Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Loving... Love itself!

Was it the moon hiding amidst the clouds or was it just the whites of her eyes behind the veil of her thick lashes? Was that slight upward curve of the luscious lips, a sign that she craved for more? Was the flutter of her eyelids a manner of enticing me into the deep and long corridors of romance? As I gazed into the thicket of her tresses slightly ruffled by the wind and the careless flick of her fingers, I noticed the vivid pink shade on her nails saw the fine lines on her palm and was lured. Just how long I sat there, lost in what seemed paradise to me, I know not. After all I was mesmerized in praising something that nature had created with ever so much care, so much love and devotion… for in those moments, I loved love itself!

And when I was aroused from that slumber… lost in dreams of greater beauty, romance and love, neither was she there, nor was her sensuous scent. What she left behind was an overwhelming feeling of fullness, a heart that was bursting to bloom, and a smile that pervaded my very being.

                                                              The Light of Love

Monday, July 26, 2010

Until the candles burn along...

The angels came together
They danced in utmost glee
The Mozarts of all the times
Composed seductive cacophony.

The candles in all their scent
Lit up, shone bright and warm
The flowers in all their dainty
Blossomed, beautiful and calm.

You weren’t there and yet you were
I’ve waited and I will wait still long
The words are there, the rhythm too
I’ll wait till we are the song.

I sat and watched, you weren’t there
Yet I’ve felt you in deep and strong
I’ll wait for you, however long
I’ll wait till you come along.

The music shan’t die, the candles can’t burn out
The flowers can never droop
No dance can stop, no moon can wane
Until I have the hope.

I shall wait, and wait, forever long
I shall wait till you come
Till the cacophony, the flowers and me
And candles can burn along.

PS. I wrote this one many years ago, stumbled upon it during the weekend house cleaning and decided to post it... :) It's amazing the stuff that can tumble out of your cupboard when you least expect it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Million Magical Moments

What’s a pilgrimage but a million magical moments strung together on the path of belief, hope and prayer. I’ve just returned from experiencing infinite peace on one such journey. During the monsoon months, the lean phase of mountain top pilgrimages, over 15000 people trek up the Trikuta Hills. The peak season handles traffic of over 50,000 pilgrims a day. For some pilgrims, it’s a vacation in the Himalaya’s, for others, an adventure trip but, for most it is a walk of faith. Whatever the motivation, the pilgrimage to the Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine, situated atop the Trikuta Hills close to Jammu, is nothing short of magical.

The spiritual trek up the mountains is filled with loud jaikara’s* sounded by walking pilgrims, the clank of wooden lathis, trotting ponies, the stray palkhi, the occasional dholak and groups of young dancing pilgrims. At Katra, the base of the hills, one needs to buy the Yatra Parchi or Pilgrim’s passport, as I like to call it. This parchi basically insures you against any accident that might take place in the hilly terrain. The biggest insurance is the presence of Maa, herself, but something tangible is good too, so the parchi works well. Also, unless each pilgrim has the yatra parchi, they are not permitted to begin the pilgrimage.

The 17 odd kms journey begins at Banganga and ends at Bhairon Ghati. With 2 major stops on the way:- Aardhkuwari and The Bhawan. The Bhawan is the sanctum sanctorum of the Mother Divine. In this Holy Shrine, the Universal Mother has manifested herself in 3 rock formations, known as the pindis. The temple does not house any idol or pictures- only the Divine Mother manifested in the Pindis in all her glory. The journey along the steep winding road itself is beyond words. While nature stuns you with her bounty, the light of longing in the eyes of the pilgrims keeps you marching forward.

Refreshment is provided in plenty along the route and many a weary traveller take a nap under the sheds.
The entire path is well paved and tiled, making the walk easier. The pilgrimage to Maa Vaishno Devi’s abode does not require a great deal of money, other than getting to Jammu and back—a very good pair of shoes and some light woolens. What it does require, however, is an investment of time and energy and a desire to dip in the pool of faith.

Standing in the Bhawan, head bowed before the Divine Mother, is an experience inexpressible. Waves of devotion and love wash over us taking with it the weariness of the walk, the fatigue of life and the troubles of the mind.

On returning to base camp, any conversation about the pilgrimage is more about the journey than the destination. Journeys, filled with aches, blisters, sprains and exhaustion from walking. I’ve experienced it myself the test of endurance. But, this isn’t just another expedition, and so, even as pilgrims struggle to walk those steep miles, their smiles are virtually unshakable. Looking back, I staunchly feel that the journey to the shrine was among the best experiences of my life.

As I narrate my experience, all I can say, is that this trek is akin to scaling the mountain of self-doubt and ignorance. When you finally summit and enter the Bhawan, you will meet yourself. A new you- emerging from within the heart of rock, refreshed and strong, breathing of peace, joy and love.

I returned home wishing this pilgrimage never ended. That’s when I stumbled upon this quote by one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, ‘Life itself is a pilgrimage. Every day is different; every day can have a magic moment.

My pilgrimage has only just begun… yours?

* Jaikara- Words of praise to the All Mighty said loudly. At the Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine, among the more popular Jaikara's are:
Jaikara Sherawali Da. Bol Saache Darbar ki Jai
Jai Mata Di
Holy scriptures esp. the Sikh holy scriptures suggest that when you say your Jaikara, say it so the moutains shake and the skies crack wide open!

Monday, July 12, 2010

It’s a four letter word called F***

It can wreak havoc in the most peaceful of lives. It can make the strongest of the strong, go weak in their knees. A word that can turn the world as you knew it- your world- upside down. An emotion that can wipe away all your fancy notions about your own self. Well, I am not talking about mushy stuff or love… I am talking about icy cold and absolute FEAR!

My fellow passengers on board the Indigo flight bound to Jammu clutched their seat arms, in fright. The cabin crew was staggering and the captain voiced an alert. The air pocket wasn’t going to be easy. I could feel fear in air. Yet, here I was squealing in delight. I was thrilled and was enjoying the adrenaline rush, much to the dismay of both my husband and my brother. I even poked fun at them about their twinge of fear. Little did I know that within 24 hours, the very emotion I had scoffed at would bring me to tears.

After trekking uphill a full 15 kms or more, various hidden muscles of my body decided to reveal their presence. I had another 2 km to trek and knew that my feet wouldn’t move an inch. That’s when my husband, brother and I came to a consensus that we could take the pony ride up to the Bhairon Nath Temple. We had seen many pilgrims take the ponies at Katra, the base of the Trikuta Hills. Though I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea, I decided to give it a shot. After all, I had done the major portion of the Maa Vaishno Devi Yatra on foot. All that was left was to visit the Baba BhaironNath shrine. It wouldn’t hurt that I took the pony.

After some bargaining, both the men jumped on their ponies and were seated in absolute comfort within moments. It gave me courage- the smiles on their faces and their confident demeanor. The ponies strutted and sometimes almost slipped, but the men didn’t seem too bothered. The horse trainer was of course running beside. Clumsily I saddled myself. Unexpectedly I realized how precariously poised I was. I chanted and sang the Jaikara’s that had been ringing in my ears during the night long walk up to Mata Ka Darbar or Bhawan as the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine is more popularly known. But the monster of fear that had raised its head in the depth of my heart, refused to dunk its head. But I am a strong girl. I knew I would make it. I HAD to make it. After all, I’ve always thought myself to be the rather brave and adventurous sorts.

The rather over grown pony turned and with that action, I felt myself getting more lop sided. I clutched on the small iron handle by the saddle. With a fervent prayer on my lips, I held on to dear life. It was a very cold morning, at 6500 ft above sea level, the cold was almost biting. On horseback, the icy fear that gripped the inside of my being, only made the morning chill worse. The walk way made for pilgrims on the Maa Vaishno Devi Yatra is just enough for 4 lines of people walking- two towards the shrine for the Darshan and another head back to base, after the Darshan. The ponies also squeeze their way through this path.

The rain Gods had showered their blessings just a few hours ago. With some pony poop and slush from pilgrim’s feet, the steep and wet walkway presented a dangerous picture to me. Just as this thought passed my mind, the pony almost slipped and then got back its balance. An incident that fed the monster within me with more fuel than necessary- FEAR gripped my very being. In those few meters that the pony trotted forward, I was more scared than I could imagine. I cried out to the horse trainer to get me off this beast. I didn’t mind if it took me an hour to trek up, but I would walk. Fellow pilgrims saw my plight but, in my situation, only the trainer could help. I cried out loudly. My husband was a good 100 meters ahead but he heard me. ‘Mujhe Uatro Yahan Se. Daar Lag Raha Hain!’ I yelled. (Get me off this. I am scared.) Before I knew, there were fat, warm tears streaming down my cheeks and the trainer helped me off the pony. Siddhartha got off his pony and came to me. He paid the trainers a bit and pacified me. After a while when I was OK, he jested about how unlike me this behavior was. He was disappointed at me developing cold feet on horseback when I was delighted in a rather dangerous air pocket.

But then, FEAR can make you do the strangest things. It can make you behave in ways most unlike you and most importantly, can raise its hood anytime- without any warning…

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It doesn't hurt that meditation has become 'cool'

It all began with an eyesore...the cubicled atmosphere of plush air-conditioned offices, the 'I am busy' look my colleagues wore whenever they looked up from their work stations, the back-to-back meetings and incessant IMs...

That's when I knew I needed a vacation; a vacation from the mobile phone, from Outlook, from IM, from work, from fun, from Facebook, Twitter, blogging -- from the noisy, task-laden vuvuzela that has become my life.

While I mulled over the perfect vacation destination, an e-mail caught my fancy -- a four-day meditation course promised me not just stress relief, but a deeper understanding of life and beyond. Bracing myself for the company of the silver-haired, I headed to the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore to attend the meditation programme. What I saw there was bewildering and far removed from what I expected.

The rest of the post in my article on here

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things we do to kill time as we chug along…

The settings: - A cubical in one of the compartments of a train run by the Indian Railways. The blue seats in that passenger train headed to Bangalore. The fans are all on, yet people are sweating profusely. The 4 people at the window seats spend a lot of time opening and downing the shutters- both the evils giving no less respite than the other. In sometime, even the seats start radiating the heat. Through this, the continuous onslaught of snack vendors screaming to make a few rupees and the occasional song performances by the urchins. This is where I sat un-intrusively observing… And here is an account of what I saw:-

This is the story of 8 people who were forced to spend much more than their stipulated time together. This train isn’t the preferred choice of anyway travelling from Hyderabad to Bangalore. After all, it’s a passenger train. It is not my pick either. Anyway, here I was, bound Bangalore-wards, unable to contain the joy of going home… and the train is re-routed (I hear something about an accident on the normal line). Even before the first green signal, the TT tells us we will be about an hour or so late. That’s the start to our journey. (Even as I write this at noon the next day, we are still easily an hour and a half away from our destination) Here are my observations of what we all did to kill time while Home-Sweet-Home was oh! so far away… 
  • Reading: The more intellectual of the lot, after passing the customary glances at everyone around and even managing to return a smile or two, opened the back pack (that almost all such intellectuals will cherish). Out came a not so fat, but well bound book and the reader was was then lost into the wealth of knowledge that the words offered. It is interesting what people read while travelling- the mid-level management from a techie workforce inevitably has some management related book- most probably a Harvard Business Review. I am impressed by the choice of the book my co-passenger is browsing- ‘Influencer- the power to change anything’. Given the intensity with which the book is being devoured, I have mentally made up my mind to attempt reading this one, sometime... may be! I walked through the other cubicles, the younger college goers have in hand a Jeffry Archer or a Sidney Sheldon (it’s amazing isn’t it, how these authors continue to rule hearts and minds of generations of youth) and then, there are some of the older aunties and uncles who have in hand the Lalita Sahastranamam or the Venkatesh Stotram. I simply love the gamut of thoughts that one can see and perceive all within one small cubicle.
  • Praying: Yes, praying! Come On! You should have seen that coming, given that the Lalita Sahastranamam and the Venkatesh Stotram’s are being dwelled upon, the rosary cannot be far behind. A Khan Uncle, complete with his topi was busy with the rosary. A little earlier, I had even seen someone do their pranayama and meditations. That is divine utilization of time! I ventured to talk to the person immersed in this higher pursuit of The Self and was surprised to hear what he had to say about the power of the breath. Something on the lines of “90 per cent of the toxins in the body can be released through the breath. We, however, utilize not more than 30 per cent of our lung capacity…”
  • Watching Movies: In complete oblivion of his surroundings, another of my co-passengers was watching a Tamil movie. It is funny sometimes when people use new technology, but don’t put it to good use. This guy was the perfect example for not utilizing technology… not only did he watch the movie, he ensured that all of us around him could hear it too… At any rate, I love all the gadgets that people travel with- the most acclaimed i-pod, the almost redundant Walkman’s, multi-functional mobile phones and yes, people like me, with laptops.
  • Sleeping: Guess this one should have topped the list. Some people can so sleep. Almost as soon as the train sets into motion until the end of the journey. They sit and sleep, they lie down and sleep. I think sometimes people sleep while they are awake- anyway, let us keep the philosophy aside. Sleeping can be such an elaborate activity in itself. The less talked about, the better- cause I firmly believe, that this is one act that you’ve just got to do. :)
  • Munching: It’s lovely, the aroma of freshly squeezed lemon on the bhel. It is great to taste as well. The thanda- thanda buttermilk and of course, the garam – garam cool drinks. Sometimes I think what makes street food so palatable is the fact that it’s a little unhygienic. (That is another issue all together,) but what I am talking about is an act that requires some skill- to be able to eat irrespective of your being hungry. One of my fellow passengers was a vendor’s delight. He’d buy almost everything that was sold on the train and wonders of wonders; he’d eat it up too… first the Dharmavaraam vadas followed by Chikus and then there were oranges and of course Ruffles Lays etc. etc…
  • Inquisitively Intrusive: The next species you’d come across is those who start by chatting up and then begin a friendly interrogation of your life. If you aren’t the chatty types, then you are going to hate this breed of people beside you. I was subject to the torture of one of those on one journey back home (but we’ll leave that story for later. I was just so glad that I could scoot without having to share my phone number and address.) Love them or hate them, you simply can’t ignore these conversation specialists. If you aren’t such a huge socializing person, then chances that you’ve found a great pal are as dim as finding a campfire in the Artic and you’ll just be glad that you are spared the gory details of knowing just about EVERYTHING in their life including what time they prefer to use the bathroom…
  • Playing: After listening to music, looking out of the window, eating, sleeping, wiping the sweat off your brow, finally out comes a pack of cards. Sometimes, I’ve seen a set of Brainvita. There is, of course, the much liked UNO set to play with, but the final winner is invariably the good ol’ pack of playing cards… given that the windows are down, it is really convenient to play! Hand out the cards, thrown them with disdain at the opponent’s lack of skill and expertise and even slap your thighs in celebration. The kids are busy with the rubix cube and the adults with teen pati ;)
  • The truly happy one: It is not me, though my fingers fly on the laptop… the only person in my cubicle I haven’t written about yet, is the one who is so truly happy and is in more ways than one spreading that joy. He has been bundled inside a small bed sheet and is dangling precariously from the upper berth. The motion of the train ensures that he is swinging along. From inside this makeshift cradle, I hear the happy giggles of a six month old. He is amazed by simply looking at his own feet and is in constant wonder at every jerk and stall of the train… After a few rounds of sleeping, crying, eating, laughing and gazing, the little one finds a new attraction- me and my laptop. He is enamored, can’t take his eyes off this gadget :) he decides to sit on my lap and start playing with the new toy… he has run amok with the playing cards and the books already. He now smiles as the new toy is within reach… he is truly, the happy one!

The train chugged along wearily and everyone was busy in the activities of their choice. I almost finished this piece and that’s when a change came over. As we reached Yalahanka, there was a sudden rise in the activity around me. People unlocking their baggage from under the seats, freshening up, the final dash of lipstick, the flick of the comb, the clothes being smoothed… but my mind had taken another flight, the smell of cool fresh air told me that I was home… and that people could do all they wanted on the train; their mode of expression might be as varied as the topography of this beautiful country we call homeland, but the feelings within as all the same- the same joy, the same relief, the same at the core of our being.