Archives for the month of: May, 2015

He leaves a bouquet of wild blue flowers at her doorstep. She rushes in delight with his gift, upstairs to her studio. A large, square and dusty white canvas, lay staring at her for many weeks. She’s had visions of painting each morning, when she strolls meditatively through the gardens. She paints many paintings in her minds eye. She has grown fearful to begin painting despite these months of quiet observation. A stubborn antennae guides her for many moons now. She is afraid of its madness as she dusts her canvas. A sensation in the belly reminds her of a ravenous appetite, as aromas from her kitchen seduce her senses. She is fighting to keep lit, a tiny spark inside of her that may catch the strong wind of the sensory world outside. If her inner light dims and retreats into that unfathomable dark abyss of nothingness, many months may pass before this frail, flame of light will appear to her again. She makes bold.

Pulling out her multilayered grey oil-paint box, she picks out a tube of the oxide of chromium. With the warmth of her wooden brush with the bristly hair, she let’s loose. The dance of darting glances between the wild grass in her left hand, and the canvas, gathers momentum. She finds it harder to paint nature than to make portraits of people. The random orderliness in the chaos of the web of leaves, stems, flowers and seeds, are a great challenge for her to simplify. Yet years of inward vigilance, her pregnancy, motherhood, marriage, the scars, and the love-bites from the fire of life’s many lessons, have strengthened her. She is calm inside the deafening noise of the inner resistance. She allows herself to feel. She allows herself, her darkness. She allows herself, her light. The voice of judgment, the burden of applaud & admiration, try hard to suffocate her. She envelops herself in the awareness of a divine intervention, and the soft music of playfulness. She let’s go. She surrenders. Her fingers move at an uncanny speed, her minds chatter begins to recede. She struggles to do the portrait of the wild blue flower.

She breaks down in frustration. She used to be good at portraits. She desperately searches for herself. The wind inside her is getting stronger. She fears that this rising inner gale may extinguish the tiny spark of light within. She halts. Steps back. She rests. She listens. She prays. She senses the warmth of a non-judgmental presence. They whisper to her, “Let go of fleshing the flower in paint. Listen. Look. Allow.

Stepping farther away from the canvas, she takes distance. She gently closes her eyes. When she opens them, she sees someone lying amidst the leaves of her canvas. She picks the blue of the flower. She begins to flesh her out. She reaches the outer limits of a contour of blue. A silhouette of limbs lay languidly upon the whiteness of her canvas. The poetess within whispers her a line:

   A veil of delicate green leaves, rests lightly upon a blue lake of hushed limbs … 

Rudely awakened inside your cave, 

You have come out of your one refuge,

To yell at the one who dared to disturb,

The silence of that sacred slumber.

It is when you remember yourself,

That you are already lost. 

It is when you think you are,

That you are not. 

So what is the point of all that shouting?

Go back into that cave and forget

The voice of the other you. 

Maybe then, you’ll not be locked out, 

Thinking you are sitting inside. 

Allowing all voices to pass through 

That space of presence, 

Hold nothing dear. 

Nothing touches the elusive one. 

She was feeling uneasy about travelling with E on a day trip to Mumbai. There was a feeling of heaviness, like some kind of weight pulling her down. E’s tall and grizzly look, his head-strong views, stubborn disposition, along with some other vague impressions, made her feel slightly anxious about sharing the intimate space of a car with him. She shared her anxiety with her husband, two days before the trip. With his ankle slightly swollen, he wasn’t too keen on a trip that didn’t really require his presence. She and E were totally capable of handling between themselves whatever needed to get done. And yet he chose to accompany her, further buoyed by her compliments of how loving, empathetic and caring he was. He remarked that she was too beautiful to be allowed to travel alone, with this handsome French contractor. She was charmed and tickled.

She woke early, contrary to her habit of waking to the light of a late morning Sun upon her face. The summer heat made the morning sultry and humid. To keep herself cool during the travel, and for the hot, humid site visit in Mumbai, she dressed herself in a red, translucent, chiffon sari, and put on a contrasting mustard yellow, cotton blouse. Her mood was a little forced. A lover of detail and fashion, she felt unenthusiastic, and less spritely. She chose to wear a simple pair of ruby earrings instead of her favourite, flamboyant, dangling earrings studded with a deep and cooling emerald. Her moodiness made her linger less in front of the mirror, and she was ready, quicker than usual. Habitually reluctant to enter the kitchen, she surprised herself, by making for herself a mango yogurt shake. Was she repressing some feelings? Was she toning all her feelings down, to remain calm in front of her keenly observant husband? Or was she simply honouring her mellow, yet slightly anxious state of mind? The couple drove out, in the comfort of their big four-wheel drive.

She called E, as they came closer to their rendezvous. He cut her call, and messaged back, “ Ready”. The car entered his office grounds. As they circled the round about, the couple marvelled aloud, as E walked past them, in a grey t-shirt, with well-fitted jeans. His silvery grey hair appeared freshly cut, and his large feet looked elegant in a pair of dressy, camel-brown leather moccasins. She wondered if E, who otherwise never struck her to be handsome, had dressed up, to draw her in? She caught a certain flush of grey upon his angular face. Perhaps it was the surprise and the disappointment, brought about by the unexpected presence of her husband. Had the cause for her unconscious fears and uneasiness been this under-current of attraction that E felt towards her? Had she repressed any feelings of attraction towards him? It was difficult to answer any of these questions.

However, as she owned her feelings, she recognised that her being was inspired by the care E had taken to groom himself. She felt more open, relaxed, happier and looked forward to her journey. It was not what she had anticipated. As soon as E entered the car, he remarked to her, “ I have a small gift for you”. She was charmed and curious. He handed her a small, brown bottle with some liquid in it. It was Boric acid, for her ear infection. He had promised her some, a few days earlier. This remedy had worked for him, and for all his children, as they would catch ear infections often, in the pool, or, whenever they swam in the sea. He explained that these drops quickly dried up the fungus that feeds on humidity inside the ear, arresting all the bacterial infection, and allowing a quick return to the pleasure of a good swim! It was a thoughtful gift and it left a warm feeling in her heart.

They stopped for breakfast. E had already eaten at home. She appreciated his professionalism, and sense of self-reliance. As they headed towards the car, he touched her upper arm in a caring manner, while remarking about something, gently brushing off a leaf that had fallen upon her hair. His touch made her tingle. She felt self-conscious. She wondered what her husband would have to say about that. Much later, when she revisited this sensation in her journal pages, she sensed his touch to be that of a loving man, of a caring father, or, the touch of an empathetic, elder brother. It was something she had missed deeply, while growing up inside a queer, non-emotive birth family. On further self-reflection, she wasn’t sure why her tenderness towards E had catapulted multiple-fold, since that day. Had it to do with his soulful and tender responses to all her questions that she had so candidly flung towards him, on their journey to Mumbai and back?

There were characters from his biographical stories that lingered and left a melodious resonance inside her now. One could almost hear the handpicked selections of soft music that he played, each afternoon, for his paralysed eighty-eight year old mother, to help ease her pain. He spoke of his strict, but loving grandfather, who managed a big farm in Algeria before the terrible war forced them to flee to France. This was a man who could build and fix anything, a man who cooked and did all the chores around the house because of his wife’s handicapped leg. He spoke of the time he held his aged grandmother’s frail hands, as a nineteen year old, witnessing her breath grow heavy and slow, until it ceased, and the tranquil silence of her passing enveloped him. He spoke of the recent death of his only daughter, beautiful and talented, in a brutal road accident. She could feel his pain, still fresh, though he had spoken about it all, with neutrality. He had mastered the craft of hiding his brokenness, she reminisced.

E had spoken about his two sons, lion-hearted, independent and hard working. Like their father, she had thought. They were both surfers, loving the joys of riding Ocean waves. His love for them was clear. He remarked how hard it was for men to express their love to their children, especially to sons, while the women had the ability to express it all, so easily. She had listened to his every story, to every anecdote that he shared with such care. She observed the lines on his face, his rough and big palms, his deep set eyes, his soft and accented dialect, his crooked teeth, his appetite, his choice of food, his wide-eyed childlike wonder for new experiences, as they took him to beautiful places to eat, or to choose fittings or stones. She observed his mannerisms, his sense of clarity and his knowledge about what he needed specifically from each vendor; his sense of respect towards all those he interacted with; or the care with which he handled all the objects he inspected, his sense of humour; his ability to become one with the local community of workers; his disappointment with mediocrity; with careless work; or lack of professionalism. She also observed his dreaminess; his obsession for fitness and for a healthy life. E confessed to having become interested in art, only in recent years, as much of his youth was about working hard to make ends meet. There had been no time then to linger, a quality that art demanded, E remarked. He moved to her country with his wife and three young children, when he was thirty-three years old. His wife was the most resistant to this bombastic move to an absolutely foreign culture and people. But after three months of torturous sickness and frustration with the change, she had halted in prayer and surrendered to her destiny. That day onwards, miraculously, everything had fallen into place for their whole family, and since then, they had felt at home in her country.

At one point in the car ride, when all was silent, she suddenly asked him, “What is your favourite flower, E?” Taken by surprise, E blurted out some contemplative sighs, and then remarked, “ My favourite flowers are the little, blue, wild flowers, very small, that appear suddenly after the first rains. I see them often when I go bicycling. And in France, I also like a kind of a blue flower that grows in the spring. In fact, I also like blue-green butterflies. I have something for the colour blue”.

photo

His response stirred her. It revealed to her the simplicity and the innocence of his being, to love a wild flower that has no name, that has no other quality than that of showing up unexpected, in a sudden flash of beauty! She floated upon the ripples kindled by his uncanny response. She saw meadows of tiny, wild, blue flowers on vast, open fields. She recollected images of these tiny flowers on the long walks with her six year old son in her native city that was surrounded by many hills. She missed his presence by her side. She drove the rest of the journey in silent contemplation, until the madness of the city streets and the crazy traffic, rudely jolted her awake to the present moment.

The Crystal sphere in the center of that large space reflected all that was around it. It was penetrated by a focused shaft of light from high above it, passing right through it, illumining the golden base that cradled it. It allowed the light to pass through to the depths, to illumine a smaller crystal ball directly below it. Here, a thin veil of water flowed down, in a constant gurgle, towards the smaller crystal, over layered marble petals, at the centre of a lotus. But above, in the vast chamber, the larger Crystal was bathed in a profound silence. It enveloped all those who sat around it. A silence so deep where even the slightest wisp of a thought sounded loud, immediately returning you to gaze upon that Crystal without edge. It was a still, luminous presence, reflecting both stillness and the slightest movement of all that was around it. Gazing at it, one knew it to be one’s own being. One knew one’s own thoughts, bodies, and all things material, to be no more than passing reflections upon its surface. It alone stayed, a luminous witness to the play of light, living still, when all reflections ceased. A witness, when the thoughts and the bodies had disappeared and none remained to claim ownership over a single reflection of body, or, mind. 

We parked the car at the entrance to the garden. We left behind our phones, wallets and everything else, as we walked away from the car, into a space of great beauty. We let go of ourselves, absorbed in the deep silence of that space. Perhaps the only thing that connected us to the world outside was the car key in my pocket. But then, as we were about to leave the garden, I realised that there was no key in my pocket. I had left it behind, in one of the three spaces inside the garden, where I had allowed myself to rest and to let go of the cares of the world. We walked back, my wife and I, to all three spaces. No key. I reported the loss of the key to the garden office. A woman from the garden office accompanied me again to look for the key, to the very same spaces. No key, of course! I assured her that the one who finds it will surely bring it to the office. She seemed less sure about it than I was. 

I wondered whether there was a deeper meaning to all of this. The car and its contents ( mobile phones, wallets etc.) represent our life here, giving us the possibility to travel, to communicate, to consume. Losing the key to it, allows you to contemplate the locked car from the outside, with no access to your phones, or, to your wallets, or, to the umbrella that would have been helpful in shielding you from the Sun, on your long walk to get hold of a mechanic, or, a thief, who could open the car, and even start it for you, without a key. In a flash you see, that without that key, your car and all that it contains serves no purpose. In that same instant you see, that without meditation, you are locked out of your own life, quite unprepared, for the moment of death, as sudden as the moment you find out that you no longer have your key. 

What is the point of having everything in life, when you have lost the key to access the joy that life contains? What is the point of having a car, however beautiful, when you can go nowhere with it? 

That garden returned my key. Now I pray that I might never lose it again. It surely would have been more serious, to lose the garden and all that it contained!

        

        

            

  

    

Mural by Ashwini Pawar Kaarthikeyan, in collaboration with Stefano & Gabriel.