Sunday, December 30, 2012

Aavaaz Do!


Haruki Murakami, the well-known Japanese novelist, in his speech about the creation of nuclear plants in an earthquake-prone country, and the inability of the government to enforce strict regulations, talks about the importance of rightful anger. "I don’t know why Japanese people rarely get angry. They are good at being patient but aren’t very good at getting angry."


Those of us "Shiva-worshippers", who routinely turn Anger into Energy, know something about it. It is easy for us to understand that if there is an outrage for which protest has to be Visibly Registered, to begin with, you go stand at street corners, with placards and candles, shout out Aavaaz Do! (Speak Up!) with the crowd - because not being Present, failing roll-call, is failing to help with the ultimate tangible Tipping Point of all Change - Public Protest, Physical, Real, Powerful.

We didn't need an Egypt to prove that physical public protest works. There once used to be a Man amongst us who got up and said, Follow me, we will walk together, our sheer strength will be the Message. It all began with us - remember?

Your deepest regret, that you weren't born at that time, that you were not around to leave everything and follow him, to join in the quiet assertion of what it means to be Human, to claim Freedom.

A life of Cowardice, Indifference, is but Death, known in advance.

Today, while protesting an outrage that only brought to light the deep-seated fault-lines of a disturbed society in turbulent transition, ironically standing next to the statue of a brave queen of yester-years, you remember Murakami.

Rightful Anger. There isn't enough of it - out there, on the streets, where it counts.

So what have you learned, through all these years of standing at protests?

Standing with strangers, whose words you repeated, you finally understood the essence of all those philosophy books from all over the world - that we are all Connected, that the same Life Force runs through us all, that the height of Evolution is finally understanding that there are no Walls.

What happens to Another, happens to You - You, as in not just the lone physical body you inhabit, but the Collective Soul whose existence, until then, was too esoteric for you to comprehend. That, if you fail to speak up for Another, you fail to speak up for Yourself.

Standing there, amongst strangers, you saw that Activism is Philosophy in action. Lighting your candle from the person next to you, you redefined the word "Stranger". You learned that every little step counts, that every positive action transforms you - and you, are Society.

"Aavaaz Do! Hum Ek Hai!" (Speak Up! We are One!)

Presence. The Biggest Gift, as always. The one that as you give, you also receive.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


On a bright sunny morning in the mountains, when you walk under the trellis of a bountilful harvest of bitter-gourd, you feel you have walked into a house of light. The golden rays trickling in through the thick foliage of leaves above you, lighting up the wavy ridges of the bitter-gourd, the glow that permeates this safe space, the arms of gold and green within which you are enfolded. Where no harm can possibly come to you.

You were on a most unusual walk that day, in the Nilgiri mountains. You'd gone to visit an old friend who belonged to an organization that works for the ancient tribes of those mountains. You do not remember why and how the walk was planned, but she said let's go to my friend's house in the coffee estate tomorrow, she’s left the key. And so the next day morning we find ourselves setting out on the winding forest paths, my friend Anita, Fran├žois, a young Belgian doctor who was volunteering at the tribal hospital, and Manoharan, who worked at the NGO with my friend.

You notice the tremendous sense of ease you feel walking in a group that was mostly strangers. Conversation is easy, you are drawn into it as if they always knew you. Up and down the rolling hills you go, an easy chatter punctuated by comfortable silences. Manoharan has a million things to say, he is funny, he is bursting with stories, and recognizes a listener. You know that feeling. O Brother, you think, your heart melting.

In a valley you come across vegetable fields. You stop to admire them. And then you see the thick-leaf-covered trellis, with the bitter-gourds. You walk into this house of light and stand for a moment, transfixed. You have no words. It is like standing in the flow of grace streaming from heaven, the radiance. You feel this huge connection to the universe. 

Walking back up another hill, you pass a village, and stop to pack food. Kothu parottas, a snack you love. And then you enter the long winding roads into the coffee estates. At the old white estate house, Anita searches under a flower pot in front of the main door. Yes, the key is there, where the owners said they’d left it. You are amazed. You city-dweller, stranger to trust. The house is old, with old furniture, books, spaces of warmth and coziness. You sit in the verandah at the back and unpack the parottas, while Fran├žois has us all in splits, pronouncing each punctuation with funny sounds, like this man.

Later on we go back into the house, and each of us settles down in a different room, reading, looking at things. You remember lying down on the cool red-oxide floor in an almost-dark room with old furniture, and falling into a deep sleep like you have not known in a very long time. When you wake up, you notice this huge happiness flowing through you in the absolute stillness, a happiness that had to do with space, and connectedness. And a feeling safe, like you’ve never felt, before or after. Silence, but somewhere in the house, the others, all kindred souls. It was enough.

For the second time, you feel like you are standing in radiance, in the path of grace, washed over by it. You remember thinking, you can never be this happy again, your quota of happiness is over.

Later on, you get up, you have more conversations, you walk to the stream full of rocks and gurgling, you watch a Malabar squirrel. And then you return, the long walk home. Manoharan continues his stories. He had planned to go back home, but at the last moment he changes his mind. “I’ll have dinner with you, since you’re leaving tonight”.

We have dinner at Anita’s place, delicious food, as always. Later, you start your return journey. Replete. You’ve never had a completely perfect day in your entire life until then. You just had one. A day when you possessed no one or nothing, but you stood in the stream of life, you belonged. 

Manoharan sends you the newsletters of their NGO for a long time afterwards, with small notes written in all the margins, like he couldn’t just finish telling all he had to say, he was bursting with stories, overflowing, he could not be contained. You understood. You know that feeling. You who are known for your long silences now.

 Last month, you learn that Manoharan passed away of cancer this February. And that he used to ask about you. Manoharan, whose sense of humour stayed with him through it all, who kept up the spirits of others throughout the ordeal. “He made such fun of his cancer and laughed his way till the end.” (

A friend once tells you, with all the wisdom of youth, that he’s seen you happiest when you’ve had a friend to listen to your stories.

I hope you were done with telling all the most important ones, brother.