Thursday, October 18, 2007

Questions that muddle.

'Aai, open your mouth,' says my brat, instead of drinking his milk.


'I want to see your tongue.'

I oblige.

'No, open wider. I want to see that tongue, the small one that hangs upside down.'


'I still can't see it. It's dark in there.'

'You need a torch. Go get my mobile.'

Runs from room to room. 'Cant find it.'

Runs to the kitchen, asks the cook to call my cell.

Ears open, the kid runs from room to room again.

Ears open, I sip my tea. The cook cocks his head, holding his cell.

No bells jingle. Now I am alarmed. 'Look under my pillow, ' I say.

Its not under the pillow, nor under the rajai, nor have the sheets hidden my mobile.

'Aai's mobile phone is lost.' he announces, rather happily.

'Shut up. Let me think.'

'Ok, think.'

'It must be on the silent mode. Where did I see it last? Last night, it was in my trouser pocket. Where are my trouser's? In the washing bucket?'

Both of us run into the bathroom, the cook follows. There is a double bed sheet under my pant, which has soaked all the water, and, thank God, my mobile is dry and alive.

Back at the dining table. My tea has gone cold, my heartbeat is still fast.

'Open your mouth,' the brat orders, flashing light up my nose.

I oblige.

'I can see it! It is moving! Yuk!'

'Right. Now will you drink your milk? You are getting late for school.'

He points the light to himself. 'Aai, see mine, no.'

'Ok. Say aaaa.'


'Yup. Its cute, your little tongue. Now drink your milk.'

'Aai, why is it upside down?'

'I don't have the foggiest idea. Now drink your milk.'

'What's it for?'

'To yell at you with! NOW DRINK YOUR MILK!'

And thus ends the early morning anatomy class.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

If I were in Mumbai,

If I were in Mumbai today, a second Saturday, I would go meet my longstanding sweetheart, Ramesh Balsekar.

I would get up early and catch a local train to Bombay Central. Hopefully the train wouldn't be crowded, but even if it was, it wouldn't really matter.

I would scan the big clocks on the passing railway platforms, to make sure I am not too late. Ramesh usually starts his talk by nine, and I am usually late by an hour. But thats ok because I have heard him talk since 1996. What appeals to me, and what I still need, is his presence, which is imbibed in the remaining one hour of the talk.

Besides, Ramesh has a clock in his house, with all the numbers having fallen down and the words, 'Who cares ?' inscribed on it. Look for it, you will notice it in the video below.

So my train would reach Mumbai Central by nine forty, max. I would get out of the station, at the west side, and take a cab. At this hour I would probably be his first customer and if I am lucky, there will be flowers and smell of inscence burning...

In twelve minutes, we would climb up Navroji gamadia lane and stop outside the Mountain. Sorry, I mean the Sindhula apartments. As the lift would ascend, so would my anticipation, my heartbeat.

Since Ramesh is ninety plus, it would be a relief to see the shoe rack overflowing. I would quickly remove my sandals and gently push open the door to his voice.

Weekends are for the Indians, so it would be crowded. But I have a special place, on the floor just in front of the chair near the door. If I sit with a straight back, I can see his face. If I feel like chilling out, I slouch and listen. Sometimes, I can see his face in the window of a video camera and thats good enough.

I love the feel of the bare floor in this house. It gently cools down my fatigue, my pain, my thoughts. My Guru's house is inside the ganga.

After half an hour of advaita, Ramesh would signal the end of the talk by asking Murthi to come and sing bhajans. A small re-shuffle would happen, with people in front going back and making space for us to sit in front of Ramesh.

Ramesh would give me a hello smile, and I would smile back, but not completely because the tears may start. I would sit very near to his feet, so that I can touch the wooden patla on which his feet rest.

He has the most beautiful pair of feet in the world.

I would make sure I don't sing too loud, wouldn't wanna make the old man deaf. We sing the same bunch of bhajans since a decade, so its more like humming along in a school prayer. However, like the talk, one word, half a sentence would unknowingly enter the heart and fertilize, and become bigger and bigger.

After the Panduranga's are done, the best bit would follow. Touching those feet in silence.

If I were to translate into words what my tears say again and again,

It's not thank you guru for giving me god,
but, thank you god for giving me the guru.*

If only, I were in Mumbai....

* Quoted without permission from 'A Homage to the Unique teaching of Ramesh S. Balsekar'.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sculpting in no Time

Forgive me, filmwallas, this is not about Tarkovsky. This is a sunday morning visit to a sculptor's studio. It is Nirali's birthday and she wants to meet him. I want to meet someone wise. And Pavan, well, he is just a tag along.

Kanti kaka (Kantibhai Patel), an award winning sculptor, is the man who has sculpted Gandhiji's statues, among many others.

"I have spent eleven days with Gandhiji." he tells us. If I ask him to recount those days, he will. Hour by hour.

A memory so old, but kept fresh in the fridge of the artist's mind.

I look at his eyes. They are black, luminous, and they hold your gaze. Maybe because he is a sculptor, and has to pay attention to form?

Nirali and his cousin sister are talking about food.

"Garlic is rajasik, isn't it? Onion and garlic are not good for health." Nirali says.

"Nothing like that. You know, we have a habit of always blaming the outer. When, as a small child you hit a wall and get hurt, your mother hits the wall and scolds it. So it is the mother who teaches the child to blame the outer. It is nothing like that. "

Ah, wisdom is so sweet.

I look at Pavan. He is playing about in the studio. I worry that he will break something.

"Let him play. Children should be left alone to play." Right.

"Do you meditate?" Nirali asks him.

"I don't need to. Life is meditation. First, there is rest, then there is awareness of deep centered peace and outwardly, there is tremendous enthusiasm. A happy person is like an ocean. "

I feel a ping of jealousy. An artist without angst. How does he swing it?

Then I look into his eyes again. He looks back. I realize I was wrong. He is not looking at my form. He is looking at himself.

There is no judgement there, no distance, nor time.

"How do you deal with pain?" I ask him.

"You must have heard of Rabindranath tagore?"

I smile.

"You are a writer, so you must have heard of him. Well, he was once unwell, so he went into a long spell of solitude, for six months. He arranged for a servant to keep the food and not to disturb him. During these six months, he wrote the Gitanjali.
So, Tagore says in Gitanjali, If you have pain, know that your Swami is alive, that he is present. Welcome the pain, do not push it away."

Know that your swami is alive....

Monday, October 1, 2007

Flowers at her feet

So rarely, does love meet worship. If I could draw a wen diagram of the two, then the dark area where the two mingle, would be the experience of Uma Trilok's, Amrita-Imroz, A Love Story.

This little book is printed with the ink of courage. Imroz is a heart made brave and clean by love for Amrita, Amrita herself is a tall woman, and to love them both together, and then to write about it, is the loyal tiger, Uma.

There are four ways to read this love story.

If you like paintings, you can see the brush Imroz has dipped in paint that never dried, as he paints and paints the woman with a mind.

If you like Punjabi, even if you don't understand a word of it, you will feel it earthing the three bulbs, Amrita, Imroz and Uma.

If you like poems, you will memorize the poems, so that you may sing them on a cloudy, rainy day. You might even translate them to your mother tongue.

If you like photographs, you will wonder if the photographer was a filmmaker, or did these two really lead such enchanting lives.

Then, of course, if you like reading and breathing deep after every page and sometimes, just closing your eyes and breathing. And letting the tears flow.

'What do you like most of Amrita?' Uma asks Imroz.
'Her presence.' He replies.

Amrita is not well. Uma gives her healing sessions. Amrita asks Uma to recite a poem.

Patte mere ghar aaye
Chandni mein dhule Geet bunte,

Patte mere ghar aaye

Patte yoon hi bane rahe perh par Phir bhi,
jhankte, langhate

Khirkee ki dehri paar kar
saamne ki deewar par
Dheeme sahme se dolte

Patte mere ghar aaye.

As Uma finishes her poem, Amrita holds her hand and says, 'Uma, how could you feel the pain, the parting, the friendship and love of the leaves?'

When Amrita is burning on the pyre, Imroz stands in a corner, away from the others, watching.
Uma goes to him and says, 'Don't be sad.'

'Why should I be sad? What I could not do, nature did.

I could not free her from her physical pain. But, nature has freed her.

A soul broke away from her body, to become free again.'

If one can learn to love the soul, death is transcended. A loved one is gracefully allowed to fly away.