Super Moon

When in God’s Own Country: Part 1

It was that time of the year when the sweetness of the spring was merging with the balmy summer. The board exams were done and dusted with. It was time to take off on a long cherished vacation and what better place than Kerela, God’s Own Country in South India. My dream destination for many years now.

We landed at Kochi (Cochin) well in time to head for Kumarakom, a sleepy, serene town in the backwaters of Kerela. It was a 3/4 hour car drive through the quaint little villages from the coastline of Cochin that looked a resplendent green, despite being a city. Simplicity wafted from everywhere, as we saw mundu clad men, and women adorning beautiful flowers in their nicely oiled hair, at almost every nook and corner. We stopped to pick up some local fruits and managed to get a big bunch of bananas-both the red and small yellow at an interestingly meagre price. It amazes us no end to see how reasonable these towns are compared to the cities we inhabit. There was a vendor selling a cartload of dried fish which I hadn’t seen ever since Philippines and I craned my neck out of the car window to grab its scent. We didn’t stop to buy any as the DH felt it was time we reached our dainty destination, Kumarakom.

Our hotel lay nestled by the banks of the Vembanad Lake, and we were greeted by the warm and friendly staff with garlands of shells and a welcome drink of gigantic coconuts which had the juiciest of coconut water. The coconuts were encapsulated in these jute holders, rustic and creative at the same time.

We were enchanted by the lush, fragrant beauty of the property, the ducks and swans dawdling near the artificial lake that looked as natural as one could imagine. The languorous lake was situated right in the middle of the property. Quaint cottages with lovely sit-outs, cycling tracks, nesting sites for birds, unending patches of green, huge, ancient trees and creaky wooden bridges, dotted it’s periphery. The lake abounded in talapias or kari meen. And one could sit quietly outside the cottages with a wooden fishing rod and go hook, line and sinker.

Since it was post lunch time and we were ravenous, we scrambled to the open restaurant that lay sprawled next to the lake and gorged on some lip smacking Malayali cuisine. I, of course opted for meen (fish) curry with big helpings of rice. There were prawns and other mouth-watering delicacies to choose from too.
Thereafter we walked back to our cottage to catch 42 winks. The girls were too excited and jumped into the swimming pool even before we could tell them to give it sometime post lunch. I grabbed my note pad and headed to the pool too with a mug of lemon green tea and just sat their savouring the awe-inspiring, resplendent colours of nature and the serenity the place had to offer.
Before we knew it, it was tea time and apparently from the banks of Vembanad lake we could watch the sun go down and sip on some masala tea and bite into some vadas, we were told. We headed as quickly as we could. Arusha was already there, engaging in some warm banter with the Mehendi woman who created this lovely pattern on her hand.
A surprise awaited us as the skyline turned a greyish-dark blue from the golden azure. Fruit bats, the size of a little dog flew overhead, en route their night haunt from the forest next door. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. It was a magnificent sight. We were told earlier they would come and hang around the trees of the hotel, but offlate they had moved to newer pastures. There was a little jetty, where I went and plonked myself and after a while I lay on my back, gazing at the star-spangled sky as the crescent moon appeared, lighting up not just my heart but the Vembanad lake and the surrounding flora. It was a beautiful dusk and a surreal way to end the day. But little did we know there was more in store.

As we walked back to our cottage we noticed diyas lined along the length and breadth of the lake, flickering their light into yet another young, radiant night. The crickets were busy engaging in their orchestrated symphony and we heard an owl hoot from the nearby tree. Before we knew it she was swooping overhead and caught her evening supper.

Supper, yes! We freshened up and headed for another sumptuous Malyali meal which began with a glass or two of Rosaˆ The aroma of freshly ground coconut and a medley of spices wafted from the other tables as we bit into the local papoddams. A group of demurely dressed girls from the local village, in resplendent off-white silk sarees with golden boders and vibrant blue blouses engaged in sequences of graceful dances as the musicians made magic with their tablas and instruments. We watched in rapt attention at their bright, beaming expressions and the grace, poise  and sweet demanour with which they swayed step after step, in rhythm with the music and the beatific night.

It would be an understatement if I said I slept like a baby. After all, “sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree, I travel the world and seven seas, everybody is looking for something.” Mine is calm, nature, serenity and the surreal stuff Mother nature abounds in. The stuff, quaint little places are made of…

~ Chastity Woods ~

 

Long, languorous walks by Chastity woods,
Frolicking winds and froggy hoods

Walking hand in hand,
Peering at the verdant land

Inhaling the whiff of crisp spring leaves,
Laughing about our pet peeves

Nuzzling up to a sweet banter,
Whimsical emotions stealthily saunter

Gazing at her hazel eyes,
Startled by a parakeet’s cacophonic cries

Rebuking the intruder with frivolous bamboozle,
Longing eyes that continue the carousal

Give in to the patch of green,
Regaling in our new-found love’s sheen

Chastity woods is all so pure,
Another redolent love gives into its lure

March 2005
Mumbai

Manifest Your Desires

 

Magic in Mcleod Ganj
Magic in Mcleod Ganj

 

As the curtains close to Arusha’s 18th birthday at McLeod Ganj, I reflect upon the day with a longing desire, a desire to capture it in a magic bottle. A magic memory bottle of sorts that I could re-visit and reclaim as only mine.

It’s been a whirlwind few months – changes, severed ties, revelations, mostly bitter moments; peppered with some really sweet ones, which made it easier to bear the debacles. Days of feeling helpless, but pulling through it with a tenacious spirit. And on the lop side being one with the change and embracing it with unsure but courageous thoughts. These moments would not have been possible without the support of some very dear, messiah like people who just stepped in and enveloped me with their motivating words and warm hugs.

Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in the power of your thoughts? Do you believe what you put out there, the universe manifests into your reality?

If not then read on and if yes, you could still go right ahead and read my little story.

A trip to Dharamshala one might assume is a short one especially when taking a flight. But believe it or not, we were caught in a massive traffic jam on our way to Mcleod Ganj and that too between Dharamshala and the latter, which in normal circumstances would take half an hour. It seemed as though the entire Punjab had descended upon this serene Tibetan settlement, also because it was the weekend.
And we thought we had left the chaotic city life and traffic jams to savour some mountain quietness.
Well, we weren’t entirely wrong!

I have long wanted to visit this Buddhist belt of India especially after I took to the Soka Gakkai practise of Buddhism. So it was a dream come true. And Arusha was also eager to be in a similar place for her eighteenth birthday, away from the maddening party scene; and we wanted to make it meaningful for her.
But little did we know that we were to be stranded in a 4 hour traffic jam. After being stuck for little more than 2 hours and whiling time watching the garrulous Punjabi uncles and youth sporting t-shirt vests and blare bhangra rap, fat aunties dawdling their way through the narrow road in a bid to walk the 5 km stretch; it struck me that chanting would probably help.
In the past Aarshia and I have chanted our way through traffic jams, seamlessly. I have chanted through massive traffic jams to reach my meetings on time in the past too. The pessimist in me began with little hope, as we could see the cars dotted back to back on the meandering hills. 15 minutes and nothing was moving still. I almost gave up when I put a goal of 4 pm for us to reach our destination.
I chanted with utter faith and determination as I didn’t want my baby girl (she would say, “not anymore!”) to spend her birthday like this. Though honestly I was enjoying this adventure. I never get impatient around jams, and I have realised acceptance is the key to staying calm at that moment. In fact jams give me time to reflect and enjoy my music!

It was over 3:30 pm and I put a goal of 4:30 pm, to reach our destination and suddenly the traffic started moving. I chanted vigorously and could feel the strong presence of Ikeda Sensie guiding me through this as he raised his fan to the “I will Sensie” song. I could hear the chorus in my head and see Sensie’s motivating smile and twinkling eyes. I have tried to establish that connect with my mentor, and its taking me longer than usual as I have had mentors like Ramkrishna Paramhans, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who have been my beacon of light in the past.
But I believe it is fine to have many mentors, some at various points of time in your life and one who you will connect to always. I hope it will be Sensie!
At 4:05 pm the traffic came to a jolting halt again and we could see this 1-1/2 km stretch might take us hours to get through. Aarshia suggested we walk, so all of us clamoured out of the car and started walking. It was a nice, fun walk despite the one way traffic. I continued to chant and I felt Sensie encourage me through this. The peanut and corn vendors had set up shop and were selling their stuff like hot cakes. People were even playing board games in their cars.
Our hotel, Serkong House a Buddhist abode was right at the central market. By 4:30 we were sitting in the restaurant sipping on watermelon juice and satiating our growling stomachs with some piping hot Thukpas and momos.

Such is the power of this practise of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and your faith. If you believe, you will always be lead to the desired outcome. The day you stop believing and challenging every obstacle, you will run out of that will to live life. Hope is what keeps us going, even when it’s just a traffic jam. When we get stuck in life’s emotional jam, all we need to do is believe in magic and hold on to it. And lo behold! Everyday will become a magic!

25th June 2016, Mcleod Ganj

~~My Will ‘O Wisp Spring~~

Oh! Spring, spring,
What shall you bring?

Wispy clouds with silver linings
Balmy breeze that seem to be dancing

A cuckoo bird flapping its wings
Melancholic hearts that sing

Riot of colours suddenly bursting
Frolicking souls giving in

A star spangled night whispering
Many a hearts entwining

Little daisies simply smiling
Yet another new beginning

 
22:40 hours
16 February 2005

Burn Baby Burn

“This is my Year! It’s going to be All Mine! This is My Year!!”
Proclaimed Lucy Van Pelt, of the Peanuts Comic strip.
And so did I!!

2015 will be my year. That’s what I kept reiterating as 2014 came to a meandering end. I heaved a sigh of relief as I bade it a hurried good bye.

Was greeted by a very wondrous beginning to the New Year with a vacation tucked in at “love you to bits, Mumbai” and “play if you must Pune” with the DH and girls. We spent glorious moments with a bunch of crazy pals who give our life that extra zing. On the 5th January morning we returned to our cosy nest. Gurgaon, the Millennium city was in the grips of the treacherous claws of a harsh winter. But we were relaxed knowing that this was time to make merry before the kids winter vacations got over. After all they usually translated into more late nights, endless soaps on TV, a movie thrown in here and a movie thrown in there, mindless banter with friends over a glass of cheer, or sitting with the family huddled in the quilt and talking endlessly as Joan Baez crooned Diamonds & Rust.
After a rather lovely date night with the better half on Friday, the next morning looked more than promising with a long-due visit planned to the in-laws in Noida. I woke up early and enjoyed the comfort of my cuppa. I was very inclined to chant but ended up calling my folks and had a long chat with them- more gratification to the soul. It was almost time to chant and connect with the mysticism of Nam Myo Ho Rengey Kyo so I went to wake the little one and Alok. My help had put the tray next to where Aarshia was lying on the bed and in a bid to save the little one I lifted the tray and lost my balance. In a fraction of second the hot tea and milk were upon me, scalding my skin as I let out a war cry. My loudest!

My leg was scalded beyond recognition, and the skin had been torn off as I pulled off my tracks. I was not only burning from the outside but also from the inside. The only thought that came to me then was how do people immolate themselves. How! How! How! It could qualify as the highest form of torture.
Arusha my 16 year old and Alok were by my side; comforting me and helping put my legs in an ice bucket. Arusha kept soothing my spirit by giving examples of the Buddha and his ignorance to pain when he meditated in the storm, in the rain and in the cold. I just felt the excruciating pain, but also blessed at that point of time. How many 16 year olds would dispense out such pearls of wisdom?

After a while we rushed to the ER at Artemis, wherein the wounds were attended to. I clung to Arusha as she comforted me, and the doctor and nurses, cleaned and bandaged my legs.

It’s been 7 days since my plans for this month changed their course. From being a month of new beginnings, new workplans and so on so forth, it’s turned out to be a month of healing and staying positive depsite the odds. The intention is not to brag, but to pat myself on the back and say, I did it and I’m going to do it. The scalded skin is healing slowly but well. I need to visit the hospital every alternate day for the dressing of my left leg, which is bandaged in such a way that it comes acrossas a cast. The leg’s not broken, neither is the soul!
I can barely walk, mostly with assistance or mostly on my own; grabbing the walls, the tables or whatever comes my way. I walk less. Period. Today is the seventh day of this debacle and I am beginning to hobble around a bit. It’s nice to get burnt in the winters. So I believe. The healing is faster, and one can sit under the quilt and sip coffee and eat, chat and listen to music, and write, and order family around for all the help.
But wait, somebody just told me that it pains a lot more in winters. So I grin and bear the pain. Though I have been gettinga bit edgy the last two days. And my family has been wonderfully patient with me. I have been able to send out the second draft of the UN, World Food Programme project. I’m glad I work from home as a writer.
Today I started worrying about the scars, on my leg. When summers come, how will I wear cropped pants and short dresses and chappals? But who knows, liberal application of coconut oil will my dull the scars in time. And the other lop side to the story is the burn just missed my Carpe diem tattoo by a whisker. Guess I should draw courage from that tattoo and remember to seize the moment and not worry about what the future will hold. The humming bird on my Carpe Diem tattoo is saying, “Cross the bridges when you come to them”. Also, so said the doctor attending to me. For now I’m counting my blessing for the abundant love and TLC that I have from friends and family. And a good set of doctors attending to my wounds.

Time to forge ahead with hope and gratitude in my heart. Amen to that!

17 January, 2015

 

my-year

Strong & Silent: Cotton Story

Silence is golden and who knows it better than our four legged furry friends. It is fleetingly that they communicate their joy or displeasure by barking, growling or whining.
This applies more so to my just turned 8, furry girl Cotton who is more often than not, very calm and reticent. The only time she gets frazzled is when a storm blow or it rains, or she hears noisy fire crackers being burst. And she vies for our attention when she is starved for snacks. All this without any noisy display of barking. Frantic shivering when the former happens and incessant pawing when hunger strikes.

They say that each being that comes in touch with us, teaches us new lessons. Cotton has had a long history of imparting nuances of nuggets my way.
One being this Friday, when I went to see off Alok at the elevator outside our door. A ritual I follow everyday as he leaves for work. And guess who else joins me in the “adieu ritual”. Well, none other than Cotton ofcourse. This was one of those days when I had lots on my mind and many chores and work related things to accomplish. So much so that I walked in and shut the door, not realizing I has locked poor Cotton out. On most days I bring her in calling our to her but on this day my absent mindedness got the better of me. I hurriedly got back to the table and engrossed myself deep in work.
An hour had passed, when Shantana, my help suddenly quipped, ” Who’s that outside the door? I can see 4 legs from under the door.” Distracted I looked away from the computer screen and asked her to go check.
As Shantana opened the door, poor Cotton sheepishly walked inside and came and plonked herself next to me.cotton
I sympathetically looked at her at went back to work as I had a deadline to meet. It is later during the course of the day when I had some time for reflection that I began to think about how we as humans would have reacted in a situation like this. We would have knocked/ banged at the door or called out. But patient little being that Cotton is, she chose to keep silent and wait for us to open the door.
This is such a big lesson for me to stay calm in the face of adversity. The challenging situation you are in may not get sorted at once by banging the door, but if all fails what really helps is staying calm and strong.

29 October 2013

OBKEK

img_2182

December 2, 2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Abhishek is the kid brother I never had.

As I rewind back to the muggy monsoon of 2004, memories of Abhishek and I sharing a raucous laugh on the dilemmas of life; ring true.
It was one of those days when Abhishek had come home from his break. He was doing his MBA at Hyderabad and simultaneously also working with a call centre. We were catching up on old and new times, alike.
He excitedly told me, “Didi I bagged the best employee award”
I was so proud of O.B.K.E.K (pronounced OB-Cake); that’s what I call him.

He was born when I was a little over 7 years old. Still remember the first time when Leena Aunty put him on my lap. There I was flaunting this brand new dress in celebration of his birth and to my horror that-wet-something trickled all over me, making it a day surely to remember.

Abhishek and I grew up together. Literally!
We spent many an evenings watching Sharukh Khan’s first serial “Fauji” and I’d clap in glee when he would emulate the title track with much style. The heart warming smile that flashed thereafter would make me want to spoil him silly. Yet we also had our share of quarrels on who had wacked who’s DC Comic, Target or Tin Tin.
I remember the first time I shifted to Delhi, he pillion drove me across the city, and we went about scrutinizing a decent place for me to stay. I was happy to see he was a steady driver. Well he had his head screwed firmly on his shoulders and that’s what made all of us so proud of him.

That July evening as we both sat catching up on the “latest”, he told me with a rather sweet blush that he had fallen in love. And he somehow knew that this was it! But life has a way of throwing up unique ironies. The girl in question was getting engaged in the next few days to a techie in the USA. He looked at me with those intense eyes which suddenly seem to grow sad but in a haste lit up. He quickly flashed that warm smile and said, “That’s ok Didi, I have shared the best moments in life with her, and I guess I am not up there like her would-be-husband. I am still studying. I guess she’ll be happy with what her family has planned for her.”

I held his hand and reassured him, “Listen Bro, if destiny wants the two of you to be together, so you shall be. For all you know, next year this time you’ll be telling me she’s yours!”

He smiled back again; that confident and in reassuring smile and said,
“Que Sera Sera…I am very happy with life, no regrets, no complaints.”
And yes he looked genuinely happy as he gorged on his favourite chicken curry my Ma had prepared for him with piping hot parathas. He completely loved the vanilla ice-cream topped with the mango chunks and told my Dad, “Wow, Jethu! I’ve never tried this dessert combo. It’s lip- smacking!!”

The next day, Abhishek left for Pantnagar, near Nainital; to go spend time with his mother. He was driving and was accompanied with his father. Their car was hit by a truck; and the ebullient life ebbed out of him in a jiffy. His father survived the crash, but Abhishek was gone…leaving behind a void in our lives, forever.

The next few days were the most traumatic; I have ever known. It was the first time I had seen someone so close to me falling prey to the cruel hands of death. A young, energetic, vivacious and caring life; would touch us no more.
Three days later we stood at the doors of the small Kaali temple, ready to leave; after Abhishek’s prayer service and it began to drizzle.
I quickly escorted Leena Aunty and Kaku (Abhishek’s Ma & Dad) and my parents into the car; strapped the safety belt as Kaku fumbled softly, “Drive carefully beta”. The light pitter patter continued as I revved up the car engine.
My soul was crying; “Was Abhishek crying too?” I quizzically thought to myself.

Barely had we crossed a few blocks there were no signs of the rain. On the contrary the sun was shining brightly. Was it Abhishek bidding us adieu and telling us he was fine.
And that he would forever smile and shine upon us?

 

 

Let’s Ubuntu


September was serendipitous. I was taking my Buddhism Level 2 exam, which turned out to be a great leveller, actually. I learnt something innately profound and meaningful. It’s called “Boddhisatva Never Disparaging” which essentially means treating the entire humankind with respect irrespective of our difference.

We sometimes get judgemental of people. And we let our judgement drive our behaviour or attitude towards them. We judge people on how they behave, or the way they choose to be, dress, talk or respond to situations. These could be completely different from our perceptions and so called realities about life. We don’t know what other’s stories are, where they are coming from. So let’s stop short when we get judgemental. Its good to have an opinion but one can leave it at that. When we do that we learn the art of letting go, and start abiding by the “live and let live” philosophy. We free ourselves of the biases, and I personally feel we become more at peace with ourselves. We’ve let the thoughts not bother us anymore. And we are one with the moment and the person.

I write this not because of the fact that I’m a practising Buddhist, but also because I felt this was one flaw that I needed to change about myself. I have struggled time and again, despite my Buddhist practise by falling into this trap of judging people and situations.
But as I study this philosophy more and more, which tells us that each human being, including the person who doesn’t practise Buddhism, has an inherent Buddha nature within (we all know that right- even the most dangerous criminals); my belief in it gets reaffirmed.

Ubuntu philosophy is one such practise that has fascinated me immensely.
There’s a tribe in Africa called Ubuntu that follows the beautiful “ubuntu” (Prounounced oo-boon-too) philosophy. Ubuntu is a Zulu or Xhosa word and a traditional African concept that means, “ I am because we are.” It translates to humans, caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

Archibishop Desmon Tutu summed up the philosophy by saying, “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. It’s about the essence of being human. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”

Another incredible example is of the Solomon islands. When people want to clear a forest for planting or development they just gather around the big tree, stand around it holding hands and hurl abuses at the tree. Eventually the tree withers and dies on its own in just 30 days.

Respect
Respect

These days some schools are trying to scrape detention and replace it with meditation. Another step forward in calming the mind and healing the being without loathing or punishing.

We are all intrinsically connected to each other. If we carry forward the philosophy of acceptance towards people around us, we can work as a team, as one large unit of happy people who share amicable relationships with each other. And wouldn’t that lead to a better world? On the contrary if we curse and abuse or think of others with contempt, we will only harbour negative feelings and in return be more often than not, retaliated with negative energies.

So who all are joining me in celebrating Ubuntu or Bodhisatva never Disparaging? It’s a beautiful life, lets all live in harmony.

September 2016

The Black Letter Day

 

Sixteenth Day of December 2014 was supposed to be one of those pre-Christmas day weeks when most of us brace up for the arrival of Santa and his ilk. I spent the morning spring-cleaning. Tidied up my 6 year olds cupboard, and while fixing one of the lofts found two huge teddy bears tucked away in a cloth bag. A big, big teddy bear that was the 6 year olds wish list from Santa. My worries of getting her a big teddy bear and lack of space to keep it were brushed off now. She hadn’t seen these teddies. So they would double up as Santa’s gift. Aarshia was ecstatic to find two huge teddies propped on her bed when she arrived from school. Squealing in delight she scooped them in her arms and named them Daisy and Poppy. “Mumma, how did Santa arrive earlier at our home?” she quipped. “You’ve been a good girl, sweetheart, that’s why.” I responded with smile of amusement.

The evening was spent at Vivaan, Aarshia’s good friend’s birthday party, bowling and having fun, in the cold, misty Gurgaon weather. Little did we know that we would return home, post a joyous day to be thrown off by the most horrifying news ever! Taliban militants had massacred 134 school children in Pakistan along with 11 other school staff. All the festive cheer came tumbling down like a pack of cards. I felt as though someone had slashed a knife into my heart. This gory murder of innocent children, just one day after the Sydney siege, where a gunman had taken people hostage in a café and killed two. What was the world coming to?
Suddenly 16th December 2014 had transformed into a dark, gloomy apparition of a black letter day in the history of mankind.
This night I hugged my girls tighter than I ever have, I guess.

I woke up next morning and proceeded to go about the day. After I had packed the girls to school, I was engulfed with a searing sense of sadness. Just as the thick blanket of morning fog hovered over our township, I felt a blanket of gloom cloaking my being. I am unable to come to terms with that fact that how could human’s slaughter innocent young children? Well, those aren’t humans I guess; they are monsters in the garb of humans. I can’t even begin to fathom what the parents and families of these children(mostly 12-16 years of age) must be going through. Young lives lopped off in the bud, just when they were beginning to take flight and chart their dreams.  And I happened to see a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on social media. Hobbes the tiger is telling Calvin, “You know there are times when it’s a source of personal pride, to not be human.” So rightly articulated. An animal would never resort to such dastardly act of terrorism, as did these Talibans at Peshawar yesterday.

My question is what can we do to change these heinous crimes plaguing the length and breadth of earth. We are progressing in leaps and bounds, whether be it science and technology and what-have-yous. But are we progressing as a race of compassionate human beings? No, we aren’t! We are only regressing. We are at a space that we have never ever been in the past. Such gruesome murder of innocent lives was unheard of. I guess its time to focus on the progress of the inner self and work on the compassion quotient of human beings in general. Kids in school need to be not just taught science, social studies and math, but lessons in humanity, caring and compassion. Wonder why they did away with Moral Science, a subject we grew up learning as kids.
It is time to rein terrorism and exterminate it from the face of earth. That can happen now if all the global forces come together to exterminate these barbarians and in the long run if we inculcate amongst our kids, little lessons in humanity.

 

%d bloggers like this: