WHAT DO THE BIRDS DO?

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HOBO DAYS

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I have turned into a drifter, wandering in and out of sometimes upbeat and sometimes gloriously nonsensical days. The minutes weave into each other and stretch like a never-ending trance, a sort of poetry in motion. There is no structure in the sunlit hours and nothing to confine the nights. Yesterday does not count. What does is the here and now. I love these hobo days.

It’s mid-morning and I can hear nothing but the twittering birds. The decibels of my previously boisterous mind are almost muted. Sporadic thoughts float around and I translate them into prose.

As with any de-cluttering, a lot of stuff has come up while sorting the mind over the past few months; things taken for granted and insights on personal evolution. Important things that remain buried under busyness. Busy mornings, busy streets, busy lives; busyness consumes us. We fence ourselves in, evading, side-stepping, setting up boundaries that shackle our minds and crush our spirits. Boundaries that rein in life’s revelries. So it’s stimulating to become divergent and wander, every now and then, onto untrodden paths.

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In the past few days, I’ve stopped at random and realized I’m happy doing what I’m doing in that moment. I don’t know when the haziness merged with clarity, but it did. The moments that used to be weighed down with languor have now found amity. It must have a lot to do with replacing discontent with delight.  With easiness and acceptance. With being a cerebral drifter.

Last week, my friends and I were loafing around and they mercilessly ragged me about my near-amnesia. I suitably forget all the trivial things that need forgetting but I blank over the vital stuff too! They were talking about pranks played at school, penalties imposed by reprimanding teachers, crushes on classmates and I couldn’t remember a thing. It didn’t really matter; for me the bonding in that moment was more than enough. So I let their laughter wash over me. Later, we hollered through a ridiculous movie, chatted incessantly over a sumptuous meal, looked at the world through each other’s eyes, ignored our worries and watched them melt away. Those are the kind of radiant moments I live for.

I have realized that more than walking a straight line, going off on tangents works for me. There used to be a time when I stayed cooped up in an obscure world of my own. But being outdoors and letting life in has become important. Because when you step out, something wonderful always happens. You see the sunset. You hear the ocean. You chance upon strangers. You stumble onto stories. Minds connect. Hearts unite. Philosophies are shared.

There’s so much to discover. And as you go along, the outside and inside worlds collide. I love the freshness of it all. I love the novelty of my thoughts and feelings. How it all just ebbs and flows over my senses. Colour me quixotic, but gorgeous everyday moments just make living so much better. And in the melange of chaos and order, I catch glimpses of who I am.

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BREAD CRUMBS ALONG THE WAY

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Quite suddenly, life seemed to be vibrating on every blade of grass. As I walked bare feet on the damp earth and looked up at darkening blue skies, unexpected drops of cool blessings dropped down on my parched soul. Sometimes the most ordinary days just turn around and become special.

I was at mum’s place for a week and her relentless chatter drowned out the clamor plaguing my overactive mind. We cooked simple meals; the food satiating and filling me with a strange energy. Mum ate a lot more than she usually does and there was a kind of abandon to the way she ate. I did most of the cooking in exchange for a cup of tea in bed every morning. That, to me, is pure luxury. I will do anything for that one indulgence.

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Then there was my little nephew, Ethan, the best mind-declutterer one could ever ask for. His perkiness and charm is unparalleled. We drew masterpieces on old writing pads, he animatedly narrated stories in a language that mum had to translate to me, we giggled for silly reasons, kicked a ball around until I collapsed and in doing all that he reminded me of how unpretentious and beautiful life is. And when he put his head on my shoulder and drifted off to sleep, it felt like there is nothing to complain about, nothing to overcome.

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One evening, I arranged an epic meeting of old school friends. Faces I hadn’t seen in 27 years. I had wondered if it would be awkward, but the years just melted away in the hugs and banter that followed. We harked back, laughed at the memories, kidded around. Reshma played host and very graciously put out a generous spread on the table. Savouries, sweets, steaming tea and cool drinks….and as we sat cross-legged around the low table, it was like we were in pig tails and uniforms once again.

My time at mum’s coincided with the festival of lights, Diwali. The houses, the streets, the trees, everything was lit up. As I stepped out for a walk in the park every evening, the glow from those lights used to warm my heart. I craved to hang on to that radiance for as long as possible. There’s a need within me. A need to hold warmth, feel it and spread it to anyone who seeks it. It’s a need that wasn’t there before, but now that is the thing that drives me. I want to replace the darkness with beautiful, gleaming orbs.

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All this might sound very dreamy and whimsical. So here’s a little truth. Despite all the best intentions, my mind does slip into gloom and shadows. Out of the blue, a piercing sadness hits me. I stray into dark alleys and lose my way. My body aches and my heart feels heavy. I want to be alone and undisturbed. But then there are days when I’m light as a feather; when I feel like I want to hug everyone, when I smile at strangers on the streets.

It is absolutely fascinating how light and darkness fuses at every point. Even in dismal moments, life sends reminders of hope, like bread crumbs along the way; in tinkling laughter, twinkling lights, the banter of old friends, mum’s loving nurture. All we have to do is follow the trail and meet the light.

WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU LEMONS

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It’s been a week of vicissitudes; enduring days without faces so far taken for granted, looking up old pictures and reliving moments, counting stars at night and birds in the evening sky, getting used to making just one cup of tea, chatting constantly with friends but all the time conversing with that one person in your head.

It could have been a dull time, but it didn’t have to be.  In times like these, you discover things; things that you would otherwise never think of. Like relationships – with that one person, with everyone else, with yourself. You realize that even though you wouldn’t choose to be alone, you are comfortable with yourself.  It’s an opportunity to pick up fallen leaves. Straighten crooked frames. Maybe write some songs. And then ruminate some more on the important things and the not so important ones.

I spent a couple of days with mom and we talked and talked until exhaustion made us fall into deep slumbers. She made me breakfast and I helped her pick new dinnerware. We lunched and slurped on ice-cream through a steady commentary on passers-by. We tried on clothes we didn’t really wanna buy, bought stuff we weren’t really gonna use, took pictures for posterity and played dress-up.  Mom is 68, but we still do that.

Things aren’t always perfect and they needn’t be.  It’s like rain and sunshine all at once. You think that and you are drenched in gratitude. You realize that acceptance is all that is needed. A great quietness descends and makes everything right. In this quietness, you find the grace and warmth to reach out to others. Even though there’s so much to do, you still find the time and inclination to send a message, make a call or drop in to say hello. The quietness makes you want to reach out and put a smile on someone’s face.

In the end, it has turned out to be a wonderful week; a week of healing hearts, fostering bonds, raising spirits and changing perceptions. Above all, it’s been enlightening to know that if life throws the proverbial lemons at me, I know now to accept them gratefully. Whether I make lemonade, grab a bottle of vodka or leave them to rot in the refrigerator can be decided later. The choice is mine.

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BEING COLUMBUS

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‘Every one of us has in him an undiscovered continent. Blessed is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul’. – Author unknown.

During the time I was living in the Middle East, one time I caught a late evening flight to Mumbai. My mum was there to receive me at the airport and I walked into her arms like a lost person returning home. The tectonic plates were shifting and something was changing, like a seismic activity at the soul level. I later learnt that the feeling of being lost is actually a good thing, because that’s when you know that you can be found. That there is a place you are meant to return to.

I believe in the theory that our emotions, feelings and thoughts find expression through our bodies. The physical manifestations are a reflection of that. So it was evident that all the bottled-up fizz was gonna spill out sometime. And it did. I did not want to end up bitter, so I started questioning things. Instead of asking: ‘why me?’, I wondered: ‘what is life trying to teach me?’ They say that experiences keep coming back to you until you learn what you’re supposed to. It’s a thought worth exploring.

So, one thing led to another and I kept toddling along, trying to understand and explore myself. Once I put the intention in place, inspiration and help started appearing out of nowhere. There are lots of angels around, if you just look for them. There will be one at every turn, at every crossroad; waiting to hold your hand and take you ahead. One such angel I found at the right time was Leesha. She talks about angels all the time but little does she realize that she is one. From an ordinary young girl battling life’s miseries, she found the courage to not only find her own magnificence but constantly pushes others to find theirs too.  From the moment I first met Lee, I knew she was special. Her radiance, her quiet smile, her kind words cleared the cobwebs from my mind. She didn’t give me solutions; rather she made me seek them on my own.

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We all have our own unique experiences. Some like to be secretive about theirs, some cover theirs with dejection, some are just trying to get by, and then there are the ones who show us how life is meant to be lived. I like the ones who wear their heart on their sleeves. They are the ones who hold their heads high, who don’t believe in being ashamed of anything.  They are the torch-bearers who inspire us.  And so you find them and try to follow their light.

For me, there came a time when being in my cocoon was harder than breaking free. From a shy, pathologically introverted type, I seem to have morphed into this blatant, unconcealed kind of woman who unabashedly goes around telling people how she feels. But I like it this way; especially when I see that people reciprocate and respond to the enthusiasm.

The other day I met up with a friend and was trying to encourage her to explore her talent of crocheting. We had talked about everything under the sun, but when she spoke about how she had made a beautiful crocheted purse for her daughter, there was this spark in her eyes, a glow on her face, that wasn’t there before. I wish I could have held a mirror to her in that moment. And maybe I did, for she told me a week later that she had taken up a new project after a really long time.

Here I am reminded of C. Joybell C’s words: “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away.  It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away”.

It doesn’t matter if others validate you or not.  You need to give yourself a chance, read your chapter out loud. Among other things, this blog is a reflection of me. If even one person connects with me through my writing, I am satisfied. It is through these tiny little encounters that I feel complete. It is then that I feel like I am crafting what is essentially ‘me’.

Like George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”.  If you are waiting for the right time, don’t.  Start creating yourself now.

CAUGHT UP IN ROSTERS

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I stopped under a tree at the edge of the lane, juggling an umbrella and groceries, the rains lashing and soaking me. Out of nowhere, a sudden abstraction gripped me and I was floating to another place, another time, eons ago. An unreasonably warm afternoon and two gangly, pig-tailed adolescents walking back from school. In the distance, the ice cream vendor sees us coming and we discern his faint smile. As we get closer, he pulls out two milky cones of goodness and hands them to us with affection and the familiarity that comes from an almost daily ritual.

Sheryll and I have a box full of reminiscences, little golden nuggets of ordinariness. We used to spend most of our afternoons together. While the world around us snoozed, we happily went about our clandestine pursuits. As soon as we got home from school, I would hurriedly finish my lunch and pop over to her house next door. Little things gave us so much pleasure. Sheryll’s parents were both working, so they would leave her some money in a tin box. That patterned tin box absolutely fascinated me. It did not just hold coins; it signified a kind of autonomy that intrigued my little mind. We would pick a few coins and run to the neighbourhood store. The array of glass bottles filled with brightly wrapped toffees and sweets tantalized our senses. Sometimes we would pick dates over toffees. We would then run back home clutching the goodies, sit on the steps and savour every bit. Sometimes Sheryll would come up with quirky ideas. She would pull out some tamarind from the jar, place it on a piece of paper, cover it with sugar, wrap it up and leave it under something heavy. A while later, like a conjurer, she would unwrap the magic and offer it to me. The sweet tanginess of that tamarind could almost be a metaphor for the bond we shared.

Now why would memories like these come to me in the middle of the market place while I’m stuck in a downpour? Well, I have no idea. But they do. The mind is unfathomable. I’d love to scoop out moments in my day between doing the laundry to dusting out the cobwebs and just gaze endlessly into the deep nooks of my strange mind. But I get caught up in rosters. And in the process, maybe lose what could be ‘me’.  It’s a thought that bothered me until I staggered onto another tangent.

On my visits to see my grandparents every summer, I used to look forward to the end of the day. We would spend the whole day in mundane things; visiting people, doing chores, running errands. In the evening, when we got home, grandpa would have a huge cauldron of hot bath water waiting for us. The heady smell of burning firewood and the warmth of that water was enough to wash away the fatigue of several lifetimes. Rejuvenated from the bath and after polishing off grandma’s sumptuous dinner, we would lay around listening to grandpa’s ghost stories and how he had once brought a tiger cub home. The stories were repetitive but we hung on to every word as if we were hearing it for the first time.

So I reckon monotony is necessary. Maybe the tediousness is what leads us to where we want to go. A lot of times, it’s during those very unexciting moments that we stumble upon ourselves. That’s when life holds up a mirror and allows us a glimpse of our uniqueness.

Every evening now, when the family gathers around the table for tea and swaps stories from sometimes momentous and sometimes dull days, I realize that this is how our existence is made alive. We get to walk lurid plot lines, but only sometimes. Most times, we are just making boring stories. But somewhere in that boredom, lies the secret to a fulfilling life.

© Renica Rego

 

JUST ONE CANDLE

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Lazy weekends, dishevelled hair and clandestine conversations. The kind of conversations that spring from nothing in particular; just sitting cross-legged on unmade beds, all heavy-eyed and sipping on tea. And then the words tumble out revealing long-kept secrets, drawing wide-eyed gasps. Once the hearts are emptied, the laughter rolls out, bouncing off walls amid little sighs of relief. So we sat there until the skies turned from clear to dark, and we into mere silhouettes. No one tried to reach for the light switch. We stayed that way for a while until our stomachs started rumbling and I got up to cook dinner.

My cheeky girls threw me an invention test. To make pasta sauce out of whatever I could find in the pantry. I rose to the challenge. The chatter moved to the kitchen and from there to the couch until the pasta and the words were wiped out.

This weekend I slept a lot too. It’s very unlike me. Most nights, I barely catch about 5-6 hours of sleep. And as a rule, I never sleep in daylight. But when the body starts protesting, you got to listen. So I curled up at every opportunity and fell into deep slumbers. What with all the lazing and snoozing, by Monday morning, I was energized and new.

So yeah, when I gloss about decluttering, a rule that should always take precedence is this: Follow the basics. We seem to forget that bonding, eating and sleeping are at the very core of our well-being. If we falter there, we are bound to regret it at some point. I am doing pretty good on the bonding and eating; so from here on, I plan to sleep as much as my body needs me to.

Good, sound sleep springs from a relaxed mind, advises my significant other. He should know. If anyone sleeps like a baby, it is he! As for me, my thoughts can get more tangled than my earphones. So that’s a challenge I have thrown at myself now.

Many years ago, I learnt how to meditate and practiced it too. It is said that when you reach a point of ‘no thought’, you have mastered the art of meditation. During that time, I sometimes fell into these little cracks between the avalanches of thoughts. Those were the ‘eureka’ moments. But life got in the way, I got in life’s way and somehow I drifted from that path.  Now I am tip-toeing back into that zone. It’s going to be an uphill climb, slippery at times, tedious at others, but I shall persevere. This time, I hope the cracks are wider and deeper.

It’s about stepping out of the darkness. Just one candle can be enough to chase the shadows away. We can choose to be in the light. We can begin in this very moment.

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