Friends As Homing Devices

A peeking rose

 

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this,
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

I read this poem a couple of days ago. Only because I stumbled upon it, while I was reading a book. A book, which I had no idea existed, and discovered it only because I saw a movie, which was recommended to me by a dear friend, which, I would have never watched, if it was left to me. How and why this poem found its way to me, intrigues me. In an amusing way, i.e., not in a way that makes me weave the wool of conspiracy with needles of reason. Ironically, this book had itself alerted me to this phenomenon that I was to soon experience. I had smiled, when I read it; it was cute, but to have experienced the exact phenomenon couple of score pages later, was a revelation, it said:

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

Importantly, the above line ended with, “How delightful if that were true.”

Ah, well, dear author, here is a perfect example of why I believe that books have homing instincts. My time to tell you the story.

*

Time-travel is my favourite movie/series genre. It fascinates me, much. The actual time travel not so much, but the implications of it all. The scientific and the philosophical. Needless to say, all time-travel themed movies and series have been binge-consumed and there is nothing left. I move to the War genre.

Out of the blue, a friend asks, if I have watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I tell her, it has been nagging me on Netflix, but it seems (because of the poster) too mushy for my taste. She urges me to watch it. A few days pass. I do watch it. I love it. I tweet about it. Amit thinks I am talking of the book. I say, no, I watched the film. As gently as he can, he curses my wretchedness, that I haven’t read the book, and Amit being Amit, he explains why. Point well taken. I buy the book. I flip through it. I know, what Amit meant. I start reading the book. It’s enjoyable. Then I stumble upon the homing device statement. I smile. Cute, I say to myself. Then I stumble upon the opening line of a poem, that the character in the book writes of; he doesn’t recall the author. Well, I have Google.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy’d the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanc’d true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

These are the opening lines of Malcolm Arnold’s “Hymn to Empedocles,” part of Empedocles on Etna. I’ve never heard of Malcolm Arnold the poet before. More Googling ensues. I am reminded of something else, in the book”

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

And suddenly, late as it is, I am reading “Dover Beach. for sheer enjoyment.”

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I feel blessed. I thank my friend who suggested the movie. I thank Amit for making me read the book.

I am grateful to the homing devices, that are my friends.

Advertisements

Conversations with Ghosts of Past

“You aren’t online as much these days,” he said. I detected a note of regret in his voice. Wishful thinking on my part, I thought — there’s so much online these days, no one’s going to regret my absence. He’s just making an observation.

I nodded my head in agreement; smiled just enough so that it could qualify as a smile.

“It’s a bit boring, you know, to keep reading your old stuff.”

“I know the feeling, I have done a lot of reading — all my old posts. There’s not a lot, but there’s enough.”

“You are not just re-reading the posts. What are you searching for?”

“Who,” I said, looking away from him to street. There were so many people on that street. I wondered what they were doing, moving about, talking, walking. Some standing. All of them going about their lives. It seemed so strange, suddenly. Strange strangers. I’ll use that in one of my post.

“And did you find him,” he asked, stirring his coffee. He did that a lot; stirred his coffee, before every sip; I was almost sure of that. It could be irritating, if not distracting.

“I recognise shades of that person. He seems somewhat alien. It’s like … I was perhaps infected with that alien DNA a while ago, and as I read the posts, some sort of recognition causes green and blue neon-like pulses to emit through the screen and connect with a part of me. Just a part of me. It’s there, but it does not bind.”

“Why”

“I don’t know. Maybe I am a million galaxies away from that DNA. Or some million light-years away or something like that, there’s a connection, but it’s weak.”

“Too much of Netflix-binging?”

“Yes, mostly time-travel,” I said. A real smile, that would have almost qualified as a laugh.

“I know you don’t travel as much. I mean in this time/space construct; needless to say. Not time travel. You aren’t even capturing time, so to speak; you have stopped taking photos. Right? And you have stopped writing. In short, there is no movement, there is no new experience. Is that why there is no new documentation? Are you falling short experiences to describe? It’s perhaps not as simple as that, but I have to ask you – is it as simple as that?”

“Not having “experiences”; is that also an experience?”

“Doesn’t the mind hold a million times more possibilities than the real world,” he asked, not really meaning what he asked. He was perhaps interested in my mind. The possibilities in my head. I heard him but I wasn’t there.

Voices, with amazing clarity whooshed in that empty coffee shop.

You deserve more than this.
I’d rather be talking with you.
I like being with you, but…
I love you.
This is a great evening, I’ll cherish it forever.
I wish it were different.
Why didn’t you say something then.
If only…
I hope we can meet again

“My mind is full of regrets,” I said, “not necessarily mine. Not my regrets. And I may have a few. But my regrets are overwhelmed by the regrets I hear from them. Every regret was a possibility, come to think of it – it does not matter whether it was mine or theirs.”

*

“Write about them, then, those possibilities,” she pleaded.

She was grace. Unlike him who constantly stirred his coffee. She was a possibility. Looking in her eyes, then, I was reminded. Everything is possible. I don’t recall the new-age music that was playing in the cafe; but I heard:

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it’s own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.

~ Sting – Windmills Of Your Mind

I looked deep in her eyes. I did not blink. I was afraid, if I looked away, she would be gone, just like him. And I wasn’t prepared for who would be sitting with me next. I continued to stare in her eyes. I did not look away, but I knew that the strange strangers were looking at me. There’s something about a gaze.

“What a lovely pattern on your coffee,” she said, with so much of love and affection.

Patterns. Repetitive. Predictable. I am living those patterns. I look up, she isn’t around. I want to say something.

*

There is no Barista in the cafè.

*

No people on the street.

*

I walk out.

*

This world is empty of humans.

***

PS: Above post is all imaginary. It never happened. It’s a ghost story. None of my friends were involved in this story.

I Am Poetry

Structure, perhaps; the magic of how the words at the end, end up rhyming. Or perhaps the metre. The litany that caries us through the verses. In a sense, the only sense that poetry appeals to us is through reading. The text, i.e.

Yet, without warning it evokes a sense of being — devoid of any other sensory perception. In a preface to a Mahakavya (great poem), the stellar poet, Dinkar, talked of realm of an extra-sensory perception. He spoke about it in a different context — love — but the logic — if you would call it that, remains the same.

A poem can never be taught. In teaching, a poem, its meaning is narrowed, to the teacher’s interpretation. A poem has to be owned. Like the life that we live, it has to be lived every day. It has to permeate your every day activity; find a permanent place in your self; become a part of you.

Inner Space

There is no understanding poetry. There is no learning poetry. You can learn the mechanics, tools, methods, and metre. But to to get poetry it has to become an indivisible and integral part of life. I have noticed my attitudes change, in a few aspects of my life, as I carried poetry with me.

In its punctum, poetry makes sense that is obvious (often, not always). It is immediately apparent, but soon lost. Because it is not our own. When a poem is our own, it changes us over time; itself undergoes change.

I am learning that, now.

I Do It For Your Love

What makes a lover say no to the love that stands, with open arms, asking only, that he take one step towards love?

What purpose or gain, if you love me
Other than being scattered in the whirlwind of my milieu.

What makes a love think so much of the life he has lived and the life that he sees in front of him, that he does not take that step?

I am the denizen of the hovel of grief and pain
It’s only me, who can stay alive in this haunt.
Why would I dream a dream whose reality is remorse
For, in my remorse, you may rue it too.

What makes a lover not see a better life and drives away the love to a better future?

Pray, what purpose, that anyone share this anxious weariness
Let my world remain dreary and dismal
Let the steps in your life be easier, in the least
In traveling with me, nothing but regret awaits you

What makes a lover hope for a good life for his lover, away from him?

What of me; there are many admirers to come
Many tunes that will echo of love, for you
Many tales of love that life is yet to tell you
You have no reason to believe you will not forget me.

Love.

*

I’ve taken serious liberties in translating the song, but have stayed true to the sense this song causes, within. There is an inherent beauty in sad songs, like I mentioned earlier. Even in your happiest moments, these songs remain beautiful, because of the weave of the words and the purity of the emotion that they convey.

It’s love.

*

“Pyar Mujh Se Jo Kiya Tumne”, from Saath Saath (1982), sung by Jagjit Singh

It’s Not About Photographs – IV

Sagar came home, yesterday.

We don’t meet very often, but when we do meet, it is a time which we cherish. I am — clearly — taking the liberty to speak for both of us.

Every now and then we become complacent. We agree with ourselves that what we do is great, or at least good enough. We look at other people. We like their work, appreciate it. We think they are great; their work is great. Or at least good enough.

Then, Sagar comes home.

Everything changes.

A conversation, that once happened between Seoul and Mumbai is remembered. We laugh about it. I have taken a few thousand photographs after that conversations; haven’t published. (I like the word published – makes me feel important and famous – all I really do, is post them to my Flickr Account or to my Facebook Page).

We have a short conversation about where we are with photography. Since I started publishing photographs, I have said:

I use a Film SLR (Canon EOS 88) and a DSLR (Canon EOS400D). Not very technically competent. Always face a problem, when I say I am a photographer. People talk about lenses and cameras and filters. I think photographers should discuss photographs. Haven’t yet found a photographer who talks photographs. I will.

I found Sagar.

I should, with due respect, mention Amit Phansalkar; he talks photographs. (Only, that Amit doesn’t call himself a photographer; as yet)

Instinctively, we learn by imitation. To copy something, and see it close to the original is a satisfying act. Within this act, is creation itself, even if it is not creative. If we were to discard the imitation of the act, and realise the creation, we could do much more. Then we make a small change. We do a what-if. We like it, and then we do more. We slowly come of age; but importantly, we come of identity. Then comes the body of work. Which gives rise to signature. Then, comes the complacency, I mentioned above.

2015-09-20 22.53.03

Not that Self-assertion and Self-realisation are opposites, but that is the struggle.

Denying ourselves perspectives is denying growth. And how we offer ourselves perspectives is up to us. There are no templates, guidelines, rule-books, or formats; even though we are bombarded daily with 10-things lists. The lists have to be our own. And they may, quite curiously, contain just one list item.

We are not here to take photographs or see photographs. We are here to see, without a camera. [Paraphrased quote, by Dorothea Lange]

We’ll discover with each other, and in that, we will discover ourselves.

*

Sagar’s Blog | Sagar’s Portfolio

My Flickr | My Facebook Page | My Photo Blog

Beyond Anger

A wise man once advised me that I should be open about my feelings. Negative, even if they are. Years of suppressing your emotions is the means for creating an unpredictable event at an unpredictable time.

“It’s like trying to force an empty pot, face down, in water. For a while, you will be able to manage it by brute force, but the pot will resist and it will flip out,” he said with a peculiarly balanced tone, “and you will not be able to control the jounce of that flipping pot.”

I smiled. I nodded my head, as if in acknowledgement and agreement. The sense that you could hurt someone with a clinical explanation of your feelings was much to bear. At the time, the unpredictable pot in the future made more sense.

*

Sleeping Pot

There’s an ugly side of sarcasm’s coin that I am not fond of. I love humorous sarcasm, heck, I enjoy it. Sarcasm is always a package of what’s said and what’s intended. Funny sarcasm is well-packaged. It’s simple. There’s a wrapper and the content. Completely unambiguous. When you open it, it’s clear as sky. The ugly version has compartments. Many compartments. Often, hidden compartments. That’s the one I dread.

*

I am unable to relate to most of my contacts on social networks. I continue to fail to understand their sarcasm, which is veiled in cynical scepticism. Most of them seem angry. The word they are using for anger, nowadays, is outrage. Most of them are taking sides. (Which is, I will admit, so much better than sitting on the fence). There’s too much data. No, not information or knowledge. Data. And these data grenades are being hurled in the dark by people who are blinded by their shades. Each data grenade has a counter-data grenade. The hurling continues. No targets. Just hurling. There is no stock-taking of the damage. Just hurling. And data is never wrong. Data is unintelligent and perhaps, even stupid, but never wrong. It is what it is.

All this anger (outrage), righteous as it is, is an unending ripple in the calm. Minds seem so agitated and busy finding the next counter-grenade, there isn’t peace. In the mind, i.e. We aren’t talking about the world. The narrowness of belonging is sharp, one-way, and unrelenting.

We’ll have to pause.

If you read accounts of enlightened people, you will notice that because they are so open, with so few filters on perception, everything for them is poetry. Everything is alive, asking for attention.

Attention to what? To the divine that hovers beneath the surface of all life. What we respond to in the great paintings of history is the depth of attention the artist had focused on the project. We could even use the word prayer—not in a religious sense, although for some artists that might be accurate. But prayer in the sense of communion with the stuff of creation. [Principle Fifteen: Creative Authenticity]

Anger/outrage is no more an expression, it is a community. Only two sides. With us or against us. Yet, I am sure, there be pastures, where the shades of green and gold abound and call for a sense of being, and not belonging:

Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

[Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore]

We have to stop imagining our life; start living it.

Peace and Intention: #Anthem 5

People who have followed this blog for a while…

Wait.

I’ve been saying this too often. So let me say a bit about that. I’ve recently got a couple of followers who take the trouble to read all my posts and like, or still better: comment on my posts. Some of my followers from yore, read my posts, smile and do whatever they have to do. They have known me for a while now. After a while, I guess transactions don’t mean much. #NotBeingSarcastic

When I mention any version of “People who have followed this blog for a while…” I am only offering context to those who have recently started following me. OK, context done.

*

People who have followed this blog for a while, know my love for travel. While this started as a “travel” blog it has now become a “travel” blog. Not all journeys need roads, rails, or flight corridors. Yup, I am talking about all the flights of fancies that happen in our head. That’s travel too.

Of the ways I like to travel, I like driving the best. I have a car that am in love with and she loves me back, much. Whenever I take the car out for a long drive, I always start with a specific song. That, undoubtedly has to be an anthem, the way Paul proposed. There must be a million versions of this song, (I’ll explain the italics, momentarily) I am sure, and a few of them, may be more beautiful than the one I like, yet this is the one version that gets me started after the ignition. Some time ago, I talked about Driving Rituals, and it is a good thing that I did not mention one ritual. This song. Having not mentioned this ritual in that post allows me to publish this Anthem.

1353

The video below, has translation embedded in it. If, for any reason, it does not play in your region, please search for “Ik Omkar Rang de Basanti.” This is the translation, if you are unable to see the video.

I said song earlier. And that’s the most generic term I could have used. It’s a prayer. It’s an invocation. It’s a reminder. And it is much more. Why should this be the one song I play when I embark on a journey? I cannot tell you of a logical connection. I can tell you this, however:

It is ethereal for me. It is divine. It makes me feel peaceful. It injects happiness. It sets the agenda for my journey. It somehow, tells me how I should drive, what I should seek in and from my journey. It sets the intention for my journey. We learn many prayers as we navigate life. One prayer and invocation becomes ours, forever. This one is mine.