Why don’t we share anymore?

A butterfly greedily sucks nectar from bright, pink flowers on a shrub in front of me. First one, then another, then yet another. For their part, the flowers are in full bloom and wait patiently for their turn.

Why do we have so much trouble sharing our love? We don’t behave generously like the butterfly or the flowers. Instead, we choose who is worthy of receiving our love. You, yes. You, no, go away, you’re not wanted.

Most recently, this was expressed in the most brutal way at Charlottesville, USA. Some people decided they did not want some other people around because they did not like their skin colour, sex, religion and culture. This is not just happening in Charlottesville. Across the world, we are seeing carbon copies of the same syndrome. One tribe of people wants to be the only butterflies around. And they only want one type of flower too.

Why this greed? Why this destructiveness? Why this urge to claim a monopoly? I think it’s about fear. Ironically, the ones seeking to dominate, usurp, and hoard are afraid they don’t have a place in the world, that other people don’t want them, that nobody loves them. So, they must assert a false aggression, forcing others to accept and love them.

There’s no need for this. There are enough flowers around, waiting with openness. There are many butterflies to drink the nectar and spread the pollen into a welcoming world. Life is big, with a place for everyone. The only onus on us is to recognize this, so we can go about life with sureness and joy. Like the butterfly and the flower, humming in tandem.

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How to survive chaos

The world is seething these days,
tumbling in all directions
in a hot, angry spill.

I wonder how to cope some days. I scroll over a few news nuggets and am sickened in my stomach.

And then I chance upon the equivalents of a deep, cleansing breath. A dog that wags his tail as our eyes meet. He shuffles up to me for an unabashed rub. Carnations, pink, white and red, which sit contentedly in a long bucket on the side of the road, keeping the flower-seller company. The diary of a girl called Anne Frank.

It is not all evil. There is good. I repeat this to myself as I remember Maya Angelou’s words. Still I rise.

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It’s a wonderful world

A few days ago, I wrote a little piece on Kerala and how it feels like I am walking in God’s own country (which is their state tag line, so apt). It got the most likes of any of my blogposts.

I’m not sure why.

It could be that my writing was so evocative. Or Kerala is a darling topic in the blog world. It could be many things. My hunch is that it was a reprieve from the nastiness that’s swirling and lashing about us.

The world feels unfriendly, more than ever. And it’s unrelenting. Bad news follows more bad news, it seems. New lows of human behaviour are replaced with even newer lows, which did not look to be possible. Is this what we’re doomed for?

No. Most emphatically, no.

Even in the darkness of night, stars sparkle. In the heaviest of storms, rainbows emerge. In the murkiest mud, a lotus blooms.

Amidst the bleakness of everything that is happening around us, Kerala might have felt like drops of rain on parched land. A reminder of what goodness looks like. Maybe an affirmation that life still makes sense in a small corner of the world.

For me, Kerala brought back what decency, civility and courtesy used to be. Most importantly, it reassured me that they are still around.

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Ode to Kerala

Kerala, God’s own country. That’s what the state billed as its tagline when it launched the Kerala tourism campaign many, many years ago. A better description of oneself I have yet to see.

Come to Kerala, any part of the state, and within minutes, you will sense that this just might be what God had in mind originally.

Everywhere, lush palm trees stand abreast of each other, in full numbers across the landscape. The green fronds carry erect, finely carved blades with assurance. Look up to the neck of any palm tree and you will see 20 or 30 coconuts cradled lovingly. Some are fully developed, about to drop while others are mere buds, tender and raw. Cocooned, they grow unhurriedly.

Or maybe it’s the plump yellow and red bananas, happily nestled with other fat compatriots on a banana stem, waiting patiently to be plucked and savoured for their untainted sweetness.

The clean beaches get kissed softly by playful sea waves, over and over. Birds titter, undrowned by the cacophony of crows. The crows are, in fact, strangely quiet. They feel less stressed, less competitive to the others to stake their place in this wide, generous world.

Everything and everyone has a place under the sun in Kerala. Nothing feels forced. People and Nature flow synchronously, at their own unhurried, assured pace. There is a quiet confidence that there is nowhere else to go, nothing else to be.

I feel myself relax like I haven’t been able to for months. I guess that’s what happens when you visit God’s own country.


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Rude, the new normal

Every day, I look around, astonished, at the amplitude of rudeness around me.

An auto rickshaw comes towards me, at me, on the wrong side of the road, and stares sullenly, audaciously. Voices rise at dissenting views, affronted by the simple divergence of opinions, indignant at having to explain themselves. Phones scrolled even as I talk to the now downward-looking face. Internet trolls, who don’t know me yet feel at ease to pounce and denounce with abandon.

These actions are rude, it’s important to call them out for what they are. What’s astonishing is the manner in which they have become an accepted part of the surroundings. “Ignore them,” someone tells me. The car behind me honks, urging me to skirt around the errant rickshaw and get on with life. “Don’t worry about it, that’s just how he is, that’s just how she is,” I’m counseled. “You’re better off to ignore it.”

Ignore it? Is that really the way to respond to this? I’m flabbergasted. How quickly we have loosened the strings of decency that bound us as civilized. We have lost sense of the norms that set us apart from animals in the pursuit of money, time, getting ahead, winning, whatever. It used to be that calling someone an animal was to insult him; I now hesitate to use this term as animals consistently seem to be the better lot to us.

Every day, the rude acts multiply. A thousand tiny cuts that are unnoticeable until I realize I’ve bled out my humanity. Then what?

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An act of defiance

I show up.

When the day goes wrong, and the urge sets in to burrow into the earth because I deem myself unworthy,

I show up.

When I stumble, over my own standards, against my better judgment,

I still show up.

At other times, I witness a bully and it becomes important to stand in solidarity. So you don’t feel alone, so you know there are others who love you,

I show up.

Some days, it demands nothing and on other days, it takes everything.

As the world spins crazier around me, I carry out a small and simple act of defiance,

I show up.

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The struggle with mindfulness

Hold the experience, I’m told. Stay with it, be in it.

I take my agitation in a fierce gaze, in a bid to stare it down. Don’t react. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly. If I don’t see it, I won’t explode. The bile rises. Steam gathers. My cheeks get hot. No, no, no, no, no.

I react.

Exhale. A split second of relief. That’s as long as it lasts.

And then, regret. Waves and waves of it roll forcefully over me. I shouldn’t have said those unkind words, I could have been more generous-spirited, he/she/it deserved compassion. The self-lashes sting, tears fill. I’m better than this. I’m more than that. All that sitting, all that reflection, destroyed in a flash of righteous anger.

Shantideva says, be still as a log. It rings through me. Yes, do nothing. When tempted to respond in condescending contempt. When feeling the itch to respond. When the wrong is so obviously asking to be righted.

Whatever it is, let it be. Fall into it, become it. Then there’s nothing to fight, no thing to wrestle down, no wrong, and no right.

Mindfulness. Leaving aside all that should be for all that is.

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