Melodious Regalement of a Slow-paced Life

I am all for animal rights and against people using them in street circuses. Still I cannot help but feel the pining nostalgia of the monkey charmers during our grand old days in childhood. Those were the only well-behaved monkeys. Nicknamed Ramlal, Dharmender, Basanti, etc., clad in baby frocks and shirts, they were almost the devatas of the simian world. Holding a stick on his shoulders, Dharmender walked on two legs to fetch his wife Basanti from her mayaka. And Basanti would say a shy ‘no’ to come back. He would then dance, put on goggles and even smoke a beedi with a masculine swag to woo her back. The little street show would proceed without even a single piece of the simian mischief! Why are people looking for the eighth wonder of the world? It already has been witnessed by so many of us.

Well that was past. The times have changed. Do you remember the terrace pole overlooking the open bathroom below in the house having four adolescent farmer girls? The crow’s favourite perch point. A monkey thinks why should the crows have all the fun. So it has grabbed the pointed hot seat and is hanging from the top end. If the motive is the same as that of the crow then it almost falls within the criminal jurisprudence of the humans because the offender is very similar to us in inclinations and gene pool. The stalker has to be brought to justice. On my part, I am praying that the pole’s top end itself does justice where the peeping tom is trying to settle its red bottom at the moment.

A monkey has to drink water but then it has to topple the vessel holding the water as well. You wonder, was drinking just a side effect and the main motive being to topple it to raise a blasting noise. A clay pitcher makes a muffled thud. Unfortunately, it gives this sound only once. My stock of clay pitchers is over. The monkeys have had a lot of fun with them. They seem to be furthering the interest of the pot-makers. This is a kind of use-and-throw fun game for the monkeys. Now the metallic ones are doing their service. Here the monkeys face a slight bit of inconvenience. The metal utensils make a sharp clattering sound and the funster has to run away on account of this noisy impact after the lewd dose of ruffianism. It’s better to turn an applauding spectator to their follies. What is the use of boiling blood with no effect?

Just now another monkey is doing its best to derive some fun in the most unorthodox manner. There is a house under construction. On the terrace is a half-finished pillar having naked iron bars at the upper end. It’s trying its level best to turn it into the thorniest crown in the world. It must be very confident about its red bum bearing up with the risk. It’s within its rights to do so but I find it pretty foolish even by their standards. Some immature girl monkey may applaud his feat but the slightest mishap will turn him the laughing stock of both the human and simian worlds. Organizing its fickle mind in an unlikely way, it manages to sit right on top of the iron bars and looks with a kingly attitude and royal majesty. Maybe sitting on the iron bars, testing the strength of the bum, gives a totally different view of the world.

The season is changing at long last. There are faded traces of autumn. In late morning, when the sunrays have gentle warmth, the kittens sprawl for the laziest sleep on the windswept terrace among the neem windfalls. The house crickets, the brown denizens of the nocturnal chorus, also sleep under the items they deem immobile and safe for the day. I just love disturbing them. Shake the covering off and they hop around sleepily and take a vow to drill more holes in the clothing where they can sneak in for better sleep. The winters will come after all.

On vintage autumn nights, tremulous dew-stars kiss the seasonless silence spread over the lips of darkness. Someone’s exhausted sobs and ceaseless moans now dive forever into the measureless serenity of the slumbering eternity. A peasant woman has been crying late into the night. There has been a loss somewhere. The high tide of darkness swallows the star. And the gloom adds to its invisible shades to the far.

A cow has been lowing throughout the night to get a mate. She is in heat and the farmer will surely get up with a smile in the morning because it means the prospects of fresh milk for his children. It’s definitely good news even for the village bull who hulks around looking for such chances of the fresh milk arriving at the house of the farmers.

A drunkard farmer had to be slapped first and then thrashed nicely by his tired wife late at night after he won’t stop his acrobatics at the village square. He cannot do much as of now and bears up with the punishment. But a hard kick prods out a slurred threat that he will see her in the morning. ‘In the morning my brothers will arrive to beat you even harder,’ she tells him. Then he allows himself to be dragged into the house. I have information from very credible sources that even after all this violence publicly, they have pretty busy lovemaking sessions right after.

Reading all through the night is fun sometimes. Try it someday. You share the night’s little mysteries and welcome a new day like a kind host. The day smiles in gratitude. Across the misty, cool, dewy horizon, I feel the new sun, a new fireball with blessing warm rays.

It’s a beautiful morning. The humid restlessness of the rainy season is gone and the autumnal ease now assuages the spirits. A dragonfly is resting on a sadabahar flower. Its wings stretched to perfect horizontal. It has slept till late in the morning. Did it go for some night revelry? I tease it for its night fun and tickle at the pointed back end of its slim body. It isn’t eager to get awake and just pulls itself into a kind of yawning morning-time curve. Her wings are but too precious to her. Try touching them and it is wide alert and flies away for a busy day.

A butterfly, a common mormon, is also sleeping late on a cluster of night blooming jasmine. The Parijat tree is a veritable shower of beautiful, fragrant white flowers. They drizzle down with the rise of the sun. All around her there is a scented drizzle of little flowers. Maybe it’s a boozed up butterfly that had extra fun among the night blooming jasmine flowers and is now sleeping late in the morning. A chatty tailorbird but doesn’t like the late risers and awakens the butterfly with its exuberant vocals. The butterfly flies away to make the most of the few days that mother existence has bestowed in its kitty to fulfil the purpose of its life.

The song of the birds picks up its tempo. Three pigeons fly with a friendly banter; five ducks fly in a slanted line (there aren’t as many as would allow them to form a V pattern because the water bodies have vanished and so have the visiting ducks); a lone heron flies slowly with the unhurried pace of an old gentleman; a few house sparrows dart swiftly; the dainty and handsome Indian magpie robin hops on the parapet wall (seems happy, maybe got a lover and is now joyfully silent after singing love songs in plenty for almost a week). The morning has picked up nicely.

The sky is relieved of its duty of bearing thundering, water-laden clouds on its back. Having shed all that it had to give, it now looks fresh and light. Two peacocks are also feeling very light after shedding their plumes. The weight of love is gone. Of course, love is a very weighty issue these days. They are now pecking and preening themselves pretty freely. They are quite friendly to each other because now there is no competition for winning love in their favour. I think singlehood is quite light and one can be at ease like they are now. They can fly over more distances as well.

The village has seen a lot of development around it. It has now canals and roads circuiting it. It is good. We need canals for water and roads for speedier movement. They did a fantastic job and at a great speed as if they are in a hurry. They have been very busy in making roads and missed quite simple things such as water drainage system and culverts to allow the rain water go down south and fall into the seasonal tributaries of Yamuna. So the ancient natural waterways are choked.

Since we have had excess rains this season, the surrounding farmlands and the village got filled up like a water bowl. They now use big water pumps to take out the excess water. We humans know how to be busy almost all the time. We are very serious about creating problems and then we get onto finding solutions for the same very diligently. And that keeps us very busy.

It’s good to plan development projects but we shouldn’t run to develop things at any cost. I think a leisurely walk to development will do better because we retain our common sense while doing so and don’t goof up to commit silly mistakes. Rampant development leaves many loopholes and then we have to spend a lot of energy in finding solutions for our self-created problems.

When I hold my three-month-old niece in my hands, I somehow feel fulfilled with love and care. It’s a privilege to stand by her as she fights her way out of multiple complications. Her one smile is enough to make one forget thousand miseries of life. That’s what I try: make her smile. And when it comes, that pure smile, I feel like hitting a treasure trove instantly. She scans the cloud patterns as I hold her in my arms, curious to know the strange ways of this world. Maybe the infants can see angels in the skies above.

When things around appear too complex, I pick up Bond Sahab’s book. Immediately the layers of complexity peel off and you see simplicity and purity of a world that all of us have the option to view. His books train your mind to view life in simpler terms.

Iranian movies are Bond Sahab’s cinematic equivalent in taking you to a little world of simpler facts of life. ‘The Willow Tree’ but seems too serious for an Iranian movie. There is a kind of drama that is typical of our movies here in India. A professor gets his eyesight after 40 years. There is a chasm between his feelings and what he wants to see. He wants to make up for the lost decades and wants to see more and more of life. The face of his wife, the angel who held his hand during the dark days, now appears too ordinary in comparison to the beautiful women around.

‘Ranna’s Silence’ again is a beautiful little story. Little five-year-old Ranna stops speaking after someone steals her hen, Kakoli. She loves her hen so much that hearing fox or wolf alarm beats in the fields, on the way to her school, she would run back to ensure the safety of her pet. As she lost her hen, she disowned her smile and beautiful words also. Well, she was instantly the same girl as of before as the thief realized his mistake and returned the hen. Watch it if you want to feel how small things can help us build a peaceful, simple world around us.

Hardeep comes to visit and shares the life lesson given by his father. ‘Never go to Delhi if you can manage it at Sonipat, the nearest city. And never go to the city if you can manage it at the village itself,’ he says. Well, I think it’s basically an injunction about unnecessary loitering around. As an adolescent boy he became very curious about Delhi and bunked school to wander around in the Delhi crowd for a day. His father came to know. He asked his mother to prepare a very tasty sweet halwa. Hardeep ate to his full, thinking he has been rewarded for possibly becoming the family record holder who reached Delhi at the youngest age. So he ate to his full and took happy burps. Then his father very affectionately put his hand on his shoulder as they walked to their field by the canal. It was a grove of fruit trees and handsome flowers. Its mere sight was enough to uplift anyone’s spirits. There was just one oddity in all this. There was a terribly prickly bush in between. His father made him stand by the prickly clump and tied a rope, bringing the boy and the bush in good bonhomie. Then he whipped him with a rope and made him shout ‘I will never go to Delhi’ 1001 times. ‘He saved me from doom, my kind father,’ he says. He is a trucker and a farmer now who tries to avoid bookings to Delhi even if they pay him extra.

We had a little hawan for our angel, my niece Maira. Panditji’s son missed on most of the Sanskrit slokas. He seems very good at eating the choicest delicacies served by the host though. He is very cute and one can see the effect of the hosts’ offerings on his chubby jowls. He made the mahamritunjya mantra sound like some Latin hymn. He looked very apt for eating copious food after the rituals but mastering the slokas is, frankly speaking, not his domain. The old Pandit looked helplessly and then took it upon himself to somehow salvage his honour. The goodwill for him will at least see his son getting good charity for his mispronounced half slokas. It’s basically about respect. Out of the custom of respect, we would accept wrong slokas as well. What is wrong in that? Even the wrong slokas chanted with good intentions will serve their purpose.

Treat of the day! The tiny sadabahar in the crack of the wall bears a flower. There are hundreds of bigger flowering plants on the ground having dozens of petalous smiles. What makes this little flower exceptional? An entire season’s rains slipped down the wall. It’s not in mother earth’s lap where she stores water for her kids. It just has a hairline crack in the plastered wall to cling to its moisture of survival. Thousands of water drops slip away and then just an ounce of water perhaps clings to the narrowest root space.

The garden has hundreds of flowers fed like pampered children. But this solitary flower high on the plastered wall is special. Blossoming is no slave to the conventional parameters of height, weight, the soil around roots, nutrition, the amount of rain or any other circumstantial fact. It’s only about giving the best with what you have.

Given its tough conditions, this tiny flower grew in millimetres, while the rest of the more privileged flowers on the ground grew in inches. Their life might be measured in feet and hundreds of flowers. But what is exceptional about the fact of their existence? They are the happy-go-lucky types. Their smiles stand on mother earth’s piety. This but is a brave flower. It clung to survival, just staying a couple of inches of a fragile sapling high in the wall in the hot sweltering summer heat. It waited and waited with patience for more rains and when they came, it added a couple of more inches to its height and there comes the flower.

It’s basically about reaching home and fulfilling your destiny irrespective of the circumstances. What we get isn’t in our hands, but what we do with what we have is surely our calling. The smile of this flower is worth hundreds of lesser mortals in the garden below. It’s a proud flower, no wonder it’s there high in the air above the rest.

So dear friends, please avoid the mistake of cribbing about your circumstances of life. A lot many things definitely lie beyond our control. It’s better to accept certain facts. Take it as destiny. But that’s just half of the story. With what has been given to you by the quirks of fate, you are in the driving seat and juggle your pieces to make your own destiny. Like this little plant does. It blossoms a flower in the toughest of a situation and completes its journey, fulfils its meaning of being a flower. You too can blossom your flower with what you have been given. So forget about what you don’t have, just make use of what you possess. You too are up for a flowery reward. Best wishes!

The twilight lands after a hectic day. I am preparing cow-dung fire for my evening pooja ritual. A butterfly staggers nearby and swerves around on the ground. I think it is perhaps a butterfly that has forgotten it is a butterfly and takes itself to be a moth and now would love to burn itself to death. Thankfully that’s not the case. It sits quietly on the ground a few feet from the ambers. Its wings shut together in vertical; it looks a tiny sailboat in stormy waters. Possibly it feels cold and has come to enjoy a bit of warmth by the fire.

As I have already mentioned, it’s a little world of big emotions in the Iranian movies. It’s a kind of beautiful painting in motion. One has to be at peace with herself in order to enjoy these little episodically sweetened movies. ‘White Bridge’ is a little painting depicting a small world with only this difference that the characters speak here. Bahareh is an angelic child. Her world comes crashing on her little head as she loses her father in a car accident. Further, she gets an injury in her leg and now walks like a special child. More than her physical injury, it’s the mental shock that has thrown her into a pit of insecurities and fear. The school insists upon sending her to a school for special children. But she loves her old school. She sets out daily in the morning to sit by the gate of her former school. There is a little white bridge where she spends most of her time. It’s a dry little stream and the school principal throws a challenge that she may come to the school when there is water in the stream. And water flows one day. It’s not possible for the dry stream to have water in a natural way. A philosophical teacher works with a farmer to divert water into the stream. The little girl regains her confidence and proudly limps to her school.