Monday, September 03, 2018

In Gratitude:


The road glistened after the shower, the tall buildings and billboards with bright light cast its reflection on the empty late night streets. The light drizzle hit our faces as our auto-rickshaw sped along. In a serendipitous moment, one of my friends handed me her ipod to listen to a song. The song and that moment have forever defined the city of Mumbai for me - the energy of the city, the freedom which I could not even dream of a month before, friendships that gave you a lot of space, nostalgia for something which I never had, longing for a future which I could not yet define. All I wanted then, at that moment, was ‘another chance’ to life.

In the spilt second that was eleven years for me, I was tested, pushed, held at an arm’s length, cajoled, held in a warm fuzzy embrace, loved with love, and loved with compassion by the city. In the tiny apartment spaces that one can only find here, I was given a vast open space to grow into my own, to find back my real self, the self that I had forgotten many lives ago.  Through many more serendipitous meetings and moments which brought numerous amazing people into my life, paths opened up slowly, first narrow trails and now open highways. Mumbai showed me that if I allow myself to not question, trust the city, listen to my heart, and go with the flow of life, then magic can happen.

The whispers started two years ago which I was not ready to listen to or address. But this year, it got loud and clear. The city was gently, lovingly yet firmly asking me to step away, beyond the warm cozy corner it had created for me. To travel down the same highways it has opened up for me and see where I finally arrive.

I will forever be in gratitude to this city of ‘another chance’.
It will forever be - Mumbai meri jaan - for me.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When the East Wind Blows:


It’s a breeze, at the most – soft, quiet and light. But when it gently blows in from the East, it can compel you leave everything and just feel it - through your hair and skin. In the springtime, it will make you want to fall in love and fill your days with hope; on a dark summer night, it lulls you to sleep after a day made lazy; in winters, it overwhelms you with the sadness of nostalgia, and a yearning for an unknown future.

But I love it the most after abrupt squalls, and unexpected storms: when the gusty wind fades into a soft, quiet and light breeze that you can feel through your hair and skin. During those times, I am rooted to a spot lost in feelings which only poets can interpret in spoken words.

If nature can ever captivate everybody and turn them instantly joyous, its only when you feel the east wind blow.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

Into Another World:

It was heady. Unabashedly. Unapologetically. Heady.

This indescribable sensory blend of freedom, space and tranquility. Something which I have never experienced before. Anywhere. This ability to walk into an almost empty park, lie down under a tree full of yellow autumn leaves and just watch them flutter down one by one whenever a hint of a breeze passed through. This ability to just be there at that present moment and experience the magic of autumn unfolding, without having to constantly look around to see who is approaching, or that the angled golden rays filtering through the trees meant that it would soon be time to head towards safer places. This ability to just be me, outside in the open world, which in India can only be done in the confines of your home if you are privileged enough to stay on your own.  

I travelled through Netherland, Germany and Slovenia for almost a month, visiting friends and family, and trying to experience the life of a local. The weather became my friend; for wherever I went, it pushed away the grey clouds and brought out the sun. Even in a stubbornly grey and rainy Berlin. Nature played out its part gorgeously, but in a languid and teasing sort of way, turning yellow and red and brown and barren in bits and parts.  Sitting on a bench besides one of the narrow canals in Amsterdam and reading, experiencing the silence around a crystal clear lake in Slovenia, running after a tram in an empty street late at night in Dresden, and walking along the river Neckar in Heidelberg on a chilly afternoon, life seemed perfect. Almost dream-like.

Along the way, I understood that these countries (even ‘poorer’ Slovenia) have achieved a quality of life that we can only dream of here, which values human life and dignity. A standard of life where the goal of earning money, which has driven our nation literally batty, has lost its importance. Because everything else is taken care of: from super-efficient idiot proof public transport systems, fresh food (now also vegan) on the go, strict waste segregation, flexible work hours, carriage for babies which can be attached to a cycle for mothers to freely move around, pet friendly restaurants and public transport, to even plastic-bag-pickup-points for collecting dog poop in case you forgot to carry your own.

Along the way, I also understood that much of these privileges came at the cost of destruction of natural resources, first theirs and then ours, struggles of the previous generations, and a largely welfare-state approach. That many, especially the current generation, do not realize just how privileged they are. That the immense importance given to personal space and individualism has resulted in people fearing overstepping boundaries creating a rather formal and lonely community where even friendships can be more of a duty (Slovenia still has its rough edges and hence more easy-going people). That the warmth of community living of the East with its crazy informality amongst friends and families, is something which the West has probably lost forever.  

Yes, despite all this, life seemed perfect and dream-like. Well, almost. Because how can life be real if there are no birdsongs, when the mornings are eerily silent, where woods are devoid of nature’s noises. Even in this chaotic city of Mumbai, I wake up every day to a cacophony of birdcalls. Even now, when I wake up in the dark and I hear the single eight-note song of the fantail, I know that dawn is about to break. Nature it seems, like people and the systems there, is just as manicured. Even in a more ‘rural’ Slovenia. Forests, constantly cut down in the name of its management, have little hope of home for undergrowth or wildlife.   

But in all the days of my travel, these aspects of life were blurred, registering somewhere only in the back of my mind. Because throughout the journey, I was busy filling my senses with this exhilarating feeling of being able to breathe. Because I didn’t know if I will ever get to experience it again.   



Monday, May 01, 2017

Illusions:

Night fell even as I was taking down notes of the stories of a few amazing women from a forest-fringe village in Chhattisgarh. Hundreds of stars sparkled against the silhouettes of the massive trees; and I gazed and gazed till I couldn’t strain my neck anymore. The outside temperature fell suddenly.

The talks moved invariably to ghost stories over piping hot dinner served in the verandah of the house. I wasn’t afraid listening to them here like I usually do in the cities. Here I felt attuned to nature and thought that most of these ‘stories’ could relate to nature spirits.

An almost full moon had come up bright and sharp by the time we were ready to go. The entire forest was suffused with its cool incandescent light. The silvery mud-tracks going off into the deep jungles beckoned me, promising more mysteries. The moonlight was so dazzling and the air so nippy that I was almost convinced of moondrops instead of dewdrops at night.

The tarot card ‘Moon’ speaks of a world of illusions – a world which is not what it might seem. But standing there in the middle of a dark forest illuminated by a shimmering silver light, a night sky full of brilliant stars, a chill which made you aware of your senses, and a deep quiet that surrounded everything, this world was more magical than anything I had seen in the sunlit world. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

From the Heart of the Mountains:

He asked me: if I were to recall one key moment or experience from our trip, what would that be.

It was early morning and we were sitting beside the Trisuli River; the clouds hung low over the mountains and there was a sharp chill in the morning air. Being in the heart of the Himalayas and captivated by its power yet again, could I really think of just one moment or experience?

Lying in the sun after a sumptuous breakfast, on the upper deck of a local eating place situated on the far side of the lake at Pokhara, our conversation turned slow and warm, just like the autumn day there. The sky above the hills to the north was filled with para-gliders, who came down one by one soaring over the lake, dipping and catching the current again, whoops of joy filling up the silent, lazy air. The sun shone behind them creating tiny halos as they glided past. The vast lake sparkled like million diamonds.

The long enchanting trek through the forest of ancient, gnarled immense trees covered with moss and ferns. The silence was calming and meditative; our voices seemed too loud and harsh. The forest was dense and dark in parts and when the sun filtered in through the gaps, the light amongst the trees was magical.  

As we climbed up the ridge, the snow peaks of the Annapurna range opened up before us. It was a brilliantly clear morning with cloudless cerulean sky, cold breeze and a bright sun warming our backs. We stood for a while there, listening. Over the sound of the wind, we could hear the murmurs of the river flowing deep below.

The many conversations we had over millet chang at a local joint in Pokhara, the childlike fights over trust and control, the warm fuzzy high, and huddling close as we walked the long way back to our lodge late at night.

A day spent just lying among the overgrown grass in the local park with dragonflies and butterflies fluttering around, and gazing at the blue sky and the leaves of the trees as they danced with the wind. The surrounding mountains, warm golden sun, distant sound of people passing by, and no soul to disturb you, it was a day that required no conversations.

Sitting by the riverside on a cold night under a star-filled sky, smoking up joints that kept us warm, and having even warmer conversations about life and future.  As the night stretched, the bond between us got stronger.  

The dreamlike Diwali night at Patan Durbar Square where history merged with the present, age-old traditions blended with the enthusiasm of the youth; that moment when he held me tightly, protectively, as masked dancers passed by blowing fire in the air.

These were some of the moments where I felt that time had stood still, where I wanted time to stretch forever. Because somewhere in all those moments, I was reminded once again of the true essence of friendship, trust, warmth, and caring – the meanings of which I had somehow lost in the cities. I was reminded once again of letting go and being free. 

And somewhere in all those moments, I finally understood love.


Monday, September 05, 2016

I Am the Feminine:

I am the force in the wind that blows through the trees and grass,
That lifts the birds, butterflies and take them high

I am the heat in the fire that creates and destroys life,
That which has kept the Earth alive

I am that energy which impels a seed to become a tree,
That which allows humans to live their true destiny

I am the mystery in the cold depths of these vast oceans,
That reflects the wisdom of the universe in itself

I am the intensity behind the loftiness of the snow peaks
That knows the strength of a human heart

I am Nature
I am the Earth
I am the essence of the Universe
I am omnipresent
I am in myself
And I am in you
I am the Feminine



Sunday, July 31, 2016

One Rainy Day:

At first I thought it was a new bird in the mango tree. The tree was thick with new young-green leaves and I had to peer through the rain to spot the source of the call. In some time I saw that it was just the Fantail happily twirling and hopping about amongst the branches of the mango tree. Once in a while, it let go of its clipped calls and burst into its actual melodious eight-note tune.


The strong breeze shook the wind-chime hanging outside my window. Once in a while, the enchanting strain of the wind-chime floated out. For a while, these were the only sounds outside. Against the backdrop of pouring rain.