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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

148. Label

I needed new goggles. So, I went to a shop and placed an order.

I know the shopkeeper. The family used to stay in one of my friend’s residential complex and my friend had introduced me to this particular shop. So, we had some pleasantries to exchange.

While leaving, I asked for how many days the shop will remain closed during Deepavalee festival.

To my surprise, the man said, “We are working on all days.”

This was rather unusual. So I asked for more explanation. His wife added, “We work on all 365 days, we are never closed. Even when there is ‘Bharat Band’ call, we work.”

That was astounding. Before I could ask any question, the man elaborated proudly, “To tell you the truth, I have opened this shop nine years ago. And in the last nine years, our shop has never remained closed. We always open at the regular time and work regularly.”

I wanted to speak more on the topic but more customers arrived on the scene and I walked back silently.

How do I label or classify this information?

To run eyeglasses shop does not sound a very exciting profession - but it is useful service and good livelihood. But how can one enjoy it for nine years without break?

Is this family Workaholic?

 Do they not have any other things to do in life?

Don’t the husband and wife need some rest, some kind of change? Don’t they get tired of the routine?

Have they not faced any single difficulty in nine years? Say, ill health, traffic problems? (Well, I remembered the women telling me that they stay in the same building where their shop is!)

Do they see work as joy and not as livelihood alone?

What do they gain in the process?  Apart from money, I mean.

I realize that I am addicted to classifying  information.

I realize that I am used to label information.

Is it not amazing that I do labeling without any break, without rest, without change – constantly? And it is not even my livelihood.

Then why am I surprised when I see someone else doing some kind of work or activity without break?

How should I label myself?

Monday, October 17, 2011

147. Parasite

Visit to Devaka village in Daman is depressing.

It is a village with beautiful seashore, many hotels and lot of recreation activities. However I did not go there as a tourist, but for work. The purpose of visit always opens another world to me; it exposes me to different reality. After every such visit, I see changes in my perspective - about life, about social situation, about my goal and about so many other things.  

We pass a deserted patch and come across many small houses – in a row. Most of the houses are locked but few men come outside to greet us. We start asking questions, they answer. I am watching the area. The houses are not well maintained. The rooms look dingy. I am not sure whether there is electricity and whether tap water is available – I don’t think they have these basic amenities. The men don’t at all notice the stinking smell – they are used to it.  

I remember my co-passengers talking about Daman as mini Goa. Lot of fun (and by fun they clearly meant drink), food (especially non-veg) and luxury.

In this small village, there are people from West Bengal, from Odisha, from Bihar, from Jharkhand, from Uttar Pradesh – from every corner of the country. In a small 10X8 feet kind of room at least 8 people stay together. They all work in nearby hotels – they work in different shifts – so the small room could be shared by people in two batches. When one batch is resting, another works and the first batch vacates the room for the second batch when they come “home” from duty. This is sort of “all men” habitat – no women except maybe the local ones – I spend more than half an hour there but I do not see a single woman.

I remember gardens in various towns and cities. I remember constantly watered lawns. I remember my morning walks in lush green Bangalore Golf Course. I remember the two clear blue swimming pools in the Thiruvananthpuram hotel. Life seems to be all green at no cost when I am at such beautiful places. But I forget to ask: how many of us can access these peaceful and beautiful places?

About 350 men do stay here together, they work together, they move together. It is like a family – a family with bonds that are created through work opportunities. Once in a year they visit their native village. They have lost the connection with their land, with their culture, with their people. Their parents, siblings, wife, and children – everybody is there in the native village. They see them only once in a year. They cannot bring them here with them as the space crunch makes the room rents very high. They cannot afford to pay such high rent. Do they feel lonely? I don’t know!

Well, you and me too leave our place and work somewhere else. We too are disconnected.  We also seem to have been caught in the same trap. But we are placed in a much better position – we can bargain, we can negotiate – if opportunity comes, we will migrate for better life. We are not here because we do not have options – we actually keep on exploring options.

Their eyes show no dream – there is only desperation to pull on life. They carve out some space to smile to laugh ………but they know it is rare.

My colleagues talk about new job, better salary package, about their ambition, about the competition, about keeping the management happy.

All the theories of urbanization, all the statistics that I have used so far rushes in my mind. To deal with theory, to analyze data is one thing. To face the hopelessness on the faces of so many human beings is very depressing.

Daman is ‘Developed’ – somebody was telling me just yesterday.

I see the other side of development. In-migrants in large numbers are contributing to the local economy – but what do they gain in the process?

I turn, I move. I live. I enjoy. My livelihood seems to enhance quality of my life.

But that does not seem to happen for these people. It seems that they get livelihood. But do they have good life to enjoy that livelihood?

The parasite is going to die one day – because it won’t be able to exploit the tree anymore.

Question is:  who is parasite?
Answer is: very clear if I choose to see. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

146. Appeal of Despair

Presently I am reading ‘Boundless Sky’.
It is a collection of representative writings of Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore. The book is published by Visva Bharati and I have 1964 edition with me. The book contains eight stories, a novel, 14 essays, a drama and as many as 49 poems (why not 50? I don’t know). ‘Boundless Sky’ is title of one of the poems – which is adopted for the collection.
The book is in my collection for more than 20 years and I have read it at least five times during these years. The cost of the book is Rs. 14.50 – but I actually purchased it for one rupee from footpath. The book is obviously worn out and I need a fresh copy. But I don’t throw away this copy; simply because it reminds me of many old things – with which I have lost touch now.
As is my habit, the book has so many lines marked by me during the course of various readings. I also have the habit of writing comments – I do it only when I own the book and never with the books borrowed from library or friends. These underlines and comments show me what I had been thinking in the past – and it always makes me smile.
Today I was reading the essay ‘Religious Education’. Rabindranath elucidates many points in his typically simple and revolutionary way. His writing is logical and it also takes readers beyond the realm of logic. I was enjoying his arguments. The ending of the essay especially awakened me. I was as if taken into another world.
Rabindranath says:
Let me conclude my paper with the translation of a characteristic poem by a Baul poet by the name of Madan whose courage to decry the conventional paths of the pious as leading to spiritual futility is made evident in this song:
Thy path, o Lord, is hidden by mosque and temple:
I hear thine own call, but the guru stops the way.
What gives peace to my mind, sets the world ablaze –
The cult of the One dies in the conflict of the many.
The door to it is closed by many a lock, of Koran,
                                         Puran and the rosary.
Even the way of renunciation is full of tribulation:
Wherefore weeps Madan in despair.

It was like being struck by lightening. How did I not notice these beautiful lines earlier? Why did this despair not touch my heart earlier?
I also registered that not a single line in this essay was marked by me in the earlier readings.
Why did this despair not appeal to me for last 20 years? Was I not open to these feelings earlier? Was there a barrier within me?  My ideas regarding religion have never been conventional –so, in a way I am in ‘league’ with the poet. But why did I not belong to it earlier? Why did I fail to recognize these fascinating words?
And what exactly happened today? What caught my attention today? What made me to understand these words today? That is a mystery.
Same is the case with joy, happiness, oneness, expansion.
Maybe, the Truth always exists; it is only when we open ourselves to it, we experience it!
And when we experience, we cannot explain - neither despair nor joy. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

145. Lost Privilege

I could not help in comparing ‘Now and Then’ – a kind of time-frame analysis. That is because I had reached this particular place almost at the same time I had reached years ago.

On material plane, I was as hungry and as tired as I was then.

However it was not exact ‘replay’ of what happened earlier. Certainly, things have changed a lot.
First and foremost, then I was young, now I am old.

Then I did not know where I was reaching, I did not know anyone here, I did not know what to expect and I had nothing to fall back. I was full of uncertainty.

Now I know where I am going, I know people and places here, I know what to expect – rather I have choices about what to do and what to avoid and I have a return ticket back  home. I don’t take anything for granted even now (like returning, having a home), but I am certain that I will always find out a way.

Then I was full of doubts, now I am peaceful.

Then I would try to convince people, now I let it go – until they are happy without exploiting others. I don’t try to convert anybody and I am patient enough to listen when somebody tries to ‘convert’ me.
Then I was as if person A; now I am as if person B – there is continuity but also a lot of change.

After reaching years ago, I was offered tea and Parle G biscuits. Today I consume a cup of coffee and as Parle G is not available, I have Britannia 50:50 – that is amazing link with the past within the range of changes.

I move around to my favorite spots and find out the serenity of the place is lost due to typical ‘loud’ behavior of the tourists. I suddenly realize that even then it would have been there – I do notice it now because I have lost some privileges in the process. With that acknowledgement of loss, peace is regained.

One of the old men invites me for lunch. I say yes but I do not go, not even on the second day. I do not feel like going.

“Do you feel shy? Do you feel guilty?” he asks later in the evening.

I am surprised by the question. Why should I feel guilty? Why should I feel shy? I am only trying to keep away myself from irritation- irritation at the way people talk, people assume, people think and people advice.

Then I would have told him the plain truth. Now, I smile. I say, “No, I forgot. Next time I will certainly join you for lunch. ”

“Come back here” someone says.

“Sure, whenever opportunity is there I would certainly make the best of it.” I answer. My goodness, what bookish language I am speaking.

“Come here forever,” he adds hurriedly, “when you have done your work and when you feel lonely.”

I am aghast at the suggestion. These people sitting on self made thrones treat other people with so much of hypocritical compassion. They think there is only one way – theirs!

Like old days, a strong reply comes to me. But I keep quiet. That does not mean I accept what he says, but there is no need to tell him that I disagree. He is happy to have me here listening, so let me listen.

“You know, you are a privileged child; that is why you came here in the first place” another one says.

I completely agree with this sentiment. I have always felt that coming to this place was a turning point, years of privilege shaped me in different way – I am thankful to all those moments, all those people and all those memories.

However, giving up that privilege was my conscious choice. I am glad that I came here and I am glad that I left this place. There was pain while leaving, but now I have overcome the pain. If I had stayed here this long, I might have become a person whom I would have not liked much. That would have been the price greater than the pain and sorrow I went through.

Now I feel free of burden of expectations, of traditions, of norms, of what not – laid down by others. It created horrible bondage for me – worst than the bondage life had caught me in initially.

Every time I re-visit the place, I realize that: What I gave up was worth giving up!  I acknowledge that it is one of the greatest places to be at least once in life ……still, after certain time it became worth leaving.

Every time I re-visit the place, I realize that: What I have left back has nothing to contribute in my life!
Every time I re-visit the place, I realize that: What is past should remain as past; never try to turn it into present or future.

Some privileges are better lost.