Wednesday, December 30

As the year ends...

I always tell that I should not look back. (May be that is why God gave me a neck that cannot be twisted very comfortably). Nevertheless, as the year ends, I am looking back... Looking back to find out what has come right and what had gone wrong. Every year closes with lots of done and undone things. That is life.

Thank God, I had made only one resolution at the beginning of this year. It withered away long ago.

What is my take for 2010? Is it good to start 2010 with hands full of new ‘I must do it’ thoughts? On the other hand, should I leave each moment just for itself...and take each day as it comes?

Unlike every year, I approach 2010 without any resolutions. This is my resolution: To take each day ‘here and now’, in all the ‘might and best’ and...Leave the rest in the hands of the God.


Tuesday, December 29

... a reason to love.

We must love someone
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,
And we must fade away.

*** Verses by Ruskin Bond
Photo Location: Kapadu Rocks****

Wednesday, December 16

Solitude for sale...

‘This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude. Kindly make reservations in advance
before the lagoon gets crowded up with boats.’
... (Hotel brochure)

Sunday, December 13

His Master’s Voice

My best-loved trademark is ‘His Master’s Voice’.

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

Come...Trek With Me

Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still,
Under the tall trees, touching old wood,
Taking the way where warriors once stood;
Crossing the little bridge, losing my way,
But finding a friendly place where I can stay.
Those were the days, friend, when we were strong
And strode down the road to an old marching song
When the dew on the grass was fresh every morn,
And we woke to the call of the ring-dove at dawn.
The years have gone by, and sometimes I falter,
But still I set out for a stroll or a saunter,
For the wind is as fresh as it was in my youth,
And the peach and the pear, still the sweetest of fruit,
So cast away care and come roaming with me,
Where the grass is still green and the air is still free.
Poem from 'the Ruskin bond's mini bus'

Photo: File photo from a trek.

Thursday, December 10

Total Commitment

Lord... you spoke of ‘total commitment’ (?)

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 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

Scribbling from my Himalayan diary...

“In a thousand ages of the gods, I could not tell thee of the glories of Himachal”. So confessed a Sanskrit poet at the dawn of Indian history... and he came closer than anyone else in capturing the spell of the Himalayas. The sea has had Conrad and Stevenson and Masefield, but the mountains continue to defy the written words. We have climbed their highest peaks and crossed their most difficult passes, but still they keep their secrets and their reserve; they remain remote, mysterious and spirit-haunted.

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 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.
'Conquest of Everest'... Stamp and First Day Cover... 29-5-1953
Minature stamp sheet of 'Ascent of Mount Everest Golden Jubilee' ... 29-5-2003 from personal collection.

Friday, November 13

At the railway station...

“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore, the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.... Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny... The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God... The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance. The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s saints”, says Thomas Merton.

Today I understand that the sanctity of the mountain is its true character bestrode upon it by the Creator. Being true to his character, the mountain speaks everyday about its Creator. That is his true sanctity.

Merton goes on to say, “ Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by doing precisely what God wants it to be here and now... Therefore, there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God”

Discovering me can be the best adventure in my life. More I come closer to my own discovery, I can truly be what I am. Shedding all my daily masks and pretentious living I arrive at my true railway station for a travel to my great adventure called life. And God smiles at it!

Sunday, November 8

Last rain of the season...

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

It is a cup of Tea....

A cup of tea is a joy. Seeing the blue flame that boils the water and the slow dissipation of tea into the boiling water is a harbinger to an evening with tea. Nevertheless, drinking tea amidst distractions is one thing and drinking tea as a ceremony is something of an experience. Since the time I discovered the tea drinking ceremony, I have attempted always to practise it. Each section brings me closer to tea and life around tea.

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

God’s own Globalization

Today, I am amazed at the inter dependability of EVERYTHING in the world. There is an undeniable fact: the universe is a dynamic fabric of interdependent events in which none is the fundamental entity. Each phenomenon is formed by the coordination of another phenomenon in this super network. Nothing is isolated.

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

A question and answer ....

In April of 1992, a young man named Christopher Johnson McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska and entered the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. Four months later, he was found dead. This story of a homeless drifter who was a rebel in social sense, was celeberated by a motion picture and a book (Into the Wild). Two months ago, I had an opportunity to view ‘Into the Wild’. That movie has not stopped talking to me yet.

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

A little market talk...

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

...from dust to dust.

Death can be accidental, suicidal or natural. In all its form, death is something most difficult to comprehend. Today I met a father whose son had committed suicide yesterday. Sitting beside him, I kept my ears open all the while. The father was trying to explain to me as to why his son chose to die. I just shook my head as if I understood it all. Leaving that house, I wondered at the enigmatic nature of birth, life and death.

History points to people who fight for survival. I love reading such stories. I hate films and stories that personify suicidal plots. Stories with suicidal plots leave within me a negative vacuum that questions the very human spirit of survival.

One of the most profound writings to come out of the Second World War concentration camps is that of Dr.Viktor Frankl’s. His book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a classic bestseller that has had tremendous impact on post-war humanity. While in concentration camps, Frankl used to ask his fellow prisoners, “Why do you not commit suicide?” He was surprised at the answers he got: in one life there is love for one’s children to tie to; in another life, a talent to be used; in a third, perhaps only lingering memories worth preserving. Dr. Frankl believed that to weave these slender threads of a broken life into firm pattern of meaning and responsibility is the object of ‘existential analysis’ (a theory he developed). He believed that every life, however broken, shattered or poor, is worth preserving.

Each suicide is a constant reminder to the living about the fragility of life and our responsibility to take care. God is the author of life. And, life is intangible. We are only users of what God has wonderfully authored. Shatter it once...misuse it once and the intangible life might all be gone forever...'from dust to dust'.
Photo: On the way to Roopkund (Himalayas)

Monday, October 12

Praying Our Life...

A beauty of prayer is that it can happen anywhere, anytime. Not only we commune with God in the quietness of a Chapel but also in our own room, in the midst of life’s activities. Office cubicle, supermarket line, railway ticketing counter, a laundry or our bed can become the little altars of our communication with God. And, what can be the content of those communications? I know that it can be our individual talents, dreams and varied relationship with our environment. I never knew that prayer could be so much more in my life until I began to relate my environment as an opportunity to connect with God. I think, it takes a little time and effort to reach such a stage in prayer life. Nevertheless, once we reach there, the trivial communications with the Master is spontaneous.

Someone said, ‘Prayer is to touch our life and life is to touch our prayer’. I think about that quote too often. My lived experience is the largest playground where communications with the divine evolve. One important aspect of this is that I must be aware of the ongoing moments and lived out acts. So, it is most essential to be aware of our days, aware of the people we meet, aware of the words spoken and shared...aware of God’s presence everywhere. Thus, as time rolls on, our ability of attune to the Spirit of God improves.
One big fact about life is that we never know what commonplace part of our life may become receptive to God’s presence. That is the beauty and excitement of everyday living!


Sunday, October 4

The Tide and the Wave

“As I look at my own history of experiencing prayer, I find a constant movement of high and low tides, numerous ups and downs, mountains and valleys, emptying and filling, and always some brief resting phases. There have been periods when all I could do was allow struggle and sorrow onto my barren shore, lean on God in faith, and try to be true to my daily spiritual practice. In the mid
st of those long periods of spiritual drought, fleeting joy surprised me in the beauty of nature… and the kindness of people.”
…. Joyce Rupp’s writings in 'Prayer'

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!
Away from the beach and the waves, in the centre of our work… in the core of our living, there will always be moments of distractions and noises that make our prayer experience mundane and dull. We got to take them as little lulls in the life of a wave. Without these distractions and noises, we many well live life in superficiality. God is near to us in all these momentary lulls. We can slow down a bit in these lulls and just remain strong to meet the wave that is soon to come.


Monday, September 28

Card Game...

Years after hearing the tragedy, I met him. We sat across a table and locked our hands to chat endlessly. I had missed my friend too long, too much and too badly. I looked deeply into his eyes and heard him whisper his good times and bad. Deep in me, there was a shame that I stood all these days away from him. “I am sorry...very sorry” I told him. That was the best I could tell him now. With a gentle smile, “It is ok”, he said.

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

I do thy will...

Like the wind, I run;

Like the rain, I sing;

Like the leaves, I dance;

Like the earth, I'm still;

And in this, Lord, I do thy will.

*** Photo Location: Kappadu Beach, Calicut


Sunday, September 20

The beach

The beach is a favourite spot to be alone.
The sand looks clean and bright with a smooth texture. To stroll barefoot over these sands is a special magic. Smooth sand caresses my feet. Their tickling is a great joy. Then, in a rhythmic manner, the sparkling waters rolls over my feet... they are the waves. As these waves pullback, I too am pulled into the sea. Not wanting to stop... I go strolling.

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.

The most deceptive thing in the world is to imagine that they alone are strong who are noisy, or that they alone possess power who are fussily active.

If being still is a requisite for knowing God, and if man is “made in the image of God”, then the most dynamic element within him must dwell in stillness.


Thursday, September 17

On the hand of God

This leaf, so complete in itself,
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
On the hand of God.
Verses: Ruskin Bond
Photo: From old photo file.

Sunday, September 13

" Hello God...

“ Hello God...

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

...only whisperings for eternity.

“I have to put me there”, I would tell myself.

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.
Graffiti is an old human behaviour. We see graffiti on the walls of caves millions of years old. The only difference between the modern graffiti and their older counterparts is the proclivity of the modern graffitist to add his name quickly to his work.
As a child, I too remember the same acts: On the way to school, I would hide a stone in a crevice so that it will remain there ‘as mine’ forever. In the classroom, it would be the writing table that bear the marks of my presence.

As we are creatures of time so are we creatures of space. We would not like to forget the places that have moulded us... places that have seen our secret passions and places that have shared our laughter and sorrow. As life is a short journey, it is great to spend five minutes whispering good-byes to the space and time one is leaving behind. To this living room, this bedroom, to this kitchen, to this classroom, to the office cubical or even a hotel room, “Good-bye, dear room. Remember what we accomplished together here, how we laughed and we cried and fumed. Remember me, as I will remember you.”

Pausing to say a good-bye from the heart to the living spaces and cherished times that we leave behind is a great a superior act than graffiti.
Graffiti robs away the solitude of any space. I’ll say, “No graffiti...I will only leave my whisperings for eternity.”

Wednesday, September 9

A Goodnight Prayer...

"Now I lay down to sleep,
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,
I pray thee Lord, my soul to take;

If I should live for other days,
I pray thee Lord, to guide my ways"

Sunday, September 6

The urban jungle...

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’.

As I stand in the company of these ‘Tigers’... as I hear the drumbeats in the a
ir... I ask myself what I can carry home from this traditional gala of prosperity and joy. What really perplex me is the fact that there are little ‘tigers’ in all of us. The ‘Tiger Sport’ only high-lighten me the fact that there are little sleeping ‘tigers’ within me and all of us! Did tradition allow this strange enactment of our friends in the city jungles to tell us that life has to be viewed with a little ‘animal in us’? Is the Onam ‘Tiger Sport’ pointing me to that direction? The freedom of letting this ‘animal in me’ escape in these dances were so obvious in the roar and the growl of the ‘tigers’. What a novel idea it is to dance and please gods and also to let out the ‘animal’ nature in us! Will ‘Tiger Sport’ help us to be gentle and humane?

There are love stories too to this carnival. I was told of the story of a girl who wouldn’t fall for the boy who deeply loved her. Ultimately, the boy, together with his friends, had to bring out the ‘animal in him’. He took a ‘tiger’ walk to her house on an Onam season, and growl at her to captivate her heart! She fell for him!!

Photos Location: Trichur...friends as 'Pullies'

Friday, September 4

Life in September...

Come September, there are still rains in the clouds.

With water all around, with ponds all full...
I see the blooms of these beautiful violet flowers floating on clear still waters of my ponds.
After all, still waters teaches us that flowers can grow on them...
still waters teaches us that others can find beauty in them...
still waters are places of solitude where God opens up His altar of joy and providence .

No club membership charges are required to admire this beauty in God’s creation...
just a little time and heart to go out to still places and find rest and solitude.
What more can September offer me?
Let me quote a six-verse poem that I read recently...
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.

Monday, August 31

The matchless...

‘Adwaitya’, that is what people called me.

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!

I remained in Alipore to see the rise and fall of many nations... to see many moments flicker away and many dreams come true. I heard lots of stories repeated across generations by humans. Some of them I cannot forget: A man arrived at Galapagos (another island like my parent’s home) to change forever the way people looked at evolution...I heard men speak of world wars, assassinations and bombs... it said that world was a little cruel to some. In my times, I saw people opening the use of a machine called tractor to till their lands... One day I heard about a thinly clad slim man walking about this great land of mine, winning its freedom using a novel method called ‘Ahimsa’...Later I also heard of a tricolour flag unfurled in the ramparts of the Red Fort, declaring this great nation’s freedom...They called it a ‘tryst with destiny’. I saw my own guardians changing hands... new guardians taking me over. Then, a new social order called communism arose in Russia...I saw pictures of men ascent Everest...and a nation 7-seas away reaching moon...they called it ‘...a giant leap for mankind’. I saw men quarrelling over cast and religion...they also kill each other due to this! Then they discovered vaccines to keep themselves alive. Somewhere, a game called Cricket emerged... and men and women went on to break sports records in an event they call Olympics. I was amazed when bells rang in offices and people talked to each another through wire-connected ‘phones’. In my times, people changed the way they painted pictures and wrote music... they changed the way they dressed and groomed. A little later, I saw men tapping keyboards and they called it a computer... a machine that ‘programmed’ to work for them. Then an unknown port clerk from Europe, skilled in mathematics, formulated a relation between mass and energy... people at Alipore talked about that too in a big way. All on a sudden, a young woman emerged from the streets of Calcutta to pick their poor and the dying. Later people told me of the fall of a big wall in Berlin and the collapse of communism. Thus, the world around me changed every day... and it goes on changing. Hence, dear friends, I have a long story to tell...only if you will listen.

I was the heart of the zoo...the star of the zoo. Every eye at zoo saw me and spoke of me. Hence, in 1994, I got a larger room... a centrally located octagonal enclosure. Because of the glass enclosure, I couldn’t hear much what people spoke. But I saw them come and go. I saw them amazed looking at me... looking at my longevity. I wonder why no one asked me the secret of it! I loved to tell them all my secrets...secrets of the blue oceans I travelled...secrets of the ages I saw and heard...secrets of my longevity!

My octagonal room was my last home. I remained there for long, until I left you all forever.
Pictures : From my collection of commemorative stamps, sheetlets, special post-cards and maxim cards on Adwaitya, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise issued by the Department of Posts, India. The stamp is unique in that they are hexagonal. The perforations have been arranged in the sheetlet in such a manner that the star shaped sections can be taken out, dedicated to Adwaitya, the star of the Alipore Zoo.
Adwaitya left his home forever on 22nd March 2006 after 250 years of journeying with times!

Wednesday, August 26

An irony...

When it rains, it is my joy to watch the gushing waters of the rivers. In Kerala, the Monsoon Rivers are rapid flowing. As the waters just gush its way down, they do it as if there is something quick for them to accomplish.
I spent hours, watching and listening to these rapids. The sight of rapids tells me many things. Even after I come home from the riverbank, the sound of those waters beat my ears and hearts. Then I go back to it soon.
O Henry, the famous short story writer once said that every city has its own voice. Listening to the torrents of Monsoon Rivers, I believe every river has its own voice...its own direction ...its own pace. To a discrete listener, they tell of many things.
Looking at the surge of waters, they remind me immediately that every drop in them is ocean bound. Looking at the ferocity at which they flow to their final destination, I ask if I too have any such ferocity to flow towards my own destination. No... many times I even forget my destination! And since I am created to flow unto the Creator, do I accomplish it with vigour? Like a river that hurries-up to the Ocean, do I portray my exigency to flow to God daily in my living? Holy Bible says that God created us for His own glory. I forget to think it that way.
Then, there is something common between these fast flowing rivers and me: like them, I too carry all sorts of daily pollution... all sorts of solid wastes...all sorts of floatables to my final destination. My life’s rivers can be busy with little tugs, pleasure yachts, heavily laden freighters, garbage scows and debris. I got them all! And often, unlike the rapids of the monsoon, I am carried away by what I carry! That is an irony!!

Saturday, August 22

Rain's comeback...

Today the rain seems to have made a comeback.

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.

Photo location: Favourite bench by the beach

night thoughts...

This mountain is my mother,
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.
(‘night thoughts’... a poem from the Ruskin Bond’s Mini Bus)

Photo Location: Sunset at a camp on the way to Roopkund, Himalayas.

Thursday, August 20

A difficult lesson...

It is a difficult lesson to learn today. To leave one’s cell phone, friends and family and deliberately practise the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week... it is a difficult lesson. For me, the initial breaking-in is most challenging... once broken, then the days fly by and the solitude takes effect.

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!

Photo Location: Hills around Pookodu, Waynad

Tuesday, August 18

A dance in gloom...

I always think how I react to dark days and moments in my life.

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!
Photo: From my old collections

Friday, August 14

The Seashells

Pick up this life of mine from the dust.
Keep it under your eyes, in the palm of
your right hand.

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

The Bike...

I remember my bike’s younger days. He was then glittering with shine and he smelled fresh-burned petrol. In his typical RX-100 tone, he thundered all through my salad days. Time and gas were cheap then. 23 years later, today, I have only pleasant memories of all those great bike trails.

My wanderlust has ta
ken him to valleys and sacred 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.
Like the faces I have failed to the blessed moments that I love to cling on to, my bike and me are inseparable.

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

“Swamy assails Sanjay Stamp”... a peep into history.

I collect stamps. ‘Philatelist’, they call me. From my childhood, stamps fascinated me. Even now.

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.

Janatha Party never returned to power. World would soon forgot about Sanjay’s controversial stamp. No one got the money back from Mrs.Gandhi for printing these stamps! Mrs. Gandhi continued to rule India till her heroic death in the hands of trusted bodyguards. And, she still keeps her legacy alive through her grandson!!

How much the world has changed!

Friday, August 7

...those forgotten sights.

There is a looker-on who sits behind my eyes. It seems he has seen things in ages and worlds beyond memory’s shore, and those forgotten sights glisten on the grass and shiver on the leaves. He has seen under new veils the face of the one beloved, in twilight hours of many a nameless star. Therefore his sky seems to ache with the pain of countless meetings and partings, and a longing pervades this spring breeze, - the longing that is full of whisper of ages without beginning.
.... Quoted from Tagore’s Lover’s Gift.
Photo: 'those forgotten sights'... Made in 1987 on a tour to Dehli.

Thursday, August 6

Came home empty handed...

Today, as I strolled through the beach, I saw this family of starfishes. I wanted to pick one of them home. Then one of them spoke to me : “Till death do us part”.
So, I came home empty handed.

Wednesday, August 5

Suddenly something...

Photo Location: Beach, Calicut