The Walking Irony

Images with a quote are all the rage these days. Every single person active on social media (guilty as charged) has liked, posted or shared at least one such image.

What started as a beautiful thing earlier, has now, according to me, gone out of control. As with everything else, a mass democratisation (as our media studies professor called it) brings down quality. In English, this means, when something becomes too popular; when you have to cater to the masses, the quality often drops.

Take this image quote for example:

shitty-quote

I call this the Walking Irony. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the meaning of the quote. The connotation is quite clearly negative. People are usually thankless and not sensitive about the effort someone puts in for them. It is only when that ‘help’ stops that people stand up and notice.

Agreed. So far, at least.

But the second connotation of this quote is that people ‘never’ notice; people ‘never’ notice. But that isn’t true, is it? Everyone, at some point in time or the other, has appreciated or noticed timely help and effort.

So, the quote essentially ignores all these times.

This means you can apply the rule of the quote to the quote itself. Hello, Irony!

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!

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!

On a starry, still night

In the stillness that is the call of the night, the lights reflect on the dark black irises that inhabit my face, embedded deep under layers of natural protection as God had fashioned. A tiny mist forms every time the human me inhales and exhales for oxygen. Somewhere a cricket sounds out to its brethren, what for, only it knows. That is all the action happening in the dead night. Miniscule movements – which would go unnoticed in the history of time, but universal enough to be as true as the starry sky.

image

The pale lights twinkle, unaffected by their failure to lighten the dark sky. They simply go on, shining, blinking, and twinkling in their own right. Simple not bothered, embracing the stillness of the canvas.

In the stillness that is the call of the night, the lights reflect on the dark black irises that inhabit my face, embedded deep under layers of natural protection as God had fashioned. A tiny mist forms every time the human me inhales and exhales for oxygen. Somewhere a cricket sounds out to its brethren, what for, only it knows. That is all the action happening in the dead night. Miniscule movements – which would go unnoticed in the history of time, but universal enough to be as true as the starry sky.

Yet, the stillness is only a perception. Just like my lack of movement fails to reflect the inner restlessness that is waiting to burst free. No, not the action that keeps my heart beating, my blood flowing, and my organs alive. The restlessness keeps my consciousness alive, constantly aware of the lack of poignancy in the meaning of our existence. It is the teacher that subsequently pushes us to drive up to new heights, and then once there, humbles us to accept our smallness in the universe.

I see the mountain peak, white with snow and shining as the stars reflect off its surface. It is there, waiting to teach me my lesson. Yet, here I lie in the grass, surrounded by stillness and nature. Already learning the lesson of the universe. Does that make the mountain useless? Does it realise that I will never climb the peak to learn the lesson? That it was only a means to an already ended ‘end’? Does it suffer from the realisation that it is not indispensable?

I call out for an answer.

“No,” a voice like rumbling rocks grumbled. “I am not here to be the means to your end.”

“Then?” I ask, demand, beg for an answer.

“I don’t have the answer. It’s within you.”

Silence. The restlessness builds within again, waiting for an exit in the form of a scream. It builds, slowly and powerfully, like a tsunami waiting to ravish the landmass ahead. At the tip of the tongue, though, the mind exerts control. The tsunami inside abates, unfulfilled and unsatisfied, but by no means destroyed. After all, there cannot be a body without some darkness within. Light is always accompanied with shadows.

“Maybe there was more to be learnt over the course of the journey,” a meek voice sounded. Lost in the restlessness, I looked for the voice. Where did it come from?

“It was not just the mountain, but also the grass plains, the rocky plateaus and the vicarious mountain slopes that were to play a role.”

The voice seemed far away, but was steadily drawing nearer.

“Not just in shaping your lesson, but learning their own lessons too.”

“What lesson?”

“The same lesson you were to learn, and thought you learnt in the stillness of the starry sky.”

“Thought? I did learn the lesson. I am inconsequential. My presence or absence won’t cause any ripples in the universe.”

“Why?”

“What have I done that would have an impact? Nothing.”

“Haven’t you?”

“Look around, what do you see? Nothing. Who would remember me after I am gone? No one. Nothing I have done is out of the ordinary. Nothing that would last.”

“Do all ripples last forever in time?”

Silence.

I could see a shadow moving closer. Its clothes were billowing, even though there was no wind. A soft shine was emanating, stopping me from making out its details. It finally arrived and stopped in front of me.

The dark black sunken eyes, the squarish straight eyebrows, the dimpled chin looked familiar to me. Vaguely so. Its beauty was distracting, stopping my mind from making the connection. Caught in that moment, the restlessness within lost all impulse.

And in that moment of clarity, brief as it was, the beautiful shadow opened its mouth and spoke.

The voice came from inside me. “You just ‘are’. That’s all. Nothing else matters.”

If life were an ocean, I would be a rudderless boat

Everyday is a struggle. Me against myself. My conscious mind against the unconscious fears that clog my mind; weeding them out is task, for they hide in plain sight, just not visible to my foggy vision. A thousand anxieties weigh down my thoughts. What for, I know not. They both jerk me into action and yet glue my feet to chains unknown. I am at once action and inaction. It is most disconcerting.
There was a time when I knew my heart, my dreams, my aspirations. Now, I have leeches sucking the very colour out of them. Today, those dreams lie untouched, gray and lifeless, their presence long forgotten. The sad part? Those leeches are not strangers. They are part of my own skin and bone.
And a heaviness sets in my bones, like the body of a tired 70-year-old.
I set about my monotonous chores, like a machine keyed to a default setting. Drifting along in the river of time, with no anchor, no sense of direction, rudderless and worse yet, no determination to set my own course. For you only fix your journey once you know your destination, and I know not mine. Even short-term stops defy me.
Until then, I submit to the shallow whims and fancies that catch my attention, each lasting a mere seconds in the wider scheme of things. It’s like the boat goes right when the current wants, and then left when the wind blows through the sails. The ship is left onto the mercy of nature. Who knows where it will all lead to?
And here, I lay in the deck, watching through unseeing eyes, all the while thinking:
Where am I? What am I doing?
Who am I really?

The Spectator

He was a keen observer of human behavior; he could attest to its overwhelming superficiality. He would sit by his windows, and peer out into interconnected world beneath … (From The Spectator)

Read this post by my friend, Rajiv. Reminded me how some of us are observers, some by-standers, some active players, some passive ones. Yet, every one of us has a role to play. For what though?

If I may borrow some ideas from the book ‘Conversation with God’, we all are part of the universe’s collective consciousness to understand its own self, and for God to understand himself.

I am rambling now (big surprise that!). This was supposed to be a simple recommendation. Do read the post.