Wednesday, February 29, 2012

32-yrs back... an anniversary of sorts...

March 1st (that’s tomorrow!), some 32yrs back, was a major transition in my life… I had joined my first job….

At that time I had dreams of retiring at the age of 50 - and to have an Ashram (a dream which got buried when I wrote this auto-biographical piece a couple of years later: Aseem - A Night without an End)... and to live in an “apple orchard” (don’t know now, though, why this seemed to be so important in life then).

A couple of years later, I had tried to capture my experience of this transition in a piece “The End of Heroism”… some excerpts:


(a friend advises me)“Decide very carefully. You may get other offers, but once you get into a job, it is very difficult to get out of it.” I know, If I get into this job – any job – that would be the final end of Utopias and Ashrams>.

...But inwardly, I know that it is the final goodbye to dreams. I am very distinctly aware of the choice-point, the choice to mould my destiny.
Nevertheless, I accept the offer.

  • I accept it because it is a door to an active, pragmatic life – a life which I despise, which I look down upon contemptuously as mundane and ordinary. I accept it because I want to meet my Shadow, because I want to grow out of my excessive reliance on introversion, on speculations… it is possible that the challenge of going against my inner propensity which is so attractive.

  • I accept it because in the previous months, I have often felt myself facing a black, opaque, futureless wall, and I am insecure. I have felt alone in an adult world, with no anchors to tow me on. NPC is security and an escape.

  • I accept it because it is an opportunity for G. to prove her worth to herself, to test her life and its foundations, to try out her wings, to achieve her freedom, her independence.

  • I accept it because my karmas outweigh any other alternative.

    On 1st of March, I come to Bhopal.

    …I try to put my prophetic zeal in my training programmes. I tell my participants, “Why should we wait for someone else to change in order to be happy. Our happiness is our responsibility.”

    But I sell dreams, dreams of Utopia, on industrial democracy, of participative management, of profit-sharing, blah, blah, blah…. “But darkness, hot, sweltering life has become us. Our soul is buried in coal-dust. How can we believe in your ideals?” one of them queries one day, and I perceive the human gap between the verbal Utopias and the experience of one’s own frailty.

    The days of the foaming prophets and their wide-eyed adherents are gone. People I meet are godless, hollow men, conscious of their accidental existence, men without creed or faith, except for their superficial commitments to a pointless process we call living. And living for them, is less a matter of will and pleasure, and more of a compulsion. I am again and again reminded of my favourite belief: man is more a potentiality than an actuality. Now I see a gaping abyss between the potential and the actual. Living contradicts life.

    ….Return of the prodigal son? Settling down? The end of Heroism? Conformity to social convention? Maybe, yes!

    …depends on how one looks at it.

    …Perhaps hero myth is not a part of my collective unconscious. Icarus, Perseus and Daeulus were free beings, unbound by the cycle of karmas> - but to my oriental consciousness, perhaps, they are alien, lacking the continuity of Life. Besides, intimacy can be as meaningful as ideology>. To grow and share with someone can itself be a fulfilling experience.

    I may not hope for an ashram, but there is still the apple orchard.

    One is part of the movement. No one betrays the movement, only grows beyond its “focus of convenience”. The movement goes on - individuals only make their contributions to the collective cause, to the purpose of life-force.

    I have fulfilled my role in the collective growth. The ideological hero is dead. In its place, a mundane, romantic hero is born…


    Looking back, through the haze of 32-yrs, perhaps Life has not been such a bad deal.

  • I don’t have an apple orchard, but I live in a place where I can see the seasons change

  • I don’t have my Ashram, but I have my balcony, below which lives flow by……

    … and so life goes on…
  • Saturday, February 25, 2012

    the stories we tell, the stories we live....

    Many many years back, in a book (which now has been eaten by termites - don't even remember the title), I had come across this story...
      "Whenever there was misfortune in the land, the great Rabbi would go to certain parts of the forest. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and miraculously the misfortune would be averted.

      When the great Rabbi died, his principle disciple carried on with the custom. When the misfortune would strike the land, he would go to the same place in the forest, and say: "O Lord! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." And again, the miracle would happen.

      Still later, when the disciple died, his own appointed pupil would go to the forest to save the people of the land. He would say: "I do not know how to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this should be sufficient."

      And then it fell on the newest rabbi to overcome the misfortunes. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient.

      God made man because He loves stories.

    This made so much sense, since just around that time I had come across this quote/wisdom from Henry Miller - and it has remained with me:

    "I am a man telling the story of my life, a process which appears more and more inexhaustible as I go on. Like the world-evolution, it is endless. It is a turning inside out, a voyaging through X dimensions, with the result that somewhere along the way one discovers that what one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself."

    To me - then - it boiled down to a simple understanding:
    we are just a story/myth we tell to ourselves, and live (as much as we can)...

    ...which led to collecting the quotes/wisdom who knew that life is a story to be lived and told...

  • The ability to see our lives as stories rather than unrelated, random events increases the possibility for significant and purposeful action.
    — Daniel Taylor (Author,Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories)

  • When you’re conversing with coworkers, customers, or investors, the richness and meaning of your story is what people really buy.
    - Tom Durel (former CEO, Ocenia)

  • It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.
    — Thomas Berry, Theologian, Philosopher, and Cultural Historian

  • A great brand is a story that’s never completely told. Stories create the emotional context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience
    — Scott Bedbury (Author, New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century)

  • Great stories agree with our world view. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.
    — Seth Godin (Author, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us)

  • I had to know and understand my own story before I could listen to and help other people with theirs.
    — Barack Obama (44th President of USA)

  • Those who tell the stories, rule the world.
    - Hopi American Indian Proverb (Also attributed to Plato, Greek Philosopher)

  • Humans have been storytelling for 100,000 years around the campfire; the media is now our campfire.
    — Gloria Steinem, Feminist icon, journalist, and activist

  • There is no greater burden than carrying an untold story.
    — Maya Angelou, Poet

  • Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
    — Hannah Arendt, German Political Theorist

  • Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives — the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change — truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
    — Salman Rushdie, Novelist

  • The highest-paid person in the first half of this century will be the storyteller. All professionals, including advertisers, teachers, entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes and religious leaders, will be valued for their ability to create stories that will captivate their audiences.
    — Rolf Jensen (Former Director of the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies)

  • By refusing to have our stories bounded by race, belief, ideology, nationality, and even by time, and by grounding them in our awe of the universe, we choose to enact a larger, more hopeful and more positive story of humanity.
    — Michael Bogdanffy-Kriegh (Architect and Past President, New York Society for Ethical Culture)

  • We live in story like a fish lives in water. We swim through words and images siphoning story through our minds the way a fish siphons water through its gills. We cannot think without language, we cannot process experience without story.
    — Christina Baldwin (Author, Storycatcher: Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story)

    Some stories, I realised (as I lived through them) also have no ending or resolution... Martin Gardner, the mathematician wrote once:

    "There are only two stories in the world: someone goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town"

    ... I am still trying to figure out if I am soaring eagle, or homing pigeon

    ...not that it matters, really - does it!!?...
  • Friday, February 24, 2012

    कुछ सम्बन्ध, एक असहाय बच्चे सरीखे

    कुछ सम्बन्ध
    एक असहाय बच्चे सरीखे
    किसी सहारे की तलाश में,
    अपनी परिभाषा की खोज में,
    भटकते रहते हैं...

    एक पौधे की तरह
    आवश्यक होता है...

    और ये पालना
    सामजिक परिभाषाओं में आंकी हुई
    के परे होता है...
    - 09/07/80

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    ...that missing 3rd line of the poem...

    ...many many moons back, somewhere in mid 70s...

    ...when in one's early 20s, one was struggling/ balancing between various "Yins and Yangs" in life

    ...I had come across these lines of a poem by Keshav Prasad Pathak, one of my "resident poets" with whom I grew - even though I never met/heard him, but who helped resolving/ making sense of many issues in life then...

    This was one poem which I still partly recall - but for the missing 3rd line...

    रख दिए तुमने नज़र में बादलों को साध कर
    आज माथे पर सरल संगीत से निर्मित अधर
    बांसुरी रखी हुई ज्यों भागवत के पृष्ठ पर...

    I had scribbled these in one my diaries then - but now, I can neither recall the 3rd line, nor can find that diary!! :((

    Yup!!... in some ways, as one moves on...

    एक खिड़की खुली रह जाती है..

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    hmm, yes!... its part of The Journey

    Each meeting -
    a new life...

    Each parting -
    a small personal death
    ... a loss
    of a part of myself,

    ... a lonely vaccuum
    demanding to be filled up.

    But then,
    is only a bump
    on the road...

    It shakes me up,
    brings it back to me...
    I am on a journey!

    - 06/06/1987, Jaipur

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    life's dangling legs, the dark silent valley

    This was scribbled some quarter of a century back, when I was going through my own process of becoming "twice-born"/ द्विज

    I survived - and grew as a person!

    Even though I'd like to live
    and walk a man in search of sun;
    and pass through blossoming apple orchards,
    with a song of love and joy in eyes...

    And ride the clouds to touch the rainbows,
    and write poems on the sands of river banks.

    I'd like to listen to the birds of life
    and kiss the lips of opening buds
    and dance with the whithered autumn leaves
    on the music of the breezy winds...

    BUT on my shoulder
    is a mourning vision:
    Life's Dangling Legs
    in the Dark Silent Valley

    - 11-12/06/86 (ISABS/Jaipur)

    Thursday, February 02, 2012

    of desert-wind, sand-dunes.. and life

    Many years back, when I was exploring the fascinating nuances of what is called the “Chaos/ Complexity Theory” (or why and how events in life and nature unfold, and follow their own course), I had come across this intriguing and insightful analogy/ metaphor of the non-linear interplay between the sand-dunes and the desert-wind…

    when the desert-wind blows, its direction is influenced by the sand-dunes on its way. But then, as it blows, it also shifts the sand-dunes from one location to another – which again change the direction of the desert-wind…. this interplay continues ad infinitum…

    …in this non-linearity/unfolding, there is no “prediction/ certainty”

    Many years later, I came across an analogue to this interplay of forces in human life: “human beings create the technology, and then the technology changes the human life

    …which made sense – since human beings created technology (automotives, cameras, computers, cellphones, etc.), and then these technologies changed the way we live/ relate/ work…

    Over the years, this metaphor sunk into my personal life as I kept looking back (which I do often) the road travelled, and many happenings started making sense (even if the life did not happen as ‘planned’)

  • many, many eons back I entered into a relationship… as we moved on with our lives (together and individually), we changed/shaped that relationship and the relationship changed us as persons...

  • some 3 decades back, I took up my 1st job (those were the times when there were no “campus interviews” – and one had to find a job for oneself), since that was the only option for me then. I did what the job required me to do – but it also gave me a platform to move my life into other directions...

  • some year later into the relationship/marriage, we decided to have a kid.. the way we brought her up shaped her in some ways, but bringing her up also changed our life...

  • as a teacher, my interactions with folks in the class and campus influence them in someways - but those interactions have also changed me as a person...
    etc. etc...

    and so the life goes on... unfolding and uncertain
    …like the unfolding interplay of the sand-dunes and desert-wind…