Thursday, 28 July 2016

Dealing With Death

I lost my dad when I was fifteen. He died in a freak accident that involved no other vehicle but his own motorbike, which, according to scant witnesses, skid on a slippery road and that was that. A most unremarkable way to go.

There was nobody to blame. There was no seeking of justice, no way to shift the blame and find some solace in anger, however misdirected.

I never saw my dad dead. He died in a state far, far away and because of circumstances entirely out of our control, his kids never got to attend his funeral. What's worse, we found out about his demise a week after his death, because our mother insisted on being physically present when the news was broken to us. Everybody else knew - my school, all my classmates, the coaching class I was attending, our neighbours, his office colleagues, the friends of the family and other far flung family members all over the country knew. But his children, they did not find out until a week later.

I have never said this to anybody but I seethed quietly about this. Part of my brain knew that if I were a mother, I'd want to be near my children when news this catastrophic was broken to them. But another part of me was incensed that the entire world knew except for the two most important people in his life after our mother. I never gave any vent to this feeling, I never blamed anybody openly, and I recognised that more than one adult had been involved in the making of this decision - grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.

It's taken me forever to imagine dad dead. Even now, once in a while, I imagine what it would be like, if he came back, he'd be appalled at Honey Singh, that I spent 60K on a laptop, that I wear short skirts and red lip colour, that I own a smartphone worth 30k. That smartphones exist. That video conferencing, which was a remote concept we had discussed once in 1996, is now the norm.

I swing between anger that he died, that he could let go so easily, that he did not fight with every ounce of will in his body to remain, to stay, for us, for me. And of course, hopeless acceptance that he never truly will know that his daughter hates driving and still uses public transport. That she feels terrible about that time when she fought with him over maths and when he tried to make up later by asking if I will drive him around in my car when I grow up, I said no. And I wonder if that's why I never bother driving on my own.

Soon after dad, I lost my grandfather, and then recently, I lost three of my favourite uncles in very quick succession.

It has been a difficult few years as far as coping with death is concerned.

One thing that stood out among almost all the deaths that have happened is this: I never saw a dead body. Not that I did not want to, or was afraid to. I was perfectly open to the idea of attending a funeral, saying my goodbyes, but somehow, every single time, I landed myself in circumstances that entirely prevented this from happening. Most of these happened because my family did not think it important that I should get to say my goodbye or felt I was too fragile to handle it.

In May, when I lost my uncle to a heart attack and a drawn out period of surgeries and being in the ICU, I promised myself I would not let him go without saying my goodbye. I cancelled everything, I packed up and I went up to the hospital in a different city. I saw, for the first time, the cold, dead, lifeless body of somebody I dearly loved. I saw how much they were the person I loved and yet, not anymore the person I loved. I caught myself saying "get up, get up, I don't want you to go" under my breath several times. I allowed myself, through this whole process, to feel tired, to feel hungry, to hold hands of those he left behind and tell them that they are not alone, never alone.

I saw them carry the body away. I attended a funeral. I said my goodbyes.

And somewhere inside of me, something shifted. I could hold this grief lightly. It felt a lot easier to accept death when you have had the chance to say goodbye. You still wake up shocked that this person is gone, they are not a call away, you will never hear their voice again, you will never look into their eyes, you will share no new history, no new memory. But you can cope, you can get up, you can put food in your mouth and you can allow yourself to go on living.

We underestimate goodbyes very greatly. We take them for granted, we let them slide, we slip away and escape but no, goodbyes are closure. They may be frayed and patchy and tear-streaked but they are still closure of one sort. And there is no pain med as powerful as closure. Death is the largest closure we know as human beings, without effort, without choosing.

I wish I had had the chance to say my goodbyes to my grandmother, grandfather, my father, my two uncles. I wish I had seen them one last time.

Grab your chance to say goodbye. They say it helps that you will always remember your loved ones laughing, alive, life in their eyes. Yes. But you will be able to do that without remorse and anger if you have also seen what they left behind, what you one day will, too.

I cannot blame my family for what they did to me. But if you have found death of loved ones crippling, the sort of burden that breaks your spirit and body down, try facing it. It helped me. It may help you too.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Glorious Facade of Blame Transference

These days, one thing has become very evident to me. As a species, mankind is prone to this very short sighted, self damaging and fatalistic problem of blame transference. And it's done smoothly, gloriously, a face so elaborate that you will fall straight for it. It makes you believe, for decades at a time, that the problem lies outside.

Here are a few examples of blame transference:

- The glass broke.
VS
- I broke the glass.

- He hurt me, all men are horrible.
VS
- I let myself get hurt, I must work on positive preservation skills that make me stronger/more flexible without branding and alienating half the human population.

- She is so immature.
VS
- She is learning, hopefully, she will get there.

- Religion is the root of all evil.
VS
- what some people have turned religion into is so evil.

- She was so mean to me, she abused me all my life, and so I have a passport to spewing ill about her for the rest of my life.
VS
- She was mean to me, she abused me but I am learning to protect myself now and I will focus attention on what nourishes me for the rest of my life.

- This country is so racist.
VS
- There are instances of racism here but there's also good stuff happening. Maybe I can be part of the solution.

- This country is going to the dogs.
VS
- There are problems in this country but there's also good stuff happening. Maybe I can be part of the solution.

When you transfer blame, you make a generic, sweeping statement where the blame rests with a grey, shifting mass of ideas or concepts or groups that takes attention away from you. It also takes away responsibility. Along with the loss of responsibility comes the loss of power. You end up looking like a screaming, helpless human being who has been cornered into tolerating something offensive.

Which is not the case. It is hardly, if ever, the case.

Let's be a little careful with this thought process. Let's compose our sentences carefully. Let's think about the voices we are seeking in. And if you can use your voice to bring positive thoughts, words, deeds, then make it heard. Otherwise, silence has always been golden.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Analogy Of Pain

Writing after long. Making no excuses.

Yesterday, I heard the Master give an analogy of pain to an audience. He was in Russia and he guided the world's largest online meditation webcast. They say 140 countries participated. And right after the short ten minute meditation, he said this about pain and suffering - not quite in that exact same language but it's the essence:

You are magnanimous, your consciousness is meant for bigger things, larger perspectives. So when you try to bring it down to small things and a limited perspective, it causes you suffering. Much like a human being trying to squeeze through the vents instead of using the door.

It made sense.

He also said, for the very first time, that meditation will give you not just a strong body and mind but also make you self-reliant. This is vital to me. I have always looked for approval and guidance, support and consolation from my mother. Depended on it, in fact. Over the last one year, as she withdrew it, I have learnt to let go of my need for those things. I am not saying I am completely there but I know, now, that I cannot keep asking for those things. This whole process over a year and a half has made me see, finally, that I need to first look to myself, to my Master, for guidance, support, learning.

I cannot fixate on one person when I have an entire universe to gather my lessons from - use the door, not a vent or a cat flap.

PS: I am going to be using this blog to record learnings for myself, much like I use my food blog to record recipes and techniques for myself.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Going Under The Knife

I had my LASIK last Sunday. 28th June. I had consciously not done any research on it. I have been visiting a clinic for the last eleven years now for all my eye care needs and they have always been so good, I just implicitly trusted them.

It made me think of how there are very few things I implicitly trusted. An eye clinic happens to be one of them. And that's okay. They were, after all, going to cut through my cornea. I trusted my doctor, didn't ask who would operate on me, was told I'd have the best and that it would be alright. I trusted that. I did no background reading. I went forth like a child that had been told by a parent that everything would be okay.

And everything was.

I had a doctor from heaven. He made me internalise consent, resolve realism. He also offered to sing to me in case it got to disorienting. I politely refused, having no idea what he must sound like. He walked me through the whole process, displayed an acute sense of why this surgery was vital to me. It was not a simple LASIK like most people undergo. It had a certain complication which doubled the time I spent under the laser beam and also effectively doubled my recovery time. I don't remember the last time I was so tangibly taken care of by another han being.

This doc is my new hero. I'll probably never see him again and that's okay. His assistant doctor was an equal gem. P noted how they all seemed evolved and surreal. Almost unreal. Not complaining. A bit of surreal evolution is just what I needed. And man, was I glad I did not research h the process. While the procedure remains painless as it is carried out, the things you perceive are deeply disorienting and I am fairly sure had I known what I'd experience, I might have chickened out. And it was not even painful. It was just perceived...shock, I'd say.

Anyway. I am recovering. It's been four days and I am apparently healing fast. The only thing I have started using is the phone on level 1 brightness. I still cannot stand reading & the television. I also bought the most expensive UV protected sunglass I can afford because it will help me heal faster over the next several weeks.

Lots has happened that I have not recorded on this blog but I am sure I can do a few trips down memory lane posts to cover it all.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Being Ridiculously Lucky

Several holy texts will tell you that you must be extremely lucky, practically swimming in divine grace to meet your master while He is still alive. He will not show you the path, He will not walk your way for you but He will help you uncover what you have forgotten about yourself. He will basically come polish your mirror so you can gaze into who you are.

And we love these words while they remain words, no more. Should they unfold in real life, we will doubt the hell out of our situation, all good words and commandments forgotten.

We like our grace coming from masters posthumously, after all, don't we? Who trusts people these days anyway? We won't let strange people smile at us without doubting their motives, a master is surely a far cry! Imagine a real life Donald Shimoda. And he may not even fit your definition of a master in the conventional sense. Or he may be as conventional as can possibly be, crushing your hipster expectations. Sorry, no plane flying. But maybe rudraksh mala wielding. Then what?

A master has zilch to gain from turning you into a devotee. And a master need not even fit your idea of what a master should be to flip your life around. Because remember how Eklavya mastered his art? We think very little of Dronacharya as a master - terrible guy. And yet, if it were not for him, would we have known that supreme archer at all?

I have known my master for fifteen years now. And it's taken me fifteen years to ask him how I can be of use to him. And it's taken fifteen years for me to hear a real, direct answer on what could possibly lie ahead of me should I choose to walk down that path. And of course, I have already chosen. You do not ask "how can I be useful to you?" with total surrender unless you have already readied yourself to be hauled into a life that you cannot plan for.

That's the thing about plans; they do not factor in the unexpected. And masters are ridiculously unexpected. Being ridiculously lucky to have a living master basically says in fine print that you are now open to the absolute unexpectedness of life and learning.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Things I Have Learnt

I have recently been told by somebody who I deem is important to me that I am as tarnished as everybody else. It was meant as an insult. As an attack. It was meant as a reminder that I am fallible. I am happy to report that I have long since accepted my fallibility as a human being, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a girlfriend, a friend, and every other role one can think of. I have even been a most disappointing audience once, when I fell asleep and may have snored a little during a grand musical performance everybody else seemed to be enjoying. I have been a disappointing trainee on more than one occasion, when I failed to lift a weight my trainer felt I could lift.

I am comfortable with disappointing people now. Not because I am a disappointment. But because I have long since accepted that I cannot be perfect, I do not want to be perfect. I am happy to hobble along my way through life, making my mistakes and figuring out my own learnings. It is so much better to do that than borrowing learnings.

Borrowing learnings is a dangerous job. You read stuff, you hear stuff and you then start quoting that stuff. Call it self help, spirituality, psychoanalysis, whatever. But soon enough, you start believing you know the stuff you perceived. Nope.

Knowing comes from living through experiences. Or knowing comes from complete empathy and faith. Complete empathy that if a movie can scare the pants off somebody else, it could do that to you too, and then deciding if you want your pants scared off you. Is that a good example? Perhaps not. Complete empathy that if people say they feel mildly sick after being force-fed curd rice, they are probably not lying, and instantly offering them a steaming hot plate of Medu Vadas. Complete faith that sticking your hand in fire will give you a horrid burn, even if you have never done it before. Learning from complete empathy and complete faith saves us a lot of time. For instance, you need not know the exact principles of how electricity works for the fan to start rotating when you switch it on.

Everything else is borrowed. Borrowed learning is pointless because it creates this illusion that you know, deep inside, when actually, all you know is the definition.

All I have learnt on my own is that I must take care of my body, and my body feels good when my mind is at peace. I know that when my mind is at peace, I am a more effective, productive, happy person. I know the people I love and who love me back, irrespective of my journeys and the milestones on it.

I know that I must get enough sleep, that I love good music, that silence is precious. I know that people just want to be heard. Not everybody is looking for a solution. I have learnt it's easy to be nice. I have learnt to be happy at silly things. I have learnt that I cannot base my life on feelings because they change; I therefore stick to my commitments. I have learnt that I do not have to make commitments just because I am expected to do so.

I have learnt that doing things you want to do is one way to be at peace inside. I have learnt that if you wait for universal agreement, you will be waiting an eternity. I have learnt that sometimes, the universe is one person.

I have learnt that death is coming for me, sooner or later. I have learnt that the idea of never seeing a loved one again is the sort of wound that never closes, whether you pick at the scabs or not.

I have often felt ridiculously lucky.

I know that a good cry helps as much as a hearty laugh.

I know no more. And dear universe, everything you throw at me, I shall tackle with the knowledge I have learnt. I am hopeless at using borrowed knowledge, I have learnt this too. Mostly, dear self, just focus on being at peace with how you live your life. I am not the authority on this but it seems to me that that sums it up.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Today.

I want to write about today. I will try to not be too verbose, as is my tendency. Mostly because I have no time, I have 19 assignments to look through and prep for an early morning. I need to get this out of my system.

See what I mean? I love being verbose, going into details that have no connection to what I am about to write down here.

I woke up ridiculously early of my own accord, suffocating. I realised the man had forgotten to keep a window open. I got up, drenched in my own perspiration. I could not go back to sleep for forty five minutes. I looked through Twitter and thumbed through Facebook. I thought about dad. I thought about calling mom (she is talking to me again, although on a need to converse basis - it's still an improvement) to tell her how I had woken with a fresh surge of sorrow over his death, fifteen years later, after being convinced that I was over his passing.

You never get over a loved one's passing. You just learn to cope with it.

I thought about dad. I thought about how I often felt that if he came back, I'd adjust badly to him. I am no longer an entity controlled by a parent and a parent's set of rules. And he'd adjust badly to who I have become. But today, I thought, what if he changed. What if, hanging pointlessly around in his spirit body had taught him a few things and what if he came back and he was awesome and loved who I had become, let mom be who she is now? What if?

Those are pointless "what ifs".

I will never know. I cried myself to sleep. I wept into the man's shoulder while he slept and decided to tell him it was perspiration - it was, after all, his fault I had woken up in the first place.

There is no peace. There is no justification. No conclusion that ties in the story nicely at the end. Nothing at all.

The man isn't keeping too well. It makes me very scared when he is unwell. I get crabby, angry, task masterish. Anybody else and I would care for them like a nurse if they were sick but if it's him, I lose my balance. I worry 24/7, it's like a niggling thing at the back of my mind and taints everything I do and think until he gets better. I took a huge decision to let him be at home and sleep it out while I went out to meet a few friends over lunch.

I didn't want to do it. But I knew it was precisely what I had to if I wanted the man to stop feeling bad about falling sick and keep myself from worrying in vain.

I met some very good friends. It was ridiculously hot. We had fun. I was supremely relieved to get home. I usually do public transport, jumping buses, trains, rickshaws - today, I just gave up and booked a cab and took a rik all the way back home. Paid 200 bucks for it, a fare I have never paid in my entire life for a rickshaw ride, but I was having a weird-horrid-good day. Anything could happen.

The icing on the horrid part of my day came in the evening, a few hours ago, when a pal and work associate called to talk about a project. During our conversation, said person hinted at how a project we were meant to be working on together never quite took off because apparently, "you are content staying at home". I was stumped. People do not know what I do and that is okay. I may be at home but I have the most insane work schedule a work from home person can ever have. I make money. I pay my own bills. I do not sit at home and vegetate. Even if I did, and I think its okay to vegetate, big deal...even if I did, it'd be nice if people checked their facts before taking that sort of tone. Hell, ask me if you cannot find out on your own, I will oblige very willingly.

I do not need to prove my productivity to anybody. I am what I am and I am proud of where I am because I got here on my own, nobody pulled strings for me. It just felt...wrong, coming from somebody who I considered a close pal.

I am exhausted.

I also took a whole branch of curry leaves from my plant just now, which is, by the way, growing like it's on some sort of illegal hormone. It felt horrid to pluck the branch. In the night, that too, while it's supposed to be fast asleep. I felt like I chopped off the limb of a sleeping baby.

I feel simultaneously silly and...that's it. Just thought I'd write it down, get it out of my system.

BTW, for whoever cares to know, I started writing on medium.com about fitness. It's a clean platform and I do not have to hassle about formats. I am glad Ramya introduced me to it.