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

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.

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.

Experiencing Durga in Others

It is easy to be judgmental of the world and people around us. Often we have strong opinions – this is what he/she should do/think. Well then, so here we are. another very fertile opportunity.

reachingforthesky[1]

In the last post, I talked of an opportunity to experience the force and movement of Durga within ourselves. Here is a wonderful opportunity to experience Durga in others.

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु भ्रान्तिरूपेण संस्थिता।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu bhraanti roopeNa sansthitaa
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo nama(h))

To that devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘bhraanti’
salutations again and again.

भ्रान्ति (bhraanti) means misguidedness, misunderstanding, delusion.

This mental state exists, at some time or the other, in all of us. However, by the very definition of it, we are unable to see it in ourself. At least until we come out of the delusion, and even then we may not realize and accept that earlier we were deluded.

However, it is easy to be judgmental of the world and people around us. Often we have strong opinions – this is what he/she should do/think. At times, it is to the extent of feeling exasperated – “This guy has lost it!”. We experience it in personal relationships, professional interactions, national policies, religious behaviors, social mindsets …

Well then, so here we are. another very fertile opportunity.

Whenever we perceive delusion, misunderstanding, misguidedness, in our fellow being or society at large, it is an opportunity to know that we are perceiving Durga and experience it in its fullness. The dance of Durga. The play of Durga. The power of Durga. Anytime you see delusion, it is just Durga in one of Her myriad hues.

That same Durga who is the embodiment of power and energry of all of the Universe, who is all that is beautiful, divine, comforting – nurturing love, compassion, prosperity, fulfillment. That supreme feminine force is present in all beings in the form of delusion too.

Seeing delusion in someone as the force of Durga at play, enables us to pause a moment and perhaps reconsider the person. We may still not agree with his/her mindset, but we can consider the person at least with a tad bit of softness, a hint of compassion, knowing that it is a force that is at play within us too. At the very least our mind can acquire a tinge of curiosity towards all that is going inside that person.

We, and the people around us, we all have the nurturing motherly instinct, compassion, awareness (all things nice, positive, desirable too) but we tend to focus on the negative more. The negative too is a form of the divine and we can turn our tendency to focus on the negative into an asset.

Any emotion, any feeling, it is She. Positive or negative is irrelevant. All change, it is She.


Image credit: Reaching for the Sky by Carol Herzer

Experiencing Durga Within

So here is an opportunity. Here is a way to actually experience Durga within. It is an opportunity specially because this feeling is so intensely personal and because when it occurs we experience it as a distinct sharp tinge. …

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु लज्जारूपेण संस्थिता|
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu lajjaa roopena sansthitaa)
That devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘lajjaa’.

Lajjaa? Now that is interesting!

So what is Lajjaa?

Lajjaa seems to get associated with “लाज”, “नारी की लाज” (naaree kee laaj) – a woman’s honor that supposedly gets taken away say when she is raped, or feminine modesty, mostly associated just with her physical parts and her social reputation. Or it may be conventionally viewed as sweet bashfulness, shyness, blushing of a woman, often in a romantic sense. However, that is just a tiny tiny part of lajjaa.

Lajjaa essentially conveys a sense of shame, disrepute, disgrace – in any context. Bashfulness, reserve, modesty, these are also words used to translate the sense of lajjaa, because they are attempts to avoid shame, disrepute, disgrace. So when something undesirable occurs, people exclaim, “tumne aisaa kiyaa? kitnee lajjaa kee baat hai!”.

To me, the best explanation of the word lajjaa is – feeling embarrassed.

That feeling of embarrassment can be anywhere in a whole range of intensities. The mild: feeling somewhat silly. The stronger: feeling stupid. The very intense: feeling shame.

And it is in sarv bhooteshu (all beings) – i.e. all of us, all humans – man, woman and all other gender variations possible. In fact all beings, not just humans. So it has nothing to do specifically with women. Embarrassment is a feeling that we have all experienced and would prefer to avoid. It is because we want to avoid this feeling that we are hesitant to ask questions for example.

At times it is mild, and depending on our level of awareness, we do not explicitly recognize it as such but just feel a sense of discomfort. There is a slight internal squirming. At times it is so strong, it feels like a stab in the chest. We are unable to ignore it and are distressed.

That feeling, that stab of embarrassment, mild or forceful, is She. The supreme feminine force. And She exists in everyone. Sarv bhooteshu.

So here is an opportunity. Here is a way to actually experience Durga within. It is an opportunity specially because this feeling is so intensely personal and because when it occurs we experience it as a distinct sharp tinge. Also, we tend to be better at focusing on the negative within us than positive, so might as well use that tendency.

The next time you experience any tinge of embarrassment, experience it fully. Feel it completely, in all its textures. How it invades and gradually unwillingly departs. You will be directly experiencing Durga inside you!

Durga, that is, Shakti – power, energy, force. Emotional energy is the core driving force of our actions and there is energy, power, force in our so-called negative emotions too, if we connect to it. It can be a powerful exhilarating experience.


Image credit: Inner Eye Moon by Carol Herzer.

But The Colors Could Not See The Grand Picture

It is out of its inherent throbbing joy that white burst into a myriad colors. It is out of its inherent throbbing joy that the land danced and there were highs and lows. As the land was high and low, the colors flowed. And so a grand picture was formed.

And the colors loved themselves. The green was proud of itself, and rightly so, for it was beautiful. The blue was proud of itself, and rightly so, for it was beautiful. And the colors flowed. Little particles of joy were embedded into the colors which made them move ahead.

But the colors could not see the grand picture. As one color flowed into the other, the other felt threatened. Its identity was threatened. Its territory was threatened. The deep flaming red would turn into a milder orange if the yellow flowed into it. That was not acceptable. And the yellow did not like it at all either, that its natural flow was being inhibited. The whole land was his to explore after all. Its inner joy particles were asking it to move forward.

So some colors flowed, some did not. And there was a muddy pool. For the colors could not see the grand picture. They could not see the big orchestrated dance and be in awe at what they were creating together.

But the force that was there in the colors, was there in the colors, whether they liked it or not. So they continued to dance and flow, albeit reluctantly. Their reluctance made them heavy. And as as they danced and flowed, they mixed together and turned into black. A deep velvety never-ending black.

And white was filled with amazement. This is also a form of me? A reverse side of me? For white had seen the whole dance, the beauty and the resistance. It knew the black emerged from its own self. There was a deep wisdom that seemed to emanate from the quiet all-absorbing black, that white found so beautiful.

And it felt a kind-of peace, resting in its own black reverse self. And it rested there for long. It felt good. The black held the same power that white had. As white rested, black kept nourishing it, black kept nourishing its own reverse self. That felt good. A smile spread on the lips of the sleeping white. As it was nourished more, it was energized. The smile converted into a fountain of joy. Then out of its inherent throbbing joy white burst into a myriad colors.

words are small pathways

Words are like small pathways.
They take you somewhere and then they themselves fade away, leaving you in the space of that feeling …

IMG_20160429_071754Words are like small pathways.
They take you somewhere and then they themselves fade away, leaving you in the space of that feeling …

then another thought comes by –
word it and its fructified
is it possible to stand
on the mat of just one word?
just one thought?

choose a word a thought a feeling
shining forever for you
make it your Alladin’s carpet
see where it will then take you

let stuff happen there below
you can make infinite space
your own country, your own land
ever in the lap of grace.

~ vani murarka