What The Dog In a Jar of Fear Told Me

The stray dogs were barking loudly, and this barking was unlike any I had heard before. It made me go outside to see.

One of the stray dogs had a plastic jar on his mouth like a muzzle and he was not being able to get it off. Clearly he was in a distress situation and that is why the other dogs were rallying around him. This dog must have been scavenging for food in this jar thrown in the roadside garbage heap and while he had been able to push his mouth in into the jar for the food it must have contained, now he was not being able to pull his mouth back out. The neck of the jar was trapping his mouth. The other dogs left within a few minutes. Having realized that they can do nothing to help their fellow being, they went back to meeting the challenges of their own lives.

I got out and walked towards the dog. He stood ambling, mildly struggling at the edge of a vacant plot of land. I squatted beside him, and he let me do so. The intention was to catch hold of the jar and pull it off his mouth. The dog’s skin was patchy. He was clearly in a sickly state, even by stray dog standards. I hesitated to take action. I hesitated both because I was reluctant to touch his sickly infested skin and body, and also because of the inherent fear of dealing with a dog, that too right at its mouth. In just two seconds of hesitation, the dog sensed it and started walking away in steady, resolute steps.

I rang up my friend Dr. Shubhageetha immediately, asking for help. She is a gynecologist who also works actively to help stray and abandoned dogs. It is her passion. I described the situation to her frantically.

“Ok, I will come there,” she said.

“But he is walking away. I am fast losing him,” I replied.

“Keep walking behind him. Do not lose sight of him. I am coming,” she said.

So I started following the dog, walking fast, because it had already crossed the vacant plot and was steadily walking down the road towards the valley.

Two men on a mo-bike came from the opposite direction. They saw the dog in the miserable condition with a plastic jar on its mouth and laughed. The pillion rider even took out his phone to take a photo. Sensing their ridicule the dog’s pace increased further convinced of this pathetic world where no one cared for him. I shouted at the men, reprimanding them for being so unkind, asking them to stop and help instead, but they had driven off by now. A building was under construction down the road. The workers saw the dog and laughed, pointing to it. Each time the dog received ridicule, its pace increased slightly. It wasn’t running, for it needed to conserve energy, but its desire to get away from this world was stronger, its conviction of being alone was stronger.

I was losing sight of the dog though I followed as fast as I could. Frantically, I rang up my friend again.

“I am fast losing him,” I said, while I continued to walk as fast as I could.

“We are almost there,” she replied.

We continued to be on the phone. A few moments later I said, “I can’t see him! Where has he gone? He is not on the road beyond the bend.”

“We have arrived. Where is the dog?” my friend’s voice came back on the phone.

“I don’t know!”

“There he is!” she said from her car, spotting the dog going down the hillside. The dog had left the road through the bushes and had almost reached the valley.

“Yes, that is the dog!” I confirmed when I too managed to spot the dog on the hillside, but my friend, her husband, and a helper had already turned into the road going steep into the valley and had parked their Maruti just before the next bend where that road vanished away into the fold of the hills. My friend and her helper were there on the hillside, trying to assure and pacify the dog so as to catch him, but he was trying to evade them. Seeing them from the road on top I marveled at how she was sure footed and at ease on the rugged hillside even in a sari and possibly a chappal — testament to having been born and brought up in this region, at home with the terrain and having been on many other such rescue operations. I walked back home relieved that much more competent people were now handling the matter.

Later in the evening my friend rang up to give me an update.

“We were unable to get hold of the dog. He was so scared he just wouldn’t let anyone come near. We have given the villagers in the valley our phone number and asked them to contact us when the dog gives up out of tiredness.”

I was so disappointed to hear that. I wished my friend’s team had, like hunters, arrows dipped in drugs to shoot into the dog and sedate him, so that they could rescue him. Most of all I felt sorry — if only the dog had been able to let go of its fear for a few moments, for right there, just beside its fear stood a much happier healthier life where not only would that horrid muzzle have been removed, it would have received relief and treatment for whatever other ailments his skin and body was ravaged by, and he probably might not have had to scavenge for food anymore, because Dr. Shubhageetha would have found someone to adopt it. That night I went to sleep imagining the dog dying in some dark depth of the valley, weakened by being unable to eat, and still convinced that he is all alone in this world.

What finally happened to the dog I do not know, but this is for sure — this incident remains alive in me as a vivid reminder of how we can be so trapped in fear, while right beside us a happy life and a solution for our struggles might be standing, trying so very hard to reach out and help us. Something so very beautiful and exactly what we need for our well-being might be ready for us, but we, blinded by fear are just not able receive it.

Even in the presence of fear, it is so crucial and liberating to stop a moment and look around with some tiny degree of faith, softness and receptivity. There just might be an alternative available. There often is.

Emotions Are Totally Rational And Reliable

Any good engineering system has a robust reliable feedback loop built into it so that the user of the system may get an easy view of what is going on inside. When you type ‘a’ on the keypad and ‘a’ shows up on the screen, that is also a feedback loop of a good engineering system at work. It tells you ‘a’ has been saved and it tells you where this ‘a’ has been saved. It tells you that the system is working fine, or whether you should adjust your actions (eg. change the cursor position).

Our emotions are excellent feedback loops built into our system, a feat of fantastic engineering that is totally reliable. And since it is engineering, it is rational. Super rational. Superbly designed and executed engineering systems that we are.

So what do our emotions give us feedback on? Our emotions give feedback on how we have been performing with our thinking.

There are primarily just two emotions: love and fear. ‘Peace’, ‘joy’, ‘ease’ are other words for the primary emotion love. ‘Anger’, ‘sadness’, ‘dejection’ are other words for the primary emotion fear.

When we are thinking in alignment with truth, in alignment with what truly is, we feel peace, joy, love. When we are conjuring up all kinds of stories, figments of our imagination, stuff that does not exist at all, we feel fear, anger, sadness. Fear indeed is looking at a rope as a snake.

Thinking what is not true induces fear precisely because we are such excellently built engineering systems. We have been built to live with joy and love. We have not been built to be mired in a web of illusions. Joy and love is what we inherently want. It is intrinsic to our being. We have been built to bring beauty forth into this world. We do that with the power of our mind, with the power of our thoughts. When our mind is not being used for the purpose of joy and love, it means our mind is malfunctioning. Since we have been built to live joyously and since we are excellently built engineering systems, when we are not living and thinking joy and love our system responds by giving feedback, causing discomfort and fear, like a red alert error notification that something is wrong in the system.

This is kind-of like the hot-cold game I play with my niece sometimes. Player 1 has to look for something in the room and as Player 1 approaches the assigned object Player 2 gives clues by saying “warm” or “hot” for being on track and when Player 1 goes off in a wrong direct Player 2 gives clues by saying “cold” or “chilly”. Similarly our emotions give us clues of whether we are thinking in alignment with truth or not. Feelings of ease, love, gentleness when we are on track and feelings of fear, anger, low self-esteem, anxiety, racing thoughts and all other varieties of dis-ease when we are off track.

Any good manager, who runs her system well, looks properly at her management dashboard with all its charts and data. Observing and honoring our emotions dashboard and taking corrective action when required is one of the best things we can do to live our life joyously, to manage and use our mind like a cool dude ninja.

If we are feeling love, peace, joy then everything is hunky dory. Nothing need be done other than enjoy the moment, admire the beauty of your charts and management dashboard and your exquisite engineering system, pat yourself on your back for being such a cool dude manager and feel grateful to your team members and boss for working in such a superb world.

If we are feeling anger, sadness, fear then alert attention is required. A seasoned manager will pay careful attention to every red alert notification he receives, be it in big bold letters, or in tiny font. The clumsy manager will callously ignore tell-tale signs of malfunction, or if it is too huge for her to handle, she will unthinkingly just offload it to another person (eg. shouting when angry). The thing to do is to go forth into that error notification, into that discomforting emotion, rather than turn away from it, distract ourself, push it under the carpet or unthinkingly offload it to another person. ‘Engaged in wrath, stay so.’ says my favourite thin spiritual book Vigyaan Bhairav (The Science of Shiva). As we gently go forth into the discomfort, with as much attention and awareness we can muster, we experience all the movement of that emotion within our mind and body. Rather than trying to analyze it with our ineffective logic and analysis, rather than trying to figure out who is to blame for this, ask the question gently in your mind, “Is there another way to look at this?” and let the answer come to you. That is the best question we can ask – “Is there another way to look at this?”. It is the first step to breaking habitual thinking patterns that have served us no good but have only brought the same pain again and again over years and generations.

The slightest curiosity that comes in the mind, that may not even be clearly articulated “Is there another way to look at this?” sets the ball rolling onto the track towards truth, towards gentler, healthier feelings. The same engineer who created our fantastic system, does answer as our internal guide. It has answered me every single time that I have asked. The internal guide gives a totally fresh perspective to the matter, a perspective that we had not considered at all before, a perspective that is in alignment with truth. It is such a beautiful experience when that happens, when we get that fresh perspective. When we are able to change our mindset from fear to love, the system gives immediate feedback. The palpable sense of ease that we feel is immediate. When we remain fixed within our perspective, convinced that that is the only way to see the issue at hand, we make zero progress and conflict continues.

Emotions are a very powerful force. Even if we push them away their power does not diminish. If we do not use it expertly, with awareness and acceptance, they will cause havoc due to their inherent power left unattended. Emotions are not bugs. They are an inbuilt fantastic feature we been manufactured with. They are reflective of our own power. Emotions are totally rational and reliable. Being aware of our emotions and honoring them is all about managing our life deftly. It is about living an authentic life.

It is about having fun while we are here – for every time we are able to get a fresh perspective on programmed age-old patterns of struggle, it gives an immense sense of self-belief, success and gratitude all rolled into one. The power of emotions, especially when they seem to be sweeping us away into tsunamis can be extremely challenging, but challenges are fun! To whatever extent possible, the thing to do is to try and remain aware of the movement occurring internally with the knowing that there is wisdom hidden in there.

We do tremendous dis-service to ourself by considering emotions to be irrational embarrassments, an inconvenience. They are not.

All that I have written here, I learnt from my favorite fat spiritual book – A Course In Miracles. I have only re-expressed it in my words.

We are so deeply programmed to think from a mindset of fear that it requires learning (or un-learning rather) to think from a mindset of love. This book taught me how to make that switch.

It is possible to change our perspective from fear to love.


Image credit: Pixabay.com

They Speak In Silence

Spring speaks using words
(also known as flowers)
Winter speaks in silence

The day speaks using words
(also known as birds)
The night speaks in silence

I honor my night,
when it comes,
(also known as sadness)
I turn inward, to silence

I honor my night,
when it comes,
every month
(also known as periods)
I turn inward, to silence

It happens there,
The true work –
In winter, at night
In silence

It happens with a tool called
Awareness –
The way to hear the silence

~ vani murarka


Image credit: Photograph by Melmak from Pixabay.com

The Science of Shiva – My Favorite Thin Spiritual Book

कहें न तुमसे तुम्हारी बात तो किससे कहें हम?

Shivji is one heck of a cool dude. You see, I have a teenage crush on Shivji that endures. So when he says, “O Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these, I feel this warm glow all inside.

He’s addressing me as beloved! Oh how nice!

What are you talking about Vani??

My favorite thin (ultra-thin) spiritual book. It’s called “Vigyaan Bhairav”, which means “Science of Shiva”.

The original is in Sanskrit, but hold on, don’t go away yet. We aren’t going to get all high brow, scholarly and stuff. In fact it’s because of its utter simplicity that I love this book – and there are many kind and sweet ways that it is accessible to us without having to bother about the Sanskrit.

Shakti (Durga, Parvati, The Supreme Feminine Force) poses a question –

“O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
Who centers this universal wheel?
How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?”

Essentially she is asking him to spill the beans. She is asking him to tell us “the theory of everything”, the one final answer to all questions anyone may ever have.

And then Shiva answers –

He gives 112 short simple ways whereby we may know the answer ourselves by experiencing it. In short, his answer just boils down to this –

Be aware. Experience completely. Receive fully.

He does not directly answer the question ‘What is your reality? Who centers the universal wheel?’ – for if we just heard that, bereft of experience it would just be information and theory to us. He tells us ways in which we can enter his reality, ways in which we can arrive at the center of the universal wheel – above space and time, names and descriptions – and thereby we can directly reach the answer experientially. Nowhere in the book does he say, “I center the universal wheel. This is my reality. Worship me (or anyone or anything for that matter)”. I told you, he’s a cool dude.

.

Observe. That is the bedrock of science. Observe as much as you can, as minutely as clearly as you can. On a personal level that converts to – be aware, experience completely. Be as acutely aware, of as much in you, around you, as you can.

Scientists use various instruments to observe – be it the grand Hadron Collider at CERN or the hapless rickety Voltmeter in the school lab. We too have been bestowed with superb instruments to observe with. The grandest, big daddy of them all being – our mind. And a plethora of other superb instruments too – eyes, ears, skin…

We just have to tune our instruments and use it completely. When we do that, we directly reach the reality of what is Shiva, along with resolutions to life problems required enroute.

To solve a problem, we have to know the problem. To know the problem, we have to observe the problem. And that applies to whatever hassle we may be experiencing. And even if everything is hunky dory and you are filled with wonder at our wondrous universe and want to know what drives it all – the ultimate question of science, “the theory of everything” – Shiva tells us how you can straight away, bang on, arrive at it. At the center of it all. Not only do you get to know the theory of everything, you get to directly connect with everything, you get to become everything.

It all boils down to tuning our instruments and using it. One simple way that Shivji gives to tune our big daddy instrument, our mind, is – be aware of your breath.

The first four verses of his answer are all different ways of saying, be aware of your breath. Here is the first –

1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence.

Whenever I do that, whenever I choose to become aware of my breath, I feel a sense of calm. Ok, relative calm. Things do not feel as overwhelming. I feel his presence. Be aware of your breath.

Imagine a rickety voltmeter gone rogue, jumping all over the lab. That’s what our mind is like most of the time. What kind of an answer to anything will we get using that instrument? What kind of problem solving will it manage to do? Even if someone is blaring the answer we seek at top volume, we won’t be able to hear it. Cause the voltmeter (which has a radio transmission receiver built into it) won’t be able to receive any radio transmission. We gotta tune the radio.

A way to do it – be aware of your breath.

Dear reader, I invite you – pause a second, become aware of your breathing – no need to close your eyes, take on a posture or any such thing – be aware of the movement in your chest, or your tummy – whichever moves more. Just five breaths. In and out.

Being aware of just five breaths, in and out, being aware of just one breath, has tremendous power.

Then Shivji, in Vigyaan Bhairav, gives some further ways to arrive at the center of the universal wheel, above space and time. Here are some that I particularly like. It all boils down to – Use your instruments! See! Listen! When eating something, taste it completely. When having sex, experience it so completely that the fire burns in you forever. Feeling like a rag doll? Well experience that completely.

16. In the beginning and gradual refinement of the sound of any letter, awake.

17. While listening to stringed instruments, hear their composite central sound; thus omnipresence.

22. Consider any area of your present form as limitlessly spacious.

27. When in worldly activity, keep attentive between two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.

37. Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object – the blessing.

41. While being caressed, sweet princess, enter the caressing as everlasting life.

43. At the start of sexual union, keep attentive in the beginning, and so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.

45. Ever remembering union, without embrace, the transformation.

46. On joyously seeing a long-absent friend, permeate this joy.

47. When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.

50. At the point of sleep when sleep has not yet come and external wakefulness vanishes, at this point being is revealed.

51. In summer when you see the entire sky, endlessly clear, enter such clarity.

52. Lie down as dead. Engaged in wrath, stay so. Or stare without moving an eyelash. Or suck something and become the sucking.

59. Simply by looking into the blue sky beyond clouds, the serenity.

62. In rain during a black night, enter that blackness as the form of forms.

67. Feel yourself pervading all directions, far, near.

79. Toss attachment for body aside, realizing I am everywhere. One who is everywhere is joyous.

82. Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for self, become each being.

91. Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, this.

92. When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.

96. Devotion frees.

98. The purity of other teachings is as impurity to us. In reality know nothing as pure or impure.

100. Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.

101. When the mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered.

104. Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.

108. Here is a sphere of change, change, change. Through change consume change.

109. As a hen mothers her chicks, mother particular knowings, particular doings, in reality.

110. Since, in truth, bondage and freedom are relative, these words are only for those terrified with the universe.
This universe is a reflection of minds. As you see many suns in water from one sun, so see bondage and liberation.

112. Beloved, at this moment let mind, knowing, breath, form, be included.

.

.

Did you sense a deep silence and wide expanse in those words?

There is tremendous transformative power in receiving our experiences completely. As we do it (even if just sometimes) over time it creates a shift, a transformation within. We start seeing the same things that have been in our life all along, in subtle but significantly different ways. There is power shining everywhere and every once in a while we are able to connect to it. A wide expanse opens up and our mind gets transformed in unimaginably gorgeous ways. We feel unlimited. We become unlimited.

Then, in the original Sanskrit, at the end of all his answers, Durga “कण्ठे लग्ना” – i.e. filled with gratitude, she embraces him, she hugs him tight.

That is exactly what happens. We are overcome by gratitude.

That sure is what happens to me. उनके बस गले लग जाना, ज़ोर से – और क्या चाह सकती हूँ मैं?

विस्तृत होकर मन मुस्काया
छा जाती नभ सी यह काया
मैं बस वाणी – मन भरमाया
मैं तो हूँ ब्रह्माण्ड समाया


Zen Flesh Zen BonesDear reader, the excerpts that I have shared with you here are from the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones which consists of four parts (it is not 4 parts as in 4 printed separate books – there are 4 parts within this one book Zen Flesh Zen Bones).

This, a very simple, extremely pared down translation of Vigyaan Bhairav is the last, 4th part of Zen Flesh Zen Bones titled “Centering”. 18 printed pages. That’s all.

There are other ways in which Vigyaan Bhairav is accessible to you too. There is a version available from Bihar School of Yoga / Bihar Yoga Bharati where the original Sanskrit is given with short explanations in English after each shloka. Osho Rajneesh has written a commentary on Vigyaan Bhairav where he has extensively expanded on each of the 112 shlokas and ways of going beyond space and time that Shivji gives. I have cursorily glanced at both these versions. Both are very nice. There are others too.

Sri_Vijnana_Bhairava_Tantra
Book of Secrets - Osho
Vijnana Bhairav - Lakshmanjoo

Personally, I am satisfied with these 18 pages in Zen Flesh Zen Bones and do not feel the need to delve into other more scholarly discourses. I really like the way the authors of Zen Flesh Zen Bones (with the help of a teacher Lakshmanjoo, in Kashmir), have pared down the verses to bare minimum words. It makes the spirit of the message that much more accessible to me. It enables me to stay near silence, near him – unentangled with words and form.

The Science of Shiva – Observe. Experience. Receive fully.


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Image credit: Shiv Shakti by Updendra Ratra

Experiencing Durga in Others

reachingforthesky[1]

In the last post, I talked of an opportunity to experience the force and movement of Durga within ourselves. Here is a wonderful opportunity to experience Durga in others.

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु भ्रान्तिरूपेण संस्थिता।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu bhraanti roopeNa sansthitaa
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo nama(h))

To that devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘bhraanti’
salutations again and again.

भ्रान्ति (bhraanti) means misguidedness, misunderstanding, delusion.

This mental state exists, at some time or the other, in all of us. However, by the very definition of it, we are unable to see it in ourself. At least until we come out of the delusion, and even then we may not realize and accept that earlier we were deluded.

However, it is easy to be judgmental of the world and people around us. Often we have strong opinions – this is what he/she should do/think. At times, it is to the extent of feeling exasperated – “This guy has lost it!”. We experience it in personal relationships, professional interactions, national policies, religious behaviors, social mindsets …

Well then, so here we are. another very fertile opportunity.

Whenever we perceive delusion, misunderstanding, misguidedness, in our fellow being or society at large, it is an opportunity to know that we are perceiving Durga and experience it in its fullness. The dance of Durga. The play of Durga. The power of Durga. Anytime you see delusion, it is just Durga in one of Her myriad hues.

That same Durga who is the embodiment of power and energry of all of the Universe, who is all that is beautiful, divine, comforting – nurturing love, compassion, prosperity, fulfillment. That supreme feminine force is present in all beings in the form of delusion too.

Seeing delusion in someone as the force of Durga at play, enables us to pause a moment and perhaps reconsider the person. We may still not agree with his/her mindset, but we can consider the person at least with a tad bit of softness, a hint of compassion, knowing that it is a force that is at play within us too. At the very least our mind can acquire a tinge of curiosity towards all that is going inside that person.

We, and the people around us, we all have the nurturing motherly instinct, compassion, awareness (all things nice, positive, desirable too) but we tend to focus on the negative more. The negative too is a form of the divine and we can turn our tendency to focus on the negative into an asset.

Any emotion, any feeling, it is She. Positive or negative is irrelevant. All change, it is She.


Image credit: Reaching for the Sky by Carol Herzer

Experiencing Durga Within

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु लज्जारूपेण संस्थिता|
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu lajjaa roopena sansthitaa)
That devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘lajjaa’.

Lajjaa? Now that is interesting!

So what is Lajjaa?

Lajjaa seems to get associated with “लाज”, “नारी की लाज” (naaree kee laaj) – a woman’s honor that supposedly gets taken away say when she is raped, or feminine modesty, mostly associated just with her physical parts and her social reputation. Or it may be conventionally viewed as sweet bashfulness, shyness, blushing of a woman, often in a romantic sense. However, that is just a tiny tiny part of lajjaa.

Lajjaa essentially conveys a sense of shame, disrepute, disgrace – in any context. Bashfulness, reserve, modesty, these are also words used to translate the sense of lajjaa, because they are attempts to avoid shame, disrepute, disgrace. So when something undesirable occurs, people exclaim, “tumne aisaa kiyaa? kitnee lajjaa kee baat hai!”.

To me, the best explanation of the word lajjaa is – feeling embarrassed.

That feeling of embarrassment can be anywhere in a whole range of intensities. The mild: feeling somewhat silly. The stronger: feeling stupid. The very intense: feeling shame.

And it is in sarv bhooteshu (all beings) – i.e. all of us, all humans – man, woman and all other gender variations possible. In fact all beings, not just humans. So it has nothing to do specifically with women. Embarrassment is a feeling that we have all experienced and would prefer to avoid. It is because we want to avoid this feeling that we are hesitant to ask questions for example.

At times it is mild, and depending on our level of awareness, we do not explicitly recognize it as such but just feel a sense of discomfort. There is a slight internal squirming. At times it is so strong, it feels like a stab in the chest. We are unable to ignore it and are distressed.

That feeling, that stab of embarrassment, mild or forceful, is She. The supreme feminine force. And She exists in everyone. Sarv bhooteshu.

So here is an opportunity. Here is a way to actually experience Durga within. It is an opportunity specially because this feeling is so intensely personal and because when it occurs we experience it as a distinct sharp tinge. Also, we tend to be better at focusing on the negative within us than positive, so might as well use that tendency.

The next time you experience any tinge of embarrassment, experience it fully. Feel it completely, in all its textures. How it invades and gradually unwillingly departs. You will be directly experiencing Durga inside you!

Durga, that is, Shakti – power, energy, force. Emotional energy is the core driving force of our actions and there is energy, power, force in our so-called negative emotions too, if we connect to it. It can be a powerful exhilarating experience.


Image credit: Inner Eye Moon by Carol Herzer.

the story of a hug

In Boston a few years back, I was spending Thanksgiving Break with the a beautiful friend of mine. Isn’t it amazing how all my friends are so beautiful? It really is (amazing). A beautiful good fortune of mine. Talking of good fortunes, here’s another one: my friend took me along to an eclectic Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

Yes, the evening was eclectic. The food spread and the people spread. Much like world music where the beats of Africa mingle with Jazz mingle with strands of Indian Classical mingle with the song of the Chinese Moon mingle with the sounds from Scandinavia … You get the picture.

Having filled my plate, I was sitting at the corner of a large table, having dinner with lots of lovely people. There was a man sitting at the other edge of the same corner. I did not know anyone there. Ditto was his case. So we shared a conversation as we ate.

He was not fluent with his English and I do not remember which country he was from. Ukraine maybe? I don’t know. Soon in the conversation it emerged that he is out of work and in a financially uncertain state. The worry, tension, loneliness he was going through was clearly apparent. It was not there in his facial expression, nor explicitly there in his voice, but it was there. Being a foreigner in USA myself, it was easy to feel. The combination of being a foreigner in USA and work being a question mark, results in tension hanging over the head like holly all the time. Or is it mistletoe?

While he shared his data, (where from, doing what), and I shared mine, what was apparent from his face was actually only gratitude. He was glad someone was talking to him and talking so nicely. He said so too. I have often received this gratitude when talking normally and humanly to people who are feeling unsure about their English. I have experienced it in conversations in India too.

In his effort to express that gratitude, the way he was looking at me, smiling at me – frankly it became somewhat discomforting. I looked away and tried to interest myself in the conversations at the rest of the table. But I knew fully well that he was not trying to flirt with me. It is just that when we are culturally somewhat misplaced, we end up behaving and expressing ourselves at times in a manner that seems awkward to the other person. I did return to him too, time to time.

Soon people had eaten up their food and everyone was standing around in the hall, at the gate to part, wishing each other goodbye, thanking each other for the evening. That man came out and gave a big hug to one of the hosts of the evening (much to the alarm of the man receiving the hug!).

I piled into the car with my friend, the host who had been hugged and a few others. Comments were laughingly exchanged about how craaazy, wierrrd that person was, who had hugged. What was he trying to do?!

I did not say anything.

I wish I had –
That man was very very scared. And he was lonely. Maybe he was filled with the dread of having to go back to spending time with his worries alone, as he was about to step out of the gathering. And he was grateful. Very grateful, for the oasis of togetherness that the evening had given him, in the desert of his loneliness. That is what he was conveying via his hug.

And I wanted to say –
It is perfectly ok, and natural, and human, (and wise) for a man to hug. There is absolutely nothing wierd about a man who hugs goodbye.

And it is perfectly ok, and natural, and human for a man to feel really really scared.

I am grateful that despite being alarmed the host received the hug gracefully.


on fear: 2

trepidation

what can i give
that is not marred
with trepidation?

it is the dust
and soil of my earth
trepidation.

what you pick and eat
from me
has grown in
trepidation

~ vani murarka

on fear: 1

three

listen …
who is there?
fear.

stop …
hold your heart
dear.

light …
a little faith
near.

~ vani murarka