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Real heroes


Yesterday was an extremely troubled day for me and I was in the throes of emotions of grave magnitude, which I just could not fathom. It was the night before that someone who is known to me, shared a sordid life incident. An incident that she had gone through and was living with, all these years. Not even once did that quiet and pleasant demeanor give away anything, from the time that I had known her. Which is now about ten years.

Something which is beyond us This is the reality of human life or rather, an animal life. I feel that animals have more sense in them.

Their mother had passed away suddenly, with causes unknown. The father dissappeared soon after, leaving the orphaned children at the beck and call of the uncle. Since the age of five, these children were made to do all the household work and then, go to the nearby stone quarry to break stones. They were ten and seven at that time. They would get some pennies and that would be it. They grew up bit by bit, with the understanding and the determination that they would have to fend for themselves always.

Life went on, as normal as it could. No one ever bothered to see the blisters on these little hands, let alone the hunger in their stomachs or the hollowed eyes. God seemed to be somewhere else. The setting was of a village near the jungles and the mountains, where being mauled down by a lion or a jackal was considered normal. For that was the nature of these carnivores. But what about humans?

Around eleven at night, there was a loud banging on the door. Around ten people shouted in the silence of the dark that they wanted liquor. The fragile door would have broken down anyways, had it not been opened. Six or seven of them just picked up the two girls, while the rest went inside the house, locking up the others and continually firing gunshots.

These girls were brutally raped the entire night and thrown in the jungle in the morning. Nothing happened after this. These things are normal and they happen. Why did girls have to be born? Some local physician gave them medicine and after a day, they were told to join back work. Why should anything change for such a day to day incident? This is life and you have to take it.

The girls grew up with scars and a fear to never share this. For if it had happened once, then there are no boundaries. They looked for work elsewhere, knowing fully well that they would have to get out from this village. They put this at the back of their minds as they took the help of a friend and found work in a small factory. They worked their way through and destiny brought them to Delhi.

The house they came to was of a couple who ran a school in the hills. It was near Nainital. They welcomed these girls with open arms and these girls started helping out in the school and simultaneously, started to sit in the classrooms to learn. Today, they are both doing well. In the span of fifteen years since this had happened, these girls never did show any signs of trauma or sadness.

I am humbled to know them and today, it is with great reverence that I bow down to them. Each one of us have our karmas to fulfil but, I feel that whatever it is that I have faced is absolutely nothing. Who is carrying what scars, one doesn’t know. It is only the brave who chose to walk with their head held high and move forward.
With grace.
With dignity.
With will power.
And with the conviction that God is watching.

We know so many personalities who have chosen to look beyond their past and move on. For me, these two are my own personal heroes.

Anything and absolutely anything, does not have power until and unless we choose to accord it the power. That choice is always in our hands. What we do not give power to, it does not get fuel. There is no fire then which keeps kindling. That is how powerful we are. Only if, we choose to use that power and have the capacity to divert it from the negative to the positive.

Thank you so much my heroes. For you have changed me like nothing else could. I am ready to use my power in the right direction from now on.
I promise.

The date that I got married: 26th of June

Starry eyed I was
With no care in the world
Life happened
To which I was clueless
Yet I embraced it
Held it with both my hands
Lest it dissappeared

We talked till the wee hours
Two souls entwined from
Past births trying to
Balance each other’s
Karmic cycles
And making new ones
Life happened
I held to it tightly
Lest it vanish

We talked or rather
I listened
Words became arrows
Conversations went from
Sharing to being
Caught as we were
In a time warp
Struggling to control
Our demons
Life happened
I held to it fearfully
Lest it break

I listened and listened
As the words became
Venomous and targeted
Talks were now extinct
There was nothing left to converse
Blood sucking vampires
Flew everywhere
Life happened
I held to it desperately
Lest it change

I started to talk
As the words became
My voice and gave me
The power to fight
The monsters around me
Which I had created
Due to my own inconsistency
Life happened
I held on to it loosely
It had to change

I chose my language
And my tone
I learned to modulate
My thoughts
My words
My actions
Life happened
I left it behind
It was over for me

I chose to walk with
My head held high
The demons and the monsters
Receded back into the
Little boxes
Having played their game
Now tired and resting
Life happened
I lived it
It was beautiful

I walked the path
Unknown yet known
With faith and with love
As the pollution had cleared
I breathed the clean air
Inside and outside
Life happened
I was in synchronization with it
I had arrived

Mount Everest

As a child, I was always fascinated by the majestic Mount Everest. The Himalayas were a mountain range like no other. It was the stuff that famous poets and writers would dwell upon in their deepest thoughts and would come out with words of wisdom, of beauty and of love. Various other things were attributed to this range like going there as a finality on a journey towards self-realization and sanyas.

Over the years, mountain ranges in general have had a calming effect on me and I have always found solace in going near them, be it on the trek to Vaishno Devi or to the Paonta Sahib gurudwara or a leisure trip to any of the hill stations. Just sitting there, watching the sun rise or set behind those majestic peaks have given me a sense of belonging always.

Reading the recent news about the traffic jam on the Everest has given way to a lot of emotions. For me, the ranges have always equalled to a place for the mystics, the sages and the enlightened. These people, who have had the courage to leave the ordinary, material world to go in search of the truth about life, about the karmic cycle and to find the reality from within, have a place in my heart. It is a place where God resides and that is why, it is said in the scriptures that when one finds him, then one has no need to come back to this body consciousness. For one is complete in the soul consciousness.

Climbing the Mount Everest is by no means a small task. There is a lot of perseverance, a lot of grit and determination and ardous physical and mental training is required. Only a few are chosen to do this. Which makes me wonder once again that what is the goal. The goal is to reach to the top, it being the highest peak to climb? It sure must be an exhilarating feeling to reach the top and then achieve the goal. It always is.

But isn’t the goal, a place to be revered? Isn’t the journey, more of a pilgrimage? Isn’t the preparation, more of an exploration of sorts? About our own limitations and strengths, our fears and our victories? Our challenges and our will power? Isn’t it more of a prayer, one which arises out of humility and grace? For we as mortals, are unaware of the result. We are told to just do our work, without having any desires for the results. This is the main lesson given in the Bhagwad Gita.

So when it is about the journey, one which is taken with the aim of purifying us, then how does this journey become one which makes the altar impure. For me, even the Himalayas is a metaphor in this illusory world. This whole Universe, with it’s tallest peak resides within. And that is the real journey which needs to be undertaken. The pollution and the garbage which is being thrown in this pristine mountainside is a reminder. Of how low and how far back we have fallen in this journey.

We are nowhere near the goal. We feel that we have conquered the world but, we have failed. For we have not conquered ourself. All the trash that is littered is from our polluted thoughts. We stink inside. There is really no point to climb the Himalayas outside. Till we do not have the courage to climb and conquer the ones within.

Life in a bit

It had been a friendship which spanned over a quarter of a century. The two had met for the first time, when they had been studying. It had been pouring incessantly that day and to save themselves, they had found a corner in a small alcove of the building. They had started talking and in those few minutes, they had come to know a lot about each other. The next thing they knew was that they would try to match each other’s classes at the institute so that they could meet. Those were the days with no phones. Priti and Josephine.

Time passed and both of them qualified. They lost touch for sometime and then, again met at a seminar. This time, they decided to be in touch. But soon, Priti got married and shifted abroad. Josephine also got married within the same year and shifted to a small town. Mathura. Marital life changed everything. They lost touch and this time, it was for a much longer period. A period which was full of strife for both of them.

Priti had come back and was now working in a multi national company. She had had a bitter divorce and was trying to get her life back on track. Josephine had moved to Gurgaon. She was battling with a lot of financial problems. Added to that, her husband had become an alcoholic. As luck would have it, Josephine applied for the job of a manager, where Priti was now a senior manager. Josephine had lost a lot in her career graph as she had moved to a smaller town.

This time, the bond became stronger because both of them had tasted the unsavoury life in these past years. Life again had other plans. Priti had to suddenly quit her job after her boss put a false allegation on her of some fund mishandling. Josephine in the meanwhile, was struggling to keep her marriage above the waters. It was a break again for both of them.

It was about fifteen years ago that Josephine sought out her friend. She had by now moved out of her marriage. Priti was staying in the city once again. As if it was destined, this time they kept in touch and met regularly. They shared each other’s lives and were good sounding boards as well. Unfortunately, they were still leading hard lives. They were lonely and battling with the day to day problems. Parents. Children. Finance. Health. Each day would be a challenge.

Over the years, however, the two of them had learnt to enjoy and let the problems stay where they were. They would meet often, for a cup of coffee or some lunch. In between the work, they would steal out sometime and wistfully, look back at their carefree days. It was just by sheer chance that they had come to stay near each other for the past three years. They would now meet every other day, whether for their walk or for grocery shopping.

Life had come full circle and with it, had come a whole lot of acceptance. The struggles were still many but, they had chosen to look past them. Yesterday, they had decided to go out for lunch. And, like the young girls they had been those many years ago, they gleefully clicked pictures of each other, posing with every flower and every corner, much to the amusement of the youngsters. It was in these little moments that they escaped the dreary life which they had lived. This was nothing less than a trip around the world for them.

Do we really know what lives does anyone lead behind that demeanor? A simple click could tell a story. Of a life lived at the periphery. Of a life not wanting to be lived. Choose to listen. And not judge.

The bonsai

The noise broke the silence in the house as she slapped her son across his face.

” Phataaak, when will you learn, you good for nothing boy? I am so tired of repeating again and again. Why can’t you pay attention? Now go and write this again. You have a test tomorrow. Do you even know how your father shouts at me if you do not score well? Do you understand?”

Deep, short for Deepvendra. His eyes were full of tears and his cheek was red. He went back to his room with a heavy heart. His mother could never understand that he needed help. He just was not able to do it. If only, she would sit with him and make him do his work. He tried to do the questions again but, he kept on arriving at the same answer. The answer which according to his mother, was wrong. Deep was in Grade four and had started to understand a lot of things, other than his studies.

He knew that the marriage between his parents wasn’t all that great. For his mother would keep on shouting at his dad as well. He knew that why his dad had started going early and coming back late. She called Deep again to check his work. This time, she threw his notebook and again, shouted at him. She decided in that moment that maybe, this boy would need tuitions. She told him to get her a glass of water for her.

After this time, she never asked Deep about his studies. She had put a tutor for him and her job was done. However, he had now become her Man Friday. She would call him umpteen times, either to make tea or to get stuff from the market or to deliver her creations to her customers. Deep had become her all in one, except a son. Roohi was an artist. She used to create art with her plants.

Almost the whole day, she would keep sitting in her studio, working. Deep had learnt to get ready himself, take bread and butter to school everyday. Sometimes, when there would be no lunch in the afternoon, he would make Maggi to fill himself. His mother had become oblivious to his coming and going, except when she needed him to run an errand. Deep grew up, finished his studies and started to look for jobs.

Because the situation at home remained the same, he was not able to stay for long in a job, as his mother did not want to part ways with this free and good for nothing multipurpose boy that she had created. By now, Roohi had become famous. Her beautifully crafted bonsais were the talk of the town. She held exhibitions regularly and all her pieces were sold out. She would explain the tedious process of making one by giving lectures, writing in various journals and also, of how she had tended to each one of them. Of how, she had cut the roots and trained the branches according to her. Of how, she had been successful in creating dwarfs out of trees.

Deep, now thirty would listen to her and wonder that how could she not get it. That how, her real prized creation was him. He was the best bonsai that she had created. There were no roots, so how could there be wings.

I did not do it

I think all my musings start from the midst of nature. So this is what happened today morning. I got up early, had my cup of tea and then, helped in the cooking. Why so early in the morning? Well! My entire staff is going on a picnic today to Leisure Valley park. They planned to take food from home, in the traditional style of how picnics happen. I love to cook and was totally mesmerized and intoxicated by the smells wafting from my kitchen.

By seven, I was ready to go for my walk. Since the time I had gotten up today, I was feeling a bit tired and sleepy. I still decided to go. After two rounds, I did not feel like walking at all. So I sat down on the swing. Suddenly, there was an overcrowding of thoughts in my mind. “What about the exercise today? I haven’t done any yoga as well? This is not good. I have to follow my schedules. Exercising daily is of utmost importance and so on it went.” The procrastination started but, it stopped in a moment. Phew! How many thoughts can my brain produce in a moment? Unbelievable!”

The movement of the swing took me into a different world. Of how I had made choices. Of things to do and not do. Of how, I had chosen to not take the road of comfort. Of how, I had moved out, leaving all the riches, a palatial house to a life on rent. Of how, I had the choice to move into my mother’s four bedroom house, but again, I didn’t. There were many things that I chose to not do. These were the very things that would have made me uncomfortable in my own skin. These choices would have made me squirm from within and would have not let me live with the person that I was.

I did not do so many things and not doing them, defined me. They made me move on with my head held high. I remember very vividly that I was told in menacing tones, “Oh! You think you are capable enough? I will wait for the day when you will come crawling back, on your knees, begging me to take you back.”
Well! I did not. Only because I did not make those debilitating choices. I chose to walk the harder path. A path which took me out of my comfort zone.

Yesterday, as me and my daughter were watching a show, a contestant remarked that how she had always moved on in her life, to reach where she was. My daughter immediately said, “That must be so, so liberating.” Yes! It is liberating to be able to choose to move forward, come what may. I was not liberated for most of my life, but I learnt. I chose to not do. And it is by that choice, that I paid extremely heavy prices.

Essentially, everything in life comes with a price tag. You have to choose to pay that price, if you want to have that feeling of liberation. For it is only with this feeling, comes the taste of freedom. And it is with this freedom that I chose to not walk today. I chose to merge with nature. And I chose to reflect on the finer things in my life.
Once again, I chose to not dwell on the choices that I had made that were ugly. Because, for all that I chose to not do, made the way for the things that I ultimately, chose to do.

There is always a choice. A flight to freedom. Or, a flight of fear.
I did not do it and I made it.
And I will continue to not do it.
I will continue to not remain in my comfort zone.
For that is where, life happens in reality.
Food cannot be cooked without lighting the fire.

I didn’t do it.
I will not do it.

Let go

Today morning when I went for my walk, I saw three people cutting this tree. It had been almost a year plus that this tree had died. The gardener had waited all this while with the hope that maybe, just maybe it will sprout some new leaves and get a new lease of life. But it didn’t and finally, it was time. These three people were labourers who were working in a nearby plot and they needed wood to light up their fireplaces.

I felt sadness at this sight but, at the same time, understood that this is the cycle of life. One thing after the other. The old gives place to the new. Already, little sunflowers were sprouting in this place and it was time to let go. Yes! That is the key word. More often than not, we keep carrying these carcasses with us, sometimes in the good faith that maybe, a new leaf with sprout. But most of the times, we just cling on to these dead branches, fooling ourselves and trying to make a life around them.

This is where we fail to acknowledge the reality of it all. Dead branches do not grow leaves. What is dead, will not come back. It is now ready to fulfill it’s part in the cycle of life. It will provide food by burning itself and then, turn into coal. That coal would then, merge with the soil and be helpful in creating a new life. That is the whole life cycle. That is why it is important to recognize the dead in us.

Do we ever realize that how cutting our nails or our hair does not cause us any pain? Do we realize that like this, there are many things in this chemical laboratory inside us, that has expired? Do we realize that so much is being used, much beyond it’s shelf life? Those are the portions which need to be destroyed. That is the trash which needs to be thrown out. That is where the clean up needs to happen.

Let what is dead inside you go. Let it create space for the new. Let it fulfil it’s part in this circle of life. For only then, would each little speck, each little part, each little piece fit into the larger matrix of things. The time is now to do the clean up. To learn to let go. To learn to move on. To learn to live in the present. And use the past only as a lesson, to step into the future.
Every animate, living thing has to die. Every dynamic equation has an end.
Then be it your relationship or a dead tree.
The choice is yours.