Hungry, Dirty, Cold and Loved….

Usually the conversation starts with, “where are you from?”

“Pune”

“..Meaning Mumbai, right?”

My imagination zooms back to the two monster-cities that are growing cancerously, almost into each other, Sigh, “Uh, yeah, close enough…”

“Are you here for a holiday?”

I definitely do not look like a jolly tourist, not with frizzed hair and smears of gober on my ragged cloths, “No. I work here.”

“What work?”

“I build”

“What is there in the hills to build?!” accompanied with laughter.

I silently look out for the direly awaited, late night bus to show up.

“Who are you travelling with?”

I feel like saying, “With myself” but I am not hungry or nasty today, so I say “Nobody.”

“How much do you get paid?”

“Nothing, so far… But with time, there will be something.” now really trying to sound polite.

“Are you from an NGO?”

“No.”

“…then?”

“I work for an Architect.”

A long awkward pause, while I do my best to ignore that top to toe scrutiny….

“…married?!”

“No.”

“How old are you?”

“Um… 27…”

I can almost catch them sigh this time, oh…there is no hope after all…

Mostly by end of this question they classify me solidly into some category and start feeling comfortable….almost sympathetic! Then the rapid fire round takes a turn into checking my ancestry up….

Often my skills at shamelessly sleeping through any bus journey save me from this endless interview. And with time I have learned that albeit strangers, most of them are simply good natured and curious about this strange woman travelling alone at night. Their questions, too probing and unnecessarily personal, actually harm me in no way, but might open a new world of possibilities that they have never even considered…. I have seen some of these random interviewers drift into a silent musing, trying to relate with me… mostly, they shrug the thought out with an anxious jerk and fall back into their comfortable, sympathetic zone!

But yes, I admit, there was a time when I used to fire up and fume inside, being judged by strangers like that… Once an over-smart, ten-year old looking me up and down, had asked his mother, “Is this how a spinster looks like?!” I had felt a jumble of emotions varying from violent rage to careless laughter and then, squirmy pity….

This is not about questioning the conventions… or rebelling for or against anything… that activist in me knows that there are far graver things than facebook relationship status, to fight against.

Relationships and their social contexts have become far too controversial and debatable issues lately, for poor me to even dare writing upon.

Do I wish to be in a relationship with anyone or not? If yes, then with whom and why?

To start with, does a relationship (let us call it matrimony, if it comforts) truly complete my life?

For those who bother to raise such questions, these are too personal choices to generalize broadly into socially acceptable frameworks that we live within…. This is about those who silently choose to live their lives by their own rules, without preaching others to do the same… without setting out to destroy the very fabric of our faiths and subsequent comforts.

With time, now I have come to a point where life has started weaving into a beautiful, melodic rhythm of its own. Although delightfully unpredictable like a dance sequence, life has continued to gift me with moments of grace, beauty, warm affection and lasting friendships…. It has brought me to believe that any day that has not been driven by the utmost love for life, is not lived at all.

Life of this 27, single woman, travelling architect is full and satisfying…. Filled with immense questions and challenges sometimes beyond her strength! There is color, glamour, beauty and humor along with mistakes, blunders, failures and massive goof ups!

They have said that I am wasting my life, that I am taking all the wrong decisions…. They have said that this path that I am choosing goes nowhere…. And I promise, this nowhere is so much more beautiful than anywhere! Through this chaotic, rattling bus journey of life, my closest ones have always stood by my silly decisions….

My exceptionally cool-headed father with his flawlessly practical advice, offered only when asked for…expecting me to make truthful and honest choices in life, and nothing more, in return of all the emotional and financial investments he has continued to make…

Friends of family and families of my friends, who have unexpectedly risen to help, guide and shelter me in the worst hours of life….

Teachers who have patiently watched me fumble over the easiest of lessons!

My best buddies who have watched me fall and get back to my feet… taught me to use phones and tracked my crazy travel itineraries… laughed at me and lightened up my gloomy moods!

Silent admirers who have defended and protected me, from a distance, without hurting my independent spirit….

I have always known how much courage it has cost them all to watch me struggle. I know how uncomfortable they have felt late at night, in their comfortable beds, when they knew I traveled, hungry, dirty and cold out there….

For me, they represent love like nothing and no one else…. They give me strength and hope for the great times…. many beautiful futures that we will be building together….

Along with women of exceptional courage and character, many of them are men of varying backgrounds and age groups. They have loved me in their own ways…. Accepted my fussing, hangry, eccentric way of loving them! And they have never offered me a humiliating choice that most women are often offered, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, between being an object and being everything else. And at every moment, if there was such a choice, they have laughed and nodded, as I chose wholeheartedly and in complete consciousness, to remain hungry, dirty, cold and loved as I am!

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Achievement…

Do you feel sometimes that the world is a big laboratory and somebody is performing a complex experiment on us all….?

On one side we have our dreams and aspirations….. And we chase them, we fight for our dreams… and what we achieve is not always exactly what we really wanted…. The nature of that achievement always changes by the time we reach there…. Does someone up there tweak the things before we get them?!

Often, by the time I get it, I do not want it anymore…. It looks too dull in comparison with the vibrant journey I experienced, to reach there…. If it is possible, I must be more in love with the path than the destination, and guess it works the same with many of us….

Also when we gain something, we lose something on its way…. There is a cost of everything in life, nothing, nothing ever comes for free. Sometimes, what I lost in my path leaves a gaping hole in that glorious achievement….. I do not want glorious achievements anymore. I never started out to gain fame and applause or money…. But the world often takes it for granted that I must want all that….and gives me just that! I am wordless and helpless if it comes to explaining that “I do not want it! What I am looking for cannot be bought with money, because it does not exist! I must build it, create it myself…. It cannot be offered like applause, nor spread out like popularity! I wish I could explain what I am looking for…. It is some quiet place, beautiful in its presence, surrounded by love and warmth and wisdom….peaceful and conscientious at the same time.”

Not that we do not respect what we get. We are extremely grateful for the journey and wisdom it brought to us…. But “now what?” is the question that pops up every now and then, edging us to embark on a fresh journey all over again!

They say we lack stability…. We say we lack inertia! Stability for us arises from quiet industriousness. Stability will dawn upon us, for now, we simply do what we are doing; we live in here and now…. That in itself is a wondrous state to achieve…..

 

Another Year….

No matter how much one may love to travel, they still like to come back home….

Again and again every day I fall in love with this city just the same! It is exciting to go away and so so assuring to return…. that I could go to places just for that feeling of coming back!

There are stray evenings when I just walk alone by the side of flowing traffic…. watching intricate tree canopies turning dark against gold and purple sky….. Air is so warm and crisp with just a hint of winter fading away into spring…..And it is scented with profuse mango blossoms when slight breeze rustles through….

On weekends when I drive out, my loved hills are flaunting deep pinks of bombax and fiery reds of erythrina…. How could one doubt why the flowers are named after slow burning flames….like a devoted offering to some unknown deity of trees!

Since  who knows when, I have been measuring years in these blossoms…. and wonder every time I watch them, all wide eyed in amazement, has another year really passed me by?! Is it already time for another blossom?!

So much changed in the mean time….. Something gained and something lost…. and some things that never never change!

The city is still flowing by….absolutely undisturbed by my thoughts of aging!

Man, Woman and Love…

About the same old topic…. Topic that mankind has been thinking about since its birth…. Love, man and woman, their mutual coexistence…. And everything else that follows…
For centuries people have thought, written, played and sung about this thing called love…. And yet it remains out of grasp….

The moment there is duality, there has to be strong attraction and repulsion inherent in the system….. Man and woman, being such complicated halves of one whole self that their coexistence would be, without any doubt, a mystery like no other… attraction to become one complete presence and repulsion to retain the individual presences.

They say a man and woman cannot be friends, there enters love to spoil it all….. But is that not ridiculous thing to expect?! There are two contradictions in this one single statement….. One, why is friendship not valued as love? Two, man and woman are dual poles of the same humanity, they are bound to love each other…. Why does that have to spoil anything?

But this is all theoretical discussion of course, inside we all know that here, love refers to a very sexual, reproduction intending, and instinctive animal desire, which is only one tiny aspect of a huge big complex idea of love.

This is like the story of an elephant and the blind men….. We all encounter very unique aspect of that one big huge love and assume it to be the one and only love. Generally speaking, owing to the natural tendencies, men and women see almost opposite aspects of love…. They “expect” accordingly different responses from each other… but actually none of them is right about love. Love is all about overcoming that inherent miscommunication. Love is about learning the whole concept of what really the elephant is!

Woman sees love in every relation… she finds the very imagination of it so very satisfying that she hardly cares to check the reality, which may not be as rosy as she thinks… Of course here I refer to woman as gender expressed in any form. Man does not see love like she does, at least not naturally. For him, it is a sport, a conquest…. There is possession and power involved…. And there is sexual aspect of love so very dominant…..

But it would be unjust to denounce men to the level of an animal. Time and again, men have shown courage and vulnerability of crossing their inbuilt idea of love. They have evolved in so many invisible ways. Maybe it was living in thousands of years of family structure that has started to change men….

They are becoming sensitive like a woman is…. They are starting to feel the other aspects of love…. For a long time human psychology has believed children to be woman’s natural responsibility, that men have no instinctive parental feeling. But years and years of fatherhood seems to have rubbed off on them! Observe closely, there are so many men around us who feel complete with fatherhood. They want it; crave it as much as woman craves motherhood. This was not how nature made them. They picked it up with time….  Man became father…..

Of course, slow as they are by nature, they have taken long time learning it… and still seem to fight with the change more often than they should! This is a good change, guys…. It is okay to be vulnerable to women just as she is vulnerable to you… We are growing up together…see?!

We are not going to have wars anymore, fights anymore, if men learn to be vulnerable, to love… as a father…. Yes, they need not become a copy of motherhood! It will be as sick and shallow as women competing men in fights and smoke….!

And woman is changing too along his side. Woman, who was tied down in centuries of pregnancy, is now free… free to learn, to create, to express herself in ways other than raising children…. She’s learning about the world as men built it for years…. She is raising questions, making changes, taking her part in reshaping the world….

A very beautiful future is ahead of us, though only as one of the many possibilities…. But, my god! Look at the utopia we could build together if man and woman become a bit of each other and overcome the stupid miscommunication….

We call it only one of many possibilities because there is an ugly side of this evolution. By another law of nature, there is resistance wherever there is “change”. We watch women going overboard to claim their freedom and losing womanhood in the process! What are we seeking liberation from?! From our own mental block possibly…. Definitely not from womanhood, since it is the most wonderful thing about existing as a woman! Similarly men too are resisting the change. Sudden violent increases in the rape accounts are nothing but a way to protest against their own evolution! It is not women they are defying…though they are hurting her in the process of it.

Some people claim that this resistance is product of family based social system. Yes it is. But that does not really mean we have to discard the whole thing. We have lived with this system for generations, gotten used to it…and grown with it. Just as we picked up some bad habits, we have also learned a few good things…. Let us not ruin it all. Instead, it is possible to move on with whatever we have in hand….

We do not need revolution when we have evolution possible to us! Let us just behave ourselves…. Be little more aware…little more forgiving…little more complimenting….. Let us get rid of centuries of vengefulness in our instincts… We have moved on, way ahead of savageness of that kind. We can respect friendship, since we feel it so strongly…. We can stop being so authoritarian, so possessive. We can learn about love in more open perspective…. Respect the other gender too. Try to ease their complexes sometimes. Help them to understand too!
Let us not go back…. Because there is such a wonderful world awaiting us! And we all agree, that we are basically very, very wonderful people, aren’t we?!

Pledge…

India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country… Yes, I love this corrupt, dearth-stricken, hungry, ragged, homeless country. I love the litter, sewage, rowdiness, flippant movie songs, hoodlums and goons, pollution and famines in this country. Stray dogs on roads, wandering cattle, dirty pigs and flocks of […]

Built with Love….

Years ago I used to dream…about erecting tall skyscrapers in my home town. I dreamed of watching this city from a lofty terrace up there…. I was young and eager to build a new era for this city. I loved this city.

But something has gone wrong in last couple of years. No…I still love this place, I call it home…don’t I?! But I do not want any skyscrapers here….not anymore. Me and my friends…we have lived here for generations. But we will neither afford a house in those… nor the lifestyle that must be bought as well.

I know who will afford it all…. Those few people for whom we toil day and night. They will buy what was rightfully ours. They will show us a dream…. that if we work harder someday maybe we can be like them…. Maybe! And someday we will really afford it all…but we’ll be too old and worn out with hard work, to enjoy it. We will be acutely aware of those who were robbed of living so that we could buy some luxuries…..and the plushness will feel so vacant somehow. We will learn to not notice the emptiness…not feel too much, not even pure happiness.

It is a cruel joke… such dark humor that I feel not like laughing at all. But the glamor-dressed reality of the building trade has taught me something. The people that I slaved for will never let me change the fate of this city. They will offer me a glorious chance to build my dream city on their terms…just a few compromises! I would build it on any terms… as long as I get to build. But it will be them who own my dream. They will sell it piece by piece, to those who can afford to buy. I will stay in a cubbyhole for the rest of my life and watch the skyscrapers with pride…. “I built it!” I will stand in the long queues, suffocate in jammed roads and I will look up to the skyscrapers once in a while, coughing and retching, “I built it”. Poor will become poorer, rich will become richer, I will watch them rob each other in turns…. I’d want to look away…to the skyscrapers… “I built it”

Ten years down the line I do not want to think that I built it all…I helped them build this horrific world. I know they will build it anyway…much worse without me. But now I do not want any part of it. My home is about to be destroyed. And I am going to run for my life. Many have fled before me. I laughed at them, called them cowards. But now I must run too…jump off from this sinking ship.

Lucky for me I know how to build. I will find a secluded island somewhere… and build another home there… a home that will not be built on the corpses of my fellow brothers…a home that will be an ascetic’s cave…. and nothing more.

I know there are more like me…. They will come too. I will build for them… I will build with love. The land will heal and blossom under my touch. I will blossom with her…someday to die in peace and return back to the sweet earth.

Home in the Lap of Nature…..

The Real Face of Realty

Market is overflowing these days with the advertisements about properties. It is the leading investment industry in town that thrives mainly on increasing demand and hence price of properties. Basically this is about a vicious circle of greed that some people may term as “progress”.

Those who have no house, desire to rent a house. Those who have a “house on rent” desire to buy their “own” house. Those who already own a house desire to own two houses. So naturally the demand keeps increasing multiple times the actual requirement. Since the demand is high, prices keep rising higher. Anything that sells for a higher price becomes an investment asset. So now properties become an investment asset. Naturally the demand increases ever more. The more the insecurity in social mind, more the sale and purchase of such assets!

There is nothing created in this business yet money keeps rolling. It apparently gives a “feel good” mood but kills the habit of “working for money”. “Sit back and earn” is a dangerous culture. But never mind, this is not about the illusory economics of the realty business.

This is about what after you make all that money….There is the next advertising sport awaiting you….

The Weekend Home

The holiday home….”stay in the lap of nature”…. NA PLOTS!!! Observe the hoardings in and around the city. 80% of them are overflowing with serene pictures of lush green hills and valleys lined with blue rivers! That’s where you will get to stay…. Or so they claim!

You like the pictures and luxurious advertisements…. And you visit the site. A stately site office welcomes you with some more attractive landscape flex boards. A colorful broacher with landscaped plan decorated randomly with green blots of trees, some high quality 3D visuals of plush, furnished houses…. And they sell you a dream house! Then you look out of the window…. Yes! you can see a rolling hill adorned with bright green grass (if you go property hunting between the months of July to October!)

You feverishly sign the documents! And the moment deal is cracked…. So is your dream! By the time your house is built, the hill is no more green… its ugly color of grey… the color of concrete and the color of weathered plastic fence… the color of your hair by the time you get possession of the house!

There are many more houses popping up identically like yours along the driveway. You check ten times to confirm which one of those factory-made cubes is your own house! From distance, the hill that was green once now looks like deceased skin of the earth!

There will be designed landscape of course! Of fancy delicate plants that remain wilted almost half the year….. Or shamelessly overgrow as weeds. Nature will painfully try to heal itself through tiny patches of soil you leave by the concrete driveways…. Old grown trees that you had seen in their pretty pictures have long gone from the hill… replaced now with stubs of some foreign tree standing within a cage, along the driveway, waiting thirstily for a tanker to pass by…

And the serene stream that was shown in the graphics… it has dried away. Besides you do not need that mud bank to breed mosquitoes. You have a wonderful blue tiled swimming pool right there in your premise! Why…no… we hardly get time to go and stay in that house… let alone to swim!!

You wanted to stay in the lap of nature…. But now it is killed. You have a house… an expensive one…but just like your city house…crammed up with all the “modern amenities” that you will hardly have time to look up. A handkerchief size patch of yellowing lawn will laugh at you, mocking your own desires now confined again in a few square feet of a weekend home!

This is high time we as consumers start to look into the reality behind the face of realty market! This is high time we start to question and demand some ethics! But in order to demand ethic we must first “know” them. We must know what we really desire deep down in our hearts….

Life in the Lap of Nature

Life in the Lap of Nature

When you started to look for a weekend home, you had actually started to look for a life in the lap of nature… had you not?! You desire to stay in a house surrounded with trees and birds, just as they portray on the bill boards! You work hard for years and years to be able to afford such house… and you end up buying a lump of concrete placed among some more lumps of concrete that look exactly like yours! “NA plots and row house schemes?!”

First proof that you are NOT getting a house in “nature”: check the colorful plan they show you. Forget the uniform green wash on glossy paper. Look at the plots. They are just enough proportioned to fit a house…. There is no space left for nature to crawl into your backyard. A handkerchief sized lawn is not nature; do not insult your own intelligence!

Second proof: if you fit all your “modern amenities” in the lap of nature, you end up staying in the lap of amenities…. Nature has just run away!! You city house was much better; nature had anyway run away from the cities long ago!

I believe that there is not a single human heart that does not respond to nature and feel big, light and fluffy as cloud! Every single person holding this sheet of paper smiles at the mere thought of standing in a clearing among trees with soft breeze that even smells green!

If you really, truly desire to live in the lap of nature, continue to read. Otherwise I have already lost my case and your interest. But if you have mugged up in your schools….rubbed nose in your jobs…just for a house within trees, my nature lover, this is for you….

Living in the lap of nature is not about affording or buying a house. It is about a mindset… about adopting an entirely different lifestyle. Just as you cannot truly live with your family without loving them, you cannot live with nature without loving it! Nature is not a piece of artifact to be bought and kept in the corner of your house! It is a dynamic, living and life giving entity that flows through us right at this current moment! Love nature!

And one cannot love nature without understanding it! Understanding is the first basic stage of love! Understand your surroundings and the silent loving traces and trails of nature around you. I know they did not teach this in schools. But they cannot “teach” you to love anyway!

Observe the green hill that you wish make your home someday. See the clusters of trees and shrubs…and birds nesting in that thicket…. It is their home first. Would you like a guy called “developer” come and run a bulldozer over their home and then give you a little yellow patch of lawn?!

Small shrubs and thorny bushes, deciduous trees that have always adorned our Sahyadris…. They are the nature you have been looking for! Give them just a moment out of your busy life… and they will tell you the ten secrets of living with nature!

The Ten Secrets

  1. Do not cut any old grown trees or clusters on your land. Add more native trees to the green. They are hardy, just need little water, protection and love!
  2. Do not level, cut, fill or flatten your land. Responding to the natural terrain will give a unique home of your own. (Pic: that insect mud castle….)
  3. Learn about the wonderful biodiversity that is already making a home in your land. Hire ecological experts to study and show you the nature’s wealth you got free of charge, when you bought the land.
  4. Leave a large portion of your land for nature to be your neighbor…. Give it some space! Protect the natural habitats such as seasonal water pools, streams, trees, bush clusters in that area.
  5. Design your house for minimalistic requirements and smaller footprint. You do not need Olympic size swimming pool or a huge golf course if you wish to stay with nature!
  6. Using natural material or recycled material is not as impractical as your contractor says. Concrete is expensive and harmful in many ways. Use it as less as possible.
  7. Keep manicured landscape features to their minimum. Foreign ornamental plants and lawns require large amounts of watering, artificial nutrients and hence expenses.
  8. Arrange for amenities that you truly need during a holiday. Watching the moods and melodies of nature is going to be your best recreation activity, and it comes for free!
  9. Plan your wastes properly. The sewage can be effectively used to recycle nutrients back to the soil, instead of polluting the rivers. Decomposable solid waste can be composted easily. And take your non degradable plastic wastes back to the city from where it came. Your new neighbor Nature does not love plastic litters!
  10. Ignore what the bill boards and advertisements say…. Beauty of nature cannot be picked out from a glossy catalogue. You must find it in wilderness. Trust your innermost instinct… it unfailingly takes us back to the nature.

    A flood-proof soil-fort built by the Harvester Ants