Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shapes of the shadows

A friend of mine wanted me to write on the blog and her upbeat chirpy insistence has brought me back to this blog on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon. Till quite a few months, I have been writing mostly when I am little disturbed and feeling like pouring out. I think what's good about writing in a disturbed situation is that sometimes the act of sharing fastens the healing process and sometimes the responses I receive touches me. I have received beautiful emails, so beautiful, that by responding to them I have felt I would diminish their beauty. I know it is a strange psyche and I definitely do not have a right rational behind it. But responding to the anonymity would create dissonance of familiarization which probably can be a little claustrophobic. Doesn't mean I don't want to connect with the people who wrote back but  that I want to connect to them with the same anonymity, the connection remaining unidentified.

Anyway, I think this desire to return on the blog in a rather "undisturbed" state of mind is a luxury. It does tell that I am on the path of recovery. I think a few days of normalcy and daily routine has helped. For last three years, life was testing me, pushing me and asking me to understand it. Now I have hit a plateau in my quest of understanding life. So there is calmness.

Late last night, or early morning rather, we were at Westin, where we had a luxury of having 2 beers below a majestic glass ceiling exposing the weakness of the moonlight against a well-lit crush hall. Afterwards, we were dropping a friend to her building that could be accessed only through a small uneven bouncy patch with slum dwellers living on one side. While we were returning partying, the women of the slum were up early to fill in their buckets because that might have been their water hour. Whenever I pass on the place like that, I think of life that I left behind. I was wondering the comfort of Westin to the comfort of the days when I used to be in Ummeed. When waking up at the dawn would mean to wake the boys up for school and make sure they attend the school despite their daily inadequacy of streets puts them into self-doubts of mainstream classrooms 

I was brought back from my thoughts by the headlight of my friend's Scorpio falling on to the face of a woman of the slum. Unlike the shadowed-over moonlight from the glass-ceiling in the Westin, the headlight gave this woman' face an illumination, a kind of a spotlight. I recognized her with an anonymity and yet the cognizance of the harshness that life might be bringing to her. And like Gandhi's talisman, a face of the poor that I will remember.

When I had joined Teach for India, I was told by one fine 40-year old gentleman that "Oh! I wish I had got an opportunity like this at your age" And I could relate to that statement more now. I think wherever I will go, Teach for India experience stays in my heart and might as well send me back where I had this sense of belonging and sense of comfort which is still untouched and raw despite the little luxury that has entered in my life. It was indeed right to spend my youthful years in trying to scale the magnanimity of the crisis. Because everything else - money, comfort and luxury  comes back but that pure feelings are hard to find. And nothing can replace that.

The loss of a parent and his struggle for last three years had been very devastating. May be the storm is over. May be life can be planned. May be life will be little less testing. May be it wouldn't matter if it will test. But life might be lived with reminder of what life was, and that will make the act of living more meaningful.

I was in the swimming pool last evening gasping for breath of a struggling swimmer. But that struggle cleansed me. Struggle always cleanses. I am heading for a day long Vipassana tomorrow in the pursuit of more cleansing, of understanding more dark shadows and more spotlights and where I belong.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hope is a fiction

I was on the last pages of Katherine Boo's "Behind the beautiful forevers" when I put it down to listen to crowd cheering for Modi's speech at Madison Sqaure. On one side, the story of a Mumbai slum, where life is dying unnoticed and yet Katherine suggesting that "Hope is not a fiction", and on the other hand standing ovations and endless cheers to Modi's description of "India of dreams".
Both Katherine and Modi are eloquent in the description of hope that Indians should have despite our tragedies either in slums of Mumbai or on the streets of New York, but both of them leave me with a sense of incomprehension.

What I liked about Katherine that she had tended to what people in her books were thinking at a specific event, or during mundane tasks. Her accounts are like a witness, a true art of a journalist who wouldn't want alteration of the course because of her presence. But her accounts are also of truth and its impact. The way she writes, it feels like she is feeling the truth of every person in her book which goes beyond witnessing, with more insights than those people did. Somthing that they didn't comprehend for themselves but she did.

I left the work at NGO to join a for-profit organization, even though still in education and with people who want to solve the problem with the sustainable disposition. But I miss life of living with the street children and knowing their truths. I felt envy of Unnati, whom Katherine suggested helped her out in this book. I know what it is live with those people. Their lives seem backward from a distance. After all, we have knowledge of Little Italy and iPhone 6 which they might not understand. But they have something far more precious. Their lives have always seemed to me more real than mine. Something that Katherine comprehends while I even after reading her book don't. 

Narendra Modi suggests that Mahatma Gandhi saw a very clear dream of India's independence, and for that he taught the idea of seva to every Indian. To be taking pride in cleaning of the road to teaching in a school and thus feeling the independence instead of becoming a martyr.

Once I had felt connected to all these thoughts and they were no brainer to me. But these days, I am disconnected. May be hope is turning out to be fiction despite being more equipped and affluent than the people in Katherine's book. May be it is a sense of failure. May be that happens when we choose an easy path. 

A good life or a bad life, life is always is. Says Abdul in Katherine's book. Life of financial well-being, or of blind ambitions does take you away from feeling the truths. Every luxury feels futile and artificial. But if you run away from it, you find yourself helpless in solving such magnificent problems as the slums of Mumbai or the lives of those street children had presented in front of me. I am pretty sure Katherine would have found it hard to stop herself from solving the trivial problems that led to change of lives of these people. Witnessing is still easier than actually trying to solve these problems because the truth is the cycle never ends and one get trapped until you decide to run away. And running away is easiest of all, the path that I chose. And may be because Hope is a fiction for hopeless souls like mine.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A tough story to tell

It is going to be a tough story to tell today. I have delayed telling it because it required a breakdown to happen. It required something to break on the surface to ooze out something from within. May be I was bleeding internally, and now only I have decided to allow it to come out.

I have gone underground in a way that all I can look at is a basement where everything is covered with white sheets. I have left the most vulnerable part of me in that basement, to keep it safe. People are seeing somebody else, someone liberated, someone happy, someone in control, someone with potential to succeed. That's very good, they say. Where do you find a person like that these days? So I keep my fingers crossed that people keep seeing that when they see me, because my fear is that truth is victorious always, and what they are seeing is not truth.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on this blog on how the battle I was fighting for my father was already lost. But I was still struggling to keep that fight alive. In the process, making myself grow years in just few months. I kept fighting. He kept fighting. He kept giving up. I kept giving up too. And in that entire battle we didn't know who we were fighting with. Against the course of life?

A friend of mine once told me that human minds have been trained for centuries to face life and death. But that doesn't make facing death easy.

On 21st July, my father bid us farewell. I cried on the stairs of the hospital for half an hour just after that. Cried on the last rites for fifteen minutes. But since then, I haven't cried. Those tears are in some secret land far away or may be in that basement. Throughout the process of winding up my parents' home, I took as many responsibility as I can. After I joined my office, I made sure that people don't stop laughing because there is something terrible happened in my life. I acted normal. Mostly restricting myself not to share it with everyone until unless people themselves approached me to hear.

I talked to old friends. Few of them, I gave a call myself. And told them without showing any kind of emotion. Just plain story of what went wrong as if I am telling about a dear friend's father and not mine. May be not even a dear friend. May be somebody unknown, somebody else's terrible story which was not mine.

And since then, I have made sure to run away from accepting that story as mine. I wrote "Late" in my father's name in the pension form without my hand trembling. I talked about his Death Certificate as if it was a document without allowing it to go beyond a point, reading it just to verify details, taking photocopies without differentiating from a regular government id. Practical and realist? Or just a cold-blooded living under water animal? The latter made me good looking! People find me happy and in-control.Somebody who is strong.

I wonder what I am doing is making me my  strongest or weakest version? More dead than alive, I would say. But there is nothing much choice I have in the entire situation but to channelize every single quantum of emotion in the form of a sincere responsibility. Of a woman who wants to take care of her mom suffering from Alzheimer. And making sure that this battle is not as easily lost as the previous one.

I have a scar to live with. Somewhere when there was time to hold the rope tighter, I just accepted the power of nature against my human limitations and let that rope slip from my hand. My papa's Doctor said to me that his heart says that he should have survived more but his head says, his suffering needed to bring to an end. My heart says, and so does the head, I should have kept fighting till the end.

 I gave up as soon as I saw defeat, much before the actual defeat happened.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sea Dreamer

This post is named after a beautiful song by Sting/Anoushka Shanker

Loved where he says, how the secrets of moonlight will take him where the sun meets the water and sky breaks free. What a beautiful description of dawn!

My days are busy at work. But my parents' health continue to worries me. Feels so helpless sometimes and yet other times tries to give all the possible rationals to myself.

We have appointed a new principal at our school. She has done Vipassana too. Third in my office :-)

She is such a disciplined person. She is first one to come to school and almost the last one to leave. She doens't mind coming even on weekends too. She wakes at 4 AM and is there at school  by 8. She wears these beautiful cotton sarees that I just love.

My students are having some great time too with me! They don't mind studying Math all day with me and we tomorrow are going to have our first ever 5 hour Math class! They are far behind but they are smart. Kids always are! Of course, it means that I will have to put in some extra hours for other assignments that I have. But these students are amazing. While all my Ummmeed students were stud and rowdy, these kids are sincere and have just little naughtiness on their faces that makes my day brighter every morning.

As I sleep tonight, I dream for tranquility of the sea as described in this song. I want to wake up tomorrow for a new dawn, for a more hard working day, for ability to bear more pain and for energy full of worthiness.