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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

Author Archives: Reflections

He held it, just like a pregnant woman bears her unborn child. He was pregnant with fear. He wasn’t sure what he was afraid of. Just certain about what he felt.

It was fear.

It was a familiar feeling. A certain hollowness and emptiness with an immobilising effect all over. Earlier it was overpowering, now it could be held and felt for what it was. Nevertheless, the desire to stop all other activity and give it the due attention it deserved was imminent. Like respecting an important guest visiting home.

He could feel it in his abdomen. As though someone had stabbed him with an invisible ice-knife that had dissolved into him and left the cold clammy feeling inside. Now that the deed was done, all he could do was one of two things.

Escape it or experience it.

As a child he had escaped it often. In a variety of ways. Eating, sleeping, doing something that would give temporary relief. Replace the cold feeling with a pleasurable warm sensation. Or numb the feeling by taking his attention elsewhere. A future hope. A manufactured story. At times he dimmed his awareness. Just as someone reduces the wick of a burning lamp, so that the light it disseminates is reduced. Other times he sought protection by getting someone to buy his story. Seek sympathy for his poor miserable self. He had adopted various strategies at different times, just to avoid feeling that cold claw that gripped his stomach, leaving him feeling inadequate, lonely and unworthy.

Over time he had begun to gradually look at it with curiosity. Examine what it was. What it did to him. What it felt like. Perhaps he got tired of escaping it. Perhaps he had dimmed himself for far too long. Perhaps he realized replacing a rotten sensation with a seductive one was not the solution. Perhaps it was time for him to experience it. Perhaps inspite of and because of all theses perhaps, this was how it was meant to be.

As he befriended his fear, he realized there were fears of all kinds. Like Ravana’s ten heads, the demon of Ramayana, in the Hindu mythological epic.

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of being an outsider. Fear of loneliness. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing. Fear of being unloved. Fear of being disliked. Fear of inadequacy.

All kinds of fears. And just like Ravana’s heads, every time a fear-head was cut, a new head would reappear. They reappeared again and again. Each accompanied with their peculiar fearsome sensations. Some parched the throat. Others numbed the mind. But invariably all hit the abdomen with that cold clammy empty hollow feeling. All he could do was accept what came his way. The emptiness. The coldness. The hollowness. Stop running away from feelings that he did not like. Perhaps the only way to kill this multi-headed monster called fear, was to go deep into what he felt, where he felt it. In his abdomen. Just like the way to  kill Ravana, was through shooting an arrow that would pierce his navel situated in the middle of his belly.

As he felt each feeling, they began to reveal themselves to him. Unravel their mysteries. Returning parts of him that fear had claimed long ago. Parts that he had alienated. Parts now seeking reconciliation. Slowly but surely, the parts of the jigsaw puzzle called Himself started finding their rightful place within him. Each fragment adding to complete the picture. A movement towards integration.

Would he ever be free of fear? Would all the parts ever be returned to him? Would he ever complete himself? Would the jigsaw puzzle of his own existence ever be solved?

He had no answer.

For now he had taken a vital step in his relationship with fear. He had stopped fearing fear. Stopped being ashamed of it. Not that there was anything to be proud either. Fear was what it was. Another sensation that the body produced. Yet it was something else. It was the messenger that announced the arrival of his own self. Orphaned parts of him returning home. Like prodigal children.

As he held his fear now, he felt it move inside him. Like an unborn child kicking in the womb. He was pregnant. With Himself. A disowned part of him was about to be reborn. Reclaimed. There was nothing to fear.

Not even the fear of fear.



The head throbbed.

A dull heavy fog enveloped it from inside. Just as a computer hangs by pressing too many keys at the same time, the mind dissolves into a dull grey mist when it begins to see a single situation from multiple perspectives. Nothing is what it seems. Yet everything seems to be a little of what seems. Like a pea pod. On the outside it seems like a singular green piece, simple and easy to make sense of, yet when one peels it open it reveals peas of different shapes and sizes inside. Each pea is real by itself, yet it does not constitute the entire picture. There are other peas exerting their own reality. People are like peas too. Each person living and talking his and her reality.

In the sea of multiple realities, what is real?

It is easy to generalize. Paint life with two colours. Black and white. The preferred colours of the binary mind. “Yes” or “No”. “Good” or “Bad. “Right” or “Wrong”. Yet when one dives deeper generalizations blur. Like pouring water over a beautiful landscape painting. The blue of the river spills into the brown of the mountains and the yellow of the sun dissolves into the green of the trees. One cannot say what is what anymore. The distinct landscape turns into abstract art. While abstract is a good for creative expression, it is not the most ideal state for making decisions or taking actions. The mind seeks black and white. While life offers multiple hues of dynamic subtle colours to choose from.

Can inaction can be action? Can choicelessness be a choice? Allowing life to paint the picture it wants to paint and not interfere in its creative (or destructive) process. Watch the painting happening outside and inside. On the inner walls of the psyche, using colourful brushstrokes of multiple thoughts and varied feelings. Some strokes impressing themselves with great intensity, others soft and gentle. Observing and experiencing each stroke carefully. Its colour, texture, thickness and fragrance. And when life has completed its picture it will let you know. Perhaps it will say “Done for now.” It will set down its paintbrush, lean back and have nothing more to say.

For now.

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The nerves on her hand were visible. Blue capillaries spread like tributaries of a river starting from the point where her hand was attached to the forearm and spreading across towards her wrinkled fingers. It was her right hand.

The Hand held stories to tell.

It was the hand she had used to steal sonth ke laddoo from where her mother had hid them, as a girl growing up in Ballupur, Dehradun, a town in North India. The hand had quivered while writing love letters to her would be husband at the age of sixteen, sitting in her school compound. She had used the hand to wear a heavy gold necklace, with multiple chains, gifted by her mother-in-law at her wedding. The hand she used to cover her eyes while blowing air into the chullah, while cooking rotis for the entire family,at their ancestral home in Saharanpur, at a time when piped cooking gas did not exist. The hand had held her first son Dinesh, not knowing then that he would suffer from polio and die at the age of sixteen. The hand had cooked her husband’s tiffin, as he left home to fulfill his duty as a guard on a train, during the time the British ruled India. She had clutched the bed-sheet with that hand, from the pain she experienced, every time she gave birth; another three children, two boys and a girl. She had used the hand to pack their luggage, as the family moved from Saharanpur, to Kalyan to Mumbai, one railway quarter to another, as her husband was promoted in his railway job. The hand had bathed her first grandson, her daughter’s son and conducted the pooja at his naming ceremony. The hand had waved goodbye to her elder son as he left from the airport, to Muscat for his first foreign job posting. The hand that cooked all day long in the kitchen and maintained the house, as she oversaw the numerous relatives and guests come and go, some stay for as long as months. The hand she had lifted to bless her daughter-in-law as she bent down to touch her feet, with whom she would share a bitter-sweet relationship in time to come. The hand she used to clutch a walking stick as she developed arthritis in her knees as the years went by. When her younger son died, the hand had wiped tears that seemed to flow as though a dam had broken and there was no possibility of stopping. The hand had wiped the pictures of Lord Ram, Sita and Hanuman, sitting amongst other Gods and Goddesses in her pooja room, everyday. The hand she used to pour water over her tulsi plant in the balcony and made balls of atta to feed the crows in the kitchen window. The hand with which she touched her husband’s feet at the age of ninety, during their last Karvachauth together and prayed for his long life. The hand that was clasped to the other, praying for forgiveness, for any mistakes done, as her husband lay lifeless after a cardiac arrest, dressed in white, about to undertake his last journey.

He held The Hand.

It felt soft weak and lonely. It seemed tired. It had crossed the river of life. It had seen births and deaths. It had sought joy and felt bitterness. It had hurt and had been hurt. Fleeting pleasures, memorable disappointments, never-ending expectations, rigid control, fixed norms, mental illusions, emotional heart breaks, abstract love, highlighted achievements, unmet dreams.  The Hand contained all of it. Memories of a lifetime. Now, not knowing what lay ahead.

He looked at his own hand clasping hers. It had it’s own stories to tell. Life stories. Like any other Human Hand. Yet there was something different between her hand and his. There was an anticipation in his hand. An anticipation of what the future would bring. It was missing in her hand. As though a vital life ingredient that had exhausted its supply. One day perhaps his hand would be like hers. Exhausted. Awaiting the unknown. Soft weak lonely.

For now his hand held hers. Listened to it’s stories. It was not a Hand. It was Life telling its story.

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He had been thinking about The City for a while. Living in it. Moving around it. Using the arterial roads that criss-crossed its length and breadth. At times when he was returning by plane back to the city at night he could see the traffic like an army of ants, moving like bight yellow dots across these arteries, much like blood flowing in the veins of the human body. Soon he would become one of them. A dot occupying the city. Get consumed by its energy. Swept by its pace. Seeking his dreams. Fulfilling his desires. Watchful to pain. Managing his feelings. Pretty much what everyone else did.

The vehicles honked. A simple beep. A longer impatient beeeeeeeeeep. A screeching kreeeeeeeeeee. A louder no-nonsense POMP. Cars, bikes, tempos, buses, auto rickshaws all jostling for space and movement. Honking at the pedestrians for occupying roads that rightfully belonged to round tyre-d creatures.  Man fighting for space in the city of his own creation. Who created the city? How did it come about? The towering buildings, the looming bridges, the hanging sky-walks, the parallel rails, the spinal highways, the dark alleys, the criss-crossing by-lanes, the colourful shops, the swanky offices, the well manicured parks, the crowded promenades. Who built them? What was there before all this was built?

One early Sunday morning he runs on the beach. As sea of plastic and garbage. He dodges the plastic to put his Addidas adorned foot on the sand. A tough task. It seems like he is playing a game of hop-skip-jump avoiding the white plastic. Like a shroud  covering the sand, signalling its death. The beach is crowded by people. A plump lady dressed in a yellow salwar kameez, walking her white, fluffy Pomeranian. She is wearing sports shoes walking briskly. Her face is ruddy with the exertion. A girls football team is practising at a distance. A large man in a white T-shirt and blue track pants is standing near them and shouting instructions about passing the ball to the center. A group of runners with similar white and red T-shirts are running together trying to keep pace with each other. A garbage van is making its way slowly across the beach. The brown uniformed municipal staff prod the plastic and garbage with metal-pointed sticks collecting them in pile before depositing it in the van. As the van makes its way across the beach it leaves a trail of visible sand, from where the garbage has been cleared.

Flowing red-hot coals. Not knowing if they are coming or going. As though frozen in time. Red hot, yet frozen.  Like a picture hanging on newly painted cream wall. Intense-passionate-vibrant-red framed in black and white. Docile, domesticated and sophisticated. Appreciated, complimented and arrested. The City of Dreams. Built with bricks of desire and the cements of passion. Imprisoning its inhabitants under tons of concrete. Gasping for air, for expression, for rest, for love. A lonely creature. An assembly line. A mass production. Heaving, breathing, sputtering. Fed on desire. The desire to become. Not be.

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The fuzziness. A vague mental cloud cover. Sitting in the head.  Not doing anything, just sitting. Occupying space, like a rain cloud covering the once bright blue sky. He watches it from a distance. How far? About five feet or could be five billion miles. How does one measure the self, watching the self? It is not so much of a watching, but more of a containment. As though the cloud cover is contained in a larger space. Like a 3D image paying on a blank white screen. Except that the screen is not a two dimensional flat object, but a hologram. A huge hollow space that contains all. How big is this hollowness? Is it contained in another hollow?

No answers come.

Does this makes sense? Does it need to? For whom? Is writing an expression for the writer or does he have an obligation for the reader to understand? Most of his life he spent trying to understand and be understood, without much success. Trying hard to measure up. To achieve according to the parameters of success defined and approved by others. To please an imaginary audience sitting inside his head. Judging, approving, condemning. A tiring business.

Like art why can’t writing be abstract he wonders? Why are words supposed to make sense? To arranged in a logical sequence that makes sense to the reader. What is sense?

No answers come.

The mental fuzziness withdraws somewhat, like a receding hairline of a balding man. What is sense, some answers come, like a picture revealing itself slowly, but not clear enough to make sense. He waits. He observes what is emerging. Without an intent. He waits………………….Nothing comes. Only a dull drowsiness in his eyes, making him want to lie down and embrace the oblivious to the world state. Suddenly a point of pain appears on his back, left upper side. It disappears as soon as it comes, like a twittering sparrow alighting on a balcony ledge on its way to another destination. He wonders if it was a travelling pain moving from one human to another. Why would pain travel he wonders?

No answers come.

Memories of his childhood filter in. Writing English essays. Eagerly awaiting the highest marks in class from his English teacher Mr. Massey. Writing to fit in. Writing to make sense. Writing to compete. Writing to be the best. It was the sensible thing to do. It made sense. Over the years he discovered how sense killed sensitivity. Like a delicate tender bud, trampled under the heavy boots of conformity. Tenderness had no place in human education. It cannot be measured. He could not qualify in it. It could not be employed in factories to produce goods. It could not feed the hungry? Neither could it fight wars. It did not make sense. Yet it never left him, no matter how hard he tried to strip himself of it. Like quickly wanting to get rid of a white piece of clothing in a community that wore and rewarded only black. He did not want to be the ugly tender duckling. He wanted to be one of them. One with them. Even at the cost of getting rid of what was intrinsically his. Why did he do that?

No answers come.

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The strain in the neck. The kind of feeling you get from sitting in a moving jumping bobbing vehicle for long. Not a shooting pain, just a dull heavy feeling, as though the neck is expressing it’s discomfort at holding the head in for long.

The neck is an interesting organ. It connects the head to the rest of the body. A bridge between me and the rest of me. Almost missed among the more renowned celebrity organs. The head and the heart.

Parts of me.

Neck, head, heart, legs, hands, chest, shoulders, back. Joined to each other by some universal design, an unknown hand. Joined? Is there a line that divides the hand from the shoulder or the neck from the head. Is there a point that signals the end of one and the start of another. Like a toll post announcing the start of a new territory and the end of another.

How are these divisions made? Divisions of land and divisions of me. Cutting, slicing, chopping the world into smaller parts. Giving names, ownership and title to earth, land, water and people.

What about me?

How many of me exist?

The angry me. The forgiving me. The loving me. The hurt me. The righteous me. The charitable me. The scared me. The courageous me. The greedy me. The giving me. The sensitive me. The rejected me. The judging me. The participating me. The indifferent me. The excited me. The bored me. The difficult me. The simple me. The calculating me. The straightforward me.

I could fill a stadium with parts of me. Yet they reside in one single body. Jostling for space and expression. Contradicting and fighting with each other. Like children shouting in a classroom without a teacher.

Who is the real me?

What name do I give a flowing river, that never repeats an experience. Where every drop is unique and fresh. Until it meets my verbal eye and I contaminate it with words. Reduce the mystery of my existence into labelled containers. To be analyzed and sorted in some meaningful way to define me and the purpose of my existence.

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The silence was audible. It could be felt. It felt vast. Like a universal ball of space with no boundaries. Containing within it everything. The people, the noises, the movement – outside and within. It contained me. Or was it the idea of me?

Large grey streaks of cotton gradually moved across the sky. It was neither light nor dark. A dull grey cloudiness pervaded signaling the monsoon. The palm leaves swayed in the breeze. It seemed it would rain, yet it had seemed that way for most of the afternoon. And it was evening now. A small black winged figure floated in the distance. It seemed like a crow, yet one could not make out from that distance. Not that it mattered. By now the clouds had changed shape. Not that they had any particular shape a while back. Floating moving masses drifting with no particular intent or destination.

The silence was audible. The only noise present was the occasional twitter of the invisible sparrow. Gentle almost not there. It highlighted the large looming silence, just as a small black dot creates greater awareness of the blank white canvas on which it is placed.

“How does one write about silence?” He thought. Or did the thought appear out of the silence. “Am I the thought or am I the silence?” came another thought. Was he inquiring into himself or was the silence playing games with him. He felt the cold air on his bare feet,   a reminder that he existed. Atleast his feet did. “What if I didn’t have feet would I still exist?” He thought, almost from his cold exposed feet. There was no answer. Just the silence. Still and active.

The clouds had drifted away, atleast most of them. Just a few remained movingly slowly trying to catch up with their faster cousins. The backdrop of the sky was far more visible now.

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