On trees, birds and lofty things

How wonderful it is, to glow under a February sun! To let your leaves, yellow and green turn a shade of gold. To stand still and let your bare branches frame a sky – serene and blue. To shelter birds of different tunes, to exist and merely be. And in that, to find purpose. How glorious it is, to be a tree!

How liberating it is, to soar over that tree! To fly to places where your wings can take you. To feel the wind under your feathers. To see the essence of life beneath you – the incessant movement. To perch on the windows of homes put together with love and care. To go back to that golden tree. Always. How delightful it is, to be a bird!

How humbling it is, to be a part of that incessant movement! To be able to stay a while and watch the sun set. To own your life and revel in your being. To watch life pass by all around and to know that all hearts beat the same. To find a reason to smile and to be at peace. How marvelous it is, to be alive!

How magnificent it is to light up the world! To rise and set for no reason at all. To paint the sky and to give life. To be worshiped and to inspire. But how limiting it is to be that indifferent sun. To exist without being aware. To bear witness to the drama of life, but to not know.

How fitting it is that what I tell myself is the meaning of my life! My purpose, my freedom, my home, my peace and my being – all stories I have told myself.

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Transitions

And here I stand.
Between twilight and the break of dawn.
I hold in my mind
all my forgotten thoughts.
Sifting through the sand,
I realize – it was by this shore
that I had buried
all my hopes for tomorrow.

Each passing tide
had held forth
the promise of this very land.
Not a grain less,
not a grain more.
All this here –
my mistakes, my doing – my life.

And now, here I stand.
Tomorrow, I will break into a tide;
I will rush with the winds;
sleep under the shadows
of a distant sun.
For I am in a ceaseless transition
from who I am
to who I will be.

Evening Glory

12484574_10153841356839889_6819406626255685527_oCould it be-
That the sinking sun is lonely?
Could it be-
That the ecstatic sky it paints-
The glorious red and the gold
Is all but an entreaty
Of a jealous lover?
Or could it be-
That over the seas
And over the mountains;
And over the gurgling Ganges
this symphony of light
Plays out everyday
to remind us
that all glory could be had
If we just hold on?
Could it be-
That all Life could be set aflame
If the passion burns bright?

Nostalgia – a privilege

The tiny, tender leaf of the banyan; tearing it along its vein without a break is a sure shot way to make Krishna appear. In each of the million and more leaves swaying above our heads lies a key to find him.

As a child with a credulous mind and a romantic bent in the heart, I snatched away many an unsuspecting leaf from its branch and looked for a beloved cowherd. Today, I hold it in my hand and trace the innocence of that child along its veins.

Nostalgia is a safe game to play from a distance. Miles and hours separating you and your earlier self, covers everything with a shade of love. Your heart yearns for an earlier time.

We love our stories. We love who we were.

Then there are those born to that same space and time, but for whom the world is a maze. Surviving it is a task they have to begin before learning to dream. And the maze is unrelenting in its complexities. How does a child born to nothing make something of himself? Doomed from the start by his lack of opportunity and which some would later call – merit, maybe he will learn to blame that obscure word – fate.

And if by a strange, impossible miracle latent in those banyan leaves, in himself or by just plain old fate, he deciphers the maze; will he, sitting in a balcony with wind in his hair and a million thoughts in his mind wish for an earlier time?

We are all children of privilege. Entitled to nostalgia, to romance the bygone.

The gentleman soldier

“Education is one thing, ma’am. But humanity – that is different. And I think that, is more important.” – Raja Basheer Khan (a soldier guarding India’s borders).

The lonely soldier atop a mountain is sometimes a philosopher. He is also someone who is entrusted with one of the most extraordinary jobs in the world – being India’s first line of defense.

He stands guard over snow-covered ridges, day and night. He watches the desert sun set across the fence. He opens the gates for the farmers ploughing the last tract of India, lying beyond the fenced border. He watches as the river turns into a sea and drowns his camp every year.

He will tell you about his daughter who is in college and his wife who is his strength. He will tell you how far his home is. He will also tell you, how important his job is – for his family.

He will tell you of struggling with frostbites and low-oxygen situations. He will tell you how he helped another soldier, still.

He will tell you of the difficulty of navigating a river which builds and destroys islands as it pleases. He will tell you of the people who live on these islands with a compassion that is rare.

He will tell you of cross-border smuggling and how that makes his job difficult. He will also tell you, better than any economist of how poverty makes smugglers of people sometimes.

He will ask you if you feel fine as he drives along what is affectionately called a national highway, but is really just a dirt track cut into a steep cliff. He will later smile and tell you that it was one of the most dangerous roads in the world. And if you ask him, how he knows that and drives on it still, he will merely smile and shrug.

He will tell you of long marches and treacherous climbs to unreachable outposts. He will tell you how that helps him when he is sent for disaster relief.

He will fret over your comfort and apologize for the lack of electricity and other amenities while showing you into the best room there is in his camp.

He will also wait hours for you and when he finally finds you, he will insist on showing you the gurudwara nearby and with a child’s enthusiasm tell you it’s history. He will blush like a teenager if you tease him. He will also trek miles carrying weights you cannot lift.

He will help you climb a mountain and tell you, you are almost like his daughter and that he will fall before you slip on the sleet and slush.

He will tell you it was nice to see a new face after so long. He will ask you to hurry up and leave as the snowstorm was coming and you shouldn’t have to deal with it -with him.

He is the gentleman soldier guarding our borders. And it was my privilege to have spent some time with them as they went about performing the sovereign duty of protecting my nation.

(a few memories from the 2 weeks spent with the BSF and the ITBP -India’s first lines of defense)

An honest homage

Death trudged along;
A lonely hitchhiker
In a very alive world.
A few lives here
And a few there;
It moved on-
Hardly keeping a count.
Somewhere, in this
dispassionate murder of life-
Loved ones were lost.

Simple things are
Sometimes,
The most difficult
To say.
Let us try.
There was life.
And then there was none.

No. It doesn’t make the cut.
Let us try again-
Maybe, they are in a better place.
Maybe, there is a heaven
Where good souls socialize.
– that is a pleasurable thought.
All the peddlars of credulity
Would have you believe
In grey heavens
and afterlives-divine.
Belief is easy.
Should we try belief?

Delusion!
What is a soul?

I am because-
I think.
I think because-
I can.
And that is all there is.
To think and to believe
Are very different things.

Shall we try again, then?
It is necessary
To document
Good lives.
History
Is otherwise
A drudgery of wars
And deaths.

There was a man.
And now he is dead.
There is a void
Where kindness once was.
Death was not vengeful.
It was life
That was-
Conflicted.
And yet simple;
ephemeral.
He did well. He was true to himself.
We will leave it at that.

The whisper in the woods

The wind came in today –
uninvited, cheerful.
It’s an old soul,
you could tell.
It knows it’s stories well.

It has heard people breath.
It has heard people laugh
and sigh.
It has carried kisses
and left them burning
on an anguished lover’s cheek.

All this and more,
And yet it plays
with curtains
in my little hall.

It says there is a whisper
in faraway woods.
And the whisper
has enquired
if it knew a girl
by my name.

The wind knew me well.
Trapped in my hair once,
it had heard my fears.
It knew me as how
the night would know a dream.
It asked of the whisper,
this story held in the woods
in which was my name.

The whisper spoke
of love and fear –
and how they shape
men and women;
the degree – it differs.
Some lean on love, some on fear.
Most – on a mix of both.
There is a story in the offing,
the whisper said to the wind.

The wind played purposefully
in my hall.
The curtain grazed my cheek.
A little less fear,
a little more love;
I heard.
The stories are in the woods.