Full circle

Every morning I open the kitchen windows to be greeted by familiar sights. I have been seeing them almost every day for years. Bulbuls, babblers and sunbirds fly from branch to branch, from flower to flower and call out to each other. They look so busy and I watch them for a while before returning to my work. The scene is so unchanging but full of life. And I wonder whether there are changes in life. Of course there are changes, but some changes make me very anxious about the future.

Our monsoon season begins in the first week of June and we get very good rains. However, my father-in-law used to say that the time and duration of the seasons have changed from what they were more than fifty years ago. This year, in June we hardly got any rain. We all hoped it would rain in July but things have improved just a little. We see dark clouds gathering but very little rain falls. I hear it is the same in the southern part of India’s west coast. But it is raining well in other parts of the state and the country.

I am reading a fascinating book called The Incredible History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal and Sowmya Rajendran. The Indus valley civilization existed between 3300 BCE and 1300 BCE. Sanyal and Rajendran write that these cities were built gradually and disintegrated slowly over a long period of time. Between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE the climate started changing. Around 2200 BCE, the monsoon became weaker and there were prolonged droughts. This must have precipitated a massive crisis. However, the Harappans were faced with a much greater problem. The river system upon which their civilization was based, was drying up. It has now been proved that this river was the Ghaggar, known back then as the great Saraswathi and not the Indus as was believed earlier. Interestingly, the Saraswathi is eulogised in the Rigveda. At some point of time the Ghaggar lost its tributaries and also its sources of glacial melt from the Himalayas. Around 2000 BCE the lack of water began to affect the Harappans. They migrated to other parts of the country in search of a better future.

My imagination must be working overtime 😊 We are facing conditions that have never been seen before. Different thoughts came to mind as I connected those times with our own. Maybe life is taking a different course and we have to go along with it.

I wrote this post a few days ago. Our monsoon season for this year started on the 9th, one month late. It has been raining almost continuously since then, some time pouring and at other times drizzling. We now feel that in June we got pre-monsoon rain which we usually get in April and May. So changes are happening.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” – Mary Shelly

Rigveda – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigveda

Indus Valley Civilisation – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilization

Sarasvati River – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarasvati_River

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What changes ?

I have just finished a fascinating book called The First Promise. It is written by Ashapurna Debi and has been translated from Bengali to English by Indira Chowdhury. The story is set in late 18th century and early 19th century. The heroine is Satyabati and she is not like other women of her time. The author has beautifully depicted life in rural Bengal and in Calcutta. The lives of women have changed a lot but their emotions, their needs and desires are still the same. Even now not all women are free to fulfil their dreams.

The other day we read in the newspaper about a man damaging the voting machine because his mother did not vote for the candidate he had told her to vote for! One wonders if two hundred years have passed since the days of the story.

This somehow reminded me of a couple we used to see some evenings. Walking past their house I would see the old man in a wheel chair and his wife reading aloud to him. I had not seen the gentleman in his younger days but I had heard that he had been a different person during his youth. He had taken his wife for granted and had cheated on her. There is this arrogance in that period of life when many do not think about old age, about the time when they would be dependent on others. Old age seems far away and it is as if it happens to others. On the other hand, I read in the paper about grandparents forcing their minor granddaughter to marry a middle-aged man who had raped her. How could they do that? Do people really change with the time? Two hundred years ago girls were married off very young. Not much has changed.

Not hundreds but thousands of years ago life was the same. I was listening to the story of Lord Krishna narrated by Shri Bannanje Govindacharya. Narkasura had imprisoned hundreds of young girls. Krishna helped free them. He asks those girls to return to their families. The girls reply that they would prefer to remain in the prison because society would never accept them. They would forever be labelled as girls who had been in Narakasura’s prison and would be looked upon with suspicion.

It is sad but even now it is the same and very few have the courage to stand against the dictates of society. I often wonder who are these people who think they have the right to pass judgements. I have asked some friends about this but they have no definite names. They are ‘people’, nameless and faceless. And it scary how they are able to control people, through the ages.

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Narakasura – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narakasura

Krishna – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna

Bannanje Govindacharya – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bannanje_Govindacharya

Life moves on

My mother is learning yoga and one day recently she told her instructor that she cannot walk like she used to. She has slowed down and has no work at all. The young instructor said that was the rule of life, the law (niyama) which God has made. Each stage in life is different, and it is not possible for us to do the same things in the same ways throughout life. How true her words were. Wise words from the young.

My mind goes back to November last year. I was with my daughter for 2 ½ months. Our granddaughter was born on November 10th.  Now she has completed six months. We are seeing changes in her everyday. She rolls across the floor and is also moving forwards. This first year in life is such a fascinating time. Our grandson will soon be five. He is changing every day but those changes are not so obvious. The other day my mother told a relative that she has to use a walking stick now. He said this was another stage in life. He believed childhood was the best time. So true. But it is a tragic truth of life that countless children do not have a childhood at all.

Life moves on, and so much keeps changing. Many a time we are not even aware of the changes. Maybe we change with the changes, and we accept life as it comes. My father-in-law is 93 now. He was always been a very active person, always on the move. He has lived all his life in a village and is an agriculturist. He worked hard along with the farmworkers and spent all his working life standing and moving about in the fields and areca gardens never sitting down to rest. But that stage of life is now in the past. Life has slowed down a lot for him. Looking at him I wonder “does he wish for those days to come back?” A few years ago he was with us for about three weeks. Every afternoon we used to sit in the front porch and talk about the old days. I wrote everything down and prepared a series of Facebook posts. Many of our relatives enjoyed his reminiscences. He said life has changed a lot, people in his times never imagined it would change so much. But he never hankered after those days. Some people do.

One of our acquaintances lives in the past when she lived in another city. She is always lamenting about the passing away of those days. I get the feeling living in the past has made it very difficult for her to be in the present. It seems so tragic.

Every stage in life is very different and there are so many changes; some of them take us by surprise; others, we willingly leave behind.

“Every stage in life
Takes us forward everyday
Till we reach the end.
We can live in the present
Or worry about the past.”

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Time-Pass

We use these words often in our daily life. They are used in a light vein to express something we are doing for the fun of it. When we watch a movie that is a pure entertainer we say it is ‘good time-pass’. We do not say the same about serious movies. A few years ago we were in Rajasthan travelling in a local bus. At one of the stops a hawker climbed in calling out “time-pass, time-pass”. We wondered what he was selling. We asked him and he showed us roasted groundnuts. They are lip-smackingly tasty and very good time-pass. I was hearing this description of groundnuts for the first time and it seemed apt.

These days I have been hearing the words time-pass used in a different way. I hear many of the older generation speak about their interests in an apologetic tone. They say there is no work to do. Whether they read a book or listen to music or do anything else, it is to pass the time. “What else is there to do? We have to pass time”. When I hear these words I feel sad and a little irritated. When we are young, all our hobbies and interests are what we do because we enjoy doing them. They are not performed to fill the minutes and hours. I think that those who say that they have to do something to make time pass are actually killing precious moments. Why can we not pursue our interests and learn new things simply because we are interested in what life has to offer? Long back I had read somewhere that when we think that we getting old to do something, we should do the same immediately. We are never too old to experience something new.

My father worked in the Indian Railways. Sometime in the late sixties, when computers were new in India, there was a computer section in his office. In those days the machines were as big as a large room. My father was one of the first persons to learn how to operate one. He took us to see the machine, and we were filled with wonder. But we never really understood what it was. Fifty years later we cannot imagine life without the internet or the computer or mobile phone. Life has changed so much, and we have to make these changes a part of our everyday life. People who say that they have to find things to fill time have actually not changed with the passing years and developed new interests. I don’t believe what we are doing in this later stage of life is just to pass time, but it is to make the passing time more meaningful, fun and interesting.

“For ourselves,
Time that is just ours
To do what we want to do
Adds more meaning to everyday life.
Green, blue and white, the colours around, become one with us.”
(Sidlak Poetry)

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Changes

The other evening we went for a walk around the lake in our place. The water level has gone down as we have reached the end of our monsoon season. This man-made lake gets water from all around during the months of rainy season. The water reaches the brim in July, then starts decreasing in October. This goes on till the month of May. Similarly there are changes all around.

From September last year to September this year there have been so many changes in our lives. My father took ill last September, and this September he is no more with us physically. I remember my mother saying, “I never thought life would change so much. I always believed we would live as we have lived for many more years.” Yes, life changes and we have to keep moving on.

There are also changes within ourselves. Many a time we are not aware of the changes taking place within us. They keep happening.  Thoughts about changes came to mind when I started enjoying writing Haiku. I have always loved prose, but poetry was something which I did not really enjoy.  I could never understand the sort of poems written by TS Eliot. I always believed that poems should touch the heart immediately. Something about Haiku interested me. I came to read Haikus in different blog posts. When I read about syllables I was dismayed. Syllables had become so much a part of daily usage that I had forgotten what exactly they were. I read about them too and found them fascinating. To get an idea, and match it with syllables, was (and is) an interesting experience. Haiku is a poem of Japanese origin. There are three lines. There have to be five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the last.

1 )  Silence of quiet nights

Far from all the outside sounds

Bring peace to my heart.

2) Dark clouds fill the sky

The sun parts wet dark rain clouds

Sunshine filters through.

There can also be three syllables in the first, five in the second and three in the last line.

When did I start enjoying poetry ? When did this change take place ? I do not know. Sometimes when I think about these changes, I become apprehensive. We know what we are now but as we grow older there will be changes. What if there are drastic changes in our thinking ? We may not be the same person we are now. How will life be like then? I do not usually worry about the future, I believe in facing life as it comes to us. But those changes which creep up on us scare me.

But a favourite relative used to say, “We should not live with fear in our hearts. Death will come to us once anyway. Why should we die a thousand times before we finally leave this existence.”

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Everything is fine, but…

Is a place negative or do people make it negative with their negative thoughts? Whatever it is, some places and some people do make us uncomfortable. It may be a place we have never been to and the people may be strangers but something does not feel right. ‘Everything is fine, but …’ comes to mind. The negative vibrations leave an uneasy feeling.

One evening we were returning home talking about such feelings when we met a vegetable seller who has been a part of our lives for a long time. He and his cart are a familiar sight. He walks for miles, from morning to evening, selling vegetables. We knew him when he was a young man, now his sons are young men. His sons tell him to take it easy but our vegetable seller likes what he is doing. We stopped to buy vegetables and talked about what was happening in each others lives. He said everything was fine in his life. His two sons are earning their living. The elder son had studied well and was in a good job. They had their own house and he was satisfied with his life. Then he said the words, ‘everything is fine, but…’ I was wondering what was coming. Many are happy with what they have and many others yearn for what they do not have. That is the way of life. It seems his wife was worried about their sons not getting married. That was her big headache. She wanted her sons to marry someone from their own community but our vegetable seller did not think that really important. He said he would try to convince his wife to change her way of thinking. I wonder what his sons thought about this?

Even now there are parents who object to their children marrying a person of their choice. In some parts of our country people still live in those long ago days. We read about violent acts against the younger generation and wonder whether we are in the 21st century. It is as if nothing has really changed. A relative was telling us about all the drama that was going on in a friend’s house just because a family member had married a Christian.  Our TV serials full of negative emotions definitely reflect real life. In many instances people who are highly educated seem to have a lot of ego problems. Everything seems to be fine, but…

Our vegetable seller, not highly educated but is definitely a person with an open heart who is ready to accept changes in life. Definitely no negative vibrations about him. That ‘but’ after ‘everything is fine’ had me worried for a moment. 🙂 It is not often that we hear people saying that they are happy with what they have. Being happy with their way of life does not mean that life is dull and monotonous.

This reminds me of one of my favourite books, ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ by Nevil Shute.’ It is about the hero Keith Stewart- ‘He has achieved the type of life that he desires; he wants no other. He is perfectly, supremely happy.’

How many of us can say the same with confidence?

Veg seller (1)

 

A Sea of Change

The other day my friend was talking with nostalgia about her childhood in her village. She is only forty. In the past fifteen years there has been a sea of change not only in her village but in most villages in this coastal region of our country. She remembers fields and fields of paddy fields, cows grazing in those fields after the harvesting. All the people of the village used to help each other during sowing and harvesting. At other times sweet potatoes, lentils and other crops were grown. Even now when they get sweet potatoes from the market, they remember the taste of those that they had grown in their village. The streams and ponds were fun to play in. Now everything has changed, all those fields have disappeared and houses and other buildings have taken their place. She says it hurts to go back.

When I was listening to her, I remembered the words of my father-in-law. He is ninety. Back in those days no one even in their wildest dreams imagined such changes. His small village had been self-sufficient. The same was the case in all villages. There was no outside influence and no good means of transport. Most people lived and worked in their own villages. But now everyone has moved away due to better education and job opportunities elsewhere. There are changes in every sphere of life. These changes are bewildering to those who have experienced the difference .

Changes happen every minute, not only around us but within us too. It all depends on how we respond to them. If we accept the changes and keep learning from them and enjoying them, I believe we remain mentally active till the end. Looking back through rose coloured glasses is fine to a certain extent but we should change with the times.

I remember the words of my favourite relative. She said she accepts life as it comes and does not worry about what happens and what does not. Changes happen and no one can stop them, so it is better to accept them. This does not mean we have to change completely.

A very positive way of life.

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