Ikigai on a Dusty Table

An absolutely dazzling morning gives me a wholesome smile. The sunrays are golden. How kind he is! The sky is pristine blue. How happy it looks! The wispy, scattered fluffs of clouds a dazzling white. How playful they are! There is cool gentle breeze that carries swarms of dragonflies hovering around like insect drones. How confident and coquettish is the breeze!

There is a grumpy, rumbling and scratchily drawn series of notes sent out by a bird. The Himalayan barbet, it strikes me. The barbet is the one that has played symphony with my solitude in the valleys when I move around the lone trails among the hills. Now here in the plains, the rains have broken all previous records for the month of September. I suppose all the dispirited, famished countryside from the Himalayan foothills to the dusty plains in the Delhi NCR has turned pretty luxuriant to keep the spirits of some lone Himalayan barbet to keep flying, carried by the wanderlust spirits and here it reaches the village to remind of those beautiful days in the valleys, where its call droned over the lazy slopes in misty vales. Well, I run out to the courtyard to find that dreams are dreams only, at least in this instance. The reality is a separate entity. But it’s only our dreams that provide a kind of lease to our reality. So keep your dreams alive. The reality here is a spotted dove that has slightly modified its notes to sound like a barbet. Hope he isn’t trying to woo a barbet girl in case there is one around.

Too much of rains definitely carry lots of inconvenience. It isn’t good for the crop. Not good for old houses either. They get more cracks. More plaster and paint gets peeled off to turn walls and yards mossy. The leeches crawl in abundance. Tiny frogs scamper around like little dumplings on your path as you walk around. You have to be careful not to trample too many and add to your quota of sins here on earth. But then baby frogs are visible at least. We can hardly take enough caution not to trample the ants. They are too small. In that case, I realize we are standing on our own mounds of sins. That’s why it’s so important to lead a meaningful life because it comes at the cost of so many little sins. Coming to the issue of excess rains, the bricks in the yard also cave in. Too much of rain isn’t good for the snakes either. Their holes get filled up and they crawl out to claim residency in houses, especially the unkempt gardens of lazy bachelors.

The old country house might get more cracks, giving me a little frown of discomfort. But that is very easily overpowered by a smile caused by the vastly improved shape of the chapattis. They look more presentable, and more importantly are nicely digestible. Greying men in their forties need to be bothered more about stomach and less about tongue. Taste is a secondary take off.

Around twenty or so black kites glide down in circles over the village. The black kite is a carnivorous scavenger. They basically fly over the Ghazipur area in New Delhi. There they are a common sight, scavenging muddy trash from the mountainous garbage dump site and the banks of the stinking rivers of sewage. They kind of symbolize the urban slums and sleaze. They are wrongly named, I suppose. The black kite is dark brown in colour. But it does a yeomen service to the municipal cleaners as the scavenging raptor, with its white-speckled feathers, deep-set eyes and a sharply curved beak, does a nice cleaning job of the leftovers on the urban table of carousel and craze. They are opportunistic hunters who just love to scavenge. Most of their time is spent in gliding and soaring among the thermals looking for food.

So here they float with their buoyant flight, gliding effortlessly, diving, uplifting and changing directions with perfect ease, just a few seconds of flapping of wings and minutes-long glide. You have to be very stable to spot the hunt below on the ground. Once the radar catches the prey, the raptors swoop down with legs lowered, snatching the garbage, fish, household refuse or carrion. In the British military slang they are known as the shite-hawk.

They are known to be very opportunist hunters. The lazy fliers with big motives are attracted to fires and smoke because they know that lots of prey would be running to escape the fire. According to a native Australian belief, the kites are witty enough to spread forest fires. They pick up burning twigs and drop them among the bushes to start a fire so that there is a stampede of little rodents running away from the burning house. That’s a pretty criminal act even as per the laws of raw nature. It smells of human conspiracy.

In the crowded Indian cities, they soar in thermals in large numbers and sometimes even swoop down and snatch pizzas from human hands. They have become taste conscious in human company, I think.

The black kites hovering in the village skies is not a usual sight. I haven’t seen many. Well, it proves the quick rate of changing times. Even the villages have lots of garbage dumped at many sites these days. So maybe these are the colonizer kites that have left the congested Delhi skies and are migrating to seek fresher, sorry filthier, pastures. In any case, birds always look better, even if they are hawkish, scavenging raptors. The sky looks healthy with their winged ruffles and tickles in its ribs. And more birds, of any sort, give a feeling that not everything is lost yet.

One of the kittens has turned very lazy, the one who loves sleeping on the doormat in the veranda. The extrovert spends time in the barn. They are turning into handsome lads. The extrovert one takes the pain to hunt beyond the walls and enjoys the freedom. The lazy one is going to realize its mistake once the time for wooing ladies comes. Girl cats won’t give him too much of attention. When he isn’t sleeping, he is staring at me, his eyes pleading to fill the bowl once more. It’s very irritating. If the stomach is full by default, thanks to the bowl, why would one take the trouble of learning to hunt? A boy cat that doesn’t hunt rats in its adolescence hardly stands a chance to hunt the love of a cat girl after coming of age. It’s committing a fatal mistake, I tell you.

The dining table in the veranda is piled high with the things that I need now and then. That’s pretty convenient. I usually take out my plate into the unkempt garden and eat among the flowers, and in the company of the snakes hidden somewhere nearby. With the things piled high on it, the dining table won’t complain of idleness. I keep a corner free to set my old laptop there and write.

The switchboard just above my head has an abandoned fan regulator whose speed knob has come off, leaving a circular opening into the rectangular plastic case. It’s the favourite house of fun for the lizards and stinging yellow wasps. The lizards have fun but then they get burns also. I have found their skeletons inside. Was it electrocution or they love this site to go dying during their last days, I am not sure.

As of now the lizards have abandoned their tenancy on the property. It’s now leased to the yellow stinging wasps. No problem with that. Just that my head is direct in the line of their aerial route as they land home. A crash-landing would mean a painful fire on my face. We humans carry a lot of caution in our genes. Most of this is unnecessary fear that we pride ourselves with being cautious. I am no different. I plug the opening with a piece of clothing. The house is shut. They then peep across the narrow air slits, craning out their twitching antennas, probably staring at me, taking a vow to take revenge.

I am not yet ready to allow a house of dead wasps right over my head. Their insect souls may interfere with my chain of thoughts while writing, so I look for alternatives. I sprinkle a very mild dose of mosquito repellent; just enough to give them cough and sneeze perhaps, wear my helmet, drape my chador around like an Afghan woman and take out the cloth piece. They troop out hurriedly, buzz around angrily like anyone who has been forcibly evicted from his house. They are justified in their anger. They don’t carry its remnants like we humans. They will soon forget and make a nice nest somewhere else. It’s always easy to start anew with unbruised feelings.

Most of us are working harder than ever, even earning more than ever, with far less joy and happiness in life. Well, working for survival is necessary. We have to accept that. We aren’t unhappy because we are forced to do many things against our will. We are unhappy because we haven’t explored our Ikigai, the spring source of doing small things that makes us happy. Do big things for a living but never miss small things for your own inner smile.

All of us have that little corner of aesthetics in us. Plant roses in that. It will give you unconditional smiles. It can be anything that makes you feel at ease, releases the tension, and calms your nerves. Explore your Ikigai.  Even now it’s lying just near you, not visible because it’s very small.

We have been conditioned to prioritize the big things in life. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t miss the little flowers around your feet as you move on your path. Bend down and pick out your little wild, untamed flower. Nurture a hobby that has nothing to do your professional life. Think big time with your mind and love little things in your heart. Like I earn ‘joy’ primarily from my writings. Had I been writing for money, I would have stopped long time ago. It’s my Ikigai, what is yours?