While returning from school, my second one started narrating a never-ending story about his friend's short temper. It started as a single episode - the friend refused to accept the verdict given by the toss (after my son refused to do so first, by the way) and how he shouted and how my son calmly ordered him to be quiet, etc.
Cosmos heaved. Every cell vibrated. And pulsated with a desire for a life of its own. To swim on its own, to move as it wished, where it willed, not to be trapped, not to be part of a whole but become a whole.
And it got its wish.
Fish... It swam, in a school, but still alone... Where it wanted, seeing, feeling, eating, on its own, sensing...
Sensing danger everywhere. Fear. Fear. Fear. Of not finding food. For it's life.
If only to live without this fear. To be strong. As the jaws closed on it, it's last wish was to be the predator and not the hunted.
A lion. Swimming without fear. Killing with impunity. Power. The king of the jungle. The world at its mercy. And yet, powerless against the tusks that bored, the horns that stabbed, age that withered.
To be stronger still. To be invincible. To conquer uncertainties.
The master hunter.
The master strategist.
The master destroyer.
Swimming. Flying. Climbing. Digging. Destroying everything on its path.
A big wave, and still it trembled. A strong gust of wind, and still it fell on its knees. A deafening thunder, and still it pleaded, "Please, help me, save me."
It wanted to be god - the creator, the preserver, the destroyer.
It did all that. And yet, it was created, it had to be preserved, it could be destroyed.
Not on its own. It could never become that which it wanted.
It cried, "Please let me become you." It begged.
Had it been dreaming all this while? Did it really happen?
The Cosmos heaved. It settled deeply and sighed in contentment.
Seven steps together. Then 70. Moving up to 700... And the count keeps increasing.
How many together? How many in different directions?
Different interests. Different goals. Different approaches. Sometimes, even different languages...
What is the meaning of this relationship that came half way into our lives?. If the paths differ, why force two people to walk together? How do you keep it together?
Should one abandon one's own path to walk down another's? Can one force the other to enjoy the same sights and journey as ourselves?
Can even love make two hearts beat as one at every turning?
Will the paths tear them asunder, or will the heart give way?
These thoughts cloud the mind, and seem to plunge it in darkness. You cry out for light and lo! The mist clears. Why! Though the paths differ, the pace differs, the destination is the same! Even when you let go of the hands, the gaze turns to the same point. Though the hearts sing to a different beat, the tune is the same. When the eyes meet, the same thoughts connect them.
And you smile in understanding. At each other. At yourself. For it is at these points of intersection that you find the true meaning of this relationship. It is then that you understand what the other means to you. It is then that you feel grateful.
You continue walking, taking 70000 more steps, 700,000... 700,000,000.
"I got A+ in English, and aunty said very good for one of my essays," my son said with a broad smile. My heart jumped with joy. In the previous exam, the first he was writing in his 9 years of schooling as the initial years were in Montessori, he had shocked me when he said, "They asked me to write what I want to be in 20 years. I wrote, cricketer. What ma, they gave 20 lines to write! What am I supposed to write for 20 lines?"
It was like a battery of bullets being discharged, a sten gun in action. Ta-da-da-da-da she went. Anger bubbled. She felt so wronged at her wishes not being given due respect, of being forced to do something she did not want to year.
This year, my parents and my in-laws celebrated 55 years of togetherness. Well, 50 went by five years ago, I could have written this then. Or 60 is coming in five years and I can write it then. But I choose to write today so don't ask why now...
We waited for all eight of us to assemble for practice. The youngest two of the dancers called in sick. The rest of us looked at each other in dismay as the program was just a week away, and we had learnt this item just two days back. But, well, we assured ourselves, there was at least a week. So we had hope.
As we finished the rehearsal for the day and chatted up, the topic of the girls being unwell came up. We wondered if they would get better by the program date, and someone suddenly said, “Oh come! You have done it. I am sure they can too!”
Shishupala's mother knew that her son was destined to die at the hands of Krishna. She begged him to please spare her son.
Krishna promised his aunt, "I will forgive a hundred errors..."
The mother was content, thinking she had bought her son redemption with that promise.
At Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, ignoring warnings from others, Shishupala insults Krishna and continues to do so till he reaches his quota of 100. At 101th insult, Krishna lets fly his discus and beheads Shishupala.
Devdutt Pattnaik, in the notes at the end of the chapter on Shishupala in his book 'Jaya' points out that the mother sought Krishna's promise not to harm her son, but did not caution her son not to give Krishna a reason.
So many times I see children running to their mothers with complaints and their mothers immediately taking up arms on their children's behalf. Never are they asked for the complete picture, nor helped to take responsibility for their actions. When they make a mistake, some mothers brush it aside, and expect other children to overlook it... They are not taught to forgive others and forget small oversights. When they feel slighted, they are not taught to rise above the situation.
As a mother, many of us take our role as protectors too seriously. But we are not going to be there all the time. Children will grow up to be adults, out in the world on their own. These very things that seem small and insignificant in childhood will lead to bigger and unpalatable personality traits that will be hard to overlook and forgive. They will not know how to handle being ignored or rejected. They will not know how to be accepted... As parents, we will be unable to help them at that stage.
Or, if that becomes the norm, will that cease to matter?
A cute sardar boy ran howling to his parents on being rejected in the selection round of a music reality show in TV today. A voice over said, "Rejection is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey to success."
I wanted to slap the scriptwriter. It was just the kind of shallow, oft-repeated thought that sounds deceptively inspirational, but means zilch for the child whose hopes have been raised and dashed. The entire ecosystem - right from parents to the show hosts - is responsible for this. Some children who cannot hold the tune are made to come and contest. They become laughing stock on national TV. Mostly under 12, they may not even realise they are being laughed at!
A week ago, one boy literally begged the judges to give him a chance. The boy was not more than 9 years old. I watched aghast as he started crying. The judges were embarrassed. Finally they called the family. The boy said his father will scold him for losing. The uncle said some crap about if the boy worked hard then he could meet expectations, but to give him a chance. The judge stopped the uncle bluntly and told him not to put so much pressure on the boy at such a young age.
I remember this topic coming up during an interview with Sri Sriram Parasuram, the Hindustani classical singer and husband of playback singer Anuradha Sriram. He was very vehemently opposed to such reality shows for such young children. "The kind of training they have to go through is not fair to them," he said firmly.
When attending a competition at a smaller level, I was amazed at the concert-level quality of some of the young children. Yes, it is amazing. But is it needed? If they do gamakams and palukals when they are 10 and 12, instead of enjoying the pace and the beauty of a song at that age, what will they be left with when they reach 20-25/30-35? Let me put it differently, if they have to worry so much about delving into the depths of ragas at this age, when will they play and enjoy life? Is it necessary to 'create' and nurture prodigies at such a young age?
The premium of success, the definition of success, the stress on success... Or, is it short cut to fame that is being sought, vicariously by parents through their young children? Are success and fame synonymous? Are we chasing success, which comes with hard work and maturity, or fame just to be in the spotlight?
As I watch young children put through the circus, I cannot but wonder what their life would be like once the limelight is snatched from them... What happens to them when they go back to their ordinary lives?
We paint all mothers with one brush - loving unconditionally, nurturing, god on earth. But as a mother, I hardly think I fit that description. I am loving, I am nurturing, and maybe I am even god on earth till my children discover otherwise. But we are also individuals and come with our own quirks and personalities. So a fun look at how each mother is different from the other:
1. The Hands-off Mother - she has given birth, and now she expects she has done all that she could.
2. The Food-Supplier Mother - having given birth, she believes feeding is her prime duty. She will cook wonderful dishes, invite the child/children's friends and embarrass other mothers who cannot match her culinary skills. (You guessed it right, I belong to the 'embarrassed category'.)
3. The 'My-Child-Is-God' Mother - whether she is god on earth or not, her child is. To her. The child can do no wrong. The friends better scamper for safety if her child were to come to her crying when playing with them. The fault must all be theirs.
4. The Academic Mother - wants to see the child at the top of class, career, life. May steal the child's childhood in the process. But if the child can have a brilliant career, then they are set for life! Mom knows best.
5. The Intellectual Mother - physical nourishment, academic pursuits... they are important, but not all. Travel, books, freedom... She lets the child loose into the world and believes (s)he will come out stronger and better.
6. The Demon - yes, such ones exist too. Indifferent, feeling trapped, venting their frustrations, killing the spirit of the child. Maybe she is not evil, but doesn't know to find the god in her.
Mother - how many forms you take. And through all this, you try to live up to the image in your own way. In the eyes of the world, you may succeed or fail. But to your child, you will always be God on Earth.
She sat quietly, immobile, waiting for the attack. She offered her body for the sacrifice. But she was not going down without a fight. She was armed.
Right enough, the promise of food, the scent of blood, the sitting duck lured them from their corners. In ones, twos, almost invisible in the shadows, they emerged and reconnoitered.
She waited. She felt their pincer grip but sat still. She wanted the army out, not these minions. She towered over them, and so the damage was not significant. But it was not their bite which was dangerous. It was what they injected into her system. Even one minion could poison her system, but she was willing to take the risk.
Nothing happened for a long time. Only the minions got drunk on her blood. She was getting angry now. It was not an easy call, this decision to kill. Largely peaceful as a person, she felt that she was justified in killing because she was being attacked. It was pure self-defense.
She saw the fat ones moving up closer. She swished her weapon - the electric racket - and heard the satisfying burst of the body against the electric wires. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She felt another one bite. Swish, swish, swish she went. Crackle, crackle, crackle she heard the response. She smelt burning bodies.
She had promised herself, she would kill only those who came to her. And that the stream had to end. But like Raktabeeja, each death caused at least two more to emerge and strengthen the attack. The frenzy to kill consumed her. She bent low and looked far. She caught the tiny bodies in mid air and swung her arm with relish.
But it was unending. 11. 11.30. 12.00. She must go to bed now. She will resume the battle the next day.
My heart, my belief system is rooted deeply in the firm conviction that the divine and I are separate. He, (She, if you insist - it is just a word at that level) is all pervading, and so in me, in you, everywhere. A part of it rests within me, but the larger part rests outside, like in a bank account - to be accessed when the Self is incapable of dealing meeting a situation.
The separateness is reassuring, as if there is someone watching over, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to pour the troubles into, an arm that envelopes protectively, a dark, reassuring night that soothes and cools, a bright light that guides... As if it is all not my responsibility.
So probably, 'Yoga Vasishta' was not the book for me.
Or, just the book for me. A treatise on Advaita philosophy, it is Sage Vasishta's discourse on the non-duality of the Paramatma and Jeevatma, of how it is the Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness that is manifest in every living and non-living thing not just in the universe but the various universes that exist in multifarious forms in parallel. The discourse is given to Rama when Sage Vishwamitra calls on King Dasaratha asking for Rama's help in killing Tataka.
Rama has been distressed and restless and feels a strange detachment that he is not able to explain. The discourse aims to enlighten Rama on the nature of non-duality of the world and the need to perform our duties with detachment and realisation of the true nature of the self.
Whether you are an atheist, agnost, or theist matters not; whether you go to temples or to war matters not; whether you act or not matters not. The gods are not gods, but like us, creation of that Supreme Imagination. Life, and even non-life, is but a dream. What matters is to know this Truth and to contemplate on it, be aware of it, and repose in that Supreme Consciousness.
While I read novels at least one a week, this book needed time - I took two years to complete it. It is the same idea repeated with many stories, instances and examples. Creation and dissolution of the cosmos are also mere beginning and end of a dream. There is no you, no me, nothing. We dream and think that is true and the waking world becomes a lie. When we wake up, the dream world dissolves and becomes a lie. So it is with the world.
Am I nothing? Just a puff who will vanish, has vanished and materialised again? Are you whom I love, hate, like, dislike, am indifferent to, don't even know you exist - really? Just the effect of a dream?
The mind is still struggling to understand how all that I see and experience are but a dream of some supreme being that is and is not; that life is an illusion, a mirage that vanishes the moment the dream ends. It all seemed so clear when I was reading it, but so hard to comprehend when I close it!
I love that God who stands by me. But if that God and I are a but dream...?
When my friend, my guide to sites that encouraged writing, mailed to me about a competition on a site where one of my novels was already serialised and another is currently running, I thought and almost dismissed the thought of sending in anything. But 'The Circle of Zero', written from a the point of view of a man, contrary to my usual obsession with women and their complicated lives, was lying idle, having been written in 2009/10. So why not, I thought and sent that, not really sure what to expect.
When the mail inviting me for the event came, I had to excuse myself as I was traveling that evening. Then I got a mail telling me I was a winner.
Now that changed everything and after much agonising, I decided to risk going there. Oh what a sweet surprise was in store for me!!! The first prize in Romance!!!!
Of course we were getting late as the event stretched beyond expectations, but when my name was called out and I walked up to receive the prize, it was as if my efforts had finally borne some fruit. Getting published by Pageturn was the first step, but this one was a recognition of a different sort and just gave hope in a new direction.
With hope comes a sense of responsibility - that I continue to write different things and that too, stuff worthy of note or at least consideration.
My elder one came home almost everyday with a bird dropping its blessing on her person - her clothes, her hand, her head! Naturally frustrated but philosophical by nature, she asked me in an amused and frustrated tone, "Why is it happening to me, ma?"
"Because you care so much for the birds - you are after me to give them food and you are so sensitive to their plight... It is their way of saying a thanks. They don't have anything else to give, so they drop their blessings on you," I teased her.
A few days later, when riding the scooter with her behind me, I told her, "You know, everyday a loose gravel or sand hits me on my face."
Pat came the reply, "It is the road's way of thanking you for using the scooter instead of the car and causing it less pain."
"I look fat!" I complained when my husband showed me this photo. He started cropping it to oblige me but I was already in a dilemma. I had let myself go and it showed. Why hide the fact? After all, people who saw me perform saw me this way!
Just then, my daughter jumped up to see which photo we were discussing. She said, "Amma, it is not how you look but how you danced!"
Stunned at this piece of wisdom, I asked her what she meant. "Grandfather said you were dancing like a teenager, doing the thoppukaranam (sit ups done before Lord Ganesha) with ease."
This pose was at the fag end of the varnam, by when I had already danced for 30 minutes non-stop on stage. I was tired but not out. I went on to do two more items without fatigue overpowering me. I had felt one with myself throughout the show, feeling the emotions flow freely and my feet and hand move agilely. Why then should I apologise for how I looked?
I posted this photo as it is. But I promised myself, next time, I would not give myself any reason to feel embarrassed.