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As we enter the second week of lockdown, I find myself asking such existential questions – the kind you would normally confront only when seated in a therapist’s room. I would have otherwise laughed it off, but today I decide to humour it a little and here’s how it goes…
The first seemingly obvious answer that comes to mind is of course I am me, Apurva. I am currently doing masters, having worked for a bit and so on..
Academics and career do define me to some extent but is that what makes me….me? I mean am I this Apurva, only because I am studying in so and so college or getting so and so degree? Is that all there is to me?
Having scratched the surface, I decide to prod a little more.
Then come the next set of “Maybe I am my personality, my looks, my fears, my inhibitions, my anxiety or my passion.”
But say I decide that my Apurva-ness lies in my interest in art, would that mean I am no longer Apurva if I chose to move away from this field? Now that doesn’t make any sense. I mean, people lose interest in things all the time, don’t they?
That brings me back to square one. Who am I?
What is that one thing that defines me? Is there a quality in me that is constant? Or is change the only constant? Well, then what’s the point of naming me Apurva, which means unique? Might as well have named me number 42000 or something like that.
I then happen to take a step back.
Maybe I am thinking this all wrong!
A flower in a garden, whether we call it a tulip or a rose, doesn’t really give a damn about the nomenclature, does it? It knows only to be, a flower- nothing more, nothing less.
So why can’t I be content just being a human? Why do I need to cling to a name, an identity that I can’t even really claim to be my own?
Why do I need to be distinct from everyone else?
Why can’t I be just the same?
And that’s when it hit me.
If everyone in this world thought about themselves as being essentially the same, there would be no nation, no religion, no name and no identity to fight over. People would have so much empathy for the other person that hurting them wouldn’t cross their mind.
And that’s not an easy thing to do, considering the way we are conditioned since childhood.
Maybe that’s why there are so few enlightened beings on this earth. And maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to get there.
“You guys don’t let me work, otherwise I would have finished washing the utensils by now…”, says my granny, after being caught, stealthily going into the kitchen to do her favourite chore. My mom’s compassionate pleas of “But you are old now, you have worked hard all your life, why don’t you take some rest?” fail miserably to convince her. “But I get bored doing nothing. I like doing kitchen work,” she smiles, her toothless smile.
What can you say to that?
And so begins the race to finish the kitchen chores before granny even gets a chance to do anything!
Trust me, it’s not that easy.
Once I stepped into the kitchen, a good two hours before lunch to see if I could be of some help, and lo and behold! lunch was already ready…thanks to her!!!
I never quite understand what drives her to work this way, relentlessly, every single day with such passion and energy….
hats off to the ‘Great Lady of India’ as my grandfather jokingly calls her…but that’s another story…
Moments spent nestled,
comforted by thoughts of you,
drift away as beautiful dreams,
only to mold real ones that
disappear even faster.
Wafting in your scent,
I breathe in your soul
As my lips find yours and
my arms, a home.
I have started a new blog- TheVegana\Artist2017.wordpress.com where I post my experiences and learnings of turning Vegan. Feel free to check it out, comment and share or even follow. You can also read the posts on the left side of the menu bar. Hope you enjoy it!
PS: I will still continue to be here 🙂
Thank you for your support
Play with my words.
Let them dribble down your lips
like pearls of wisdom,
dressed in poetry
(apologies for my absence)
Dear readers, here is a short story I wrote some time ago. Hope you like it!
“I can’t wait to go to Mumbai!’ he cried, jumping up and down around his mother, who didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm. But of course, he didn’t let that bother him. He was too excited to care.
“Stop irritating me, Rama.” His mother was busy in the kitchen, her fingers expertly kneading the dough for the hot rotis (Indian bread) they were to have in a while. He plopped himself onto the platform, beside the dough bowl, desperate to get her attention.
“Do you know what I plan to do there?”, he asked, holding his mother’s face in his tiny hands, forcing her to look at him.
I remember reading the epic as a kid, as part of the curriculum in school, wondering what I was supposed to learn from it. I couldn’t quite figure out what it had to say in the end, if there was a moral of the story I was missing. All I took away from it at that point was that there were a few good guys and a bunch of bad guys, who happened to be brothers. They ended up on opposite sides in a war for the throne. Eventually, the good guys won, albeit by cheating.
Now, that is no summary of the magnificent story, but an idea of how it was imprinted in my mind. The way it was taught in schools, there was a clear division between the good and the bad and yet if you read closely, you could see that the good people weren’t so good after all. Every character in the story had shades of grey and yet the Pandavas earned respect while the Kauravas were vilified.
Today, after all this time, reading ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’ by Gurcharan Das, I could see what I was missing. The book explores what ‘Dharma’ means in today’s world and what the Mahabharata had to say about it. It brilliantly revisits the epic and delving into individual traits of the primary characters, explores what it takes to be good in a world that is inherently bad.
The Mahabharata profoundly proclaims– “What is here, is everywhere. What is not here, is nowhere”, and does full justice to the statement. At no point does it try to explain away any of the character’s actions to blind faith, making it anything but a religious document. At every stage of the story, the author (a secular, himself) observes, the epic takes time to dwell upon the implications of the characters’ actions and resists the urge to pass moral judgements. It neither glorifies its heroes, nor does it put down the losers. The most important lesson it has for us is to follow one’s ‘dharma’ (loosely translated, it means an “ideal version of ones’ own character”) and to be compassionate, which is what ultimately leads the central character to heaven.
Definitely worth a read, with or without judgements!
I think we all have, at some point or the other, wondered aloud about the need for religion in our lives. Rising intolerance towards minorities and the incessant clashes between various communities make us question if religion is indeed doing any good for us after all. Can we live without it? Can we imagine a world where there is no God, no conception of a universal being and all the rituals associated with it? Can we live only on the basis of a notion of brotherhood and the essential tenets of humanity? Would it suffice to say that we are all just a species called Sapiens who happen to be rulers of our planet today?
Looks like we aren’t wired to think that way.
In his book, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, Yuval Harari masterfully tackles the fundamental question – ‘What makes us superior to other mammals?’, dwelling deep into the many mysteries that surround our evolution from our closest ancestors. The ability to form large and stable communities within our species, he says, is the single most important trait that distinguishes us from others. This was made possible, not by brute force, but by developing common myths, legends and beliefs that were accepted as true by people of a particular community. Thus, the ability to generate and believe in fiction is what makes us truly ‘human’.
Elaborating further, he explains how it was important to form strong bonds between Sapiens in order for them to work together and contribute towards expanding their knowledge. As it is not possible to intimately know more than 150 people so as to trust them, he argues that the Sapiens had to rely on developing common myths that they all believed in. These beliefs, then formed the basis of religion as also money, corporations and other fictional entities.
Now, that doesn’t quite explain why religion is indispensable for some people and not so much for others, but it certainly helps one understand why it came up in the first place and why people continue to feel strongly about it. The idea of a collective consciousness and the need to form bonds with people beyond boundaries of space and time exists even today. Just ask any Harry Potter fan why they are passionate about him and you would know.