Path to devotion

John was only semi-conscious, as he felt the swaying of the ‘Palaki’ as four men carried him on their shoulders up the mountain. The late summer heat of the Gangetic plain, had fallen as the train and bus journey, had brought him higher into the Himalayas. Steve had stayed with him and made all the arrangements. When John had become severely dehydrated, from his stomach virus, Steve had decided to move him to his Baba’s Ashram, away from the squalor and filth of New Delhi. Delhi had been a stepping stone, for their larger travels across India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Steve had been studying Hinduism and Buddhism in the sub-continent for a decade. He had been brought up by two Peace Corps Workers, in rural Wisconsin in a small town in suburban Madison. His parents were both teachers in the High School and had gone and worked in Guatemala, and later South Africa, as part of their work, on improving productivity in farming. Coming from hardy Swedish and Irish farming families, who fell in love in School, it had been a very good life. They were eternally grateful, to President Kennedy for allowing them to see the world, outside their secure existence.

Steve had gone on driven by their thirst for knowledge to excel in his High School and then go to Harvard, on a basketball\merit scholarship. He excelled in Chemistry and loved Organic chemistry like his Father, who had a Masters from Yale. It was a chance encounter with Baba Ram Dass at a summer music festival, where he spoke about bhakti. He sat there mesmerized by this white clothed simple balding man, speaking about his life after Harvard, some decades back. Dr. Richard Albert had transformed his life, and seemed to glow with an inner peace. He spoke about his experience of the divine and left Steve deeply moved, with more questions; than he could answer, that night.

After finishing Harvard at the top of his class, Steve told his parents that he was going to follow in Ram Dass’ footsteps and go to India. He had taken courses on Indian Philosophy and Buddhism as minors in Harvard and become even more confused. He decided to go there and see for himself if bhakti might finally save him, from his inner demons. His parents were sorry to see him go, but encouraged him to go out and see the real world. He talked to them about Maya and the shifting reality of our consciousness.  His Karma was destined for India and Steve was on the search for meaning, in his existence, from the ancient treatises. He had studied in the old tomes and libraries available in museums and colleges in America. He became immersed in his research, as if to fill some strange inner longing for peace.

Steve was enrolled in the Sanskrit program at The Banaras Hindu University, as he wanted to be able to learn the basics. He had studied the alphabet and was just starting to read, on his own. He moved to the ancient city and became fascinated by the temples, the Ganges Ghats and the university work, kept him very busy. He started to venture out with his new fiends and listened to many discourses. Slowly the rhymed shlokas, and the interpretation of the ancient rishis, began to form a new language, in his head. Six months became a year as he visited all the ancient schools, and learnt about the varied castes and sub castes of the Hindus, and their myriad belief’s in the city. He found the Upanishad’s fascinating, and studies many of them under local scholars, as the name implied.

After a year he went back home, and found that nothing much had changed. He grew restless in a month of summer barbeques, and church gatherings. He’d told his parents that he was going back, to visit the monasteries in Nepal and Bhutan. He needed to understand the Buddhist book of the dead, and see the true traditions, himself. The powerful idea of salvation, or Nirvana, and freedom from our karma; pulled him like a magnet, across time and space. This time he had even less communications back home, and for three years they only heard from Steve, when he was not at a remote location, studying ancient scriptures. He continued to brush up his Sanskrit and now the newly acquired Pali in addition to the English, Afrikaans and Spanish that his parents had taught him. He found the Buddha’s original sermons far more compelling, than the many interpretations he had heard.

He had bumped into John a few months back and he was from outside Tacoma in Washington State and they had become friendly. John had an unsatisfied curiosity about everything in life. He had a fervor and a passion, to see around the next corner, and most of all, he had an infectious loud laugh. Steve had not laughed much in the past years, and John would always find something amusing and could bring humor, even in the worst situations. He would slap Steve on the back and say, “Come on Steve, lighten up will ya, this life is much more fun, than what you make of it. Live, learn, and enjoy, is my motto. All this is made, for us to partake, and be happy.”

When Steve mumbled some ancient Shloka, he would just chant the one mantra I had taught him. He would raise his arms to the heavens and say “Come Steve my friend, let us become universal spirits, and I promise you that this universe will be with us. It will provide us all that we need, to enjoy and be happy! My Grand aunt left me some money, made by our ancestors, in the logging business, and now I am learning to make amends.” John lived simply and Steve was helping him in exploring homes of the destitute and dying, and some girls education organizations, which could use his help. They had also visited Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai to see the actual work being done by these organizations.

***

The light attracted him at first. It was different from the light he had seen earlier. The first time it was as if he was following a long tunnel, which led to the light. On the other side awaited his final savior, was what he had felt.

This new light he felt was a different light, it was a light of hope. The light before was taking him to his final resting place, but some other force had suddenly intervened. In his weakened state John saw that the more he turned to it, the new light drew him even closer. The next thing he heard was the soft chant of the Mahamantra of Bhakthi slowly whispered in his ear. “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.” The chords were primordial, whispered by some ancient power, and John was lost, in rapture as it appeared to fight Kama, or death itself. John felt this new light and sound saving him from an evil power. Slowly the darkness of the tunnel disappeared and he emerged into the open light and found the sound was real and not his imagination.

The light when he opened his eyes, was that of a lamp over his bedside. Steve looked down beamed a big smile, to see John’s open eyes. He was hooked up to an IV lying on clean white sheets. Everything in the room seemed white, as if he was in another world from what he remembered in India. The mantra changed to a Meera Bhajan where in her devotional song, she asked Krishna to stop playing hide and seek. She begged him, to reveal himself, to her. He seemed to feel a feeling of love, grow around him, as if Meera and Krishna were here, with him. He suddenly felt like smiling, as if he was reborn.

John looked into two of the most intense dark brown eyes, he had ever seen, peering steadily at him, as if into his very soul. He could not look away, and it were the eyes, that were also making the sound of the Bhajan. He was mesmerized by the vibrations of sound, and the eyes seemed to be pouring the very life forces, into him. The warmth of life and hope, seemed to flow back, into his veins and his heart. The Guru looked up at Steve and smiled. “He will be fine now, the danger is over. I have to go now there are others waiting.”  

Steve bowed low with folded hands and wished John a speedy recovery. “Jai Hanuman!” he whispered after his Guru and then gathered his robes and followed him out leaving John to rest and recover.

John closed his eyes and the tunnel and lights were gone. In its place now there was a benign darkness. He felt the kernels of compassion and love rise within him, and his devotion growing, like Meera’s. All his doubts disappeared. In this stillness, he had not felt this completeness, before, and he slept.

I am merely a guest,

born in the world

to know the secrets that

lie beyond it.

  • Rumi

The Bikhunis

The Sangha’s leader’s council was growing old, and needed young men like Satya, to take a more leading role, in the proceedings, with the external world. Yet there were still some elders, who felt he was not ready, and still had a lot to learn. They were worried, as he had still not attained enlightenment. They had groomed him from early childhood, and he had shown great improvement, in the eight fold path; of the Dhamma. He had trained over the past 25 years as a monk, but they were not sure, when he would attain enlightened, like them. Yet dealing with the palace, had never been easy; and they had listened to all he had to say, with patience and restraint.

“Ananda Pala’s vow of silence, has to be respected,” stated Satya Dhamma. He was younger than most of the council gathered, to discuss the latest accusations, from the palace. “This accusation has been raised, while I am in charge, of this trust. We should leave the learned Ananda, out of this worldly matter, he has far more important spiritual matters, to attend to. The King’s trust must be carried out, to educate the women of his palace, in the truths, taught by our Gautama Buddha.”

“The Great Ananda would have brought an end to this charade, from the palace. They would never have dared, to raise such base allegations, against our monks. Satya, with all due respects, you are no Ananda.” Surya Kiran, one of the leaders of the council spoke up.

“The Princes have accused our monks of misguiding the concubines, and misusing them,” Satya reminded Surya Kiran. “This has nothing to do with the past, we have to address the present situation. I request the council, to trust me, and give me more time; to respond properly, to these baseless allegations. I have led a majority of those classes, since Ananda left, over ten years ago. We share responsibility amongst us monks, teaching the princesses and the concubines, in the ways of truth and dharma. I still believe that with compassion and love, we will bring out the truth, behind these made up lies. We have made great progress, and the princesses and the Queens are with us, in our investigation so far.”

“The council gives you another week, to gather the facts in this case, and bring before us.” Amrit Daan the head of the council finally said, and adjourned the day’s proceedings.

A week later Satya was back before Surya Kiran and the rest of the council. He gathered his robes about him as he waited for the senior council members to settle down. They had news to catch up on and had broken up into small groups and were now slowly herded together. Surya Kiran called the council to order and the week’s proceedings began. First up was the officer from river’s and  irrigation warning that the river was in danger of being overrun and need of another 10,000 men immediately to shore up the banks or divert the water from the city. The overflow would flood the fields up river but it was the only way. He was provided 1,000 workers and told to rush back to his existing team, with the promise, that more would follow.

Next up Surya Kiran announced the investigation into the Royal Princes into the misconduct and misuse of their concubines by the monks teaching them. He turned to Satya and asked, ”You were given a week to resolve this matter, or at least provide an update, so we can get back to the demanding Princes at the Royal Court?”

“We have made much progress in this week. I have to thank the Raj Mata (King’s Mother) for helping us resolve, what was spinning out of control in the week before,” Satya replied gravely as he proceed to present his evidence.

“The problem started a month ago, when 50 of the palace concubines, got so influenced by the teachings of our Lord Buddha, that they wanted to join the ranks of the Bhikunis and served the poor and dying.” Satya reported.

“The Princes have asserted that, this is negligence of duty, on the part of the concubines. They pointed out that there is no such law, allowing women to become a Bikhuni, in Magadha. They further objected that the law may apply for the common lay person, but not within the confines of the Palace. Their royal privilege was reduced, by this influence of the monks, on the beautiful women in the palace.” Satya continued.

“The women had already been training for over a year and the King’s Mother, had seen them go out daily, in their white robes, to serve the poor and the dying. They worked quietly in pairs in the houses, beyond the palace gates and even outside the boundaries of the city. She had heard from the city dwellers, that their work was becoming better, as they gained more experience. The women had beseeched the King’s Mother for help, when the Princes insisted on their joining their company, and reveling till late in the night. They needed time instead to practise their Vipassana meditation to expand their spirituality and compassion.” Satya explained.

 “We have no time for all this wild chatter, tell us Oh wise one, has the matter been resolved or not?” Surya Kiran rudely interrupted Satya’s carefully prepared presentation.

“Well yes the matter has been resolved, and I took inspiration from the Great Ananda, as you so carefully pointed out, would have resolved this matter long ago.” Satya turned to address Surya Kiran directly.

“Be careful. Do not drag Lord Ananda into this worldly matter,” replied Surya Kiran severely.

“Perhaps you have forgotten Surya Kiran, that it was your Lord Ananda who formed the first group of Bikhunis, after the First Council.” Satya responded.

“It was the same argument that me and the King’s Mother used in the royal court today. I was very afraid that the King will not allow the formation of a group of women to become Bikhunis in this great kingdom of Magdha.” Satya continued.

“It was when the King’s Mother approached the king, and told him that the Great Arhant Anand, had himself set up the first order of Bhikunis, the King had relented. He was a great admirer of Anand and wanted to emulate his life and wisdom.” Satya explained.

“Words are not decrees, we need solid evidence to bring this matter to a close.” Surya Kiran looked at the other council members for assurance. Amrit Daan the head of the council nodded gravely in agreement with his old colleague Surya Kiran.

Satya smiled as he had come well prepared. Tucked in his robe, was the edict of the king. It allowed the setting up of a new religious order consisting of women, at Satya’s request. The King after being persuaded by his mother, about the good work, the concubines are doing.  She detailed the work for the poor and dying, they performed daily, in their new roles. Slowly she persuaded him to change his mind and allow the women, to do their noble and spiritual work.

He had quickly told the Princes n the court that their appeal was overruled, and the concubines would be allowed to do, as per the King Mother’s directions. If she allowed the deserving women, to be in the service of the Sangha, and the poor and the dying, then they would be allowed to do so. He also told the disappointed Princes that the King’s Mother had assured him, that replacement concubines, even more beautiful than the ones leaving, would be found, as a suitable replacement. She knew it were her son’s weakness and physical love for the concubines, that had led to this crisis. She was not ready to bring her kingdom into disrepute, for what she considered internal palace business.

“Here Lord Surya Kiran, I present the King’s edict,” Satya said standing erect before the council. He reached into the folds of his robe and with a carefully researched flourish presented Court Document in Pali language, with the King’s seal at the bottom, for their examination.

“With this law, I feel that I have fulfilled our Buddha’s desire to full the kalayanmittala or our spiritual friendship. This now proves the compassion and love, which I have for these new nuns. We can now work together like brother and sister, in the greater good of our fellow humans.

“I beseech the council to allow me to work with the King’s Mother, on making this group of Bhukinis, into a real helping hand for our work. We can together reach out for all the women out there, who need their comfort from what we Monks alone, cannot provide. For this honor, I will devote my whole life, to become worthy of one served in the service of our Lord Buddha.” Satya entreated the council.

The council members continued to read and examine the Royal Document. At last Amrit Daan looked up and said this looks like an authentic Royal decree and everything appears in order.

“Amrit Daan, then in your wisdom, please allow me to shape this future. Allow me to continue the work we have with these young ladies. They have worked so hard to achieve all this so far.” Satya requested. ”We can build a much better order now to serve both men and women, as needed.”

Amrit Daan whispered amongst his council members, and finally stood up and smiled, at the earnest Satya. He raised his right hand in blessing, “You are embarking on a noble journey. May the Buddha himself, light your way with his wisdom. Our Council allows you to carry out this royal edict on behalf of our Sangha and appreciates all the work you are doing for the poorest of the poor. Form the new order of Bikuinis as requested and bring compassion and love, to those who need it the most. We will be here for you Satya, whenever you need us.”

Another well-known passage in which the Buddha taught Ānanda is the passage about spiritual friendship (Pali: kalyāṇamittata). In this passage, Ānanda stated that spiritual friendship is half of the holy life; the Buddha corrected Ānanda, stating that such friendship is the entire holy life.[35][36] In summary, (Wikipedia)
‘Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.’[2]

LMC trumps Andromeda and LSD, in Celestial delights!

Depiction of the Andromeda galaxy colliding with our milky way

The impending collision of our Milky Way with the LMC (Large Magellanic Cloud) will bring celestial scale events into our neighborhoods. This may not happen for another two billion years from now, but in universal scale that time is not very far away. Initially merger with the Andromeda Galaxy was expected first, but now the race may go to LMC. These events of intergalactic mergers, is quite common in our crowded, and expanding universe.  The biggest danger is that this infusion of new gasses and stars, into the near dormant black hole at the center of our galaxy, may provide fuel to it. This will feed it into activity, and it is expected to grow exponentially larger, with the new energy.

Our Black hole will become a Quasar, and start its own celestial event. The energy expelled at near light speed, by the resulting Quasar, will change our Milky Way. “Should this happen, the stars that currently call the Milky Way’s galactic center home will, sadly, have to yield the neighborhood they know and love, to a new population of cosmic emigrants from the LCM. According to the researchers, many stars will be sucked into the growing black hole at the galactic center; other stars, reacting to all the extra mass pouring into their neighborhood, could be flung headlong into interstellar space, quadrillions of miles away.” Written by Brandon Specktor in Live Science.

Unfortunately we will not be around to see these interstellar events but hopefully our descendants (if human survive), will experience it. According to another model built by the astrophysicists at Durham UK, who predicted the 2 billion time frame, our solar system may not be effected, due to its location. We will not be in direct harm’s way, and may actually enjoy seeing new events, in the skies. New stars and gasses, will crowd into our galaxy, changing our skyline.

Please don’t fasten your seatbelts just yet, to travel and see one of the brightest objects in space, the Quasar. No psychedelic could ever match, the actual merger of two galaxies, into a celestial soup; of energy, and light. This soup unlike LSD (psychedelic drug), will be so thick and strong, that it will produce sights, not possible till today. The scale of this event, will be truly spectacular, and grander than any human imagination. Our solar system is far too insignificant and young, to be included, in this new universal show. We will be left on the sidelines, with great spectator seats.

There are other galaxies colliding at random, in our universe today. We have billions of galaxies and pulsars and quasars out there, and billions of black holes. Their birth and death, are the celestial events, which no one can predict for certain, and they are not part of any great master plan. They rise and fall, in their own time and space. We do not even know if we live in a multiverse existence, as we can only see and know the existence of our own universe. From a flat earth we are evolving in our knowledge, and maybe dark matter and dark energy; which are over 90% of our known universe, have other secrets, that we have yet to unravel.  

There are many amongst us that consider themselves, the master of this universe. Others believe in a Supreme God, shaped in their own beliefs, who controls the destiny of all living and organic matter. These gods reap vengeance, on those who do not believe in them. Their blind followers unleash wars, on other non-believers. The scale of their narrow mindedness, belies the actual reality, of what is all around us. Venus is not the goddess of love and Mars is no longer the God of war, as our understanding and times have changed. We look up into the heavens and see our future, but cannot even understand our own past.

Look inwards and we find another universe of millions of creatures, who dwell in us and what is their God? The only answer is energy, of our life forms. Long as the energy is kept alive, we live, and when it fades; we die, and become fodder, for millions of other cells. Our greatness lies not in conquering the world, but in conquering ourselves. The danger of superstition and false beliefs, creates rifts between us and nature. We end by destroying, that which provides us life, in our ignorance. True reality is when we realize the meaning of how to live, with compassion and love. Hate is natural and fear is elemental, to our nature. We have many leaders who have risen, who fan this hate and bigotry, in the name of clan, nation but mostly religion.  

They are the unrealized and to follow them, is to plunge ourselves into a darkness of spirit and action. Seek the light and you will renounce these shallow beliefs. There is much to learn and we have lived only a spec, of cosmic time. The cosmos is the reality, and we are the pilgrims in search of it. This earth is our witness, and we have proven ourselves wanting, on many counts. Enjoy this randomness of colliding universes, as in this insignificance, is our greatest glory. We are the masters only of our fate, and destiny is only a thought, that should be abandoned. Conquest and pillage is our history, for survival. We must find a better way, if we want to enjoy cosmic time.

Knowledge is limitless and so why limit ourselves to a faith, which limits others, as less than equal? Which colliding Galaxy is stronger or larger, only time will tell; and we, or our man-made God, does not control their destiny. I am, so the universe exists. I learn, and our humanity improves, is the only truth.  Our universe blesses us with a celestial dance, to be enjoyed for the ages. Our moral responsibility is to teach our children well, so that we and our gods can survive, to witness this truly cosmic event!

Woman’s sea of sorrow

Avalokitesvara_Statue looking over the sea of sorrow – China

Gupta Ji’s car was the first car that I had ever ridden in. His son Munna (his school name was Vishnu, but nobody called him that), was in my class, in the local government school. While my family could not afford any other school Munna was in my school, after going to the better local school, where his caste boys went. He was not happy moving to our bigger school and missed the pampering and love in the old school. . His older brother and sister would dress up, in their uniforms and ties and blazers, and take the bus; to their respective Christian schools, for a ‘better’ education now. Munna being darker, and the youngest, was stuck with us, as he was not the heir apparent, or apple of his father’s eye. His father liked the fairer, stronger and taller elder brother better. Surya was fair after his mother and carried himself well, like her proud soldier father, and Gupta Ji, would praise him to the heavens, behind his back, to Munna and me. Sometimes he even did it when Surya was around, when he got too carried away. Soon Surya would be taller than his father and would still smile, and bow low.

Usha his sister, was the more studious one. I would often see her standing at her bus stand, reading a book, while she was waiting. After some years she got spectacles, and Mrs. Gupta complained, that it came from all the reading. What good would it do a girl, to read so much, and not help her own mother, in the kitchen, and house work? Who would marry a girl with spectacles, or accept a daughter in law, who was nearsighted, and not talented, in everyday affairs? Usha continued to study harder, and Gupta Ji quietly supported her, as she reminded him, so much, of his beautiful wife. He soon discovered that Usha is much smarter, and far more intelligent, and encouraged her education.

My name is Adarsh and my family lived in the Barsati on the top floor of Mr Gupta’s three storey home. Our barsati was a 12 by 11 foot space on the red brick lined roof of their home. A few Asbestos sheets had been thrown across the eight foot walls of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, making a bare roof. The wall was raised another 6 feet at one end in a crude extension of another 10 by 11 feet. This loft had a wooden ladder, led up to this wooden floor boards with a coarse cotton sheet covered by a stuffed cotton mattress, to sleep, read, or play, in one corner. The rest was made for storage of other household goods, pantry, traveling trunks and mother’s things.

 It also served as my sleeping space, when I got older with two of my siblings, in the winter. Most of the year we slept on our durries and sheets, on the bricks, on the open terrace. Of course it would get slightly tricky, in the monsoons, when we had to huddle in our barsati, under the Asbestos sheets. Mother and Father of course had their own, wooden legged rope strung beds, and there were two spare ones, kept for any visitors who may arrive.

We were refugees from our town and nobody knew us. Then my father had managed to get some reference from a Bank friend, from his own town, and Gupta Ji had agreed to rent out, his empty barsati to us. Father would leave early in the morning, to work at his fruit stall, near the main cloth and textile Bazar, and would return in the evening. He had long days as he also had to go to the main fruit market, which was half an hour away. He travelled with his cane headgear tray and cotton bags to get supplies, by the local unreliable government bus service. Often he would spend many hours walking to and fro, on days when the bus did not show up, or was too full. He also got some local produce from the farmers around, to replenish his cart on credit, to keep us fed and clothed, during the season.

                                    ***

Many years later I was working in New Delhi as an accountant in a public sector enterprise and posted in New Delhi. After finishing High School in our neighboring town, I had gone to the State Capital to do my Bachelor in Commerce and eventually, graduated second in the class. From there I got a stipend in a local accounting firm to try and do my Chartered Accountancy. I also sat for the Government Service and to my family’s surprise passed in my second attempt and became a provincial officer of the Indian Government. Over the years I had worked hard and learned much and got this much desired posting in our nation’s capital.

Munna had gone on after High School to work at his father’s business. His sister who had gone to Delhi University to study on a scholarship insisted that he must at least complete a Degree college. Poor Munna struggled through the Town’s college, when he wished only to be home working in the family business. He failed twice and what should have taken him three years stretched into five. As soon as he graduated Mrs. Gupta married him off to the fair daughter, of one of the leading Spice Merchants, in the Town.

Even I was invited and it was a grand affair, by Gupta standards, with a special DJ brought from the big City to entertain and get us guests, to dance at the private celebrations. Our Barat was welcomed with a huge display of fireworks. Even the elephant that Munna was riding in all his Groom finery, was rented by his Father in Law. He wanted to show off his new educated bridegroom, to his neighbors and fellow townsfolks. We all danced in our colorful turbans and beautiful clothes, to the DJ blaring wedding songs, and encouraging all kinds of ideas. The Brass Band and Drums when we marched down the main road, added to the clamor and cacophony, of the Bania celebration. The wedding had been planned for months, and the clan had gathered from far and near. There was great excitement and celebrations in the joining of two major Bania families.

I briefly met Usha and she had graduated from her Masters in Social Work, from the University of Delhi and worked with some NGOs. She felt that she needed to make a career for herself, in her field. Her mother was forcing her to get married soon and she was literally on display, at her brother’s wedding, for all prospective grooms, in their clan. The boys of course knew little about this, and it was more the Mothers and Aunts, who participated in the gossip, of which boy is available in which family. They decided between them as to which family, will provide the suitable bride. Usha had blossomed into a beautiful, tall, fair, confident woman. She had adopted contact lenses somewhere along the way, and her brown eyes seemed to sparkle, along with all her jewelry.

                                    ***

A few year’s later I had met Munna and his family at a common family friend’s wedding. It was good catching up with him and he informed me, that Usha had moved to Delhi. She had recently married into a large family and he asked me to look her up, if I had a chance. I took her address and put the slip in my wallet. He mentioned that his Mother was not happy with her first visit home, after her marriage. There had been loud words spoken in her room, between Usha and his mother. It seemed they wanted her to give up her career. Usha had recently got a job working at an international NGO, which provided health care; to pregnant ladies, and newborn babies. They provided better nutrition and did tests, to identify any problems early. She loved running the group of nurses, who provided the care, even to the poorest of the poor.

Munna gave me her address and told me look her up. He invited me to his new home, if I ever traveled to Jaipur, as they had set up a new branch there. His two older brothers, ran Delhi and Bombay branches, of the family business. His parents preferred to stay with Munna, because the dry weather, helped his mother’s asthma. They were very orthodox and now with the community in the small town becoming abusive of Usha’s ways. They believed strongly that a woman, should stay at home, with her babies. After Asha was born, Usha was up and about in six months. She worked harder at helping even more children at work now, that she had a daughter of her own. A year later she had another daughter, and hired a nanny after six months. Usha continued her work, as she was managing more centers and providers now, in her work.

Three years later I got an assignment in Jaipur, for a week. I pulled out the folded paper from my coat pocket with Munna’s address. We met that evening after work at his home. His wife had cooked delicious snacks and dinner and his young son, crawled around everywhere. Munna had put on weight and he looked very happy. His business was doing well and Gupta Ji was glad to see me and we talked about the old times in Delhi. It was Munna’s wife who whispered to me that all was not well with Usha, as I said good bye.

Two years ago I had looked her up in Delhi. I had looked her up on social media, but couldn’t find her at first. Then I tried with her married name, and suddenly I hit a lot of pages of awards, and recognitions of Usha’s work. Apparently even the State of Delhi, had recognized her NGO’s efforts, in helping reduce death rates, in their areas. More women welcomed the midwives, and the nurses, in their need. Under their guidance the infants became stronger. Each year the NGO trained more, and each year Usha seemed to get a different award for reducing the death rate, by another X percent, or more children getting better nutrition.

I met her in her modern and efficient office near the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi, in an old secretariat building. The place seemed very busy, but she made time for me right away in her large personal office with her name on the table. Usha sha-shoed away her visitors, to spend time with her old friend. She ordered nice aromatic tea, and we ate the delightful snacks, that came from her home and the canteen. We spoke for some time about her daughter, and how life had changed for her. She was happy to see me, but she had to rush off to the British consulate; for a tea affair, and we parted. In parting I noticed splotch marks, on her back, as if she had fallen and hurt herself.

Off and on I would hear about the birth of her second daughter and her return to work. We had our own lives but it was just the comfort of having an old friend close by. She was busy with her work and family. I was astonished to read in the paper one Tuesday morning, that here had been a fire in Usha’s home and she was dead. Munna called and I rushed to Gupta Ji’s house. It was strange to be there after so many decades. I could still hear Usha’s laughter from her room where she read. Munna’s wife greeted me and led me to the room were the men of the family was gathered, in mourning.

“Usha looked so happy when I met her last week, and she was glowing with joy. She was so happy, that she was going to have another daughter. The family wanted her to abort the girl and she refused. They should be all thrown in jail, for doing this to her” was all she whispered to me, as Munna’s old friend. Then she folded her hands and left to be with the other ladies who had come to express their grief. The room door was open and Usha’s mother’s wails, continued to break the home’s silence, in sporadic outpouring of grief.

.It was strange to be in the room, with everyone dressed, in white sitting on white sheets. The only thing in color was Usha’s photo, in an ivory frame and a garland of ivory and flowers, around it. I could not believe that the beautiful woman in full bloom of her life, was no more. I had secretly loved her I realized, from as long, as I could remember. I stared at her smiling face, and then noticed that even in that photo she had a blueish blotch, on her breast, peeking through her sari. Something, more than I had ever know, so personal in my subconscious within me; died, at the realization, of what Munna’s wife, had tried to convey to me, an year ago. I could not imagine that any human could have done this, to my beautiful Usha, for having no sons. In a room of mourning men, I sat on the floor, with tears slowly rolling down, my cheeks quitely. Every shriek of her mother, would pierce my very heart, with added sorrow. I just sat there and thought of all the mothers and children, Usha had helped. In her short and shining life she had given so much to so many. We are all the lesser for being, what we have become, as human compassion has been forgotten.  

“Being a candle is not easy,

In order to give light

0ne must burn”

Rumi

Biodiversity is beautiful

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is a report released in May 2019 by the UN, and it is dire news for all fellow living beings, on our Mother Earth. The continued pillage of natural flora and fauna, to meet the agricultural needs, to feed 7 billion humans is devastating our planet. For one species alone, to virtually annihilate all others is the path we are on if we don take action.  An estimated 82 percent of wild mammal biomass, has been lost, since their last warning, just a few decades ago. This loss in our fellow mammals, with the closest gene relationships, is a clear indication, of the heartless and willful destruction; of whales, tigers; and other mammals, large and small. It is not that we have even spared ancient species like amphibians, where almost 40 percent have similarly declined; in living environments available, and their numbers.

When I went to remote Maldives, I was devastated to see the white and dead reefs, where previously there had been extensive colored corrals, and schools of fish. Almost a third of reef-building corals, have been lost around our world. With global warming, it’s likely to prove deadlier, for this fragile ecosystem. As the oceans come under pressure, more than a third of the exiting marine mammals, have disappeared. The sight of Polar Bears roaming in areas, where they were never seen before, in search of food, is heart rendering. Bee populations have been decimated, and 10 percent of all insect populations, are threatened with extinction, in the near future.

The Report called on countries, to begin focusing on restoring natural habitats, and providing corridors needed for creatures to move about. All illegal logging must be stopped, and instead large areas need to be returned, to nature, with help from our best organizations. Humans have to learn the science of growing more food, on less land. Vertical cities, will need vertical farms, to feed them. The overfishing of our natural reservoirs has to stop. Fresh water bodies should be restored, to avoid severe water shortages in the future. Water harvesting and drip agriculture, will be needed on a massive scale. We cannot allow the continued dumping of heavy metals, and waste water into our natural bodies. Lastly nations need to take more action, to protect their marine areas. Offshore drilling reductions, waste and plastic removal and reduction of pollution strategies must be implemented on a massive scale. Marine protection habitats are all required urgently to ensure large swaths of Ocean are cleaned, of man-made pollution, and returned back to its rightful inhabitants.

The final recommendation is that we are all in this together, or else we will each die, separately. Economic drivers for polluting the earth and making it unfit for other creatures to survive, is no longer a viable option. Nations need to change their taxation systems, and economic penalties, to stop the continued pollution of our land, oceans and atmosphere. The money gained from these should be funds spent towards, doing what is right for all of us. The more environmentally beneficial programs we embark on, the better we will be. With this second warning in as many decades, the UN has put us on notice; that we and many of the creatures around us, are on a very destructive path. It is urgent to take action, and amend our way; before we lose most of what is so beautiful, on our planet: – the biodiversity of life that nature has created, over billions of years!

Pashupati seal

Pashupati Star pulled on his natural shawl, made of handmade hemp fiber, and swung one end up, and around his left shoulder, keeping his right arm, free. He had a bag hanging from his left shoulder, of the same, but more beat-up, and layered, hemp fiber, lined with cotton. In this bag were his day’s tools. Star was a bricklayer by profession, just like his father and grandfather had been, before him. His staff was also his measuring rod, as it was the length of a standard measure, for building human spaces. The town was planned with straight and perpendicularly divided streets, by the brick lined roads, which formed the thoroughfares. Star turned from the large roadway, into the narrower one, to get back home.

They had lived in this town for many generations, and he enjoyed his profession.  It was rumored that his Great Grandfather’s, father had come from a much bigger town, across the great river. Their home was standard brick design, with high walls facing the street. The house lived inwards, in its open courtyard. There was a large entrance, with two large rooms on either side. The side walls were lined with rooms for his family, and a granary and a kitchen. The fourth side was for the household animals, and their feed. There was even a well for water, which was sweet and abundant, and that is why his Grandfather, had chosen to build here.

“Hey Star,… have you lost … your hearing,” came a panting voice, from behind him. He knew that voice, but decided to keep going, as if he didn’t hear, speeding up slightly. “Star, I will kill you this time, if you don’t stop.” He heard the approaching voice, and her bangles, but Star kept going. He had managed to avoid her, for a whole month.

“My Star!… Why do you not wait for me,…  why must you always torture me, so?” she said, panting, as she caught up with him, running on her long legs. “Mother Goddess, please give me the strength, to put some sense, into this fool.”

“Full Moon, you can’t stop me like this. Not in the middle of the street, and bar my way?” Star said, looking up at the tall young woman, who stood barring his way, with her arms out and her patterned brass bangles, reflecting the fading sun.

“Just call me Moon dear,” Full Moon smiled at him, and gave him a slight push, in his chest, and tilted her head, looking him up and down. “Just like you did the other night, my dearest Star.”

Star was staring at her breasts rising and falling, under her shawl, as she took deep breaths. He noticed the beautiful brass necklace with carved and shaped beads rising and falling, and then turned his head away.

“Yes Moon,” Star looked up into her brown eyes, finally, as she continued to rub and poke his chest, and then pointed 2 fingers up to her eyes.

 “I just finished work, and I am tired, and want to just, go home.” Star said softly.

“OK so you are not doing anything, but just going home,” Moon said, stepping aside, and giving him way. “Good, as I am also not doing anything also, and will happily accompany you.”

Star pushed her aside with his shoulder, and at the open opportunity, started walking off towards his locality. She walked besides him stride for stride, and even skipped a few steps ahead, or followed behind, if he scowled. She hummed a tune, as she accompanied him. He was used to her antics, and he even smiled, when she even tried to do a cartwheel. Instead she ended up on the bricks, with all her long graceful limbs spread out, and flat on the ground. He giggled, and walked away faster.

“Dear Star,” she said catching up with him, near his home’s entrance, as he was still giggling, from seeing her spread out like that, at his feet.

.”Dear Moon,” he responded, and she flung her arms around him, and hugged him tightly.

“Oh so sweet,” Moon said gazing down into his eyes, and he tried to break away giggling harder, as she rolled her eyes at him, and wouldn’t let him go. He was rubbing against her, as he tried to escape, and she was exaggerating it, by her rolling sensuous movements. Then suddenly, even she could not hold in the pleasure, of seeing him, in her arms again. She also looked at his stupid expression, and broke into giggles, as he tickled her. He released himself, and burst into laughter, “You looked so silly Moon, sprawled out in the street like that.”

Embarrassed, she started laughing nervously, with him. He dropped his bag and reached out and tickled her. They both cracked up then, and soon were down on the bricks, pounding them, and roaring aloud. “Sweet Star…Sweet Star.” Moon said between laughs, and Star said “Dear Moon. Dear Moon.” They raised their heads, and looked at each other, sitting in the street and laughing at each other. Moon made a face, and then, they broke into spasms of laughter again.

“Oh Mother Goddess! Will I see you by the silent grove of Pashupati, tonight after sunset,” Moon asked, when she could compose himself.

“Tonight? Well let me try, and get there, as I have some things to do.” Star replied.

“Oh Star it will be so good, if you can make it,” Moon almost begged. Star nodded and agreed to meet her later.

Moon smiled back at him, and wrapped her wrap around her, now that she had heard, what she wanted to hear. She straightened out the handwoven cotton shift, that she had wrapped around her waist.  The joy of seeing Star again, was just like her Mother Goddess, had promised her, when she prayed to her last night. The Mother had calmed her, and assured her, that everything will be alright, in the evening. Her brass necklace and her bracelets and bangles, shone in the setting sun, as she turned, and headed off to her home. She had a lot to do, to[KR(1]  get ready for the night.

Star ate an early meal, and finished off the chores he had to complete. He then decided to go to the bath. He was feeling dirty and decided, to clean himself, from all the dust of the day, from working, in construction. The public baths were a short walk away, past his local market. He headed out and soon another friend joined him, and they talked as they walked, as he was headed for the baths also. His friend worked in the sanitation department, and they kept the drains cleaned and covered, and the streets clean. He really needed a bath he said, after this day’s work. They enjoyed the hot baths, and then relaxed in the cool pool, and let the day’s tiredness; seep out, of their pores. Then they dried themselves, and applied oils, to smoothen, their chapped hands and feet. With glistening hair now, cleaned and tamed by the oil, they were ready to return, to civilization.

Star fade farewell to his friend and headed for the Pashupati Grove, on the outskirts of the town. As he approached he saw the full moon start to rise, above the clouds on the horizon. He felt a sudden jump in his anticipation, at the sight of the big white moon rising. There were two more couples, ahead of him, also strolling along, in the same direction. He realized that they may be headed for the Pashupati Temple, for the special prayers, offered on every full moon night. Star believed deeply in Pashupati as the lord of all living creatures. His friend Full Moon believed more in the power of our Mother Goddess, and tonight the two would meet in the silent Grove.

Star entered the Grove and headed for the Temple, and saw that a lot more couples, had gathered, for the celebration. On one side, a stage had been built, in a clearing in the grove. A lot of people, had already spread themselves, on the grassy slope, all around the stage. There was light from oil lamps, hung on the brick and wooden stage. The surrounding areas, were in semi darkness, and only lit by the stars and the moon. There were four people, sitting on the stage, playing music, and the sound of their drums, and voices, spread the music all around. The rising moon above the trees, brought light into the clearing, and you could see people and shapes more clearly now.

He felt her presence, even before he saw her. She was sitting under a tree, in the shade; erect, and looking at the musicians. Star felt a strange vibration arising from her, a serenity as if she was the Mother Goddess herself, as Moon had described her to him. She was glad in a thin cotton wrap and on her arms were bangles of brass with tiny beads hanging from them. Her hair was washed, oiled and neatly parted. In the middle parting she wore vermillion, and it seemed to add to his desire, as she was in service, to the Mother Goddess.

This strange tall beauty, and raw feminine power, in full display, had attracted him before, when he met her last. Suddenly all his efforts at self-discipline was gone, causing him, to break his promised fast of the senses, to his lord Pashupati. He approached her from behind, and saw her shoulders relax, and she swayed slowly with the music, as he approached her. He knew she could feel his presence too, as the power of Pashupati flowed to the mother goddess, and their disciples, are surely swayed, by the same vibrations. As he reached down to touch her shoulder, she looked up and smiled, as if she already knew he was here.

She patted the ground besides her and her bangles made music of their own. She looked up into his eyes and smiled, “I came early, and found a good spot for us,” Moon said, “We can hear the musicians, and see the stage clearly from here.” Star grunted, as he lowered himself to the ground, and sat down beside her, on the reed mat. She had come well prepared for the evening with snacks and drinks. . There was a coarse cotton sheet covering the reed and the soft grass below, for comfort. The moon rose higher, and another larger group of musicians, came on the stage. They were louder, and the tempo picked up, as the moon shone brighter on the people. Star felt the music take him also, and he closed his eyes and swayed.

 She reached down and  offered him a drink from the baked clay amphora, which she carried for that purpose.  It was a special drink, from the Mother, and she had prepared it carefully. Star took a deep swig, as he was thirsty and felt the greenish golden liquid, flow down his parched throat. He coughed, as some of it went down the wrong way, and Moon pounded his back, to help him recover. “Don’t be in a rush Star, I made more than enough for us, for the evening, just like last time.” Moon joked, as she took another sip, of her favorite drink. It had come out just right she felt, just like her mother, had taught her. She smiled as the herbs and intoxicants carefully prepared, in the ancient recipe, would soon have the desired effect. She wanted tonight to be spent devoted, to the worship, of the Mother.

Then Moon started to dance and she motioned to Star to rise also. She and he danced in the moonlight, as the musicians, sent them into a strange trance. Star felt his whole universe become free as he swayed and danced in the moonlight. Moon had a natural grace and a good ear and flowed with music. She would hum along, and let her tall body follow, the waves of the melody

When the moon reached its peak, the high priest of the temple, came out from the Temple. He was clothed all in white and his junior priests followed, also dressed in white, carrying torches that lit, his way. On their shoulders, they carried the shining brass image, of Pashupati in all his glory, surrounded by his living creatures all around him on a large brass seal. The people bowed as the image passed, and Star prostrated himself to the ground, as he knew that without Lord Pashupati’ s help, he would never find joy in this life. 

Moon was the only one who remained erect and stared curiously at all the creatures surrounding the lord. She smiled as she knew, that without the Mother, none of them would have existed, for Pashupati to rule. The power to give birth remained, only in her and the Mother

Star had spent the past few years in devotion to Pashupati. He had worked hard on his body, to make it stronger and virile like his lord. He had shunned all base pleasures of the other bricklayers, and concentrated on making himself better. He was attracted to the power of the lord, over all creatures, and wanted to emulate him. Unfortunately a month ago, he had met Full Moon, on the same moonlit night. She had bewitched him and he had lost himself, and all his training and restraint, had become lost. He remembered having the same drink, and all his senses coming alive.

 He felt his mind had become very fluid and his rigidity of discipline was gone. All his efforts at self-control, and all his meditation, had become lost. He had gone so far out of himself that, had it had not been for Moon, he would have been lost. He wandered into a strange world, of disbelief and wonder and imagination and profundity, as if everything was growing in a mother’s love. It was the sound of her bangles, as she danced in abandon, which brought him back to reality. The sight of her flushed face and body sent him into a new realm of joy which was missing in his hard life..

She had called him with her power, as this was her first time, and the Mother had told her she was ready and the time was right. She sent her feminine force and calmed his male force, with her love, and brought him back, from the dark recesses of his mind.  She had stroked him and slowly guided him, into the ways of the Mother. The power of his years of training vanished, in her soft embraces. He was suddenly more awake, than he had ever been. Each moment was a delight, and each touch, was a pleasure. “Sweet Star” Moon had whispered, as she showed him the ways, of the Goddess. ”Sweet Star” again at him, as the music played, and they swayed. Star had clung to her, as only she would save him now, from himself, in this strange new world. He realized that all his power was only built, for her pleasure. She completed him, and there was no other way; that he could live, from now on.

 “Dear Moon,” He whispered back, as the drink took hold, of their imaginations, and their spirits soared. They became so co-mingled, that nobody could tell, where Pashupati ended and the Mother started. A joy arose within them, at the realization that, this was just meant to be.

Star looked up after an eternity it seemed, and he noticed that the moon had slid down, behind the trees. The night was passing fast and he felt, as if he had just arrived.  He smiled in a strangely contented way, and Moon looked at him and smiled, and poked his chest. Star giggled as the waves of happiness rose, from her caressing touch. Moon giggled at his reaction, and Star reached out, and tickled her, some more, on the curvy spots she loved. She laughed, and squealed. Soon they were rolling on the grass, laughing and mingling, in the joy, of the Mother’s blessing. Their spirits mingled and they were one.

Their laughter became a primordial sound, and they reveled in their creation. Moon with her bangles, and the soft music in the background, spread love across the clearing. More and more couples had joined them, in the glow, of the Full Moon ceremony. Now their laughter became infectious, and spread out, across the clearing in compassion and joy. Star was so entangled in Moon, that their laughter, turned into a deep satisfying feeling, inside. From there, the force spread outwards, and spread to everyone. In that magical night, they were all connected, in this great ceremony. He felt his mind, become one; with hers, even as they laughed softly. The Mother Goddess, and Pashupati, existed that night, in a co-mingled joy celebrating life and creation.

 The Grand Priest of Pashupati, declared this month’s Full Moon ceremony closed. He turned to face east and prostrated himself towards the rising sun and the Temple. He then spread his arms high and thanked Pashupati for making this ceremony, a roaring success. He blessed all the couples, to go forth, and be happy!


 [KR(1]

Fading Moon

Yogi was walking on the side of the lake, in the haze of existence, along with his new companion. He was slowly talking about the galaxies, and the universe in the heavens, beyond the dark and overhanging clouds and smog. They had not seen the Fading Moon, in many months. The earth was covered with a brown and grey cover,  which hid the moon, and barely allowed a soupy dawn. Yogi had heard about the nuclear war, on another continent, which brought this haze. His companion was prone to violent shakings sometimes, as she walked besides him. He understood it was just her nature, as she was actually a sweet little thing, once she cleaned up. It must have been some trauma in her young life, maybe after the loss of her husband. She would shudder and shake. Her slender arms and legs would tremble uncontrollably. Sometimes when the fits took her, she would crumble on the floor, and just weep for hours.

Yogi did not ask about her past, as he had enough trauma’s of his own to take care of. He had learned to live with himself; to avoid confrontations with others, and to seek peace, in his own life. They were simply happy, that they had found each other. Yogi reached out and took her shaking shoulders, under his right arm. He hugged her shaking body to his side, as they walked on. They had their food and water supplies, and were now determined, to reach their shelter. Yogi’s home, was on the other side of the lake. He took a swig from his precious water bottle, and shared some with Eva. Then they set off in the fading light, to follow the ancient path to their shelter. Yogi looked up at the grey clouds and haze, hoping to make it home, before the approaching storm broke.

Yogi did not need much in any case, these days. He had got used to fasting, and skipping food altogether, for days. Even though he had his own well of sweet water, he did not trust the water. He had constructed some elaborate filtration and cleaning system, for his water supply. He only drank his own homemade bottled water, any more. The pristine lake, in which, he had swum in every summer, since he was a child, had become poisoned, months ago. He and Eva avoided any outside water, and were getting stronger, with their hydrated bodies. Slowly Eva’s shaking subsided and they were able, to make better progress.

When they got home Eva immediately started working on the grains and flour, to make breads. Other wild grains she boiled, to make a base gruel. She could then add vitamins, and nutrient supplemental, they had gathered from the Supply store, near the train station. The store keeper said that it was a miracle, the old electric trains, still ran at all. Also the power supply, was unreliable, these days. The storms could cause havoc, and destroy anything in their paths.  Yogi and Eva spent most of their time indoors, going out only for necessities, for their survival. They were not city dwellers, where conditions were probably even more dire. Yogi had heard it rumored, that large mobs raged, across the broad avenues, seeking food, at the soup kitchens.

Yogi was straightening out his clothes in his room, when he heard Eva from the kitchen, “Dinner will be served in five minutes, and will you join me Yogi?”

Yogi felt some pangs in his stomach, as he had not really eaten anything, since the day before. He had become very suspicious of all foods. He had seen his friends and companions, become sick with strange growths, and ulcers break out on their necks, and bodies. He had seen them suffer, and slowly wither away, and then soon die. He knew if it was not for Eva insisting, he would probably have given up, altogether and joined them. She was hungrier for life, than he was; and he had sensed that, when he had first seen her, scrounging for food. He saw her outside the Store, some months back. The Store keeper had told him she had arrived on the train, some days back. He was very wary of strangers, yet her sweet smile and sunny disposition, had melted him. He did not sleep that night and the next day came and made her the offer, to join him in his home.

They were both lonely and she saw his emancipated body and his hollowed eyes. She realized that he was letting his life force ebb, and wane. She decided to nurture him back to health, as she was desperate for companionship. She had been a nurse, once, in what seemed so long ago. She had been happy, before her world turned, upside down. She thanked every day, on which she woke up, to find herself, still alive.  He seemed a good man, who had, had some bad breaks, in the past. The Store keeper had told her, Yogi may appear eccentric, and strange, but at heart he is a very good man. She had followed him, and watched him for days. Finally she decided to move in with him, on an extremely stormy night. Yogi had brought her home and made her welcome and showed her, where everything was. She slept on the Sofa, as she was cautious, and afraid.

Eva passed the hot boiled gruel, she had prepared, in two bowls. Eva had sprinkled some precious herbs, and added the boiled spicy vegetables. Fresh vegetables and fish had arrived that day, from the climate controlled, hydroponic, indoor, organic farms, far away. These were rarities these days, and she was very happy, with her meal. Yogi as usual, just pushed the food around on his bowl, with his fork. She had coaxed him a couple of time, but had soon realized; it was best, to just let him be. He would play with the food and sometimes take a small forkful into his mouth, and chew contemplatively. It was as if he was discovering, how to eat, for the first time. Then he would walk away and wait to see if the food was safe. Eva would continue to sit and eat, slowly enjoying, every bite, of the nourishing food.

Yogi was more interested, in the brain pills, which he had gathered. It was a concoction, of whatever the store keeper, had been able to obtain through his contacts. He would even continue conversations across the home, as he admired his cache. There were blue pills, pink pills, white capsules, yellow tablets, but most importantly these organically grown and refined natural enzymes and powders, increased his brain health. Yogi was convinced that they were keeping him alive, as while his body had become deprived, these supplements kept his brain alive, and functioning.

Eva had joked, “It’s all in your head Yogi, I do not take brain pills, and am happy the way I am. We have to be happy inside Yogi, and nothing from outside can do that, no matter what concoctions, you ingest. My Mommy always used to laugh at this world, and she taught me early on; that we are created to bring joy, to all around us.”   She laughed at him, and coaxed a smile out of him, with her antics. She mimicked him popping pills. She pantomimed him, by raising her hands above her head, pretending that her brain, is expanding.

That night she joined him in his bed and they talked about the past. They made love, and then they talked on until dawn. They talked about their hopes, and their dreams. They made love again, and she nodded off. Then they ate a predawn meal, as she awoke early, feeling hungry again. This time she sat with him smiling, and talking about their upcoming day. He was not one, for sleeping much, these days anyway. As he listened to her talk on, he became strangely contented, with her company. Eva’s shaking fits slowly disappeared over time.

“What do you want to do tomorrow?” Eva asked innocently at breakfast one day,

Yogi just looked at her amazed, and just sat straight, slowly chewing his food again; and finally thinking about a future, he had given up on. As the night turned into a grey dawn, he slowly ate, spoon, after spoon. She smiled at him, passing her feminine strength, into his meagre frame, and a small hope rose, in his mind again. They decided to venture out into their universe more often. “Lets go and see what else is out there?” Yogi said, gathering himself and leading the way.

Months passed and they got used to venturing out, into the fog. It had rained in the night, and more appeared on the way, from the distant thunder and lightning. Yogi looked up into the grey skies, and then turned, as Eva caught up. She took his hand in hers, as they walked up the hill, away from the lake, towards the forest. Eva claimed that the night before, she had actually seen the Fading Moon’s shadow, in the sky, from the top of the hill. They reached the top, after another violent storm, when the heaven’s opened up. Eva had hugged Yogi as they got a glimpse, of our Milky Way, and the galaxies and larger universe. Yogi and Eva lay on the ground, and looked at the eternal universe enchanted. They spent a magical night, enjoying this beautiful spectacle for hours, lying in each other’ arms.

Since then a year has passed and this hellish semi darkness, eats away, at both of them. Yogi would have withered, but Eva saved him, and continues to nourish him, with what they can find. It is rumored that from that from that fateful night onwards, the Fading Moon became a reality, and was never seen again. Yogi does not talk about our beautiful moon, or our colorful Milky Way, or the size of our external universe, anymore. Even Eva’s shaking fits are becoming worse again, and they venture out less and less….

Schopenhauer. “Suffering is the substance of all life”

Wikipedia image of mushroom cloud at castle_romeo2

My Happiest Child

The young boy looked up in wonder, at the morning sun, rising above the trees. There was a line of them, along the slow river which flowed, far away. As it rose, it made the flowing river, to turn into a shining silver\gold combination. He closed his eyes and still the shadow of the bright light, remained in his brain, as if the sharp reflection of the sun, still remained.  The flash reminded him, of that light he had seen, before the explosion, which changed his life.

He shivered as he lay on the ground, half up, leaning on his elbow, watching the day dawn, and turn to morn. He moaned slowly, as the ghost pain from his missing left legs, rose again. He tried not to start crying, so early in the day, as he did not want the village children, to call him a crybaby again. He closed his eyes again, trying to take long breaths, in and out, as his father had taught him, to calm his mind and body. When he opened them again later, he saw that the reflection of the sun, had gotten weaker, and the river appeared darker, against the green and brown of the trees.

He realized he was thirsty and started to crawl on the ground, towards the hand pump, in the shade of a nearby tree. It was where the street to the temple ended, from the heart of the Brahmin section of the village.  He found a container with some left over water, and raised it, and took a long draught right down his open face, and down his parched gullet. Some spilled, but he did not mind as the cool water felt good, and his thirst was gone. He turned and looked down the Temple Street, and watched a stray dog walking away. He did not like dogs and was glad it wasn’t coming, for water.

He had never been inside the temple, or even the Brahmin section of the village. His sister had gone there to steal cow droppings, from their cows, when they went to graze, for his mother’s open fire. She mixed it with straw and made cow dung patties sun dried on their outside wall. His mother used the dried fuel and twigs as fuel. His eyes would often glaze, lying in that smoke, and soot filled hut. His mother cooked the family meal of cheap rice, and whatever they could afford, that day.

Mother had changed a lot, since the wicked men came, and took his father away. He had already suffered his injuries and was lying in his home, on the thick cotton sheet, in his corner quietly. He had heard his father talking and the man yelling at him, outside. Then other voices joined in, harsher and sharper. His father was saying “I have a lame child at home from this unholy war, please there is no one, to take care of my three children and my wife.”

“Take him away,” Came the voice of a man, who seemed high, as if on a horse.

“No, unhand me, No,” I heard my father cry out, as others dragged him away, kicking and shouting.

It had been three years since then and his mother had no time to play with him now. They had been so happy, as she would play with him in the mornings, after all her chores were done. He would laugh at her stories and all his pain would be forgotten. She was magical, she turned his long troubled nights, into a wonderful day. She whispered softly to him “My happiest baby,” and crushed him to her chest. They would cuddle together and play, without a care in the world. They laughed a lot together, happy in their togetherness

Now she would feed the family in the mornings and his older siblings would go off to the village school, as she went off to work. She is a maid in one of the merchant family’s, big brick home. It was a big whitewashed wonder, with lots of people. She worked all day cleaning and washing and anything else that needed doing, for such a large family. She returned in the evenings and made the evening meal, and fed and put them to bed, and slept herself.

“Our school is also a brick building, each class has big windows, with glass!” his sister had told him with awe, when she returned, from her first day.

The boy wondered what it would be, to be, in a room, with big windows. He could not imagine a place, where you could look out, at any time. She told him her class room was bigger than 4 of their huts, and had high walls, and a peaked clay tile orange roof. He wondered what it would be like to be in a strong building in the monsoons, would the rain still sound as loud?

He knew he would never go to school, and he was happy, for his sister. She pressed and massaged his left over thighs, where his legs had been cut off, after the blinding explosion. He liked it when she did that, and he smiled, for the first time that day. Then she heard her mother calling her, and she rushed off, leaving him on his sheet, in his corner, of his home.

“Come here sweat girl,” he heard a man’s voice, who sounded like the merchant, for whom his mother worked.

“She is very young and shy,” my mother said.

“Well, once she starts working, she will be fine,” the man said. “What good is it to you, to educate this girl, as I can help you, if you need more money? Let her come for work also, and I will increase your salary. You are lucky, your middle boy can continue to go to school.”

“She is too young,” my mother said, “She has to take care of my lame son, when she comes from school.” The man would not listen and soon left.

The boy became lonelier. He now had to fend for himself, all day. He would eat what his mother left him, and on days when the weather was nice, and he had the energy, he would crawl out. He was wary of dogs, as he had been almost bitten once, His brother had come and chased two curs away, just in time, as they snarled and snapped at him, in the street. Now he had no one, and so ventured out less often. Today he left the well and slowly crawled back home as the afternoon approached, and he wanted to be back, in his shady hut.

One night he heard his sister crying, “I do not want to go there, any more, mother.” She cried between sobs and he could see her shoulders shaking, as she heaved and wailed. Her mother reached out her arms and wrapped her and pulled her to her bosom. She held her in her arms and shushed her, trying to stop her crying. “They hurt me,” she murmured and mother continued to hold her, and tried to comfort her.

His sister stopped massaging his thighs, and she seemed to be afraid to touch his flesh. He would reach out to her as before, and she would retreat, as if afraid. This frightened the little boy even more, as he thought he had turned into some monster. He knew that he was scaring his dear sister, just as he had hurt his mom, with the blast. He hurt more, every day, now, and the pain, would not go. Even when he breathed, like his father had taught him, the pain stayed there, and arose and fell in pulses of heat.

He was losing his memory of his father, he realized one day. He could not hear his voice in his ear, telling him that he will take him to the city hospital, and that he would get better soon. He missed his strong arms around him, making him so warm and close and secure in his world. He learnt how to bear his pain, and not cry. He knew his father was taken away, because of him, as he had heard him pleading with them and they must have taken his father, because he was a bad son. Even if he cried, it did not matter, as there was no one there. So he just lay on his cotton sheet, in his corner of his world, alone, and unwanted.

The long nights became especially painful for him, as he tried to be quite, so his mother could sleep. The nights when he heard his sister crying silently, were the worst, for him. They were so close, and yet so far, and he felt like screaming. Then he would remember his sleeping mother, and his father’s gift. He would cuddle himself, into a ball of pain, and breathe. He would take one long incoming breath. Then a slow outgoing breath. He would continue his breathing moment by moment, aware of his pain; and dying a little bit more, with each breath.He eagerly awaited the dawn to escape a little, whenever he had the strength..

His life force slipped away in the winter night, quietly, without a murmur. Next morning his mother picked him up, and took him out, and laid him in the sun, to clean him. She washed him and looked lovingly at his beautiful face, and prepared for his last rites. The people from the neighboring huts came, and helped prepare him, for his final journey. All she could remember was his smiling and giggling face as a baby.

As the men lifted and took him away, a single tear fell from his mother’s eyes. “My happiest baby,,,,,” repeated again, and again, was all they heard, as they took him away.  

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. -Robert Frost, poet (26 Mar 1874-1963)

Orange Sunshine

Orange Sunshine, the original orange colored tablet that revolutionized a generation. I found mine from an American tourist, smoking a chillum in the park, near the Hanuman Mandir, in Connaught Place, in New Delhi. We had met a couple of times in the past week, as random strangers in a random universe. Both were drawn to the familiar smell of good hashish, smoked in the passing clay pipes, with wet rags to inhale the smoke and fill lungs. We lived in a world where we believed, in the abundance of life and good companionships. There we became friends, as is possible sitting with red eyes and just talking, in the beautiful green gardens of Delhi and re discovering our universe. I offered him some downers and some speed for free from my private stash, in friendship, and he smiled.

My new friend then generously offered me a gift of the time (for a small rupee fee), from his cotton satchel, he carried his valuables in. We sat there enjoying the day, surrounded by all its flowers, in the springtime. An orange tablet from a small box of many more, he reverently gave me mine, bowed to Hanuman Ji in the temple, and said “Jai Sri Ram”. He smiled, benevolent as ever; and gave me the simple instruction, to keep it under my tongue at the appropriate time; and enjoy.  The stone wall of the old city all around the garden, which stood tall since centuries, was still saving this natural oasis, in a bustling city. There I inherited the left over tablets from the city stranger, which invited us to wear flowers in our hair, when we visited. I bowed low to my friend as I left, to ride my Lambretta, back home. The city of Delhi still attracted the latest pleasure our world had to offer, in exchange, for some of the wisdom and spiritual wealth of our people

On ingesting the tablet I guess one changes one’s perception, of what as a student my role is, in The University of Delhi. I lay in St Stephen’s common room and listened to Steppenwolf and the tracks from ‘Easy Rider’. Someone came and started playing one of the Woodstock LPs, on the turntable. The culture was changing, as I drifted into a Hostel room in SRCC, where someone was twanging away on an acoustic guitar, and singing Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times they are a changin’. One walked back to my Alumnus Ramjas and then across the Rose gardens, to the Cricket grounds. There in the Viceroy’s oldgrounds the annual tussle; between St Stevens and Hindu College’s sports teams, was in full flow. The sunshine had cleared the morning fog, and the men in white looked so elegant, as they stood their ground, in the innings of a lifetime. Some girls from Miranda passed giggling and talking and you got distracted, and passed out of the crowds, and into the lonely ridge.

The brambles and the stunted trees of the Aravalli hillock made for tough hiking, as one avoided the thorns. As one rose up above the University one could now endeavor to seek peace. One’s senses became alert in a different manner, as one walked alone in the wood. A snapping twig sound, aroused a different reaction than Jimi Hendrix playing a psychedelic ‘Star Spangled Banner”. Alert and aroused in nature is very different, from being in a large social human gathering. The seeker seeks everywhere and then comes back to find himself.

Our journey is to arouse and satisfy the same insight and hope, which is universal, and shared by all. Here one is closer to oneself and one’s universe and compassion and love can flow easily. The gift showed me that the sun shines bright, and one is happy, in this buzzing reality. One feels ones whole universe and the self is wiped out and we become part of the pulsating energy of universal life. Suddenly I am whole in a manner I have never been and everything becomes me, and I become everything. I find a grassy patch under an ancient tree to just be, here, now. Slowly my breathing is the force of the primordial universe. I just lean back against the ancient tree of wisdom, and wonder, where is Rip Van Winkle, when I need him? Enjoy…..

All of life is a foreign country. -Jack Kerouac, author (12 Mar 1922-1969)

“Demand for acid was high, and Billy Hitchcock, enterprising as ever, sensed an opportunity. He introduced Nicholas Sand, a Millbrook regular and aspiring underground chemist, to Tim Scully, a whizz kid chemist from Berkeley newly-arrived on the estate. With Hitchcock bankrolling the operation, the two chemists moved to California, set up a lab, and synthesized 3.6 million hits of Orange Sunshine — 250 micrograms of pure LSD bliss that hit the San Francisco streets right on time for the Summer of Love.” Wikipedia on the mansion in NY where Dr. Richard Albert and Dr. Timothy Leary of Harvard spent their summer. These activities happened post expulsion from the University, and before the summer of love in SF.

Homage to ‘Daybreak’

Where does human civilization begin and how long will it last? The ancient classics tell tales of mighty Emperors whose empires, seemed to span the known globe. They have all disappeared, into the sands of time, with little trace left of their mighty existence. Yet with every daybreak, a new hope arises within us, with the beauty and promise of a new day. Our lives are awakened at the early hour, as we lie half in repose, seeking a new adventure. Up and away we go, into the mountains, across the green fields to the perfect destination, and enjoy freedom and love. Or perhaps just lie here and do what civilized humans do, to enjoy our given life. Do I pursue my lover to bind her closer to me, or let her escape into her own Ecstasy!

A great artist Maxfield Parrish from Philadelphia created this popular image of ‘Daybreak’ in 1922. It is a classic from a time when American civilization was developing, and finding its roots. The classic and the modern meshed well, into the new art of the new world, with its great vistas. People traveled across the Oceans to behold these views of a brave new world. The heartland opened up for settlement, and the great railroad expansion of those times, further romanticized the West. It was morning in America, and the greatest inventions and innovations were starting to change humanity.

Today I ask again what will today’s Daybreak bring for humanity? Will we rise and and reach for the stars again, for new ways and improved ways of doing old things? Will we solve the problems of the masses, or will the rich and powerful garner the returns, and let trickle do its work over time? My message is clear – let us each one of us awaken to hope, perseverance and being here now. We can achieve so much more for ourselves, and be compassionate to others around us. When I am happy, only then can I make others around me, also happier. Care for our true self and we will automatically seek bliss and joy which comes, from a life well lived, with high ideals. Civilization is measured by its ability to uplift everyone, and not just a choice few.

Maxfield Parrish’s “Daybreak” 1922 one of the favorite selections of the last millinia.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Ecstasy%2C_1929.jpg