Radha Kalyanam A Musical Event 2018| My Take

flute and feather

I came to know about Radha Kalyanam from my mother. She would reminiscence about incidents from her life. One of her past incidents was about her youngest sister’s interest in the Radha Kalyanam event more out of necessity than any spiritual import. She attended the event and participated in getting alms from the brahmin community, dancing around in the celebratory wooden press, and free meals at the end of the event. So, Radha Kalyanam was a reference that I got from my mother and I always thought of my aunt who passed away at a very young age.

I never really understood about Radha Kalyanam, since it was not my topic of interest. Naturally, I never could relate to the program format that my mother explained to me. But there were moments when I could imagine my youngest aunt jumping around the Ural or Wooden press pounding stick and finding whatever connection that she found in it.

Radha Kalyanam brought back sad notes for me and surprisingly, I attended the Radha Kalyanam for about most part on 29th and 30th December 2018. I feel that being a semi-passive audience could be a little hard on one. I definitely feel, that it the hardest to sit it out on a hard cold floor covered with a thin carpet and the AC in full blast. Apart from a bad back and butt after the program, I was left with a feeling that I really don’t know anything about Jayadevar’s “Gita Govinda” work.

My neighbor’s family has been holding this function during Marghazi Tamil month for the past three years. It usually coincides with the first day of the new year. Marghazi falls between mid-December to mid-January. Interesting thing is that Chennai climate is pretty cold in this month compared to the other months in the Tamil Calendar.

The past years, I had just quickly visited for a few moments and listened in from the comforts of my home since their function happened on their terrace. This year they had booked a hall for this function. I had no clue about the format of the program until this year and would always wonder why the singer was not doing a good job. I enjoy solo more than group singing. The only time I am fascinated by the group singing is when they have practiced a lot as a choir. The group singing is all about coordination and mellifluous voices that appear as a single unit.

This Marghazi of 2018 I felt an interesting need to attend this program and understand its import. So even when I did get the invite, I was thinking of just giving a quick visit and leave after taking tambulam. But somehow during my research on Andal’s work Thiruppavai, I came across a connecting reference to the rasaleela of Vrindavan and Andal’s call for Pavai Fasting.

The event format was not clear until I read a little more about the source work and the significance of the Radha Kalyanam. As an aftermath of attending the event, I had a hard time to forget Radha. The principal human Atmas are represented by Radha and gopikas who become unified with Krishna consciousness.

Around the second week of the new year, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery that was making my mind so confused. Radha and Krishna’s relationship has a mystical quality to it which by the way, does not fall under the common human definition of love. But the audience can relate to the lower level resonance of love and the affection of human qualities and its human plane references.

So during my research of Radha Kalyanam, I found the following sites very informative:

So, I decided to get back to the main text written by Jayadevar in the “Gita Govind”. The Tamil version of the Astapathi of Jayadevar’s poetry is sung with great fervor of devotion. The translation of the Astapathi provided an incline into the poetic structure of the Gita Govind’s 24 verses of 8 couplets in a pastoral lyrical ballad.

There is a huge difference in the format of Thiruppavai and Gita Govind. Both speak of pastoral scenic places and settings. In the expression of love there lies the difference. The poetry is definitely conservative in the case of Andal’s Thiruppavai compared to the Astapathis. The view of the exact transliteration of the poetry may not provide a clear understanding of the central theme if the context is not fixed at the beginning.

Out of context, the Astapathi sounds very erotic since the poetic format is structured in such a way that it brings out pastoral love of Nayika and Nayak. It parallels the universal sought spiritual goal for each individual atma to get unified with the supreme Paramatma. This time Radha Kalyanam was interesting to follow and observe the various elements of the event. I am yet to find the Supreme Krishna consciousness.

In that I believe, Andal’s Nachiar Tirumozhi is closer to the Astapathi, yet Andal is very conservative in her expression. This conservative expression is essentially very south based poetry rules. Given that Andal’s exposure to various literary works at that time would have been provided by her adopted Father Periazhwar. Given that she was educated and learned to write a pastoral poem on her ishat devatha first as a communal prayer event and later as a personal one-on-one conversation leading to individual aspiration of sainthood. In that I liked the poetic quality of both the poets for different reasons. Though the pastoral quality of Gita Govind is sublime experience for me.

 

Image Source: Timelines.com

Antal’s Love for the Mãl

Book Title: Antal and Her Path of Love: Poems of a Woman Saint from South India

Author: Vidya Dehejia

Translation of:  Andal’s Thiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumozhi

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Translator:

Vidya Dehejia wears multiple caps in her profession as a passionate art historian. Much like a detailed investigator, Vidya probes deep into the past and pulls out the stories behind artifacts and monuments clearly listing the era of progress in Art history and social settings of the past.

Vidya Dehejia’s professional website provides interesting information about all her interest areas. She is Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian and South Asian Art at Columbia University. and visiting professor to the Mario Miranda Visiting Research Professorship at the Goa University.

Her Exhibition show her in-depth knowledge of the South Asian Art History. She is also a Padma Bhushan awardee, whose passion for the Art world sparkles in every one of her books published so far.

In this book, she has picked the work of the Woman Saint Antal and her center-piece theme of her poems is Krishna one of Vishnu’s ten incarnation. The Southern milieu works of the Alwars are great inspiration for sustaining the growth of Vaishnavite religion.

Vidya has done a clean translation and has been very detailed to a ‘T’ about various aspects of the poems. The translation is clean and the author had done a wonderful job of looking at the text from various perspectives, thus providing a rounded view of the age and time.

Poems in a Nutshell:

Antal is one of the 12 Alwars and the only woman alwar who is recognized and worshipped in the Temples of Srivaishanava Hindu religion. Her work in praise of the Lord Vishnu is used as text to churn the spirit of worship from within to any who reads or recites her poems.

Antal has written two poems, Thiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumozhi. The shorter poem Thiruppavai, consisting of 30 verses, is popular and is recited during the month of Marghzi (Period: between Mid-Dec-Mid-Jan) in the Srivaishanava temples even today.

Both the poems are focused on the central theme, the love of Mãl or Vishnu or Krishna. Andal pours forth her love for Krishna in her two works with such passion that the enthusiasm of her love gets transferred into the hearer of the pasuram or verses.

Between the two works Thiruppavai is mellower than the Nacciyar Tirumozhi, which is an outcry of a young maid longing for her lover. The vastness of the poem’s angle can be seen in the approach that Antal had on the verses that she rendered in praise of the lord Vishnu.

Nacciyar Tirumozhi is more erotic and speaks of a lamenting lover grievance to be with her love. But the second work Antal is more herself and unrestricted. Where Thiruppavai is restrictive to proprietary behavior in a social settings, the Nacciyar Tirumozhi breaks those boundaries. Her second work is more a personal and private conversation between her and her lover Mãl.

Vidya does a beautiful work of bringing out the huge difference in the works and Antal cannot be better represented textually. The translated text flows beautifully and there is an unique understanding of the poetess which brings out her inherent fragrance of spirituality.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I liked the way the words flowed into each other. The translator has done a wonderful work of almost replicating the musical quality from the source language to targeted language of translation, English. Even though both the languages have a huge difference; but Vidya had done justice to both the languages.

There were places where the flavors of South Indian scenario comes out beautifully. The rustic life and Antal’s love in translation didn’t lose its quality and intensity.

My Opinion

This book opened many of my sensitive points of thoughts in my mind as I read it. I also understood that the conversation of spiritual nature when based on emotional attachment to spiritual head, it removes almost all barrier of expression. When love becomes the expression, then the rules of social life just vanishes.

Image Source:  Amazon

Impact of Quitting Social Media

One thing that I liked the most in social media platforms is the motivational speeches. The interesting thing about motivational speech or any speech for that matter is that it is usually a two ways road for the speaker and listeners. Not all motivational speeches have the same kind of impact on the listeners.

For most parts a speech is so much about how it is delivered, toned and pitched. It is also about the images the speaker evokes in the listeners, that makes a motivational speech, a most effective medium of self-expression.

My experience with social media channels are limited to Facebook, mild Twitter exposure and from opening to closing of Instagram account. I never came across flame messages and always thought multiple times before I wrote anything on social media.

Not that I was shy about expressing my thoughts, I personally I thought it was not necessary to have a screaming match online with a total stranger, who I didn’t even know and the stranger me and of course, family members are too busy to check social media postings. So I had a relatively peaceful Facebook experience.

I moved out of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram only this month, hoping I would find a more creative ways of doing other things in life. Not surprisingly, the only thing from social media, that I missed was the motivational speeches in Facebook.

That kicked off my curiosity, and I started to wonder, what makes a good motivational speech, in the first place? It brought many thoughts to my mind, such as positive view of a negative situation, a sense of well-being for the troubled-mind, a peace that all is not lost and thereby some hope is attached to the life situation.

There is much more that I looked out for in a motivational speech. I was silently looking for confirmation on the thoughts, that I held, which I would use for situations in life. When there were a lot of pressures, it is then, that the best or worst part of my inner self comes out into the open.

Motivational speeches for me became a reiteration of what I believed in. Having moved out of most of social media channels, I am much happier, but I still felt that, I was running away from the facts of present day life. But much of the stress that is there in our life is it truly justified?

There are moments in my life when I refuse to fight and just take flight as an option. The choice of leaving Facebook was also close to flight because I was really unhappy being in that space. I refused to live in some kind of social pressure to live up to an illusion of my projected self and fable of my own life.

I didn’t like it one bit. Moreover my writer friends were all in the Facebook and I had been putting off the decision to quit the medium, merely for the fact, that I will lose touch with my friends. But this month, I braved up and quit the space and I am none the worse from the decision.

There is a sense of peace from having quit the space. I have nothing against social media, I merely wanted to live my life without comparing against others who are much more socially active and having the time of their life. My tasteless life seemed really to be of no worth.

Facebook made me more depressed and worthless. To prevent the sense of being alone in a huge crowd of friends, I decided to subscribe to Motivational speeches, after a while even those speech couldn’t remove the despondency I felt within me. I was convinced there was much at stake for my peace of mind in it too. So I peacefully arrived at the decision to quit.

It is nearly two weeks of having quit social media platform and there is a marked difference. I am happier and I do things because I like it and not for some post on the internet. That thought feels much more an healthier attitude. I am sad that I will not be able to reach all my writer friends; but I know they would want me to be happy with whatever is good for me.

Okay then Facebook, goodbye you were entertaining, but I must move on to find my rainbow! Life is not tied down to that red circle with numbers on a blue background on the right edge of the top screen. Real life is much more than that!

Image Source: Pexels.com

If I Can Read, So Can You!

Reading habit is only for the book lovers! – is definitely a false notion! People who start out to cultivate the habit of reading fall prey to this hurdle. This hurdle hinders the progress of taking up reading habit among beginners.

Let me remove this mental hurdle by stating that, anyone who wish to start reading can do so, in small baby steps and with achievable goals.

People with different levels of reading ability can still learn the habit of reading. Try with a few pages every day before bedtime. It is an excellent way to relax after a stressful day as explained by Reading Partners.

Reading is slowly built through regular practice of picking a book at a fixed time. Reading skill leads to enriching experiences in life.

Anyone who is familiar with the Three R’s of reading would understand the joy one can derive from it.

And the Three R’s are pretty simple too!

To take in reading as an habit, it is necessary to bring about a change in your habits. You know well that change is ‘hard in the beginning’, ‘messy in the middle’ and ‘gorgeous in the end’.

I am not saying that you would become a prolific reader who finishes a book every day. No, but what I am saying is that you may be able to read at the very least two pages a day of your favourite author’s work.

The idea is to start in small baby steps and progress towards improving your reading skills with assured confidence.

Reading can be enriching to all who practice it!

Reading activity engages the mind at various levels and improves the chances of opening up venues to connect with the current language skills and present-day socio-lingual interpretations.

Language is a dynamic element in a human life. The fact that Human are the only species given the capability to produce meaningful bunch of sounds and effect a communication through it.

But the surprising things about current day methods of communication are that, the return of the hieroglyph styled graphics are replacing the actual words. The speed at which people scroll through information in the form of words, images and sounds in their electronic gadgets can be very interesting study; but then, it could be challenging too.

Though the mind is built to handle large scale of data and process it much more efficiently than a super computer, it is necessary to slow down and actually read a book that has structured syntax.

A book allows you to slow down and read through each and every word, to get the complete picture of what the writer wishes to explore with the readers.

So what are these three R’s?!

Reforming, Recollecting and Rewarding! The benefits of reading make for an experientially richer person and grander personality.

Since with each book read, the reader undergoes pseudo-experience through the fiction or non-fiction presented to them!

Reforming is an outcome of varied reading

The first R or Reforming is the basic benefit of the reading habit cultivation.

When the reader’s perceptions begin to expand through the act of reading, then the outcome will result in better human understanding.

A book is a form of having a personal conversation that is at an intellectual level with another person without the restriction of social interaction.

There are times when the thoughts represented in the book might run parallel or converges with the belief system of the reader.

This experience with the book leads to new understanding of varying perspectives. The varied experience in the world of books actually enables a reader to be better fitted for taking a studied approach to problems.

As a way to problem-solving ability building, the reading habit helps with multiple views, which are given exposure through wide reading or pseudo-experiential knowledge.

Since one may not be able to experience everything in life, the books become a source of gaining experience by reimagining the written words.

Recollecting with impressive remembrance

The second R or Recollecting is the after effect of the reading habit.

For every reader, there is a special bonding with their specific favourite books. While reading it, the reader can discover and later cement the shared concepts in their reflective memory.

The best way to appreciate a thought placed in a book is, when it becomes etched as a memory in the reader’s mind!

There have been innumerable moments when people have been so impressed with the writer’s thought that they would happily reproduce it as their own. Ownership feeling that comes from the experience of reading is truly ecstatic!

The beauty of the words arrangement and the in-built naturalness becomes a new understanding through the act of reading.

It is not rare to see people recite it with equal flair of competent, which the writer aimed to showcase for the world to experience.

Reading is a reward by itself!

The third R or Rewarding is a very subjective matter. It is as diverse as Science and Arts subjects!

In this mechanized life, everybody is seeking to reach the high scales of self and social based expectations. The act of reading is a reward by itself and joy gained from the act is fulfilling by itself.

Sometimes, the current century’s outlook of being successful and a winner who beats all the games to reach the top can be very restrictive. One cannot place the definition of success in life by mere social recognition standards.

Sometimes, the rewards of reading a book are not an immediately recognized change in the socio-economic condition of a person.

Let say, you pick a book about making more money. You will not become rich the very next day! Surprisingly, that is not a factual truth and is an illusion.

The actual rewards of reading are intrinsic and internal growth which may or may not be visible for all to see.

Reading books will allow you to explore various thought systems which are available among our human thinking minds.

Reward of reading is not just the similarity in the readership experiences; but differences too are rewarding! The aim should be to expand one’s knowledge base not just within our comfort zones; but also, based outside of our comfort zones.

So then, pick a book to Reform, Recollect and Reward yourself, even if, you disagree with the writer for the most parts of their book!

Finding the Writer’s Flow

Have you ever experienced that sense of lightness that comes while working on a special piece. There is such a race of ideas that nothing else count for the moment but the task at hand. I have had those moments but they are like the butterflies wings. Touch it and your fingers are colored with their skin dust. The Positive Psychology calls it as “Flow.”

Steven Kotler in his article “Flow States and Creativity” in Psychology Today, provides a technical definition of ‘Flow’ as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

I found this state, whenever I have found myself just sufficiently challenged. At the same time, if few of the information were backed by my past experiences, then the combination is a killer one. Within this relative familiarity section I discover my inference of the self in slow disclosing pattern.

Flow according to me is something that happens to your state of being. It is like, I find myself inside a warp-hole where everything is about what I am doing. Somehow, I am accomplishing it but blocking rest of the noise and distraction of my reality. I become engrossed in my own little world that I have made for myself.

But generally a Flow State is a human experience that an employee goes through in professional place, while accomplishing a slightly beyond the reach of the employee’s limit challenge, with their entire focus of attention zeroed in on the task.

There are many books on the working of human brain that have explained how the various processes happen within the brain. Encyclopedia Britannica even goes to the extent of explaining that the brain processes less than 50 bits in a second.

Psychologists in their line of research have found that when a brain is engrossed completely to exclusion all other distraction, then the subject under study is experiencing the “Flow state.”

A Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who was the pioneer of Flow research has found such wealth of information about this state. He founded the Positive Psychology and propagated ‘Flow’ concepts. He began his research in 1975 and since then, much development in the research has happened.

What brings about this state? This state happens at what condition? These and other questions are far more interesting to note. The flow state needs certain individual’s internal physical and psychological weather condition to kick in.

He kick-started his tests with artists and creative types; later he expanded his research work towards other professions too. He used experience sampling method (ESM) to observe the subject under scrutiny.

It was in these tests that he came to know of High-flow and Low-flow states, where he also found out how these states influence his subject under study.

Csikszentmihalyi’s research had brought out the following six factors that result in the occurrence of flow in individuals:

  • Completely intense focused concentration on the current moment
  • Action and awareness become one
  • Loss of reflective self-consciousness
  • Complete control of the involved task
  • Distortion of temporal experience
  • Having an asautotelic or activity providing a intrinsically rewarding experience

He states in his book “Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life” that “if you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.”

In our work day we make a number of choices and decisions. The flow depends on what we choose to do and how we planned to perform it, this then would make our evaluation of our tasks as blur of events or almost art form of accomplishments.

Of late, I am watching the Flow word in my workplace application. My mind goes to the other meaning of the word Flow. When words “work” and “flow” combines in my brain I’m busy thinking about the flow happens within me.

When I get interested in the task I completely forget the office and people around. That kind of state, I actually don’t feel hunger either. I found the trick to be happy in my flow doing any type of writing tasks. The point is, the state of flow is an intense feeling that grips the experiencing person’s complete attention to exclusion of everything.

Within this state one could be close to the state of meditative silence. In this silence creativity can be nurtured and expanded to its relative stretch. Writing act is also a kind of experience that takes over all other distractions into its vortex of creative silence.

I usually have a set of activity such finding a uncluttered spot and use the same device to write. I would begin with reading up a little of the draft or old works to get into a swing. Once the mind kicks in I am ready to give free reign to my imagination.

I absolutely, love to be in that state and to explore until I feel content. Check out for yourself if you can find your flow in blogging or any writing activity!

Research

Flow, the secret to happiness

http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en

Alex Vermeer, works for MIRI

http://alexvermeer.com/finding-flow/

Leo Babauta, Zen Writer from San Francisco

http://zenhabits.net/guide-to-achieving-flow-and-happiness-in-your-work/

Pursuit of Happiness

http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/getting-in-the-flow/

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/

Quotes

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/27446.Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi

Image Source: https://armidarhea.wordpress.com/module-3b/

[Poetry] Exploring Romantic Poets from Britain

Poetry can quietly get into your mind and create a load of emotions which gives pleasure. I had an especially soft spot for Romantic Poets of Britain. I liked the various movement poets for a unique reason, given that I like to be widely read. But I loved nature worship so much, that Romanticism movement was closer to my likings than other movements.

My best four poets of the Romanticism movement were William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. All these poets praised and extolled the power of nature. They explored with words the immeasurable beauty of nature.

I remember reading these Romantic poems as a young girl in my 8th grade. Around that time I had begun experimenting writing down my emotions in a young and formfree poems, which were too emotional and lacking in balance. I never experimented with anything more than four line stanzas based poems since that was the level of my control over the lines happened to be.

But my interest in reading romantic poems was a spiritual experience which I will never trade-off for anything. In the cloak of a poem, one could easily annotate one’s life experiences with sharp words.

These four poems, that I am interested in sharing here carries their own wonderful and different beat. William Wordsworth was far more cheerful than Samuel T Coleridge. Or even for that matter each of these Romantic Poets had their own special style of glorifying Mother Nature.

The pleasure given by each of the above poems is basically unique. It is like there are different emotions running around in our mind. The power of poetry captures within those few words a world of expressions.

Daffodils’ made me feel so spirited and positive. Yet in the presence of such wondrous image of the flowers sway and dipping in synchronous way makes a human heart to feel it deep within their soul.

Frost at Midnight’ brought out the protective mother in me. Though set at a dark place yet it shows sparks of innocence that becomes a prayer for the dear ones that come into our lives.

The Cloud’ was bouncy and almost begging for it to rain its knowledge on me. I always felt that cloud cannot be captured and shut into few verses; but then, P B Shelley just does that.

To Autumn’ made me smile at John Keats way of praising and extolling the greatness of the season. Somehow I like the British Autumn over American Fall. The word ‘Autumn’ has a sensuality to it which a mere ‘Fall’ can never replace.

If I could just take my pick of words from both the variant languages then I will take some from British and some from American and some from Indian English.

Any language for that matter has the power to penetrate into the inner most recess of the human heart and bring about a change. I feel a poem is a combination of a poet’s entire rainbow of emotions. Their personalities become the strongest presence that calls out to human sensitivity.

Not only do I just enjoy the presence of a poem; but also enjoy creating them too. Because of its emotional content I tend to keep my poetry just for myself and share with no one. Yet sometimes there is a secular poem that burst forth for sharing. Those poems are rare and as always have my emotional side coloring it.

Larking at Larkin Main Branch Library in SFO

Larkin’s Main Branch Library was my hangout space on days when I felt that I made a wrong choice to study MFA in Writing at CCA. Especially, during the winter my mood swings were really bad, I made sure that I picked my mood dead carcass to the Library. The choice was between Mission Library and Larkin Main Branch. Mission won mostly.

During my stay in San Francisco, I was entirely dependent on Google Maps for directions to any place in US. It was almost close to real address. I am a person who gets lost in my bedroom, so it was quite a challenge to reach places. But it used to be so exciting to take that printout at the Writer’s Studio, kind family members house or even jotting it down on a piece of paper.

This also meant that I had to plan my visit to the place way ahead of the time, since I needed the printout of the directions. I would only take printout of those directions, which are really crucial; but for the rest, I would depend on writing it down.

Surprising thing about the Google Maps would be, that you can actually plan to the last minute of your travel plan. Of course, I took longer to walk to the BART and Muni stops, so I would plan a couple of minute earlier departures from my start point.

So the first time that I went to Larkin Library was on a sunny chill morning of October. I needed to find some material which the Mission Library indicated as available in the Main Branch.

It was pretty much easy to go to Larkin Street, if I took the BART from 24th Mission Station to Civi Center Station. I would find a spot to sit down to dream away hugging my backpack.

My backpack was special because it had everything that I needed. There have been times, when I felt, if I started to walk away with just my backpack, then I really didn’t need anything at all.

The interesting thing about going to the Main Branch Library was that I would be confused which exit to take. It happened every single time I get out of the Civi Center Station, even if I have visited the place almost many times, I would get lost and have to figure the place despite my jotted directions. I simply don’t get the left or right directions and get confused very quickly.

I had very few friends and I tried not to disturb them with my pestering company. But I must say my friends in US were really interesting people, who I enjoyed spending time with. The pull of a quiet library is very stronger than talking with people. I still remember the day when I shared silence with a fellow writer Veronica. She didn’t mind my being quiet and talking intermittently.

That’s one thing you can say for the friends from CCA, they provided me space to just shut off and remain silent. I read so many of their works for the workshop and I wished that I could talk to them about it on a one-on-one bases. But my shyness got the better of me and I couldn’t really talk to them all. I always landed not stating what I felt about the piece even in the workshops.

My first semester was such a huge stress for me. I didn’t know the place but it was not strange that I was in a new place. Since I could connect to the place at a higher level, it was the people that I needed my energies to settle down. Once I settle down, then it is so easy to converse.

One fine October Sunday in 2010, my mood swings were really high and I needed the calm space of the library. I got ready and started towards the Larkin branch library and religiously jotted down the details of the directions. It so happened that I had arrived early to the destination. So I had to hang out until the library opened for the day.

Out there at the location, I found a Sunday market and hung around to look at things being sold in temporary stalls. There was this sense of places mixing in my head and I remembered markets of Singapore and Chennai. All my commerce day lessons came rushing to my mind.

The sense of place in my life is very connected and especially when I needed to find my inner balance. After hanging for about an hour the library doors opened and I went in.

My first impression of the library could be summed up in a word, Palace. The architecture of the library was so Roman and I felt like Alice floating in air. For the first visit, I was just hanging out there on polished floor and tall rooms. I felt I might have lost a few inches, since I felt the rest of the people were taller than me.

I remember the grey shades of the library warmed by brown shades of desks, shelves and splatter of colors that were the bound books. The first visit was just spent walking around the place. It was only in my second visit that I even try to take out the book that I had searched in Mission Library.

I relaxed to the moment spent in the library and my peace restored with my confidence in me to go on. There is no amount of talking can get me to calm down, as much as a visit to a library can accomplish. Larkin Main Branch Library was my angel in disguise.

Image Source: https://sfpl.org/

Libraries Are My Soul Healers

My childhood, youth and womanhood have been spent in various libraries. I love things being arranged even though I lacked the talent to arrange things. But my life has such wonderful moments that are pure communion of my spirits with higher spirits.

Places and spaces influence me and it is after a while that I notice people. Usually I’m in my own world when I am in a library. The library has always been the answer to calming down my emotions which get haywire at the drop of the hat.

My First Library | West Mambalam, Chennai

My brother took both my sister and me to the library. It was pretty trick stuff for him. But both of us are good followers. We were well warned not to run amok on the main road. So I remember spending time sifting all the comic books. We were given a budget of one book each. But eventually my brother got two more books for us.

That way I must say my sibling and I sport affections that are almost similar to each other, in the cases of comic books. My sister loved less wordy more graphics. I still remember how both of us would giggle uncontrollably when we saw the Roman’s flying in the air in Asterix and Obelix series. The humor that is so apparent in the comic is really a “vera level” (a different level).

School Library | T’nagar, Chennai

I was in my eighth grade, when my school started having the library open for students during the lunch hour. I would always rush to get my share of all those young reader books. I picked innumerable Agatha Christie mystery novel. My favorites were Hercule Poirot, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I usually solve the mystery before it gets over. I used to enjoy myself immensely.

British Council Library & American Council Library | Chennai

I was so far only familiar with a dusty local library and maybe organized small area library books in school; but then, heck man, I love books whether dusty or clean or clustered or spaced-out. My first spacious library was British Council Library during my college days and I loved reading all the classics that I could lay my hand on.

G K Chesterton was my all-time favorite. I loved P G Wodehouse and Jeeves series was simply superb to read and enjoy. Later I also joined American Council Library and mind you that place was so calm and silent.

Yishun Community Library | Singapore

One of my needs was to be in a place close to the Library. My ex-husband found a place close to the Yishun Community Library and even to this day I am most thankful for that one kind deed. Library would be where I would be after lunch and I totally enjoyed myself.

I was able to find volunteering jobs with the Library and I was most happy. I would volunteer to arrange the books and tell stories in the library storytelling room.

I have this wonderful story from Yishun Library that it is etched in my memory forever. I was on my fourth Thursday of story reciting stage when it was close to Christmas and I wanted to pick a story about Jesus and the manger. But found a Santa Claus story which I happily recited to my little group of young listening minds.

When I finished the book one little Chinese boy got up and said can we hear the music attached to the book. There was a button in the book which when pressed gives out music. The boy showed it to me and I was totally unaware of it. I was doubtful whether the music will play; but still went along with his suggestion. We found out that it worked and the group of six children all took turns to press the button. That day I felt I owned the world.

Woodland Public Library | Singapore

The Woodland Public Library was a sight for my sore eyes. Whenever I felt emotionally empty I would go to the library traveling by SMRT and sneakily enjoying an egg puff.

There was huge water fountain in the library which blended with the ambiance completely. I would spend hours with a book in my hand in front of the fountain. It was almost like Zen meditation for me.

I picked some really wonderful adult graphic books and the children section was divine. I loved sitting in the short chair watching all the children run around and quiet ones with a book in a hand under the artificial tree that was kept in the middle.

There could be any amount of discomfort in my life; but it would all melt when I am in the library. Life is filled up with moments such as these in plenty. These moments are all surrounded by good book read or emoted with in the course of my reading it.

Mission Library | San Francisco, Calif.

I was not really checking out for places near a Library to stay, but then magically, I found that Bartlett Street had a library and I would ever so often, walk down the street and pick some books from the Mission library. Library is the best place for me emotionally and spiritually. I always found my balance when I visit a library.

These days I don’t visit Libraries as often as I used to; but keep finding new things to read by actually creating my own little library at home

Memorable Personalities

I have a quirky habit of listening to song in a loop. I would listen to any new fancied song in an almost unending loop for days together. When that happens, the lyrics of the song would evoke people from my memory.

I always count my blessing more than my challenges. But then sometimes within the challenges lies the true lessons of life. My recent loop song is from the movie “Noor” titled “Hai Zaroori” sung by Prakriti Kakar and composed by Amaal Mallik.

Yes, it is true that I meet some very interesting people in my life. I must say that I have many a journal entry about various incidents in my life. But among the many I am reminded of a few people who touched my soul. I cannot finish it in one blog entry.

In my school for a short while, I used to eat alone, since I had fallen out with all my friends. I am a person who loves to eat with other people and so would feel so lonely often when eating alone.

Naturally, I would cut short my lunch by stuffing myself and rushing to the library, where I would pick Anne of Green Gables series. I used to be so emotional when reading that series, the story was around a positive heroine who would see the I’m Ok and You’re Ok side in all the events in her life. A forced sense of happiness and well-being appealed to my sensitivity, so that I would also see positive signs even in the most negative incidences.

Around that time my book reading had helped stabilize my emotions and so I was not even looking for a friend. I believe I was in my ninth grade when R sat by my side and I was a little frightened of her.

I was also unwilling to open my heart for another round of disappointment in friendship. But in my hindsight R has been one of the most soft-spoken person with brilliance that left your soul colored with her idealism.

We talked in dribble and nibbles which lead to the gentle drift into a friendship that stayed on. Even though I am not in touch with her, I believe she would have become a strong woman. She loved Chemistry and she even completed her graduation in the subject after all her Polio corrective surgeries.

I remember to this day that assembly experience. She never joined the assembly and I felt that she had to join us. She was no different from us. So one day, I told her that I would be crazy enough to skip the assembly, if she didn’t come with me.

When we eventually made it to the assembly, I was very nervous and didn’t like it being the center of attention when the entire assembly waited for us to join the line.

Even today I don’t like being the center of attention, but then, I know how to fake being brave-faced. I also know if one harsh look from audience, then it would crumble like bread crumbs. But then, R suggested waiting in the ground way before the assembly bell rings fearful clarity. But I was happy that she decided to join the assembly.

When we were in tenth I was made to sit by the side of the class topper so that she would be able to help me. Osmosis effect! But then studies never made any sense to me. But I always kept my contact with R. I remember going to her place in the front and she would keep track of whether I finished my Math worksheet and revised all the other subjects. She would take liberty in scolding me if I tell her that I hadn’t done it.

By then I was more of a once bitten twice shy kind of person, but I liked something about R that build my faith in her. I became very selective of picking friends and even to this day I follow that unwritten rule, even though I am always polite with all.

She took a break after her 10th Exams and did her high school in a different stream. As for me, I was back to being free drifting spirit with I hope no friends or enemies. By this time I was happy with who or what I was and didn’t wish to change myself. Maybe my earlier experiences helped me to grow older fast.

So the next interesting person that I was to meet in college was K. Now I used to walk with her to the disabled students’ hostel run by a charitable institution. She lived there for the duration of completing her graduation. She would absolutely showcase me to her hostel-mates. I enjoyed talking non-stop with them, by then I think I had learned to be sunny happy person. I think I was trying to be Anne of Green Gables, a grabbled version at least.

When I think of K, I remember that I had a hard day at college once and I was major time pissed off with the entire world. I had decided to walk down to my home to contain my anger. But then universe had other plans for me.

Because on that fateful day K decides to stop me and informed me, that she wanted to walk with me to her hostel. Her hostel was just a slight detour on the way to my home. I was fuming and yet didn’t have the heart to refuse her desire, so I reluctantly agreed to walk with her.

So for a while, I was silent and then started talking in anger. I started describing the street that we were walking.  How it looked and felt with such violence that she became silent. Then I used words that K would have trouble understanding but she was still patient with me. But at the point when I had covered everything in the ground, I said, “The sky was blue.”

I think that was her last straw and K must have had enough of me. She stopped walking and I naturally stopped too. She pressed my armed which was linked with hers and asked in a small voice, “How does blue look like?” I believe that evaporated my anger completely. Here was the challenge for me. How do you describe blue to a person who has never seen blue?! I calmed down immediately.

I understood that I had been an angry jackass. From that day forth I would never describe using visual blackhole words. I linked all description to physical or emotional links.

I also remember that I would walk to blind people after politely suggesting to them that they fold their guide so that I could link their arm with mine. It would seem like two friends walking peacefully. This also gave me control over how I guided them by making sure they were safe with me.

So one day during my Freshman year of college, someone close to my age wearing a ray ban and holding a folded guiding stick asked me to help him board a bus. Now the fact that he was a young man and there were a lot of people around was pressurizing for me. Since girls don’t talk to boys an unwritten social rule. But heck, I still wanted to help him since he asked for help.

I threw my social consciousness up in the air and I promised to help him board a bus while I eyed my empty 37D go by. I sighed and the person immediately asked me if something was wrong. I cleared the lump in my throat and said nothing really.

All the while we were waiting for the bus I was worried about guiding him. Actually he did look pretty handsome and quiet heavy. I don’t know where that fact is coming from but then he was healthy and seemed to work-out on a regular basis. In all categories, this person if sighted wouldn’t require my help at all.

I was not thinking of that all at that moment. Because my one fear factor was that will I be able to get him on board the bus as quickly as possible. Since the public transport don’t provide a lot of time for passengers to get in the bus and he had to find the steps and so much other factors for person with impaired sight. I feared for his safety and the huge responsibility on my shoulders.

But the minute I sighted his bus I just touched him on his arm and he moved smoothly in the direction that I was moving my arm. He did not seem so heavy and didn’t resist me either. One of the important things about a blind person would be the confidence with which they would place their faith in your motives for guidance.

My eyes filled with emotional tears that someone had that faith in me. I cleared my throat and yelled the person’s destination to the bus conductor and informed him to help the person to get down at the right stop. Once I got the confirmation from the conductor.

I bide my goodbyes by yelling at the person, since lots of people were getting into the bus and he was already in the bus. I waved my hands while shouting out goodbyes. I did get weird looks from others. In India we don’t give way to disabled people to board the bus first when I saw that in US I think I felt pride in US because they were considerate.

I’m Ok, You’re Ok and We’re all Ok!

My reading list over the three decades spans somewhat like this. This list is exclusively those books that I read about philosophy, religious practices, self-help books.

There was a time in my life when library was really important as a source of sustained strength. Books were my friends with whom I would agree or disagree. There is a search within me even now as I read books on spiritual realms.

  • “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale (read in 1988)
  • “Living with the Lama” by T S Lobsang Rampa (read in 1988)
  • “Education and the Significance Of Life” by Jiddu Krishnamurthi (read in 1989)
  • “I’m Ok, You’re Ok” by Thomas A. Harris MD (read in 1994)
  • “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life” by Thích Nhất Hạnh (read in 1995)
  • Books on Zen Meditation Quotes (read in 1996)
  • “Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma (read in 1996)
  • “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey (read in 1998)
  • “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda (read in 2011)
  • “God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita: Royal Science of God-Realization” by Paramahansa Yogananda (read in 2012)

This is a small list of books that has influenced my life. I must say I was shocked and surprised by Jiddu Krishnamurthi’s thoughts. I would keep turning those ideas in my head and try to understand it.

Given that I tend to over think a lot, it was very stressful for me to process his thoughts. But I enjoyed learning and always challenged my thought process in the exercises that place before my mind.

I recognized very early in my life that my thoughts were bringing me down. Mr. Peale’s book was just an accidental read; but from that point forward in life, I sought out books on self-help.

My reading expanded with every new author that I read. But my understanding levels were based on the level of my mind’s maturity. But then, I always had a sense of fairness in the things that I read.

But to this day, I would debate each thought that gets into my head. This habit is so set in me, that there is no book that I have read so far, with the exception of the fictions, has gone without being questioned.

My life as a series of books that influenced my mind, soul and spirit, would make an excellent walk in the clouds for a reader of my works. I absolutely enjoyed anything about God, Spirit, Well-being, Spiritual, Meditation especially Zen, and most definitely anything on Human and Spiritual love.

One of my heartfelt desires is to become a Zen monk. I have been aspiring since I found the Moon a spiritual companion during my hideout days as a teenager. I always had this confusion: “Am I good enough to be a monk?” Because I had this intense pleasure in little things and that is when I started to question the term called Monk.

So in that pursuit of becoming a peace-loving monk, I decided to be a common woman who searched for God in her private moments. I have touched that supreme calm about four or five times. I also had figured the way to be less agitated by artificially creating the meditative calm.

Things in the space of spiritualism are still in fluctuation within me. I am not unhappy about having volatile answers to spiritualism. But in the process, I have found, that “I’m ok, so are you and so are we all!