Haze

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing, that’s all that Bobby left me, yeah,
But feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
Hey, feeling good was good enough for me, hmm hmm,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

‘Twas a lovely Friday morning singing to the Radio, my car windows rolled down, Me and Bobby McGee playing loud. I’m breaking ice with my weekdays, and weekends now- trying hard to do everything I want to do- although so much of me is lost in somewhere, not certain where, not certain where to.

This is what it truly is to live in the moment, then. Not looking into the ghastly, painful, confusing past- because I’m not sure what happened there- and not looking into the strange, and uncertain future- I’m not sure what will happen there.

And, so there I am, guileless at a nightclub, singing through the Pune winter, laughing at a comedy show, racing at an RPM class, dancing to the morning radio, jabbering with a new friend, unable to write…and unable to love…and unable to dream…and unable to pick a certain hope. So much is happening, and so little is, and

everything’s kind of in a haze.

Who knows?

 

 

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The Long Road home

There, there between the sea and the concrete, is a chaos you cannot forget, a madness you can scarcely fathom, a happiness you can forgive: the endless jangle of drums, chants and cheap Hindi music that makes up the festival of Bombay- Ganpati, on Day 5, the Gauri Visarjan.

It is ironic, for I have just watched Umesh Shukla’s Krishan Vs Kanhaiya, that laments the business of religion, the emptiness of ritual, the horror of the expanse of broken idol left behind every year, post a Ganpati Visarjan. Miles and miles of plastic, and broken parts of a God once revered, lie forgotten.It is ironic, for I purposefully take the road by the sea, to witness the mayhem-

Truck roads of revelers in pink, and red, and yellow dancing with abandon- oblivious to the string of cars waiting patiently for them to pass. Roads making way for children, and parents, and the lonely to take stage, movie gaily, give freely,

And, what I see most is how happy everyone is, the children are smiling and mothers are laughing,

Everyone is an enormous smile. And, those of us cooped up in cars, and autos and big red buses do not complain- for it is a fortune- to witness this temporary happiness,

For like pain, and life, happiness is temporary and happiness is good.

And,  despite the chaos, the filth, the decadence –

you cannot take away from people what they need,

A shot at madness. A shot at careless vulnerability,  at letting go, at chaos

At unadulterated happiness for this is what it means to live,

albeit, briefly.

In the moment, by the sea, dancing wildly, as all the world watches, and all the world waits.

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So Many Socks, and recurring mountain dreams

I have been trying in earnest, to make an alien city home again.

I went to Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, my first time in two years. I watched an ordinary play about Tibetian settlements in Delhi, called So Many Socks. In it, the Tibetians those who escaped into Delhi, and those who were born in Delhi, were consumed by recurring dreams of the mountains.

I remember them too, the mountains of Mcleod Ganj, and Dharmasala in Himachal Pradesh.

The slow-taxi ride through Punjab and into the first view of the mountains, the gentle turn of mountain roads, the narrow town lanes of Dharamsala,  the grand gateway to the Government hotel, only metres away from an endless jump into nowhere, the valley of Gods, a bed of August flowers, swaying roads carefully constructed.I remember looking down.

I remember walking to an old man’s house: meeting fellow travelers who want to know why Indian women cook for their husbands, learning to make chocolate Tibetian momos, stealing one for back home, watching the sunset from a cliff, trekking to a meditation centre, guiding my mind to beautiful peace, taking the road by the stream down hill,

Arriving at a Tibetian restaurant. Eating endless quanitities of pan-fried Tibetian momos over candlelight, for the lights had run out, meeting a man from Delhi who had left his love behind to work in the mountains,

Shopping for trinkets and back massages in even narrower lanes, and finding a yoga class

Eating instead Richard Gere’s favourite Apple Crumble Bakery in a  tiny bakery

And, watching the sunrise over lemon tea and onion pie, until it rained.

I remember the rain, I remember running for cover.

I remember the museum of Tibet, and the horror of staring at blood soaked shirts from so long ago. The blood had turned dull red!

I remember the prayer wheels, I turned in hope.

I remember the Dalai Lama’s home, peering in through little grill holes in the gates.

And, I remember doing nothing: watching the rain mist into endless green,

clicking a picture,

and smiling

there where the Tibetians were kept happy.

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”- The Dalai Lama

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Everything still remains

Vieux Farka Toure takes me to a beautiful place. I am swaying in a Delhi auditorium, the music is full of hope, the possibilities are endless. The man draws you in with his magical music, the crowd draws you in with their effortless dancing. In that moment, everything is possible…everything is beautiful.

No matter how you look at your life, these are the moments to live by, the ones to remember your life by.  How I went from there to here, in a matter of months startles me. Reminds me, you never can be certain what comes knocking at your door.

It also reminds me why the past cannot be all forgotten, and forgiven: the past was a happy place. And so, I say it now, as if writing it down makes it more true, I let my love go. My fiance is now a person of the past, but I am allowed to carry my memories with me, aren’t I?

I am. And, if I wish myself anything it is this: More moments in my life when everything seems to be at it’s tipping point: falling into the right place, smelling of certain hope, many dreams all at once.

I do hope those moments make it to the next though, the peaceful easy feeling when the show’s over, the curtains fall: when everything’s in a different rhythm from when you started out: but everything still remains.

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“I am leaving, I am leaving”

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains
– Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer

I am terrified of where my life is headed. At twenty-six, now, I have faced more battles with ordinary things than the average 25-year-old  I know. And yet, my battles are trivial, pathetic, unthinkable in comparison to so many other 25-year-olds around the world. I am often ashamed to even question my fate.

But, in the relative scheme of things, I am not where I imagined myself to be. And, that is how you examine your life, don’t you: In the relative scheme of things. Who would explain Tony Scott jumping to his death, and so many other greats in suicide: you would think they were rich, and they were happy, and at peace.

The Boxer reminds me then, to keep fighting. Life is fucked up really, and an ideal state of happiness is unachievable. Something’s always going to come up, burst your bubble. You have to be happy in the moment, despite everything. And, do your bit to mend what you’ve broken, break fewer hearts, make more friends, be more open.

I have spiritually evolved from lost and confused and even shy, to open and easygoing. It is a tremendously rewarding way to live, for suddenly you’re enjoying reading a Murakami in a hospital room, eating dinner at your parents’ friends house you’ve never met before and laughing, looking back at the past and forgiving…

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Alice Walker, and being ready for Love.

Ready people are very helpful and reliable. They are present with you.  They are very forthright and honest about whatever they might be struggling with in life. They don’t tend to make demands. They offer themselves freely as available to assist, with no strings attached. And, that is very attractive. It seems like such a small thing, but it is so important. Because it is in that spirit that people can provide the staff of support we need on the path.- Alice Walker

In an old, and my favourite Bombay library, I find Alice Walker’s ‘The Way Forward is with A Broken Heart.’ Life, and love is strange when you look at how devastatingly relationships decay, for seemingly no reason at all. Walker brings out the story of her own divorce, and reflects on the African American race, its tryst with relationships, their breakdown, and lesbianism.

I am always curious as to how to build lasting relationships, for I find the staff of support that comes with a healthy relationship helps lessen life’s suffering, and shape our lives for the better. We live in troubled times. As I write this, a rally breaks out in the South of Bombay, and there will be violence. The North East of India is in conflict too. My own friends speak so easily of divorce. Where you are, there is more trouble, I am certain.

Perhaps, in a lesson from her own suffering, Walker suggests a way to walk into a lasting relationship? The book is my staff of support.

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Twelve teachers of fate

Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives.

But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.

– Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram)

I have begun thus, somewhere between growing up and growing weary, somewhere between June and July, to embrace Bombay…once again. When plane landed gently upon tarmac, one hot April afternoon, I was diffident. Or, perhaps I was venomous? I hated Bombay with all the might of a house, and life, and love tossed away. And, I would have nothing to do with it.

One month became two, then three, and between three and four: I thawed.  As my hair caught in a Bombay sea-breeze on the swaying road between Bandra and Worli, flew, I let go. As I walked the narrow streets of Peddar Road in search of chocolate mousse, and found macaroons, I let go a little more. And, then there was the all-day swimming pool, and the crowded Marine Drive stretch, and grey and blue skies, and the half-blind pani-puri wallah, and the library with piles and piles of books, the masseuse with gentle hands, and the perfect big cup of chai latte, and my heart soared. Bombay has soul. And, Bombay has souls.

Drivers who stay up all night, and friends who turn up at odd hours when you do not know how long and how dark the night will turn out to be. People who share numbers, and stories with abandon. Friends who make you smile. Who show up, stay there, stand by. People who pause…even as the city moves on. Even as you move on.

Bambai, Bombay, not my friend, or a teacher, or an enemy, or my second love. Bombay, my friend, or a tough teacher, or an enemy, or my first love?

I do not know. Perhaps, it will take me all my life to find out. But, it is one of those.

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The Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

I asked for strength and
God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and
 God gave me problems to solve.
 I asked for prosperity and
God gave me brawn and brains to work.
 I asked for courage and
God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for patience and
God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for love and
God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors and
God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted and
I received everything I needed.
My prayers have all been answered.
– Adapted from the Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

In a blue-white hospital desk in Bombay lies a pledge that is unlikely to be noticed: On white paper, in small font, ahead of the files that mark patient names. The nights are restless, and I have time to potter about passageways. I could have been reading, however sometimes, even books have little solace. I thumb through the patient files, look over the Doctors- on- Call, sit on the cane sofa at the reception, and then watch as the nurses steal sleep. Then, I discover this note. In my darkest hour, these words balm, soothe, comfort.

Days later, after the cries of bickering relatives and agonized children with cancer and inconsolable relatives of the deceased have died, these words stay with me still.

You may be fortunate enough to have a plateaued life, but not everybody is.

That can be fortunate too.

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You’re just too good to be true…

To the man who lost his father at the age of eight. To the grey haired, gentle man with beaten black eyes. To the Man who has fought for his life, five times now. To his many trials and tribulations…wives lost, houses lost, friends lost, business partners lost…and lives found. To the stocks and trades that temper his life. To the imaginably afraid, fatherless Doon school naivety who had few visitors. To his brotheless youth, snatched away at seven. To the long-haired IITian who guzzled, and gambled his way to the winning line. To the derby, and smell of heaving horses. To the man who went to America, and came back with a Michigan U degree, to a dying mother. To his friends, stalwarts to a difficult life. To his travels through India and around the world. The many chances, the newspaper cloaked fish n chips, the subway and city maps he adored. To Geography lessons on Sunday. To the bulbs he always changed, the money he always made, the bills he always paid. To the small cars, with big hearts and cheap radios. To the blaring television in the background, the stack of everyday newspapers. To the many little things that make up one mans long routine. To the eggs he never cooked. The advice he always had. The generosity he never kept. The Marks trousers he swore by. The little gold chain he never left without…except when he was strolled out of Op Theatre Number 6.

To papa. The man I admire. The man I am terrified to lose.

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When celebrations are small

As you grow older, and perhaps more wistful as you lose more, celebrations become small. It is not as if life doesn’t give you more as you age, but you begin to live with certain losses time can heal, but never overcome. Perhaps, someone you love has died, or someone you loved deeply has left you for another man, or for another dream. You learn to live without them, and without the dream… and life embraces you…as you embrace it once again. But the sense of loss remains…

A wistful, sometimes overbearing, mostly pallid sense of loss lingers through everyday life. And, then into celebrations. And, so the birthdays become smaller, and life’s little achievements are no longer loud-music-and-drunken revelries.

You could be simply lying on a blue bedspread, stealing a few moments in time with the book you’re in the middle of, and listening to a Classic Rock station on your I-pad. Then you may switch over to jazz. And fall asleep eventually, with the lights on, much later than you normally would on a week night, with little other reason,

Than a small celebration.

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