A sigh

Not far ago, we took a view around the Bridge of Sigh in Italy. In a movie inspired by the bridge, Diane Lane kissed her lover near the bridge at sun set, to fulfill a dream. This bridge is a tourist’s attraction. It began construction in 1600 to span the Rio di Palazzo (Palace River) while connecting Doge’s Palace to a prison.

According to folklore when prisoners crossed the canal on the bridge they sighed in despair as they approached their end of freedom. The bridge’s name gained popularity in the 19th century in Lord Byron’s poem – “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand.” Life not even for a prisoner is in balance. In one hand hope persists and in other pain.

I recently breathed a sigh in watching a scenario as I walked past a lane close to my home in Kozhikode, Kerala.

Bridges bridge gaps between hopes, aspirations and despair. Bridges bring about a balance. Feelings arouse the inner hidden episodes with a sigh, a sigh that probably releases stress.

“Presence of mind” is an often used term, but difficult to practice. As most of us are out of balance with our past memories, moods and ego states. When our mind is not in the present, it is difficult to handle. Engaging with the present probably is presence of mind.

An example of sinking in sadness and moving through such conditions is depicted in a PIXAR film “Inside out”. Lesson learnt from the film is about “emotional literacy” not taught is institutions. This is our ability to notice, recognize, interpret and respond to our emotional links. When we practice this we are able to embrace the way we feel with own and other’s emotions and manage our thoughts. Emotions tell us stories – some sad and a few happy. At times we indulge in self pity. We need to stand up for ourselves. My mother once told me – “your legs are for you to stand upon”. “The moment we doubt whether we can fly; we cease for ever to be able to do it” – J M Barrie.

We all tend to live in our “In-BoX”. Filled and overfilled with matter that enter, that restricts us to an enormous burden of tensed feelings and stressful situations. Delete button is rarely used, to detox. If our in-box rules us, how that can help us for an easy walkthrough the path? A need exists to detour, de-clutter and sit for a while and have a sigh of relief. The bridge we pass through recognizes the attempt of finding out who’s that “me!
Like our bodies are servants of our mind, our mind should be our servant. A strong body and a bright, happy, cheerful countenance result in a bounty of thoughts of joy and good will. We bridge the extremes with a sigh of comfort, contentment.

The walk through the lane that afternoon made me watch and sure, you will appreciate. An elderly person was sitting in front of the huge scattered debris with a tool in his hand. The place was fouling. He a rag picker was separating plastics from the bio-degradable matter and inserting the torn plastics as an asset into his bag. When I looked at him he stared at me, and soon released a sigh of relief and smiled.

He did not know about the environmental impact or the non-bio-degradable composition of his asset he was picking. He simply attempted with a smile in his face, to separate the two. Bridging a gap between, so that he deposits the assets he collected at a renewable material store and makes up for his dinner.

A sigh was an instant outcome from me.

I then went back to the story of the prisoners in Venice in those years in 1600, when hope prevailed as they entered the Bridge of Sigh from palace surroundings to the prison rooms.

Hope that leads us – The bridge between sighs.

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Dustbin in brains!

Yes, it happens.

Yes it happens to you and me.

Yes – it can happen at any moment in our journey of lives.

No wonder why Clayton Christensen said “I believe that we can, in a deliberate way, articulate the kind of people we want to become. For the rest of life one can initiate what happens, utilize to help you become the kind of person you want to be”.

What we need to do is to observe and learn from some simple things around us – Very intricate designs that weave around us.
Look at the recent researched subject of ORDINARY pumkin flowers. Yellow ants on pumpkin flowers!

Let your mind rest and watch. “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to your life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens” – Khalil Jibran.

You watch the yellow crazy ants that disrupt pollination in pumpkin plants as written in the journal of “Biological Invasions”. Kasragod area in Kerala grows pumpkin plants that are pollinated by bees. When the pumpkin crop was dwindling scientists studied. Pumpkin plants produce male and female flowers. They found honey bees that pollinate for bearing fruits fly to female flowers more as female flowers produce a better quality of nectar. Bees needed both pollen and nectar and they flew between male and female flowers, thus facilitating pollination. In order to identify failure of fruits they covered female flowers with nylon bags. That was a deterrent for the yellow ants that affected bees pollinating. When flowers bloomed next day they removed the nylon covers to allow bees to visit ant-less bloomed flowers for pollination. Then put back nylon covers to prevent ants getting across. With bees doing their job pollination was made possible eliminating the yellow ants and more fruits were cultivated. About 47000 hectars of land in India currently cultivate pumpkins and produce large quantum that we consume.
To me it was lessons learnt.

Avoid being at a place where you have no role to play. Allow natural habitants to perform and achieve what is natural. But often with egoistic attitude we encroach in areas of other’s influences or make caustic criticisms. Isn’t that a waste of energy? Any way, if un-checked like yellow ants we too fall a pray.

In a normal day we work on with a flood of thoughts amounting to more than 50,000 per day. Most of us gets caught with almost everything. There are areas of concerns for some. Very limited areas of influence where we may be able to make a change. Out of those many thoughts, that flood our minds, imagine how many exist where we have a chance to influence?
Work on those and avoid the rest. Let us study how many are those items to check out to influence and make a change. If we use our fingers of right hand it may be less than the count of fingers.

The rest corrupts our minds like those yellow ants that prevent pollination. Food for thought gets affected by invasion into areas that are “everything”.
Witness and watch, observe and forget by letting thoughts pass by. Use the compartment in brain like the DUSTBINS; discard unwanted thoughts.
You allow the flow.

I will try in any case, a lesson learnt by the researchers on Pumpkin pollination.

Live LIFE, one chance to LIVE

There are three triggers for me to capture this photo and post.

One – I chose to replace my cell phone with a new one and my son-in-law ordered through net for one going on discount. Two – a pigeon intruded into my space in the drawing room on the seventh floor through a small slit on the open window. Third weather forecast predicted seasonal rains are almost over, I chose to clean cobwebs and glass frames. Yeah and a fourth one – a forwarded video clip of cine star Simi interviewing Dev Anand and asking him “what do you do when you become old”?

The first incident made me aware that everything has a shelf life and all things in this universe are temporary. Second one reminded me that anyone can occupy your space if you do not live your life. And the third of course was harsh in statement that memoirs are rich if life is lived well? Simi’s question had sprung another question in me – what if I become old? I am just around 73, though!

Now the photo, as I do not really see that photo often though hung on the wall, the cob web cleaner in me took it out wiped the glasses on the frame and was about to hang it all over again. I could hardly believe and was in disguise, and so cleaned the spectacle glasses with lens cleaner and had a re-look at it. Wow – that is me and my sweet heart up in Himalayas (not for our first honey moon, we do that often anyway) in Gulmarg.

A little later I called her up in Mumbai and asked her – Do you still remember our trip to Himalayas in 1980? She said yes, “how can I forget”?

With struggles we encountered like a death in sight case with her in a tubectomy case, a near death case of mine with TM (transverse myelitis) and problems with inadequate funds that stopped but we managed to take our children on yearly picnics etc.; I lived my life with those gaps of need and greed – Gaps that remain as challenges and learning curves.

The sum and substance of this short story is that – Live life; only one chance to live.

Let the weather be unpredictable, we venture out. Let cob webs spring in but clean up our thoughts and recharge. Like those pigeons someone else may live for us if we remain comparing others. So adapt to new things like the cell phone in order to be touch with old friends and people who helped us laugh and had fun with.

And Dev Sab was right: we do not become old, we mature.

Nostalgia and Dementia

About 35 years ago ….. This morning I barged into a cell of memoirs of that day.

A college mate of mine Venuraj told me on phone that his ankles are paining. I then looked at my ankle. Found that my toe nails need a trimming and went to collect the nail cutter. That was it.

That nail cutter was gifted thirty five years ago in Jeddah by a friend’s friend who shared our apartment for a few nights before he boarded flight to Jordan. He worked for Panasonic National. He said “You keep it”. None ever gifted me a nail cutter, may be with crystals. This nail cutter is unique and precious in many ways.

Nostalgia; a friend of mine told me is like dementia. I found it to be an interesting comparison. Dementia is unsoundness of mind resulting from organic or functional disorders leading to loss of coherent thoughts. Nostalgia is about poignant fixation or longing for something that happened long ago.

It appears both are demerits. I wonder though! When it sounds and steps on memories, nostalgia turns purple. It connotes love and that kind of?

I lived longer than someone and came to this world before India was independent. Nostalgia plays music in my old heart to tickle and fondle my memoirs.

Today the Gen Next will not bother to know because they have a valid reason. It does not tickle them anymore. What tickles them probably are smart things like cells, robots, AI (artificial intelligence), drones, remotes that run automobiles and speed. The flow of nostalgia is in any way trickle by trickle. Very slow like pain in the ankle of Venuraj.

No wonder when a close school friend of mine called up to ask “why not we four meet?” made me vibrant and speedy in action to meet sooner. And we did speak that night in calm and laughter only about nostalgic stories that bind us still. Football we used to play, jokes that made us laugh; cutting chai that we used to share; the kalumakai (mussels) fried in original pepper from that corner shop that does not exist, and about the shop near Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode that has gone into oblivion as a road widening took place and traffic signals have been planted. We spoke of times when there were no city buses only bullock carts and a few horse ridden vehicles, and by no way no traffic signals.
Change is forever and un-stoppable. We understand and appreciate that factor, as none can stop dementia or nostalgia. It flows and carry on with it good and bad things.

Unfortunately in dementia we forget and in nostalgia memoirs filter only goodness and leave the spoilt occurrences to waste. That is why the most often repeated concept of forgiveness comes into picture. The four of us had fought and split but we are congruent in one as much as we trace history and look at what is happening. And hold our fort of thoughts into future with a back drop of how illuminant was the days we passed by. As we grew we never thought we were making memories. We just enjoyed the fun of living.

Some moments we passed through have become treasures. They fit into our bags of assets. More valuable than some of the gifts (unlike the nail cutter) and materials we made in due course. School holidays when we used to go to uncle’s houses to recreate times shared with cousins and their neighbor hood, lakes and valleys, mountains and rivers, playing kites and running and falling.

It appears the second trip down the memory lane is a treat like the grandma’s coconut chutney. Even the eight year old grandson of mine Darsh listens as he is unfolded with an old photograph of his and asks in excitement questions that his nerves wonder. In us are those fond memories, aside us are our friends and intimate relationships and in front of us are challenges that makes future.

I miss being the child.

That brings an opportunity in all of us. Not to forget to awaken the child in us. Being lonely is a possibility and is the worst poverty of this time, as you age. Remember fear was not a part as we grew up, fear is taught en-route. A child does not fear – he just tries.
Like we four old friends met without a reason but celebrated the occasion.

“Be happy for no reason, like a child. If you are happy for a reason, you are in trouble, because that reason can be taken away from you” – Deepak Chopra.

Rocks, Stones and Pebbles

You and I love to walk on the sea shore or on the river side once in a way. Who does not? At times, may be when a small sand particle gets into our foot ware, we think of that tiny pebble. Otherwise why we spent time thinking of non-interesting sand that is essentially pulverized, weathered rock that toss up by the waves. Sand is basically a material made of breakdown of rocks over thousands and millions of years.

My wife and daughters have been collecting small pebbles of rocks wherever we went in India or abroad and at times request friends who go places, to bring a small pebble or rock. The idea being “DHARTHI EK HAI” – world is one. As we collect we appreciate the world we live in. We understand the limit of our world as we look at cosmos. As we look at we individuals as a tiny molecule in the huge canvas of cosmos, that makes it sensible. We have a life span of restricted time period. Compare that short period to the tiny sand particles that took millions of years to form?

The highest peak in the world is Mount Everest at 29035 feet above sea level. But that is not the tallest. The tallest mountain is Mauna Kea in the islands of Hawaii. Mauna Kea stands 13796 feet above sea level and extends 19796 feet below Pacific Ocean.

At times we say we touched rock bottom of our lives, it seems a comparison. We say hidden are most of our feelings; like that of Mauna Kea. At times we burry our feelings that burden us like Mauna Kea submerged in the sea. At such times we need to reflect of what Sir Edmund Hillary said “It is not the mountain we conquer; but ourselves”.

In our lives we often climb big rocks, small stones that we trip and fall and sands where we make footprints during our journey of life. We need to remember then of millions of years that rocks take to become sand as water cuts rocks on a dimension of time. Do we overestimate the turmoil we consider as huge in comparison?

It says “River water cuts rocks not because of its strength but by its persistence”. We had a chance to kayaking on the river Sutlej that emanates beyond Indian borders and pass through Shimla. Remembered sitting on the banks on a sea of pebble stones. Close to that place was a hot spring on the banks of Sutlej River that was extremely cold. That spring was hot and was unbearable for hand touch. It is such phenomena that we witness to understand that co-existing as in nature is a lesson to learn for social existence. These lessons help us to build our attitude and thus our character.

It was in Cairo where I and my wife went on a camel back to see pyramids. We chose to walk the distance on a camel back to adapt to that place. Sure it was an amazing experience. Most of us know the way pyramids are built and a lot is unknown. The size of mammoth stones that shaped the angles is a sight that we can imagine. Irregular and equally charming are the rocks and mountains in Rampura en-route to Bangalore. That was a locale movie SHOLAY was shot, Shaped into an array of elegance Sippy chose that place for Shoal to be shot. Jorge Luis Borges was apt in saying – “Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand. But we must build as if sand were stone”. The story of Hampy is another study of rocks. It took time for those monumental structures to be created, but they last a long time.

In my professional life there were umpteen enquiries with nature between official engagements. One such was a visit to Bora caves away from Visakhapatnam. The Gosthani River, originates close to these caves and flows between the solidified stalactites and stalagmites in the karstic lime stones formation. Water percolating from the roof of the caves dissolves limestone and trickle drop by drop to form stalactites of the cave and drip down to the ground. These deposits have developed into interesting forms and structures inside the caves. These shapes have captured the imagination of tourists. Excavations carried out in the caves by archeologist unearthed stone tools of middle Paleolithic culture dating back 30,000 to 50,000 years, which confirmed human habitation. A similar kind of rock formation as a cave is there near Krabi islands in Thailand. During that visit my wife looked above as she had a droplet of water on her head. While she looked above I was looking down as I spotted a plant growing in that underground environment. That is nature. With the need of water for organic growth drop by drop a plant can grow in that ambience. Marvelous indeed I captured a photo of her standing near that plant. Anything is a possibility to grow and flourish, provided we seek the luck in an opportunity at right time. This study is beyond geology and research into historical evidences that create rocks into caves.

Here we differ and think is it right to quote “A rolling stone gathers nothing?”. The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way we use them. Both are rock formations are in our thoughts. We need to differentiate. After all our thoughts are mental blocks; attitudinal issues. That’s why we need to think out of the box. Parallel thinking patterns. Resolving conflicts, in relationships and moving ahead stepping on stumbling blocks of rocks that appear as mountainous terrains. A drop of water with persistence can give life to the plant and a drop of water can cut rocks with less power than the hugeness of the problems we foresee.

Rocks at times are illusionary clouded in colours of blue, like Alps. Such formations provide us with patterns to dream. We climb and achieve success; we compete with self rather than the surroundings and environment. It is not the peak of Everest that we reach but knowing the strength and capabilities of our minds.

Like the rock, the strongest muscle is our heart and the worst enemy is our mind. Understanding this we avoid unwanted thoughts and manipulations. Pass through beautiful caves inside mountains and take a dip to find submerged Mauna Kea.

Fly away, anyway

Early morning sometime in August, almost a wet day, drizzling, I chose to walk in my dhothi that I rarely do. Sun had not risen and nearly cloudy. I heard a flutter all of a sudden and looked around. Wow, pigeons from nowhere were flying up in the air and before I could take up my cell to click a few were far away in their flight to freedom.

A few weeks into my journey at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai as I lay on the thirteenth floor undergoing treatment for Transverse Myelitis, a disease that parallelized me, I was looking through the window sill and a pigeon sat and after a while flew away. Seeing the flight of pigeon I requested my doctor on a possibility of getting back home, away from hospital. Actually I was seeking freedom from looking at the false ceiling of hospital.

Freedom is the RIGHT to be LEFT alone.

In relationships I heard stories where not allowing enough freedom gets entangled into rough patches. Freedom means much more than probably what the dictionary meaning convey, applies in cases involving facets of feelings.
Most keep tensed relationships under tight controls thus pressurizing to accumulate feelings. To let go is actually not to deny, but to accept a fact that if we cannot influence a situation better let go. Probably freedom helps in enhancing the status of our mind, composes our hearts. It allows us to fly with our wings of thoughts.

“You are born with wings, why crawl through life” – Rumi. Let our fears be free. Through our seventh floor windows we can listen to chirping sounds of birds. That musical sounds provide us ideas of freedom. Especially of parrots that sit on bushes around. Allow us to sing, and dance in our hearts. Free from the perils of what may be going on around. Of the many thoughts that creep in our mind every day only a couple or more need our attention. That itself is a great responsibility if we can fulfill and achieve results.

Between freedom of speech and freedom of action lies a lot. Having worked in cryogenic industry where oxygen is one of the most important gases that I dealt with, I recollect what Moshe Dayan once said – Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. Isn’t that right? That’s our right, to be left alone to wander, exploring new ways and means? That right helps us with chances to improve. To seek opportunities by being free to do what we can.

Freedom is becoming YOU without a need of permission from others. To be labeled as intentionally imperfect. We need to fly out from conventional corridors to unknown frontiers, risk being a rough estimate. After all death is imminent, you like it or not. Rewards that you receive thus are secrets, miracles.

I read a book that stated luck is not that reaches you un-expected. It comes to you when you strike in time, being ready to receive fortunes. If not ready, with homework done, we miss out royalties and rewards. Because freedom is not gifted, we need to work for it. You need to win freedom.

Let go the face masks that we wear often. Be the YOU – YOU like to be. Seek freedom from what others expect you to be; and remove the obstacle like face mask.

That scene on a Thursday evening in Jeddah where my Palestinian colleague Al Khammis witnessed his house being burnt will never ever be forgotten. Being a week end in Middle East we were on sea side when a call came stating that there was fire. Fire had almost finished all that was. Seeing him unperturbed I enquired: “Very sad, very bad”. He had enlarged silence with a smile to answer my exclamatory note of sigh. In less than one year he made up most and added more to his new apartment. I knew then that making success out of a situation is revenge. If everything is lost we are endowed with freedom to do anything. Japanese after World War did that. Recovery flights in a path of freedom. Like the way birds return back in flocks to their abode in the evening to fly out again next morning. Beyond borders, with unlimited freedom to live and move on.

“I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Image and imagination are two different things; interdependent and a process of reaching beyond using wings of freedom.

Fjord – What’s that?

“Fjord” – I read in news paper as I passed through an article.
My God!

I having passed through a Malayalam medium high school with limited knowledge of English spelling wondered and peeped into Webster Comprehensive Dictionary. Wow, the word exists that lead me to look at the word “fiord”. There it comes, and says see even “fyord”, they are synonyms for the meaning – a long and narrow arm of the sea with high rocky banks. Then remembered a trip to Krabi Islands with my wife on our 35th wedding anniversary where there were such landscapes but never thought to check the word, then. That was 8 years ago. That shows we tend to forget small things, though they make up a lot for our hearts.

That made me curious enough to look at things that I did not know, with a pair of progressive spectacles that I recently bought. Revisit and refocus through that new lens. Yes, stumbled upon glass. Between most of us and glass there is something or other, a love affair either to toast or to buy a crystal or a tinted glass painting.

Some people amongst us are settling down, some are settling and some refuse to settle like butterflies. When life gets confused we need to adjust our focus. Vision improves when we see what is invisible. When you look at things differently, things we look at change. I see these with my new spectacle,
Long back in a program at Kolkata, I made a presentation. I never used a pair of glasses as a youngster, but later used a spectacle and a bi-focal. And at times I used a microscope for dissection to get into details and a telescope for distant viewing to look into future. Having used all those glassed items, what I loved was the use of a cheap toy on earth – Kaleidoscope, made out of broken glass pieces. A tilt and a new picture emerge; a new perspective, objective, new idea that are fresh and glowing a glittery pattern for every tilt.
Our minds should think out of the box and look differences and align patterns in our thought processes that enhance our relationships.

Glass brings back a story most of you may have heard. A newlywed wife on her first few days looks through her window across to see other side. She tells her husband that her neighbor washed clothes that were not as clean as hers. But her husband cleans the glass panes and shows that it was her window glass that was not clean. Perspectives change with introspection. We cannot assign the world dirty unless we clean own glasses. Our perception of others actually is a reflection of ours. Extending glass to stained glass windows it is said: they sparkle and shine when sun sets; true beauty is in darkness with the light WITHIN (us).

Let me turn the page of glass to mirror. In a mirror, we look for effects of time on us but cannot watch our effects on others. Mirror in a way is a true
friend of ours as it does not lie. When we are happy it shows and does not show sadness. There is a story about mirror. Someone sent his son to clean the mirror and repeatedly advised him to do so every day. He did but asked why? Father answers: “This is actually the case with the mind. Clean it every moment, because every moment, just by its nature, dust goes on gathering.” “We will be able to see God on the day on which our heart becomes like a mirror” said Osho. We can see ourselves better, when dust on the surface of mirror gets cleaned. It is the dust of our actions, ego, thoughts, desires and feelings. We need to cleanse to get right refraction of splitting white colour to its magnificent seven that forms like a splendid rainbow. After all, all of us deserve to be beautiful, to self and others. Who does not want to be?

“It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand” – Buddha.
Mirror yourself, better, more beautiful.