Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Call of the mountains





The mountains were calling,
So I decided I would go.
There was no point in stalling
To see the magnificent montage show!

They stood out tall and proud
In spite of the echoing silence.
They made their presence loud,
My soul drifted into a cadence.

Green, blue, grey and white
Towering walls in the misty haze.
The ranges extended long and wide
As far as my eyes could gaze.

When sun shone slyly parting the clouds,
The peaks loomed in a mystic glow
I shivered from within my shrouds
Was it by the view or the chilled wind blow?

The gurgling rivers streamed in valleys
Tripping, falling, staggering over rocks
Meeting up with other aqua allies
Greetings in frothy gushing mocks!

I stood in overwhelming awe
Feeling small, tiny, and minuscule
I felt myself quietly thaw
into something insignificant, infinitesimal.

The mind freed itself of woes
And the heart did swell and expand
When I soaked in the Eden with my eyes close
Something entirely new happened.

When with mountains did I acquaint
This was something I got to know
That if the mountains should call again
I’ll have no choice but to go.

-Nivedita

Thursday, 4 January 2018

When breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A review



My first book for the year 2018 was a wonderful opening to my reading account for this year.  I fell in love with the writer and the book as easily as drinking water and so was the impact.  It was like quenching the thirst of my parched mind.  To begin with, what attracted me the most was the author’s love for books, reading and literature, inculcated in him from a tender age.  Literature opens your mind to a gateway to various ideologies and perspectives which you could not learn enough through a lifetime worth of research and study.  It makes you think. It provokes your inquisitiveness and you begin to question everything.  Likewise, young Paul wished to probe into philosophy, meaning, identity, life and death. How does human mind work? What is the role of human brain? Where do biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?  With these questions the young mind of the author studied literature and medicine.

The book was in retrospection and introspection of the author’s life.  Each book one reads is an experience and this book was an overwhelming and intoxicating one.  He writes about growing up, his studies, his profession and his experiences in the field.  He explains the sanctity of a doctor-patient relationship and the role a doctor plays in the lives of his patients and their families.
“The physician’s duty is not just to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”
He played a crucial role in the lives of his patients as a neurosurgeon.  Most of his patients were suffering from ailments that shattered their lives and changed their entire existence.  The decision-making for these lives lay in his hands.  How could one learn to make, and live with, such judgement calls?  Mere knowledge and intelligence do not suffice in making these judgements.  It takes moral clarity and wisdom.  He quotes various instances illustrating the life lessons he learnt.  Situations which made him question himself.  And thus, his quest for meaning continued.

What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? 
You seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath. New names unknown, old names gone: Till time end bodies, but souls none.
Reader! Then make time, while you be, But steps to your eternity.
-Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, “Caeilica 83”

Death is inevitable.  It is a known unknown.  We know every being that is born is to die one day.  We know it can happen at any moment but we know not when.  But how would you live when you know death is round the corner ready to jump at you any moment now. Would you live life the same way?  Would you feel the same about life?  How would you spend the rest of your remaining part of life.

So finally he writes about death and the days he spent looking death in the eye.  Did he fight a battle and win it? No.  He was in denial, he was angry, he strived to find ways to escape, he got depressed and he cried about it and then he accepted.  He welcomed death with open arms and in the meanwhile he lived.  He lived with death.  He was a neurosurgeon and made a difference in several lives using every ounce of his  energy, he was a loving husband and provided security to his wife and assured her needs were fulfilled, he was a father and dreamed about his daughter's future,  and he was a patient and he accepted wholeheartedly what life handed to him.  Finally he was a writer, and he shared his life with readers like me.  It was great knowing him through this book.

“We shall rise insensibly, and reach the tops of the everlasting hills, where the winds are cool and the sight is glorious.”

-Nivedita 

Monday, 30 January 2017

A letter to the beyond

Dear Ajja,

I could barely see the “PUSH” label on the door knob before me.  My thoughts had raced back to the last time I had been there.  It was with you.  Your new watch strap was loose and it was annoying you. Time was important.  It hardly passed now.  You looked at your watch every now and then to see how much had elapsed.  You were happy with your new watch.  But it did not sit firmly on your wrist and kept slipping.  So we had gone to the showroom to fix it.  You were uncertain it could be fixed.  “Do they do that?  Very good!” We had gone arm in arm.  You didn’t like using the walking stick, a sign of weakness and dependency which you hated. 
We gave your watch at the counter and the shopkeeper checked your wrist and measured the links that need to be cut off from the strap.  And to your surprise your watch was returned in no time fitting you perfectly.  You shook hands with the guy, “It fits perfectly now.  So nice of you to do it!  Thank you very much.  It was very loose.  It is perfect now. Thank you”, you said again as we walked out.  You were so excited.  You were thanking me now.  “If it weren’t for you I had to continue wearing the loose watch.  It is proper now.  I didn’t think they would fix it.  But he did it for us.  God’s grace! Thank you.  You will help me out if there is any more trouble with this? I know you will! Thank you.” You said it repeatedly all along the way back home and again at home that evening every time you beamingly looked at your newly fixed watch.

That was the state of affairs.  You were totally a child.  Everything surprised you like it was the first time you ever saw it.  Small things made you extremely happy.  “What is this? I never saw it before?”, “That was so good, I had it for the first time!”, you had said when you ate ice cream.  You looked at everything with a childish curiosity and small things fascinated you and made you joyful. 
It has been a year since you left us. How time flies! How life goes on in spite of what happens!  But the void remains. Your absence is strongly felt.  It feels so strange that you, who had been such an important part of our lives, are not among us.

My memories go back to when you took me out as a kid.  Your single finger I could grip fully with my small hand as you walked me out.  You picked us up from school every evening by Luna.  How you always wanted everyone to be together.  You would call me to come over as soon as my exams got over until the day the school reopened.  You didn’t want me to waste even a single day of my vacation being away from you.  You made us read the Vishnu sahasranaam and chant Ram naam.  Your habit of chanting ram naam never stopped. Your fingers moved subconsciously over the beads of the rosary as you chanted “Sri Ram jaya Ram jaya jaya Ram” involuntarily till your last breath.  You wanted us to do things on time even if it was the vacation.  “Finish all your work first then you can be as you like freely for the rest of the day”.  You always wanted discipline. 

How it all changed before we knew it.  How you suddenly got old after you had your first attack of stroke.  Going out on your own got dangerous.  You had repeated accidents but you insisted going anyway.  How you very getting hurt repeatedly but you were still positive and optimistic that what has to happen will happen and nothing can stop it.  We were so scared for you.  We forced you to stay home.  How restless you got to be at home, being the active person that you were.  How you were forgetting things. But you never worried.  You never told us about your pains.  You bore it all with a smile.  You tried to find something to do even while at home.  It was so hard to pass the time. 
The day you fell and hurt your back, was the blow.  You couldn’t walk again.  You were forced to bed.  Days got difficult for you and us too.  It was hard to see you suffer, to see you struggle through routine works.  How it embarrassed you to depend and make someone else do your work.  You thanked profusely for every little errand done for you.  You were apologetic that others had to do your work and you explained your situation which we all understood. “I am sorry ma, I don’t mean to trouble you. I am old you see, it is beyond my control”, you explained with that desperate helpless look in your eyes.  You were unhappy, but you always smiled.  You said it is God’s grace.  You greeted every one with folded hands even when you did not recognize any one.  It was heart wrenching to see you small and lean in your bed.  I had never known you to be weak and ill.  You had always seemed this strong head of the family, invincible!  You had a childish endearing smile.  The twinkle in your eyes shined so bright that it warmed many a hearts.  You thanked the nurses and doctors every time they came to check you.  You were grateful that they took such good care of you and were trying to treat you.

We had hoped to bring you home, to pamper you, to love you more.  We knew it was coming.  We knew it was inevitable.  Did you know it too? Did you know the time had come? Nothing could prepare us when you left us.  The person whom I admired, respected and loved the most was suddenly gone.  A strange emptiness and longing tugs at my heart even today every time I think of you.  Yes, we moved on.  But I still hold on to your memories tightly lest I should lose them too.  The way you made me feel.  The happiness you gave me.  How childlike you had become!  Your positive spirit throughout your life, your principles, unwavering disciplined life set an example to live by.  Several people told of your good deeds and praised you.  They told us how you had helped so many people we knew nothing about.  Even in death you were this awe inspiring person.  “I lost my gem”, grandma said when you were gone. 


Even now when I cook I remember how you appreciated and thanked me for every meal, every cup of coffee.  How you cherished and loved food! “It is first class! Very good! Thank you.”, you always said.  You have no idea how much I loved cooking for you and how motivating you have always been.  How I wish I could do it again for you.  I miss how you called me “Gundamma” in a sing-song voice.  I wish I could hear it again.  I want you to tell me “very good”.  If only I could hear it again.  Anything!  You had first taught me the joy of letter writing as a kid.  I am writing to you again now.  Wherever you are, I wish you could see this.  I wish I could see you.  I wish I could tell you how much I miss you.  May be I never told you how much I love you!  If only I could tell you now.

Your only,
Gundamma

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Soliloquies by the sea





By the shore I like to stand
My feet buried in slipping sand
The frothy droplets tickle my toes
With white outlines as it goes.

By this shore I like to listen
To the waters that glow and glisten
The roaring waves tell me tales
And songs of glory in gushing gales.

By this shore I like to walk
Along the waves that chase and mock,
Linking hands with the wind
Sandy footprints trailing behind.

By this shore I like to feel
My deepest wounds repair and heal
As sounds of sea weave and swerve
Like massaging fingers through every nerve.

By this shore I feel serene
In what was and has always been
The wise old sea, in its vast expanse
I stand humbled, lost in trance.


- Nivedita


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Life goes on. . .



Struck by a raging storm,
Rattled by the fury of winds,
You panic and lose form
As it tests you and grinds,
But life goes on.

The leaves fall off,
And flowers wither away.
The times seem tough,
You lose balance and sway,
But life goes on.

Dear ones die or depart,
While some leave in wrath.
It breaks down your heart,
And you lose all your faith,
But life goes on.

You reach a dead-end,
You find no way out.
You crease, fold and bend,
You cry and you shout,
But life goes on.

But broken things can mend,
Joy, you can newly amass.
You think it's the end,
But this too shall pass,
Because, life goes on.

Things that brought sorrow,
Shall soon be things bygone
There is hope in tomorrow,
After night comes the dawn
And life simply goes on!


-Nivedita

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupѐry : A Book Review

“Becoming an adult is probably the dumbest thing you could ever do!”


As a child, you cannot wait to grow up and be like “them adults”.  Growing up seems to mean, to be independent, be able to make decisions on your own and do everything on your own.  It is to be important and happy and free.  How is that working out for you?

Children always have a simpler if not better understanding of things.  They see beauty and get fascinated by everything they see around them.  They have deep imaginations.  The matters of consequence are different to a child.  But as they grow, they lose this sense.  Priorities change, and though you think you know everything, you most often don't have a clue of where you are headed and what you want.

The Little Prince is a dedication to all grown-ups who were once children, who cannot seem to remember how it is to be a child any more.  It is a nostalgia for childhood.  They find a child’s ideas to be silly.  They do not see things as children do.

The little prince is a little boy from a strange planet tells you what is important. What are the real matters of consequence?  He tells us the little secrets of life in simple terms.  Children always understand easily.  Grown-ups are a little slow in grasping things, so you need to go down to their level of understanding.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
What we hold and see and think are important are not really important.  But what is actually important can only be felt and not seen.

So he tells us about the different kinds of people there are and how they are all wasting time either thinking about themselves or about the things that are not important.  He makes several observations about life, nature and people.  He feels that grown-ups are extraordinarily strange.

“It is the time you have lost that makes your rose so important.”  You spend time over something or with someone, and the more time you spend, the more important it becomes to you.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

I dedicate this book to all the grown-ups I know.

-Nivedita

Monday, 30 November 2015

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. – Henri Frederic Amiel

“Watch your thoughts; for they become words.
Watch your words; for they become actions.
Watch your actions; for they become habits.
Watch your habits; for they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”


Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, supermarket magnate Frank Outlaw, spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha, and the father of Margaret Thatcher have all been credited with versions of the above quote. It clearly and analytically infers to how our thoughts ultimately lead to our destiny. The thoughts formulate from a realm inside each of us, and that realm is the inner-life of a person.




What is inner-life?

There are two aspects in the life of a person - the Outer life and the Inner life. The outer life is that with which you see, listen, observe and process everything around you.  Inner life is that which helps you decide.  It is that voice that tells you what to do and what not to do.  It is that which defines who you are and who you will be.  It is that nag you feel when you know you have done wrong.  It is that which encourages you to help a needy person.  It is that gut feeling which makes you feel, “This is it!”.  It is the distinguishing line between man and animal.

According to The Alchemy of Happiness by Hazrat Inayat Khan, to be without inner life is like being without an arm or a leg or an eye or an ear.  It is a part of one’s being and the purest form of knowledge.  However intellectual or learned a person may be, his mind will never be clear, if his knowledge is based only upon his outer surroundings.  The outer life is subject to change and destruction.  Such wisdom has limitations.  Any amount of material wealth and knowledge is useless to a man if he has no inner life.  The knowledge of inner life is the essence of life.  It is like nutrition to the soul as it nourishes it and helps it grow.  Just like all the beauty products of the world are in vain without the inner health of the body, that is, without right food to nourish the body, the knowledge of outer life is pointless without the knowledge of inner life and self.

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings

This simple line is what the businessmen and the advertising companies take advantage of.  How else can anyone successfully sell to you what you do not really need?  They create the needs that you did not know existed.  They tell you what you have is not good enough and that they have better to offer you, and you are convinced into buying it. 

Your family, friends, the society and the whole world around you are influencing you.  Teenagers and youth are unable to think or decide on their own and give in to peer-pressure.  The pressure of society compel you into hurried thoughtless decisions.  Like man makes animal as his slave to get his work done, man becomes a slave to his surroundings with no self thinking. He loses control over his self.
“He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool - shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple - teach him. He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep - wake him. He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise - follow him.”- Confucius

He who knows and is conscious of his knowledge, has a strong inner-life.  He who has knowledge and is not aware of his abilities needs to be awakened regarding it.  He who does not know but knows of his ignorance can be taught.  But he who does not know anything and is unaware of his ignorance, is foolish and nothing can become of him.

Mastering inner-life





All that we are is the result of what we have thought – Buddha.

Rhonda Byrne in her book, The Secret, teaches us through different philosophers, meta-physicians, psychologists and visionaries, how the inner life is what makes us who we are.  With the right choice of thoughts, we can carve ourselves and we become the masterpiece of our own lives.  The same thoughts have the power of healing, and the power to fulfill your dreams.  When the voice and the vision on the inside become more profound and more clear and louder than the opinions on the outside, one can master his life.   Byrne claims it to be the ultimate Secret - the answer to all that has been, all that is, and all that will ever be.

My 80-year-old grandmother was operated on for hip-fracture.  The doctors had not guaranteed 100% success owing to her age and the uncertainty of the aged body to cooperate to treatment.  Not only did she recover, but with her spirit and enthusiasm, she started walking a month before the doctor had suggested.  This could only happen because of her will and positivity. 

The most important and most beautiful words are those which you speak to yourself.  When you are alone, you talk with a person within you.  Look into the mirror and fall in love with the person you see.



Enjoy your own company, because if you don’t, why would anyone else? Treat yourself how you wish others to treat you and spend time with yourself.  In the midst of all this, you will learn about yourself and grow.  Develop the attitude of gratitude and visualize to materialize.  You will figure out what inspires you, you will curate your own dreams, your own beliefs, your own stunning clarity.  You connect with your own self.  Regardless of what has happened to you in your life, regardless of how young or old you think you might be, the moment you begin to think properly, there is a power within you that is greater than the world.  It will feed you, it will clothe you, it will guide you, protect you, direct you and sustain your very existence.

-Nivedita