Thursday, April 28, 2011

It rained this afternoon.

The clouds had given fair warning. They had been talking to the meteorologists for the last two days telling them how urgently they needed to get rid of the load they were carrying. The experts, in turn, had passed on the word to the lay people to expect severe thunderstorms in the latter part of the day. They were always so accurate. Such accuracy can come only from getting the news at source -hence the clouds had to have spoken to them. All morning long, the clouds gathered around the town. Some gliding on the gentle breeze that blew from the east. The heavy dark ones, full to the brims managed to drag themselves without losing a single drop. It started getting darker and darker as more of them came. Women rushed out to get the clothes from the clotheslines. Some people shut down the windows while others opened the doors and sat at the stoops, waiting. A flock of swallows made a final dash to get out from under the ominous clouds. And then as if on cue, the first drops started to fall. Gently, haltingly - as if testing the lay of the land. And then it stopped. Nothing moved, not even air as everyone waited to see if the rest would follow. And sure enough as if satisfied that the land they were about to fall on was worthy enough, the floodgates opened. A rush of water started to fall from the sky, enveloping everything in almost a fog of water drops and accompanied by the loudest of shhhhsssss, first in a straight line and then with gay abandon. It rained as If there was no tomorrow. It rained as if this was the last gathering of clouds that would ever grace this land. It rained so hard that it stopped people in their tracks and sent them scurrying under the awnings along with the squirrels and the magpies. It rained with a rhythm that could only be played out by master conductor, Mother Nature, herself. It rained with a purpose. It rained this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What a wonderful world!

Lately, it seems every book I read, every movie I watch or any program I listen to is talking about the restlessness of the mind, the need to know what happens next, what happens when we die? How do you make your time on this Earth worthwhile? Maybe it was here all along but I have just started to notice. Another thing I have noticed is as I get older, things seem more and more impermanent, momentary. The fact that our time in this world is finite seems irrefutable and obvious. When we are young, it is all about opportunities, new experiences and to-do lists. Everything seems possible. All you have to do is work really hard. It feels like there is an entire lifetime ahead to achieve the goals and have fun. As you get older, you start crossing off those goals on your list. You get yourself a good education which hopefully lands you a good job. If you are lucky, you may even like your job. Find the right partner, get married and settle down for the long haul. Life chugs along just fine and then the kids arrive. That changes the pace of things. It sounds clich├ęd, but your priorities get overhauled , without you even noticing it. During those years of child rearing, life just paces itself out so fast that you do not realize how you have changed as a person. The responsibilities that you bear in raising these individuals bring into perspective your role in your own life. That is when the thoughts about the trajectory of your life and where it is headed raise their heads. Now a days, faced with the violence and bitterness in the society, the only response that makes sense is to simplify. To live in the moment, to enjoy each day for what it brings, to smile at babies and shake hands with strangers, to give the other person the benefit of doubt and not assume that the world is out to get you. These seem phrases copied from Hallmark cards but when put into context they make sense. We need to use the highly developed brain that evolution has endowed us with to further our species instead of destroying it.

Sure, it is easy to introspect when you are leading a comfortable, healthy and happy life. When you have to worry about where the next meal will come from, how you will keep your baby dry when the roof leaks or where you will hide when the barbarians are banging on your door, these questions seem irrelevant. That is why it is important now more than ever that the people who are content and have happiness to spare, share it with those in dire need. Religion has tried to do this but in my opinion organized religion has failed humankind terribly. The brilliant writer and historian Tony Judt put it succinctly and beautifully when asked about his thoughts on religion and after life. He said :

"I don't believe in a single or multiple godhead. I respect people who do, but I don't believe it myself. But there's a big 'but' which enters in here. I am much more conscious than I ever was — for obvious reasons — on what it will mean to people left behind once I'm dead. It won't mean anything for me. But it will mean a lot to them. It's important to them — by which I mean my children or my wife or my very close friends — that some spirit of me is in a positive way present in their lives, in their heads, in their imaginations and so on. So [in] one curious way I've come to believe in the afterlife — as a place where I still have moral responsibilities, just as I do in this life — except that I can only exercise them before I get there. Once I get there, it will be too late. So, no God. No organized religion. But a developing sense that there's something bigger than the world we live in, including after we die, and we have responsibilities in that world."

So, if we all stopped worrying about the afterlife and paid attention to living this life to the fullest, then we will mean it when we sing …what a wonderful world!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Mother's Manifesto

My dear children

I am scared. I am scared of the world around us today. It seems everyday we wake up to another natural disaster, another war or another tragedy ruining the lives of millions of people around the Earth. We are running out of natural resources, we are running out of money, we are polluting the Earth, we are in the process of wiping out many species from the face of this earth. It seems people are getting sadder and lonelier with each passing year. I am scared of the state we are leaving the Earth in, for you. With all the technological achievements, we still cannot stop people from dying of a mosquito bite! The gap between the have's and have-nots is ever expanding throughout the globe. Everything just seems to be spinning out of control!! However, there is something I have control over - our lives together. When you were born, I was overwhelmed to think that I was going to be responsible for raising you to be an individual all in your own right, someone who can function normally and productivley in a society and lead a happy life. Over the years, I have learned that this is a partnership. I have taken cues from you and changed my opinions about doing things a certain way. We have started this wonderfuljourney together and its time we put down a manuscript for this adventure. Here are the things that I, as a mother, promise to do for you :

- You will always have unconditional and unending love from me.

-I will not expect anything but excellence from you in everything you do, so that you may never expect mediocrity from yourselves.

- I will never assume that you cannot do something until you have tried it and put in your very best.

-I will not limit you to my own knowledge. I will share all that I have and then search far and wide to get you more and as you get older, teach you how to find your own information.

-I may be busy but never too busy to hear you. In our conversations, I will pay complete attention to you so that you know what you are saying is important. I will also teach you how important it is to listen while the other person is talking.

-I will love you father with all my heart and be true in my relationships so you can experience the pleasure of family.

-I will explore with you everything this world has to offer in all of the areas of the arts so that you can start your own journeys.

-I will make sure you sample every cuisine in this world before you are 18, so that you will have a well-developed palate by the time you are ready to go out into the world on your own.

- I will let you experience the bliss of reading a book in a quiet house on a school-day afternoon

-I will take you on trips around the world and into the next-door woods, so you can experience the majesty of nature in all of its forms.

-I will share with you the joy of sports-playing, watching, the thrill of the win and disappointment of the loss.

-I will discipline you even if it makes me cry inside - I will have to be the parent then, not a friend.

-I will try very hard to not pass on my bias and judgmental feelings about issues to you but let you make up your own minds.

-I will never be judgmental when it comes to you.

-I will make sure you know where you come from-your family history, the struggles and triumphs of your family members so you have a sense of pride in your roots even if you are far removed from them.

-I will remind you, everyday, how special you are and that the pursuit and enjoyment of happiness is entirely in your hands.

All this will not be easy. All this is probably going to take a long time. But as I often experienced when I lie down on the bed and think about my day, the moments that bring me the greatest peace and happiness are the ones spent with you. And that makes it all worth the while.