Monday, June 26, 2017

Land of monks and peace

Lingdum Monastery
Of all the places I’ve visited, it’s Gangtok that keeps beckoning me again and again.  My wife and I spent three days there in 2010.  I don’t know if the place is quite the same today.  Back then, it had a pristine beauty.  The streets were narrow and congested but without any filth anywhere.  It was a clean hill station. 

Quite a few monasteries lay around the town itself.  There are other monasteries elsewhere in the state.  In spite of all the hundreds of visitors walking around at any given time, the monasteries look spick and span.  It was the monasteries that really drew me to Gangtok in the first place.  When I mentioned my travel plan to a student from Silchar, he asked me why I wanted to visit Gangtok.  “Nothing to see, Sir,” he said.  “Monasteries,” I grinned. 

Bakthang Falls
Along with my wife I visited every single monastery in and around the town.  There’s something repetitive about the monasteries.  They look similar, sound similar and smell similar.  Even the dusky light in the prayer chambers is the same in every monastery.  The air in that duskiness vibrates with a tang that seeps into your heart and spreads through your being like an intoxicant.  Did I carry a duskiness somewhere in a secret chamber of my soul?  Did I, like a child who had done something wrong, wish to hide myself in a dark corner of one of those prayer chambers with the soothing resonance of a tuning fork enveloping me from the world that waited to pummel me ceaselessly?

My wife and I were celebrating fifteen years of our life together then.  We decided to return to Gangtok to celebrate the silver jubilee of our marriage.  Little did we know that some of our dreams would soon be dashed to the ground by what happened eventually in the Delhi school where we worked.  Many people’s dreams were shattered by the events which were conjured up by the gangsters of a godman who ran a different kind of ashrams in and outside the country. 

Gods are quite funny creatures.  Some of them save while many of them are goddam killers.  I would wish to return to the gods of Gangtok at any time, even to the Ban Jhakri that populate the state’s legends.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 175: #TimeToRevisit

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The group is always right

While having a frugal breakfast of dosa with chutney, I watched my wife’s face.  Pain was writ large on it.  Two days of struggle with viral fever and splitting headache had taken much toll on her.  I was about to complete a week’s glorious grappling with the disease.

“There’s so much pain in human life,” I initiated a conversation. “Illnesses, injustices, exploitation, chicanery, malice… Yet we believe that there’s some god sitting up there and looking after us lovingly.”

She ignored me.  She didn’t even bother to look at me.  Even her own pain wouldn’t deter her from her faith, I knew.  Faith is very strong. 

Faith doesn’t need logic or any other support.  Majority of the people believe in god and religion.  What the majority do is right.  Psychology has proved it indubitably that people don’t like to get into conflict with the group’s ways.  If the group says gau mutra is holy, it is holy.  If the group says Mr Modi is taking the country on a glorious economic growth, it must be right (though facts contradict the claim through and through). 

Recently a man in Kerala set a government office on fire because he had been harassed so much by the office.  The other day another man in the same state committed suicide because another government office had tried his patience beyond his endurance.  Most people will agree privately that government is a burden and nothing more, a gigantic leech that fattens itself on people’s blood.  Yet they won’t set the government on fire, nor will they commit suicide.  The group, the society, has accepted governmental venality as just another integral fact of life.  And the group is always right.

Until a few months ago before the cow usurped our mother’s venerated place, most BJP leaders in Kerala were beef eaters.  Many of the beef exporters in North India were BJP people.  Now they have suddenly become worshippers of the cow.  Overnight conversion.  Why?  Because the group is always right.  If the group says that the cow is holy, it is holy.  As simple as that.  [Of course, there are political motives too and politics is not particularly fond of morality of any sorts.]

The cow deserves the veneration, it seems.  Our herd mentality has become more bovine than the cow’s.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Illness and Man

Some illnesses can make us feel totally helpless.  You just can’t do anything except lie down and suffer.  The viral fever that kept me bedridden for a few days is one such illness.  I know there are worse things than a viral fever that can torture the very marrow of your bones. 

This is the first time in my life that a disease left me totally enervated.  This is the first time in my life that I slept for some sixty hours continuously except for the essential intervals in between.  The sleep was a balm for the tortured body.  The mind too sodden with the side effects of all sorts of tablets I shoved down my throat needed rest.

Eventually I fell in love with the rest.  I didn’t need sleep anymore.  I just needed to lie down and stretch the body lazily. The various pains had abated though every now and then a bout of cough would erupt pulling every nerve in your lower abdomen in a thousand opposing ways. 

Except for the coughs, I fell in love with the rest.  A lot of images flash through your mind as you lie in bed with eyes closed.  The follies and blunders you committed all along, how people reacted to them, the games some people played with you, and a whole lot of other things.  Your life appears before you like a flashback.  Not everything is clear.  There are mysteries.  One of the things I have never understood, without all this flashback also, is why I drew so much attention of so many people who played a lot of games with my life.  Maybe, some things are destined to remain mysterious.  Maybe, that’s how life is: people play games and their motives vary.  And people like me are sitting ducks.

I fell in love with the ease of my rest after my Rip Van Winkle sleep.  I wished to prolong that ease for ever, for eternity.  But I know that’s not part of human life.  I had to get up and get going.  However, I was pretty sure that my experience was a presage of how things would be in the last moments of our life.  A flashback, an intense awareness of self and a lot of realisation.  Ah, too late it would be!


Land of monks and peace

Lingdum Monastery Of all the places I’ve visited, it’s Gangtok that keeps beckoning me again and again.   My wife and I spent th...