Sunday, April 28, 2013

Reality - The Dark Underbelly

Source: Facebook (Sankalpa Acharya)

The above article makes for such an amazing read; but I have a different take on this. In reality, life has a very dark underbelly.

I took a step back to look and saw. I am treated worse than an animal. I am ugly and I can be nothing but a slave to my owner. I have been a bonded labour in an asbestos factory since i was 8. I can be nothing but this. 

Maybe I don't hate everyone but just hate myself because I couldn't love enough for that person to hold on to me. I gave in everything I had. My best friend betrayed me because i went bankrupt. My father slapped me every night, just because he was drunk - and I let him slap me, because if it wasn't me taking the beating, it would have been my mother or my sister. The kid down the street didn't just call me ugly - everyone at school did. Maybe, I do hate everyone.

I keep weeping to realise that I can't let go and weeping is all I can do. The memories are beautiful but they bring pain, pain at knowing what I have lost. Today I am dying after weeping all my life, but then the pain is what kept me alive, kept me feeling. This pain has kept me living till now for something and for myself. 

I discovered what love is, but the one I loved is still in the cycle of falling in and out of love and that person has fallen out of love with me. Now that my soul has been touched, I can't love no more. People take me to be crazy and when I tell people what I feel, I see that they don't care.

I don't have a roof over me and I have no choice but to sleep under the stars and all that it brings - rain, storms and sometimes cars on the pavement; taking us straight to the stars. I am creative and imaginative - finding new places to sleep - in the cold finding pieces of cardboard to wrap around us - still some of us succumb to pneumonia. I share whatever food i find in the dustbins.

I am afraid of meeting new people - I was kidnapped and raped for days together when i was 12. My family has abandoned me. I am just plain lucky to be alive. To make someone's day - I need to get through my day without breaking down - without being afraid. My dreams are broken into pieces and each piece with its jagged sharp edge has cut me up so many times.

Live my life to the fullest potential. Are you kidding me. I barely survive. I am whipped in the morning to start work and given just enough food so that I can keep working. I am just 8 years. I hear abuses from the whole family and have to work till late after everyone else has slept.

What do I let go off - horrible things are a part of my life. I was sold to the brothel owner when i was just 14. I am pimped around everyday. My daughter is destined to follow in my unfortunate footsteps. I have AIDS.

I am old (maybe young) and I am dying and I look back. I am not happy. Some of you were born to better lives. I did my best - but I have regrets; regrets that I am dying at 15 due to the dangerous fumes I have inhaled in the asbestos factory, that my father was an alcoholic, that my best friend betrayed me, that the memories keeping me alive were memories and not reality continued, that the space in my heart was never filled; that I truly loved without care and with complete abandon, that there was no roof over me, that my best friend was mowed down by the SUV, that I was raped and abandoned by my family; that my childhood was snatched away from me and that my daughter shall end up being me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Life has come a Full Circle

This is a continuation to Space in the Heart.

Aakanksha stepped out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport to be harshly welcomed by the Sweltering heat of New Delhi. The car was there to pick her up to take her straight to Shimla. She loved the long drives, especially the winding roads from Kalka to Shimla. Aakanksha was 23 and had been coming to Shimla to visit her Grand Mother every two years. Her Grand Father had died when she was 13 in a car accident.

She was giggling away, as this was a surprise visit.

The cool breeze on her face awoke her from her slumber and Aakanksha realised that she was already in the hills. She took a deep breath - the smell in the air of Pine Cones and mountains turned all her senses on - she was fully alive. As always, she stopped at Timber Trail and took the Cable car to the top. There were three of them in the cable car - Siddharth a handsome guy somewhere in his late twenties and Katarina, a Russian tourist. It was love at first sight for Siddharth - there was something about Aakanksha; he was totally smitten.

Just near the top the cable broke and cable car was dangling - the emergency brakes had engaged. Katarina started screaming at the top of her lungs. Siddharth immediately took control and calmed Katarina down. Aakanksha was composed and was handling the situation well. Siddharth took out his mobile and called emergency services. Within 30 minutes a rescue chopper was there - but as soon as it came over the cable car, the downward draft from its blades caused the cable car to shake violently. In the ensuing commotion, Katarina lost her grip and fell across to the door, which broke with the impact. Siddharth and Aakanksha tried their best to hold on to Katarina - but it all happened so quickly that they were a bit too late to react and Katarina fell out.

The rescue was called off and they were informed that due to bad weather the rescue would only commence the next morning.

They spent the next few hours talking. Siddharth was a Captain in the Indian Army and was on his annual vacation. His father, Aniket, was  a leading Cardiac Surgeon in Mumbai. When Siddharth was 12 years old, his mother, Neha as the CEO of Ogilvy was attending a function in Taj when it was taken over by terrorists. They saw her body at the morgue 2 days later. Since that day he had wanted to join the Army to protect his nation.

Aakanksha was from New York and was born while her mother was pursuing her PhD in Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania. Her father, afraid to take responsibility of a child had abandoned both her and her mother. As a single mother it was not easy for Kavya to raise Aakanksha - but she ensured the best upbringing for Aakanksha. Aakanksha was also pursuing her PhD in Psychology, just like her mother had done.

A wire snapped and then another - Siddharth looked out and saw that the steel wire which the car was holding on to was giving way. They were near a tower - it wan't simple but it had to be done. All his training and adrenaline kicked in. He immediately opened his bag and took out his clothes. Then he made a makeshift rope out of his trousers, shirts and belts. He tied one end to his waist and the other to the cable car's window grill and jumped. In his mind he saw himself missing it - but his fingers found the tower and he held on. He braced himself in a secure position, tied the rope to the tower and asked Aakanksha to hold the rope and cross over. She was afraid - but he was unrelenting. Another wire snapped - she held the rope tight and hung on to it and started moving towards the tower. Her hands were numb but she kept moving and moving till she reached. Once on the tower, her legs were trembling - she held on to Siddharth, he held on to her. She had never expected this - but his warmth, the way he was holding on to her, she knew she was home.

In two hours they managed to climb the tower and find shelter in a cave as it had started raining heavily. They were so exhausted, tired and cold that they fell off to sleep in minutes finding the warmth and comfort in each other.

Early in the morning they heard a chopper approaching and came out of the cave, from where they were taken to the Hospital in Chandigarh for treatment of minor bruises and cuts. Katarina was found too. She had a serious concussion and her left leg had fractured. By a miracle and god's grace she had survived - the door broke her fall and worked as a barrier taking most of the brunt.

Seeing the live coverage of the rescue, Vibhuti was shocked to see Aakanksha. She said a silent prayer and then drove to Chandigarh.

Vibhuti invited Siddharth back to Shimla with her and Aakanksha. She didn't miss the twinkle in Aakanksha's eyes.

Today, two years after the accident at Timber Trail, Siddharth and Aakanksha are tying the knot.

Life in it's own weird way has come full circle.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Space in the Heart

Three days could bring forth such passion and intensity - it was unbelievable. It was his soul she had touched.

And he turned away, for he just didn't see another way. He wasn't sure of what way he would take, how he would stop loving. An emotional mess, insanely in love.

She turned away too, never once trying to stop him, to ask him how broken he was - not because she didn't feel for him, but because she felt for him so much, that she knew how broken Sid was. Neha knew that Sid would never stop loving her the way he did; but she had to get over him, she had to let go - as much as she felt for him she knew deep within her heart that she had been carried away - her hormones had her overpowered. That she loved him was just for a brief iota of a second and everything after that an illusion amplified manifold. He was just a very good friend and the situation had got the better of her.

The only way for Sid to walk away and come out of the mayhem was for her to completely walk away from his life - for him to think that she did not care, for Sid to wait for that shoulder to be offered for eternity - for him to break down so much that he became compelled to find another shoulder.

Sid knew that Neha truly cared for him but as she didn't want the same thing out of the relationship as him, as she never felt the intensity he did, he had no choice but to push her away - he didn't have it in him to walk away; so he kept pushing her away. Things got ugly, but he succeeded - Sid couldn't bear to have her, but not have her.

Sid also understood that no matter how much he loved Neha, he would never be able to give her the life she deserved; for he came with his own share of responsibilities which he had no right to neglect. There was no way that he could give up on Vibhuti, his wife of 18 years and Kavya, his 15 year old daughter. Over the years, as in most of the marriages, the romance had faded and responsibilities had taken on a higher priority, petty squabbles had increased and love seemed like a long lost emotion.

Its been 7 years from the day he walked away. Today, Neha is heading the Marketing for Ogilvy in Mumbai and has been happily married to Aniket for 4 years. Sid has been reduced to the mere memory of a fling gone ugly. Ever so often though, when she lovingly sees her husband, Neha can't help but see the fleeting image of Sid's smiling face. She is expecting a baby boy in 2 months and has already thought of a name - Siddharth.

Sid and Vibhuti are still married and settled in Shimla. Kavya is leaving next month to the University of Pennsylvania to pursue majors in Psychology. Sid has stopped smiling as much - his happy go lucky mask cast aside. He is completely focused on the happiness of his family and has never been found wanting in his role as a Husband or a Father; but there is a space in his heart - never to be filled; and in that space he shall always be waiting for Neha.

Continued at Life has come a full Circle

Monday, April 8, 2013

I met God

I met God.

He was nothing like what I had thought. No, he was not old, he didn't have a flowing beard or a robe. He didn't wear jewellery or a crown. No halo around him - he was just another man on the street.

I actually bumped into him while I turned a corner spilling his hot coffee on the pavement, he apologised, I cussed and we were on our own ways. Last month, while approaching a crossing in my car I saw the same man wanting to cross the road - I floored the pedal and he jumped back. I cussed again not even bothering to look in the rear-view mirror completely focused on the free-way embracing the horizon.

I started seeing him everyday and the situations were such that I cussed but he always smiled and walked on.

I had so much strain - strain to earn more, strain to live better, strain for the lack of time - there was so much to do with my existence and life was too short. I wanted to be president of my company, needed to send my kids to Ivy League and wanted to travel the world with my spouse. I had no time for losers who didn't have the ambition or the aggressiveness to stand up to the world. Smiling at me while I cussed him - an escapists way out.

As much as I did, it wasn't ever enough - the more I achieved the more I wanted. From fan to cooler to AC; from bicycle to bike to a luxury car; from an apartment to a house to a mansion. The wants keep growing - the expectations the world has from me also keep growing. My goals - ever changing. More, more and much more.

I was walking back from office and I was caught in a sudden downpour - he was there, standing below a canopy. Ever so smiling, he opened an umbrella and offered to walk me to my car. No words were exchanged, save for a thank you which escaped as a bare whisper from my lips. Before I realised that I should offer to drop him somewhere  he had already walked away - and I didn't even know his name.

As always, I saw him the next day and walked up to him. We got talking and he told me that as happy as he seemed, he was breaking up inside as his children weren't turning out the way he had expected them to. He had given them the best of everything and most of all he had given them free choice and the choices they were making weren't something he could come to terms with. He was willing to guide them but they had stopped believing in him.

Dharam went on to tell me that all of us have a freedom of choice - what to do with our life, how to live it. Life in itself isn't unfair - it has given us the best of everything. Our choices however define what we make out of it. Happiness should be the top priority and being Selfish, but not inconsiderate, might just be the best attribute towards one's own happiness . Only if one is happy and contented can he do good to others; possibly only then the right choices can be made. Dharam told me that God doesn't grant wishes or miracles to those who believe - he just shows them the way towards attainment. We need to do our part of walking towards it.

I was so mesmerised with our dialogue that I didn't even realise how time had crept up on me until I was rudely zapped out of the trance with my phone's reminder going off. I got up, a bit abruptly to leave; Dharam put a hand on my shoulder and asked me if I had any wish.

A wish; well I had everything I could have ever wanted, but then I was certain that I was lacking something essential. True that my successes kept me elated - my family's and friends happiness kept me satisfied - but then where was I in the middle of all this? Or rather, I was literally in the middle of all this - at the centre of the Carousel; my world all around me happy and laughing - the merry laughter of my daughter, my son standing on the horse and my wife full of love for me. My friends and family cheering me.

I don't know what came over me but I asked him for contentment and for true happiness.

Don't be the centre of your universe; be a part of it. Jump onto the crazy white horse on the Carousel - live your life enjoying it. Don't waste your time trying to find happiness, because if you try looking for it you won't find it - just be happy; soak it in like the rays of the sun on a warm day. Life is too short to be anything but happy.

I told you, I met God and to me he was just like another man on the street - the difference being that he showed me a way towards attainment.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Soap Bubble Universe

Life isn't fair, he said. And I believed him because I had no other opinion of the life we were trying to live. Where the poor doesn't have a morsel to eat and the rich have their dogs to feed. Where criminals live free from fear and the law abiding are whipped and caned.

In spite of being in the same universe, every living being is happy in his own perception of the world around him - we have our own umwelts in which we exist. Interaction with umwelten and the real world reshapes and remodels our own universe - but we never do see the stark reality as it exists in its entirety. We do see bits and pieces of it but choose to ignore because we don't really want to upset our own equilibrium or because we don't have the right critical mass to even try.

Love is bull crap, he said. And I believed him because I had seen love bring suffering to a lot of kindred souls. Either you love too much or too less and both hurt. It was love for you and disillusionment for the other - hormones for you but emotions for the other. Love for both, but just not meant to be.

The notion of love is so overrated that I guess that most of us are in love with the idea of being in love. We mistake friendship for love, lust for love, companionship for love - but when love really faces us we are so terrified of the idea that we run away from it. Love is complete surrender; it need not be reciprocated, it may not be understood - it is for you to just give.

God is a figment of imagination, he said. And I believed him because I haven't seen God doing anything for his creation; if at all it is his. Still borns - what sins have they committed? Earthquakes, Tsunami, Plagues; even a monster protects his own. Maybe we were never his to start of with.

I haven't seen God. Have you? It is a blind faith - for whatever cannot be explained. Our Universe is but like a soap bubble blown by a child who is himself in a soap bubble universe blown by another child in another soap bubble universe and so on and on. A day for the boy is a millennium for us. And he is spewing out universes after universes. This bubble is going with the wind, just waiting to burst.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Perfection but a collage of Imperfections

I got up one morning and just walked out of my life, as I knew it; as if I had discovered a new calling. It was persistent, it was irritating, it was vague. I tried to comprehend the calling but to no avail - I was, as an iron to a powerful magnet drawn.

I walked on and on -  my feet went sore, my throat was parched and my heart was pounding against my chest. I wanted to collapse but my will was overpowered by the strength of the force pulling me. My body had given up but my Soul urged it to tread on, ever so drudgingly.

A million thoughts were running through my mind - what was this quest for? Was I looking for love or happiness; was it contentment or was it God? I completely broke down, I was so helpless, so much at a loss to understand. I had abandoned my life and was wandering in the foothills of the Himalayas - I hadn't had human interaction for months and had lost count of the number of sleepless night. I was merely surviving on whatever nature had to offer to me. My soul was restless, my mind was bordering towards the sane's definition of insanity and my body was exhausted to the brink of death; but I had never felt so alive - I had never wanted anything so bad.

After years of pondering, my head started throbbing and one thought consumed my being. If I had the wherewithal, I would ensure that my offspring is perfect; then why are we, God's own creation, so imperfect; why are we flawed and wrong?

While I was in one of my numerous pensive states, trying to figure out the whole purpose of my being, I was brought back to my senses by a sagely man prodding me with his stick. Seeing my frail state he insisted that I follow him to his hut. As much as I wanted to be left alone, I was but yet again pulled. Selflessly, he shared his food with me and tended to my health. Over the next few days, except for the perpetual throbbing in my head, I regained my health and started helping Sankalp with his work. He was an Ayurvedic healer who used the herbs from the foothills of the Himalayas to treat sick people. People used to queue up outside his hut before sunrise and Sankalp used to ensure that he left no one unattended. It was as if like magic - everyone who came to him was cured.

He was such a learned man that one day while collecting Herbs, I asked him what he thought perfection was. Instead of answering me, Sankalp asked me about what I thought to be the closest thing to perfection that I may have seen on my journey. The answer was clear - the herbs curing people of their ailments. He went on to explain that in a very isolated case that may be so - given that the sole purpose of the sick person is to get cured and the herbs do so, but even in that case the right medicine, in the right quantity, administered at the right intervals to the sick person creates perfection. The herb alone serves no purpose hence in isolation is imperfect.

The incessant throbbing stopped. I realised that perfection I was looking for was always there and I was the most important part of it - as are you. As imperfect as we are, each of us are but pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - the only thing perfect is the completed puzzle itself - Gods own plan. I am happy that I have a role to play towards creation of perfection. 
Perfection but a collage of Imperfections.

My eyes blurred, Sankalp vanished, so did the forest and the cold of the Himalayas started turning into a warmth once forgotten. I collapsed.

I woke up in my bed, in my life as I knew it - but with all that I had learnt during my journey traversing a night, albeit transcending geographies and years.

Myriad Ramblings

© 2013; Aakaash Sehgal: