It’s not a tranquil lake. It’s a torrential flash flood and it’s fast approaching. It’s coming towards me and I am putting up a big fight but not winning. I am being pushed towards it by the boulder of time. Another turn of the wheel. The approach is a rough zig-zag path with exhausting ups and 3G downs, jagged corners and innumerable pot-holes. It goes thud-thud-thud. My brain hits the hard inside of my skull multiple times as it comes closer and closer. Am I going to hold my breath when it happens? Am I going to be submerged for longer than I can hold on? I don’t know how to swim and my limbs are pathetic. What am I going to do when it hits?
6th May 2018
It’s here – the 24th birthday of a man-child who didn’t reach his 21st. It’s a blessed day. A happy day. But it doesn’t feel that way. A painfully long weekend filled with his absence. A trip to the local park. An ice-lolly. Carrying his djembe around in the sun like a mad woman as if it’s my baby. Baking raspberry, pistachio and chocolate brownies. Holding back tears all day. Being with ‘it is like this’. A visitor. A long evening. A nice meal. An enormous hole. Massive nothingness – a vacuum that my love wants to get into but there is no way in or out. It’s sealed like a submarine. Not a drop of water or a molecule of love can enter or leave. The void sits in the middle of my living room. My life. Starving my love of all expression. Suffocating me.
7th May 2018
It came and went. I lived. But I am not getting anywhere. I want to be someone I am not while accepting everything as it is. How can these two positions be compatible? It’s like being night and day at the same time. Not dusk or dawn – they are too serene. Do I have a realistic hope of ever getting there or am I delusional?
Does unconditional peace exist? Apparently, some folks have experienced it. I have too, for brief snatches of time. To have it as a native state of being – unblemished, pure and vast consciousness. It seems unachievable. But they say it’s possible. May be. Some day…
Wonder what Saagar would have made of Brexit. He would have wanted easy access to France. He was a die-hard Francophile. He loved the intricacies of French language, food and wine, girls… He wanted to work there at some stage, to practice his French.
Trump would have been extremely amusing and concerning for him. I think he would have had fun making a cartoon character of him and imitating his mannerisms and speech. He used to mimic Bush Junior a lot, to our great amusement.
He would have had some strong and interesting opinions about gender identity politics and ‘safe spaces’ in Universities, which mean different things to different people. I was told that in his first year at University he volunteered as a student counsellor for LGBT students but in the second year he withdrew from that role. Did he not feel well enough within himself? Was that an indication that he knew something wasn’t the same?
Burning Middle-East, migrating populations, global tensions, towering infernos and erratic climatic phenomena – I wonder what he would have thought of all these things.
The passage of time is dragging me away from the point when he was alive. I grieve the widening gap between then and now. That time is receding further and further away like a very low tide. Physically, the current keeps flowing in one direction – away. Mentally, it dances, twirls and circles, touching many points over the past 24 years and gathering up as many gems as possible, folding them neatly and putting them away safely, to be revisited again and again and again… What if I forget everything? What if it goes too far away and then disappears? What if I can’t touch that time ever again?
I didn’t think I would make it this far. I vaguely remember Day 100 in Pondicherry. That seemed like ages already. This is unbelievable. I couldn’t fathom how I carried on at that time. I still can’t. So many days have passed without him. I still hold on. Not one moment has passed without him. I still mourn.
Making each day count, working through the pain, celebrating the good times. Excavating words to express feelings that can’t be spoken out loud. Dissecting through ‘stuff’ with fine forceps, making sure nothing is damaged. Connecting. Realising that the colour of blood is the same for all humans everywhere. Hunger feels the same for all. Bones are a shade of white for everyone everywhere. Shame, courage and love are experienced in the same way in Lebanon and Syria as in London and New York. The pain of loosing a child is universal too. Indescribable, potentially unsurvivable. Yet, so many of us survive.
I wonder if he’s counting days too. Does this mean anything to him? I wonder what he would be like at 23. His birthday is coming up soon. I wonder how we would have celebrated it. I wonder how time will mould itself and me as time goes by. I wonder if any of the lessons that need to be learnt from Saagar’s story will ever be properly learnt and implemented. I wonder when my silent inner screaming and constant frantic searching will stop. I wonder if he has an exact duplicate, who will bump into me one day and things will seemlessly go back to being how they were. I wonder how long his friends will want to stay in touch with me and talk about him. I wonder.
Three centuries ago, Newton thought that reality had 3 basic components: time, particles and space. This model didn’t explain everything. Soon other forces that govern movement of particles came along like electromagnetism. Photons, gravitons and gluons emerged yet the essential ingredients of reality remain a mystery.
To explain gravity, Einstein merged space and time into a composite, space-time. Michael Faraday added the concept of a classical field that carries forces through empty space. Quantum Theory showed that all mass and energy are really excitations of underlying quantum fields. Quantum fields and space-time are incompatible, so perhaps there is a more basic component hidden beneath.
In the late 1990s, String Theory was proposed. I don’t understand it fully but basically it says that elementary particles emerge from the vibrations of one-dimensional strings. Therefore, an electron is not really a point, but a tiny loop of string. If it oscillates one way, we see an electron. If it oscillates in another way, then we call it a photon, a quark, or a …
Julian Barbour, a British physicist believes that space and time, united by Einstein must be uncoupled. The only way to define space is to consider it as the geometric relationship between observable particles. He argues that the universe is a set of possible configurations of the 3D geometry of space. He believes that these configurations or ‘snapshots’ exist in a space of possibilities. Time is not real but merely something we perceive – an illusion that comes about because the universe is constantly changing from one snapshot to another.
Spiritual masters have been teaching the concept of everything being an illusion for thousands of years. Physics seems to be catching up.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
– Albert Einstein
“How are you?”
There is no short answer. Often, there is no answer.
This question comes up walking past friends and acquaintances in corridors. All I can say in the given time is, “Fine. Thanks. And you?” All I can do is acknowledge the question, smile and nod. It’s like saying ‘Hello’. No one actually finds out how anyone is doing or feeling.
It’s been 2 years 3 months and 3 weeks. It could be said ‘enough’ time has passed. For who? Who decides how much time is enough? Traditionally bereavement has been a personal and private process. Does it mean that as a society we would generally prefer it to be personal and private? Other’s sadness can make us feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, not knowing what to say or do. The path of least resistance is to not mention death or the deceased at all. There is a fervent desire that the bereaved will adjust and move on per a set timetable, not only for their own sake but also that of others.
The Bible says:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Never assume someone’s mourning is over and done with. It takes its own time.
As an eleven year old I often felt like I was born in the wrong country with the wrong nose, wrong hair and wrong skin colour. It was all a bit awkward but not much could be done about any of these things. So, the hair was cut short and stayed so for most of my life.
It’s normal for those with dark hair to want them light and vice versa and for those with curly hair to want them straight and vice versa. This is a small example of a much wider discontentment and dis-ease within humans.
We travelled for 36 hours, including an overnight stay at Dar-es-Salaam, 5 take offs and thankfully the same number of safe landings to get here. 3 of these were on the smallest plane I have ever been in. It sits about 14 people including the pilot. It reminds me of ‘Out of Africa’. The engine makes clicking sounds in response to the subtle mechanical actions of the pilot and the scenery is out of the world. Sapphire blue deep waters with turquoise shallow edges dotted with emerald islands with golden crescents along the curved margins.
This is the north of Tanga, a point jaggedly jutting into the Indian ocean with a white sliver of surf marking the reef’s edge. The noon-tide was so far out that it was nothing more than a soft whoosh but we woke up from our post-prandial coma to the rhythmic roaring of the sea that had arrived right up to our doorstep.
The smiles that greet us with ‘Karibu’ are happy and a bit shy. There is no running water or mains electricity. The internet connection comes through a generator and solar powered router, best described as flimsy. Yet, something about being here brings the word ‘contentment’ to mind. This is what it must feel like.
Saagar would have loved this place – a little piece of heaven.
(Sorry, no pictures as very narrow band width on the internet. May be later.)
Historically, I love autumn. It seems that nature has been saving up all its grandeur all through the year for the month of October. The stunning, warm, earthy colours, the cushion of leaves under the feet, the crisp morning sun and the hypnotising evening light. A time for change.
Big change from the energetic lightness of summer to a calm and reflective time.
A time to be centered.
A time to be quiet.
Last 2 autumns have been cruel. They have thrown not just seasons, but Time out of synch. Things seem to be happening in the wrong order. Time has taken on a strange nebulous quality. Starting and stopping at will. Meandering and then barging ahead with full force.
This is a new autumn. It’s a new opportunity to heal. To learn to let go, like the trees let go of their leaves one by one, completely denuding themselves and bravely exposing themselves to the harsh winter, only to come alive again, fresh and new. To know that ‘acceptance’ and ‘forgiveness’ are processes that take their own time. They cannot be rushed. All we can do is allow time and space for them. Pain is a constant companion, sometime more visible than others. Again, it cannot be shooed away. All I can do is to acknowledge it and honour it and allow space for it to sit with me. Settle down.
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast