Offerings

There was a part of her 
Hidden from the world
Even when bared, she hid it well
You may kiss her skin, and drink her juice 
But give up her soul, she did not 
For how could she,
If herself, she knew not
Nor how to give up her core. 
So many tried, driven mad by want. 
But empty-handed, they stared at defeat.
Until you. 
Now she gives her precious time
To dig into the corners
And scrap every inch, every little bit
Of herself, she could offer
Like a devotee to God
Like we hunt for coins of change
Every single piece of her, 
Broken, hidden or forgotten. 
Body, mind, soul and something more, 
She craves to give and give, 
While on her back on the soft materials
One earth-shattering moment at a time.

Why I want to be like the ten-headed Ravana

The book, ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’, says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness. He was called Dasamukha or ‘Ten-headed’ for embracing all aspects of humanity and its emotions.

Source: ReviewLeaf.com

I love to know the other side of the coin. Whenever anyone narrates any story, whether real, reel or mythological, I itch to know the point of views of the other characters involved. Sometimes I ask point blank if the other point of view tallies; sometimes though I keep my trap shut and leave things to imagination. After all, there is not just one truth. There are many truths—depending on the perspectives. (Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Gillian Flyn’s Gone Girl, anyone?)

Anyway, the point is I love reading about alternative view-points – especially when it comes to mythology. Currently, I am reading this book called ‘Asura: The Tale of The Vanquished’ by Anand Neelakantan. It tells the tale of Ramayana through Ravana’s point of view. Essentially, it is ‘Ravanayana’.

Almost every child in India knows that Ravana is the ten-headed villain from the Epic. Why he is ten-headed is not a question many thought of asking. I didn’t either. Until, that is, I started reading this book, which has a wonderful explanation.

The book says that Ravana did not really have ten-heads. Instead, it was metaphorical. Each head represents one base emotion in man – Anger, pride, love, jealousy, ambition, intelligence, fear, selfishness, happiness and sadness.

Ravana’s gurus tried to teach him how to shun all these emotions except one – intelligence or logic. They said this will help him achieve greatness. The rest of the emotions, the Gurus said, will only serve to distract him in one way or the other. By suppressing all the other ‘heads’ or ‘emotions’, Ravana will be able to achieve balance in his mind and thus achieve greatness.

“The only thing worth preserving is your mind. Your mind absorbs the knowledge you gain from your Gurus, your books and your life, and refines it to great wisdom. It is what you have to develop. Every living minute, you have to strive to feed your mind with fresh and positive inputs. This will give clarity to your vision and immense power to your action. You will make fewer mistakes and also learn faster from them.”

This is what his Guru taught him.

Ravana, of course, refuses to do so. And then he proceeds to give a beautiful explanation for the need for each and every single emotion, even if it is negative like selfishness. Here’s an excerpt below:

“The amazing speed of progress man has achieved in the past few years would have not been achieved without that small flame of ambition in the minds of a few men, which was fanned to become a huge fire by the other emotions you have urged me to shun. Pride in one’s capability gave men the confidence and ambition to grow; jealousy that someone else would achieve more prodded him to work hard and more efficiently; the quest for happiness resulted in ever-expanding ambition; the fear of sadness kept him awake at night and pushed him further; the fear of failure made him more careful and God-fearing; selfishness glued his family, city, clan, tribe and country together and made him strive even harder. Love for life and the things which made life precious, made him protect his achievements. And I am sure an undying ambition for more will lead mankind to progress. Progress, which we cannot even imagine, can never understand in our short lifetime.”

In the end, he says that he wishes to neither be a God nor achieve Moksha. All he wants is to live a fulfilling life as a human, and exactly as his emotions tell him to do. Otherwise, he would be but an empty skeleton. This is why he is called ‘Ten-headed’ or ‘Dasamukha’, according to the book.

I could not agree more. For years I have contemplated about the need to sacrifice or supress some parts of our persona for the sake of betterment. As a Brahmin, I’ve often been told to not do many things, because it apparently takes me one step closer to the perfection that is God. But over the years I have realised that life is empty without these imperfections. There are so many aspects of life which are harmful. That said, they do add some colour to life. I would rather live a fulfilling life when I am alive than worry about life after death, or worse, how I would be reborn – as an animal or human or Brahmin (believe it or not, these are some legitimate threats I’ve heard)

Agreed it is important to constantly aim to improve over time; the goal should be to do away with your imperfections, but that doesn’t mean you supress it altogether. There will always be times when you will give into your natural instincts like anger or fear.

This brings me to the conclusion that it is moderation that is important, not complete suppression. Everything is better in the right quantities. Even complete suppression could backfire – like a volcano that bursts suddenly after gaining steam for hundreds of years.

At the end of the day, I appreciate and accept my humanity. More so, I want to embrace it whole-heartedly. There will be days when I get angry, afraid, jealous, over-ambitious, proud, happy or sad. Otherwise I would be like the stone which sits in silence and observes the world, wouldn’t I?

I think the key point here is ‘limit’ and ‘objectivity’. It is ‘not getting carried away’. Any of the base emotions, when in excess, can wreak havoc; even love or happiness. The question, then, is – where to draw the line? And most importantly, who decides whether the line is correct or wrong? And that is something I have always struggled with – limiting myself and walking on the thin line that separates the right from the wrong!

Too many cooks spoil the broth; too many words spoil the line

I love the sound of literature. I absolutely love how it feels when words roll off your tongue, the music it makes. I read for this sake. The stories only come second. I need my language to be mellifluous—as per my tastes. When too many big, hard-to-understand words are used in copious amounts, it sounds like a fish market in my head. Absolutely jarring!

Have you ever attended a music concert? Or even any band or musician playing, for that matter?

You may have noticed that of the multiple instruments playing, some have higher volumes while some have lower. In some cases it could be the guitar, while some other cases the base instrument. The vocals almost always have the highest volumes.

You see, every song needs the perfect symphony. It is not just about the lyrics and tune, but also how they are mixed—the proportions. It is like cooking too—you absolutely need to get the proportions right.

It is exactly the same with literature too, I believe.

There are many who advocate the use of simple language in literature. And then there are those who use copious amounts of ‘big’ words. They need these to enjoy literature. It is a personal choice, after all.

I belong to the former clan. There was a time when I loved the use of complex words. I still do, but I like them to be used minimally.

You see, I love the sound of literature. I absolutely love how it feels when words roll off your tongue, the music it makes. I read for this sake. The stories only come second. I need my language to be mellifluous—as per my tastes.

So using the analogy, I can say that literature is like music; the story or plot is akin to the song’s lyrics, while the writing is the tune. Every part of the sentence structures are equivalent to different aspects of the tune. The verbs could be the base; the subject could be the vocals; the prepositions or punctuation could be the drum beats, so on and so forth. The simplicity or complexity of the words could be equivalent to the emphasis given to the different parts of the song. Or maybe the pitch. Every time a complex word or clause is used, the pitch rises suddenly.

Now imagine if I use a complex word for all aspects of the sentence, then every instrument used would suddenly start playing at a higher pitch and volume. To me, it sounds jarring. To another, it may sound lovely. Like the distinction between classical and heavy metal music—music to one, noise to another.

At the end of the day, though, I only like to listen to the kind of music I want. Similarly, I only want to read the kind of literature I like. And that happens to be simple writing, its music quaint and lyrical.

Lost someone? Maybe this can help

Source: http://www.openlounge.org/settee/falling/
Source: http://www.openlounge.org/settee/falling/

Who has never lost a person in their whole life? Show me one such person and I will give you a million dollars (or any other currency, take your pick.)

At some point in time, we all have had to let go of someone, or have been let go by someone. It may have been a friend, partner, relative, sibling, or some other important person. At the end of it, though, we have that person-shaped hole in our life to fill; those memories to avoid—at least until it stops to draw blood, it stops stinging at least a little.

It is said that the process of getting over something or someone has multiple stages – denial, anger, bitterness, sorrow and finally acceptance. But what after that? You still have that hole. It never goes away, does it?

So what do you do? You learn to live with the hole. You try not to go near the edge, lest you fall over, open the wounds raw once again and then have to crawl back bleeding to reality. It is a constant effort, one that takes time to master.

Since these are times of listicles, let me jot down some other activities you can undertake to help yourself.

We all are trying to figure out what is best for us. I too am. These helped me at various times in life, and I hope they work for you. Or if you have a better alternative, you can share it in the comments.

1) Explore the regions… of your heart: Imagine a room, which suddenly developed a huge gaping hole in one corner. You will then look at the other parts of the room right (before calling someone to fix it, of course). Exactly the same way, there are other people in your life and heart—friends, family, co-workers, pets, your favourite Barista, take your pick. It always feels better when you know you have someone. So, concentrate on this part of your life—the good stuff. Meet that friend or person who realises that you are loved. Spend time with your co-workers who make you feel useful at work. Count your blessings today. It may not work right away. But slowly, over time, you will realise your own self-worth. And this, my dear, will be your first step.

2) Work: If you happen to be one of those lucky few who like their work, engross yourself in it. Work so hard that it pays. And this payoff will be sweeter. Not just monetarily, but also in terms of your self-esteem. Because not every boss is mean and not every co-worker is trying to put you down. Some are genuinely appreciative. It helps perk your spirits up further.

3) Go artsy: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls,” said Pablo Picasso. I don’t know if he really did say that, but those words sure feel wonderful. And it is true, too! Have you ever gotten so caught up in a book, poetry, writing, painting, music or movie that you forgot time existed? This may sound clichéd, but it is true. I have first-hand experience. Time is not your friend when you are trying to forget someone. And it is this time that we are trying to spend by dipping into art. The best part is that your soul comes out refreshed after those timeless moments.

4) Learn something new: It is sad that we stop learning new things after getting out of school or college. And even then, we were trying to study only to make a career. How many of us really had the light of curiosity in our hearts that trudged even after the exams ended? Who says a Physics or Commerce student can never want to learn about Psychology or Literature, or an Arts student would not want to learn computing? Take up something new today. It may not exactly come handy in your life or career, but you are increasing your knowledge. Most importantly, it helps eat time.

5) Take up a hobby: Yes, it is fairly clichéd, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it does help. There is a reason why you like doing something—it gives you joy! At a time like this, joy is what we need the most! So go spread your wings and take up your hobby again.

6) Travel somewhere far: Life is a journey. You have to put things behind you and start walking. Moving on is the term. It may help to take this literally too. Put some real distance between you and the person. Travel to a new place. Get yourself lost in the wonders of a new place. It is always refreshing to face new experiences.

7) Play some mind-games: Your mind is in your control. ‘Mind over matter’ is my mantra. Here is an exercise for you: Close your eyes. Think of your kitchen. But don’t think about the vegetable cutter, the blender, the grinder. You imagine precisely the kitchen. In life, when we notice someone’s absence from our life, we tend to look at things that we miss. Those essentially make you think of things that probably make you feel whole. Now, how were you before you met the person? You were still happy. Your happiness was not dependent on them. You are the same now. Now, think of abundance. Count on things what you have and what makes you happy. Then, slowly, they will show up.

8) Live a lie until it turns into the truth: Do you know who is the best liar? A person who manages to believe the lie so much that it is the truth for him or her. If you start believing in it, your body will rarely give away your lies. Similarly, start telling yourself you are living a good life, a happy life; you have enough people in your life who care about you; you are happy. Keep chanting this mantra. Wear a wide grin in your face. Try to bring a skip in your step. Make people believe that you are happy and bubbly. Slowly, as time slips away, your lie will become your truth.

At the end of the day, it is easy to wallow in self-pity and live in distress. It is bitter-sweet, the feeling. You want to relive the moments again and again in your head, playing different scenarios. This is the part of you that doesn’t want to let go—of the beautiful thing you shared. But the truth is: you have to let go!

Travel Musings: Layers, Finding Your ‘Self’, Silence and More

image

What do you wear? Clothes, you may answer. No, I am not talking about just clothers. On a daily basis, we wear more than clothers. Even if we strip down to our birthday suits, we aren’t completely naked.

Recently, I went traveling. Slowly, one by one, I was stripped down to my bone–all without ever removing my clothes. On the contrary, the cold had forced me to pile on four-five more layers.

That’s when I realised, we wear our characters like clothes. It constitutes of many layers too. Our likes, logic, perspectives, prejudices, expectations, and yes, even our relationships and position in life; the various roles we play in our own life stories–we wear them around us as protective guards.

When you go to a far-flung place like the Himalayas, where even a glass of warm, drinkable water is a luxury, you are stripped of all these layers until you’re just another human, just another animal breathing in and out to survive, to live. When you are fighting for the basic necessities, you do not care about your worldly perspectives or that of the next person, you do not care what the person offering water is wearing, or what they think about different things in life. You are at your most vulnerable.

And yet, it is also when you are the truest. What your heart craves then is what it truly, really wants.


It is often said that you find yourself while you travel. I realised I lost myself–bit by bit, I let go of a lot of life’s baggage. You often realise the pointlessness of all that you wear around yourself, and you shed it off. Amidst the looming mountains, and often a lone, never-stopping stream, I was just another girl; not a daughter, friend, boss, employee, saviour, enemy, or whatever role I may have ever played in people’s lives. I was just ME!

There was a stillness outside of me. And there was stillness inside me. For the first time in my life, there were no voices in my head. I did not even realise or understand it. I took a while to actually realise this silence and accept it.

At first, the silence was frightening. My mind tried to initiate thoughts just to fill the silence, fill the space. Here in the city, there is so much activity and noise. There are so many distractions you do not even comprehend its sheer quantity. Even the nights aren’t still here. Amidst the mountains, though, you understand the true meaning of silence and stillness. You look up at the peaks and realise they have stood the same for eons, witnessing silently the passing of time. Made me wonder–why are we humans in such great hurry? We always scurry around, hurrying off somewhere. Life is short, agreed. But what good is the hurry? For us, even a split second is a long time. Up there, even an hour is the same as a second. Time–it is just the movement of two hands on a watch or clock, up there. Or maybe, it is the passing of the sun and moon on the blue sky.


Coming back to what I was saying about layers. Up there, you are naked and vulnerable and yet, even as you are reduced to the barest of existences, you are alive. Perhaps it is this loss of the sense of ‘Self’ that they call ‘Finding Yourself’–the idea that ‘You are Nothing’; just a blink in the passage of time. Perhaps, this is the ultimate truth? Ironically, you ‘find’ this about yourself only by ‘losing’ your self.

And yet, slowly, as civilisation neared and crowds thronged, I slowly found myself pile up my layers–first the wants, the likes and dislikes; then came the prejudices, the prespectives of right and wrong, the good and the bad, the views about the world, the sense of duty and responsibilities, and lastly, the roles I play. There, I was done doning my character suit again.

It is heavy, the suit. Perhaps, that’s why our shoulders ache, and every once in a while, we like to escape. Of course, this is only for a short time. Afterall, who likes to stay bare-naked their whole life? It is too vulnerable an existence that man left behind centuries back.

The suit is safety. It bolsters the idea that man is something; that man is not nothing; that he can hold his own afterall in this world where nature rules.

God? For some reason, I found the concept just a bleak attempt by man to understand Nature and its whims. Or perhaps, it was just I who failed to feel His/Her presence amidst the powerful presence of Nature.

Either way, we are but puny existence. Yet, it is remarkable how we manage to wreak such havoc and destruction. It is not amazing, but oddly, awe-inspiring. Not the positive awe, let me clarify. It is like a tiny ant, which can cause your whole body to swell up. Such tiny creatures causing great things in terms of sheer magnitude.


I did not want to come back. It took me a long enough time to get used to naked existence. I struggled the most with my lack of ‘self’ identity and even the constant beaitng down of my expectations.

‘Finding yourself’ sounds so peaceful, serene even. It is hardly so, I assure you. It is like being in the eye of a storm or whirlpool. The dizzy, topsy-turvy forces will ensure you lose your sure-footing. Everything you though you knew for sure about the world–your own world, especially–would be turned upside down. The ground beneath your feet would barely exist. It’s hardly a vacuum, but a roller-coaster, 100 times worse than the most-extreme rides in the world. It reminds me of the quote by Cynthis Occelli I had read:

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who does not undersatnd growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

And even after it ends, you will be unsure about things–every thing. Perhaps, that is the lesson. NEVER BE SURE ABOUT ANYTHING!