Thursday, December 29, 2016

To make broken things whole again

The Dalai Lama rocks. Literally, I mean. When he sits and talks, he rocks gently from left to right, right to left. I had read that it is a habit acquired from decades of long hours of meditation, often in the cold. (Though it felt to me like he was listening to some gentle swaying music of the universe, with internal headphones.)

The best-behaved thousands-strong crowd I have ever seen, the Tibetans listened in respectful silence to their leader telling them to aim for a victory for both sides, and to always remain warm-hearted in the face of all injustice. [This was a Tibetan gathering at Bangalore many many years ago]

This man, who every time he leaves a room, tries to switch off the light, hoping to teach by example, continues to tell his homeless wronged people to have compassion above all, to forgive wrongs one cannot bear to even read.     

As Pico Iyer says: "If the Dalai Lama were a dreamer, it would be easy to write him off. In fact, he's an attentive, grounded, empirical soul whose optimism has only been bolstered by the breakthroughs achieved by his friends Desmond Tutu and Vaclav Havel. Havel indeed, who became the first head of state to recognize the Dalai Lama, within thirteen hours of coming to power, has been a powerful spokesman for his new kind of statesmanship. The politician of conscience, the Czech leader writes, need not have a graduate degree in political science, or years of training in duplicity. Instead, he may rely on "qualities like fellow-feeling, the ability to talk to others, insight, the capacity to grasp quickly not only problems but also human character, the ability to make contact, a sense of moderation."

In all those respects, the Czech president may well have been thinking of a canny Tibetan scientist with a surprsing gift for repairing old watches, tending to sick parrots, and,as it happens, making broken things whole once again."*

There was no grandeur, no striking stride, no heroic gestures. But strangely, on the stage, the giant painting of the Potala palace with the huge snowcapped mountains behind did not appear to dwarf this smiling old man sitting in front of it, and talking about kindness being more fundamental than belief....        
*from the essay:"Making Kindness Stand to Reason". 1998.
'Sun after Dark. Flights into the Foreign'
Pico Iyer

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Change of Guard

Every day, dramatic events happen in the natural world all around us, unnoticed by us for the most part. There's magic everywhere. You just have to stand in its path.

Every evening, at dusk, there is a silent yet beautiful change of guard that happens between the kites and the bats at Cubbon park entrance. After knowing about the bats for nearly 25 years, today I stood and waited at the signal and watched it actually happen. The first bat coming out. And the second. And then hundreds and thousands, in waves and waves!

Before that, I watched the kites for an hour, while having coffee on MG road. Drawing majestic concentric circles in the blue, the setting sun lighting up their undersides in gold. Each of their marks standing out so clearly as they flew closer to the metro rails once in a while. Kite meditation, that's what it is. Accessible to us all day. As I lose myself in their gliding, I realize that this is the slow, effortless, fluid, unthinking way of moving my Tai Chi teacher keeps trying to teach me. And this endless repetition, the only way to mastery.

And then I walked towards the Victoria statue entrance of Cubbon park, and stood at the St.Marks Cathedral signal, and waited for an hour. The kites continued to glide even after 6, when the light had dimmed, but they were flying lower and lower, you can actually see them in the photos. Around 6.15 I see them settling on trees one by one. The Central Business District, and Cubbon park, has enough trees for thousands of kites to live, I realize.

And then I see a couple of tiny baby bats flitting across, but no big ones. Just when I was wondering whether the bats had decided to go to the West instead, the first big bat flies out, at 6.24! And from the Chinnaswamy stadium side, strangely. And as if on cue, one by one, bats start to fly out in waves from Cubbon park, from the left of Victoria statue, in the direction of Sivaji Nagar. Their flapping in stark contrast to the stillness of the kites' wings. Where do they go? To Ulsoor lake?

I know the place they live in the park, beyond the rose garden. What a tumult that grove must be going through, with thousands of upside-down hanging bats waking up and flying!

The time between the kites and the bats is just a few minutes, barely 10. Do the bats watch the kites come down, and then start flying? Is there a cue? "Here, the city is all yours, we are going to sleep. Take over."

I did it! I stood in the path of magic! I am batty, but I have star dust on me. :) :)