Monday, February 21, 2011

spartan shots

A lone bird sits at the top of the thatched roof.  Now and then, a few more black strokes appear on the roof. The black roof, the black silhouettes of the birds, the red bricks of the buildings and the sky smudged with blue and grey spread together on the canvas. 

A woman, her head covered in scarf, her wrinkled hands holding on to the trolley, passes in front of the building. Every time she pauses, she bows her head for a moment and then looks up fixing her gaze on something in the distance. Her thick stocking-ed legs seem rooted to the ground whenever she pauses. The black shoes has the curve of the roots of trees that are visible above the ground. She pushes forward her trolley again. Her long grey skirt fumbling at her knees. She passes the gap between the two buildings. 

You look back and see a lone bird is sitting at the top of the thatched roof, its head turned sideways.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Her white sari is swollen with the wind. Her small round face moves towards you. The carvings on her face sit benignly together with her twinkling eyes. Her eyes are shining and yet seemed to hide some thing. You look into her eyes. Her glance is moulded in love. You feel that her love is different from all that you have ever experienced before. Her love causes a strange burning sensation. It is like the way you feel when the empty stomach experiences the acids - acids which feeds on food and gnaws into the walls in their absence. They are not angry when they hurt you. They merely live the way they are supposed to. By feeding on others.

You feel her love is not only like this.

Her love seems to create the same tickling of the senses as the fluttering of a mosquito on an open wound. Her love is sensational. It envelopes you like the fire that welcomes your body, retracing its origins among the elements in an old burning ghat of an ancient city. Nothing much has changed since the time Marquez first saw the girl rising with the clothes, flying in the wind, and then, vanishing into the elements. You feel comfortable and calm as she looks at you. To disappear is but a natural phenomenon, she says. Her lips move and you hear her, but nothing is audible yet. A few faces float by, chanting the song of inevitability. You can feel the glistening drops trickling down their faces. As her smile blends with the nowhere, like the smile of the Chesire cat, the last link becomes a myth.

It is now free and floating in the cauldron from which the visions of history arise.


 Image: a bird in flight and a sun in the clouds, on way to Helsingor, Sweden. by self. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

and suddenly more of it!

IS it mere coincidence that this talk appeared in my mail from TED subscription account just a day after we were discussing on changing the definitions of 'success' ?

In fact, more dimension is added as i realised, that, what i was wishing to direct my previous posts to, is more aptly called 'balance'. a simple 10 minutes would do, if you can spare .

Learning in the Regime of Success 2

The problem is the way we define success. 

In our minds, an equation of success is somehow defined. Success, we believe, is the same as  achieving fame and material well-being. Neither of the pre-requisites of being successful are evil by any chance. The question that follows is: what will make you a success? The answer, however, is indefinite. 

Could following the life path of the successful people, doing exactly the things they did, lead us to success? It's doubtful when cooking the same recipe usually yields different results. 

However, there is one thing that we can try to inculcate from the lives of truly big-shots. To be hard-working, to concentrate on a chosen area, to be dedicated to it in spite of experiencing repeated road blocks. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Well, this simple potion can be administered to aim towards excellence. This 'success' is of a different kind however. It involves achieving the highest potential in the self . But, isn't that what the 'tiger' mother wants too? Yes, it is. But here we have a major shift in perspective . 

While  in the regime of the 'tiger' parent, discipline is imposed, in the regime of excellence, discipline is a way of living advocated by the self. 

In the regime of success, envisioned by the 'tiger' parent, the child is an object of the demands from the outside, and disciplining imposed by an other. In the regime of success directed at achieving excellence, the child is a subject in the vision s/he dreams for her/imself. 

Learning the art of disciplining the self is a necessary quality of living a worthwhile life. Learning to face the responsibility of a decision taken by the self is a pre-requisite of a meaningful life. Learning to encounter incompleteness and moving on after accepting it is the rare quality that you can bestow on someone in this battlefield called life. Instead of encouraging being a thinking individual, why are we then hell-bent on creating a batch of Agent Smith-s in the matrix of our lives?

Or, do we think like Mimi and Eunice ?

Are we ready for the unlearning needed to successfully achieve excellence?

 Mimi and Eunice cartoon by Nina Paley

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

words erupted when reading p.267 of Starbook by Ben Okri

It is not love that doesn't lead to death. The death of the fear of being vulnerable. The death of the fear of being hurt. The death of the fear for the all-overpowering joy that love can bring. Each death in love leads to a new birth of the soul. Drenched in the light of the sun, you can not tell if the soul is a golden orb of fire or of light. Loving once is not like dying once. The clamour to preserve the walls that lock in and hence protect the self rises each time it is demolished. Each time love passes through such a wall,  making it disappear into dust, another wall, somewhere ahead is born. To cross each wall, death must come in the hands of love. 

Can you believe in this realm of life, the one in which we live and hope to love, that love is a power? Can you believe that loving is a vulnerability as well as a strength? It actually is, if we see at love without fear. Love is knowing the limitations and walking along. This idea of walking along needs continual renewed fervour. We are afraid to exert ourselves to that extent. We are secured in our habit of living with the image. We are afraid to look behind the mirror, or beyond it. We are after all afraid of all the new that can be born from our own selves. Love is a challenge to face that fear. Not all new is blissful, not all new comes with calm. And that is possibly the reason why utopias don't exist. The picture perfect image is good only within the frame that hangs in our drawing rooms. 

Love is the principle of life itself. It doesn't promise all glory, all smiles, all affection. It does promise a lifetime of an experience. It can be a process of individuation, a realisation of the amazing potential that lies dormant in each of us.

With the risk of being termed cliched, these words pour out in this space, populating a deep rooted idea that, all that life is, is, ultimately about evolving as a better individual. The possibility of loving another individual (loving in the sense the prince in Starbook expresses, or as the humble blogger meditates upon it) arises only when one can love oneself with all the promises and all the failures that one is. Loving then becomes an act one bestows upon oneself in the journey of becoming the best one can. And the best you can be is by surrendering all the fears of the past, the present or the future ... like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air ...

Monday, February 14, 2011

From : "Starbook" by Ben Okri ... an interlude on love


All love must lead to death. And out of this death a new man or woman is born. But ... also love does not lead to only one death, but to several deaths; and that because of love one must keep dying and being reborn, from time to time. And ... love dies only when you resist another death which love brings upon you, in order that you be reborn, and grow. That is why there are few real loves in the world, because people fear yet another death that they must endure. They count the deaths and rebirths they have undergone and say 'so many and no more, so far but no further; I will not die again for you, but intend to stay here where I am, how I am now, and here in this fixed place. I intend to build the castle of myself on this rock.' 

...[T]here was no end to the deaths that love brings about, and no end to the rebirths either. Each death making us lighter, freer, simpler, more human, more vulnerable, more strong, more spiritual, more tender, and more universal. Till we become unrepresentative of our clan, tribe, country, sex, religion, or any other classification; but just a beautifully  dying  living  being, dying and being reborn, regenerated, refined, for ever, till we become a kind of dream of light, ....

Reading it for the second time ... an essay on love is happening ... now ... in the eve of the day designed for love in this world of ours ...


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Learning in the Regime of Success 1

When we look around us and see the bubbling of corruption, unrest, inhuman acts and desires born out of hatred and anger, we are forced into the corner of self-questioning. Where is it that the world has gone terribly wrong? The list of such things is endless and as varied as the number of the stars in the sky - living or dead. The root is difficult to identify. The off-shoots are too many.Yet, if we listen to the throbbing of our own pulse, the drive that moves the human self to development as well as to destruction, is, 'fear'. And this 'fear' necessitates obedience in order to maintain the scheme of things.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Learning the elements: Earth (Concluding part)

While the symbol of the continuous cyclical order of things and life is addressed, in the previous post, there remains another part to this element that none will deny. The element of 'motherhood' bestowed upon this element is essentially feminine, or so it seems. The female body conceives and gives birth. Hence the association of the female nurturing self with this element is understandable.

Rewind to a time when life, as we remotely understand it, possibly began. 

From where did this unicellular organism evolve ? From the water, the scientists say. The birth of life happened in another element and the life of man is and was nurtured on land. The idea of the mother earth is, then, an evolutionary realisation.  Humans are terrestrial creatures and thus this element has gained motherhood. (We are yet to know of the possibility of human beings as amphibians).

It is an interesting experience for the blogger as she reviews the notion of the 'mother' earth. The image of 'Gaia', the spirit of the earth; the image of Sita; the fertility images since pre-historic times - all of these direct us to this singular realisation that, the human kind has attributed the role of the nurturer to earth since it has appeared to be the primal necessity for human existence.

Before the blogger had started scripting this series, this idea, the earth as the mother, seemed elemental to her. Now, as she writes and reads and delves more into the thoughts that made earth the 'mother', the blogger realises that, the 'mother-ing' of this element is more of a convention. It is done by humans seeking security in the psychological comfort that arises from bestowing this nurturing capacity to a singular element. For, imagine living without the other elements - without the knowledge of fire the human race couldn't have survived this long; without water a human being can supposedly survive for about 3 to 5 days on an average; without oxygen a normal human being survives for a few minutes only! The blogger is surprised at the conditioning of her logic that had yet undoubtedly made her believe that, earth is THE mother!! 

Captain Planet and the Planeteers
The blogger wishes to conclude the re-learning (if she may say so) of this element with reference to a cartoon series she devotedly watched during her early youth. This cartoon series was titled Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The spirit of the earth encapsulated in the character Gaia, bestows on five youths, across the five continents, with magical rings that can control the four elements, the fifth being the Heart, symbolising love and compassion. When the powers of the five rings are combined, a fantastical entity emerges - Captain Planet, whose power is derived from the sun.

As the blogger was writing this post, she was constantly reminded of this fantastical Captain, one 'born' (if the blogger may use that expression) from the combination of the varied elements of nature and from an element that the humans share with the natural world - the heart/love. The 'mother-ing' of the element earth becomes re-interpreted in this perspective. It appears that the elements, both individually and collectively, nurture human life in this strange celestial sphere whose 72 % is covered in water alone. The idea of the 'mother earth' is far from being gendered. It is possibly a metaphor for that part of the cycle in which we, humans, exist; the part of existence that we acknowledge as life. 

Images: "Mothering" - image of statue in Prague. by self. 2010.
"Captain Planet and the Planeteers" , the web.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Learning the elements: Earth

This post is a continuation of the "Learning the elements" series. The previous posts in the series are: Learning the elements: Fire

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Leading to learning: unlearning

This strange word - unlearning - is confusing.

To be educated is, we suppose, to learn. We learn different ideas, numbers, facts and details. We learn that they must be applied and re-applied. This mumbo-jumbo of information fed into our brains appear to be pretty much the foundation of our future lives.

It is only when we leave the backpacks filled with textbooks, and, carry the trendy sling bag of regular life, that we realise the uncanny need to unlearn. We somehow feel that the learning of the yester-years is not enough. And then, we are in for a shock. We haven't learned to unlearn at any earlier point of time in our education! We didn't realise earlier that getting the highest grade in school is but one chapter in our lives!

Unlearning is nothing but beginning a new cycle of learning. This doesn't seem a tough task, does it?

It is elementary. But the problem is that we are trained in a school of thought that establishes repetition as the necessary idea. Unlearning is all about forgetting, or rather, letting go, of this habit of repeating. That sounds simple, but it's terribly difficult.

To be always a soft pile of clay is a challenge. To be a soft pile of clay once more, after it has been moulded and it has gained a form, appears impossible.


Calvin and Hobbes comic strip © Bill Watterson and Universal Press Syndicate.