Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Guardian

I was born in a very small hill station called Lansdowne, which is nestled in the bosom of the mighty Himalayas. Perhaps it would have been smaller had it not been for the presence of the Garhwal Rifles, a mighty light infantry regiment of the Indian Army. Right from the day when I was born to this present day, I've seen my Lansdowne having undergone wave of changes. Change is evident... it is a necessity... perhaps it is the only thing that has remained constant. From a few shops at Gandhi Chowk to the establishment of a proper thriving bazaar there... from the flourishing pine and oak forests, to the mountains slopes being deforested in the name of development, I've seen it all... but inspite of all these adaptations and changes, there is one such presence, which hasn't changed... and that is these lofty mountains.

The Himalayas have stood ground for millions of years... . I have always been in awe of these mountains. Each of its rock has a history older than mine. Him-alaya... the abode of snow... the abode of the Gods.. These hills have watched over me all through out my life. I feel safer, lost in these mountains, than amidst a deluge of men.

I went to boarding school in Dehradun when I was only six. Six is a scary age to go to boarding you see. I had heard so many stories about how miserable your life becomes in a boarding school. My first few days in school were no exception. My constant sobs to go back home didn't go down too well with my matron. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who used to cry and whimper to be sent back home. Now, from the back field of my school , you could see the Himalayas.. .stretching right from Mussoorie to goodness knows where!! Whenever I got a chance, I would sit under this jacaranda tree and stare at the hills. I remember the warm feeling in my tummy, when I first saw these hills. I felt comforted and I knew I would settle in my new life very well. I indeed did... homesickness became a thing of the past, as long as I knew that these hills were there. One of my biggest fears, right through out junior school was that maybe one day the mountains will just get up and walk off!! Thankfully they decided to stay put and guard me all throughout school.

Saturday night in school was Movie Night. Movies did not catch my fancy back then. I would quietly slip out of the auditorium and sit in the back field. From there, you could see Mussoorie. Now, Mussoorie at nights is a sight to behold (if you staring at her from Dehra ofcourse..) She was lit up in all the bright hues... there was red... there was orange.. there was yellow... that tall TV tower, with its beacon flashing from the top.. all arranged haphazardly on the slopes. Shining and gleaming through the night. I used to spend hours just gazing at that beautiful sight. I miss sitting in the back field and whiling away my time like that.

October was always special.Very foggy. The path used to be covered with fallen silver oak flowers. As we used to gather in the field for the morning P.T., the fog would clear and the sight of first snow fall on a far away mountain top would greet me. I would get restless, wanting to go there. I used to feel sorry that I missed out running like a maniac, with my tongue hanging out, trying to catch the first snow flakes in my mouth as I did back home. Sigh!! Maybe the mountains could feel my restlessness. All of a sudden, the fog would descend and the hills would disappear. I still feel that the hills did that to make sure I didn' get so excited that my P.T. teacher would catch me and send me to run rounds once again.

College life was fun, but something was always missing. I was too far away from the Himalayas. There were time when I felt so lost . There was no guardian watching over me... maybe that's why I never did well in college.

These mountains have taught me a lot more than my books could ever teach me. They have taught me to be patient, to be humble and understand the lessons of Nature... the various kinds of flowers, birds, reptiles, animals... I learnt to swim by being plunged into the rivers here. I understood what Silence is... what it feels to stand on top of the world...and top of the world is indeed very silent.

People from all across India come to the Himalayas to experience something called "Adventure Sports". I really do not understand what that means. Walking on a pre-determined route, with servants carrying your food supplies... running down the Ganges in a raft not controlled by you... shouting in forests, just to hear your echo is not adventure sports. Where is the adventure? And what do my hills get in return for providing "adventure" ?? The hills get heaps of garbage, ancient trees being scratched with "Paplu loves Daizy" messages and pristine forests being felled to make way for some hotel. We have mutilated these hills for centuries and they have quietly suffered. I wonder how long before the hills decide that enough is enough and take back all, what rightfully belongs to them.

There is a saying that if you have spent some time amidst these mighty mountains, you'll always return to die here. I have lived most of my life here, and I know I will breathe my last here. I belong to this mountain soil, and that is what I will be after my death.... Everytime I begin my journey from the plains to these hills, my joy knows no bounds. The moment I begin to wind along the narrow mountain roads, I feel so welcomed... Yes, I feel the same warmth in my tummy which I felt in school... It's good to be back home!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Nirvana

Another sunrise... another tomorrow, and I've made it through another day. As I deteriorate slowly, I think I'm at peace with myself. Day by day, I've begun to understand Life and her ways. "Too late" , some might opine, but then it's better late than never. I wasn't so smart anyway.

Life is indeed a beautiful woman... a seductress... for as long as I kept trying to seize control of her, she eluded me. Whenever I thought I had her in my grasp, she just sailed away, riding the breeze. She would then turn back to look at me, her eyes filled with scorn and tease as I looked on... more exposed, feeble and marooned than I ever was. Filled with anger and vengeance, I would always try again... I always would... and she always knew I would. "This time", would I say," this time when I catch hold of you, I'll teach you a lesson which you'll never forget. " My threats did not frighten her. Nothing did!!

Looking back now, I know not why I wanted to trap her. Maybe her independence irked me. Here I was, chained by responsibilities, education, the norms of the society, dreams and destinations and there she was.... carefree...wild... free spirited. When I lay sick in the hospital,she was around. But never did she ask me about my health or about my pains. Whenever my lab tests came back and announced the most uncomfortable results, she would only sing and dance. Everything about her made me loathe her, but then everything about her also made me want her. Maybe I was just in love with my contradictions but then it were also my contradictions which taught me to hate.

One day, she just disappeared. Just like that! No scorns, no taunts, no grins... She just vanished.

The same day tragedy struck and my world fell apart. I stood in the morgue, amidst 19 other severely burnt bodies, trying to identify my brother. The little hope I had of getting news of him being alive, was shattered by the locket he wore. It carried the picture of his one year old daughter. I had never , in my wildest of wild dreams, imagined that someday I'd see him in such a state. I recognised his face...Yes, I recognised him. His last days were very troubled and his end shall keep me troubled for the rest of my life.

The day of the burial, I saw her again. She stood next to me, clad in black, like all of us, and she was mourning. I saw her cry and I cried. Even after everyone left, she stood there with me. No words spoken. Then she disappeared. For long I didn't see her. I was busy with the undertaker, the tombstone orders and with his family lawyers.

It was on New years Eve that I finally saw her again. She was walking in the family cemetery, mindless and not perturbed by anything. This time, for a change, I smiled at her. She grinned back at me. I started wiping snow off the tombstones, when she sat by me.

"Why do you despise me so much?" Life asked. I said ,"I don't know exactly.. Maybe I feel cheated for having suffered so much, while you roamed around careless and happy. You've scorned me all my life. You've been unsympathetic and mean. I've been honest all my life and I've done nothing to deserve to be treated this way. "

"Is that all??", she giggled and continued, " I'm no different from you. Infact, I am YOU. The only difference is that in your attempts to seize and control me, you miss out on all the little moments of joy which come along. I, on the other hand, show you what you can be. You forget to enjoy what you have been blessed with. You have the gift of vision , the gift to feel and to touch, the gift of taste, the gift to understand and the gift to appreciate. You have resented me all this while, and thus you have been unable to enjoy Me.. Your life!! Learn to accept me and not fight me."

There it was! The secret of Life! All that is needed is to be able to accept. I'm at peace with myself ever since. Life, for long, has been a subject of constant debate. Great thinkers have tried to find the
meaning of Life. Mathematicians have even attempted to express Her as a polynomial with many unknown variables. Other people have written extensively about how Life is just a misery, and the ultimate aim of her, is to be spent, in trying to achieve Nirvana. I agree with none. Life is a concoction of all that you can feel...There is joy, there is sorrow, there are deaths and there are births, but it is up to us to cherish every moment of Life. Even the chirping of birds can lift your spirits, as long as you try and be one with it. Acceptance is all that is needed and you'll find joy everywhere. This is Nirvana.

Trust me, the day you stop fighting her, Life turns out to be quite a woman!!