Somewhere, out in the day
Few months back, I was in an advanced meditation program. After being in silence for over 2 days, on being asked to write a letter to myself with 5 advises, the following attached letter is what I wrote. Reflecting back now, I see, how true it is.
As I stepped into the Delta airlines flight, set to fly from Newark to New Delhi, I was positively awed to see a sea of Indian faces, so many turban covered heads; so many mothers draped in Sari; so many people in a rush to get their seat, rubbing against each other without much hesitation. I felt a rush of blood, announcing silently “I am here, I am here too”. With my right hand dragging the trolly, my left hand, slowly moved towards the heart as if to greet the people as I continued walking inward.
I always felt that “India is calling”, though I weren’t clear on anything after that. I had booked my flight to Bharat even before I received a job confirmation.
Be it family, friends, or acquaintances; be it in concerned conversations or casual courtesy conversations, people continue to ask, “Why return to India when you had the choice of a more comfortable life in USA ?” When asked about this, I find myself in the Indian situation of that girl who loves a boy and is trying to convince her family members for her marriage with that boy. Her father, in trying to propose a different boy asks with concern, “why do you want to marry that particular boy only?”. She says, “Papa, he has a good job, lavish salary; his family members are very accommodating; his friends are so welcoming; has a large government house … what else should he have”. The father returns the argument saying “But why not Sharma ji‘s son? He has a higher social status and is better on most of these parameters you mentioned”. The girl is muted. She then comes up with another set of qualities, a new set of adjectives … and the ‘argument’ continues. All that the girl says about her lover may be factually correct, but none of it is the reason for her wish to marry him. Its just a feeling that pulls her entire being. Most of the reasons that I give to justify my decision are also such straws of information, while the reason to return was just due to a strong feeling.
No logic can bridge two people talking from different planes of experiences. Logic is linear and can only connect people who are in the same plane of experiences. When trying to be totally honest, I find myself saying “because India is India, so I had to return”; but this hardly is meaningful. I also wonder if it is patriotism or nationalism. I wonder because I probably don’t feel proud about being an Indian. I don’t find my emotions rising when I hear someone say “India is a great nation”. I just feel normal about it. If I took birth in Ethiopia, my feelings and actions would have been analogous. I just feel that this is the country I was born in, these are the people who have nurtured me, these are the resources I was fed from, these people have payed for the road on which I walked to my school, these are the people with whom I walked the path of knowledge or illusion. I feel that this is the field I am given to plow by mother nature and this is my karmbhumi. I don’t need to claim that I will plow it because it is fertile. I will plow it simply because I feel that this is my first responsibility.
My stay in America was like a gift in many ways. I was touched by so many and got the opportunity to touch many lives. I hold it all very dearly. It was in the very special surrounding and circumstances created by my fellow friends and colleagues in USA that I could grow deep enough, that now I do not need an external motivation to continue the pursuit of knowledge. I find myself bewildered, how one after another circumstances and people conspired to make me fall in love with so many individuals. I have no way of returning that favor but I wish to assure my friends that I will share that unconditional affection with people here.
Coming back to Bharat from USA becomes easy for me because I do not have much ambition associated with my life. When I think about what I want to do and where I want to be 10 years from now, I only find myself certain about one thing that I want to use my life in sewa. This is just a feeling, a state of mind and has no logical origin or justification. Sometimes, some drops of romanticism also grazes through the thoughts but there is no face attached to that feeling so I don’t know how it will evolve.
With Gratitude from Bharat
Not born yet. The two sisters at home about 5 and 2 years old, were waiting for a brother. They were finding themselves strangely isolated on raksha-bandhan because they were told that they don’t have a brother. They used to tie rakhi on a fist-sized black smooth stone. My joint family had a preference for a male child. Having faced several situations of being physically underpowered, my family believed that another male would add to the family’s strength and prosperity by being able to stand with another lathi in the situation of a clash. It was eventually a brother, a grandson that was born. I was followed by another sister, Nicky, 2 years after me.
My elder sisters were ahead of me in what they sought. When I was indulging in the wonders of eating, they were worrying about ‘good-places’; when I started worrying about ‘good-places’, they were into ‘good-dresses’ and so on. But, Nicky, my little sister was behind me. Her concerns were more about me, “Why is his bowl of milk bigger than mine” , “Why is he wearing this, but I am wearing that”, “why should his hair be shorter than mine”. The only thing on which all 4 siblings would fight was, ‘winning’ a game if we were to play together. There also, winning was important to Nicky only if I won and she didn’t.
Being from the lower middle class family, resources were indeed limited. But if there was an extra biscuit, I would be called away(due to male child preference at the joint-family home) and secretly given the extra biscuit. Nicky, noticing the absence of her competitor would come looking, only to find me with the extra biscuit. Seeing an extra biscuit in my hand she used to weep and cry out of the roof “…bhaiya has more…” , which led to my extra biscuit being taken away too. This happened enough number of times that I learned to say secretly “you take half of this extra, or else neither of us will get it anyways”. That’s it ! whenever I got something extra, she would walk up to me, showing her lone biscuit and pointing to me having two, innocently looking at me (knowing that on making noise both will lose). She has large eyes and was also chunky in childhood. Now when I recall the little girl walking up to me, the only word that comes to my mind is ‘pure-innocence’. Her having one biscuit against two of mine didn’t look wrong. Like her body being bigger than mine didn’t seem unjust; the number of biscuits also appeared to be just how it was.
Not knowing what was ‘right’, just repeatedly seeing one biscuit in her hands while two in mine, with her wide eyes looking expectantly at me; like a child learns his first language, I empirically learned that ‘this was wrong’. Slowly over time, on receiving an extra biscuit, I would hide from others and take it to Nicky pretending that I ate it all by myself.
Since the birth of each daughter, my father was asked to save Rs 50 from his monthly salary of ~ Rs 500 (vague recollection of elaborations from my father) so that he eventually has enough saving for the dowry for daughter’s marriage. Some even suggested “what is the point in sending them(the girls) to school”. My father wanted to be progressive and despite some criticism had put the two elder daughters in government school. Some advisers opined that “educating them would be useful eventually in getting a better match in their marriage”. All Government run schools in my city used to be Hindi-medium and inefficient at that time. When it was my turn to go to school, since no amount was being saved per month for me, they gathered the courage to put me in a English school. I was probably one of the very few from my native-village who was going to see an English medium school from inside (though living in Bokaro Steel City, the people known via the connections of the native-village were those who were helping my family through the ups and downs of living as a nuclear family in this city, hence their advice had to be taken seriously). When it was the turn of Nicky to be put in school, the family again had no option but to put her in the (free) government school, unless they decided to take me out of my school and put her in.
We had already moved to Sector 6 in Bokaro and I was in Chinmaya Vidyalaya now. Since the government school was not good, my eldest sister was sent to a coaching. I remember that she used to have trouble with her English lessons. She used to secretly get help from me to solve English translations, narration etc. The helplessness and submissiveness in which I found her while doing her English home-works used to make me feel bad. I felt that if the same amount of resources were spent on her as was done on me by sending to that English medium school, the situation would be different. (This sounds stronger than how I felt then, but I don’t know how to express it in the language of the grown-ups). I had the feeling that I am using up even that part of the resources that belonged to my sisters. Though I did not know what was right or just, but still, like a child learns his first language, I empirically learned that ‘this was wrong’.
When we were grown up ‘enough’, we siblings sometimes used to go for a walk, holding each others hands, with the eldest sister in charge. Quite often, somewhere, someone would whistle, someone calls out, someone talking out aloud some “provocative” things amongst their friends loud enough for us to hear, quiet enough that other fellow walkers farther away won’t hear. I was probably 11-12 years old, still my sisters were considered safe if I was with them on the walk. Sometimes, I used to dis-engage my fingers from my sisters’ hand to run over to the person “passing the comment”, thinking that the person wants to tell us something that we couldn’t understand. My eldest sister helplessly saying “hold on, stay back”. On reaching the men and asking what they wanted to say, I recall being told by the men “go and tell your sister … “. I wasn’t understanding any of this. But sometimes, I did notice my sister’s face change colors rapidly. The emotions of humiliation and embarrassment wasn’t wordified yet, but still, like a child learns his first language, I empirically learned that ‘this was wrong’.
We never discussed the road-comment amongst us, though once I recall being told just before entering the home “don’t tell about that to Ma-papa, or else we would not be allowed to go out again”. I nodded in agreement.
As I grew inch-by-inch, my perception and reaction was changing, particularly about girls. My definition of what was right and what was not, was all getting centred about how a girl would feel about it. Very slowly, very steadily I solidified the thought that anything that offends a girl is wrong… no matter what.
I recall Papa teaching me that respect for women is something that is found in only civilized people and societies. That the direction of the society very tacitly gets set by the orientation and direction of women. The feminine force in the society is like that part of the candle-flame which is closest to the wick, is the hottest but is still invisible. The feminine “makes most of the sacrifice in the making of a home” and is “superior”. At least that is what I heard.
Our place of worship had several deities, kept next to each other. I was confused about whom to pray first. When I light the sacred lamp, “in front of whom should I take it first? Other deities will feel bad” I thought. First, I decided to give them turns, but my sense of justice did not rest with that. I do remember seeking advice and the person laughed and said that it would not matter and I can face my lamp first to any of them. Grown-ups often don’t understand the intensity of curiosity or confusion with which a child questions. I did not get my answer.
Finally, it clicked … “the feminine is superior” and my confusion ended for good.
As I grew up further… when puberty touched me, I found in my own mind, thoughts that I would not accept as mine. Myself being the only boy at home was given the puja – room with a small bed to sleep, my 3 sisters slept in the room with a big guest bed. Several nights, I would wake up and start crying bitterly; because I found myself in a dream indulging in a thought that I felt would be considered offensive by the feminine. I would pray and plead to hanuman ji, but within a few days or week, I find myself at the same cross-roads… waking up and helplessly crying again. With whom could I share this? “Everybody looks normal, who is this that I have become, how can I be like this”. With Yoga, several years later, I started getting into terms with myself.
Watching movies on TV while growing up, I used to think, that when I grow up never again will a stifled cry of protection go unheard, never again will somebody due to physical power wield his ways on a woman. I have grown up as much as I could ever grow, but the world still is the same. It hurts deeply to acknowledge that. The realization of the reality purges my sense of self. Something roars out of me “I won’t let this happen anymore” as if I can solve everything like Narayan thyself. Something bitterly weeps out of me “how could this happen” as if I was the victim herself. It may not make sense to grown-ups, but it vaguely feels like I am both the victim who bears the pain and the Narayan who can fix it. Doing the daily trivia, I suddenly become aware of the ‘so much’ that ‘I have’ to do, about the ‘so much’ that ‘I have’ promised myself, a sudden sense of incompleteness takes over and my behavior turns “strangely silent”. A rolling laughter suddenly turning into a static face; a casual speech abruptly stopped; suddenly feeling out of place. I am never able to explain this surge of emotions to my friends who seek to understand “what went wrong”. A surge dictating that I stop everything else and do that which will make the world the way I wanted it to be. The capacity of an emotional surge is unsurpassed by our logical sense of ‘what should be’ … I continue to receive friendly complains about being ‘strange’, though I think I have improved on this.
Even though in passive actions, several times, I’ve been on the ‘wrong’ side of this road. As I gained clarity in my own thoughts, I gained confidence to apologize for instances when my eyes wandered to where it should not, instead of pretending otherwise. In my interaction with non-“conservative” females, this had been an issue as I noticed that my apology often finds ‘her’ embarrassed, which I didn’t understand. But I had friends who said “its okay”, “move on”, “don’t worry about it”.
As I understand more of this world, I understand that both the masculine and the feminine energies make up each individual. In the language of the ancients both the ‘Shiv’ and ‘Shakti’ are together present in each element; just that the male and female have respectively more of masculine and feminine energy manifested through them.
In my subconscious, the feminine still defines, what is right and what is not. To me still murder is smaller of a crime than other things committed against women. Indeed, I am biased, towards the feminine.
Nicky, now grown up, often says “I want to become like you” and I respond “you can’t … from where will you bring a sister like you”
- This article skips through so much of the ‘other side’, but in order to keep it open to readers of all age, I had to limit some elaboration
- Its easy to look back and judge people in hindsight. Please don’t judge anybody in this
The English expression of ‘Falling in Love’ is very appropriate, for you cannot stand in Love, you cannot sit in it, you can only fall into it. You cannot look for convenience and comfort in it. The state, subsequent to the falling is a matter of how fluidly you allow yourself to fall. You better have a good fall, if you don’t want to stand broken.
You would not continue to be the way you always used to be while in Love because the frame of reference for all observations is not you anymore. Still you are at ease, more than ever. Love allows you to leave your mind uncovered, uninhibited hence leaving you in a state native to you being.
Being in Love is such a thing ! … not because of what we ‘get’ while in Love, but because of what we ‘experience’ due to the divine intention while in Love. The intention which is something like surrendering your being to the other. The intention which can keep you in the state of ‘what can I be for you’ ; ‘what can I do for you’ … for reasons not known to the logical world, though it has been tacitly celebrated by the musical world for centuries.
Notice that it is the intention that is most important and not as much of the amount or extent to which you manage to do it. It is said by an enlightened master that our sense organs are like fire and the intentions of our action is what goes into the fire. If you put tire in fire, it burns with a bad smell, while if you put camphor, it creates a positive aroma around it. When the intention is to give yourself to the other, adore and sink into the other the act is called ‘making Love’. Though with the same set of organs involved but when the intention is to snatch away pleasure, its termed otherwise.
How much we have, how much we consume or give-away seems lesser important than the experience of being in love. Our mind is lush green with a sense of fulfillment when we feel at Love.
It seems to me that all beings are driven for Love because of some spark which is omnipresent in all of us. Despite the ignition being due to something at the very core of the existence; since common every-day experiences of fulfillment comes to us in form of physical comfort, or via enjoyments through our sense organs, our intellect tries to thread the pearls of Love into the commonly known experiences of comfort.
We end up hearing …
“I love you so much, how can you forget to call me”
“I tell you everything about me, why didn’t you tell me about yesterdays’ event”
“enough is enough why do you have to keep saying the same thing over”
“I have loved you so much, and here is how you treat me”
One of the ways that used to be suggested by ancient rishi’s to get over these questions in our mind is to drift oneself to a state of ‘sewa’. This is a Sanskrit word which is normally translated as ‘service’ in English. The word is formed by combining two syllables ‘सः’ (that) + ‘एव ‘ (be like). Literally, it would mean ‘being like that’ but in Sanskrit, its a common style of speech to refer to ‘the divine’ in this way. ‘sewa‘ used to carry the meaning ‘being like nature’ or ‘being like divine’.
Being like nature is like not counting how much you did and how many you gave.
If you do not see it being reciprocated, it is okay; for it was ‘my’ own wanting to give, which the ‘I’ was pursuing.
P.S: The above is just the flow of thoughts in the pitcher of my words. It does not stand commensurate with the idea of a complete article. I probably do not have the wisdom to be able to bring completeness to an article on Love.
I turn 30 today. I want to talk out those moments that have left a strong impression on me. I will start from my childhood and as I relay my thoughts bare, it may not remain interesting, but it is nevertheless me as I became.
My childhood school(Holy Cross School) was on the outskirts of my city and needed a 30 minute ride on the school bus through a not-so-smooth terrain. I’ve motion sickness and hence, everyday I used to vomit in the bus towards the end of the trip. Everybody in the bus wanted to sit away from me. In that crowded ‘green’ bus, I was in no competition of popularity … everyone knew me as the ‘vomiting boy’. Everyday I used to think … “today I won’t vomit”… “may I not vomit today” … “hey bhagwaan, aajh nahi“. Something in me never lets me lose hope, everyday I would think that ‘today is going to be the start of the day when I would stop vomiting’. Everyday I would imagine that finally there would be a day, when all these people would give up their desire to sit away from me.
There started to be some rare days finally when I would not vomit, but the crowd would anyways push me to the back end of the bus near the conductor’s gate where there was some space where, it was suggested that it is easy to clean that part of the bus.
I recall our trio Kunal (Kishore?), Danish (Khan?) and myself. we would read out the spelling of ATLAS which was a bicycle advertisement written all over the place on the way to our school. Teachers who shared the bus would get irritated but there was a fun element in that too.
Once Danish and myself went on the top of a place in the playground meant for jumping from a height. It was adequately cushioned with sand at the bottom. we both were afraid to jump from there; but after a promise to each other, we decided to jump on the count of 3, we both started counting 1, 2 , 3 ; and I jumped … Danish did not. In the air, out of fear my pants got wet. Then and Now… my fear of height has never gone away (they may not be correlated though). When I saw that he had not jumped, I was childishly offended by his breaking of promise. Now, I think, his fear might have taken over at the moment of jumping, but probably, to avoid admitting that, he instead said, “am I a fool to jump from here? I just wanted to see if you could jump”.
I recall our class was sitting for an exam and for some reason my pencil lid kept breaking, I had a sharpener, but in those days, it was normal for us to own only one pencil. I tried re-sharpening it several times, only to find another broken lid. I was scared that if I am unable to write I would fail the exam. (I don’t recall why I didn’t tell the teacher in the class that I needed a pencil) But I kept telling my bench-mate ‘Nirmal’ to share his pencil with me. But obviously he did not want to lose the time while I would write with his pencil. (we all used to have just one pencil for writing). Dripping with fear, I suggested Nirmal that he can break his pencil from middle and then I can sharpen the other half and use it for my writing. But he said that “Mummy will get angry with me, if I break my pencil; why don’t you sharpen your pencil again, it will work”. The memory of the moment and the fear is almost vivid even today. The teacher in that class room finally walked up to my bench to ask as to why I was talking to my neighbor again and again. I was about to cry, but I did not share my situation with the teacher. I stopped asking Nirmal for ‘the-half’ of his pencil after the teacher questioned me. I don’t recall what happened next, but I remember that I did not fail the exam. My deep wanting that Nirmal should have given me half of his pencil, left me with a certain impression for ever. I start feeling guilty when I find myself with something — even half extra — if I see another person lacks it.
The number of seats in the bus was much less than the number of people it used to take up. Hence, every inch of the bus space where someone could stand was put to use. It is an accepted wisdom all across human race that the one who comes first gets it first, so it happened in the bus-seats too. On our way back to home from school, I recall some ‘big boys’ would push the ‘small boys’ out of the seat, in order to get a seat.
I think that it was not for the comfort of sitting, but for proving the manliness and acquiring what one wants. I too attempted to do so(even as a kid, these feelings exits!!) at times using the tool of argument that ‘I came first to this seat’. At times, my argument would be pushed aside with the manly force of somebody who was a little bigger. I was never good at physical fight. Sometimes, some seniors in the bus would defend our case from their friends. I was so impressed by those seniors, that I slowly started attempting to get involved into any seat pushing event in the bus and would start arguing on behalf of the one who was sitting there first. I had not realized that the assertiveness of the seniors got accepted because they were ‘seniors’. I would almost always lose. I recall standing on the footsteps of my green-bus and looking down at at my (small) body and thinking that “once I grow up, I will make sure that nobody gets pushed out of his seat”. At that age (~ Class 4), I thought that, once I grow a year or two older I will become one of those who manage to push aside anybody; but I was naive not to think that by that time, those boys too would be 2 years bigger by that time.
I am 30 years old now, things of this kind still happen, no respite; and I have done little to stop it. At least, honestly, I could have done a little more towards it.
All of the above happened by or before I reached Class 4 in school.
Finally, in standard 5, I got admitted to Chinmaya Vidyalaya which was closer to my home; the daily bus-torture came to an end. I was in love with the school. I found myself getting more attention. I felt awkward about why there should be 2 days of Saturday and Sunday when the school had to close. My first bench-mate in Chinmaya was Jasmine. She was a very good person and even allowed me to copy her notes as she copied it from the blackboard. My vision was weak and I was unable to see the blackboard from the back-benches. In Holy Cross, I was allotted a fixed front row because I complained about not being able to see, but in Chinmaya there was a rule that the student’s position would change every day giving everybody an opportunity to sit in the front row. Till then I used to think that everybody just sees like me and that there is a very small variation in the ability to see because of which Jasmine could see the blackboard and I could not. I assumed that to be normal, like the little differences of facial features and height.
There’s so much thought that is streaming into my mind, but I guess I will end this post here and would make another set of entries to finish this short-autobiography.