Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yudhisthira and me

The war at Kurukshetra. They say it is a mythical war. 

What if Kurukshetra is nothing but my inner self? 

Peter Brooks Mahabharata is a very short 5 and half hour dramatised version of a spectacularly big epic. Shorn of all distractions of costume, the words penetrated the  mind. Made me think. 

I first saw this over 20 years ago, and I remember it for very different reasons. Perfect choice of characters, fantastic sets, and terrific screen play. 

The last two days were epic--I watched Peter Brooks version over 2 days, completely mesmerised and taken in by the sheer magnitude of the lessons embedded in the poem.

The entire poem came together in the last frame. When all are dead, Yudhisthira finds himself alone with his dog searching for the gates to heaven. When he is taken in, he is horrified to find Duryodhana and his brothers in heaven, and asks to be united with his brothers and wife. He is taken to a dark and dingy place where he is informed that he will find his family. He is again horrified. He prefers to neither enter heaven or hell and prefers to sit outside. 

And then Vyasa tells him that there is no hell or heaven. And that this was his last "illusion."

Bang, there. 

Is the war of Kurukshetra a war that we fight every single minute of our life.  We are not all good. We are not all bad. 

Not all our actions are motivated but some are. And when our actions do not have any motive, we experience harmony in ourselves.  And when they are driven by motives, we experience discord, disharmony by way of fear, anger, jealousy. 

Yudhisthira is but a metaphor for you and me. The war that will be waged within us and the lessons that will come to us from various sources, and how we choose to act. 

To do and not be attached to the results. 
To see and not be attached to what we see.


Slow motion death

I am not quite sure where to begin. 

Someone I knew died recently. Someone's wife. I knew both. The husband first and through him, his wife. She had just turned 40. Young with 2 children, aged 12 and 8.

A couple of years ago, I can't tell for sure now, he called and said his wife had cancer. I remember feeling shocked and then sad. I also remember not knowing how to react, what to tell him, what to tell her. I remember going to their house and seeing his typical smile, and his words "this had to happen; her mother too had cancer" accompanied by an even more typical shoulder shrug. 

I can't claim to know him more than anyone else. But somehow, I related to the brusque-ness. I too used to carry a similar rough and brusque exterior. I used to be scared to show my fears, my weakness lest I break down. 

I remember going to his house and meeting them every now and then, those early days.  And then, one fine day, I forgot all about them. Once in a while, I remembered and I went by casually, as if everything was just fine. I asked them the usual "how's you?"and I got the usual, "good". And thus it went during the intervening years. 

What made me not want to ask the nitty gritty questions? Her state of mind. His state of mind. Their financial situation. How were they coping as a couple. How were the children coping? Did they want any specific help? Did they want me to take the kids out occasionally? Did she want to simply chat? Did she have any desires that I could have helped scheme? How were they looking at the future? 

What was I afraid of? More importantly, why was I afraid? May be, I sensed their reluctance, and didn't want to offend them by asking such questions or even remind them of their situation. May be. Or may be that if I did not ask them, the situation would go away; disappear. And everything would be just fine. 

I ask myself if I was deluding myself. May be that's the real answer. May be I was just running away. The occasional visits ended with a swishy "bye, see you, catch you later" happy that she was doing "good."   

One day, I stopped running. Again, do not know when or what made me but I stopped. This time, we talked. She walked, she spoke, I listened and listened some more. 

She had had a relapse. The second one came and went in a breeze. She had never looked better. The third one came on quick and fast. A certain finality had crept in. A certain acceptance. And yet a certain resolve to fight off. 

By the time, I stopped running, it was more than a bit late. 

There were so many things that I thought she should do, could do, should attempt but now it all came down to clutching straws in the wind. A little bit here and little bit there. Oh, some just slipped away in between. 

Just the way she did one fine morning, leaving me starting at the straws. So many thoughts remain with no beginning and no end. 

It taught me a lesson--that I should look in the eye and ask without hesitation. Whether sharing some pain will help; whether crying will lighten the overburdened heart. 

I learnt the lesson through cancer. I hope to be useful and reach out more. To be there. To actually see. See beyond the facade. To not be afraid of rejection. To everyone around me.  

I hope to never ever feel that I am clutching straws in the wind again. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taking the first giant step

On the first day, I tried hard not to call Ammu. It would look silly. Then late evening, I heard her voice. Wow, it felt nice. Ammu's opening line was "Ma, I didn't think of you the whole day." Hmmm, kind of telling. She then told me how she had come outside the hotel to call as it would be expensive to call from there. (Must say, I like her school more and more. There is one teacher that I like...Jayashree.)

It was brief call. She ended by telling me to ask Chandru to call her. Ammu has taken the first adult step. Of being on her own, with her friends.

Ammu is back and full of stories. Of standing in Papanashi river in her swimsuit; near where accha had stood in order to pray to departed souls and wash away their sins. Of how the natural tank in Edakkal Caves did not have clean and flowing water like the last time that she was there.
The highlight for Ammu was visiting her best friends' grandparent's house in a place called Ambalavayal in Wayanad. I like the way Ammu described the estate--"amma, the background was full of pepper." Indeed, like a wall paper, may be. Not totally off the mark because all trees had pepper vines growing on them.

She bought a curd/butter churner (not sure what it is called...) for me and showed it to me proudly. Sweetheart. When I asked her, what else she got for me, she fixed me a look and said, "I did not buy anything for me--only for you." Ahem.

I am sure I will be worried each time she goes out like this. But I do hope she travels a lot within India during her school days. Travelling has a way of changing your perspectives. I hope Ammu acquires a whole new perspectives to everything and does not get caught in my petty prejudices.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Ammu's solo outstation trip

The day has finally come. Tomorrow morning at 5 am Ammu will be going with her classmates and three teachers to Wayanad for 3 days. This is the first time that Ammu will be staying without me and Chandru.

How I have been waiting for this moment. Ammu does not stay with my side of the family nor Chandru's, despite knowing them very well, without one of us. This trip was initially planned for September last year but due to unexpected rains had to be cancelled. Another attempt was made and again had to be cancelled for another reason. This is the third one. I was thrilled.

Now, that the time is aproaching, I find myself feeling terrible. How will I spend 3 days without her? Without seeing her, shouting at her, what have you? It is a different story that I have left Ammu and travelled for work. But now that she is going, my heart is feeling kind of funny. I am worried in parts. Will she be okay? Will the ride and journey be okay? I hope she does not get lost from the crowd. All kinds of wierd thoughts. Yet, I am happy and thrilled for Ammu. It is her first trip, backpack and all without accha and amma.

Funny, never thought I would experience these. There is a better appreciation of moms and dads now.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

One man army--Part 3

I for one cannot fathom how the rich and famous live. I am equally certain that I would feel like fish out of water in those environs. I would be afraid of being looked down for not being rich like them, for not having style and fashion consciousness, not having visited the restaurants they are talking of, oh, so many things.

Now, all the rich and famous might not be all of this. Some may be. But how should I know unless I am called to their homes? It is very much possible that they are one way; but they are also another way and not immune to the others like us. Possible. But we create walls around us--consciously and unconsciously. We do not include; instead we exclude.

We have fear in our hearts...yeah, some servants have killed their masters...but that does not stop us from hiring servants. We do not boycott the whole clan of servants--we simply say be careful when you are hiring them. Okay, so why do we brush regions, communities, languages as being one or the other?

Can't we see the pitfall? This is what I mean by saying that we should start looking at people as "PEOPLE." Then we see that person for what he/she is. It becomes easy to keep the bad ones away; keep the good ones.

Is it so complex to do? I don't think so. I think we have all become so convoluted in our thinking that we refuse to accept simple ways of life. We look at relationships through a looking glass to see what this relationship can do for us. Isn't knowing good enough? Should there be a motive?

It all boils down to us--we have to be the change for change to happen around us. Am I all there? Not yet. But that is my effort.

We should allow our hearts to open up. Don't read between the lines. We often land up reading things which were never there. And then end up believing not what was written but what was read.


One man army--Part 2

Okay, so, what is wrong with being an optimist? Not giving into the propaganda of hate perpetuated by those in power. Those in power will always exploit the powerless. We see instances of it day in and day out.

Yeah, we cannot do anything. Sure. About what others do. But we can surely do what we should do--by being fair in the treatment of all those who are less fortunate than us? Be conscious of not exploiting them. Not to get a vote of popularity but just so that our heart is in peace. By the way, we (as in the head may not acknolwedge it) but the heart always knows when something wrong is being done. You know it in your heart. Then our stupid head justifies the damn act.

I may not be able to stop the horrors commited by others but at least I can refuse to be a participant? I can disagree and continue to maintain that opening your home and heart to people is the best way to overcome the fear of the unknown.

If I continue to live with my own set of people is there anyway that I will ever figure out how the other lives? The other can be from a different class, language, region, country and all of that. Doesn't this affect our approach more than knowing the religion? I know how a christian/muslim in Kerala lives but haven't the faintest idea of how an upper caste Hindu in UP live. I would dread marrying into a home like that. (The same old fear... of the UNKNOWN. It is always that--UNKNOWN.)


One man army--Part 1

Ah, the price for being an eternal optimist.

Little did I know I would unleash this storm. It all started rather innocously at Rasheed maash's house. We met for a sumptous lunch of chicken biryani and chicken fry and the works. Being mallus, we did what comes naturally to us--start with a starter.

Remember, I had just returned the previous weekend from a trip to Vedchi, a village in Surat, Gujarat, having met with a man with Gandhian principles and way of life. I still had the halo effect on me. Intermittently, I let some of my thoughts out. Some agreed; some disagreed; but just about. Nothing disastrous until this point. Must confess, I had not revealed my dark side either :-)

In the evening, we met again. This time 4 others joined. A mother, son and two hardened and dyed-in-wool political reporters. (I am sure they will kill me for saying this. But that is the fun of writing a blog. They can only grit their teeth.)

What happened an hour after is nothing short of mayhem. One person, who happened to be the better half of the writer, slinked away stating some vague reason. Smart. Guess he knew better than to hang around with 4 women and 5 men discussing among other things politics, religion and all of that! Better still, while others gritted their teeth, he might just have strangled me. Ah, now that is good reason to stay away.

Not that he would have entirely disagreed with my "love" and "loving" as the only means of countering this violence that is so endemic to all of us now. But he would certainly not have liked my choice of words to counter the argument though.