Day 966

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It seems like that was another lifetime. Some moments however last forever. My mind has been dancing in overlapping elliptical, circular, zig-zag and squiggly shapes between the remotest past and the far future and deep inside this bottomless present moment. I find gems scattered all around. Today the moment when I first saw his face shone the brightest. I picked it up. I held it in both my hands, looked at it for a while, felt it, kissed it and held it close to my heart. This is where he lives. In my heart, in the past, the future and the Now.  That moment from another lifetime is mine again.

Experiences can only be experienced. Not explained. Ones who has experienced it know it, ones who haven’t can have a guess. Some songs say it all. This one does. It speaks to me. It’s a song of love. Roberta Flack sings to my heart. She knows how I felt the first time ever I saw his face.

“The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies my love
To the dark and the endless skies

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hand
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command my love
That was there at my command my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last ’till the end of time my love
And it would last ’till the end of time

The first time ever I saw your face
Your face, your face.”

Day 961

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Cycling again, I feel happy. Alive.
Every few hundred yards, hordes of pristine white conical lilies smile at me. The first time I saw a black and white picture of one such lily was 18 years ago. For the next 5 years it was the largest picture in our house. It filled our space and me with a sense of peace and beauty. I remember being mesmerised by it the first time I saw it. The fact that one single petal could shape itself into this exotic flower, stupefied me. The contrast with that particularly deep shade of green never fails to capture my eyes. Its elegance leaves me speechless.

It has many names – trumpet-lily, arum-lily and calla-lily. Botanically speaking, it’s not a lily at all. It derives its name from ‘calla’, the Greek word for beauty. In the 19th century, there was a flower-language boom that meant certain flowers were associated with expressing particular feelings. There was no need for words. No surprise that it was the theme of many artistic works.

The calla-lily came to play a role in the Christian Easter service as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. In art throughout history, the calla-lily has been depicted with the Virgin Mary or Angel of Annunciation. It is associated with purity. As it blossoms in spring, it is also a symbol of youth and rebirth. It’s appropriate for weddings and funerals. It symbolises love, devotion and grief.

While mostly white, they are also found in other colours, each one carrying a different meaning. Pink has a connotation of admiration, purple denotes passion and yellow is typically associated with gratitude. Black ones are truly enigmatic and carry a certain mystery.

“The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.” – By William Blake

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Georgia O Keeffe’s most famous painting – Keeffe Calla Lily

Day 958

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An excerpt from the Eulogy by Saagar’s uncle (my brother), Chetan:

“Two things about him come up over and over again.
The first is how much fun he was to be around. His ability to laugh. To make people laugh. And his astonishing ability to laugh at himself.
The other was how helpful he was. How he would do things he did not have to, to help other people out.
But clearly Saagar was so much more. He was so many things to so many people. And it is very difficult to capture in words the essence of what a person is. In the angst of his loss, his aunt wrote a short poem, which captures him more beautifully than I ever could, so I would like to read out now.
You..
You were more…
More than the dreams you dreamed
More than the laughs you shared
The beats you kept of the music you played
The words you learned of the tongues you spoke
The love you sought and the hearts you won
More…
More than the questions we ask, and the tears we shed
And more, much more than the demons you faced
And the battle you lost.
Hope you found your peace, and some day we find meaning…

When I think of his having moved on, I am in despair. But when I think about Saagar himself, what comes to mind is a series of memories. Knowing Saagar, they are all a lot of fun.
I fIrst met Saagar Naresh on a warm day in the summer of 1994 in Delhi. A baby was brought before me, probably 30 minutes after birth. I had no idea a human could be like that tiny, that fragile. The honour bestowed upon me was to be the very first person on this planet – after his mother, of course –  to provide him nourishment. I touched a spoon with honey briefly to his lips. That was my first meeting with Saagar Naresh.
Saagar has been a constant source of joy and pleasure ever since. The odd way in which he slept in bed as an infant.  The 2nd birthday where the birthday boy vanished, only to be found in the balcony with the new puppy, sharing a bowl of yoghurt, one spoon at a time.
I remember the 8 year old who never tired of practicing his bowling. The child who found the courage to get into a fixed wing glider for a joyride. He came out badly shaken,  but proud that that he had done it.
And the 14 year old who – once when he was visiting us – decided it would be fun to have my pet Doberman, Cleo, lick his head.  So he poured coconut oil all over his head. And Cleo was more than happy to oblige by licking it all off.
I remember the naughty 18 year old bodybuilder who put a post on his sister’s facebook page when she wasn’t looking, which said “My brothers triceps could dam a river”. And, of course, Saagar and Hugo’s mimicry of the English spoken by Indian tour guides would always have us in splits.
Saagar was great fun. I can bet that wherever he is right now, those around him are happy that he is there. Just like we have been for the past 20 years. Of course, there is regret that I will not see him soon. But there is gratitude for the time that I did have with him.
Saagar was gifted with a natural skill for languages, and along with that comes the desire to travel, which he did extensively. And because of him being far away and traveling often, there were always extended periods when we would not see each other.
Saagar has set off on another such trip now. And I think it is just a matter of time before we run into each other again. Honestly, I can’t wait for that day.
We miss you Saagar. Have a great trip.”

Day 956

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Death seems to be all around me. It has seeped into my bones. My thoughts are filled by it. And my feelings. Yet, I don’t understand it. It is so many things in one – intrigue, loss, finality. While it is an essential part of life, why has it flooded my being? Standing under an old oak tree, my back against its barrel trunk covered in rough bark, eyes closed, I beg for a shred of the silent ancient wisdom it holds. Its roots connect me to grieving mothers everywhere. I see their shattered hearts, vanished futures and hollowed rib cages mirror mine. The globe is covered in a blue fishnet of grief.

Helen Dunmore, a poetess, writes about death, staring it in the face with calm and courage as cancer takes home in her body. She wrote this poem 12 days ago, 12 days before Death took her in her arms.

Hold out your arms

Death, hold out your arms for me
Embrace me
Give me your motherly caress,
Through all this suffering
You have not forgotten me.

You are the bearded iris that bakes its rhizomes
Beside the wall,
Your scent flushes with loveliness,
Sherbet, pure iris
Lovely and intricate.

I am the child who stands by the wall
Not much taller than the iris.
The sun covers me
The day waits for me
In my funny dress.

Death, you heap into my arms
A basket of unripe damsons
Red crisscross straps that button behind me.
I don’t know about school,
My knowledge is for papery bud covers
Tall stems and brown
Bees touching here and there, delicately
Before a swerve to the sun.

Death stoops over me
Her long skirts slide,
She knows I am shy.
Even the puffed sleeves on my white blouse
Embarrass me,
She will pick me up and hold me
So no one can see me,
I will scrub my hair into hers.

There, the iris increases
Note by note
As the wall gives back heat.
Death, there’s no need to ask:
A mother will always lift a child
As a rhizome
Must lift up a flower
So you settle me
My arms twining,
Thighs gripping your hips
Where the swell of you is.

As you push back my hair
– Which could do with a comb
But never mind –
You murmur
‘We’re nearly there.’

 

 

Day 943

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Love is…

Time has 3 dimensions.
Truth has 3 dimensions.
Consciousness has 3 dimensions.

The essence of the past is love.
Everything in the present is aimed at love.
Same is the hope for the future.
Love is what makes us complete.
Love is infinite, never ending…hence incomplete.

Love alone is supreme – a river of life,
Seeking the ocean of existence.
Your source is love and goal is love.
The path is also love.

Love is our very nature.
Though love is only one, it manifests in many ways.
Praising is uplifting – an expression and awakening of divine love.
Seeing divinity in every form – trees, flowers, road, TV, others, self …
Knowing that we are born out of fullness – wanting to offer and give.
Remembering someone you love kindles love.
Memory, a deep impression of divinity.

A desire to serve and surrender willingly to the divine is love.
Being a friend, relaxing together is love.
Seeing divinity as a child, like baby Krishna or infant Jesus.
Making the divine your beloved.
Dissolving oneself in the divine is love.

Being one with the universe is love.
Unbearable longing for the divine is love.

Love is the language of our soul.

(Source: Teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

Day 940

The dark thing that sleeps in me

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Thomas Joiner, author of “Lonely at the Top: The high cost of Men’s success” is an avid suicide researcher. He lost his father to suicide.

His career choice is dismissed by some as : “You’re just trying to fix your own psychological problems, just like all mental health professionals.” Having psychological problems is not insulting. They are common, often treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Surely, heart and cancer researchers are not perceived in the same light. This is another reflection of the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Stigma is fear combined with disgust, contempt and lack of compassion – all of which flow from ignorance. We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful or rash. It is not caused just by medicines, anorexia, smoking or plastic surgery. It is partly genetic and influenced by mental disorders which in themselves are agonising. That it is preventable (eg. through means restriction like bridge barriers) and treatable (talk about suicide is not cheap and should warrant specialist referral).

Once we get all that in our heads, we need to let it lead our hearts.

“I am terrified of this dark thing that sleeps in me,
All day I feel its feathery turnings,
Its malignity.”
– by Sylvia Plath

Source: ‘Myths about Suicide’ by Thomas Joiner.

Day 935

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Defeated as a dead dog

At the end of my meditation, I don’t want to open my eyes. There is nothing more to see. I don’t want to open my mouth. There is nothing more to say. All is done. There isn’t much more. It would be ok to have a quite existence in an obscure little place that no one has heard of.

At the end of my meditation, the word ‘acceptance’ hits me like an arrow right in the middle of my forehead. What is the distinction between ‘acceptance’ and ‘resignation’? How can either be experienced without a sense of defeat?

Where is the need to wake up to an alarm every morning?  Where is the need to wade through the London traffic every day? What for? There are more peaceful ways to get through time. I long for them.

The last bit of Liz Lochhead’s poem ‘Favourite Place’ written in memory of her husband:

“But tonight you are three months dead
and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.
Tomorrow, and every day in this place
these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo
through me:
The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it.
And this will not be a consolation
but a further desolation.”