Vows in the Soil

The footprints had been made into the soil with turmeric paste. The Gods were being invited. The shehnai-vadaks were calling out to the heavens creating the most blessed sounds. It seemed as if they were enjoying a duet with the mighty Goddess ganga who was hopping along a rythmic gait. Today she was not fierce. Today she was calm and happy, content to be a mother, gratified to love her children.

The banana leaves in the four directions ensured that no evil spirit would linger near. The smell of the wet soil infused with the smell from mango flowers. The sky resonated the celebration and reflected back a golden-orange. The sun was bidding farewell, smiling in all its deep-red glory, making way for the stars. To match the occasion, Ganga wore a golden-red dress too, shimmery and silky. The moon bowed from the horizon. He had been waiting for 28 nights to shine upon the ceremony, upon the ganges, upon the mandap with all his handsomeness.15b10-shehnai_player

The pandit poured ghee into the crackling fire to feast the gods and goddesses above and then, he summoned the bride and groom.

This was not the big fat Indian wedding; there were no huge beautiful tents and fancy chairs but there was a rugged threadbare carpet striped maroon and black. There were no posh cars parked around but perhaps some bicycles. The feast in the afternoon did not have ‘chhappan bhog’ but the best halwai from the village had come, serving jalebi and rabri in ‘kulhadds’. It was not the most expensive affair in the city but was happily paid by those who had been saving up for this their whole life. The celebrations were not pretentious, they were pure.

The bride had donned a rich red lehenga decorated with gota and was walking slowly towards the mandap, her payal singing anxiously. She had grown on the banks of the Ganges and had always trotted faster than the river but not today. Today she was neither as confident nor as sure. She felt only the shehnai understood her. Only the shehnai could convey what she could not, the joy of finding a new life and the sorrow of leaving the old one behind. She took small steps, ‘alta’ flowering in her feet, heena flowering in her hands.

The village girls however, stared shamelessly at the groom clad in a shining white dhoti. He singled her woman out as the chinks of her payal rhymed with his heartbeat each time her feet landed on the uneven soil. They had never seen each other before yet they believed in one thing; this was meant to happen, they were meant to embark on this godly journey together. She had prayed to find her ‘Shiva’ and the goddesses had answered. Sitting by the holy fire, his torso was sheathed with a very thin layer of sweat . His well-built, muscular hands and chest glistening. Finally, the bride was seated to the right of the boy. Every time the pandit asked them to hold each other’s hands, currents ran through their veins.

As they began to circle the fire, the pandit recited the holy vows but they made vows of their own. He vowed to make her the dream in every dream he will ever have. She vowed to love him with a gentle strength as Ganga loved her shores; supporting him, shaping him, inspiring him. He vowed to love her fiercely as he loved the fields he ploughed all day to keep them green; vowed to keep her full and abundant. They vowed to partake the adventures of making a family and of raising one too. He vowed to want her and worship her as the keeper of his family and she vowed to worship him as the keeper of her house. They vowed not just to grow with each other but toward each other. He would be her wind and she would sway with him like a pliable tree. He vowed to be tougher on the plough and ever more soft on her. He vowed to bear more calluses and more blood on his feet for her and she vowed to let her hands burn day and night over the ‘choolha’, all done with a contented smile. They vowed to love each other’s spirits and demons, fears and hopes. They promised over the soil in which they had grown up, a promise too divine to be broken.

The feast of the Gods was over, the job was well done. They smiled down at the mandap, satisfied to see two souls they had crafted for each other, vying to be the one true happiness of each other’s lives. The shehnai no longer sounded wistful. It blowed raag bhairavi out to the universe, to welcome a new dawn, a new day, an exciting beginning…

 

The article was sown by Ustad Bismillah Khan’s Raga Shankara (The Eternal Spirit)

CB JUNKET

Trekking up the mountain in a light rain, the first thing I did after changing into my pyjamas was badgering Ravi (our caretaker at the resort) to provide me with some paper and a pen. Yes, I was cold through the bones, I was shivering and asked Bankoti to lend me his socks because I had forgotten mine at home, I just felt that this one time, I must go for it right now.

Finally, after settling 30 odd people into their rooms, he gave me a drenched piece of paper, a very old diary and a neon green pen. By then, I had already put 3 cups of steaming hot coffee into my tummy and had sung a plethora of songs on the two guitars. Under the same hatch, a couple (foreigners) were really amused to see the ruckus we had created there in a matter of minutes and were throwing furtive glances at us.

As Ravi finally gave me my stuff, I quietly withdrew from the group and started looking for a lone spot. I picked my favourite and went there to write only to find that Sangam (my junior) was showing off freezes and teaching mild lessons to his juniors. Three weeks back, a writer friend of mine texted me, “What’s wrong? No updates on Learner’s Pen? I have been waiting forever to read them”. Since then, I have been truly wanting to write something but couldn’t find the motivation to do it. However, here at Binsar, I felt the strongest pull ever to scratch the pen on any paper I could find.

Maybe it was not the amazing setting, it was my 30 odd friends; maybe it was not the light cold breeze and the smell of the mountains, it was the guitar; maybe it was not caffeine, it was the merrymaking all around me; maybe it was not the beautiful trees and the chilling cold, it was the freedom I felt after such a long time. So I sat down on the stone slab and glanced at the view in front of me. It was one of the best I had seen in all my life.

In front of me for around 20 feet was a bed of mustard blossoming a lovely yellow, beyond that was a small cliff and then the ranges started. It was after sunset, nearly twilight and the cold stone table was making my bottoms go numb but nothing could distract me from the majestic wonder I felt. I widened my eyes to absorb everything in front of me – a small range of mountains in the shade of dark green followed by a range of dark rich brown followed by a range of deep cobalt blue; then another; coloured light, happy denim blue and finally the last range playing happily with the clouds in the shades of powder blue and white. The last range kissed the azure and grey sky which had patches and blots of gold, red and orange.  As the sky was turning darker, stars lit up, both in the sky and on the mountains.  A slight mist was descending and due to the rains earlier, the needle leaves were glistening as if to invite me to touch and caress them. I was roped into the charm of colours and I was furiously writing to capture the landscape. Just then, the best male vocalist I ever had the privilege to know came down with his guitar and we started singing our favourite CB songs as he worked his magic on the strings. I was blowing off steam into the star studded sky twinkling right back at me when we were called back for the bonfire.

And then it started, our entire batch dived into nostalgia and we started performing our most famous stage acts for our juniors’ benefit who had never seen it live. Within an hour, my batch had their last four years of life, growth, emotions, gratitude, wonder and inspiration stretched in front of their eyes and they grew quiet as the thought of leaving it behind began to sink in. As the troop descended to the dining hatch, I fed a morsel to every kid with my hands. As I looked at my first-years, I couldn’t bear to think I just had 2 months left with them. They looked so young, so innocent, so loving, so full of life. You could almost feel that they had a lot to say but were hesitant.

Then started the work of my department: washing and cutting 5 kgs of chicken with Shivam in the freezing cold. Wierd as it may sound, it was a relief to put my hands into the warm water turned deep red :x The chicken was put to marination as I joined my friends dancing, singing, playing, talking, teaching, cooking and barbecuing. I need not describe the rest. You can yourself imagine what happens when huge speakers, the most creative and talented people, the best singers, the best dancers, the best actors, the best drummers, guitarists, the biggest zehreele (people with an expertise in p.j.s) get together. The trip drew on and we went trekking, bathing in the falls, singing, playing, laughing and posing.

What I can tell you however, is that living and breathing in the company of the most talented, creative and hard-working people on the campus; lying on a friend’s shoulder while watching over the valley; watching 3 years younger kids mimicking you; having all-girls sleepovers; watching love-stories blossom in front of you; taking care of each other; being loved; being fed by your friend’s hands; remembering how you were 4 years back and laughing at yourself, how much you have grown since you first came to college, how much you have groomed yourself and possibly others, how much you have allowed your friends to change you; learning to dance better; to sing better; to write better; to work better; to study better; getting inspired with every move your bureau-mates make; to teach them and groom them; to be taught by them; watching each other get better at everything, finding relationships for life; the feeling of belonging to a community that always inspired you; to give back to it and prune it according to your versatile learning; to watch respect for yourself in your junior’s eyes are one of the biggest privileges of being in college.

When the trip was coming to a close, the final year members were making speeches and everybody was sentimental, one of my batch-mates whispered,”Tonight, everything would end”. Maybe he was right, or maybe we still have roads to fare together, nobody knows. I looked up at him and asked “At no other institution we will spend as much time as we have spent here, does that mean we will never find better friends?” and he said,”our perspectives are solidified now, so most probably not” and I looked at the bus, at the family the 12 of us had grown together, and tears welled up in my eyes… I smiled, grateful, that all of this happened…CB Batch'10Dedicated to Himanshu, Nikita, Aditi, Gurpreet, Kritika, Nikhil, Sachin, Shradha, Monica, Saurabh and Naina :)

Idealism Over Love? Really?

I have been trying to address this issue for many months now, though I have never been able to articulate it well. I keep asking everybody else’s opinion so that I can achieve some clarity on my own.Rama and Sita

It started when I began re-interpreting the Ramayana after reading its multitudinous renditions. The character of Rama draws me like no other and all my life I have tried to justify his deeds towards Sita. Of course we might not know the whole story but what people do construe from different renditions is that Rama’s acts towards his wife cannot be pardoned. “Why was Agnipariksha necessary? Did he not trust his wife enough? Was he insecure of Ravana’s wealth, charm, majesty and intelligence? Or was his urge to please the society so dominating that it made him blind?”

Sita’s aspect of Ramayana has been propounded, elaborated and extrapolated by many authors, directors, philosophers and theatre-artists. What most scholars have missed out is Rama’s aspect of it.

Well, Rama chose idealism over love. The fact is, he would have chosen idealism over himself and his family on any given day. This was the only principle that made the world around him sane. Everything else was chaos to him. Was Rama happy about the decision he made to send Sita away or allow her to go (if it happened through consent) when she was pregnant? No, he definitely can’t be. But was he satisfied by his decision as a king? Chances are really high that he was. But how did he feel about it as an individual? He was a man who loved his wife very much, who gave up polygamy when it was rampant in the society, a tendency that science says comes naturally to men. No matter how satisfied he was as a king, he could never have found peace again, or perhaps the same amount of happiness because we must acknowledge that no matter how idealistic he was, he was after all a human. A human with an exception, somebody who preferred indulgence of much loftier texture than ours.

However the big question that pierces us every now and then is how much can we learn from his point of view. “Does it even make sense in our present world where things like “Rajdharma” have essentially become a ghost, where love and happiness are considered supreme? How correct is it to weigh a person through the eye of cold logic, as Rama did, than that of the heart? Should happiness, love and heart be considered more sacred than a duty or a principle one has vowed to? Of course a man is born for many reasons, but he is also born to be happy and loved. Denying yourself these basic pleasures takes away a lot of  what it means to be human.twinflames1

Shouldn’t principles change with our experiences? After all, principles are almost always formed by our private perceptions of the world and most often than not by the perceptions of our parents which are in-turn formed by deep experiences, events, history, stories and literature.

The next question that comes up in this chain-reaction is how flexible one must be? The answer stems from just one sentence- it depends on what you are willing to DO to be happy with the cards you are dealt with.

So, whether you choose idealism or you choose love, you are actually looking for a private gratification. That gratification may come from loving others unconditionally like a mother loves all her children; it could come from passionately loving that one special person, as Amish’s Shiva loves Sati in his trilogy; it could come from sticking to your principles as Mahatma Gandhi or Lord Rama do (which sometimes can also be obsolete); it could come from being compassionate and then serving others from a certain distance ( as Lord Krishna explains in his philosophy of detached attachment); it could come from fulfilling your carnal wishes;  it could come from turning your love into servitude as Mother Teresa did; it could come from renouncing everything to seek enlightenment as Gautam Buddha did; it could come from pushing your logic as Einstein did; or it could come from sticking around and spending time with your family as most of us do.

No one particular way is greater than the other in an individualistic system until you become directionless or your ways harm the good of other people.  Everything else is right for you as long as it is successful in answering your questions and is providing you with constant gratification.

You choose idealism or love according to the person you wish to be and are meant to be; the person that you already are deep down inside but don’t know how to be.

5k+ STAMINA

Hello runners!

As promised, after mastering the stepping stone, I tried out the ‘stamina challenge’ today. To be very honest, it was indeed ‘CHALLENGING’, specially for someone feeling a little febrile. However, as I am trying to inculcate the habit of pushing a little harder, I just had to go :p

The stamina-podcast of the nhs-choices should not be taken lightly by those who just became couch-2-5k graduates. It will make you run at a much higher speed than you usually do for 35 minutes non-stop. The great thing about the podcast is that it will make you run on the beats which is an absolute delight and keeps you engaged in your entire run.

I am embedding the tool if you want to try. I suggest that you do. It will give you a goal after the couch-2-5k programme, something that you will look forward to master. I will keep updating my progress!

Happy Running!!

Here’s the tool:

Stamina Workout!!

c25k+ :D

C25k Community! All hail!

I am simply updating my progress here :D

For the first time , I tried out the 5k+ stepping stone program after completing the C25k program a week back or so.  This podcast is loads better, a lot more interesting and fun to run with. So all those who are still pursuing the c25k program can get really happy that they have a lot to look forward to after they become c25k graduates. As a matter of fact, once you complete the challenge, you will find many very entertaining options. Once I tried to run while listening John F. Kennedy’ Accepting the Democratic Nomination… Trust me, its not going to happen again. Running with the beat is fun and engaging and the idea of beats per minute is pretty cool. Although on some days, when you are on a high, you might feel the tempo to be a bit slow because I literally had to limit my speed to move with the beat.

Planning to try out the “speed” workout pretty soon. Will post the updates! I am embedding the tool if you want to have a go. :D

Keep running!! :D

http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Couch-to-5k-plus.aspx

Don’t Gobble! Chew On It

I am reading Anna Karenina these days and there is one paragraph that has stuck with me for all these weeks. So I better share it, right?

Leo Tolstoy wrote, describing his character, Stepan Arkadyevitch…

“Stepan Akadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and the paper, and he changed them when the majority changed them–or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.

Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shape of his hat or coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society-owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity–to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat. “

Although he was born in the year 1828, Tolstoy’s words are not only relevant but define our society to a great extent till today. I have never found such an apposite description of things! Stepan’s political preferences and his opinions about anything and everything stem from an unrealized chasm-deep indifference, a trait pretty easy to find in most of us. They say that somebody too opinionated is way too consequential  but I think it is a lot better than having no opinion at all or having a personal statement that is so infused with what others think and say that it has nothing typical of you left. It is only done to be a hypocritical highbrow.

This also reminds me of another content I came across a few months back. Oprah was interviewing J. K. Rowling and there J. K. mentioned that when she was looking for a man, she was searching for somebody who had a very strong sense of himself, just as she has (all of her friends thought that it was something very hard to find!). The two ladies (Oprah and J. K.) joked that she had not asked for Jesus, but for a normal, cerebrating human being!.

I think it is one of the biggest tragedies of our time, specially in the social circuits in India that people fail to construct their own syllogisms and simply swallow whatever is served to them just as Stepan does.

Albeit the paucity of profound thinkers is immense in the society we live in, some of us who can change it, please do!! It is a heartfelt entreaty!

My C-to-5K Success Story

Today is a day of an extraordinary achievement for me!

I completed the Couch-to-5k running plan successfully (I had started somewhere in July)!

Till the age of ten, I had been a very athletic child but somehow I lost the quality until I resolved that I must bring back what was good. I searched online and found the nhs choices couch to 5k plan… There are many others, some aim for 8 weeks, some for 9. I completed mine in 8.

Now I jog for 5 km everyday and it acts as a great energy booster. 2-3 months before, I could not have imagined myself running that distance but I finally did it. They are right when they say that perseverance and hard work pays off. I recommend it to anybody and everybody looking for an enhanced level of fitness. Your throughput will increase considerably and you will perform better at work. Trust me, I speak through personal experience.

You might find the initial stages and the ending sessions a bit relentless but it’s all worth it. Somewhere in week 5, I had to jog in the sun and I suffered a brutal migraine attack and crashed to the ground, got hospitalized half an hour later and received 2 injections. 2 days later, I was back on the road and completed that same run during which I had blacked out. It provided me a very unique sense of achievement, victory and satisfaction.

Now, after 8 weeks or so, I am proud of all that I did to achieve the fitness I have today. I intend to continue it and maybe stretch to 10km runs during the end of the year. To celebrate this achievement, I am going to stuff my tummy with as much chicken curry as possible tonight or tomorrow at lunch B-)

I am embedding the link of the plan and also 2 inspiring videos to keep you upbeat in case you try to adopt it into your daily routine (I saw them daily to push myself. They are great!).

The plan is not daunting at all; just three runs a week, designed with an understanding of the limitations of even the most rudimentary beginners. It starts with the most basic 60 seconds jog and before you know it, by the end of week 9, you are running for 30 minutes nonstop pretty comfortably.

You can download the podcasts and Laura will guide you through the whole plan (which reminds me, I must express my gratitude to Laura. Thanks a ton!!) It matters not whether you are an adolescent or a mother of teenagers, if you want the agility of your childhood back and as long as a Doctor has not proscribed you to cardio exercises, I strongly recommend that you all should give it a go, not for anybody else, but for yourself…

Couch-to-5k plan

Great videos which you should watch daily..I know I did :D