quickly. Most often ‘total commitment’ never kicks off beyond a couple of days effort. It all cools down to the ‘real me’. I understand that in ‘total commitment’ there is no part left for the ‘real me’. And, ‘commitment’ is a kind of surrender sort of a word — a not-my-will-but-thine attitude towards every day. So Lord, do I really like it?
I run away. I shudder from it all. I want no part of ‘total commitment’. Please tell me, Can I settle for something else other than ‘total commitment’ to my vocation? Something lesser than ‘total’? So why does it haunt me so?
Lord, I promise YOU that I will get on with my cool life. I will get on in a good way... in a possible way...in an ok way. I wouldn’t mess it up without letting YOU know it. Even if I mess it up, I’ll come back to YOU for correction. But Lord, keep me away from ‘total commitment’. I am afraid of that...
Lord of all my life, .... amen!”
Sunday, November 22
Ice-bound and quiet, vast and majestic, the Himalaya offered me a different panorama than the green, water filled paddy fields or the coconut groves of my homeland Kerala. But then, the long pyramidal summits which thrust themselves so majestically above the long white ridges make the most town-stupefied man like me, a Nature-lover. Mighty Himalayas are so grace filled and resplendent. They stand beckoning humanity for thousands of ages to adventure and persist. How can men fail? Why must his dreams weaken? Looking to this exquisite creation of the Master, can I lean to live..to live in Nature’s grasp? Sometimes I reflect the fact that poor is a man who finds no time to sit and wonder at the majesty of God’s creation. From a star-dust to the mountains,... from an embryo to a birth...then to the walk of life, I see the spirit of God calling me to commune and participate in HIS Creation.
Friday, November 13
Sunday, November 8
The last rain of the season has begun. This is a frail drizzling. Like the tune of ‘beating the retreat’, rain seems to say goodbye to us all with lightening and thunder. We will miss it all for another year. And when it comes next year, who knows how many of us will be there to welcome it!
This patch of last rain is important as it settles on the soil. Once again, the soil has become soft with water and the potted shrubs have begun to look green. There is a sudden drop of heat in the nights and day is bright with clear sky. The daily hassle of life cannot overtake the joy of living when there is rain and sunshine or breeze and stillness at different corners of life.
Most of the world religions have connected the seasons of nature to their worship almanac. I know it from the Christian and Hindu ways of spirituality. I have often thought about it and have shared these thoughts with seniors. Tagore calls these seasonal changes “Guests of my life...”.
I see how Tagore puts it in a lovely poem....
“Guests of my life, You came in the early dawn, and you in the night, Your name was uttered by the Spring flowers and yours by the showers of rain.
You brought the harp into my house and you brought the lamp. After you had taken your leave, I found God’s footprints on my floor. Now when I am at the end of my pilgrimage I leave in the evening flowers of worship my salutations to you all.”
Friday, November 6
As I drink a cup of tea alone at home or in a quit lonely place, it is wonderful to allow enough time to appreciate it. The core of the trick is to drink tea with mindfulness. In quietness, when we I can feel the warmth of the cup in my both hands, it speaks to me of myself and God. Holding the cup of tea with both hands and taking slow natural breath, there is a sudden feeling of oneness with the drink. Consciously telling myself that my ‘body and mind dwell in the very here and now’ is to bring mindfulness to the tea occasion. Breathing mindfully, keeping myself with the tea, soon fixes us with the drink. It releases us from the environment down to the core of the occasion. Those moments, tea reclaims its highest place in my life.
I suddenly began to realise that as I drink every cup of distracted tea, it is not tea that I drink but my own illusions and afflictions. Often, I do not even notice that my cup of tea is empty, as I am so much away from the tea. Sometimes, I cannot even recollect the taste or the warmth of the tea as I have been carried away by the distractions in the tea-shop or by the TV-music that is blasting in the air. It is a shame that we pay so much for a quality tea and still miss so much of it!
By drinking tea mindfully, I think I am encountering a different tea altogether. Meeting tea in that real manner, tea enters into life in a special way. At that moment only one thing matter: tea...and that’s all.
Monday, November 2
When there is a ripple in a pond, it is easily noticed. When that same ripple happens in an ocean, it is faded away in the vastness of the blue seas. Nevertheless, can we dismiss the ripple all together just because it faded away so soon in the seas? The complicated interwoven nature of relationships illustrate that world is one family of living beings. All the multiplicity of the universe boils down to one great family called earth! That thought overtakes all the pity niches I have created for myself...for my family and for my life. Of course, social responsibility calls me to do it. Yet, there is one family and only one family on earth.
When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them pray, he started a simple prayer with the words, ‘Our Father in Heaven....’ I must realise that God becomes my Father only when the world becomes my brothers and sisters. This is the gist of Christianity that I often forget. The immediate spiritual consequence of this understanding is to humbly accept that that I have no place on earth to desecrate it. The stars, the flowers, the dust and the human life are all united... united in this framework of the universe. What a marvel it is to mull over this thought!! What a humbling experience is it!
To envision the interwoven nature of this mystery, someone asked us to see ‘the universe in a speck of dust’. How correct that is! Shall I call it ‘God’s own Globalization’?
Saturday, October 31
The story of Christopher raised too many question in me. I often wondered what lead people to choose a special way of life. I believe that it is a ‘calling’ that lead everyone to have a distinct manner of living. In a religious context, I can call it a ‘vocation’. There are wealth creators whose methods of operation marvel me. Can I mimic their successes? No... Should I mimic them? No! During my early professional life, it was Mother Theresa who attracted me. I remember wishing to become an ambulance driver in her missions for the old and the poor. However, that never happened!
Since 5 years, I am fascinated by solitude, contemplation and nature. I survey my thoughts and wonder if my attraction to them is superficial or real. One of the famous western contemporary writers who has explored the mystery of solitude and contemplative living is an American Christian monk by name Thomas Merton. I often gain lots of wisdom from his documentations, and observations.
Rev. Merton speaks thus in his book 'New Seeds of Contemplation', “Contemplation is also the response to a call : a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is , and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life losses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One. He answers Himself in us and this answer is divine life, divine creativity, making all things new. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question, and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.”
I want to keep the above quote deep in my heart.
Tuesday, October 20
One of the craziest conundrums in the Stock market is our inability to know which scripts to buy or which scripts to sell or which scripts to keep for good. The frenzy in this is very evident when the market is going north. I have seen many people wasting their time, money and health dabbling around stocks. All of them are drifters in a wild wind. They are carried away by what others ‘recommend’ and do not actively form an opinion on their own.
The scope and the products of every business is analysed by different people in a different manner. That is why market works. Hence, forming an opinion can be tricky. I closely watch and listen to see how some of my friends navigate their path in the wild world of stocks. Generally, formation of an opinion is easy when a personal ‘life experience’ is a harbinger. When what we are looking at is not our ‘life experience’ then, we begin to search for the more information on the company at different locations using a hundred different methods. I have also seen that some of my friends are quantitative while others are qualitative. However, conclusions can be strikingly bright, though they have come to an opinion without a direct ‘life experience’ of their own.
I remember a friend of mine, an English Professor and an expert in his subject, phoning me up and telling me about the prospects of purchasing a few stocks of Exide (Exide an electric cell manufacturer). “Did you look into their results?” I asked. “Yes” he said, “I not only looked into their three-year results but also searched a dozen cars to find out if those cars were running with Exide under their bonnets!” I was surprised at his answer. My friend wanted a ‘life experience’ before plunging into Exide. However, this type of approach is not always possible. So, another friend of mine works only with trading charts and technical analysis.
One of the most interesting and thought provoking market statements that I heard recently was from the legendary investor Jim Rogers. Talking about his methodology, he spells out two truths: Stick to what you know and trust your own judgement. Well, these two statements looks like old hats fit for any application. However, there is lot of wisdom in it. Specialists in stock markets come out daily with their ‘buy-sell’ recommendations. Without reasoning at individual level, people rush into such recommendations. And, often it is true that they do achieve positive results. Nevertheless, how they will navigate further in their investments? “Will they wait to hear Specialists talk again on their favourite stocks and to take further call on the markets?” asks Jim Rogers. Often, those who follow ‘buy-sell’ calls of Specialists will lose their ability to create their own portfolio based on their own judgement. Soon, they become victims of the very people they believe in and are left with loads of scripts they cannot navigate further.
Like nature, Stock markets too never divulge there secrets to anyone fully. There are also occasional surprises. That is the real fun of it! And life keeps going....
Monday, October 19
Monday, October 12
Sunday, October 4
The tidal pattern of prayer is one of the most mysterious experiences of anyone who knows it. Looking at the tides, we all understand the cyclic nature of it: it comes deep into the shores and then it goes away. I love to visit…revisit the rocks and sands that the tides have left wet and clean. And then, in the sun it dries up only to be revisited by tides again. I ask the anglers and look for the time of the rising tides and the falling tides. They know it better than anyone on the shores does.
We have many prayer-lessons in the tides and waves. If we were to close our eyes and just listen to the sound of the waves beating the shores, we hear a rhythm in it. We hear the splash of water on the rocks or the shores. Then we hear the sound of the water retracting. Then there is a little rest, a beautiful lull, a momentary stillness when another wave is forming at a distance. It is this lull that breaks the noise and gives a moment of stillness to the waves. This is the alternating element in the wave story.
Our prayer life too needs lulls and brakes. Else, it would be too noisy … it would be a map without direction. Imagine a shore without tides and waves…How poor it will be!
Monday, September 28
A short romance...a quick betrothal...a hurried marriage...and a painful divorce. That was the great tragedy in my little friend’s life. I was shocked hearing his personal story. So strange were his post-marriage days that there wasn’t even a honeymoon! Nevertheless, throughout his revelation, there was something that perplexed me: my friend made no complaints about what had beached him. He complained neither God nor his fate. He had only words of forgiveness and a determination to build another life where it had failed. In fact, he told me that the divorce proceedings were smooth and was on a mutual agreement of withdrawal. Looking onto his clean-shaven face, I saw a deep serenity glittering all across. He stood released and liberated for life.
My friend not only shared with me his crumpled fate... he also told me of his flying dreams...dreams to build his life back. “What a great strength he has!”, I thought. 4 months post-divorce, he was already working out a return plan. Hatred to none and joy to all, this young man was already employing eight paramedical-staff and running a medical centre. Beaming with confidence, he was putting back his life-bricks. As I bid him good-bye and shook his hands, I realised how smooth and soft his palms were. “His heart was as soft as his palm”, I thought.
Driving home, I kept thinking: I have understood today that life is all about overcoming obstacles, of seizing every moment’s magic, of enabling others to go forward... I have understood that life is all about living. I also understood today that there is more than one way to measure success and failures.
My thoughts run to Randy Pausch, the dying computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. He had said, ‘We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand’.
--- Photo : My favourite beach at Kappad, Calicut.
Tuesday, September 22
Sunday, September 20
The seashells washed up in the beach attract me. Some of them are alive... their owners are living inside them! Other shells have no life in them...their owners have left their beautiful homes forever. Most of these shelled creatures go back by the receding waves to the place they really belong: the blue-ocean...while others lay ashore. These relics of the ocean add beauty and life to the sands ashore. Without them, beaches would have been a poorer place... and we would have felt a little lonely.
One of the most absorbing sights that I see upon a beach is the numerous holes that the crabs make. These sea crustaceans’ excavate little holes and hide in them. The waves and the waters call them out of their hiding place. As waves recede into sea, these crabs too rush with the waters.
Aloneness and loneliness are two different feelings. Aloneness is to embrace solitude and isolation. It is a positive force to reinforce our heart. However, loneliness is being captive in one’s own heart. It is a killer of creativity and personality. Loneliness is a negative force that drags anyone to self-pity and death. Being in an empty beach or anchored in a quit landscape is to choose silence to cacophony.... to choose stillness to empty reverberations.
Thursday, September 17
Is only part of a tree.
And this tree, so complete in itself,
Is only part of the mountain.
And the mountain runs down to the sea.
And the sea, so complete in itself,
Rests like a raindrop
Sunday, September 13
I have to talk to You... I have to hear You.
Since I am in a crowded place, I can’t excuse myself that I got to miss You.
Since it is a rainy day, I can’t let off my hellos to you.
Since I came home late last night, I can’t tell you that I will put you off this morning.
Life must go on, Lord...And our conversation will pull on.
The other day I was amused at seeing a pack of noodles. It was all alphabets.
Yes, ‘alphabet-noodles’, they call it. I really wonder who got that crazy idea of putting noodles in the shape of alphabets. As a child, I have eaten biscuits shaped in alphabets...chocolates shaped in alphabets... but never noodle. And I always thought that noodles were extruded... never thought noodles could be moulded into letters. Amazing! And it stands delicious upon cooking.
I always thought that words alone were shaped in alphabets and not food!!
But Lord, words have literally become food here.
I know, words are food for many... politicians, poets and lovers.
Life goes on Lord... alphabets, words, noodles, You and me.”
Thursday, September 10
I have seen tramps writing their names on the rocks and lovers leaving there marks on Taj. I have read love poems itched by darlings on trees and motel room walls stained with lipsticks. Urban or rural, we find such works everywhere. ‘Graffiti’... they call it. These are attempts to capture the beauty of individual’s presence in that space...all these are little acts to place themselves forever in time and space. Most end up telling a bit of their love story or scribbling their names or jotting their devotion. Some can be just sweet-nothings.
Wednesday, September 9
Sunday, September 6
Every year, during the harvest festival of Onam, there is a merry making event called ‘Pullli Kalli’. Literally translating it to English, I call it ‘the Tiger Sport’.
Trichur, the central Kerala district is the heart of ‘Tiger Sport’. Long years of my stay in Trichur have always captivated me to this temple based cultural festival. The beauty of this pageant is the simplicity of expression from the ‘Tigers’ of the street. These ‘Tigers’ are real flesh and blood. But for a moment, they transform themselves to the wild... they transpose themselves to the urban jungles...they roar and growl...they howl and snarl. In a distinct choreography, they pace through the streets to the drum beats of their leader.
Times have changed this event very much. I was told that many young ‘Tigers’ went in for shortcuts in their habits: they started to use synthetic colours and were too cosmetic in approach. Nevertheless, there are the real ‘Tigers’ who use only natural vegetable dyes as their colouring materials. It makes more sense to use natural materials as they are user friendly and they allow the skin to ‘breathe’.
Photos Location: Trichur...friends as 'Pullies'
Friday, September 4
With water all around, with ponds all full...
No club membership charges are required to admire this beauty in God’s creation...
Monday, August 31
I came as a toddler to this Zoo. Hence, I don’t remember much of my infancy. I have only heard my story from the people who had come to see me all my life. I have heard them say that a group of British Sailors picked me up off the cost of Indian Ocean Island of Aldabra. They brought me to Sir. Robert Clive. He was big man at that time. The year was 1757 and the land was India. Since then, I was with the British in India. They were my guardians. In addition, they gave me a room at Alipore Zoo. I lived all my life there.
Adwaitya means “the matchless” or unique. Yes, I was unique for a simple reason: 250 years of my life on earth was quite a long one. Isn’t it? I was perhaps the longest living animal in the world. Therefore, I wouldn’t mind anyone calling me anything. After all, people come and they go away!
Wednesday, August 26
Saturday, August 22
The beach looks empty.
Where have all the joggers gone?
Where have all the walkers disappeared?
Where have all those morning fortune-tellers vanished?
The Rain has put them off. The beach looks empty.
How quickly people put-off their daily routines!
And suddenly, the loneliness looms around.
“Welcome solitude, to my empty beach”, I said.
Rainwashed solitude in the cloudless sky,
rainwashed solitude in an empty beach.
I see raindrops hanging here and there.
I see raindrops hanging on every periphery...
on my favourite beach bench and
on the fancy light posts guarding the coast.
Raindrops hanging like diamonds of moisture,
Glistening in the morning sunrays.
Today the rain seems to have made a comeback...
comeback leaving all my distracting friends home...
comeback with my precious hallowed solitude.
My father is the sea,
This river is the fountain
Of all that life may be...
Swift river from the mountain,
Deep river to the sea,
Take all my words and leave them
Where the west wind sets them free.
So, piper on the lonely hill,
Play no sad songs for me;
The day has gone, sweet night comes on,
Its darkness helps me to see.
Thursday, August 20
And yet, as the solitude takes effect, I find there is a strange quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. All the emptying that I do... all the egos that I forfeit... all my daily masks that I drop off... all the pretentious ‘I am’ that ‘I am not’ ... all the sins I think of and confess...they empty me incredibly. Yes...solitude lighten me!
Soon, as I accost my life in the lower plains, the Life (the God) rushes back into the void heart of mine. The Life easily finds a specious room in me. The Life finds that room richer, more vivid, fuller than before!
Tuesday, August 18
When the sun is shining and when everything is sunny, it is easy to live. We seldom think of a day without money to bank on, without a job to earn or without a family to love. And on a cloudy day... a day when some of our planning really goes wrong... when some unexpected crashing news calls at us , we go sad.
Years ago, I remember a day when I felt too lonely in the college hostel. There wasn’t anything glad to think about. I decided to bike off to a lonely place... decided to look at my loneliness and talk with God. A dam site far away was my destination. Silent pool of water and the hills surrounding this great dam was best to beat my loneliness. My hopes and dreams seemed to take shelter in the hills. But soon, there too, the dark clouds began rolling down and following me. It was going to rain. I took shelter in a zoo near the dam. With a mood dampened by a drizzle, I was strolling down the zoo. Soon, my eyes caught the sight to a peacock. What amazed me was that he was making those dances near his mate. I have only read that peacock dance. And here I was seeing one!
The dance of a peacock is actually a mating dance in nature. Gloomy dark sky calls them to dance. May be that it was created by God to dance in gloom. I ran my camera to get a couple of shots. Difficult it was. I had to put my camera lens before the iron-grills and shoot.
Today, what remains of that effort is a photo. Each time I look at this photo... look at the dance of this peacock, it reminds me of a little life lesson: to dance in gloom.
I biked back to college with a tang of joy. God did talk to me that day...talked to me about a dance in gloom!
Friday, August 14
Hold it up in the light, hide it under the
shadow of death; keep it in the casket
of the night with your stars, and then
in the morning let it find itself among
flowers that blossom in worship.
....Tagore (Crossing XVII)
Each time I see a fresh shell washed up on the sands,
it reminds me of birth, life and death that are integral to nature all around us.
But the beauty of seashells is that,even in death,
they leaves behind somthing of splendour
that tells of its short presence on earth.
Wednesday, August 12
My wanderlust has taken him to valleys and sacred places...to many beaches and beautiful sunsets. Together we have travelled to famed churches in Kerala... we have prayed prayers that God wouldn’t listen. Still, we love each other. In all those lonely motoring days, never has he stood still to tell me that he wasn’t fine. Moreover, he has never left me in the middle of a road to soil my hands and hours with a spanner on a flat tyre. Between me and my bike, we have always shared the best of us together and seldom the worst.
Then, there are many pedestrians who have come forward to ask me if my bike is up for sales. What a strange thing is it to hear that! They do not know what they are asking. They do not know what they are doing. They are coveting another man’s property. “That is a sin, my dear friend!” I would whisper to them in my heart.
Saturday, August 8
One of the most interesting aspects of philately is to track the history that stamps tell before its publication and post publication.
I looked at an old stamp... not so old...that spoke to me lots. It is the picture of late Sanjay Gandhi that I hold in a 1981 stamp. Today, the story of this young man is history. It is said that he brought Suzuki Motors to India that changed the drive of this nation. It is also said that he run what was known the ‘Sanjay Effect’— a sterilization measure that rocked the foundations of this nation’s ethos. It was crafted such that a sterilization certificate was to be produced by every young man if he were to apply for a rural credit! Even the prisoners weren’t spared. They were to go under the knife if they were to enjoy a parole.
What bemuses me is a press cutting from 1981 Indian Express that tells: “Swamy assails Sanjay Stamp”. It reads: Janata Party leader Subramaniam Swamy on Saturday criticised the Government decision to issue a postal stamp to commemorate the first death anniversary of Sanjay Gandhi and said his party would cancel it IF returned to power. “We would also recover the cost from Mrs. Gandhi,” he told reporters.