A Matter of Faith

In almost every Indian temple, you aren’t allowed to take a photo of the main deity of the temple. Some temples allow it, but without a flash. If you have been to an Indian temple, you will have noticed that the space where the main deity resides, is dimly lit, usually by oil lamps. Taking a photograph of a the deity, in such light conditions, is usually difficult, without a flash. In my experience, this rule applies only to Indian temples. I have not sensed this, severely enforced in mosques or churches.

Why this is so, is not something I can explain. There are a couple of scientific theories about why the deities should not be photographed, but they are based on faith and belief, not hard science, as we know it. Three of my best friends are atheists. My best friend believes in Jesus, though she is not a Christian. Given my engagement with these four people, my personal (inherited; would be more proper) sense of faith is often questioned. I welcome the questions, even, if at times I have no answers. But the questions do not shake my faith. They make me seek a deeper understanding of my faith. And the faith, and its understanding, is personal.

In a recent visit to a temple I saw a couple of my friends, who were faithful take pictures of a the main deity in a temple. One of my atheist friend was accompanying us. I did not see him take photos of the main deity, but if he had, I would not be surprised. Needless to say, I offered my worship in the way I do, and moved on, to take photos of some of the wonderful sculpture that adorned that temple.

I was, I confess, slightly disturbed by the act of my believer friends taking photos of the deity. After a while we left the temple and made our way home.

Stones, layer,

*

It was one of the most beautiful drives I have had in my life. We were circumferencing a large lake, in a valley surrounded by my favourite mountain range — the Sahyadri. Small village roads, meandering along the folds of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, a mountain road, cut across the Deccan Traps. My three companions in the car, juggling the role of the DJ; good music played. We sang along, we laughed: at each other and with each other. I was a bit preoccupied; my passengers thought it was because I had a flight later that evening; and was looking to back as soon as possible.

I was thinking of the meaning of faith. I was thinking of how I was disturbed because someone else did not follow the general belief and custom. Somewhere, in that question, I was asking myself why I was disturbed. It was not a good feeling, and I wanted to understand why I felt that.

*

All of this happened a week ago. And I cannot say that I now have a proper answer; the answer will evolve. I know this much, though: my faith, my sense of my faith is mine. It is personal. I need not seek justification for what I believe. I do not need others to practice what I believe. (For even if I could make them follow, it would be coerced; devoid of belonging) There is no science to it. In the same way that I seek answers, I have to understand that other people do too. They make their own meaning. And how we sense our answers varies from friend to friend. And it changes with time.

Faith matters. But there is no matter in faith.

Writing Rigour

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

That’s the headline of a blog that I have followed for a while. For a few years now, the blog has been defunct; not the blogger. I met the blogger today; very much alive. Said blogger stopped blogging a few years ago. What’s the point, she said. When she stopped blogging, she did not explicitly ask this question. I know another blogger who did the same. She perhaps was asking different questions. I actually know of a third blogger. He stopped blogging too. His question — I have no idea. He went to the extent of deleting his blog. It must have been serious.

I have, I will confess, considered not blogging. But for the life of me, I could never consider deleting my blog. Good or bad, I cannot deny that this has been an integral part of my life. That, some of the followers of my blog bring up posts from several years ago in a conversation, is reason enough. (I tried doing an April Fool gag; fell flat on my face). There was a time when I wrote words that everyone most people liked. That’s not the case, now.

Not that words are foreign. They are still mine. I recognise them just like before. Just that the way they want to be together is unlike how they’d gather like obedient children; earlier. Perhaps, I am not a shepherd of words. Perhaps words shepherd me. Perhaps, that is why some of my recent posts are shite. Or, I have lost the ability to shepherd. The shepherding, notwithstanding — the words are mine and I am of words.

We have just lost the rhythm.

All I need, is to go to the dance floor that isn’t patronized by any one any more and do my silly dance. Where no one will see me. Where neither my words, nor I will care.  Salsa with adjectives and Samba with verbs. The apocalyptic dance. One writer in the world; no reader left. Is a writer made of readers or is a writer made of writing? Will a writer write if there is no one left to read? What defines a writer? The writing, or the readers?

*

I told her today, my writing, in recent times, has achieved heights of mediocrity, not knowing, if that is a sense of achievement. But I have to write. Not because you will read. Not because you will like it. I have to write, because I have to write. Scribble.

125659: Wall Grunge

*

No writer, if she can, should give up writing. Because every writer knows one thing (even if she cannot sense it) – she and the words are one. She may walk away from words. (Words are kinda stupid; they have no emotion – they will sit where they were last sat; where words should be – is a writer’s prerogative.) But there is no leaving. Even if she never writes them – she cannot escape them.

If you can help it – do not become a writer. There is no escape. If you become a writer; welcome to the club!

Being Friends

All that is in quotes happened offline, or in my head. The rest of it is real; i.e. it actually happened. Like, as real as it can be. I mean, as real as a real conversation is dramatised, embellished by (my) poetic license. And know this: I have permission from the person with whom I had this conversation. And no, I don’t have permission to reveal who it is. Do you care?

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~

The Friend: How many friends do you have?

I quickly go to my Facebook profile. 269. That’s it? Damn. I should start accepting all those friend requests I get. But then, I can hardly keep up with 269.

Me: A few short of 300, I think. Why?

TF: Not on Facebook, dummy! Real friends.

ME: Maybe ten or fifteen?

I have no idea what the right answer is. How many friends does an average person have? That’s the number I am seeking. I am an average person.

TF: No. Really. How many friends do we really have?

ME: I’ll let loose my hound-algorithms to deduce that. What’s on your mind?

Luckily for me, I remember all the tech jargon from college. But I was already wary of what was coming.

TF: How many real friends do you have? Seriously.

ME: As many fingers on one hand; I have no mutation.

Five.

TF: I just told off a “friend” – I said – I have enough fair weather friends. Where do you fit?

ME: Ouch.

TF: Yeah! That person didn’t understand what I am going through. I think, however, that the person understood exactly what I am going through. And being with me would be so much of a burden; a taxing companionship, so to speak. I have lost friends like autumn leaves. Once, my life made sense to them. Now that I am coloured by circumstances, friends are de-saturating.

ME: Hmm.

The “Hmm” is a catch-phrase of any IM conversation. It means absolutely nothing but it can mean anything. You use it when you have nothing to say, but need to respond. Because, the lack of response is worse than the infinite abstraction of the universality of the “Hmm.” I was however, also thinking of those that moved away. Those “friends.” Did I drive them away? Was I not good enough for them anymore? Did they choose to move away? Did my life suddenly become dull and uninteresting?

TF: You there?

ME: Yes, yes. Am here. [12 second pause] You did what you had to do. I have only just walked away. Perhaps I find it uncomfortable to confront. So I walk away. Telling someone who they are is a pointless exercise because, either they know who they are or they think they are someone else. Telling them, therefore, serves no purpose.

It’s 1994 or 95-ish. I am waiting at Stadium Restaurant. I have called my friend from a PCO, as I left office that evening. I’d be there in 45 minutes, he confirms he will be there too, in about an hour or so. These are the days when we didn’t have mobile phones (Just helping your imagination). I am there at 7:45pm as promised. I wait there. For three hours. I have no way of contacting him. He shows up. After three hours. He was unapologetic. Mostly. I am surprised about myself. Yes, I am tired; I am not angry. He is my best friend. Finger No. 1.

TF: I should do that. Walking away is maturity, I guess.

TF doesn’t mean it that way, but I cringe. There comes my age into play again.

ME: Please avoid the word “mature” – makes me feel old.

TF: Haha!

Time is experience. Yes, many years have passed. And I am what I am only after these many years. c. 1989. College hostel. I meet with a senior. He tells me what I am getting into. After all the talk, he says, “Forget all I said, no one learns by listening – you have to make your own mistakes. Just enjoy the ride”

ME: There is no one truth. It’s unique to us. Live your own, in the way you can. Your circumstance isn’t your life. Your life has a circumstance. Life’s forever. Circumstances come and go. Don’t let a circumstance dictate what you have to say and what you do not. Let life dictate that.

TF: I like that thought.. good idea. Let me try that.

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.

Of Disrespect

When we were young, we didn’t like some people. Because we didn’t know words like ‘obnoxious’ or ‘haughty’ or ‘disdainful’ — we could never explain why we didn’t like those people. Yet, our parents ensured that we ‘respect’ them. Mostly, it was about age. “That person is elder; show respect.”. Respect your elders. (So said, Baz Luhrman, in Sunscreen)

The respect was cautious. While we didn’t feel respect, we feigned it. In the least, we didn’t exhibit disrespect.

Most Indic languages have addressable word-forms that inherently define who you address. So, we have a different word-form for a sibling, a friend, and a senior. In Hindi, e.g. we have tu, tum, aap — you (casual/street), you (formal/common), you (official/respectable), respectively.

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By virtue of my upbringing, my education, and having lived in North India for a while, I default to aap — the respectable form, when I speak in Hindi, irrespective of the age of the person. And over time, I discovered, respect and age have nothing in common. Respect is how you see people.

I recently was addressed in the “street form” on Twitter. I did not take exception to it, and continued the Twitter banter. Yet, I was amused. The person was tweeting from an organisational account. I know that the person knows I am “elder” — but I am a fan (of that organisation) as much as a 12yo is a fan. I was not upset; as I said before, I was amused. I live in different times. There’s a flatness, that I live in, which I understand, but confuses me.

Respect, makes the world go round.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my head, it takes much, to know that person is not worthy of respect. When I see casual mentions of disrespect, I generally ignore them. Not that those who are disrespectful are making it difficult for us, though.

Instinctively, I believe, we are tuned to be respectful. But in recent times, it seems to me that we have been conditioned otherwise. Our default is now to ignore respect; which, mind you, is different from disrespect. Our tired fingers are losing the grip on humanity; our adventures of science (science not in absolute terms, but how we abuse it), are perhaps, the reason we will drop, deep down.

Deep, deep down. In a dark abyss.

To Build or To Disrupt

There’s nothing good about disruption, essentially.

Unfortunately, most kids today are out to disrupt something. The problem I have is not with the word itself, for it has three meanings. All three meanings are inherently negative and violent. I take exception with the start; “we will disrupt education”, for example. The Internet, when it came along did not have a grand design to disrupt anything. It was just another way to display information and manage communication. Over time, entrepreneurs found a new way to do business using this medium. In my opinion, they worked at improving the status quo. They did not intend to break the backbone of how things were. They were just trying out something new.

To start from disruption is a narrow approach, seeking to break something. If an existing system bothers you, or if you have a better idea for the system, change; and the value of change is important. We tend to look at success stories, but the better lessons for us come from those who wrangled with existing systems, and failed.

Most lessons of success come from those who have been successful; not from those who have failed. But if we are to learn, we should be looking at how and why things failed. There is, almost, an infinite scope to change things — if we understand how those things behave. Stout hearts will, perhaps, understand what I say. Building anew is better than breaking (and rebuilding).

But words, and their changing meanings.

We are slaves to a market that’s selling us camouflaged goods.

The Challenge

I don’t remember the last time a book challenged me.

Reading non-fiction, for a long time has, perhaps slowed me down. In a way, non-fiction is the book of answers, fiction is the book of questions.

This one book has me in a frenzy. For many reasons. One, it was written in a language that’s not native to me. It’s not alien though. Both my parents learnt this language, and were good at it. Two, it is written by a person who is known as the father of the revival of this language; I know little about his work, but I am learning. And I am fascinated. Three, it is historical. That should explain a lot, of my interest in the book. Yes, it’s fiction. Four, it was written about 125 years ago, and it is timeless, for it holds within it answers that society is asking today. If we can see it through our own eyes and not through a lense that belongs to another. Five, finally, the questions that this book asks of me, that are appearing in my notebook, are those that I do not recognise. I am excited of what answers will come.

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The Questions I Was Asked

But they’ll have to wait, those answers, I need to read two more translations before I know. And I think my life will thank me for it.

Moblogged. E&OE