Who am I?

My photo
I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Scene at the Garden

I sit at a worn-out wooden bench, senile yet stately – the bench, not me - and absorb – I do, not the bench – the scene unwrapping itself in front of me. My claim does not extend to asserting that there is something exceptional in the scene that lay in front of me. In fact, it shines in its ordinariness. In front of me sprawls the Princes Street Gardens (since almost everything in Edinburgh, Scotland, has a regal significance to it). I’ve just come out of the Scottish National Gallery, alternatively called the Scottish Art Gallery (yes, a lot is in the name, something I realised in the morning when my overdependence on technology – read Google Maps – led me to Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which was quite offhandishly located in an isolated corner of Edinburgh, and contributed quite a lot to my step count of today). 

The girl rollicking around the park with her parents
In front of me, there is a family of three. The Mom and Dad are doing an On Your Marks, Get Set, Go to their daughter, seemingly 6, while they make a gateway of their hands for the girl to run screaming through and get enraptured. And by the time I have written this, I notice that now she rolls herself down the slope of the grassy meadow that forms the Princes Street Gardens.

Children two my right try to scare away this Oyestercatch
Two children on the bench to my right, again not more than 5, thought they were successfully able to scare away a white and grey Oyestercatch, when another one lands right in front of them, and seems even more hesitant in running away for her life than the previous one. A group of four girls, aged 8 to 12, sit in circle in the lush green grass, and seem to be playing a certain game which requires something to be scribbled by each one in turn, followed by mandatory giggles in which each one’s participation is expected. After a while they get up and climb the steep grassy slope towards my end of the garden, and one manages to get stuck while the others endeavour to pull her up. They pass me by, and the language seems quite incomprehensible to me.

The group of girls, far away from worldly
troubles, in their own cocoon called childhood
A solitary girl of not more than 14 sits beneath a sprawling tree, absorbed in the book she is cradling, smiling and frowning alternatively. The sound of the buses passing over the manhole covers is quite loud, and can be heard from across the Princes Street, the major arterial road adjoining this area. The weather’s quite cold today, and it’s strange how much the environment of this place has altered between yesterday and today. Yesterday, at the terrace in front of the Scottish National Gallery many songs a busker performed beautifully on his guitar, with a bass pedal attached to the Cajon and a musical percussion jingle to the other foot, alternatively tapping his feet to from a sort of a one-man band. Today it’s all silent, with less than a tenth of the people in these gardens, favouring yesterday’s sun over today’s cold and gloomy weather

The girl who sits peacefully underneath the tree,
absorbed in her book
A guy with his bicycle arrives, accompanied by his dog, and they descend the slope, the guy gingerly with his bike, and the dog excitedly, while a stranger who was walking behind them with a DSLR stops to capture their spectacle. In a while, the dog can be seen cavorting with a stick in its mouth, in one of dogs’ usually identifiable antics, where they grasp a stick in their jaws, shake their head from side to side, seemingly to dislodge the stick but maybe to get a better grip at it, and then roll over with the stick still lodged firmly between their jaws. The girl with the book watches the dog and smiles widely. The owner of the dog seems to emerge from a thicket and carries in his hand a large dry branch of a tree, breaks it into smaller pieces – which are actually much larger than the dog’s previous stick – and starts throwing it to the dog, who is exhilarated and runs around having the time of his life, like dogs always do in such moments. At this moment, the bitter frigid wind forces me to pack up and look for an indoor sanctuary. Such ordinariness, yet so much variety of hopes and lives, in this singular moment. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A walk through small town England

A group of sheep, fenced within a garden, bleating profusely
while running around excitedly

This is an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote in my journal:

After the beer at the bar, I went out. I had hesitated going out earlier because rain seemed imminent, but when this imminence seemed to be dissolving into permanence, my confidence grew. The foreboding dark grey did not seem as gloomy once I stepped out. I had spent some time on Google maps figuring out the area and trying to locate some good places to eat around, so I chose my direction and started walking. When I ended the walk, an hour and a half later, the weather was still exactly the same, I felt extremely alive, I had a take-away pack of Chicken Chowmein with me and it was nearing 8 pm, but still bright and beautiful.

The small-town streets and houses of Batley, a small town
near Cleckheaton, about 20 mins away from Leeds
The streets were lovely, with a sort of small-townish charm about the houses. I saw a girl walking her dog and also taking a brisk walk with that excuse, and a dad playing ball with her 5 year old daughter in their front yard. I saw a small dark and discouragingly gloomy exit from the main road, and through thick foliage and across a narrow wooden bridge I arrived unexpectedly upon a small pond. There sat an old man fishing at the pond, with endless patience and perseverance, now throwing his bait far into the water and now keeping the fishing rod to his side and waiting expectantly. After watching this charming spectacle for a while, I walked around the pond to take an exit to arrive upon a grassy upslope, which had caught my eye as soon as I had arrived at the pond. Across the road was a church, antediluvian and morosely stolid, hidden and silent, not expecting much from the world around it. As I walked on while the church bells clanged 7 times, the vista opened up in front of me and I saw hundreds of tombstones rearing their heads, some before the others, this one rounded and stout, that one tall and elegant, some with pointy tops, others more conservative and flatheaded. As I walked into the graveyard, reading the engravings on the tombstones, I realised there were stories abound.

The small pond upon which I stumbled where I found an old man
fishing calmly
A person, who had died at the age of 82 in 1889, was buried there. At the same place and explained on the same headstone was the fact that his wife, who died at 61, was also buried alongside him. At the same place lay their son who died at 18, and his wife who died at 74. Just this small sentence was, I felt, richly laden with stories. To start with, even at that age and time, the father had lived a long life and died at the ripe age of 82, at a time when  a lot of the communicable diseases did not allow us to live as long and carefree as we live today, something evident in their son passing away at 18 years of age. It’s interesting that only a son lay here. Did the couple have only one child? Or maybe they had only one son and the daughters chose to be buried wherever their husbands lay. Maybe they had another son who they had fallen out with, who had never stayed in touch with them after reaching adulthood. 

The old church which was right across the cemetery, silent
and phlegmatic
The wife also seemed to have lived to a respectable age of 61, but this also means that the husband probably spent the last two decades of his life a lonely man. Or did he? He could have been a decade younger than his wife, and that leaves him alone for a shorter span. Or maybe, at some charity event, he had come across an old lover who he had known before his marriage, who also was a widow. Maybe they had hit it off and had spent their last few years in each other’s company, but it would have been sacrilege for this female to not be buried where her own husband was, so maybe after she passed away, she went back to lie with her own husband, the love of the first 40 years outweighing those of the last 15. 

The graveyard which opened up suddenly in front of me while
walking across a grassy meadow
And what about the son? His early demise can be attributed to, let’s say, smallpox. But he was already married by the time he passed away at 18 years of age. His wife, facing a whole life before her, found herself at crossroads. The possibility that she remarried, yet chose to lay next to her first husband in the afterlife - the husband who had died 56 years ago at a tender age, even before she could get to know him well - seems unlikely. This leaves the possibility that she chose to not marry after her husband expired, and spent 56 prime years of her life alone and as a widow, choosing to be buried next to the memories of her husband from over half a century ago; by the time she was on her deathbed, she hardly remembered anything meaningful about him. Or maybe she lived a life of profligacy after her husband passed away, having lived with different partners in various parts of the world, but coming back to the family of her one and only husband and spending her last few years with them, finally lying in the ground next to all of them.

Or maybe, just maybe, truth is much stranger than this, way beyond our comprehension and estimate. Human lives are complex and despite so much commonality of experiences and education and world events that people end up living through, the end product that each one of us becomes is always unique, colouring our experiences with our own singular personalities. I could only extrapolate and imagine the lives of the people lying there, but the truth will always stay buried.