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Fear of love

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I saw a puppy today. I called out. He stopped in his tracks and turned to stare at me. His tail began to wag. I called out again, kept being playful. His tail wagged further; wagged furiously at one point. You could almost hear the tail whip the air around and make a funny, subtle sound.

I slowly stepped down from where I stood, eager to inch closer to him, letting him see me as an ally. I was dying to pet him and play. He wagged his tail and made an amazing puppy face right back at me. But every step I took towards him, he retreated one step away from me.

He continued to wag, continued to give me that adorable look, and continued to step away until he ran off. He stood far away, by the gate, continued to stare at me. But he refused to come closer. I gave up after a point, and walked away.

I wonder if this what we humans do as well; to ourselves and to our relationships. One’s love for love is sometimes overridden by the fear of love.

 

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Auto-inspiration!

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Every now and then I prefer taking an auto to work – just so that I get to preserve my peace of mind for the day and let someone else handle the stress of getting me to and fro between work and home! The cherry on the cake for this one day in particular was rains! Imagine – you get to relax and eat your khakhra (yes, I am a Gujju!), watch the traffic around, take a stock of the new shops and showrooms that have sprung up on the way, and just be for a while!

The moment I settled into the auto, the driver reminded of how reasonable his quoted fare was (aah, the arbitrariness of meter-less transport!). I had to agree though, quite genuinely. I smiled and told him how he had saved me of the mindless haggle that I was expecting to go through just go get back home in the rains. This seemed to work as an invitation for him to launch into his observations about how the traffic and people’s driving are only deteriorating with time. These days, bitching about traffic seems to have become one of my best stress-busters anyway. It is a wonderful feeling to know you are not alone in your observations of how the driving skills are going for a toss! As I continued to listen to him, it became increasingly clear that he could not have been an auto-driver for too long. His tone, mannerisms, language, the choice of words, all sounded like they belonged elsewhere.

I asked him if he had been doing this for long. He said he had begun to drive an auto only 9 months back – a forced new profession at the age of 58! He ran a paan shop for a good 42 years of his life, having begun in early adulthood. He ran his shop right at the corner of the District court’s gate. This gave him easy access to all the good lawyers (not that he ever needed them until a few years back). Further, this vantage point also allowed him the honour to present a paan to the iconic bollywood actor – Lt. Pran Sikand. The loyal lawyer customers also helped him to get up close and personal with the Deol family when they were in Rajkot shooting for their movie Apne! So far so good. I was wondering how the auto driving would fit in with such a smooth life line.

Three years back however, he was hit by a motorcycle while buying vegetables one evening. This accident damaged both his legs, thus leading him to be hospitalized for a really long time. This was also the time when his shop was demolished as a part of some restructuring. The aforementioned loyal lawyer customers ceased to be as loyal, of course. As a result, he continues to visit the court regularly with his wife, in order to receive his financial claim post the demolition. Returning to the tragic episode, after spending a good 1.5-2 years with no specific progress, they moved to a small town nearby. He spent about a year there being treated the Ayurveda way. The final outcome however, remained the same – he would not be able to return to a fuller and regular functioning for his legs.

With steel rods in both his legs, a capacity to walk not more than 10 steps at a time, he told himself it was time to do something else with his life. He thus chose driving an auto to keep himself active and continue to earn while he could. Both of  his daughters have married already and his son owns and runs a cycle shop, which seemed to be doing quite well. My auto-uncle worked for the joy of it and to feel alive. He does not feel the need to charge any added fares in difficult times (nights, rains, sweltering heat, etc). He does not take breaks based on the weather like a lot of other auto-drivers he knows tend to do. He does not even bother to cut the call when his mobile rings in the middle of a ride. He does not care about getting late in reaching somewhere because he believes life is more important than rushing to get past other vehicles. He was a genuinely happy man.

I have very rarely met people so content with life, despite the shit having been thrown at them. He joked and spoke about the older times (his times, as against mine); how they were so much better in every respect; how everything had a more humane quality to it.

He philosophized at a point, looking at the rains spoiling all preparations for Garba around –  everything is supposed to happen for a reason. When we look at the larger picture, the different pieces of the puzzle do fit in well. I personally, love this philosophy. It makes sense to me. It lets me find peace when circumstances are hard to digest (at least right away). A lot of situations do not make sense even later maybe. But having faith in the larger picture helps. It made me wonder how capable an individual can be of creating a symphony out of the sounds of life as well as of playing it like a broken record. It all boils down to one’s perspectives. Perspectives boil down to one’s choices.

He never sounded sorry for himself or about life for a moment while he talked. That is what inspiration is probably supposed to look like – having been broken down, and having successfully patched itself back to full form.

 

Cannot act the same anymore…

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Boundaries between people can change so rapidly
Where you once simply walked in as you liked
Is where you now hesitate,
Step closer but don’t enter
Have the urge to reach out
But withdraw again
You wonder whether you’re allowed anymore
Whether you’re needed anymore
And sadly, how you feel is not what helps you choose
Not anymore; that is not the guiding factor
It becomes awkward
Because the boundaries have moved
Between two people, they can move within moments
Following even brief conversations
Undoing what took several months to put together
Such rapid changes are hard to adjust to
And that is when you find yourself to be a little lost
You feel the same, but you cannot act the same anymore

That light within

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Only when you turn off the lights, do you see those stars shine in the dark night sky
And yet we resist so much,
The darkness,
Because it brings to light all that we have been trying to keep at bay,
Funny, this irony
The darkness that brings things to light
Those times we hesitated,
The fears we harboured,
The times we avoid thinking about
Because they are too precious to lose at the risk of reliving them

But the light does nothing to resolve
It merely lets you avoid
Things that you must face when you turn off the lights and close your eyes
In those moments when you start to fall asleep
And before you actually do,
Is when the dark descends
Do what you may, it does

So stop running towards the light
It isn’t the only way out
You need the darkness within
To appreciate the light without
And the darkness around
To be able to identify the light within

For far too long

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For far too long now, I have held on to the grudge. I haven’t let you go. I haven’t let your touch wash off. I haven’t let those moments leave my mind. I haven’t let go of my anger. In time and space I have moved on. But in my mind, it seems to have frozen right there. The way I felt, the way I didn’t feel. That fear and disgust. That guilt. They haven’t left me yet entirely.
You violated me in a way that was too personal and close. An offense that would not easily leave me, in my mind, in my body.
You took for granted a very basic permission that was never given to you. You assumed to be your’s what wasn’t up for use. You left marks that were not visible but burnt the same. You helped me create a bridge with those around me.

I was never given the satisfaction of seeing you punished. Punished? I was never even granted the relief of seeing you accused for your own faults. They got lost in the folds of relationships somewhere, of blood and society. My cries and disgust slowly found themselves wrapped in the cloak of time and secrecy. Those times when I found the voice and courage to express, you looked away, and so did the others. I bore the shame of those moments and the pride of being my own saviour equally privately. I was (and am) willing to take the risk of making that shame public only to be able to feel that pride openly as well.
I have deeply hated your smiles, the times you have looked happy, the times I have been compelled to consider you to be a part of the family, the times I have had to be associated with you. I have hated how you never seemed to face any troubles, while I seethed within. I have felt suffocated in your presence.

You were the one who made the mistake, you were the one who took for granted way too many things and yet I was the one paying for it – in my mind, in the way I felt, in the way I stayed away. It was unfair. And that is probably an understatement. It is something I have hated for far too long.

I choose to let it go for good though. I will never look at you with any respect, of course. I have no qualms in disliking you and your presence each time I have to face you. I will never trust you, nor understand those who do. But there is something I will do, however. I will be calm; in my body and mind. I don’t need to boil within anymore. I do not need to shed tears of frustration and anger when I am forced to be around you. I am not going to feel disappointed in those who could have helped, but didn’t; they were doing what they knew best. I am not going to waste my breath on cursing you anymore or trying to catch you in the bad light for others to see.

I am going to walk ahead this point onward. I need love, not the hate and regrets. I might always feel sad about the past. But I will find the strength to be myself each time. It is sad that you will never understand what it takes to forgive someone. I hadn’t known it all this while either. I do now. And it gives me the space to breathe.

I am going to breathe. Deeply. And live.

‘Light’

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The light that filters our existence

The light that filters our existence

In the darkness that surrounds us all

there is an inevitable need for light

the one that illuminates the good parts now and then

we need that light to tell us that not all is lost yet

And when it feels like there is no tomorrow left,

that there will never be another smile on our faces

that we will forever be groping for a way out

we will need that light to tell us a different story..

Rushing through the now to get elsewhere later..

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I have gotten it all wrong, gotten it all backwards probably.

It has been one of the longest phases of life this time when I have been unable to shake off the feeling of gloom, monotony and have found it difficult to look forward to just about anything and everything. There are spurts here and there. Some things feel big enough or important enough to react to. And that reaction then lasts for about only as long as it can sustain by itself. Then we are back with the gloom, the black clouds.

In retrospect, I realize it has entirely been associated with the frustration of having been unable to meet a certain target; ‘settling down’ to be more precise.

Often when people around you begin to believe that there is something else you should rather be pursuing, in a matter of time, you might actually end up fooling yourself into agreeing to it. Worse is when you internalize it and make it your belief. So now you have a more intense problem to deal with – not only do people expect you to pursue a certain goal, so do you! And then it is harder to be able to see beyond it.

I have been frustrated, tired, dreamy, hopeful, resentful, sad and even defeated at different points in time during the past few months. And when you allow something to get onto you as much, sadly just about everything around you seems to resonate the same idea. And thus, all mentions of anything remotely related to marriage – your age, friends settling down, future career plans, investing into something major – just about everything around you begins to trigger difficult disturbances.

Bearing these and much more of a mess in mind, I headed out for a quick dinner with an old school friend. Technically a junior, she just got married last month. With the background in mind, there’s probably little need to talk about what all I would have thought about the meeting and how sorry I might have judged my situation to be.

To say that I feel absolutely different after one dinner meeting might sound lofty but feels absolutely real. I complained about my struggle and my state, which needs to change but refuses to nonetheless. But what my friend said to me in response, based on her understanding, led to an interesting paradigm shift.

To not have married by a certain age has its own frustrations and social judgements to be dealt with. But to have been married by a certain age has its own downfall for an individual (more so a girl) too!

When you commit to another person, another family, you somewhere enter into an unsaid agreement of making changes and adjustments as required. And this is not so much to do with being a male or a female but more to do with the fact that two people choose to be co-responsible for several aspects of life. This, by default, invites changes and adjustments.

So when I get to make my own decisions, expland my work the way it excites me, execute hastily made plans, travel unplanned, and take things at my own pace, I am getting to do something that has its own charm and importance in life.

More often than not, it is difficult to appreciate something fully well unless you are close to losing it or have already lost it. But when it is still all your’s and you can manage to crack through that feeling of wanting to treasure it, it needs to be savoured. It needs to be remembered as vividly as possible to not let go of that powerful benefit.

What I am saying in other words is that while there are disappointments (and will continue to be) there is also the possibility of marvelling what exists already, what is mine.

And I know for a fact and deep within me that I don’t want to make the mistake of rushing past the life that is, in order to make it elsewhere later. When I do that, I cheat on both the now and the later.

It is how the author Robert Pirsig puts it in ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, “I don’t want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth-century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things”.

And if getting onto other things is what you really want in the first place, why fret so much over things you don’t yet have?

I like to believe in signs and thus I like to believe in the idea that having this conversation tonight and reading such a strong sentiment post that had to happen together to tell me where I was going wrong. If I exercise my choice to live through my life in the now, as it unfolds before me, I earn the choice to feel differently too.

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