These Paths… (3)

That phase of my life was characterized by imagery. My recollection of those years is in a language of imagery….like a movie where I could see human life against the backdrop of the most beautiful imagery.

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Despite the unfamiliarity of the stills of life that unfolded before me, despite the unfamiliarity of the characters who were a part of my day to day life, I felt a strange familiarity.

A strange telepathic connection with this land and its people.

The familiarity that comes when the roots tug at the mind, bringing the awareness of a past that is far more ancient than one’s mortal body. A past that embraces the pasts of generations of ancestors who have passed on the essence of their lives to their successors. An essence that is sometimes powerful enough to speak across time and place. For the first time, I felt in my being the awakening of an awareness of my roots. Roots that had unconsciously attached themselves to this land and its culture when I was a child.

Roots that thrived on a land where nature set the rhythm.

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       “Writing is conscience, scruple, and the farming of our ancestors”

I closed my eyes and listened to the voice of my roots. They spoke to me, and took me on a journey across visions and sounds, fragrances and flavors, all of which constitute the essence of my roots…

Lush green fields that appear to drape the earth in a robe of silk…
A full moon that sprinkles its golden sheen on this green robe…
Folk dances that sprinkle color and vibrance to this green backdrop, bringing it to life…

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Fields that turn out gold in celebration of spring…
The paddy in the fields, dancing to the music of the wind that blows across the fields on hot summer evenings…
Fields that take new forms with the change of seasons- canvases that are removed, only to be replaced by new ones….From the tropical cacophony of green to rustic shades of gold- each strikingly panoramic…

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The dusky autumn sky blushing in the rays of the setting sun…
White clouds in the sky, like sheep astray on pastures…

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Chaotic showers of rain that shower extravagant drops of happiness on an earth parched by the tropical sun…
Trees drenched in these showers, swaying in joy, washed off their summer dust, holding out their lush green coats in proud display…
Raindrops that drip from the leaves on the trees and from the slopes of the tiled roofs of traditional old houses, as if counting the hours of a solitary night…

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Lamps and flowers that welcome the play of seasons and celebrate the changing dispositions of the sun and the planets…

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Swans and storks gliding stealthily across the river in the silvery moonlight…
The oars of a solitary boat gently and gracefully breaking the stillness of the river…
An enchanting, awakened world concealed beneath the blanket of a dark night…

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A sleeping world that wakes up to the slow tempo of dawn…
The percussion beats that echo from the temple, in synchrony with the tempo of dawn…
The traditional woman, defined by an attire of serene white, fringed by gold- the picture of a radiant lamp that welcomes the rising sun in a spirit of tranquil optimism, her attire a reflection of the tranquil spirit of her soul…

Smoke emanating from the chimney, the odor of firewood blending with the tropical odors of the earth…
The air heavy with the scent of jackfruits and mangoes that are beginning to ripen on the trees…
Farmers tilling in the fields, fishermen casting nets into the river, priests performing rituals in the temples…
The color and fury in the folk dance forms, contrasting with the depth and richness of classical dance forms…

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To me, this land represents a picture of oneness. Melody and rhythm integrated into a picture of oneness.

The cuckoo sings…
The coconut palms sway…
The brook gurgles…
The parakeet flies…
My heart soars…
For in every phenomenon,
I perceive the same melody…the same rhythm…
Today, the music in my heart resonates with the music from the soul of the universe…

It is a world where the rhythm is set by nature. It has a tradition that teaches man to integrate into this oneness, and thus sustain a kingdom that is indeed reigned by God. It is truly God’s own country.

This is the voice of my roots…

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These paths….(2)

I applied for the job and I remember feeling happy that there would not be any night on-calls since patients were just picking up. Unsure of what lay ahead, I stepped into my new job. I used to drive down initially, stop at all the places that were phenomenally picturesque, and take pictures. People would stop to watch in amusement, and I would silently pray for them to leave me alone.

 

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The landscape was right out of a fantasy world. I could not believe that this was real.

Never before had I seen such a fiery play of colors….such sharp contrasts.

Dawn and dusk would drape the same landscape in entirely different costumes. The fiery colors of summer contrasted sharply with the rejuvenating green monsoon canvas.

 

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Everyday, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by the changing canvas I was treated to. These images awakened my mind to perceptions I had never felt before.

I felt within me the nothingness and stillness that can only come from witnessing something overpowering.

I ceased to exist, for my mind was brimming with something far more profound than me. It was the first time I felt the throbbing of a universe within me. Work was a blessing for I had plenty of leisure time at work. I would write pages and pages from the beauty of all that I perceived.

I thus discovered my freedom- on new terms.

 

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Rural life also attracted me. I was thrilled by the sight of old houses that stood majestically in the premises of untended orchards. They seemed to be brimming with the stories of generations. Coconut palms and mango trees stood in the premises, perhaps whispering ancient tales that only they had witnessed. Barns and cowsheds stood in the premises, some empty for lack of hands to tend to the animals.

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There was the familiar odour of smoke from the hearth. My heart soared at the sight of silver-haired grandmothers and grandfathers in the courtyard of houses, their faces mellowed by life, their eyes closed in prayer. I loved the sight of men and women toiling in the fields, washing away the exhaustion of their lives of struggle in their togetherness.

All around me, I saw stories.

I saw souls who mimicked the beautiful souls I had seen in malayalam cinema. I stopped paying attention to my life. For the first time, I learnt to be still and absorb the ocean of life that surrounded me. I realized that resilience came naturally to these simple village folk. I admired their ability to ask so little of life- their ability to endure so much. We urban folk take pride in our ability to be bold, but we often confuse it with courage and strength.

For the first time, I understood that the kind of courage and strength that life demands for survival, is altogether different.

Rural life humbled me. It destroyed all the ego I harboured. I allowed myself to be awed by the resilient spirit of my rural patients a lot more than the awe they perhaps felt towards my urban, independent spirit.

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As I dwell upon that phase of my life, I find myself struggling to write. For the stories around me were infinite. My life brimmed with interesting characters and their stories. I loved being a part of their lives. Those characters did not know their worth.

Beneath their ordinary exterior, I could always see the extraordinariness of their souls.

A few faces come to memory. Lakshmanettan, the old driver of our bus who would drive us across the plantation, never losing his composure, highly attentive and sensitive to the comfort of his passengers. Fousiya, the young dark-complexioned nursing aid who had learnt to smile at the complexity and unfairness of the problems life thrust on her, but never come to terms with her dusky complexion. There was not a fairness remedy she had not experimented. She was a girl with a kind and compassionate heart, and I lived on her sense of humour. Fousiya’s grandmother who unabashedly told the doctor that she had put her ECG recording into the chulhaSubeesh, the medical representative, who entertained us with the wildest stories. Fousiya and Subeesh were a deadly combination when it came to humour, and I looked forward to such sessions. Beena, who had lost her father, and suffered a lot of abuse. I was happier than her on the day she got married. Never before had I looked at marriage from the perspective of defense for a woman. The Muslim woman who was battling cancer, and her 10-year old daughter who managed the household. Rosamma Ma’m, who loved plants. The ivy gourd she gifted me continues to give us little harvests. Kunhikannan sir who wore a mask of seriousness that made his humour all the more hilarious. The psychiatrist who gave us many reasons to laugh. Venugopal Sir, who was a father figure to me. The old Muslim patient who touched me with her sensitivity to others. The poor elderly Muslim couple who hesitantly gifted me a toffee as a token of gratitude. Our bus driver Sanesh and the school kids who boarded that bus. The stranger who sketched me while i waited at the bus stop and then gifted me the sketch, taking me by surprise.

And a million other faces….

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These paths….

 

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I had deleted these paths from memory.

I hadn’t imagined that I would ever be taking them again. When I had bid goodbye to them six years ago, I was certain that I had tucked them into my past- a past that I would never reopen. But the dice of destiny landed me yet again on these paths. And here I am, writing the sequel to a book whose story had met its conclusion. That story was the story of my formation. The story of how I broke at a million places and then reconstituted myself from the cracks. Every day, I died a little. To that death, I had surrendered all of myself. When I started life afresh, I had nothing left of the old me. I was a new person with a new perspective of life. I never wanted to connect to the old chapters in my life in a realistic sense because the ‘new‘ me was more adept at survival. But I liked to preserve those old chapters in my mind…

A nostalgic getaway at all the times my defenses for survival drained me.

There is perhaps nothing as rejuvenating as being able to slip from the burden of thought to the comforting shade of a nostalgic memory. A memory that brings back the feel of a precious moment lost to time- a memory uncorrupted by the shadow of thoughts.

Turn pages in the album of the mind…

People, places, memories…

Until a tear rolls down the cheek…

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As I started my journey today, I realized that I had no memory of the route. I switched on the GPS and allowed myself to be guided by it. As I drove, only a few trees appeared familiar. At some point, I left the NH behind and found myself on rural terrain. The GPS guided me through routes that were alternatives. I drove past barren fields, quaint old houses, chayakkadas (tea stalls) that had long shut down and stagnant waters where water lilies continued to bloom rampantly.

Waters in which I could see a collage of old memories.

I drove through solitary narrow country lanes that brought back the feel of the old laid back times. I passed a few village-folk who had managed to preserve their rural simplicity in a sophisticated technology-driven world.

 

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My mind strayed to that day years ago when I had landed in Kerala after 3 years of living in London. London to rural Kerala had been a significant transition, and an unwelcome one. For one thing, I had adapted completely to life in London, and was deeply in love with my independence, my lifestyle in that country , the opportunity to travel and to meet people from different walks of life.

I had become addicted to the intellectual stimulation that country offered.

Also, my life before London had been one of freedom and anonymity. And here I was, in a place that seemed alien to me. I spent a week or two in denial, refusing to step out of the house, spending all my time indoors, crying at my fate. Eventually, I decided to find a job so as to feel a sense of purpose.

Someone had told me about the new medical college at a place called Anjarakandy.

I drove down, unsure of the route. I was a little surprised when I realized that we were heading towards rural terrain. My concept of an institution had always been rooted in an urban backdrop. Here, traffic was thinning out, and there were trees and streams and boats. I was mesmerized by the sight of a wide river that we passed. At long last, we reached a cinnamon plantation. We drove through a mud trail and landed at our destination.

The college was at the heart of the plantation.

 

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There was very little activity there. A few people, most being employees, went about their work in a laid-back manner. I couldn’t believe this could be a medical college. A single building that housed the hospital and college. A bus that transported people across the plantation. The bus reminded me of stills I had seen of sleepy villages in pre-independence India.
London was like a distant dream.

My relationship with words…

Words are fragrant with essence, and they open us to the limitless possibility of a world throbbing with beauty!

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I have always loved language. Books were my earliest fantasy world. Language thus brought to my consciousness the beauty and joy in my perceptions of the world around me. The books I read, validated my perceptions. This was a relief because I found myself at a loss when it came to expressing the joy of those perceptions to the people in my life.
I slowly came to understand that language was not an assortment of words; it was a phenomenon that breathed life into words.

My brother once asked me- ‘What language do you think in?‘ I couldn’t answer that because whenever I tried to trace my thoughts, I would always feel that I thought largely in non-verbal language. I then realized that there is a non-verbal language that operates in all beings- a language closely linked to our instinct. Contrary to what we imagine, that language communicates more powerfully than the language of words. Language, to me, has often been a reflexive conversion of that language into the language of words.
My verbal language is rooted into my instinctive language.

Verbal language separated man from other beings on this planet. Man must understand that the aim of verbal language must only be to bring to consciousness the beauty and essence of the non-verbal language.

It must never alienate itself from the former; it must only be an extension of the former.

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Nature has a language that communicates itself through its sounds, scents and colors, textures and more. It has both history and panoramic complexities of sentience we are at a loss to detect, much less describe, and its composition is communicated often so profoundly, beautifully. Countless poems throughout history have been written in humble attempts to write in words all that has been received.

Sadly, in the modern world, our education trains us to suit market driven objectives, and one can see the gradual deterioration of language, which translates to deterioration of a culture. With every step of this so-called development, we are taking a step away from our instinctive language- the one that roots us to this universe and connects us to the soul of everything on this planet. A slow death of the soul within for there is nothing to nourish the soul. A world sinking collectively into depression.

The loss of telepathy and empathy comes from all institutionalized forms of ”education” and ”training”. These are processes that temper ones mind much like a steel blade is made. It is hammered and pounded, and heated, and hammered and pounded, over and over, on and on… until it becomes a blade. It has been tempered and molded by the black-smith. And so the steely mind has been indoctrinated and inculcated into being left brain dominant, being likened more to a computing processor. This is a form of mind control conducted by well funded and organized institutions whose goal is to make you learn what they want you to learn, most if not all of it lies, for at the very least it is incomplete. It is not education, it is fractionalization and desensitization.

http://wakeup-world.com/2015/06/16/the-language-of-nature-the-trees-will-teach-you-telepathy/

In this context, I cannot help bringing malayalam cinema into the picture. I feel that malayalam cinema helped me understand the true significance of verbal language. There is perhaps not a single day that passes without some thought pertaining to Lohithadas. When I think of the movies he made, the language was the soul of the movie. No doubt, the stories were all rich in essence. But it takes immense creativity to translate that essence into the beauty of script. I always get goosebumps when I play those dialogues in my mind. They have nourished my soul in ways that only personal experiences can. There are tears in my eyes when i think of that creative genius who was never given due credit for his work. But then, he achieved much more than that. I wish he had known. Malayalam cinema helped me preserve what we are all born with- empathetic telepathy, a faculty that we lose to the ways of the modern world in the so-called process of ‘education’.

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As people segregate each other in the name of religion and a million other parameters, I wish they could see how they have abused this gift of language. ‘Religion’ is just a word.

No word was invented with the purpose of segregating or demoralizing people.

Remove the label if it does so. Recently, an acquaintance of mine was talking to me about her diagnosis. She kept labelling herself as ‘bipolar’. I told her that labels are just so that people have clarity when it comes to treatment. ‘But for you, it is a mental state. A state that is the result of the nature of interaction between your mind and the environment. And a creative mind is bound to go through such turbulence. So to you, it must always be a mental state….a state that doesn’t fit into the one dimension of a label such as ‘bipolar’. You must only think in terms of the external factors that must have precipitated that brief episode.’ She continues with the therapy, but i feel that she feels better about herself now.
Labelling, although inevitable, often ends up demoralizing and discriminating people.

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And then we have politicians who use words to segregate us. If we couldn’t speak this language of words, our lives would be less richer, but we might not be fighting each other in the name of these issues.

Paulo Coelho has sensitively illustrated the significance and power of this non verbal language in his book, ‘The Alchemist‘. He refers to it as the language of the universe, a language that is as old as the earth to which we belong.

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Perhaps that is the need of the hour. Help our children preserve this non-verbal faculty so that it is not wiped off from the next generation in the name of ‘evolution’ to adapt to the unnatural world created by man.

A slice of gratitude

Eventually, soulmates meet, for they have the same hiding place.”

I still remember that picture. Hands, tanned and wrinkled, bearing the imprint of years of toil. Those hands held a bunch of roses- fresh, delicate and blood-red. The contrast was striking. Perhaps, if soft, delicate hands had held those roses, the picture would have been lost upon me. The roses, in a strange way, seemed to belong there. The hands held them with the familiarity and deftness that only comes with years of handling beauty that is fragile.

Deftness that comes with years of handling the fragility of their own lives.

I visited the photo blog of the photographer who had captured this image. His blog was a compilation of pictures that spoke of infinite stories. Most of the pictures projected a slice of human life against a backdrop of nature. A canvas of nature in all its splendour and glory, seeming to derive meaning from the rim of human existence that thrives on it. A boatman rowing his boat for a livelihood, the river and the sky silent witnesses to the story of his life. A wild orchard of flowers embracing a world of their own, a hand caressing them in passing. The apparently benign presence of a butcher’s knife against a backdrop of birds that go about their lives, unsuspecting of the destiny that is in store. And many more. Some unique to a land and its people. Each rich in its aesthetic appeal.

They were all slices of life, each rich in essence….

It delighted me to discover photographs that had a soul..that were not apparent works of art created from technical knowhow. Technology so often cleverly conceals the lack of essence in a creation. So much so that the audience almost loses the ability to distinguish between a work of art and work that is created from technical manipulation.

I left a comment on his blog. And he left a reply on my inbox. That made a difference. A mail was a more personal reciprocation than a comment in reply. That mail actually left an imprint on my mind. As I realized later, he always gave a personal touch to his interactions with people.

It was a pleasure writing to each other. I have always cherished written one-to-one communications. I think a lot of our initial mails were about the factors that must shape art and the artist. I remember this important conclusion we had drawn:

Imagination must be used to create reality, and not to escape from reality.’

There was a period of absence- a phase when the preoccupations of life took over, and we did not communicate to each other. I also remember the sudden bout of joy I felt when I saw his mail after that period. A mail where he mused aloud if things were okay with me.

He set an example for me, both as an artist and as a human being. Our discussions were never about his life; they were always about mine. Our mails represented to me a space where I discussed my perceptions and analysis of the world while he stood inconspicuously in the backdrop.
Mirroring the equation in his pictures…

He would then add newer dimensions to my perspectives, sometimes defining sharply what I had been vague about, sometimes bringing to visibility a perspective I was blind to, and sometimes driving me towards questioning my own self. Each revelation was overwhelming…and a step towards the deep wisdom of life that is conspicuously lacking in the minds of people of these times.

Where did he get all his wisdom from?

Perhaps from his deep and genuine involvement with people. From his inherent curiosity towards human life.

He transformed into my mentor. And then I realized that a mentor is much more than a friend who stands by your side, much more than a teacher who merely imparts knowledge. He taught me that unless a parent or teacher or friend could also be a mentor, wisdom and growth would not be complete.

After an year of interaction, I know little about the external facets of his life. It might sound odd, but I don’t even know his age! But I know his mind.

And somehow, that has been enough and more for me.

As he reads this, I can already imagine the smile on his face….