An ode to the dawn

The morning stillness comforts. Thoughts whittle away. The day’s cares are still a few hours out. For the most part, the phones are silent. The roads are enjoying some peace too.

Indeed the absence of all this noise allows us to perceive the morning’s essence better. The sun is beginning its majestic ascendency into the skies and the first brush of light bestows its grace on all of nature. The flowers raise their lovely faces to the sunlight and the beach sand opens its vaults revealing unlimited treasures. Here lies a simple sea shell, there ambles the magnificent tortoise, the thrifty crab hurries thither and the birds flutter away to glory. Sans the corn-on-the-cob sellers and the crowds, Nature’s bounty is being enjoyed by the natives. The enterprising fishermen are off in their boats with a song on their lips and a hope in their breast.

All of this is why heralding the dawn is so special. It gives one a panoramic view of what it means to be a human, to count our blessings and beautifully exist with no cares for a while. There’s a promise in the air and the comfort of nature’s embrace all around – now really, could one wish for more? Ah, perhaps a strong cup of filter coffee would make it even more perfect!

Song of the Rain

Its raining and the drops patter on the window. I smile in contentment, a hot brew keeping me company. At such times, the soul sings – and what better time than to savour Gibran’s celebration of rain?

SONG OF THE RAIN – KAHLIL GIBRAN

I am dotted silver threads dropped from heaven

By the gods. Nature then takes me, to adorn

Her fields and valleys.

I am beautiful pearls, plucked from the

Crown of Ishtar by the daughter of Dawn

To embellish the gardens.

When I cry the hills laugh;

When I humble myself the flowers rejoice;

When I bow, all things are elated.

The field and the cloud are lovers

And between them I am a messenger of mercy.

I quench the thirst of one;

I cure the ailment of the other.

The voice of thunder declares my arrival;

The rainbow announces my departure.

I am like earthly life, which begins at

The feet of the mad elements and ends

Under the upraised wings of death.

I emerge from the heard of the sea

Soar with the breeze. When I see a field in

Need, I descend and embrace the flowers and

The trees in a million little ways.

I touch gently at the windows with my

Soft fingers, and my announcement is a

Welcome song. All can hear, but only

The sensitive can understand.

The heat in the air gives birth to me,

But in turn I kill it,

As woman overcomes man with

The strength she takes from him.

I am the sigh of the sea;

The laughter of the field;

The tears of heaven.

So with love—

Sighs from the deep sea of affection;

Laughter from the colorful field of the spirit;

Tears from the endless heaven of memories.

Tradition, Nature and Technology – a delightful potpouri

Its one of those days – where nature, tradition and modernity come pleasantly together; and we involuntary let out a sign of contentment. These moments are few and should be cherished – not because they happen infrequently -, but because we have so little time to notice such wonder these days.

For starters, its the “Deepavali” weekend, the weekend that the whole of India rejoices in – with everyone wearing new clothes, every home brightly lit with flickering earthen lamps, neighbours actively exchanging sweets and a smile playing on everyone’s face. And add an India-Australia cricket match and you certainly have a full hand. Thats tradition.

Nature seems to agree all is well and showers her bounty – a steady stream of rain – upon the earth. A few kids trying to light some fireworks run hither-thither in search of jugaads to make the fireworks work while the old woman across the street looks up to the sky as she remembers a long-forgotten, care-free childhood – and smiles a toothless smile. Nature is in her element and all’s right with the world.

I sit on the balcony, the rain pattering on the windows and a kindle in my hand reading John Grisham’s latest thriller. The Mobile brings in personal greetings from once-best friends – now lost in the mists of memory – and nostalgia competes for attention with the best seller in my possession. The messages win round one – soon tragedies of old reappear as fond comedies (remember when that teacher caught you cheating on your paper!), and foibles of youth now transform into achievements of your youth. Technology just brought the world – and the past – a lot closer to me.

On this wonderful occasion as we wish everyone a great festive season, here’s a hope that Tradition, Nature and Technology all continue to play such symphonies in tandem, delighting us with the ensuing harmony. Or to be more precise, to give us the “presence of mind” to be able to notice more of these enchanting dances and “leave the cares of the world” alone for a while – at least until the end of the festive season. Amen to that!

Pongal – a day of celebration and reflection

Every ending gives birth to a new begining. Let’s welcome Pongal, the harvest thanksgiving festival.

Today we big adeau to winter and long nights.

We thank nature, man and god for the year past.

Our energies are renewed – as we welcome warmer, happier (hopefully!) times

Hold a second though, should we also not reflect for a minute on its relevance for us:

Our anscestors sowed grains and reaped a harvest. What did we sow, and what did we harvest?

Our anscestors lived in sync with a cyclical nature – and adapted to nature’s seasons. Winter went only to come the next year. Today, we live in a technology-fueled world with several “step” disruptions. Video tapes came and vanished, VCDs, DVDs, Blue ray….each comes and goes – but for ever – as its replacement takes center stage.

I typed my first blog on a PC at home, the next few on a laptop, then moved onto a tablet and this one on a phablet on the “go”. This is cool.

An impacted Ozone layer and El Nino, titanium wars, microwave hazards are uncool.

So technologies are cool, the way we use them may not quite be so. Time to turn back and ponder – what did we do last year, what did we harvest? And what do we look for this new year?

Christmas time

So we are alive and well! The Mayans’ it turns out were predicting quite something else ( loss of india’s cricketing dominance even on turning pitches home maybe?) and not the end of the world.

We get therefore to celebrate Christmas 2012 – and celebrations and sparkling conversations are holding center stage  around the world.

In this time of good will and peace (and good food), its kind of easy to think of our world as a delicious gift with a blue ribbon around it – and perhaps that’s the right way to do so.

For this festival seems to be inclusive and truly ancient – and has orgins tracing back to the sun god Mitra (by way of hailing  the return of the Sun post a dark winter) per my googling adventures. The misteltoe, christmas tree and other rituals too could possibly be traced back to the early roots of civilization (just do a search for “christmas day orgin” in google.com). So this christmas maybe we can say thanks to Jesus ( one of the most compassionate messiahs to land on earth) and also raise a toast to nature for giving us of her bountiful and heralding the rise of the sun after the long winter (also celebrated -albeit after a short winter – in southern India as pongal, the harvest festival).

Time to say Merry christmas now – and to wonder and celebrate the thoughtfulness and ingenuity of our elders in providing such festivals for us to partake in.

Eulogy time..

A good collegue, a friend passed away this morning. A gentle man devoured by a ravaging cancer. Over time, the disease took away his appetite,  his mobility, his stamina. It could of course do little about his smile, which continued to shine through – amidst  grimacing pain. It’s this smile, and his gentle habit that I know will inspire his family and friends forever. 

Death forces us to ponder on bigger themes.

On the fickleness of life and the futility of trying to caliberate the effectiveness of our minute lifetimes, foibles and stresses on the grand scale of evolution. What’s a hundred years (or less) matter in an evolutionary history of eons – our mountains fade away into molehills when seen in perspective. And should this insight not destress us as we understand that our life’s events are for the most part insignificant on a world scale?

It also encourages us to acknowledge the ancients wisdom in codifying a religion embracing concepts of immortality. When nature takes away a loved one from the reaches of our eye and touch, it is religion that assures us of the loved ones not being lost forever – only to our five senses. Sometimes we need to augment the scientist’s facts with religion’s truths – the mind needs the solace of the soul so to speak.

As I write this, I know its a normal day for nature – though a devastating day for ones experiencing the loss. Time and prayers will heal some, in the meantime its perhaps best to pack some goodness, a comforting shoulder and a thoughtful mind and offer these to the many who need it…..and maybe saying a hero’s story or two in praise of the departed one would help too.

Defining moments

Defining moments – you’ve got to think about them with a bit of nostalgia.

Picture our ancestral man walking in the woods completely at the mercy of nature. He worships her and hopes she will be kind to him. He prays, pleads and cherishes nature – for he knows this is her eternal playground and he is but a player who can make hay only when the sun shines.

And then one day, a nerdy one from his community comes up with a contraption which tilts the balance a little in his favor. He can now do more with less and he lays his achievement at the feet of his god. Ploughs, clubs (the animal beating kind not the trance inducing kind!) and fire are very early examples of such inventions. Man basked in glory with his invention and nature smiled in acknowledgement of his genius.

Over time, the machines take over and nature often gets displaced from the equation, indeed she has become fodder to the machines in several cases. Think about it – cars and phones have made distance irrelevant, air-conditioning and heaters have softened weather extremities and so on. The ozone layer, fossil fuels and precious metals are fast becoming endangered – but without doubt, the inventions they have enabled have improved material quality of life, saved numerous lives and put people on the moon.

To me, the second phase is always intriguing – the one where nature still ruled but man exhibited his brilliance and excelled. This man travelled where no man had gone before and could truly feel he had hit a home run (in the third phase, I suppose the machines could feel the same way too!). There are a few of the wonderful inventions from yesteryear we can experience even today – and when we do, we experience a bit of the joy that our very proud ancestor must have felt in those very early days.

The “Inland” letters: Think back a few hundred years. Man had to make long arduous journeys (or coax his traveler pigeons!) to communicate with his loved ones. It was only the fit and the adventurous that could make such journeys and a messenger could take with him but brief notes from the entire tribe. Just facts were shared – there wasn’t enough technology to be able to share emotions yet.

The age of the post office dawned then and allowed for low-cost, elaborate, emotional communication. Handcrafted letters to your loved ones and greetings to brighten up special occasions were the order of the day – a state of affairs that continued till the dawn of this century. People spent time choosing the type of paper (also the pen and the ink) and spent quality time composing letters that spoke volumes and were cherished by the receiver. Many from the “letter generation” have collections that they hold very dearly to this day.

If this seems like a cool thing, why not share a personalized (yes you could use your tablet too!) thoughtful message to a loved one today? How do we know its personalized – check the distribution list (it should be singular!), check the address and signature (it should not be auto signature) and ask yourself if the person concerned deserves a hand-written note (if he/she does you are bang on target).

Bicycles: The invention of the bicycle must have been a momentous moment for man who could suddenly travel twice or thrice the distance he could cover earlier in the same amount of time with ease. The bicycle still required him to pedal though (gears came much later!) and he couldn’t cycle on rough roads or in very bad weather. It wasn’t man vs machine vs nature, but rather a partnership that stretched the limits of man and machine and helped him do more with nature.

The bicycle even today brings in this feeling – almost mystical – of experiencing the fast paced world without sacrificing one’s humanness. You feel the road and its surface bumps (especially if you have one of those modern ones which don’t have suspensions!), you can see (and smell) the multi-colored hues on the vegetable seller’s stalls, sense the excitement in the old couple rushing to catch the bus home for dusshera and the prayers on the children’s lips hoping for a miracle (for the school to be declared a holiday!). You can also feel the stark indifference from the cars (and the big SUVs) which scream past, windows locked, music and mobiles on – they are there beside you on the road but the electronics (and machines) are a pied piper of our times – and have claimed these folks into their virtual world.

Now, here’s the thing – these reflections do not demand binary responses – you don’t need to replace your mercedes with a bicycle. You don’t need to replace sending hundreds of emails addressed to tons of people with personalized messages – you cannot do so nor would our relationship with most of the recipients be intimate enough to deserve a personalized message (just yet).

To complement our very busy life though, if could bring in a few moments where we get to experience some of these “defining and human” moments – our lives would be much richer. At these moments, we are truly alive with nature, machine and man in true equilibrium – and the symmetry does bring a smile to your face.