"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

They were a family that lived and dreamed like most Indians. An entire life spent in the filthy bylanes of a morally-degrading metropolis had made somewhat bounty hunters out of them. They chased dreams like crazy, ran after all openings wherever they saw even a glimmer of light. The air in the city was very heavy, yet they managed to build and rebuild their castles in it. Life in the city is comparable to a concentration camp sometimes, where the whole camp is only concentrating on making quick bucks.

They were a small family - the parents, untalented as they were, managed only an utterly modest way of life. Their elder son, Makki, had towed their line, dropped out of school, did menial jobs of labor and brought in daily wages. The younger son, Lakva, was a handicap, deformed in body and slightly disabled in the mind. Lakva, a name given to him by the neighbours, in local parlance meant a paralyzed person, as his body was twisted in eight places. It was with his birth that the parents had believed their fate had been twisted beyond repair.

Every day, as the family went out labouring for their daily bread, Lakva would helplessly lie on his bug-infested cot, feeling itchy-bitchy, staring at the floating clouds, wishing he could wander like them someday. (Uncounsciously, he would very nearly recite Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' in his mind). He was tired of being in bed and urinating upon himself; As a cloud he could rather pour down upon others. The thought would tickle him into an ironic smile.

At night, when his cot was shifted inside, he would listen to his parents' mourning. Makki normally sat in the porch and smoked his lungs away, while the parents smoked rotis at the hearth. Lakva felt a compelling need to help his family, though he could never even help himself. Every night as he slept, Lakva dreamt of being a knight in shining armour that rode to rescue his family from the dungeon of poverty. Whenever he reached the castle in his fine steed, a fire-breathing dragon would stop him and invariably in the middle of the fight, he would wake up from the dream, only to realize that he had already lost the battle to a dragon of bad fate. He would breathe a fire of muted agony and spend the rest of the night with a moat of tears around his eyes.

The parents catered to Lakva's basic needs, but they couldn't afford to give him any special care. The fight for survival constantly ravaged the family and sometimes nobody would even speak to Lakva for days. Whenever someone did sit at his cot, they would just sit and weep, with part-empathy part-frustration. The family loved him, as one would love the hairs or nails on the body. The parents kept fighting an inner battle to give Lakva his share of love inspite of a raging contempt to look upon him as a needless burden. They pinned their hopes on Makki and went out of their way to create chances for him, while he inevitably remained a beast of burden.

It was a situation where none was to blame, yet where none found an absolution too.

One night, in his sleep, Lakva passed away. He had died with his eyes open, cloudy and looking towards the sky. It had been a clear night and some stars had appeared to twinkle more brightly than the rest. The next morning, as the family prepared to carry him away for burial, an old man appeared at their door. He was a recluse from Benares, who had read a lot about the great Indian sage Ashtavakra, and had been delighted to hear that a boy with same deformities had been born. He had believed  Ashtavakra was reborn as Lakva and had reached their door-step after years of frantic search, but to his sadness his Ashtavakra had defied him. The old man was devastated and in a moment of bereavement decided to give away all his life's savings, which was a sizeable amount, to the soul whom he believed was the reincarnation of his great guru. He didn't utter a word to anyone, placed his bag at Lakva's dead feet, prostrated and walked away.

In a great twist of fate, a forgotten sage had probably died a second time, to give life to the dreams of a family tormented by the vagaries of a fateful life, just like how he had died the first time, to breathe a whiff of divine philosophy into the lungs of a fateful nation.

PS: As a residual effect of this imaginary story, My mind calls a personal appeal to all families with  disabled children. Please don't discriminate with such kids, it doesn't take a fit body or a healthy mind to bring about a twist of fate or fortunes.
Dad: Its late buddy. You should go to your room now. Me and mom have to get up early isn't it?

Kid : I am sorry daddy. But can you please answer one last question for me? I promise I will sleep after that.
Dad: Sure buddy. what is it?
Kid: What is the Big Bang dad? My teacher says that all life came out of it? How is it possible?

Dad: Oh! Big questions troubling this little brain huh? Let me explain... In the beginning there was nothing. Nobody cared for nobody. You get that?
Kid: Yes. Teacher said there was empty space.
Dad: Riiiiight! There was that space - dark, empty space. Somewhere in that darkness, two kinds of matter, or let me say, like a Male matter and a Female matter, came together. As they came very close, their attraction became very strong. The male energy erected to a peak, while the female energy opened up for the merging. They concentrated their energies onto one point. As the merging got deeper, and more pressure was thrust, a lot of heat was generated... and suddenly in one hot moment, there was an explosion. That is the Big Bang and that point became the womb from where life was born...

Kid: But how can life be born out of that, Dad? I still don't get it.
Dad: Don't worry, son. You will know it when you get married.. go on now! good night!

Mom: And I thought you spoke double-meaning only with me..

A note of Thanks to Ben's team for the honor

Its a priviledge that Ben's team have liked my blog and have featured it in the recommendation section of their blog - Ben Gunn's Blog.
Ben's posts are widely read and I have found philosophical gems hidden in many of them. Invite others to take a peek too...
Nearly 2 decades ago..

On a chilly winter evening of Bangalore, in a bus not so crowded, through clean and wide streets packed with moderate and silent traffic, along roads covered with canopy of trees slightly wet under the winter fog, a young mother travels with her two kids. They get down near Cubbon Park and as they walk in, the kids, both the older one and the younger one, are jumping with excitement. They have come to ride the Toy Train for the first time in their life. Even the ice-cream stalls (selling vanilla flavored ball-cups) fail to distract the kids as they pull their mother straight to the train station. The 30 mins wait for the ticket is passed with curious expectation. Their turn finally arrives and all 3 hurriedly hop into a cabin.

The air is electric with excitement...

The ride around the park is the most joyous experience - the kids constantly shrieking and shouting when a tunnel arrives - and the looks on their faces may have resembled Christopher Columbus when he saw America for the first time. The coaches are open so everyone can feel the cool Bangalore air brushing their skin. Nobody talks on their phones or gets busy with taking pictures - everyone is just living the moment, experiencing it, breathing it in.. so deeply that its memory is still so fresh even after 2 decades.

Cut to the present

On a hot morning of winter, in a city whose name we are not sure whether Bangalore or Bengaluru, in an over-crowded bus, through narrow roads clogged with constantly honking traffic, under the canopy of dust covered over-head metro tracks, a group of mothers travel with their noisy kids. They get down near Cubbon Park and walk into the newly constructed MG Road metro station. The mothers drag their kids, distracted by the toy stalls along MG Road, to the ticket counter. There is a small wait of 10 minutes but younger kids get restless and start cribbing. The older kids are busy with their video games. The metro train arrives and everyone excitedly rushes in.

The air isn't really electrically charged.. but the tracks underneath are...

The ride to Byappanhalli is most joyous experience - but for the adults only. The announcements in the train and the crowd of shrieking adults have scared the younger kids, while the older kids are still busy in their video games. Half the adults get on phone calls to announce their metro presence, while the other half are busy taking pictures. The coaches are closed and air-tight to avoid harsh traffic fumes and hot sun on the outside, and passengers enjoy the cool air-conditioning. By the time people actually start looking outside the window, the journey is over. The only memories are the photos uploaded to Facebook and videos on You-tube. Hope they survive for the next 2 decades..
Heard this song while switching channels, and felt it did resound quite deep. 'Retweeting' it here :)..

I'll be what I am,
A solitary man, A solitary man.
I've had it to here - being where love's a small word,
A part time thing, a paper ring.
I know it's been done
Havin' one girl who loves you,
Right or wrong, Weak or strong.
I'll be what I am,
A solitary man, A solitary man.

"Solitary Man" as written by Neil Diamond. Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Its all going to finally end, isn't it?

Aren't the realities around us like footprints of birds in the air? Aren't the essences that bond us to our world going to fade away like perfumes in the wind? Isn't our identity stamped on sands that will be carried away by the waves of time? Won't memories of us in the hearts of our loved ones, slowly sink forever like ships at the bottom of the oceans?

Will the calm of solitude, like a moon floating amongst the clouds, finally bring us home to an untrammelled silence? From the world beneath to the world beyond..
I was generally fishing in the attic today and found some 'stuff' my parents had put up there. They are actually items that, I think, all middle-class families put aside for reuse or giving away to charity - old clothes we wore as kids, slightly broken plastic items, toys we played decades ago, notebooks that were not fully used up, a dozen pens with ink still left in them, a broken TV remote, devotional song casettes, old rugs, etc - they had not been touched for years and were totally covered with dust. I didn't try to disturb them but wondered if they would ever be touched at all. Maybe, unconsciously, it was a legacy that my parents were leaving behind for me to clean up someday. Those were like memories, being locked up somewhere in the forgotten corners. Someday, when my parents were gone, I may come back to this attic and spend time picking the items one by one.. reliving the past, and sifting through moments covered in dust.

Dust is a very promiment feature of Bangalore - especially in the dry summer months - and so would be any place in the world that is not excessively wet. Areas covered by mining or refineries would be worse, nevertheless dust invades, in some measure, all of the civilized world now, thanks to fossil fuel burning machines that are part of our daily lives. Nearly all towns have industries around their suburbs and that contributes its share of dust too. Dust follows a cycle similar to us - rises in the morning, floats around all day and finally settles down at night.

Dust is one of the most formidable of all God's creations - it existed during the Jurassic era, it exists today too. Even landscapes change, but nature of dust doesn't ('God created Golden Dust, Man just made it Black'). Wind, the master sculptor of nature, can break down boulders, but dust happily dances with it. Dust has no power of its own, yets its invincible. It has unlimited patience - you can keep brushing it off and it will come back to settle down again. Yet, Dust has an ego about itself - maybe thats why it always settles on top of things and never at the bottom. Anything kept aside for a while becomes a slave of Dust - Dust inhabits the abandoned domains of the world. Dust does not intrude into Man's active business, but it overwhelms anything he ignores - in this way it carries with it both Nature's law of respect as well as the wand of punishment.

Dust will, eventually, be the only legacy that all of us leave behind. All our material achievements will come under dust some day. Our own bodies go back to dust. Great works of authors are gathering dust in some library or the other. Statues of Gandhi and Nehru gather dust in so many parks and traffic signals; In a figurative way Gandhi's morals itself come under dust in a corrupt society that we have on our hands ('Someone recently quoted that we were better off under British rule'). A few people's fight for justice ends up in dust when crime rates go back up again. Constitutions bite the dust when society can frame ways to bypass the laws, or can halt or retard the movement of the judiciary. We may be allergic to dust, but Dust seems so much in love with us.

"Dust, there was, Dust, there is, Dust is what we shall always see,
Dust is what we come from, and Dust is what we shall finally be.. "
"Give me something I can believe in.” This is what I was told by a good friend, with the kind of expression that you cannot turn away from. A sombre look. Since then, I have seen this sombre look again and again. I have seen it in the eyes of the few people gathered in Detroit, drinking whiskey at 2 p.m., standing between abandoned houses. In the silence of the empty streets of what was once a city benefiting from a flourishing economy, people seemed to be telling the world, “Give me something I can believe in
Celine Monnier - in the editorial of the latest Globethics.net newsletter

Celine goes on to write about how this new-found hunger amongst the populace is causing ripples across the world, in backyards where the voice of the mass had hitherto never found such reverberations - the Arab world fighting against its rulers and America against its bankers. Maybe humanity is finally coming of age.. or maybe the age of Humanity is finally coming!

I remember seeing a caricature, where the letter 'P' was sulking its heart out, as the four worst plagues of our civilization start with it - Poverty, Pollution, Population and Politics. The latest mass revolutions are trying to bring sanity into the political world, but what about the other three? Methinks those three need more volition and evolution, than revolution.

Our population touched 7 billion recently, and I dare say it looked like a 'celebration' because I saw pictures of a proud dad in the news-stands, holding a certificate announcing it. The TRP crazy media made a celebrity out his baby. On the contrary, I thought at least one dad had something not to be so proud about. Its like a patient gallantly announcing, 'I am the billionth AIDS patient in the world'. If you give him a certificate, maybe he will proudly hold it for the newspaper too. Yes! God hath said unto us "to go forth, and multiply", but did he mean to do it in this animalistic fashion? To such an extent that all his other creations get overwhelmed? So much so, its begun to look like God's advice was probably mis-interpreted. God had used the word 'multiply' in the context of 'flourish', which probably did not make sense to a 'hasty' human intelligence, who is taking it in the direction to 'perish'.

Population is at the core of many of our issues today, in fact, the other two P's (Poverty and Pollution) can't be eradicated until Population is controlled. States have undertaken actions like family planning, sterilization clinics, etc, but none of it work effectively as long as the 'basic urge to multiply' is inscribed in our blood. We have shown a certain level of our intelligence in the latest revolutions, but we have to take it to the 'next level' now. Its those times where controlling our basic instinct in itself needs to become a part of living an ethical life. If we dont control our numbers and keep infesting the planet like rodents in a warehouse, it wont be long before our planet would crush under the sheet weight of our 'heady presence'.

Latest news shows that we have successfully stood as one force against our rulers; its time now that we rose to stand up again, this time against the ultimate ruler, our own minds, and bring forth a revolution that gives our race something to believe in, something that brings us back to the definition of being God's greatest creation.
"When I told my students to learn everything by heart, I actually wanted them to put their heart in whatever they do and experience it as far as possible, and never meant that they should blindly memorize it." - A Teacher

Life is lived by experience. Elders often say, there is no substitute for experience. Experience is the fine line that separates Life from Living. In this age, where information is money and time is everything, people who live a fast paced life will not feel a sense of completeness until they relish the experience of whatever they do. This is where even the normal paced (and like me, the slow paced) ones too can enjoy life - experiencing every moment to its fullest. Dont let anything pass you by without experiencing it.

Knowledge can take the horse to the water and can even make it drink, but only experience makes it taste the sweetness and ultimately quench the thirst.

Live your life by the heart (i.e. by experience) and not by the purse. Experience, when the heart is fully involved, is a realm that does not distinguish on any basis. Its a fullness of goodness. Living life by experience also gives a sanity to it and removes all man-made differences. For eg, a rich man can afford costly cuisine in a star restaurant while a man of limited means eats at the roadside dhaba - but as long as they enjoy their food, their experiences are equal. When you live by the heart, you live life to the max. In a life, where we are constantly running, either to catch-up on or to out-run others, stopping to experience is that moment, like a pit-stop, when we come out of the race. Even though one may have access to unlimited resources, one can only experience what is within one's human limits. One can order a hundred dishes but will be able to eat only a tummy-full. Experience happens to everyone - even a handicapped or paralyzed person on the bed can experience the happiness he needs to. My friends who went sky-diving and bungee-jumping tell me how they can't "express the feeling" in words. Throw a paralyzed person from a plane and I bet he will have the same "inexpressible feeling" too. No pun intended!

When I say experience, I dont mean the mere sensual experiences which can be quite deceiving and addicting (No, I am not in support of addiction). Its the world of the heart - somewhat different from the normal aspects of living. An elevated level that, for a moment, takes one beyond the dimensions of space and time.

Experience is a teacher next, first its a faculty of life. Joy is when dreams and desires are converted into experiences. Even religion is driven by experience - mystical experience of ecstasy in the West and experience of realization in the East. The mind wills and the heart experiences.

There is a sense of happiness in pure Experience. Lets enjoy God's beautiful world with all the heart and not ruin it in pursuit of goods of temporary pleasure and pretentious worth. Lets recognize the beat of our hearts and listen to what it says to us. Lets live by the heart, and do it before our hearts stop beating forever..

"Oh God! Thanks for making the heart muscle involuntary, else people would have died younger" - on the tomb of a child that died of cardiac arrest.