Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

70. Same More

Everybody around is in the mood of celebration. It actually began last week and the hangover would be carried over the next week.

In what way do people celebrate? Not much variety, I think.

We sing, we dance, we drink, we relax, we watch movies, we drive, we travel, we read, we eat, we gossip, we laugh loudly, we send SMSs, we call people, we chat, we write new blog posts. In short, we try to forget the past and the present and hope for a better future.

We celebrate, because everyone else is celebrating. We celebrate because there is no other alternative. We celebrate because we believe in flowing with the stream. We celebrate because we don’t know what else we could do. We celebrate because we don’t want to be left alone. We celebrate because that is the only way we get respite from the burden we have to carry. We celebrate because we want to be happy. We celebrate because we want to be safe and secure.

No, I am not complaining. In fact, until someone forces me to join such celebrations, I do not share my thoughts. I believe enjoyment is a personal choice. I live and let others live. Mostly I am alone in such matters and I prefer it to hypocritical exhibition of feelings.

But sometimes I wonder what exactly people are doing. I mean what do people exactly get out of such a mechanized way of celebration? For how many years we can keep on singing ‘Dam Dam Diga Diga’ (or any song for that matter) in Antakshari? For how many years we can pretend to enjoy crowds, which would anyway keep on celebrating without missing us? For how many years we could pretend to have fun? For how many years we could hide from ourselves?

No, I do not mean we should not celebrate. Joy is inherent aspect of life, and one needs to learn (again and again) to be happy. Life takes its toll, and nothing is wrong in taking a break and enjoying few moments – even materialistic moments. Nothing is wrong in singing and dancing if one enjoys it. Nothing is wrong in laughing aloud; consuming food - with friends, relatives, well-wishers. Nothing is wrong in to be loved and to love.

I guess it is wrong only if we are not fully enjoying it and pretending to have a ‘great’ fun.

I am not sure where it is outcome of culture or outcome of training. I am not sure whether it is the result of religion or human tendency. I do not know whether I am right or wrong. But I constantly feel that we keep on doing the ‘same’ thing ‘more’ without really analyzing, without experiencing, without wondering, without getting involved, without actually gaining anything and without growing.

For example, the new recruits in the company/organization keep on leaving. What action does the management take? It recruits ‘more’ people, trains them ‘more’ and offers them ‘more’ salary forgetting that if the ‘same’ process is followed, the result would be the ‘same’.

The government is not working properly, inflation rises to sky. What action do we take? In the elections we have ‘more’ candidates, we give ‘more’ seats to a particular political party, but the process is the ‘same’ which brings out the ‘same’ results.

We go to school/college. We do not learn much – except for few harsh realities of life and few things which we never actually use in life. What is our response to it? We ‘learn’ ‘more’, we secure ‘more’ marks, but in fact we learn in the ‘same’ way and continue to struggle in life.

We are inefficient at work. We do not actually love our work. But we keep on doing ‘more’ work in the ‘same’ way, creating a feeling of alienation.

We are tired, bored. We eat ‘more’ food in the ‘same’ aloof way, without experiencing joy of food, and we are bored of eating in the ‘same’ way.

We read. It does not affect our life. We do not draw any lesson from it. Still we keep on reading ‘more’ books/magazines, in the ‘same’ way and carry the burden of incomprehensible words all our life.

We watch movies. We criticize the actors, the director, and the friend who suggested it. We regret that the money has gone waste. And we watch ‘more’ movies to overcome it, but watch it in the ‘same’ way, and come out with ‘more’ disgust.

I can quote many such examples. Why we tend to do ‘more in the same way’ is an enigma to me. Even I do it sometimes without realizing it. Am I not writing ‘more’ posts on this blog in the ‘same’ way?

I wish I would use all my experience and still be novice in doing things anew. I wish there would come a time when I would be fortunate enough to work AGAIN only for the joy of working and not for the sake of being part of the crowd, not for earning money, not for appeasing anybody and not for getting rewards.

I wish I would do fewer things in the coming years but not do it the ‘same’ way I have been doing. I wish I could come out of this illusion of ‘more’ for once!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

69. Fullness in Emptyness

I generally avoid reaching Pune early morning. There are reasons and experiences to arrive at this conclusion.
Once when I reached my residence, which was Staff Quarters of my workplace at 5.30 in the morning, the auto rickshaw driver asked me ‘only Rs. 300/-‘ . I was aghast. Because even with ‘half return’ charges, the amount could not exceed Rs. 120/-. My residential area was lonely then. The security guards were not at the entrance of the complex. There was no one on the road. When I started saying ‘no’ to that amount, the auto driver coolly said, “What if I snatch the laptop you are carrying? Remember that there is nobody to help you at this hour.” I was taken aback by the bluntness of that man. But ultimately I thanked him for clearly indicating the result. I did not want to lose laptop for saving a meager amount of hundred rupees. So, I gave him the money he wanted. He was happy and I was happy.
Long ago, Pune railway station had pre-paid auto booth. During those days this was monitored by a police constable. The customers had to pay only one rupee at the booth and the actual fixed amount once we reached the destination. Once when my train arrived Pune at 5.00 in the morning, I went to Pre-Paid auto booth. The police constable looked at me and enquired whether I was alone. Then he advised me to wait at the station for an hour. He kindly advised me to ‘have a cup of tea and purchase a newspaper; you will not understand how the hour passed’.
I was surprised and asked him what the problem was. During those days lot of passengers were looted by auto rickshaw drivers. So, he did not want to me to take any chances and wanted me to commute safely after 6.00. When the police is not sure about your safety and security, you are obliged to follow his suggestions.. for your own good!
And those who are compelled to sit at any station for hours know how painful the experience is.
With these kinds of experiences, I take care that I do not reach Pune early morning.
But the other day, Ahimsa Express, which reaches Pune at about 5.00 in the morning, was the only available option. I took the train reluctantly, but did not want to go and wait at Pune station. I decided to get down at Shivaji Nagar station for a change. I anticipated that the train would reach there at about 4.45, and there would be lot of commuters – catching the early local trains for Lonavala.
I alighted at Shivaji Nagar, lot many people also got down, so I did not realize what time it was. I do not use wrist watch. By the time I reached platform number 1, I realized that it was completely empty. All the people who had come by the train had gone out, and there was nobody to catch the next train. I looked at the watch on the platform and realized that it was just 3.30 in the morning.
That emptiness of the platform was attractive and peaceful. No, I was not frightened. The empty platform was so beautiful that I forgot that I was alone there. I had couple of deep breaths and the cool air was indeed refreshing. The dog that was nicely sleeping at the side of one bench opened his eyes and looked at me disinterestedly. No barking of dogs. No trains. No human interference. As if I was suddenly put into a mysterious world – where everything is known but looks strange. It was a visible illusion. It was a moment of completeness and calmness. It was amazing to feel that even artificial human made things can be energizing at times. It was the moment which gave me lot of strength. Once again I realized that material progress does not necessarily contradict inner growth.
After about half an hour, crowds started pouring in. The tea stall and the newspaper stall opened. The trains started coming in and going out. The world became normal. It took some minutes for me to adjust with that emerging world.
That emptiness had so much fullness. I will always remember this experience when I struggle with contradictions in life!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

68. Winter Apparel

This week I was traveling. First I went to Patna via Delhi. Then I was to Allahabad. And back to Pune again via Delhi. Anticipating the cold wave, I had packed enough winter apparel in my bag. I do not watch television and I am lazy enough to avoid reading daily newspapers. So, I was not aware of the ‘weather conditions’ of those three cities. However, in the past I had experienced unbearable cold and fog in the northern parts of the country. So, this time I was fully prepared.

Though Pune is cold sometimes, I hardly use sweaters and jerkins when I am here. One of the windows of my house opens to the east, and the moment the Sun rises, my room is filled with warm Sunrays. It is always a pleasure to watch the red glowing Sun turning to saffron and then suddenly to milky white. I always smile at the luxury I have. May be because of this, and may be because of the morning rush, I can face Pune winter without much trouble. Actually I enjoy it.

I have some assumptions about life and about myself. One of them is that when I am in my own territory, I hardly feel discomfort. I guess that has to do not only with ‘knowing the situation well’ but also with ‘having enough resources’ at hand. I mean when it gets cooler, I can always pull out additional shawls or sweaters from cupboard within a minute. But when I am traveling, I have to depend on outside resources, so I am not that comfortable. One cannot carry luggage beyond certain limit when especially one believes in ‘travel light’ principle.

When the plane touched Delhi, I was expectantly watching for a sign of a good winter. But I had none. Then I thought that at least I will have some of it in Patna. We were there for three nights and two days. My local colleagues were feeling the cold wave, but I was not. In fact I was surprised to have such a moderate temperature there. I accepted the situation coolly and looked forward to cooler conditions at Allahabad.

During Patna-Allahabad night train journey, I was the only person in the compartment who did not feel cold. Getting down at three in the morning at Allahabad station too did not make any difference to me. There was no winter in Allahabad. From there to Delhi – again a night train journey – was the same. And Delhi was bit foggy but not at all cold –for me; others were enjoying it.

I was little disappointed. I had lot of ‘cool’ expectations, I had prepared myself for that and actually nothing happened. All my preparation proved out to be a complete waste. I just carried a lot of resource with me, without using it.

During return travel to Pune I was thinking about this episode. So many times in life you anticipate something and nothing happens. So many times you prepare yourself for a certain situation and the situation never occurs. So many times in life, others feel and experience something, which you are not able to experience. So many times in life, you live differently, even without knowing it. So many times your simple wishes are not fulfilled.

It has other side too. So many times one has resources: energy, skills, aptitude, innovative thinking and capacity – which are not used simply because one is either at a wrong place or at a right place but at a wrong time. In such situations, resources turn into burden.

May be I am at a wrong place.

May be I am at a right place but the time is wrong.

In any case, I just carry my resources (capacities) without using them.

What should I do? Change place? Change time? Change resources? Change expectations?

Hmm... I am just laughing and writing this post.

Because Pune is too cold today and I am using my winter apparel – at last!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

67. All in a Day's Work

(I always wanted to write a story, and could never pen down one. Here is my first feeble attempt )
Sharada woke up with a jerk. It took her few seconds to understand that the water tap was flowing with full capacity. She keeps the tap open in the night so that she can collect some water early in the morning.
Sharada is tired. After the forceful last night, her husband is snoring loudly. There is no point in waking him up. Instead of fetching water, he may start again. Neither her mind nor her body is ready to take any more of it. But she fears that if she denies her body to him, he might go to other women. And who knows what he will bring with him! ‘After all I am married to him, so he is my owner’, she thinks bitterly.
She gets up and is able to collect just three buckets of water. Now, she has to wash clothes, cook food, wash utensils, and take bath….all of it in this limited water. She is feeling sleepy. But she has to go to work. Desai madam will get angry if she takes off today. It is Desai’s son’s birthday and lots of guests are coming. Sharada has been asked to work for few extra hours. She will get extra fifty rupees, which is necessary because there is nothing home to cook.
There is no Kerosene. Sharada cannot have even a cup of tea. And anyway, there is no sugar. She takes bath in half a bucket, keeps yesterdays left over roti and sabji for the husband, and sneaks away. She does not wake her husband fearing she would get beaten by him for not offering him tea.
When he is in good mood, he drops Sharada to the first housing complex she works. He has an old two wheeler. But yesterday, he came drunk. He will not wake up till ten. That means, Sharada will have to walk for half an hour today.
Sharada reaches the first home fifteen minutes late. Mrs. Mokashi is angry. She starts shouting at Sharada. Actually whole day, Mrs. Mokashi is at home, but she would not spare a delay of five minutes. Sharada knows that there is no point in explaining anything to her. Mrs. Mokashi just won’t listen.
As always the basin is full of utensils and left over food. Sharada wonders why they waste so much of food. The food is rotten now and has stinking smell. The bathroom is full of clothes to be washed. Mokashi madam follows Sharada at the nook and corner of the house and gives continuous instructions. If Sharada says something, Mrs. Mokashi starts anew. If Sharada doesn’t answer, Mrs. Mokashi repeats. Mrs. Mokashi is a difficult person. But sometimes she gives Sharada used sarees and shirts. In fact, Sharada had only those sarees for the last two years.
Next is Joshis. Sharada rings the doorbell and the man opens, smiling. Her heart sinks. She has forgotten that Joshi madam is not at home. Mrs. Joshi is out of town to see her sick mother and won’t be back for the next four days. This man is useless. He keeps watching Sharada. Couple of times, he tried to touch Sharada. Now looking at his shrewd smile, she realizes that even the daughter and son are not at home, they are in school. “I will come in the afternoon”, Sharada says loudly, so that the neighbors would listen. But Joshi is smart. He says, “Do you think I am free? Finish the work quickly. Children won’t open door for anyone in the afternoon.”
Sharada has to enter. She knows that this man is not good, but the madam is very kind. Mrs. Joshi does not know the true colors of her husband. Sometimes Sharada feels that there is not much difference in her life and Mrs. Joshi’s life. Except that Sharada is poor and Mrs. Joshi is rich; Sharada knows what a beast her man is, Mrs. Joshi does not know. Sharada feels for Mr. Joshi as she is as helpless as Sharada.
Sharada keeps the door fully open and talks with the neighbors from the kitchen window. She decides that from tomorrow, she will come to this house only in the afternoon. The man is trying to follow Sharada. She loudly asks him to sit in one place. Rani Madam opens her door too; it is just opposite to Joshis. Rani Madam talks to Sharada and to Mr. Joshi. That keeps the man quiet. Sharada is thankful to Rani.
Next is Rani Madam. She first gives Sharada tea and biscuits. Rani Madam is always very kind to Sharada.
Rani gives Sharada a paper and asks her to sign it. One of Rani’s friends is building an organization of house-maids. Rani Madam advices Sharada to become member of that organization and fight for rights of housemaid – which means good salary, paid holiday and bonus. Sharada envies Rani’s simple heart. Sharada thinks, ‘Rani Madam does not understand that there are many more women who are ready to work without these facilities. If I insist on terms and conditions, people will look for another maid. In the process I will loose whatever I am earning’. Sharada nods and does not argue. Rani gets frustrated with Sharada as she does not immediately fill the form. Rani thinks being a woman, she understands Sharada. But Sharada knows that Rani cannot imagine what hell Sharada goes through everyday.
On the way to next building, there are the police and their big dog. That means one more theft in the building. When it happens, people like Sharada are the first suspects. The police harass the poor. Clearly, those fifty rupees Sharada would be getting today from Desai Madam would go the pocket of these policemen. If Sharada declines to pay, they will unnecessary harass Sharada by visiting her home, sowing doubts in her husband’s mind, asking her to come to police chowki – that means taking leave. Sharada cannot afford to take off time from work. Mandabai is already searching for work; she would immediately take this opportunity. Now that the thefts in this society are becoming a routine, Sharada thinks that she can probably manage the police with just twenty five rupees.
Three more homes and it is already 12.00 by the time Sharada reaches Desai Madam. Mrs. Desai is fuming with anger because Sharada is an hour late. Sharada does not like to be shouted at but at the moment she is helpless. For Mrs. Desai may be it is a special day. But for Sharada, it is a routine. Birthday, wedding anniversary, naming ceremony, festival…. The occasions are different. They mean only an additional work for Sharada. It is true that she gets some extra bucks, but not without the hard labor she has to put into it.
Sharada cleans. Sharada washes. Sharada sweeps. Sharada helps in cooking. Sharada serves. She washes again. She helps. She works hard like a machine. Her mind rebels. Everybody is sitting, eating, laughing and enjoying. Life for them seems to be good. Just because they have money and Sharada does have not, they are treating Sharada like a dirt. Sharada feels angry towards the whole world. Sharada wanted to go to college and do a job. But she was married at the age of 16. Sharada is just 18, and has not yet forgotten those dreams which she once held near to her heart. Sharada feels like crying. But she knows she can’t.
By the time, it is all over; it is almost 5.00 in the evening. Now the guest will come, Sharada’s presence is not required by Mrs. Desai. Desai Madam repeatedly warns Sharada to come early tomorrow. Mrs. Desai conveniently forgets that has not offered any food to Sharada.
Except for tea and biscuits at Rani Madam, Sharada has consumed nothing during the day. She turns to go. She realizes that there is no kerosene at home and the police will be waiting on the way. Sharada has only a ten rupee note with her. She asks Desai Madam for the fifty rupees she has promised. Mrs. Desai feels hurt and starts shouting. Can’t Sharada trust her? Can Sharada not wait till tomorrow? Doesn’t Sharada understand that Mrs. Desai is busy with more important things?
Everybody in the house looks at Sharada as if she has committed some serious crime. Sharada gets frightened. She understands that if she says one more word, she will loose the job.
Sharada walks back. She is thinking about the empty kerosene bottle, about the empty pots in home. What will she cook today? How will she face her husband? He must be mad at her. After drinking, he always feels very hungry. Sharada knows that she has missed the evening water time. The shopkeeper is already asking for payment of the earlier purchases. He won’t give Sharada anything on credit now. What will Sharada do? Where will she go?
Sharada thinks, ‘after working for all day, if I do not have enough to eat and enough to sleep peacefully, what is the point in working?’ She is agitated.
Sharada thinks this city is a very stupid place. There is no well, no river where she can go and hide herself forever. There is no hill, from where she can jump. There are huge buildings, but Sharada won’t have entry into it. So, jumping from the top is also not possible.
Sharada has to live and carry on until she can.
Sharada feels hunger, homelessness, tiredness, helplessness, humiliation, fear, wretchedness, lifelessness …All in a Day’s Work!