UNPLUGGED DAYS

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A few years ago, we drove deep into the desert of Hatta. The sand dunes there are luminuous and beautifully astral. We had decided to spend the night, so after a  sumptuous Arabic meal, we found ourselves languidly sprawled under the starry sky. A friend was strumming his guitar and time shimmered like a mirage – palpable and truant at the same time. Moments like these call out to me more often now than ever before.

Of late, I’ve begun to get extremely claustrophobic. There’s a constant need to be out in the open, more precisely, in the lap of nature. The rapidity and uproar of the city is almost pandemonic. It could be some sort of seasonal affective disorder and I refrain from mentioning my restlessness to people around me. Instead I try to manipulate excursions on the pretext of this and that. Even then, my neurosis reveals itself by it’s absence as I sizeably open up the minute we approach the countryside. It’s a transformation that’s hard to miss.

A few days ago, my husband and I drove down to a fishing village about 15 kms outside city limits. The lanes were winding and suitably narrow. Brightly painted houses nestled closely in a disorderly manner, women seemed friendly and men bustled around in carelessly wrapped loin cloths. There was a lack of curiosity in their glances that put me at ease, like the warm but understated embrace of family welcoming you home. That evening, as I sat gazing out at the endlessly inspiring sea, I wondered if it was at all possible to feel displaced from a place one has never known.

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When we headed back home two days later, we were met with some disturbing news. Over 3,000 trees were about to face the axe soon to make way for the Metro car shed in my favourite Aarey Milk Colony. The city planners might have their reasons but I was devastated, to say the least. The Aarey area is one of the few green spots left in the otherwise concrete city of Mumbai and a place that’s always balm to my ravaged mind.

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On the supremely wide girth of these tree trunks are stories of storms weathered and solace gathered. I felt compelled to revisit the tales and hold them close one more time. So we made a trip and loitered around. It turned out to be a beautiful and adventurous day. We chatted up a local and milked out gossip, pretended to be film-makers and explored a film location, hugged tree trunks and discovered spots that we never knew existed. I saw the vast stretches of green wilderness and the expansive blue sky in the middle of a bustling city as analogous to the litter of monotonous moments in our usually busy lives. We fail to see that those are the very gaps that allow the sunlight to stream in and that it might do us good to stop trying too hard and just be. My jaunt through those verdant lanes that day made me nostalgic for the spartan picnics of my childhood. What happened to that rudimentary life?

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Our last expedition of the fortnight, turned out to be the Pagoda that I never get tired of. Just taking the ferry across the muddled waters makes me feel like I’m crossing over to another dimension. It was a stifflingly humid day, but nothing could take away the peace that enveloped me as I stretched out on the grass with the Buddha statue looming and chants resonating in the air. We’re always looking for upgrades in life, but sometimes it serves us well to feel the ground and appreciate the poetry in all of it.

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I relish unplugged days like these that vibrate with unadorned, acoustic sounds. They set the tone for a process of remembering and recovering our real selves. The arcadian charm of such idyllic paths and stolen moments prompt me to reevaluate how I spend my time, who and what I commit to and the why of everything.  The answers turn out to be pretty simple. Our life is whatever we make of it, the only thing mandatory is participation. But one thing is abundantly clear. It takes very little for life to be resplendent.

Here’s to nature that inspires us to grow simply and live a life less ostentatious.

 

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LIFE WITHOUT LOVE

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“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit” – Khalil Gibran

 

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to the golden wedding anniversary of Doug and Daisy, our friend’s parents. It was a beautiful celebration. A lot of effort and deliberation had gone into every detail. The fresh flowers, the confetti packed in pretty golden boxes, the cake slices wrapped in gold paper, the thoughtful selection of music; mostly old country and folk. It was very charming, very vintage. And for a perfect backdrop there was a sea of beaming people.

We all cheered and hooted as the grandkids led the bride and groom in, both looking resplendent. After their graceful parade to the classic composition of the wedding march, their eldest daughter and son shared a few wistful memories with us. During his speech, their son, Darryl, recounted an interesting chat with his father. Just the previous day, Darryl had asked him, “Dad, can you share with me the secret of your happy married life?” Doug had leaned back in his chair with an impish look and said, “I beg your pardon?”

If we can figure that one out, we’d be on our way to a peaceful and happy life.  What Doug was trying to say is, we can choose to hear what we want and let go of the rest. It’s an important lesson for an egotistical and over-sensitive society like the one we’ve regressed into. In those four simple words, Doug taught us how to love, let go and simplify our lives all at once.

Doug and Daisy symbolized how love, passion and enthusiasm can be sustained well into the twilight years of one’s life. They danced like adolescents, inspired us to dance with them, laughed merrily and chatted animatedly with everyone.

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And my heart just swelled up when Doug took the microphone and crooned to his wife, the timeless classic, ‘Daisy Bell’.

Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do

I’m half-crazy all for the love of you

It won’t be a stylish marriage

I can’t afford a carriage

But you’ll look sweet

Upon the seat

Of a bicycle made for two

Daisy glowed with delight. She did not need words. You could see the quiet, simple love in her eyes. No ostentation required.

As the evening drew to a close, we slumped in our chairs with aching feet but our minds were invigorated and our hearts were filled with hope. We reluctantly said our goodbyes to Doug and Daisy not knowing if we’ll ever meet again. But we were taking a piece of their love with us as a reminder. Even when we stepped out into the oppressive heat of the humid night, we were still buoyant and cheerful.

I might be good at picking up lessons from seemingly simple episodes, but equally adept at forgetting them when I most need to remember. One thing though, that I don’t forget in a hurry is that no matter how well composed your life is, you can’t leave out love.

© Renica Rego