The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: wisdom (page 1 of 2)

Turning 38

And that’s it… I am firmly ensconced in the late 30s.

How did it come to this so darned soon? When Mummy was 38, she had a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old. Two bright-eyed girls, straight black hair, serious and sincere and shy and outspoken (if that is even a legit combination). One of them is a successful professional, skilled and charming, cute and capable. She wins the hearts of almost everyone she meets.

The other? She is still wondering what she wants to be when she grows up.

Well, I have grown old without growing up. Or so it seems.

Wisdom doesn’t exactly announce its arrival. It kinda creeps into your life, hiding beneath silent conversations, endless ruminations, failed projects and relationships and tears and triumphs. You focus on the fireworks, not noticing that there is a solid line of grey developing within your core. Ahh, there it is.

Sometimes I feel like I am running (or walking) with a million things hanging off me. And it is a struggle, holding them all in, explaining their presence to others — half-emabarassed, half-proud.

Perhaps, 38 will be the age when I own all my belongings, no explanations or justifications needed.

This is it, this is me. Equal parts lost and found, curious and detached, imaginative and shy and introverted.

Happy and grateful for health, hair, bones, fire, hunger, love, food and everything else.

Time stitches all wounds with loving hands

“Untitled”

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring
Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.

— Michael Leunig

A colleague lost his young cousin in a road accident. The boy was 19. He was at a friend’s home that evening, presumably intending to spend the night there. Around 2am or so (as my colleague told me), he woke up and left the house quietly without informing anyone. He got into his car and started driving towards home. The car crashed into a tree, and he died within minutes of the accident. He was a few minutes away from home.

So near, yet so far.

Most of us figure out a way (consciously or  not) to deal with trauma. Probably it is the body’s mechanism of keeping itself alive. If we were to internalize every emotion, happy or not, that crossed our path, we would be unable to survive too long. Life would be intensely turbulent and discordant.

Distancing oneself from the actual incident helps. So I did just that, as I have been doing a lot these days.

But I couldn’t help thinking about the boy’s mother. No, I don’t think that this would be any easier on the father at all. (How could it ever be so? A father’s heart can be soft in all the right places too, just like a mother’s. My father exemplifies this for me.)

I imagined the pain she’d be living with… an open wound, like a mouth ulcer. Sometimes pain is so overwhelmingly intense that death (or unconsciousness) feels like a relief. But what if that was not a choice at all? The only alternative (not even an alternative, really – well, unless one considered suicide) is to live with this immense pain, day in and day out, every moment threatening to snuff out the very life force energy without actually doing so. It hurts so bad, my heart… It is a huge sensation, very physical and real and visceral. Oh, how do I get rid of this pain? It is killing me but just not yet. So I have to live, feeling this pain in every pore, every fiber of my being… Without being able to do a thing about it.

Words are utterly useless at this point.

But there is something that I can say, with complete sincerity and conviction, and that is: Everything changes. Not a single thing remains constant in this manifest universe. The pain that seems to sear our insides also changes. It is simply part of the process, the paradigm. Knowing the principle may provide some relief.

In the Presence of Quiet

Flowers

Flowers

Many many years ago, when G and I were bright little girls – smart and talkative and intelligent and spunky – we visited a friend’s home. This lady was my mother’s friend and colleague. Their family was hosting a wise man from South India who was a devotee of Hanuman. Now my mother’s friend’s mother-in-law was a devotee herself and that’s probably why they were hosting this gentleman.

Long story short, we got there and sure enough, there was a throng of people who’d come to meet this person. We were too young to be introduced, so we entertained ourselves with whispers and remarks and little games. Out of the blue, some highly enthusiastic person (maybe it was my Mom?) asks us to sing a song for everyone. Huh! Just as we had made ourselves invisible in a little corner at the back of the room… Darn. I protested that we didn’t know any songs for Hanuman but no one paid any heed. “Oh, just sing any song,” they said.

So we made our way to the beautifully decorated altar with the magnificent picture of the mighty Hanuman surrounded by elaborate platters with fruits and flowers and snacks, lit lamps, burning incense… and a bearded man, eyes closed, emanating waves of silence.

G and I had a hurried consultation and we finally picked a song that we were both comfortable singing together. The song was Maamava Sadaa Janani in raag Kaanada. I felt silly singing a song in praise of Mother Divine in front of a Hanuman devotee and assembly. Well, let’s just get this over with.

We began singing and I had the strangest sensation of feeling terribly overwhelmed. Maybe it was the fervor in the song, the weight of all the people milling around in the room and their expectations, the nervous tension of performing? I don’t know. Or maybe it was the tangible feeling of being in the presence of something larger and benevolent and beautiful and kind. I just about managed to complete singing the song – fighting a choked throat all through. It was probably the first time I had experienced such depth of feeling and I was clueless where it originated from.

Must be almost 20 years since that day…. But I remember it so clearly.