Sunday, November 8, 2015

12. Receiving

Blue skies
And dragonflies,

A haiku you wrote many years ago. This October did not disappoint either. Many mornings lying down in the park, looking up at the sky, watching kites, swallows, dragonflies, all who know lightness. You return from a week in a cold dark gray country and spend a whole day riding around in the light, walking around, soaking in the sun like you'd nearly lost it forever, delirious with gratitude.

You come across this band of musicians who meet to jam under a beautiful gnarled Gulmohar tree every weekend, and you listen to their beautiful singing. They call themselves Folk Tree. Strangers come to listen to them at times. They invite requests. People suggest songs. This is what parks should be for. For the making of music and happiness.

You have been noticing how the park floor has been drying up little by little, post the south-west monsoon. The grass has been cut and left to dry, spongy beneath your feet. One morning you follow a squirrel carrying a big piece of dried grass, you know it must be going to its nest. You watch it jump from tree to tree, up there, to finally reach the hollow in which it is building a nest. You realize with a smile that you know the names of the entire squirrel path - the Aakaasha Mallige, the Gulmohar, the Rudrapalaash, the Cassia Javanica. :)  You know everyone's names, you must belong here.

The silk cotton tree has started yellowing in patches - you are surprised, you didn't know it has an autumn, this tropical tree. The leaves are more sparse, the ground below drying up. One day you come across a rat snake along the edge of the cement platform. You notice that you haven't heard the barbets in a month now. You wonder where they have gone.

You come in early one morning, before daybreak, to see how the park feels in the dark. The moon, seen between the rain tree canopies, beautiful. A few people already walking, jogging. You catch the first rays of light on the upper branches of the silk cotton tree. You stand still and watch a squirrel move slowly, sucking on Aakaasha Mallige flowers. It has just come down from the trees, and is feeding, not yet sprightly, not yet doing the crazy squirrel stuff they always seem to do, chasing each other up and down trees. You have been standing still and it comes close to you, not minding.

You wonder at its simple life, coming down from the tree every morning, taking what nature offers that day.

You have been also waiting for the blooming of the tabebuia impetignosas every week, the pink fist-bunches of lightness. They are blooming, in small patches, but the leaves are yet to fall fully, it is slow this year. Last year was so stunning, so breathtaking, you cannot possibly ask for more. You will wait, and take what is offered too. You will not complain.

More dry leaves under the silk cotton tree. More browns everywhere. The leaves fall down on you in the wind occasionally as you lie down and watch the kites. You notice how smoothly the dark rainy wet months have transitioned into this light dryness. How so much has changed. You notice that you have been learning to live in the present, in the Now, more than ever before. More than ever you know that your imagination is limited, you have no way to predict what will come your way, good or bad.

Maybe this ritual has played a part in preparing you for that? This regular seeing, this receiving, this documenting of the Now. Your moments of happiness are less clouded by the future, the whatifs, your usual paranoia of loss, your perennial preparation for the worst, the conditioning of the past. Perhaps this ritual has synced you with the rhythm of the universe, the many comings and goings of things, all beyond your control. The only surety, what you have now, in this moment.

You receive each drop of Joy like holy water, your head bent.

As the sun moves towards Uttaraayan, as yet another year catapults towards its end, you walk under falling leaves, grateful.  

The full series here:

Sunday, October 4, 2015


For Simone

A friend once tells you that you are the official Keeper of Seasons in this city. Maybe that is where you got your habit of looking for signs. The smallest signs of change. Of transformation. In trees. In the wind. In people. Like the solitary man in one of Henning Mankell's novels whose job was to measure ocean depths. He could only notice the distances between him and others, because that is what he was tuned to measure.

Today morning you walk around the circle of Tabebuia Impetignosas in the park, your annual check. The leaves have started to yellow and brown. They must fall, for the riot of pink to blossom in November. You notice that all the trees are not yellowing at the same pace. But you know that, the order in which they bloom. The first one that always bursts into a pink cloud has more brown leaves than the others.

You are thrilled to see that they have planted new tabebuias all along the edges, pink and yellow. So there will be new ones to reconstruct the circle of colour, whenever the old ones die. You are immensely grateful to the vision of the park caretakers.

The park is covered in dew. Crystals of light. The mornings are becoming cooler.

All is well. So far. So much environmental damage, so many aberrations, there is no guarantee that anything will go according to the annual cycle. The trees are often confused. Like the rain trees forgot to lose their leaves in January this year because the cold lasted longer than usual.

So every single thing you receive is precious. Your expectations are set very low. Every joy a jewel saved from the wreckage of the world. The uncertainty of our futures. And sometimes the rubble of our lives.


The dragonflies are going crazy in the sun. Sept-Oct-Nov. That is their season. They came in with the bright orange Rudrapalaash. And will leave after the tabebuias die, their short 3-week life. You wait for them all year. Some part of your soul must be in them.

You lie down on the grass and watch them fly around, glittering. White clouds move in from the west, it is windy. A brown dog is sleeping nearby, keeping silent company. Swallows and kites way up in the sky, doing their crazy somersaults and glides. Soon you are so still the dragonflies nearly touch your face flying so low. They are coming closer and closer. You are ecstatic. The trust of dragonflies. What more could you ask for?

This Morning

Oh, this life,
the now,
this morning,

which I
can turn
into forever

by simply
what is here,

is gone
by noon.

David Budbill

Sunday, September 13, 2015

11. The Light of September

Today you decide to spend some time in the less crowded, less "pretty" part of the park. Where things grow wild and the bats hang from the giant trees like dark fruits, their screeches cutting through the early morning stillness. There are a few runners you see along the edges, but otherwise you have the space to yourself. You slip on solitude with ease, your well-worn cloak.

And you notice that the light has returned. The light of September that you wait for all year. The crystal-clearness of it, after months of monsoon darkness. Under the giant canopies up there, you are in a house of dappled speckled light coming in from the East, slanted liquid rays.

September arrives in orange. In the bright lush burning orange of the Rudrapalaash that lines the streets of your beloved city. Spathodea Campanulata. Family Bignoniaceae. Poetry rolling off your tongue. You know these names by-heart. You know every one of these trees in the park, and some have names on them.

When you walk back into the sunlight from under the tree cover, you see  them - the dragonflies you have been waiting for all year! The dragonflies always follow the Rudrapalaash - as you learned from observing their connection for years. They will be here for three months and then disappear. They bring you unending joy. Their lightness, their translucence, their dance of delight against the blue.

As your start the long walk to your silk cotton tree, the day brightens. The patterns of shadow and light under the trees turn even more magical. Under your favourite gulmohar-tamarind grove, the light is to die for. You feel your quota of happiness is over. Can so much be given to a mere mortal?

At the silk cotton tree, it is pure heaven. The wind. The wind in the leaves, the sound of water. You are hungry, but you cannot leave for breakfast. The perfect light, the perfect coolness in the air. You want to stay here forever. You watch people stopping to admire your tree. You notice yet another old gentleman folding his hands in prayer, approaching the tree. You know that feeling.

And then a young girl and her mother come to the cement platform where you sit. Your overhear the girl excitedly telling her mother that this is her favourite tree, her best friend. And you smile, and start a conversation. A delightful time, listening to their stories, their love for history, for the city, for the trees. Such beautiful people.

The previous Sunday another stranger had come up to speak to you, another lover of trees, a foreigner. Who taught you how the age of trees can be measured, by arms spread across the girth, and how this one must be at least 150 years old.

Two new people in your email contacts. Funny. You have always been known to be a connector. And now the silk cotton tree is connecting you to people. :)

With great reluctance, you finally decide to leave. It is 11, and though you had missed dinner the previous night, and breakfast, you don't feel very hungry anymore. You feel satiated, in this ocean of light you are walking through. Your contentment is complete.

As you get on to your bike at the closed gate, you cannot help looking back into the park, into your favourite rain tree boulevard. You get off and go back to the gate, and look in to the dappled luminous corridor, just one more time. You cannot tear yourself away.

Home. This is home. This house of light.


The full series here:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

10. Wonder

In the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis' autobiography, 'Report to Greco', there is this beautiful scene that you often remember. During the course of his wanderings across the islands, the author, along with a friend who is a priest, stops at a little monastery occupied by Sufi dervishes who dance every Friday. They have a conversation with a friendly dervish who comes out to welcome them.

"Father, what name do you give God?", asked the abbé.

"God does not have a name", the dervish replied. "He is too big to fit inside names. A name is a prison, God is free."

"But in case you should want to call Him," the abbé persisted, "when there is need, what name will you use?'

The dervish bowed his head and thought. Finally he parted his lips: "Ah! - that is what I shall call Him. Not Allah, but Ah!"

        *             *             *             *             *             *             *             *

As you walk into the gray monsoon-dark park that day, you are unprepared for the discoveries you would make. More than six months ago you had searched for the tree of the beautiful red seeds, with a friend's young son. The seeds were everywhere, but you could not locate the tree. And you tried again afterwards, months later. But you never found it.

Today when you start your usual walk, cutting across your favourite stretch, you walk a little more to the left than usual. And you notice that the ground beneath your feet is full of red seeds! You look up. You are under the Red Sandal tree. At last. It was there always. So close to where you usually have your park picnics. And you'd never noticed!

And then a little further down, you discover the huge round cup-like seed pod a friend had found during a picnic. And whose source you could never find. And today you walk into a space covered with them! And you look up at these three beautiful giant trees with thick canopies. You are filled with wonder. This was a stone's throw away from where you normally sit. A horticulture-lover friend identifies it for you. The Sterculia Alata, the Buddha Coconut tree.

You feel like a child all over again. You want to hug strangers and tell them - hey, look what I found!

And then when you reach your silk cotton tree and discover a new nest in a branch you always look up at, you smile.

Lying down under the tree, you think of how over the years you have become more fascinated by people than places.  How every person is a country that reveals new territories that you never knew existed. And how that happens  only when you reach out, are curious, when you create this safe place where the other can open up without fear. When you learn to project kindness, like a horse whisperer who wins the trust of even the most wounded animal. 

You are filled with wonder as you traverse layer after layer into the core of another.

We are plural. We are changing. And the familiar is forever new.

16 Aug 2015

The full series here:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

9. Balance


After many Sundays of dark cloudy mornings, today when you approach the city, the light breaks through the clouds, like the blessing it always is. You know the park will be beautiful today, and can't wait to reach. It is. The light from the East, slanting in through the trees, creating patches of shadow and brightness. The parakeets and barbets, loudly announcing the start of the day. Your favourite rain tree at the park gate; its canopy shyness, as always, pure poetry.

You remember how the darkness of the last Sunday depressed you. And how you didn't quite face it with equanimity, such a minor thing. :)  You have been thinking a lot of balance, of late. Of what it takes to react to the unexpected, without losing one's cool. Of being prepared for the worst, but without dread. You remember your one year of Tai Chi lessons, the perfect exercise of balance, of never falling.

You keep returning to this beautiful blog post that says it perfectly, a lesson learned from Judo - Kuzushi. You are grateful for this reminder that tranquility is possible, though there is little we can predict. We can only choose the way we react to the unexpected.

Today you have to collect seeds for a friend, who wants to plant trees in the forest next to his house. You pull your eyes away from the light which is now playing hide and seek, and look down. And then you can't lift your eyes up! There is a whole world out there, on the damp park floor! So many species,within a few metres, their leaves and seeds intermingling with the lush undergrowth of so many kinds of grass and weeds. And insects, and their babies. And ants, busy as ever. And fungi.

Within minutes you have collected a whole bunch. Jacaranda, copper pod, hongai, tamarind, casuarina, pappillonacea something. Such riches! You have forgotten to bring a bag, your purse is full of seed-mud.

And you discover some new trees because you see a seed you don't recognize and you look up - hey, what's this? And you thought you knew ever square inch of this part of the park.

Each one so different, each one containing life, waiting patiently to be born, or wither and go back into the circle of life. So much going on, silently, all around us.

You can hear the military band playing as you walk towards the silk cotton tree. And when you reach your favourite Gulmohar tree, the one of the beautiful skirts, the light comes in suddenly, and leaves a fleeting patch of brightness amidst the dark monsoon green of the park.

At the silk cotton tree, there are two girls sitting on the raised platform, talking. As always, when you overhear conversations in the park, you notice how some people are so absorbed with their lives, their tribulations, even during a morning walk. How not everyone is looking at the trees or exclaiming at the light. The park, a setting for so many dramas being recounted at length. To each his own. : )

The tree has a few more patches of yellow leaves in between, you wonder why. Surely this is not shedding season? Or maybe it is a tree that observes Autumn? :)  A lone squirrel careering down the trunk. You can hear so many small birds, but you can't see them. You wonder what they are.

And as always, just when you think - "Hey, the kites are missing!" - you hear a shrill cry from up above. The first one to spot you telling the others - "Hey, the mad tree-kissing woman is here!" :) :)

You notice how because of the attention you pay to the silk cotton tree, you have also started observing other trees with more care. Your love for one tree overflows on to all others. Just as your love for one person should make you love the whole world more, an abundance that should spill on to everybody.

"False love, i.e shared mutual selfishness, makes people more selfish (and this is the case often enough). Genuine love increases the capacity to love and to give to others. The true lover loves the whole world in his or her love for a specific person." Erich Fromm, 'To Have or To Be?'

A fine balance.

The full series here:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing

Waiting for your friends to wake up, in a cozy upstairs apartment in Brussels filling up with beautiful summer morning light, you go through a heap of cards stuck on a board above the computer table. You realize they are birth and death announcements. Each one so exquisitely and imaginatively designed.

The death announcements move you by their sheer lyricism. A photo on one side, a poem below or on the opposite page. You read the ones that are in English and Flemish. What a beautiful way to keep a loved one's memory alive - a card gifted to everyone who comes for the funeral, or mailed to everyone who knew them. With poetry on it. Celebrating who they were, and the love we have for them.

The collector of poetry that you are, you wonder - which poem would go best with each of the people you love? And what would go with you?

A woman passes away. A little girl is born. Time passes. The wheel turns. And through it all runs Love, our love that even the gods envy.

You remember how in the mythologies and folk tales across the world, there are gods and celestial beings who have chosen to come down to live a human life with all its struggles and pain, just to experience love. There is no equivalent of it up there. Heaven is right here.

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
that's a fact
it's a thing we can't deny
like the fact that I will love you 'til I die

Katie Melua

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teach me to dance. Will you?

At the traffic signal, a man alights from a long-distance bus on the right side of your car, with a small bag in his hand. Freshly bathed, neatly oiled-down hair. Probably North Indian.

And then suddenly he starts doing this slow dance, turning round and round, shoulders high, arms in the air, as if to joyous festival music that only he can hear. Right in front of your car. Your driver and you stare at him in astonishment, spell-bound. He doesn't look drunk. But then what is happening? His small jig over, he bends down, touches the ground, and kisses his fingers.

And then walks away, a half-smile on his face.

He was just happy. Happy to be back, happy to have found love, success, whatever. And he was showing it.

This is exactly how you feel, every time you return to Bangalore.  But you don't dance on the road to show your happiness. Why not? His joy was so infectious. Every one of us watching this man anxiously ended up smiling from ear to ear. Our morning transformed.

You had forgotten Zorba the Greek, your old role model, your reminder to live life to the fullest, whatever befalls you. And then this stranger dances in front of your car, unabashedly showing his joy.

So much pain, so much fear, so much anger, all around.  Yet Zorba's answer to both delight and disaster, was always dance.

Zorba's Dance
The classic "Teach me to dance. Will you?" scene, after the failure of their catastrophic irrigation project.
3.28 mins

Gilbert, of course, said it best. 

"...We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.

To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

We must admit there will be music despite everything."

'A Brief for the Defense', Jack Gilbert

Photo from here

Zorba the Greek: The book, and the movie.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

8. And the light comes and goes...

After weeks of increasing summer sunlight and dryness and silver silk cotton floating in the wind all around you, today there is a stillness, and a coming and going of the light. The monsoon will soon be upon us. There is something in the air that spells change, or rather a readiness for it. 

The babies seem to have all left their nests. The barbets are rarely seen or heard. There is less activity on the trees around, except for the kites that seem to dominate the silk cotton tree. They are the guardians of this huge fortress. And oh, do they look it, these majestic creatures.

There are huge bee hives everywhere, especially on the silk cotton trees in the park. Is there a season for bees too? On one Sunday you see a bit of a hive lying on the cement platform. Its intricate perfection holds you spell-bound. To think that without these small beautiful creatures, plants will not be pollinated, and we would have no food to eat.

Last Sunday, a mother and child stop to observe a man who's going around the small banni tree to worship it. The child is curious. The man tells her it is a sacred tree and he is praying to it. She walks around it too, following him, hands folded. As they leave, the mother asks, don't you know the story of this tree? And she says No. "I'll tell you on the way back", she says and they walk away slowly, hand in hand, an intimacy you are privileged to trespass upon.

Today you see an old man holding the banni tree close and pressing his cheek against it. Which is exactly what you do with the silk cotton tree, every time. Two trees, one sacred for everyone else, the other for you.

And as the light comes in in waves and disappears, as you lie down under the tree and watch it, you remember the 35-year-old Siddhartha meditating under the Bodhi tree for 49 days, to discover the source of all pain. 

"According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude."

You can imagine why.

And you remember Pico Iyer:

"...The Gospels, revealingly, tell us little of Jesus' spiritual formation and concentrate mostly on his words and actions. The Buddha story, by comparison, places most of its emphasis on how Siddhartha came to enlightenment - the process (which anyone can follow, even today, in principle) - while the particular details of his subsequent teachings and wanderings are often barely mentioned.

Even non-Christians may know some of Jesus' words, while typical Buddhists may know hardly any of Buddha's specific discourses. Buddha is a precedent more than a prophet; and where Jesus came to earth as the way, the truth, and the life, the Buddha came to suggest that the way is up to us, the 'truth' is often impermanent, and the light comes and goes, comes and goes, until we have found something changeless within."

Pico Iyer, 'The Open Road - The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama'

And then you see this little squirrel picking up the laddu pieces one of the banni tree devotees have left at its base, and eating it from its small hands. Its prayer, its very life. 

The full series here:

Brass Band Happiness!

Had an hour of Pure Joy this morning listening to a military brass band play at the Bandstand in Cubbon park. I saw them walking down in their beautiful military uniforms, and ran to the bandstand - trees, squirrels, kites, everybody forgotten. :)  Sat on the stage, literally at their feet, next to the speakers, and smiled for one hour straight. :)

I am crazy about brass bands, not sure why, they just get me. They are the Pied Pipers I could follow into doom. The big booming drum especially.

They indulged me, played my requests for old Hindi songs, though they were out of practice. Thrilled me to bits.(Here they are, playing Chaudhvi Ka Chaand for me)

At the end when they played Saare Jahaan Se Acha, I jumped up and stood to attention. And from the corner of my eye, I notice that the audience sitting on chairs behind me, and the people on benches around the circle, all standing up one by one.

In the early morning sunlight, amidst a sea of green, a circle of people standing up for the nation, with a shining brass band in the center. My quota of happiness must surely be over.

Before leaving, a couple of the band members shyly came up to me to thank me, smiling. All of us could do with such absolute devotion once in a while, I guess. :)

Afterwards walked around in the park for a while, just to get myself to stop grinning like an idiot and put on a sober face to face the world. And then I see this little boy riding like the wind along the rain tree boulevard because Sundays are traffic-free in the park and the entire world belongs to him now and he is wild and free and happiness is all he knows.

I didn't see the point of a sober face after that. :)


Sunday, May 17, 2015

7. To be porous, opened


16 May 2015

The park looks different today, as you enter from the rain tree avenue. The grass has been trimmed, and the fallen leaves taken away for compost perhaps. The kites are shrill above the silk cotton tree, they are flying around in circles. You notice that strangely there is very little cotton under the tree today, though it had just begun to fall last week. The unseasonal rains have probably played havoc with the summer cycle of the tree.

Right next to the silk cotton is this small tree that people worship, probably the sacred Banni tree. There is always a garland of flowers around its trunk, arranged inside a string someone has tied. People walk around it as if around a temple, hands folded in prayer. Someone or the other keeps adding new flowers. It is amazing that circumambulation is a ritual that cuts across all religions. Did we learn it from the earth, the sun, this going around, this centering ritual of wonder and worship?

There are more mosquitoes today, and you have forgotten the repellant, darn. You need to keep moving around, if you want to stay un-bitten. :) The barbet is very active, going inside its hollow frequently, and the calls are loud, there are others on neighbouring trees. The kites are seated at their favourite perches up there, the squirrels running around as usual, as if their tails are on fire. :)

You discover a new bird today, which you earlier thought was the sun bird. It is small, has gray and black stripes, and its chirping is lovely, lilting, joyful. You follow its path from tree to tree and then you notice that it goes into a hollow in the Copper Pod today. The same one where the mynhas and the squirrels live. Such an ordinary-looking tree that no one gives a second glance to, perhaps you alone know that so many birds and animals live inside it, it is a universe by itself. You manage to get a shaky picture, and a bird-watcher friend identifies it for you, the Cinereous tit, Parus cinereous.

The small and the big, the tiny fragile bird and the powerful raptor, all living around a single tree, in perfect harmony.

You notice a mynah bird walking around in the grass. And twice it comes very close to you, without fear. It picks up insects fairly close to your feet. You are so moved. This is the trust you were hoping for.

Your favourite saint has always been St. Francis of Assissi, the patron saint of animals. If anything makes you feel honoured, it is the trust of animals and birds, a trust you usually win easily. They know you without words. With them, you just have to be.

Jane Hirshfield

I think it was from the animals
that St.Francis learned
it is possible to cast yourself
on the earth's good mercy and live.

From the wolf who cast off
the deep fierceness of her first heart
and crept into the circle of sunlight
wagging her newly-shy tail
in full wariness and wolf-hunger,
and was fed, and lived;

From the birds
who came fearless to him until he
had no choice but return that courage.

Even the least amoeba touched on all sides
by the opulent Other, even the baleened
plankton fully immersed in  their fate -

For what else might happiness be
than to be porous, opened, rinsed through
by the beings and things?

Nor could he forget those other companions,
the shifting, ethereal, shapeless:
Hopelessness, Desperateness, Loneliness,
even the fire-tongued Anger -

For they too waited with the patient Lion,
the glossy Rooster, the drowsy Mule, to step
out of the trees' protection and come in.

Page 45, 'The October Palace'

The full series here:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

6. Skin

10 May 2015

Of late you have been observing how the bark of each tree is so different. The striations, the texture, the design, the various methods of protection. The feel of them against your cheek. How they look dry, dead, tough, but hold so much life inside them - ever-growing, ever-changing life.

Skin. How it envelops everything we are. How we hope it will protect us. How we say we have no skin, when we feel vulnerable. How on our stronger days, we are tough-skinned, and nothing can hurt us.

How the skin shields us, but at the same time is also our biggest means of contact, connection. How we crave touch, its reassurance that we are real, we exist. How suicides experience un-real-ness in their increasing isolation. How babies that haven't been held enough never recover from the feeling of un-wanted-ness, all their lives.

And how we struggle to get the balance right, of openness and safety.


To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one's own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;

To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,

One's Being deceptively armored,
One's Becoming deceptively vulnerable...

Howard Nemerov
Today when you approach the silk cotton tree, the first thing you notice is that there's cotton on the ground! And small tufts of fluffiness floating down from far up above, passing through shafts of morning light. You imagine the bird and squirrel nests lined with silk.

The kites are fairly quiet today. Though you follow the one with the twig and discover the second nest. You notice how they never come directly to the nest, but fly out in a graceful arc, return, sometimes to another tree, and then finally to the nest. Their guard is never down.

The barbet is busy, going in and out of its tree hollow. You wonder whether there are babies inside, or whether it is still building its nest. It is amazing how it goes into the small hollow with its head first and then flies out again - the hollow must be big inside for it to turn around so easily.

The kites are being chases by the crows. You wonder why.

There are mosquitoes now, you never noticed them before. You must remember to bring mosquito repellent, if you want to watch birds and squirrels. :) You must be still and merge with the background of their small beautiful world. And hope to be blessed by their approach, the reciprocity of trust.

The full series here:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

5. The end of all our exploring

3 May 2015

All these unseasonal evening showers have resulted in a burst of green on the park floor, new life germinating all over. Today you notice that the tamarind trees are arrayed in their tiny pale green new leaves, one of your most favourite sights. And under them, the seeds have started to sprout into small tree-lings.

The green barbet's kutur kutur call has been very prominent of late, you have been noticing it on your morning walks. The park is also full of them. Very difficult to see these birds that merge with the foliage and move around quickly, but their loud call is unmistakable.

The path to the silk cotton tree is now lush green, the grass has grown.

The first thing you notice when you arrive at the tree is that the foliage is much thicker. You cannot see the new kite nest being built. But there are more kites today, more twigs being collected. New nests are probably being made up there, you struggle to see through the leaves.

And then you notice a barbet going inside a hole in the tree on the side, its nest. And a parakeet going into another tree on the left. And while walking down to look at the parakeet, you notice a mynah nest!

The birds have a home only during the breeding season, and then they abandon them. Unlike us, for whom home arouses strong emotion, whether home be a place, a person, or a state of mind. Millions are forced to leave their homes and their countries every year fleeing war, torture, poverty. So many die on the way, like those on the many overloaded boats that so often sink in the Mediterranean. Others try to recreate home in a new place where they have no history, no known smells, sounds, tastes. Our nest, a basic need, our only sanctuary amidst change, flux, impermanence, all that characterizes our emotional and social lives.

The squirrels are up and about as always, in constant movement, preening their fluffy tails in the sun, jumping across the grass in that funny way, sending high-pitched signals to their mates. There is no joy like the joy squirrels bring you. You are very reluctant to go home. You want to stay here all day, with all this life milling around you, these tiny creatures with whom you belong. You do not ever remember feeling alone under the silk cotton tree.

You were always known for your love of travel, your eagerness to discover new places. You were the official organizer of trips, the guide for people who wanted to explore. All that has stopped. You have been discovering the city you have lived in for twenty three years, all over again. Noticing things you never noticed earlier. Seeing, like you never saw before.

There are calluses on your knees for having knelt down in gratitude, again and again.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S.Eliot, 'Little Gidding'

The full series here:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

These people, unaware, are saving the world

He lives far from the city, and rides long distances to work as a physical trainer at a clinic. In the evenings he helps out at his brother-in-law's snack shop at another end of the city. And reaches home late. He has little time and little sleep. All his youth is spent in trying to earn a living.

In the middle of all this, he tells you shyly, watching your delight at the Gulmohar blossoms outside the window, that he has planted flowers on the median of the big road in front of his house on the outskirts. He doesn't know their names, but they look nice. He waters them regularly in between his rushed day, and worries they may not survive. The neighbours think he's crazy. But he believes we must all plant flowers and trees in our little corners of the world, we must help green the earth. He is delighted you understand.

You look at his face in gratitude. You do not know how to explain to him that he is also saving the world, in his own quiet beautiful way.

 The Just

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a café in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets his page well, though it may not please him.
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done to him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.

Page 455. Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems
Translated from the Spanish

Sunday, April 26, 2015

4. The Cycle of Life

26th April 2015

And then you meet a dear friend, Saleem, with whom you volunteered at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre, some of the happiest days of your life. He tells you that you should start documenting bird sightings/hearings, the life you observe in and around the tree. That it is called Phenology, the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events. And that you can contribute to Seasonwatch. You are fascinated. You pick up a small notebook with wildlife illustrations by Sal, and you take it with you to the park.

Today is a perfect day. You walk into the park just when heaven is unfolding. You can barely breathe.

And all along the way to your tree, you notice that the parakeets are louder than usual, and so are the mynahs and the other birds. A regular orchestra. Such energy, such joy! It has rained heavily again the previous night, a hail storm. Birds sing after a storm, they say. Because they are happy for the warmth of the sun again?

The first thing you notice when you approach the tree is the kites flying around more than usual. One of them is collecting twigs. One of them is practising glides under the tree, and then sits in the sun, enjoying the warmth after a cold wet night. Probably a young one? This is also the first day that you hear the kites call out so much. Normally they are very quiet.

The second time you notice the big kite with a twig in its beak, you are intrigued. You follow where it goes. It flies out and then returns in a graceful curved arc, and settles on a branch high up there. And then you see it - it's building a nest! So that's the second kite nest! You are so excited. You cannot wait to return next week, watch this drama of new life unfold.

Afterwards, you go to your regular breakfast place, the second part of your ritual. And you notice that the people there are noisier than usual. Much conversation, much laughter. Are people also affected by storms, do they unleash something in us, release pent-up feelings, cause us to overflow? :) 

After the Storm: 

The full series here: