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: http://whiletheworldisgoingplaces.blogspot.in/search/label/Notes_from_a_Ritual

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. :)

Album: https://photos.google.com/u/0/album/AF1QipPqGtnyPy4Yo9wspcu06H2VwaHkvHMdtzRAhYk