The Guide And The Demon

durga-puja-pandal-2016

Write *because* you are depressed. Write precisely because self-confidence is romping in the deep dark negatives. Even if you have nothing to say, write because you want to feel connected to yourself, your guide…

There is a guide and companion in me who is a friend. He has never failed me. There is also a demon in me who loves to hold me in it’s grips and thrash me about like a rag doll. Somehow, writing makes me feel more tangibly in connection with my guide-companion-friend. Most other times the mind is busy waltzing with the demon.

He, my guide, is very quiet. He does not order. He does not rage. He does not get excited at dreams coming true and other sundry candies. He does not keep presenting a report card on how I am doing every few seconds. The way to learn from my guide is simply to sit with him. His peace and equanimity simply relaxes everything. And then the demon storms in again…

And so it goes.

And so I have written. Some x number of words. Is it worthy of you dear reader? Here, in the midst of cacophonous internet, cacophonous Facebook, and our cacophonous mind. Raw and half-baked that it is. Without any “10 easy ways to go from demon to guide” guide?

Maybe it is worthy. For I am not unique. This guide and demon saga is playing in at least one other fellow being I would wager. Millions you say? Well then, millions it is. Together, we might as well intersperse this saga with a few chuckles when we can. And the more we can keep coming back again and again to our guide, in whatever way works for us, the better it gets (maybe), or the more challenging it gets (maybe). Whatever it gets, at least for those moments it gives a sense of ease (sometimes), similar to, quite simply, drinking water.


Image source: A puja pandal from the Kolkata 2016 Durga Pujas

Riding on Amazing Technology

vani-pen

A piece of writing has to be about something. But why?

I and my wrist just like going for a trot on paper, riding on a pen.

Some like to have an array of shoes, some, an array of cars. I cherish the array of textures of pen moving on paper. My favorite being smooth, but not too smooth. Thick, but not too thick. With a hint of resistance from the paper that generates an interesting rustle.

Not just the Mars rover, and self-driving cars – there is amazing technology everywhere. The way the ink flows through the nib, just the correct amount. It is not all liquidy, yet it flows. It does not all just plop down like water from an upturned bucket. The way its drawn out in a steady controlled stream is not just amazing technology, it is miraculous. Just because this technology has been around for eons and is so easily available does not mean it is any less fabulous.

So also the ceiling fan, and my breathing, and water…

Unnecessary Happiness

Tigger-Hugs-Pooh

“I am a solidarity person”, she said. What a beautiful thing to say and be!

I had rung her up only because I needed to hug someone. When I am feeling “unnecessary happiness”, my natural way to express it is to hug someone. Normally my Mom is the recipient of these hugs. She is used to my quirks. I come smiling wide and hug her and she asks, “क्या हुआ?” (What happened?) and I reply grinning, “कुछ नहीं” (nothing happened) – which is true. I am just feeling happy, no reason. That is the definition of “unnecessary happiness”, a term coined by a friend. Just happy, no reason.

But this time Mom was sleeping. I felt like waking her up simply because I needed to hug someone, but I didn’t. I rang up Seeta.

Seeta is wise. We hadn’t spoken for long but that doesn’t matter. I knew if I rang her up and straight away said, “मैं तुमको hug कर रही हूँ” (I am hugging you), she would immediately receive it. And then I could simply say, “That’s it. और कुछ नहीं बोलना था” (That’s it. I have nothing else to say.) and I knew that would make perfect sense to her too. So that’s what I said.

Of course our conversation continued. We exchanged notes as we hadn’t spoken for long.

Seeta is also a person of love. We all are (people of love), but some people are just a bit more so. They are people who just know that we are all one.

Seeta works in the field of “human development”. She has worked for international agencies that fund projects for the deaf and dumb, for example. These days she is working for the UN in the area of human trafficking and immigration, helping frame policies in partnership with governments.

Seeta is also a person of solidarity who likes to give of herself in direct human action and touch, in places of strife – be it the Andamans torn by the tsunami or the Middle East torn by war.

When we know that we are One, however, it doesn’t matter what work we do. Whatever the area of work, the Unnecessary Happiness just flows.


Image credit: Tigger Hugs Pooh – Cartoon Bucket

Jeevan Deep

i am energy taken form

Jeevan Deep

there is a light
burning in me
in the darkness
burning bright
calm steady
in the storm
not triumphant;
conquered, no –
this light of my being brightens
up the world.

through drops of water
sunrays filter
forming a rainbow many-hued
and these rays
onto the earth
make flowers bloom
of many hues –
they seem apart
these happenings –
but in them
the law of Nature
is one, infallible
on this i rest
my faith unwavered –
science inspires
me through life.

vast is the universe
i am a speck…
but lowly, no.
mortal, i am
but feeble, no.
i am energy
taken form
i am my own identity
the never-ending
flow of force
as Newton’s laws
that is the truth
is beauty, grace, eternity.
this my faith
pulsating bright,
in my heart
there is a light.

~ Vinod Tewary
~ translated from Hindi by Vani Murarka

The original Hindi poem “Jeevan Deep” can be read on Kaavyaalaya here.

Image credit: photographer: Jia Hao. The World at Night (TWAN) 2012 contest winner.

An unusual friendship with a zinda-dil lady

bhartiThere is a lady in Udupi who happened to be my maid there. We also happened to become friends. We used to go around together – she, her daughter and son (if he was in town) and I, sometimes to the beach, or Venugopal temple, or Manipal Lake, or Domino’s Pizza. Piggybacking on my friendship with her I got to eat sumptuous meals in temples at a lady’s god bharaai (baby shower), or when a respected man of the locality passed away – events that otherwise I would have had no inkling of.

When I was packing up from Udupi-Manipal, Bharti (my friend) asked for my fridge, so I gave it to her. We are still in touch over phone, for which the credit goes largely to Bharti. We were talking on New Year’s eve and she related – her son had been saying, ‘If Vani Aunty was here we could have gone out somewhere.’ (my car being the advantage) and her daughter pitched in, ‘We wouldn’t have the fridge then!’

I burst out in laughter when I heard this. Bharti’s daughter is such a straight-speaking darling and Bharti is a lady of such gumption! Her husband committed suicide so now she is a single mother, who lives by working as a maid in several homes and by cooking the mid-day meal at a school.

“I cannot bear physical pain”, she says “but finances don’t trouble me. I know I will manage somehow.” This I have seen first-hand – her fantastic ability to manage her finances. She was building a pakka bricks and cement home for herself to replace her mud house and for this she took sundry loans from the various households she works for, in addition to some loan from the bank. As construction progressed, she had complete clarity of things without the aid of any pen or paper – expenses incurred, expenses to be incurred, loan amounts repaid, still to be repaid – everything – with no mistakes, no confusions at all! As I used to watch her loud think her calculations I used to marvel, ‘wow! Pa would love to see this’. “You should always have a decent ballpark idea about your finances without having to look at records”, my Dad says. Dad asks only for a ballpark idea, Bharti had it down to the rupee, all in her head.

“I need to build my house, I need some money please” (or its my daughter’s wedding, or someone needs medical treatment, or whatever) – when domestic help asks for financial support there is invariably a beseeching in their voice and expression, a deen bhaav. Not so with Bharti. She just stated to me, “You give me three thousand rupees.”

To save on transportation costs she asked me for help to get cement and floor tiles in my car. Some cement powder fell and soiled the back seat. Had it been someone else, with remorse painted on the person’s face the person would have ardently apologized, “Oh! I am so sorry!” Friends had helped me with their car when I was in US and I would have had that same remorseful pitiful demeanor and self-consciousness if I had spilt something in their car. Not so with Bharti. What a wonderful literal demonstration of ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ – she laughed out and said, “aap bhee kyaa yaad rakheinge – Bharti kaa cement meree gaadee mein giraa thaa” (One more sweet quirky memory for you to have – Bharti’s spilt cement in my car). That was so refreshing! The very natural self-worth and total absence of being pitiful.

When her husband passed away her in-laws made every effort to push her out of the house (that is her side of the story) but she stuck her ground and even got the police to intervene for her rights. Now she lives independently in a small house adjacent to her in-laws’ house and continues to maintain complete relationship with her in-laws and their extended family – be it daily interactions or festive occasions. All this when she does not even belong to that region natively. She is a Maharashtrian whom her Kannadiga Tulu speaking husband had wooed to come to Udupi. She taught herself Kannada and Tulu from scratch and made herself blend seamlessly in the local culture and customs. The pleasure of having someone to converse with in Hindi is one of the basis of our friendship.

She talks wistfully of her childhood in her village near Bombay and speaks of visiting Bombay and her village someday. Ever since her marriage, she has not gone back even once and it seems to me that maybe she never will.

This Expansive Silence

What do I have in me that is of value, that I feel is worthy of being shared with the world?

All that I feel is of value in me, a bouquet of thoughts and experiences, ever taking shape, ever fading away, some staying longer than others, they all distillate into a single feeling – a feeling of expansive silence.

This silence is not the oppressive suffocating kind which occurs out of deadlock and frozen communication. This silence is deeply nourishing and loving. It permeates the being and expands into a gentle sense of awe and gratitude. A sense of wholesomeness, of being connected to the universe itself.

It is this expansive silence that accords value to every thought, every experience that I find worthy of being cherished. It is the essence of every speck of beauty that I encounter.

How do I make an offering of expansive silence to the world?

Will you sit quietly with me at the edge of a lake?

To sit quietly with someone is an intimate sharing.

experiencing my self

There is a me who lives with me
A very loyal companion
Very kind and often quiet
This me I can depend on

to always be with me however
I may feel, I may behave
It will quietly sit with me
No matter what is going on

It will never separate from me
This is totally for sure
The very nature of this me
is such – this I can bet on

It was with me in Mumma’s womb
It saw me come into this world
It sat beside as I was locked
In infant coma that had come on

As I grew up and spent those hours
Drinking the joy of sunset skies
Along with me atop the roof
This me too daily marveled on

Teenage years and growing fears
This path or that, the choices made
This me it walked with me whichever
path I chose to walk on

Illness and the angst of love
Bitter feelings in the heart
Through it all I did not know
This me was my companion

No I have not split in two
To talk of a me inside of me
I have become aware of this
kind presence I can rely on

~ vani murarka

Can A Poem Be Lonely?

A poem can be about loneliness but can a poem be lonely?

Yes. A poem is lonely if it is not read. A poem is lonely if it is not acknowledged. A poem is lonely if it wants to be read but does not give of itself to be read.

Poems are often introverts. To ask, ‘did you like my poem?’ is to do disservice to the introvert poem.
For a poem to hold itself back, to not give itself to the world, to its intended reader is to do disservice to the world, to its reader.

But poems born of vulnerability tend to be scared. Poems are often born from a center of vulnerability.

Poems are concentrated emotion, raw yet refined. For an emotion to not be received, having given itself, is an emotion’s biggest dread.

But the emotion needs to acquire wisdom too. The recipient may not have the bandwidth and tuning to receive. At such times, the emotion must patiently wait without letting it’s tenderness shrivel up.

Whatever the emotion, when held with tender love, is a poem. Anger, when held in the palms of tender love, is also anger but also becomes a poem.

For love is beauty. And whatever the ras, a poem has to be beautiful. A poem of vibhats ras must also be beautiful, while remaining vibhats. Without intrinsic beauty, a poem is a malformed poem. A poem expressing bitterness, to be a poem, must be beautiful, refined in its expression of bitterness.

This does not mean that to be refined a poem should be oblique and aristocratic in form and language. No. But a poem needs to carry self respect without indignation. A poem can be direct, simple, matter of fact, in the true language of the poet (not a pretentious acquired language) – but standing with self-respect the poem will be refined.

And that is how it should be presented to the world. Not in a snobbish manner. Not in a grovelling manner beseeching acknowledgement. Just matter of fact self-respect. This is me. Then if the poem is acknowledged or not, does not matter, for the poem would have acknowledged itself.

Calling The Dark Night, on the City Diwali

Oh! Dear Night Sky
Moonless Black
Come back, come into my life
Hold me in your dense dark womb
Nourish me with your naked wisdom
My heart cries out for you today

My eyes are chained
to frenzied light
Ears drum with screams
of celebration
Oh! Night Sky embrace me now
in your Silence
that I may sink into you

I shall bring but just one lamp
of my heart
As my offering to you
May it join your many stars
Friends I have not seen for long
Friends who showed me
the vastness to which I belong

Now I’m cut away from land
And I’m cut away from you o Sky
In a “Flat” all dimensions
Have been squashed out
Dried powder of rituals remain
Yet your memory too remains

Kali come to me today
I no longer gasp with fear
At the thought of seeing your face
I have met you inside me
I have seen you inside out
I’ve partaken from your bowl
I seek your power once again
In the midst of frenzied lights,
blaring sounds,
that today, more so resound
Show your beauty that’s been forgotten
been forsaken

You shall prevail, that I know
More that we shall fail to see
the gift of the dark
it will not go
Now in you I rest this call
Come take me, once for all
The one you love, you know I do too.

~ vani murarka

Born for One Reason

Often when I encounter you
It seems to me that I was born
For one reason – to love you …

Often when I encounter you
It seems to me that I was born
For one reason – to love you

So many twists and turns
Have occurred between us two
Even then love continues

You talk to me, for this reason.
This is why I talk to you.
Withdrawn though as we are
Into shells of hurt, we two.

I was born,
for one reason –
To love you

As I detect the universe
in my heart, in its dust
I find you

I was born,
for one reason –
To love you

I speak my mind and my heart
In a poem I don’t send to you
So you’re not inconvenienced
By a tug that pulls at you

I was born,
for one reason –
To love you.