An ode to the lotus

I woke up to the same dilemma. A whole day lay ahead of me.

There was the endless drudgery of household chores. I didn’t want to think about it. Perhaps, I could steal a little time, all the same?

There were friends I had to call back. I already knew the conversation that would unfold. The stories of their turbulent lives. Individuals who had lost touch with themselves in the modern world. Individuals who had long forgotten the paths to a life of meaning. Individuals who had been bought over by the firms they worked for, in exchange for a ‘lifestyle’ that successfully numbed their deeper instincts, blurring the future to which they were now headed. And thus they were fed on a life of instant gratification, their time and their senses skilfully taken over.

Slavery, under the banner of freedom.

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Until they finally woke up when the complications had accumulated to the point that they could no longer be ignored. But who was to remind them of the forgotten paths? Even now, they were looking for instant solutions.
Perhaps a counsellor or a psychiatrist…
A course of antidepressants maybe…
Some alcohol…some drugs…
Some travel ( again a quick getaway to some exotic land where the same alcohol and drugs kept them company in the loneliness of a posh hotel room) and some shopping…
Pictures included.

At some moment of hopeless despair, when a danger alarm went off in some deep recess of their minds, they called up friends. These conversations were substitutes for tranquilizers that temporarily soothed them. These were moments of hopelessness for me for I could see that it was impossible for them to summon the will to look for anything that was not likely to be instant. And that calls for the urgent need for a social transformation. For prevention is certainly better than cure. No, I didn’t want to repeat those futile conversations today.

Books stared at me from the shelf. Books I have compiled over the last couple of years. I was tempted to pick up a book and allow myself a journey through the landscape of fantasy.
And then there were the movies that I had collected over the years. I was equally tempted to sit down to a movie, allowing myself a journey through the experience of some beautiful soul.

Through the window, I could see the clear blue skies, the coconut palms that swayed with the wind and the branches of the old mango tree. I was tempted to venture out and sit right at the heart of nature, where I could feel the tranquility that only nature is capable of. To have endless conversations with the trees and birds and skies in that silent language that speaks more powerfully than the language of words.

Right in front of me, I could see paper and pen. I was tempted to write…to put to paper the thoughts that have been throbbing within me all my life.

I felt indecisive. I picked up the pen. What should I write? Perhaps a mail to the few friends I write to. But then, a distant memory tugged at my mind, steering me towards snippets of autobiography.

And then I heard a deep sigh somewhere in the bowels of my mind…a sigh that seemed to echo the deep pain that is at the core of human life…all life.

In that sigh, I could feel the pangs of suffering of my beloved cat as it breathed its last. I could hear the silent cry of the numerous souls who go about the business of their lives, longing to break free from their mortal entrapments. In that sigh, I could hear the voice of poverty, separation, death, illness, humiliation, loneliness, lovelessness and everything else that speaks of the wounds of the human soul.
At the end of the day, we are all victims of our lives…of the numerous assaults that life has thrust on us. We find our drive in using our mental faculties to escape from this victimized state. We carry the burden of our battered souls, finding our liberation in achievements, violence, defensiveness, art, nature, love, religion, spirituality and philosophy.

ONV Kurup’s words come to my mind:

Everything that happens around is a poet’s concern. We sleep with a nightmare hovering above us every night. The felling of a tree or a bomb explosion or a rape, be it of a woman or of Mother Earth, causes a commotion, an upheaval in my mind. Remember that each tragedy carries within it the seeds of another, more fearful one. One tragedy breeds another; it multiplies. If a whole city is consumed by the flames of communal hatred, that too will affect poetry and literature. As I see it, my job is to build a bridge that would link this shore of pain, strife and thralldom to that other one of freedom…. If my song can create some ripple, somewhere, I will feel proud, honoured and privileged. This is my outlook on poetry.

http://ajthomas.in/2011/04/10/my-editors-note-to-this-ancient-lyre/

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Malayalam poet and lyricist, ONV Kurup

Within each one of us lies that happiness…that promised land of ideals that we dream of. But the slush that we accumulate from the world in which we live, casts a blanket on this happiness.

It was ONV who taught me the art of melancholic reflection. Melancholy that quietly celebrates the stories of our survival in the setting of adversity. Melancholy that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit…our ability to preserve the music of our souls despite the assaults on it.

N.V. Krishna Warrier’s analysis of melancholy in ONV’s ‘Broken bangles’:
The pulverised dreams have left behind only ‘a few broken glass bangles’. Yet those too are precious. The melancholy that characterizes human life, in the final analysis, which is discerned only by those who are philosophical by nature, keeps them organically united. This melancholy is not to be given over to music, but to silence. And quite naturally, an ‘anthill of silence’ grows around the poet. The poet who is in deep meditation within it, observes the filigree thread-bridge of imagination that extends by itself like a divine blessing, from the condensed grief within his heart towards the inner truth of life.

Says the poet:

“In the sorrow of the setting sun, I discovered a flower.”

Writing, to me, is that flower…
A lotus that bloomed in the stagnant waters of my mind, taking me by surprise.

Indeevaram‘, said my friend. That is such a beautiful word. Where had I heard this before? I got my answer today. As News channels aired the news of ONV Kurup’s death, I remembered the letter I had once written to him, and never posted. ‘Indeevaram‘ was his residence. Befits a poet’s residence.

This morning, a lotus bloomed in the little pond in my garden. I waited all of last year for it to bloom, but not a single bud sprung up from the plant. We cleaned up the pond, got rid of the extra slush, put in some manure, but to no avail. I waited all through spring and summer and winter, but the flower just refused to bloom. And here it was, this morning, its petals drinking in the sunshine.

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To this lotus, I read out my letter…

Indeevaram, the poet’s residence…

The petals closed slowly as the sun commenced its descent. And my mind grazes on those lyrics that are reminiscent of a poet that every Malayali guards in the temple of his mind….

Oru vattam koodiyen ormakall meyunna
thirumuttathu etthuvan moham…..

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3 thoughts on “An ode to the lotus

  1. I think many of these symptoms of anxiety could easily be attributed to the alienating nature of capitalism. We are living in a world where market forces dictate practically every aspect of human behaviour, where humans have become slaves of the very commodities they produce and posses, where what we do to make a living is ‘out of sync’ with our spiritual needs, where our own labour is, to quote Marx, “not the satisfaction of a need, but a mere means to satisfy need outside itself”.
    You are right in that lifestyles and leisure activities cannot liberate us from this alienation. It is only possible through a conscious realization of the forces that govern our lives and acting against the system that generates these forces.
    It was saddening to hear about ONV’s death.. a loss for anyone who cherishes human emancipation. And I am sorry for the loss of your pet. How have you been, Vidya?

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