I am sitting at the kitchen table. It is still early in the morning. The blinds are drawn back and bright sunlight has started to build itself up enough to come gatecrashing through the French doors. The luminous blue sky is completely clear of any clouds. The fading moon is struggling to hang on, trying hard to stay relevant after having completed its nightly chore, reluctant to leave this beautiful day and the promise it brings. The cold kitchen floor tiles turn courteous, picking up the warmth extended by the air from the vent duct as the heating comes on.
Outside, the deck is covered by a soft, fluffy carpet of pristine snow. Each crystal is reflecting the sunbeam it catches and attempts to throw back. Like the game of toss-the-ball I play with my granddaughters, who make no attempt to catch the ball, shrieking excitedly instead as they deflect and thrust it to a supposedly unsuspecting participant. A few icicles dangle from the dark, leafless branches of the sentinel of the backyard tree. Like sparkling drop ear rings. A fat brown squirrel preens itself and suddenly stops and takes flight, darting off as an icicle cracks in the breeze and comes crashing down.
Almost on cue, the kettle comes alive and starts to whistle. Lazily, I unwrap my “dhussa” (coarse, heavy woollen shawl for men) and almost reluctantly go over to turn off the gas and pour out boiling water for my first cup to “wake up and smell the coffee.” The aroma of fresh coffee wafts through the kitchen, mingling with the gentle strains of rag Ahir Bhairav and I come alive. Complete silence fills the house. I close my eyes to allow my hearing and smell to dominate all other senses. Blissful solitude, arising not from loneliness but the enjoyment of being alone.
Dominant memory comes alive and I am reminded of the Sufi poet’s lines:
“Aaeene ke sau tukde karke hamnen dekhaa hai
Ek mein bhi tanhaa theh, sau mein bhi akele hain”
[Upon breaking the mirror, I discovered (that)
I was by myself in one (piece) and (even) in a hundred pieces I appear alone]
The mystic Osho had said that a person who does not enjoy her/his own company remains lonely even in a crowd.
In 1947 the famous poet, philosopher and author Kahlil Gibran declared, “I deserted the world and sought solitude because I became tired of rendering courtesy to those multitudes who believe that humility is a sort of weakness, and mercy a kind of cowardice, and snobbery a form of strength.” Today, humility is indeed considered a weakness and only an “A” type personality deemed worthy to lead.
We talk about work-life balance, taking time out for oneself, getting some “down time” etc. But, the world around us has become a “noisy” place where information comes at us gushing like a tsunami without pause. It is so, because we allow ourselves to be flooded. Mobiles. Tablets. Facebook. Twitter. Music. News. Text and email messages. Information overload with a severely truncated attention span and even lesser interest in the parsing and processing of this data to convert meaningful bits into knowledge that could be useful. And we complain of being snowed under and feeling exhausted.
Please linger a while after you finish reading this piece. Even if you cannot understand or appreciate it, I urge you to close your eyes and let this syncretic invocation (“my God is benevolent”) of Hindu and Muslim deities by Pandit Jasraj in rag Bhairav evoke the image of a new dawn breaking. Let us start to balance life.