Places of Answered and Unanswered Prayers.

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I have always loved temples, since childhood. I remember that in Nahan, a small town where I was born, there was a temple up the hill. It was a very short walk and I used to go there alone very often as a child. When I grew up the visits to temples or any place of prayer were rare as my parents though believers of God are fairly liberal and somewhere between laziness and hurry for modernity we stopped doing anything that continued a contact with God. We all grew up, got busy and moved on.

Though, many years later when I was travelling with a friend in Uttarakhand and we went to a temple with many many steps, many bells and I felt the same feeling of peace.

I realised that my love affair with temples, or places of prayer was not over.

Over the years, I have managed to see some beautiful places of prayer across many cities and few countries and have always walked away with a feeling of calm and hope. Very recently I visited two places of prayer, both are magnificent in terms of architecture and space but not any more or less important than the smaller places I have been to.

One is at the Vatican. St . Peter’s Basilica and the other one is Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum.

Both of them are worlds apart. While, St. Peter’s Basilica was buzzing with tourists taking selfies and all, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple does not allow photography and there is a dress code that one must follow and respect. But, there is a prayer room at St. Peter’s Basilica where one cannot speak aloud and all you can do is sit and pray or just sit for as long as you want. When I went there, I just sat and prayed for my family, friends and the world at large but there was something so moving about the place, so quiet and so heavy with the air of faith that I just found my eyes welling up and was unable to move due to this wave of emotion, a wave filled with a bit of self pity, a bit of feeling sorry for others, a bit of hopelessness, a bit of thankfulness, a bit of nostalgia and all of that. I realised that whenever I have looked around and seen people at places of prayer all I have seen is this intense devotion. You see them praying with the intensity that looks like once they walk out of here all their problems will be miraculously solved. But I don’t think those miracles happen very often.

What I did realise that it is not the presence of idols or symbols but the presence of human faith that makes a place of prayer powerful and hence that God is nothing but the energy created thanks to human faith.

It is the energy that we create and it takes a tangible form in our minds. And that form make us believe that things will get better. Prayer is nothing but a one sided conversation and God is probably our best shrink. We speak to God with all the honesty, I don’t think we are ever that honest with anyone else. We are honest with the energy because an invisible and non-tangible, silent form is not judging us. Since we are talking to our own energy, conversations with God are actually honest conversations with our own selves. Just that the idea of talking to God makes us feel there is someone listening and is less judgemental about us than we are.

Conversations with God help us to say it as is, it also helps to re-articulate and question what we are praying for, question if what we are praying for is what we want or is it something else. Conversations with God is an iterative process of arriving at that absolute one sentence we know when we say it, it will feel right. And frankly at the end of all this, I have realised that by and large all that we want is health, empathy and joy. The rest are just means to this end.

We as human beings need faith and hope to go on. To believe that what is good today shall remain good and what is not will become better. But in reality it isn’t always so. And that is our strife and that is our struggle with life. We strive to keep making ourselves better despite of reality and we keep struggling to understand how. For a better life I am not sure what the benchmarks are anymore. Because when I look around my life, I realise that it is pretty damn good.

So in places of prayer while I pray for health, happiness and joy, I also enjoy the energy of human faith that gives me more hope. And of course I do love the vast places of prayer that have come to stand tall thanks to the power of faith.

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Old books & lovers.

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I want to meet you again, with the familiarity of re-reading an old favourite book.

You know the story, the beginning, the middle and the end.

But in between the lines detail is what has been slightly forgotten.

I want to smile again. At the sentence that I have read earlier, but it feels anew.

Because, even though my mind forgot the memory of those words,

that familiar glee never fails to reach my eyes.

You may say the same sentences or different ones,

but I know that I will still smile.

Because what I remember is not what you said,

because what I will always remember is how I felt when you speak.

I just want to sit quietly and hear you say things, random things,

because I want to remember your face,

your face that you are so conscious of,

when you look away because you are feeling shy,

when you purse your lips because you don’t know what to do if I cried.

Like I hold that old and familiar book,

I want to sit across the table and hold your face with my gaze

examine if the grey hair that you have,

is more than when we met last.

I want to smile wide and honest so you can see my wrinkles.

I want to inhale that smell of you like we smell old books.

They are musty and comforting.

I may find something new in the book this time.

We may find something new in the conversation.

But the feeling of familiar, comforts me for very long.

How can something so old and so familiar still give a feeling of new, fresh excitement?

How does that feeling remain?

Is it the time, is it the distance, or is it just the memory?

Memory that misses the details but only remembers parts of elation.

The parts where words across a page made me think and re-think.

The joy that was brought by that thought.

The words that made me discover a whole new me.

The words that added to “me” being who I am today.

That is why I want to meet you again.

To just watch while you speak.

Miss the details of your words. But remember that feeling which made me find who I am today.

That feeling which nudged me to test myself and see what it really meant to love.

That feeling which makes me remember not the details of your words but the intensity of my feelings.

I want to keep you like that book I am re-reading by my side, for a while. At least, just that while.

Me and My Magic Carpet.

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I distinctly remember that when I was a child the notion of magic came to me for the very first time while reading the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. Magic at that stage of life meant “whatever you want, will happen.”

Magic at this stage of life still means, “whatever you want, will happen.” Even now, in my everyday conversations, many a times I refer to my imaginary flying carpet. In many situations I do feel much calmer imagining myself sitting on that carpet and just flying off. Now, thanks to knowing the real life the reference to the magic carpet has an undertone or overtone of sarcasm. But I must say, even now, I believe in magic, even though it won’t ever be obvious, but I so love the glee I feel when I think, that imagine if this could just happen, something which sounds super improbable.

Magic also requires complete suspension of rationality, logic and perhaps science too. But what it does require for sure is a very strong belief. And that belief will lead us to some place. I think. Just imagining that I have a magic carpet and all I have to do is sit on it and transfer myself somewhere else is highly unlikely, but when I do imagine it in my head, it feels real, I actually imagine cool breeze, no pollution of course but a calm traffic smoothly on the road below me. I don’t even care where I land, as long as I can fly on that carpet is all that matters. And it is true to our behaviour in life situations too, the moments we think were magical, they were never leading to anything or anywhere but they were so powerful and complete in those seconds primarily because we believed in the improbable.

Just before my teens, my magic carpet was my bicycle. I used to just cycle around for hours and hours, and the freedom I felt is still palpable. I was discovering freedom for the first time and that feeling that I can get away was awesome, it made me feel like an adult. The feeling of being far way on my own, from where I was supposed to be, but not yet knowing where I will be and the in between was the magic. Only when I came across a point where I felt scared or not safe did I turn the bicycle around and went back the familiar way. Well, sadly there was no magic in turning back.

Now, the magic carpet equivalent is a fight. It literally transports us from one place to another, takes us somewhere, anywhere, but all the planning beforehand makes the destination magical and not the journey somehow. For me, I don’t really care about the destination, as along as I have a magic carpet and all I have to do is sit on it and fly away. I will eventually get to someplace. 🙂

So, I guess magic is nothing but just a strong belief. A belief that something wonderful will happen despite of rationality, logic and science against you. Unfortunately, my damn flying carpet which is supposed to transport me somewhere else is not manifesting itself.

Van Gogh and other pointless thoughts.

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Yes, there is a lot going wrong out there and sometimes I feel guilty and shallow for enjoying things. But at the moment all I can do is pray for the sufferers, choose empathy towards friends and strangers and live and enjoy all that life has to offer.
Long ago I remember buying a book, a book which I usually would look down upon as I thought it was shallow and focussed on things that are not important. The book was the best of Vogue pictures of parties, people and places. Once it was bought I thoroughly enjoyed admiring the pictures, I remember telling a friend, “Why must one feel reality is only the struggle, poverty and the suffering? Reality also lies in beauty and perhaps indulgence.”
So, here is my indulgence at the moment, pontificating on my favouritest painting in the world. (I know favouritest is not a word).
It is called “Cafe terrace by night” by Vincent Van Gogh.
I don’t remember when and how I fell in love with that painting, perhaps during art school days. And over the years it is a painting that I love deeply and somehow it just calms me to see it. It is not an unhappy or a happy painting, it is just a sombre snapshot of someone’s neighbourhood cafe, these days we may see something like this on instagram with a hashtag of #myneighbourhoodcafe or something like that.
I have been looking at the painting and realised that my first impression was that of emptiness. The cafe looks like a place busy during the day but the quietness of the night makes you want to get away from it. The patch in the canopy gives it a feeling of well used and well lived a place by people and its owners and it looks nestled in a typical European street with houses around and people coming in and going out. I would like to think, like me Van Gogh was also focusing on the emptiness with vacant tables in the foreground, people and the quiet humdrum of activity at the back is incidental, like when we take a picture, we focus on one thing and many a times when we look at that picture later we realise the stuff that was happening around the subject.
There is so much of quietness in the painting that I feel even the sound of breath itself will bring life to it. When I look at it I don’t even hear the sound of shoes against the cobbled stones in a far away distance. The painting is from a point of view of someone who is distant, smoking a cigarette and with no thought just looking at the on goings of the cafe. Probably if you asked the observer what he saw he may not be able to recall as the painting feels like a moment when you are among a crowd but don’t feel your own body or mind and later on won’t even remember being in that crowd. The painter feels closer to the emptiness and not the people.
And most importantly, because oil painting in the only medium in which you first paint with dark colours and paint light colours at the end, it is similar to a spiritual journey in life. Yes, this is me overthinking it but going from dark to light and to lightness.
So indulgence is a journey, whether of enjoying places, things, people, moments and so on and so forth, but if we let it, it can take us to observing our indulgence and give us a sneak peek in who we are. It is just a matter of how close we are and how far at the same time.

When I am a kid.

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When I am a kid I can talk to anything or anyone.

When I grow up I will get the sense of “I”, “Me” & “Mine”

When I am a kid you are a friend and not a swan.

When I grow up you are a bird and I ain’t no Peter Pan.

Stuff That Legends Are Made Of.

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“I want to be remembered as a man who never sold out his people. But if that’s too much, then just a good boxer. I won’t even mind if you don’t mention how pretty I was.” – Cassius Marcellus Clay

So, some of us slept to or woke up to the news of Muhammad Ali dying.

When I read it, I gave it a moment’s thought and then carried on with whatever I was doing. Then a friend of mine who I was chatting with this morning for a long time on whatsapp about light hearted, everyday nonsense messaged me and he just said, “Muhammad Ali died.”, and I was like, “I know”.

At that moment I saw my friend’s face in my mind, and I saw a 40 year old man feeling and looking rather forlorn on this news. I saw him as a little boy in awe of Muhammad Ali, who, today is feeling sad, and not sad about reading a bad news, but sad like a close friend passed away. But Muhammad Ali was no close friend of my friend and then I was just thinking about why we need the Heroes in our life.

We need the Heroes because their stories, their struggle, their failures and triumphs make us feel we are not alone, someone else also went through it and managed to overcome. Heroes give us hope, that some day even I can be a legend, not necessarily legend in the world famous way but a legend in my day to day, we need the heroes because they inspire us to keep moving, and no we don’t think about our Heroes in our day to day lives, we just know that someone somewhere has made an impact on the way we see things and live life and in our quiet way we keep loving that stranger who we feel so close to. Heroes, give us the courage to be different, heroes make us channelise our passions into disciplines, and most of all heroes make us love a stranger unconditionally.

But the other side of Heroes is also that they are so big, so awe inspiring, so far that the mind can get confused between the Hero being the real person or a character created by this universe who is above us all, is invincible, someone who cannot be destroyed, someone who just cannot change and someone who will live on way after we are gone.

Our Heroes are not really are made of flesh, blood and bones in our minds. In our minds, our Heroes are made of passion, emotions, drive, courage, bravery, and strength. So when they die, we feel that life has cheated us, life made us believe that this ONE PERSON is invincible, is un-destroyable, and a constant, but was not. We get to know that unfortunately the Heroes are also made of flesh, blood and bones and they will suffer illnesses, they will become weak and they will die.

But the beauty is that in our minds, all we will remember about our Heroes is their passion, strength, things that made them different, things that made us worship them and we will continue to feel stronger and inspired and then we want to share the stories of our Heroes with our kids, our friends, our family and we make them live on.