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peoplemattermost

One day as I was coming down the road on my way home, after my classes in the college were over, I heard loud wailing of a woman. Usually no adults in this part of the world wailed so loudly. If someone had to wail she normally stifled or at least muffled her sound of crying fearing what people were to comment or think of her. But that day was not a usual day for that woman. She had no such considerations or restraints in her. It was a loud heart wrenching cry. I stopped in my track to investigate the reasons of such commotions and crying. So I left my path and proceeded in the direction from which the sound was coming.

The house from which the sound came was nearby. As I neared the house I saw her. She was sitting on the floor of the house which…

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Some times you strike a chord within your readers unknowingly and unanticipatedly. The response overwhelms you. You get to know more and learn more as you go on writing.
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peoplemattermost

Yesterday my wife, with a bowl of hair dye in her hand, approached and requested me to dye her hair. I said,”you know, I don’t like dying hairs myself, so I have let them be as they are. If yours are getting white you also let them be that way. Moreover, I am 55 and you are 51; we are no longer young, so why hide it, show them in their true colors.”
She said,”You are saying that because yours are still mostly black. But mine are all white. You don’t know, once you have started dying then you can’t quit it, as dying itself turns all your hairs white.”
I said, not without a little bit of mischief,”I have never seen your head in its silvery white as you always dyed them black. Do show me your white hair just once to know how you look in them. So…

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Fading Veiling

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Humans are almost always not satisfied with what IS. This dissatisfaction can fluctuate on a spectrum from mild discomfort to full blown suffering, and can be artificially divided into two categories.

Probably the most unbearable sufferings can come from self-referencing beliefs, which are the building blocks of ‘our’ seeming self-image or identity with a core belief in ‘my’ incompleteness, unworthiness, unlovingness, guiltiness or whatever it might be – because deep down most of us ‘feel’ we are somehow not good enough, not complete; something is missing. But is this really the case? Is it really true? Where is this apparently deficient self? Where?

The other type of suffering is much more subtle; it is a constant arguing with what IS. No matter what is in this moment, but one thing is sure: ‘I do not want it’. Either I want the previous moment back or the next moment…

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peoplemattermost

Everybody loves a good joke. The surest way to a man’s heart (woman’s included, I hope) is through telling him a good joke. It removes all his preoccupations, addictions, obsessions, worries and anxieties for a moment and loosens himself up and makes him receptive to different viewpoints and perceptions. The laughter engendered by a good joke is akin to a good sneeze, it opens up all blocks in our minds and perceptions . It relaxes us. Freud wrote a whole book on it named Jokes and Their Relations to the Unconscious. Previously kings and emperors used to employ court jesters whose job was to make the king and courtiers laugh by telling intelligent and good jokes. To create a good joke is nothing short of an art. People who are proficient in it are always in demand at parties, functions and social meetings and gatherings. Many interviewees and job seekers…

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Have you ever heard about the Nobel Prize mania ? I had been a victim of it for the greater part of my life. The patient/victim at first collects and reads all the books of all the Nobel Laureates. To this passion he loses his childhood, youth and the greater part of his adult life. Unknown to him all this while he begins to harbor a strong notion that what really matters in life is the Nobel Prize and he has no other calling except getting one himself. Life will be meaningful only if he gets one.

To cut a long story short I had this desire since childhood. My obsession was for the prize for Literature. I spent my life reading. Each time I thought of writing some thing I would defer the idea by saying let me finish the next Laureate and then surely. And that promise was never kept.

After a lot of guilt and soul searching I concluded that probably I was born to be a reader not a writer. When I look around I find people are doing fine without having to write great literature or winning a Nobel. They suffer no sense of lack on that count. It was clinching evidence that all the while I was under the thrall of a mental concept only. That is freedom.

Freedom is what you are born with. You lose it on the way believing some belief or concept and suffer consequently. The suffering forces you to reexamine and put those unexamined beliefs and concepts under microscope. You regain your freedom and joy.

Now I am free of Nobel Prize mania. I no longer crave for one. I no more rush towards book shop for buying the latest Laureate’s. Strangely I have lost the taste also. I find I like the non laureates like Eckhert Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, Mooji, Papaji, Raman Maharshi, Nisargadatt Maharaj etc. more relevant. They also are great freers of my mind. I no more like to fantasize or romantisize the life of a laureate. I have begun to like being on my own shoes.

Serene Reflection

sketches in stillness

They say misery loves company.  Which is probably true.  Whenever you want to share your sadness, the frustration at your job, the differences with your partner, or the lack of one, or crib about the state of the world, it is not difficult to find company.  The pain, the drama – it all triggers the resonant feelings and parallel memories that we share.  Empathy and agreement can be supportive, or it can be self defeating. Unless carefully steered to a meaningful conclusion, there are chances of these interactions reducing to habitual pity parties.

And what about celebrations? How easy is it to find company that shares equally in your joys and milestones?  Not the superficial, congratulatory kind, but the genuine ones – whose hearts burst with as much happiness as yours, who can be moved to inexplicable tears by your contentment?  Under the masks and games that we play, we…

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Serene Reflection

world hands

If you are the kind that needs research to validate what common sense and your heart will tell you easily enough, then you may want to listen to Brene Brown’s brilliant TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability‘.  Her research from hundreds of interviews led her to a breakdown and  she went to her therapist and said, “I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.

There are two aspects to vulnerability.  The first is our own inner work; understanding that our own sense of love, worthiness, and courage is eventually only determined by our own attitudes and beliefs and cannot be gifted by another.  But undoubtedly, there are spaces that are more conducive…

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Serene Reflection

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I may be an intuitive, but I cannot claim to know exactly how you perceive the world. I may be an empath feeling the waves of emotions that you do, often with the same intensity and overwhelm as you, but I cannot know what those emotions lead to in your world.  At best, this degree of sensitivity, heart coherence, firing of mirror neurons, deep listening and similar factors can provide me with a meaningful start to empathising with you.  But I often remind myself to be careful about the extent of understanding and empathy I can claim with another.

Even when an experience seems to have been shared, it will always be different for each one. That is the beauty of individuation.  I remember when my mother suddenly passed away, someone came over and  broke down. It had triggered memories of the loss of her own father and she said…

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Of all the people in my village Shankar seemed to stand out as someone different from the rest. He was the only one among the lower caste people of my village who had never worked in my father’s farm or anybody else’s farm as laborer. His elder brother as well as the younger brother worked in our farm but he never did. Instead he worked for the Public Works dept of the government as a laborer in their road projects. This fact alone proved his uniqueness. Subsequently by dint of his intelligence, personality and sincerity at work he became the head coolie -cum-watchman-cum-caretaker of the fair weather wooden bridge constructed on the river Sona that flew beside our village.

 

This bridge connected two towns situated almost fifty kilometers apart on either side of the river and also the innumerable villages with thick populations situated on either side of the road for six months in a year from December to June. At the beginning of the winter season each year towards the end of November when the rainy season had already gone and with it the swollen river had begun to shrink down to its sober and humble size and self the construction of the wooden bridge started. That was why the bridge was called a fair weather bridge. Shankar oversaw the construction of the bridge, arranged laborers to work for its construction and looked after the comforts of the townsfolk who came to our village only during this time of the year as engineers or overseers to supervise the construction. After the bridge had been constructed everyone engaged in its construction dispersed except Shankar who remained as its caretaker day and night for the whole period of its existence. On 15th of June each year, at the start of the rainy season, the wooden bridge got dismantled and woods used in the bridge were stacked in a neat pile on the river bank on which Shankar constructed a makeshift tent house in which he stayed in the nights to guard over these woods for six months till these were again used for the construction next season. Otherwise he mostly stayed in a very small hut he had constructed on the river bank on government land just a few feet away from the makeshift tent.

 

He was very rarely employed for any other duty. So virtually he led a very laidback, leisurely life unlike his brothers who had to work arduously on other’s farms. Most often I found him sitting in a nearby chai-shop sipping chai and chatting with others. He was of my father’s age and for a long time it seemed to me that he had a stern countenance which was sufficient to dissuade me from making any conversation with him. I was comfortably mixing with his brothers as I used to do with all other laborers who worked on my father’s farm. But Shankar seemed to me a different kind of person altogether. He intrigued me. He was an enigma for me. He never feared anyone in the village. Though he didn’t own even a decimal of land except the small cottage in which his family lived yet he was completely without fear of even the biggest landowners. Though he belonged to a low caste yet he was never a great respecter of higher caste Brahmins. But he also didn’t pick unnecessary quarrels with anyone. He just kept to himself. He had a royal, leonine manner which made him a mystery before my eyes.

 

I can vividly recall an incident from my childhood which made him a hero in my eyes. I had a friend named Gangadhar. We studied in the same class in the village school. Though Gangadhar belonged to Teli (oil man) caste, a landowning and sometimes money lending caste, almost every morning the first thing I used to do after taking my breakfast was to go to his house to play with him. His mother had died long since while giving birth to a child after him. So I had never seen his mother. Whenever I went to his house I saw his father only. But one day his father too died. Gangadhar was only eight then, almost the same age as me. He became an orphan. He had no one from his mother’s side to take care of him. His father had a brother but he had died much earlier. Even if he were alive he wouldn’t have wished Gangadhar to stay alive because of property. It was a sad truth of life I have repeatedly observed that whenever a child was placed in a most helpless and vulnerable situation like that of Gangadhar he was more often considered as a nuisance, an obstacle between inheriting a property, howsoever small, by his own paternal uncles. Instead of protecting him they tortured and harassed him. This also became the lot of Gangadhar. His dead uncle had a daughter who was by then married and being the sole heiress of her father’s property used to stay in her parental house with her husband. So she now became the only kith and kin of Gangadhar.  Gangadhar stayed with her for some days during which he was treated callously and mercilessly. He was always sad during that time. The harassment became so unbearable that one day he hid himself somewhere and didn’t return to his cousin’s house. The story of his ill-treatment was also going around the village.  So a real crisis arose in a child’s life and also in the life of a village. Where else would he stay, who would feed him and take care of him? None among his own caste too showed any eagerness or interest to keep him. A meeting was called in the village where all the elders assembled. I was sitting at the back to see what was decided for my friend. Many proposals were submitted but each was objected or rejected by someone or the other. It was also proposed by some that each family of the village would feed Gangadhar by turn one day every month.  That proposal was going to be accepted. Suddenly Shankar who was sitting silent all the while stood up and said that he would take Gangadhar with him to his home and raise him as his own child. He said he didn’t like the prospect of a child going from house to house daily begging for his food and keep. What about his education? What about his comfort, safety and sense of belonging? To whom would the child relate? Shankar said he would see to all of that and he needed no donation from anyone. All the people present were stunned at his declaration. Some feebly protested pointing at the prospect of a higher caste child being brought up in a lower caste house but as none wanted to take the responsibility of  an orphan on himself Shankar got my friend in his custody. That night Shankar became a hero in my eyes. Subsequently Shankar’s house became my daily haunt because wherever my friend stayed that became the dearest place for me too. Shankar and his wife had no child till then, though they had been married for four years. They actually took care of my friend like their own child. This I could see because I was always welcome in Shankar’s house. Gangadhar never complained against either of them. Shankar was a large hearted man, probably the largest in our village. But Shankar was not to be found in his house except during the meal times. He went as soon as his meals were over to where his duty called him, the hut beside the river from which he watched over the bridge. So he remained a distant, aloof figure for me for a long time, almost throughout my childhood, though I was all admiration for him from afar for his many sterling qualities.

 

This distance between him and me went on till I visited a Hindi film, the very first film in my life, when I was in class nine and I was fourteen years old. That film and its songs made such a deep impact on me that thereafter I became a film addict and an avid listener to Hindi film songs. Howsoever I requested my father to buy a radio he never obliged. So I went to Manoranjan’s house. He had recently married and had got a radio as dowry among other things. Manoranjan and his brother Bhukul were my friends and their parents were generous enough to allow me to sit on a chair in their house and listen to Hindi film songs for hours broadcast from Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylone.

 

During this time Shankar also bought a second hand radio and played the same stations playing Hindi film songs in his small hut on the river bank. One afternoon finding Manoranjan’s house locked  I ventured to Shankar’s hut to listen to the radio. That was a very brave act on my part as I used to fear Shankar till that time because of his stern countenance. But I had no other alternative. I had to listen to the film songs. So as I found his radio was playing I ventured in to his hut which I had never done before. His hut was situated at the top of a high bank on the river and one had to climb a few mud steps to make the ascent from the road below. As I entered his hut he saw me and showed me a stool to sit on. No words were exchanged. I just pointed at the radio and he understood my purpose. I sat there for almost two hours and when I left his hut he had been already asleep on his rope and string cot. That day I discovered that his stern countenance was only a façade. Internally he was a kind hearted man. I can never imagine my father allowing anyone into our house for such a long time to listen to his radio, had he owned one.

 

Thereafter I was a regular visitor in his hut. During the school vacations I used to spend many hours of the days and also the nights in his hut till the radio stations stopped playing film songs at eleven. I soon found out that as the evening wore on a group of six villagers assembled there and played cards. Shankar had perfected the art of playing cards using his leisurely life to his advantage in these hours. He was deadly serious and became a different person while playing cards. He would shout at his co-players if they made any mistakes. I dreaded him most during these times. I had never known that playing cards could be such a deadly serious game.  There were no bets placed or no money was ever put to stake. But at the end of each deal he would analyze the moves of his co-players thoroughly and point others’ mistakes almost with military like precision. I never participated in these games with such serious people. Sometimes seeing them shout at each other pointing at the other’s mistakes, for very soon the contagion from Shankar had spread to other players too, I secretly laughed at them for their seriousness. Sometimes I marveled at the ingenuity or foolishness of men at being so serious for such paltry things. But honestly they could also be right if they thought me foolish for how anyone could be so serious at listening to music that one refused invitations for a game of playing cards with six live persons!

 

Once they had the shortage of a partner and this time Shankar himself invited me to help them by participating in the game. I had to accept his invitation and oblige a man who had gladly tolerated my intrusions into his privacy at all hours of the days and nights for months. As I sat with them I begged apology at the outset for all the mistakes I was sure I would commit in the course of the game as I was a novice. To be honest with them, none shouted at me nor pointed any of my mistakes with sharp tongues. Even Shankar who was a terror at tearing other players apart was an image of peacefulness and calmness that evening. If anyone offered me any advice or pointed at a mistake it was done with a quiet friendliness and a genuine interest in improving my play. Sometimes I wonder if they had been happy that night when they returned to their homes as I had deprived them of their usual quota of excitement because I strongly suspected that those meticulous analyses, those shouting at each other and pointing each other’s mistakes formed very integral and essential parts of the game itself. After that evening fortunately there had never been any partner shortage and so I never had to play again. They played cards and I listened to the radio. That arrangement was probably the best for all parties concerned.

 

Time passed. I passed the school examination and left my village for the town to study in a college. In the college hostel common room there was a big and costly radio set and I almost monopolized on it as I listened to the music and songs of the Hindi films from it most of the time while all around me table tennis, caroms and badmintons were played.  Two years later a friend gave me a book to read which again changed my life as that Hindi film four years back had done. The book was Somerset Maugham’s “Of human bondage”. That was the first novel in English I have ever read. The book had such an impact on my life that I yearned to read more and more such books. I was eighteen then. Since that time I have been reading books, especially by western authors. I am almost sixty now but my fascination for such books has not diminished a bit.

 

When I left village my contact with Shankar also dwindled and almost came to zero. During the vacations when I returned to my parents’ in the village, occasionally I would come across Shankar and I would smile at him and we would exchange a few words. We both were not very demonstrative of our emotions and frankly very shy with each other. Even during those days when I used to visit his hut daily for listening to his radio, very few words were exchanged. Then in the college and university years my preferences changed. From a music addict I became a book addict. Then there remained no need to visit Shankar’s hut again. During vacations I read Tolstoy and Chekhov, Hardy and Jane Austen, Melville and Hawthorn, Emerson and Thoreau. In the midst of all those readings many times I forgot to take my breakfast and meals. What to speak of Shankar?

My days in the university also came to an end. After a few months of teaching in a private college I got a government job in Bhubaneswar. I joined in the job and after a few days I returned on leave to my village for a few days. Then something happened in the village which has remained permanently etched in my memory and frankly occasioned this article to be written.

 

That was the last day of my leave. I had to return by any means and join my duty next day. Only one bus plied between my village and the railway station at the nearest town twenty kilometers away. The bus had left in the morning towards the town in the opposite direction and it was to return in the evening and reach our village at six to halt for a minute or so to collect passengers and leave for the town where I was to catch the train. That evening I reached at the place where the bus stopped, exactly at the place where Shankar would pile the used woods of the bridge in a neat stack a month later, half an hour before the scheduled time. I had with me a 25 K.G. bag of rice loaded on the carrier of a bicycle and some clothes and to assist me in riding the bus and bring back the bicycle a younger brother had also accompanied me up to that place which was almost half a kilometer from our house. There was a lot of rain during that day and the village road was muddy. So the bicycle was not brought for the purpose of riding on it, but to transport the bag of rice to the bus.

 

We waited for the bus sitting in the village chai shop of Padu where Shankar was a regular customer.  Shankar was there. We exchanged smiles and I let him know that I was leaving for Bhubaneswar to report to duty the next day. Padu asked me how was Bhubaneswar. I said things were costly there. He said never mind about costs, what mattered was that the things were available as and when one needed them. In the village even if you had money you won’t get the things you urgently needed. I was surprised as always at Padu’s intelligent analysis. Having spent seven years of my life in the city by then I had ceased to notice this plus point of the cities. Just then I found an uncle of mine sitting among the people. I smiled at him and a few words were exchanged. Suddenly on an impulse I asked him something which I had never asked anybody before. That too in front of an assembly! I asked him how much salary he earned.  I knew I had made a faux pass. But his unusual and strange response saved me from a lot of embarrassment. He shifted in his place and leaving his relaxed, laid back position suddenly he sat straight. He was a short tempered man and I thought he was getting ready to shout at me with some choicest rude reply. But sitting straight he replied with all seriousness that no organization, no governmental department paid as highly as the State Electricity Boards and he was paid very handsomely. He went on saying how important work he did in the office etc. but I was only feeling relieved that I hadn’t hurt him in any way. I had been just foolish.

 

Time passed while I waited for the bus. But the bus showed no sign of coming. It had already passed two hours after the scheduled time. Some said probably the bus had got either stuck in the mud somewhere on its way to our village or having seen the rains that day the return journey of the bus might have been cancelled. Some advised to wait for some more time while others said it was no use waiting anymore. I was feeling tired after so much waiting; so I decided to return home. I loaded the rice bag on to the carrier of the bicycle again, hung the bag with the clothes on to its handle and pushed on the bicycle through the muddy village road in the dark night. My younger brother was to be seen nowhere. Soon the wheel of the bicycle got jam packed with mud because in the night I couldn’t see which part of the road was dry and which was a puddle.  Pushing the bicycle through the mud was exhausting. By the time I reached home I was dead tired.

 

I unloaded the rice bag etc and took them inside. Everyone was surprised at seeing me back after two hours. I said the bus didn’t come and immediately went outside to clean the bicycle. It was something my father had taught me when I was a small boy. He had said that just as I didn’t like to go to bed with muddy feet so also my bicycle didn’t. Since that day I had been cleaning my muddy bicycle before I took rest. So I drew bucketful of water and cleaned the bicycle. Just as I was going to bring the bicycle into the house to park at its place a childhood friend named Pranakrishna came running and panting and said to me that the bus had come and was halting at the chai shop. He told me to hurry. But I had no more energy, inclination to negotiate the road to the bus stop again. So I expressed my helplessness and told him to go back. After all, what was the use of putting up so much effort again and to find at the end that by the time I reached there the bus had left. I wasted a good five minutes at arguing with Pranakrishna. But he would have none of it. He insisted that I leave for the bus. So in the end I had to obey. Again the rice bag and the cloth bag were mounted on the bicycle and we ran for the bus. This time Pranakrishna seeing my condition volunteered to run the bicycle and so it was lot less exhausting for me. I just put my hand on the rice bag so that it didn’t fall down on the mud. All the while I was wondering why the bus would wait so long for a nobody like me.

 

When we reached the bus stop I found one of the most heart-touching things in my life. Shankar was standing with folded hands at the door of the jam-packed bus, which had cut  its engine off clearly to wait for me, and with supplicating voice pleading to the conductor, ”Please forgive me for once for  making you all halt. The boy waited for you here for two hours. He has to join his duty at Bhubaneswar tomorrow by any means. I shall be ever grateful to you for this. In future if ever I can be of any help to you please don’t forget to mention. Please forgive me for the inconvenience.” Now I knew why the bus had halted for me. I wished to hug him and say many words of thanks and gratitude. But being shy and ever short of right words at right time I just smiled at him and rode the bus with the bags. The bus left immediately. Throughout the way I was thinking only of Shankar. He who feared none and never behaved in any servile or obsequious manner with anyone, howsoever rich or higher caste anyone might be, had now supplicated before a conductor and driver of a bus with folded hands for me! The sight would never go out of my mind. I can never be grateful enough to him.

 

I know it is beyond anyone else’s power in the village to halt a jam packed bus for well above fifteen or twenty minutes. But only Shankar could do it in a crisis. Just as once he had given shelter, food, security and a sense of belonging to my friend Gangadhar not for a day or a month   but till he became eighteen and was able to fend for himself. I have also not forgotten how he played the role of the bridegroom’s father when he married off Gangadhar to a girl of his caste and how happy and proud he looked!

 

I don’t think I can ever be a man like him. I don’t know whether I will even ever see a man like him. If this article inspires anyone to be generous and large hearted like Shankar I shall think my writing of this article has been rewarded enough. That will also be a suitable tribute to his memory. 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend once suggested me to take the act and art of writing in this way. He said that the act of writing consisted of committing one’s joys, sorrows, pain and suffering to a piece of paper as a means of expressing oneself. When the confession has been made and the expression has taken place then simultaneously the process of the therapeutic effect of the writing has also started to work on oneself. Then that piece of paper and that act of writing on it have served their purpose.

 

So far I was all ears to his suggestion. Then he gave me an advice which not only surprised me at the audacity of it but also jolted me out of the receptive mode into which I had slowly begun to relax myself. He suggested that when the act of writing has been done then one should simply tear down the piece[s] of paper and throw them into the ocean. He said the ocean by its vastness represented the Existence itself and hence throwing one’s confessional papers into it amounted to submitting or surrendering oneself to the grace and mercy of the divine. I could not accept his view there. I couldn’t simply digest the prospect of so much of one’s labor going waste, without coming to anyone’s use.

 

I know the world won’t be poorer without my writing. I don’t write great, eternal, perennial philosophy; the kind of stuff that claims to weather the changing fashions, fancies of the day. My writings are quite forgettable. If someone doesn’t read any of my writings he will be no worse or poorer for that. Still I couldn’t relish the thought of consigning them to their watery grave in the ocean. I shudder at the thought of what would have happened to us if all the poets, dramatists, authors of the past had heeded to such advices. I also know how those whom we call now as great authors had been treated by their contemporary reviewers at the start of their writing carrier. In fact, I had once read a whole book consisting of collections of such articles. There I had found how such a great poet as Keats was once advised by a reviewer to quit writing poetry and go back to his study of medicines instead. I was amazed to find that almost none, however great subsequently one was declared, was spared almost this kind of advices. It is good that few took heed of them.

 

So I didn’t throw my writings into the ocean as suggested by the friend, I consigned them to the ocean of Facebook instead. It was almost like throwing your papers into the ocean, but first after securing them inside some bottles under water tight lids. That way they would float in the ocean and reach unknown distant shores and stand a chance to be of some use to someone somewhere. The uses they will be put to may not be of very great value to anyone. But who knows someone somewhere may find some piece exactly right for him to spend an idle hour and entertain himself with just as others’ writings have entertained me. Just as from one candle some other candles are lit, so also writings of one, even like me, may inspire some others. Who knows miraculously, by chance, I could be the inspiration for some others as some have already been my inspirations. Therein may lay the purpose and the end of my writing.

 

The act of writing also is not without its mystery. I have observed it repeatedly that it is not always the friends whom you had sent or tagged your articles to are your best reviewers or commentators. Sometimes you have the best and most pertinent comments from a completely new reader. But that reader too cannot be taken for granted. Sometimes he may disappear altogether from your page  like a comet. Often he gives place to someone else in your next article so far as giving you the most valuable insight or input is concerned. It is as if each article or story, if it is a genuine one, brings with it its own readers. There will be some who will be deeply touched by it whereas from some others it may only elicit lukewarm responses. The whole process is as mysterious as the workings of the human heart. Therefore, I pay heed to my heart and hope that I listen accurately to its beats, its hopes and fears, its agonies and ecstasies; because if I decipher that correctly then I stand a fair chance of touching and connecting to many others. There is no other better guide. The heart is also a lonely hunter, but it hunts its quarries the best. Its quarries are the other hearts; it doesn’t kill, it makes the others vibrate to its beats and thereby forms a firmer bond with the others. It makes us one, helps us in forming relationships and joins us into family like livable and viable units.

 

Paying heed to the workings of the heart and its beats only led me to undertake some ambitious projects and explore some hitherto uncharted territories. One of my most ambitious projects was to write at length about some of my villagers who at some time or the other worked in my father’s farm as daily laborers. They had such memorable personalities and entertaining traits that I used to spend much time with them and their children who were my best friends. I had wanted to bring them alive from the house of the dead by writing such word pictures of them that readers are also able to connect with and feel them as I feel. I had also hoped that with the successful execution of the project I will be able to immortalize a piece of rural India which may soon pass into oblivion. I had read somewhere that so long as someone was vividly and lovingly remembered even by a single human being then that person was really not dead; he had an equally valid existence as the others even if only in the mind of someone. In this spirit I wrote the first installment “Life in the jaws of death” and hoped to continue the project. But that was not to be. It required so much dedication and concentration and my domestic family life was so hellish and hostile to my creativity. So I had to take a halt. I can’t say that I have abandoned the project. It is ever so dear to my heart. I don’t know whether I will ever be able to resume and complete this project. In the meanwhile I only wish that the canopy of sanity and good sense may stretch and envelope within it the women folks living in my household. The world is too much with them. May they not be blinded by the glare and garishness of the crude materialism and consumerism surrounding them.       

 

Also in this adventurous spirit I wrote a series of three or four stories, beginning with “The woman who would dance only to the tune of her heartbeats”. I knew many of my friends-cum-readers so far would forsake me for good for it was not in their taste to read on such bold themes dealing with such intimate matters. But still I wrote. The best responses came, as usual, from the “rank outsiders’’, completely new readers. Of course, a few very rare friends stayed and even welcomed such experimentations. I am honored to have such friends many of whom are very good writers themselves.

 

So my casting away of my writings in the ocean of blogosphere was a decision I have never regretted. I am happy when someone reads my stories and let me know of his or her responses. It has been an unspeakable joy always to discover someone vibrating in the similar wavelength as yours. I consider that to be the most rewarding thing in this writing profession which is otherwise very lonely. Being alone and enjoying the state of being alone are the marks of a contemplative man. Even 2500 years ago Buddha had said that if one didn’t find good company to mix with then it was better to stay or work alone than suffer the company of fools. Even the compassion of such a great legendarily compassionate man stopped short at associating oneself with the fools. That couldn’t be without reasons. He knew that one’s diligent work with oneself towards nirvana might be compromised.      That is the price one has to pay. Even upbraiding from a wise man is to be preferred to praises from a fool. But otherwise also, speaking from a writer’s point of view, how can one listen to the music of the heart and the still, somber voice of the humanity if one is never left alone or always keeps himself surrounded by all sorts of company? So loving oneself and being comfortable with one’s own company is almost a prerequisite for being a good writer. The best reader of my stories is myself too. If I can’t like my stories how can others? I read them for countless times, always after some intervals. That way I am able to spot their shortcomings and very often make corrections and do the needful for further improvements. It is an ongoing endless process. The much sought after perfection is never reached.      

 

Sometimes people just read and leave the page without leaving any comments. I honor the wishes of the readers as they would like to have their surfing experiences to be. I only wish I could touch many hearts and be of some use to them. For that I need to be even a better listener, with very little egoistic cravings and tendencies of my own to come between my ears and the workings of my heart and the heartbeats. Listening is such a great art and such pure joy. Let all my readers experience that joy in abundant measures.

Buddha said, “Everyone must work diligently for one’s salvation.” He meant thereby that there is no miracle, no savior to save you. You will be saved by your own effort. I feel listening to one’s heart and the hearts around oneself is sufficient for saving oneself, which again means being humble and free to a great extent from the egotistical rumbles of desires, cravings and the unconscious tendencies arising in the mind. The rumbles from an elephant’s belly can be heard from the outside and so also that of one’s ego if one listens carefully. Let us be heedful of that rumble always before it turns into a full-fledged explosion. Sometimes just being attentive and heedful is sufficient to nip a desire in the bud. I can’t say how many countless childish desires have been nipped in the buds within me by going straight into books and spending innumerable hours in their pages. It pains me very deeply when these same books of mine are torn to pieces almost daily by two women of my household to whom, wonder of all wonders, the sight of books is anathema. Equally baffling to them is my responses to their beloved gold, silver, diamond, costly costumes and property. I am least interested in these things. But being outnumbered and alone in my own house my income goes to finance their insatiable childish fancies and whims because they have no income of their own. My meager income always falls short and they take revenge on my beloved books that I have collected since my childhood. Strange is the way of the world!

 

One of my fondest memories was a moonlit evening when I was eight and reading in class three. My grandfather had gone to the nearest small town nine kilometers away to buy one bullock for the farm. I had requested him to buy for me one short story book in Oriya which was prescribed in the course for non-detailed study for my class. Lest he might forget the name of the book I had written it on a piece of paper and kept it in his pocket. He had set for the town at nine in the morning in his bicycle accompanied with a laborer to bring the bullock home. It was already eight in the evening. Of all the people in the household I was the only one acutely missing and waiting for him. I was pacing outside the house in the day like moonlit night and growing restless by the minute. When he finally arrived everyone ran to him to see the bullock coming after him. In a purely agricultural economy, which our household was, the importance of a draught bullock was great. But I ran to him for a completely different reason; I was dying to have that story book which I was afraid that he might have forgotten altogether. I didn’t trust adults and their strange matter of fact world in which strange valuations and priorities existed. Not long before I had lost Runu for ever due to the machinations of this adult world which strangely insisted that she belonged to her parents and so must remain with them and not with me. I couldn’t understand how someone who was inseparable from me for a week since we had met could belong to someone else and not me. Anyway, with considerable trepidations in my heart with mixed emotions of hope and fear as I asked my grandfather if he had brought my book, he fished out the book from his shirt pocket dangling by his side and handed me the book. The book’s slightly glossy picturesque cover shined brightly in the moonlight like a mirror and with it I was suddenly filled up with an indescribable ecstasy the like of which I had rarely experienced. I didn’t part for a moment from that book throughout that night. Under a kerosene lamp I read that book from cover to cover with such joy that would be envy for a king. That night for the first time I felt proud for the action of an adult, my grandfather. Otherwise in the normal course of things as they happened in the adult world my slip of paper containing the name of the book would have been safely and easily forgotten and trampled under the more pressing need for the bullock. Because my grandfather didn’t forget to bring the book for me amidst all his adult priorities and duties he remained a lovable figure for me since that day till his last. Ten years later when he was admitted to a hospital twenty kilometers away from our home for treatment of his disease which was later diagnosed as liver sclerosis and stayed there for four months till he breathed his last I remained with him by his bedside as his sole companion, attendant, nurse, washer man of his clothes which he soiled sometimes etc. rolled into one. I had been constantly thinking throughout that ordeal that I was repaying a debt I owed to him since that day he had brought that story book for me and made me the happiest person in the world.

 

I had never imagined then that this world also consisted of human beings who got pleasure out of tearing to pieces someone’s beloved books. Let’s see what else nightmarish view this so called God-made world decides to show me. For me it is more important to know that even if there is only one individual in the world who has experienced a few moments of joy at reading any of my stories, my labor of writing it has not gone in vain. I wish to transmit that joy which I have often experienced from reading books. Those that worship gold, money and property and get joys out of tearing my books think they know better.  For me it is totally irrational.

 

Let me finish this article with a briefest statement of my philosophy of life even though the great Buddhist logician Nagarjuna said we cannot make any statement about life of which its opposite is not also equally true. I think all my stories and articles are elucidations of this philosophy only. Some of you may agree with it and some of you may not. But for me this is it.

There is no God. So let us help and cheer each other. The world has always consisted of and will continue to consist of both book lovers and book burners or tearers. Even if your reading and writing will not change anyone, read and write anyway.