THE SILENCE BETWEEN

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It was the Zen-blue sky that hit me first. As I taxied out into the city, my skin absorbing the chilled breeze like water on parched soil, Bangalore seemed to be welcoming me. For some strange reason, it felt like grandpa’s wrinkled arms and toothless grin beckoning me home. Quite enamoured by the feeling, I walked into my husband’s Marathahalli abode with zero expectations but with an uncanny certainty that the following week was about to change something in me.

The next six days were spent wandering around, exploring the city. No place is, as such, perfect to its residents. Anyone who lives in Bangalore will most certainly complain about the traffic that seems lodged on flyovers and in narrow lanes likes clinging parasites. But as an outsider, I subliminally saw something significant that alleviated the burden of it for me. By the evening of the first day itself I had discounted all the snags in favor of the one thing that stood out in the locals of this ordinary, almost pedestrian city. And that was their unruffled serenity. There was a sense of collective calm despite the bustle. People chatted amicably with strangers in buses and auto-rickshaw drivers grinned charmingly while demanding ridiculous fares. When a car hit our taxi at a signal, the cabbie got out, inspected the damage, shook his head slightly, paused for a second and then waved it off. No anger, no foul language. That is probably the key to composure – the pause. Mozart, the prolific composer of the Classical Era believed that “the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between”. If all the music is in the pauses, maybe that is how our mind should function too. I found myself inspecting the connotations, reading the subtext and developing wistful images to carry home.

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On day two, sauntering through the Lalbaug Botanical Gardens, I came across a colorful statue of Nandi. Typically, Nandi being Lord Shiva’s vehicle is always found sitting at the doorway of the temple in a perpetually silent but alert waiting mode. Nandi thus has gained on a symbolism, teaching us the virtue of simply sitting, vigilant but without expectations. The image of Nandi essentially reminds us to pause and pay attention to life. Only in the pauses can the music of the Universe be heard.

The next day, my sister-friend Suzanne, invited us for lunch. After a sumptuous meal, she and I set out for a stroll by the Ulsoor Lake not far from her home. As was wont to happen, we delved into a deep conversation. “There’s a reason we feel so calm and alive being around nature,” she remarked touching the leaves that hung over our bench and gazing at the serene lake. “It’s because nature never pretends to be what it’s not. A leaf is a leaf, content and happy with its true form. That’s why we feel good around people who are like that too”.

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As I mulled over this it became apparent why I had thought of grandpa the day I arrived. Grandpa was like that, content and cheerful, demanding nothing from life and never pretending to be what he’s not. He would gallivant, stop to chat with everyone on the street, lose track of time and come home with the fading sun bringing a sack of fish. Grandma would get livid and hurl the sack in the fire, but grandpa would only laugh. “Why are you so angry, Eliza?” he would ask nudging her playfully. It was the same kind of authenticity that I now saw in the locals of Bangalore.

As my week drew to an end, I found myself feeling grateful for the pauses that presented themselves from time to time. Devoid of distractions, the poignancy and joy of such experiences steadily engages and unfills me at the same time. As I prepared to leave, the sky that I had so fallen in love with became even more luminous as if allowing me one more image to relish my reminiscences with.

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Back home in Mumbai, days eased by in one uninterrupted flow. The rain was pelting down in bursts bringing a refreshed brilliance to the days and the nights were made snug by the warmth of fluffy comforters. Everything seemed revived by the clarity I had acquired from my time away. One afternoon, quite nicely as if on cue, I came across a classic Zen story narrated by Zen master, Fukushima-roshi to acclaimed writer, Pico Iyer. One day, an old man was trying to explain to his grandchild about Jōdo Buddhism, and he said, “In the West — that’s where the Pure Land is!” And the child pointed out that if you go west and west, you go right around the world, and come back round to where you are! In short, paradise is right where we are, if we care enough to pause and look.

FROM SHYNESS TO AUDACITY

 

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One minute I was deciphering days and the next minute I wasn’t. Just like that.  It was only then that I took my first real breath of the New Year. The December fatigue was still in my bones. It was imperative to be out and about; let the sun seep through my skin and enter where the light might not have gone before. The weather was beautiful.  It was a time for the outdoor life. The opportunities came aplenty, almost as if I was drawing them to me like a magnet.

It is said that once you start visualizing what you want, the Universe starts manifesting whole heartedly. It’s a little hard to believe until things actually start happening. But belief is important to begin with. For a person whose first reaction has always been to say ‘No’ to opportunities, it took a little effort to undo the patterns and form new ones. New blueprints that have only ‘Yes’ figuring on them. The ones that gently nudge and remind you to espouse life.

So I went on drives and lunch dates. Accepted every invitation. Met up with people and enquired about their lives. Smiled at strangers and formed new ties. Hugged new relationships and polished the old ones to a shine. Heartbeats, apparently, are not heard, but felt and shared. It’s true. Like Sylvia Plath said, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them”. You show interest and like a boomerang, what you hurl, comes right back.

There are days still, in-between ones, when unseen, unheard I crawl into my quiet corners. But that’s all right. There is no right or wrong. No need for perfection. Evolution is never perfect. If it was, then there would be no room for growth.

I’m just glad the affability rolls on easy. It just takes an open smile, a tilt of the head, an earnest greeting, a little hello. And people respond. They always do. Then the stories come forth and without realizing you become a part of them. You give but you get so much more. In the unraveling of lives, the course of your life is changed. That’s how shyness turns into audacity. Apathy into empathy. And you go from who you were, to who you are meant to be.

January is about new beginnings and fresh starts. My only resolution for this year is to say ‘yes’ to life. To just being good to myself and the world around. I understand now that we are social beings. The more we let our hearts beat for someone, the more blood it pumps.

As I write, my eyes wander to the snow globe on my window sill.  I give it a shake and watch the flurries swirl and cascade like magic in slow motion. And I realize that’s how we are. Only when we give ourselves a little wiggle and shake our inner snow globe, will the world see our sparkle.

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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.

LETTING GO

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Flawed and fabulous. That’s how I see myself now. But I wasn’t always so sure of who I was and it took me a while to clear the fog. Self-reflection never came easy to me. Maybe because I was too busy dusting the furniture. I’ve spent half my life straightening cushions, arranging wardrobes and wiping down kitchen counters. The leftover energy was used up on excessive worrying, pointless thinking and needless deliberations. Until I realized that life couldn’t say ‘hello’ to me if my back was perpetually turned on it.

Perfection is hard to maintain, trust me; and not really worth it. You won’t let the wind play with your hair, if you’re worried about ruining your blow dry? So I am learning to let go; to let life happen without my endless manipulation. What’s the big deal if the bed isn’t made as soon as I get out of it? Will my family disown me if I skip making dinner one night and order in? Is it a crime if I just want to spend the day listening to music and reading? These are just metaphors or allegories I’m drawing for the bigger aspects of life. And gradually as I calm down, life comes beckoning to me.

The other day, we were at a dinner party and my young nephew shared with us his amazing philosophy on letting go – ‘ANYTHING IS COOL’. Coming from a 17-year-old, it was pretty deep. He droned on about how life can be easy if we just went along without making a fuss about everything. If you ask him what he’d like for breakfast, he says, ‘anything is cool’. Ask him if he’d like to watch a movie or just hang out and he’ll be like, ‘anything is cool’. This philosophy works well with the day-to-day stuff but when it comes to the serious things, it might not, he clarified. Like you can’t drop out of school or do drugs; that’s not cool. When it comes to choosing your career, you can’t say ‘anything is cool’. And so on. I was suitably impressed by his clarity and wisdom. I suppose it’s all about attitude. Being chilled out about the lesser issues makes room for your mind to deal with the bigger ones effortlessly. What stuck with me though, were those three words: ANYTHING IS COOL.

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Somewhere along the way, I figured that letting go and finding harmony is important. By becoming harmonious, you start attracting positive experiences and positive people into your life. Toxic people, toxic feelings, toxic thoughts will always pop up. But just like in a garden, it’s important to keep pulling out the weeds from your life too. You will always be too much of something for someone. If they can’t handle it, it’s their problem. Just let it go. Apologize if you hurt them, but do not apologize for who you are or what you want to be.

After trying to be in control, when I finally loosened up, it seemed like I had underestimated the pleasures of an unstructured life. Now I wake up every morning and try to effortlessly move from one moment to the next. It’s exciting because I’m always dwelling in possibility. Anything is possible. Anything is cool!

Growing, improving, moving, loving, listening…that’s what life is about. Inspire and be inspired. Show people the sun where they once saw clouds. Let them do the same for you. We are meant to be wonderful. We are here not just to survive, but to thrive. When you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing. And so are you!

PS: As I was writing this, my friend and I were having a discussion on whatsapp. And he said, “I am amazed by God’s world. He made everything, but doesn’t interfere in its governance. If a lion chases a lamb to death, that’s how it’s meant to be. He has set the world in motion and left it at that”. And I thought: If God doesn’t interfere with life, why do we? Think about it.

 

© Renica Rego

LETTING GO

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Flawed and fabulous. That’s how I see myself now. But I wasn’t always so sure of who I was and it took me a while to clear the fog. Self-reflection never came easy to me. Maybe because I was too busy dusting the furniture. I’ve spent half my life straightening cushions, arranging wardrobes and wiping down kitchen counters. The leftover energy was used up on excessive worrying, pointless thinking and needless deliberations. Until I realised that life couldn’t say ‘hello’ to me if my back was perpetually turned on it. 

Perfection is hard to maintain, trust me; and not really worth it. You won’t let the wind play with your hair, if you’re worried about ruining your blow dry? So I am learning to let go; to let life happen without my endless manipulation. What’s the big deal if the bed isn’t made as soon as I get out of it? Will my family disown me if I skip making dinner one night and order in? Is it a crime if I just want to spend the day listening to music and reading? It’s not and nobody really cares. I just thought they did. These are just metaphors or allegories I’m drawing for the bigger aspects of life. And gradually as I calm down, life comes beckoning to me.

The other day, we were at a dinner party and my young nephew shared with us his amazing philosophy on letting go – ‘ANYTHING IS COOL’. Coming from a 17-year-old, it was pretty deep. He droned on about how life can be easy if we just went along without making a fuss about everything. If you ask him what he’d like for breakfast, he says, ‘anything is cool’. Ask him if he’d like to watch a movie or just hang out and he’ll be like, ‘anything is cool’. This philosophy works well with the day-to-day stuff but when it comes to the serious things, it might not, he clarified. Like you can’t drop out of school or do drugs; that’s not cool. When it comes to choosing your career, you can’t say ‘anything is cool’. And so on. I was suitably impressed by his clarity and wisdom. I suppose it’s all about attitude. Being chilled out about the lesser issues makes room for your mind to deal with the bigger ones effortlessly. What stuck with me though, were those three simple words: ANYTHING IS COOL.

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Somewhere along the way, I thankfully figured that letting go and finding harmony is important. By becoming harmonious, you start attracting positive experiences and positive people into your life. Toxic people, toxic feelings, toxic thoughts will always pop up. But just like in a garden, it’s important to keep pulling out the weeds from your life too. You will always be too much of something for someone. If they can’t handle it, it’s their problem. Just let it go. Apologize if you hurt them, but do not apologize for who you are or what you want to be.

After trying to be in control, when I finally loosened up, it seemed like I had underestimated the pleasures of an unstructured life. Now I wake up every morning and try to effortlessly move from one moment to the next. It’s exciting because I’m always dwelling in possibility. Anything is possible. Anything is cool!

Growing, improving, moving, loving, listening…that’s what life is about. Inspire and be inspired. Show people the sun where they once saw clouds. Let them do the same for you. We are meant to be wonderful. We are here not just to survive, but to thrive. When you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing. And so are you!

PS: As I was writing this, my friend and I were having a discussion on whatsapp. And he said, “I am amazed by God’s world. He made everything, but doesn’t interfere in its governance. If a lion chases a lamb to death, that’s how it’s meant to be. He has set the world in motion and left it at that”. And I thought: If God doesn’t interfere with life, why do we? Think about it. 

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CLOSURE

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The weather is too beautiful not to be missing her. When a cool orange glow lights up the evening sky and bounces off window panes, I find myself sipping on tea and lost in thoughts of her. Tea-drinking was ceremonious to Marie. Even on her busiest day, she would always make time for a leisurely cup of tea. Sitting on her couch, squinting at nothing in particular, lining up the thoughts in her head…that’s how I remember her. There was so much she wanted from life and so much she wanted to give back. Marie was my mirror, my reflection; a strong, warm soul with a highly raucous laugh. Now there are only memories, empty spaces and echoes.

People come and go. But soul-sisters are a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Marie and I met as most people do, in accordance with destiny’s plans. It seemed like an ordinary friendship at first. But when we started completing each other’s thoughts and understanding the in-between silences, that’s when it got eerie. That’s when we realised that our connection ran deep.

There was this one time, when I needed to travel on my own. I was young and naïve. I tried putting it off because I had never travelled alone or lived apart from my husband. She just said one thing to me: “You need to do this, Ren; not because you have to go, but because you choose to”. That was my one way trip to emotional independence. She was always trying to pull me through.

When I lost Marie to a terminal illness, the tears did not come as expected. They came a good two years later. Out of nowhere and without any warning. It was late evening; the lights were dimmed, there was music playing and I was nestling a drink. That was how we rolled back in those days too. That was how we defined leisure and camaraderie. And just like that, I broke in half. The sobs came hard and left me exhausted. But strangely enough, they healed me too.

That night, it was as if Marie came and gently removed the bookmark from our chapter and urged me to move on. She was big on finishing what you started. Like always, even though a hallucination, she took my hand and led me to myself.

At about that time, I wrote a few lines but never dared to share it. I’m doing it now because someone somewhere might need a connection. Someone might need hope and courage; because losing a loved one can mess up your mind in a big way.

They say there are six stages of grief – denial, anger, fear, guilt, depression and lastly, acceptance. Different people might deal with it in different ways. But closure is important. And acceptance is key.

 

STAGES OF GRIEF

 

I ain’t devout, prayed very rare

Went to church once, found my angel there

She left too soon, I wasn’t ready

It left me hurt and all unsteady

I refused to believe that it was final

What it was, is pure DENIAL

Saw her lifeless, no smile no more

My tears were dried, my heart was sore

Her daughter stood by, just a teenager

All I could feel was rage and ANGER

Then they put her six feet under

The candles were lit, it seemed like a blunder

How could I live without you dear?

My heart was gripped with chilling FEAR

I brooded for months over what went wrong

Could have supported more, could have been strong

My mind was boggled with a lot of filth

What I felt was searing GUILT

The skies got cloudy, the birds didn’t sing

My moods were morose, I’d lost my wings

Got all worked up, felt frustration

Sank into pits of dark DEPRESSION

One night then, I dreamt of her

She smiled at me, and smiled some more

Are you fine love, I asked her then

She nodded her head and held out her hand

I hugged her close, she wasn’t in pain

Her heart was strong, her face radiant

She made me promise, I’ll move on then

Finally there came ACCEPTANCE

 © Renica Rego

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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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