It was a usual day in the library. For the first time in life, I finally knew what I yearned for: knowledge & a place where there’s plenty of it: university’s library.
A.C. Joshi Library, located in the Panjab university, is not for the casual students. It is a “respite for soul” place for the curious ones. The ones who want to know it all. The ones with insatiable hunger for more!
Though I was a post-graduate student at that time, the name “Khalil Gibran” (or Kahlil Gibran) didn’t ring any bells. But the word “Lebanese” poet aroused some curiosity, and that’s how I opened the first page.
And then I couldn’t put it down for a moment – read it while eating, in the class, in the hostel common room, almost everywhere. There it was, one of the most enchantingly romantic works one could read, “The Broken Wings: Khalil Gibran“.
A take on spiritual love, with its purity intact, The Broken Wings is like an intense lyric, the depths of which are unfathomable to a mortal being. Here’s an excerpt from the text:
“Every young man remembers his first love and tries to recapture that strange hour, the memory of which changes his deepest feeling and makes him so happy in spite of all the bitterness of its mystery…
Today, after many years have passed, I’ve nothing left out of that beautiful dream except painful memories flapping like invisible wings around me, filling the depths of my heart with sorrow, and bringing tears to my eyes; and my beloved, beautiful Selma, is dead and nothing is left to commemorate her except my broken heart and tomb surrounded by cypress trees. That tomb and this heart are all that is left to bear witness of Selma.
The silence that guards the tomb does not reveal God’s secret in the obscurity of the coffin, and the rustling of the branches whose roots suck the body’s elements do not tell the mysteries of the grave, by the agonized sighs of my heart announce to the living the drama which love, beauty, and death have performed. “
The tragedy of love is beautifully captured in the masterpiece. But love’s not the only facet of Gibran’s work. Another classic, “The Prophet“, discusses practical answers to spiritual & philosophical aspects of daily life. Matters of marriage, death, talking, children, giving, etc. are touched upon with soft-soothing words, showing his creative genius in the poetic form.
Here’s an excerpt from “On Talking” by Khalil Gibran:
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips,
And sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly…
There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape… “
Finally, she is home. My first puppy! It took 29 years of wishing at Birthdays & shooting stars to finally bring home a pup of my own.
I wished for a pup ever since I’ve existed. Mind you, it all started with an over-barking pom doggy! I can’t believe that I remember the pup & the parrot as a pictographic memory till today.
That happened in New Delhi, India in 1988. In 1991, my family shifted to one of the most peaceful towns in India, Nangal. Located in the foot-hills of Shivalik Hills, a chain of the Himalayan range, & lined by the beautiful Satluj river from two sides, the picturesque city is popular for one of the highest gravity dams in Asia, The Bhakra Nangal Dam & is a renowned national wetland.
The river-side city, with its idyllic setting, and township’s character, is a world in itself – just like the “Hogwarts world” of the Harry Potter series! Explains our “Harry Potter” mania in 10th grade – I literally finished off the book during my final dreaded mathematics exam. ( No, not all Indian kids master mathematics – some like me, prefer to lead life in appreciation of beauty of nature & novels).
Our small colony, called as ‘the doctor’s colony”, had a lot of kids to hang out with, along with a lot more puppies. The house where we shifted was vacant for a long time. Any guesses how many lil paws greeted me on the first day in the town? A litter of 10 wonderful puppies! 😀
A dream come true home for me indeed – in the dream come true town of Nangal. Over the years, me & my friends reared up a lot of street pups, got a few vaccinated, fed them, played with them. I even kidnapped them & moved them to my home, in case the female doggy gave birth in some other house. 😍
The poor female dog lived in eternal confusion on where her pups are whenever she used to go on a hunt. It is amazing that I got along more with pups, than I ever got with prople. That doesn’t make me anti-social – I did get along with kids my age. 😉
Last month, after much consideration, and persuation, I finally brought home a beautiful female Labrador pup. We call her “Daisy”, though she doesn’t behave like a fragile flower as of now.
She is a “wooly mammoth” who eats, chews, & later on poops everything that comes in front of her – stones, cow dung, clothes, newspaper, leave, sticks, pendrive, leaves – did I mention leaves already? – and so on.
For now, the only time she looks like a “Daisy” is when she sleeps!!! 😊😀😄 Let’s hope for teething- free times ahead, when your pup will not try to bite you off. 😃
I remember it. My first glimpse of Sufism. An unusual book was lying on the table, with the name “Bulleh Shah” printed on it. The name struck a chord. Just like the name “Rumi” did later on. Bit by bit, poem by poem, the love for his poetry solidified into supreme devotion, and a new gate opened for me – the golden gate of Sufi ecstasy!
So, who is a Sufi ?
Is he the one immersed in deep meditative silence? Or is he the one whirling in a divine ecstasy? Or perhaps the one whose dance has solidified into a deep silence?
As waves upon my head the circling curl,So in the sacred dance weave ye and whirl.Dance then, O heart, a whirling circle be.Burn this flame - is not the candle he?
A Sufi can be just anybody: a wanderer, a saint, a beggar, a poet, an ascetic. He can easily fit into any of these categories. Or he can transcended all these mind-imposed categories & move into the realm of nothingness.
“The Guest House” by Rumi is a stroke of genius, an enchanting lyric, a masterpiece that started a life-long addiction to Rumi and his works.
The Guesthouse by Mewlava Jallaludin Rumi
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.A joy, a depression, a meanness,some momentary awareness comes As an unexpected visitor.Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.The dark thought, the shame, the malice,meet them at the door laughing,and invite them in.Be grateful for whoever comes,because each has been sentas a guide from beyond.
Note: The image has been sourced from the Internet. No infringement intended.
I love meditation. An intensely curious agnostic, I want to know it all, learn it all, imbibe the facts. At some point, even meditation became an intellectual activity.
Take a deep breath, be in harmony with nature, let go and what not…
But the real “let go” happened the moment I wasn’t trying to “let go” anymore. I was too astonished, too stunned, too happy to “try” something.
For the first time, “I” was just not there anymore ! Or maybe, “I” finally lost its significance.
That “I” we cling on to, became too small a reality in front of such a vast endless ocean. I became a negligible entity staring at the grand canvass, the creator painted with a master stroke.
It all started on that laid-back, lazy, hot Palolem beach.
Located in the Southern part of Goa, within 2.5 kms of market town of Chaudi, Canacona, the Palolem Beach was my first glimpse to a “hippy-style lifestyle” (concerns of budget-traveling). 🙂
Though we started the trip by staying in a “safe” hotel behind the beach, the decision to shift to Palolem beach’s cottages was inevitable – for the compulsive need to stare at the waves was simply irresistible!
On this 10 days long vacation, we literally backpacked, & stayed at Rs 800/ night or less in the beach huts / cottages ( A freelance writer can only afford budget traveling in India 😉 ).
The cool & misty mornings!
The usual day at Palolem beach started at 8 AM. Tea, breakfast (usually the delicious omelette & big tea mugs at Hi-Tide Coco Huts ), staring at the incessant flow of waves, preceded by a dip in the warm currents of the Indian ocean.
A typical beach hut
View from the cottage
Now, I love swimming, yet, the vastness & mysticism of ocean intimidated me. I just couldn’t go too far from the shore.
There’s this funny incident that happened one afternoon. One day while swimming, I slowly drifted towards a couple, who to my horror were making love right inside the ocean. 😛 ( Not a common sight for an average “decent” Indian). The moment I realized, I chuckled and tried to swim away, only to be sent back towards them by the flow of the current. 😛
The hot, & lazy afternoons!
The lazy, hot, bright afternoon called for a nap on the beach, followed by a refreshing drink.
Foodies that we Punjabis are, the later part of afternoon was spent in “hunting” for a new restaurant to eat, out of 80-100 odd restaurants located on the beach.
I don’t know what vegetarians or the so-called morally prickly vegans eat in Goa, but for me, it was a happy platter of fried fish, fish curry, coconut fish, omelette, prawns, and everything a hardcore spiritual non-vegetarian can gulp in one go.
Evening view at Palolem, like a canvass painted by the creator!
A casual stroll, a walk on the beach is how the day slowly receded into the evening. We literally waited each evening, with a camera in our hands, to capture, again & again, the glory of God in the name of his most beautiful painting – a sunset!
Orange tinge blended into a purplish blue, set against a grayish-blue sky, Goa changed the meaning of a sunset forever in my mind. The staring continued till the orange canvass changed into a star-lit sky. 😃
It is after 7PM that the phenomena called Palolem finally comes to life. Dimly lit restaurants, fragrances in the air that allure the appetite, peppy music in the background, the place takes a U-turn as the evening advances into the night.
I still can’t forget the happy faces of laid-back tourists, playing guitar without a care in the world, wearing that super sexy cowboy hat the likes of me only see in Hollywood movies!!! 😛
Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, Goa took all the tiredness away. Symbolically speaking, the trip took away the constant need to be excited or tensed ( a reality of consumerist society).
The Palolem sang an age old lyric to me – praising nature & its elements, giving a glimpse of harmony which is present in everything except a human mind, singing a melody that only an initiated few can hear. 🙂
We all have our share of moments when we grieve; for the loss of a loved one, for the loss of a dream, or the loss of an identity.
But to be able to pull that final trigger, to bid that final goodbye, to not to hold on to that last shred of hope, is a momentous moment, tragic in its essence, yet final in its completion.
For what looks like a sudden tragic last-minute whim is but a grand finale of a series of small death-like moments – moments that can make or break us!
In a world full of people, more people, social media connectivity, self-obsessed selfies and check-ins, it is hard to believe that a person can be alienated enough to let go.
Suicide, is such a personal moment, that any commentary from the outside, is like an arrow drawn from a set of broken fingers.
Yet, we humans, the mystical over-thinking beings, are the ones who’re drawn towards it & commit it every day.
Sometimes I think about Kurt, why he pulled that final trigger (if he did at all) ? What was the last thought that shook him to embrace that final annihilation ? Was there not a shred of love/hope left for him to hold on to? With the kind of creative genius he was, did even his art fail to speak to him in the end?
Am I, as a fan, scared to death when I witness his story because somehow the jigsaw puzzles of his life fit into mine ?
To me, a man’s last moment can be surmised in the lines Kurt sang so brilliantly, and with a bland expression in Nirvana’s The Man Who Sold The World –
” I spoke into his eyes, I thought you died alone, a long long time ago…”
An eccentric genius & a rare charmer that he was, I hope he witnessed the ever-pervasive peace which can only be found in the stillness of death.
“If you die you’re completely happy and your soul somewhere lives on. I’m not afraid of dying. Total peace after death, becoming someone else is the best hope I’ve got.” – Kurt Cobain
Traveling is like a box full of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get! 🙂 An adventurer by heart, it was a tough call for me to leave my first job in 2012 and explore the unfriendly North East terrain. I never knew what I was going to get too! 🙂
Sikkim is where the 15 days long trip started. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’m going to take you on a ride to Meghalaya, a must-visit paradise in India.
Popularly known as the “Scotland of the East”, Shillong, the capital city, looked like any other hill station – hilly terrain, overcrowded, and chaotic. By the time I reached my hotel, I was exhausted by the journey in this unforgiving mountainous terrain. But my perception was about to be changed.
The Police Bazaar, a ride down the memory lane for my dad!
The essential vibe of this city can be captured at the Police Bazaar/ Square. That’s where we started. It was here that I began to see the city through the glasses my dad wore 40 years back. As a fresh graduate from a medical school, my dad stayed in the unexplored North Eastern region as a volunteer in a UNO mission in 1972 (anti-malaria program).
It was pure delight, sauntering along with him on the streets where he wandered once , when he was of my age. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to watch a “nostalgic smile” on his face, a sudden shift from his usual stoic “Mona Lisaic expressions” – a term I coined for a set of geniuses like him who rarely smile, and if they do, it feels like a favor for the lesser beings like me ! 🙂 A decent chap that he is, I was astonished to see the clarity with which he remembered the bars and restaurants he frequented in the Police Bazaar.
Found women of substance: At my first attempt in street photography!
Oh yes! That’s what I’ll will always remember from the trip – the women of Shillong. Proud demeanour, looking straight ahead, clad in traditional Jainsem ( a traditional Khasi attire), these betel chewers are one-of-a-kind women.
I remember how dad always narrates stories of women in the North East, a region which follows matriarchal family structure, a stark distinction from the North Indian patriarchal traditions where I grew up. It is safe to say that a woman play a dominant role in the families and are many a times is the bread earner of the family.
From a higher perspective : Mesmerizing view from the Shillong Peak, U Lum Shyllong
The next place in the itinerary was the Shillong Peak. Called “U lum Shyllong”in the colloquial language, the peak offers a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque valley. At a distance of 10 kms from the main city, this is the very spot where I fell in love with the city. They’ve installed big telescopes here to view the valley through different angles.
Mawsynram – Cheerapunjee, India: the wettest place on the planet
I’m a lazy person who wakes at 11 AM. Yet, when I travel I’m wide awake at 6AM, without an alarm. 🙂 Next day, starting at 7:30 AM sharp, we hit the road for a location that’s well-known around the world – Cheerapunjee, the wettest place on the planet.
One thing I noticed about the region is the terrain makes traveling a bit tough, not that at 29 years of age I should complain. 🙂 Moving on, it took a few kilometers for me to forget about the traveling woes. I must say, the 53 kilometers road from Shillong to Cheerapunjee was a sight to remember. The breathtaking scenery slowly transported me far away from the hubbub of the city.
It slowly started sinking in, the reason why Shillong is rightly called the “Scotland of the East”. 🙂
Noh ka ikai falls, located in the village Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee has a number of high waterfalls, & is the final destination in the area. The breathtaking scenery and the tranquil people move you into complete surrender. It gives me pure joy to witness both the timeless beauty of the mountains and the quietly working folks I saw and interacted with.
A surprise in the itinerary – the village of Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village!
Though not planned in the itinerary, the village of Mawlynnong, declared as Asia’s cleanest village, came as a wonderful surprise on the next day. A good, tiring, if I may add 84 kms drive from the capital city, the village is simply gorgeous.
Located in the East Khasi hills district, the green & clean hamlet is popular for its cleanliness. And rightly so! Hats off to the one-of-its-kind community based ecotourism endeavor of the local people.
Sadly, due to the ongoing construction, we were not able to stay in the 80-feet high “machan”, the biggest tourist attraction in the village, but we did manage to click a number of priceless pictures of the village.
The living root bridge: An example of man’s harmony with nature:
On the way out, we were told to visit another tourist destination, the“living root bridge”, located in the Riwai village, Meghalaya. One can witness the splendour and magnanimity of nature in full display – the entwined roots of two large ficus tress entwined to create one-of-its-kind living root bridge, right above the pristine river.
The bridge is a tourist’s hotspot, and is a perfect example of man’s harmony with nature. For it is gentle care of the locals that the bridge was able to flourish in the natural surroundings. Well, that marked the last spot we saw in Meghalaya.
There’s so much more to share, many more breathtaking pictures to share, if only I could. From someone who knew nothing about the far North East region, its beauty, its unchartered paths, I became someone who fell in love with the region. 🙂
It is my sincere hope, that more and more people will visit this region, and create opportunities for the locals, as the scope for tourism is mammoth here.