The Old Man’s Hour

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Tonight, the bells on my doorway, wish to tell you a story. Tonight, I am just the hand, they are the voices.

There once lived a man, an old man. A very sorry man.
He lived by the sea in an old and hauntingly empty house. The walls were mouldy where it did not hide behind the pictures of all the people he had once loved, and died. His two wives, both taken away from him so young. His only son, who lived with him for 30 years before sacrificing his life for war. His brother, whom he had seen only twice during their last 20 years. His 3 dogs.
Yes, it was a hauntingly empty house.

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Long time ago, he had been young, successful, dreamy and passionate about life. Now he just loitered around the house, trying hard not to knock things over and wondering why Death had so cruelly spared him. Wondering when this would finally come to an end and when he would join his loved ones in Heaven. Yes, he believed in Heaven and that he would meet them there.

Until one night the sky opened up in tears. That storm, born in the dark of the ocean, had crept up the land, tearing his roof apart and banging on his pellucid windows. He rejoiced, prayed for the wind to blow harder and hoped for the walls to come crashing down on him. He sat waiting for the final blow, when he would finally walk hand in hand with Death.

Thud. Thud.

Who could that be at this time, out there withstanding this storm?‘ he wondered as he ambled towards the door. When he opened them, a young, dishevelled man fell onto the floor. As he closed the doors shut as quickly as his shivery hands could, the man dragged himself across the room, towards the flickering candle by the chair, leaving a trail of mud and blood behind him. The sharp edge of a piece of wood, that had pierced his young heart, shone bright red in the light of the room. He was dying, the old man realized.

As the storm took strength outside, the two men awaited their doom, inside that old house. One lay on the floor, writhing in pain, his eyes trying to fill his body with the light of the dying candle. The other sat beside him, knowing fully well that there was nothing he could do to save the young man. There was no help coming for him. This would be his last night. The old man sat, wondering if he would have to watch another die so young.

“I am a sailor,” a voice croaked from the floor. “And I lost my ship tonight. She has kissed the ocean floor leaving nothing behind, save this part of her lodged in my heart.”

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“I have crossed many seas and lead incredible voyages,” he continued, defying his body’s will to depart. “I have chests full of treasures and riches in my home across the ocean. I have met great men and listened to inspiring stories. But I have never loved. And that scares me more than death tonight.”

“Never loved?” the old man asked wiping the blood off his bruises.

“As soon as I became a man I left my folks to conquer the world. I feared their love would anchor me down. And when beautiful women offered themselves to me, I set sail on dangerous expeditions, fearing their love would weaken me. I even feared the love from my kind seamen, for I believed they would one day ask it in return. I have feared love all my life. And now I fear dying without it. A lifetime of courage and bravery, yet not enough to face death.”

The man on the floor waited for the old man to speak, to comfort him with wisdom. He waited in vain. For the old man continued cleaning his wounds in unnerving silence. And after a few more flickers of the candle, the man closed his eyes and waited for the pain to end.

When he opened his eyes, light had filled the room. Outside the window, a sun was shining vehemently through the grey clouds leftover from the stormy night. He gently lifted his head and felt in wonderful surprise, the absence of pain. There was no piece of wood sticking out from his heart, no blood draining out his life, not even a scar across his chest where life had struck him last night. All that remained was a dull ache in his heart. It was a miracle, he was alive!

He looked around and found a piece of paper on the floor where the old man had sat wiping his blood. He read it.

Death has come for us, the both of us. But it shall leave with only me tonight.
I have traded an afterlife with my loved ones for your rebirth. There is nothing wrong in dying young, but a heart that has not loved cannot die in peace.

Do not be afraid. Love will hurt. It will break your heart and wound you more deeply than that log of wood. But it will also fill your heart with awe for the beauty in shipwrecks that you never knew existed. It is the only reason to survive. Love, as much as you can, as many times as your heart calls for it. With passion. With commitment. So that when Death comes back for you, and it will, you can look in its eyes and not be afraid. And that is the way to go.
I lived all these years wondering why fate had to be so cruel. I realize, I was only made to wait so that I could embrace Death with the same love that I had embraced Life with. I am happy to be the spare that saved your life.

I have loved all those who gave me a reason to live, happily. And now I love you for giving me the perfect reason to die. 

He looked up, folded the letter, placed it close to his heart, and set out to reclaim his life. As he walked away, he threw one last glance at the doors he had knocked in refuge. The old, hauntingly empty house, filled with love.

The night is quiet again. The voices take their leave and I return to the world of shipwrecks. 

 

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An Evening by the Beach: Muscat Diaries

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We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch- we are going back from whence we came.
— JF Kennedy

It was too calm a beach for my liking. The wind was thin and the waves scarce. There were no high, roaring walls of water, crashing into the sea at a distance and rolling noisily onto the shore. The song of the ocean had been replaced by a soft, yet relentless, murmur. It was like walking into a group of old ladies at a funeral. Hushed voices. The ones that make you wonder if you were welcome to join the undertones or were required to leave without disturbing the solemnity.

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The sea was calm and clad in retro orange.

I chose to stay however, in hopes of catching the sunset. And it was a beautiful beach nonetheless. The Sultanate has some of the most stunning and secluded beaches that the peninsula has to offer.

The sky was orange, not bright, golden orange, but a dull, retro kind. There was too much dust in the air to actually see that setting sun take it’s final dip, but we got pretty close. Far away, where the skies met the waters, a few big boats scampered for the shore before the lights went out.

Sonny Boy was running about happily, always at a safe distance from the foamy edges of the tiny waves, digging his legs deep into pockets of black, wet sand, and exclaiming now and then when a Big-One approached. At least, for him, they were Big Ones.

As a child, my favorite beach activity was collecting sea shells. I would walk along the coast and pick up as many as my hands or tiny pockets could hold. I would attend to them like treasures and take them home in hopes of marrying them into a necklace. I never actually did it though.

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I call out to him.

Me: Come look at this shell I found.

Sonny Boy sprints over, takes a look at the brown and white shell in my hand and smiles politely. I can see he is not as fascinated by it as I was.

Sonny Boy: Look at that wave, Ma!

And off he goes. Kids these days! I am a little disappointed that he does not enjoy the shells. Maybe it’s a girl thing, I wonder. Or maybe he is too young, too naive to fathom the beauty hidden in the little, ordinary things.

Sonny Boy: Ma, they are going home, are they?

Me: Who?

Sonny Boy: The waves. Over there, look! Their house in the rocks.

I look up from my camera and follow his outstretched hand. At a distance, the shore had come to an abrupt end where big, black rocks, descended from the hills nearby, tapering towards the sea. Tiny wavelets came gushing silently into pockets of air between the rocks, without turning white. They came, one after the other, as if in a trance, gently knocking on the cave doors that would not be answered, and falling back into the ocean without further ado. It was quite meditative to watch.

Me: Yes, they are going home, aren’t they!

He was delighted at my response.

We spent some more time chasing crabs down the beach. They popped from time to time when the waves receded, scampering hurriedly for a brief distance before the next wave could carry them away. Some disappeared sideways into the white water while others burrowed their way into the safety of the wet sand.

The sun was now no where to be seen. The little orange that was left in the horizon was now rapidly turning black. As we walked away from the ocean, towards the familiarity of tar and concrete beneath our feet, he tugged on my t-shirt. I looked down and saw the twinkle of another question in his baby eyes.

Sonny Boy: Can we come to this beach again once we go back home?
(By home he meant back in India.)

Me: I don’t think so. This is Muscat, here where we are. And home is on the other side of this ocean. We have different beaches over there.

Sonny Boy: No. No. It’s the same beach. We can come back.

Reasoning with a boy his age can get a little too tedious. I chose not to indulge in another Let-me-explain-it-to-you session just then. Moreover, at that moment, I envied his innocence, that made believing in anything that he wanted, possible. I smiled and walked ahead.
Maybe it was knowing too much that had ruined all our happiness. Maybe, if I could unlearn a little, I could take this beach back home with me, along with the shells, crabs and the little wave houses.

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Sonny Boy, lost in his own ocean of thoughts.


Muscat Diaries- Anecdotes from my month-long holiday in Oman.

Sing a new song, Chiquitita!

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The bus missed her by just a few inches as it shrieked to halt. Yet, there she was standing, rigid as a mountain, as if she didn’t care. As if  she was used to playing games with death and winning. And when the doors hissed open, she climbed onboard, quickly scanned the seats before sinking next to me. Our reckless charioteer continued weaving us in and out the morning traffic.

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She was a chocolate-coloured, frail women in her late thirties (I am guessing), wearing a pair of thin, narrow-framed glasses, that looked like it was holding on to her low nose-bridge with great difficulty. There she was, just an ordinary face in the crowd, on that Sunday morning, sharing a journey towards the city with me and around ten other disgruntled folks. And if it wasn’t for the black scarf wrapped perfectly around her head, I probably would have missed her all together.

Yes, the thin, intricately laced bandanna told me a story that made her stand apart from the rest that morning. While the scarf in itself had the word Survivor written all over it, the transparent laces told me that she was one bold woman, unashamed of her bruises.

I come from a part of the world where women are encouraged to add layers of clothing so that they are not ridiculed, or misunderstood for trying to entice men, or to safeguard their assets from vile eyes and/or to simply appeal to the traditions of the land. We are encouraged to wear a brassiere at all times, a petticoat on top of that, then a blouse on top of that, and then a stole or shawl that covers all evidence of the landscape below. We are told most often to hide those parts of our body that are unnatural or that could make the general crowd uncomfortable. The worst of course, is that every fifth person on the street is a self-appointed moral police, licensed to reprimand or punish if these codes of dressings are not adhered to.

Hence I could understand if she wanted to wear a scarf simply because she did not want to draw too much attention or negative energy into her life. Yet, the way the soft cloth was draped, made me wonder if she had not done it out of habit. Clearly, not a lot of effort had gone into hiding the gleaming baldness underneath it. So what if there was hardly any evidence left of the rich locks that once sprang from there? She decided to not sport that ‘Wig of a thing’ and ruin what was natural and beautiful in its own way. Respect.

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As our bus lunged forward, taking sharp turns and making sudden breaks, wearing out the unassuming pedestrians on its way, my co-passenger and I continued in silence. I plugged in on my earphones and started to scroll down my playlist. What do I listen to? I need a happy song to set the mood for the day. What do I play?

And then I hear a soft humming from the next seat. A sweet, melodious tune, vaguely familiar to my ears. Yes, she was indeed humming to herself, and enjoying it too the way her fingers tapped along. She was her own music. No earphones, no iPod. And I wasn’t the only one who had taken notice. The couple seated right across us had their eyes on her, and a weird expression on their faces. Amused? Surprised?

I wanted to check if her lips showed a hint of a smile as opposed to the stoic expression she had walked in with. But considering that she was sitting right next to me and facing the other way, any attempt to do so would look very much like I was staring. And I did not want to be the one that stared. Hence I left that to my imagination. And in my mind, I could clearly see a smile on her lips, unperturbed by the reckless driving that caught her out-of-pitch from time to time, the dark clouds hanging heavily in the sky blocking the morning sun or even by the lack of an orchestra or audience to her rendering.

Something flickered within me. Shame? Probably.

And as the buildings fell behind us and large drops of rain snaked down the window panes, I listened to Anni and Agnetha sing their hearts out.

“Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita”

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A shout out to all my sisters, my friends, who have gone through the pain and cruelty inflicted by Cancer and have survived: I am proud of you. I have deep respect for you.
And to the ones who are still fighting: I am there for you. Even if we may not know each other, know that you are always in my silent prayers. Know that you are not alone

A Page from the Diary

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Love,

It has been seven years now. And I’ve come home tonight.
To this delight of a home you’ve built for us in the dense of the forest. I come home to the songs of the gurgling brook, the gossips of the old pines by the fence and to the sweet aroma of little cookie-hearts, wafting through our kitchen. But most importantly, I come home to you and our little girl, Hope.

Come, take a walk with me down the orchards, across the woods and towards the town at night. Just follow my lead and listen to this story of our journey.

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The one that touched Love the most. One from Monet’s Water Lilly Pond series.

We’ve been down this road before, you and I.

The seasons have changed quite a bit haven’t they? The winters are probably the best around here, for there wasn’t a cold night you couldn’t make warm with your tenderness. But I know how much you enjoy watching the sun fill the summer sky. Look, it’s fall now, and the leaves of yesteryears have gathered around us. The trees are shedding and preparing to start all over again. Maybe we should too.

It was during one of our walks that we met Joy for the first time, do you remember? You both hit it off so well, you were inseparable. I almost thought he would move in with us. But back then I was not aware how faint-hearted he was. One bolt from the sky and he vanished before the thunder rolled down. And just when we thought ‘There goes a chap we are never going to see again,’ he emerges from the bushes smiling sheepishly. I like having him around though, so I don’t mind that he keeps vanishing from time to time. Although I must say, his disappearing acts are getting a little tiresome.

And so is feeding Sacrifice. That dog has a never-ending appetite. The more I offer the more he whines. I am happy that he makes you feel wanted and safe, but he has got to know when to stop demanding. I know you don’t ask for it, but as long as you live, he will keep living off you.

The one person I can’t get comfortable with, no matter how hard I try, is Sorrow. You keep telling me she is family. I agree she came from the same womb as you. But she doesn’t need to be wherever you are. She taunts me, secretly threatens to end our relationship and is always messing up with my plans for you. You keep telling me that I shouldn’t take her too seriously and that she would leave when the storm settled. Well, I wish I could accept her as easily as you do, but I am only human.

That’s why I like your cousin Fear better. He can be a real handful to deal with, I give you that. And when he comes gate-crashing into our intimacy, he always drags in Doubt, Anxiety, Disappointment and Defeat. That troublesome cavalry has turned our lives upside down quite a number of times. Be that as it may, I notice how much stronger we grow by the time he packs his bags to leave. Yes, I would choose him over Sorrow, anyday.

Oh, we’ve had our share of struggles I know. But things got a lot easier to deal with once Hope arrived. She was so tiny and frail the first time we held her. Look at her grow into those pretty dresses now.  Just watching her play doll with her friend Faith, in our little yard, gives me the strength to face a thousand battles more.

And remember Dreams? I can never forget the night we got drunk and broke into an abandoned house by the brook, only to find her weeping in her cage. You took her down, into your arms, cradled her in the warmth of your palm for hours and then set her free. How beautiful it was to watch her flap her wings into the horizon pregnant with the promise of a dawn. I still hold on to a tiny blue feather that she left behind.

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‘True hope is swift; and flies with swallow’s wings’- Shakespeare

I recall often and bashfully, our trip to Adventure. Sitting on the edge of that ravine, drawing heat from the red embers between us, while the stars reflected clearly from the still waters below, you came clean and confessed about your affairs with Recklessness and Passion. That’s when I realized how easy it was to get carried away by circumstances and opinions, even for someone so divine like you. That night I opened my heart and let you in completely. I gave you the keys to those doors that I am too afraid to open myself.

It’s been so long since then, yet it all feels like yesterday. I wonder if they miss me, Loneliness and Regret. Haven’t heard from them since we got together. I know you call it ‘good riddance’, but you do realise that they were all I had, until you came along. Familiarity breeds a type of comfort that is easy to fall back into.

And now after seven years, here we are, still walking down this road. I know we promised to touch eternity and walk back, but the road is long, very very long, I realise now. This heart of mine has grown a little old, a little tired, just a little. Please don’t frown down on me when I stop from time to time to catch a breath or feel the grass. Its only a matter of time before I catch up.
And sometimes, we are on the same path but on separate roads. That’s okay too. I know you’ll wait for me when you get there first, and I know you’ll get there first.

Suit up Love. Let’s go out and celebrate tonight. I have a table for two at Memory Street. And then when we are tipsy and merry, let’s walk back home by the banks of Innocence. And when we close the door behind us later tonight, play our favourite track from Nostalgia while I let my hair down. Let’s slip into each others arms and sway to the old tune, until the break of dawn.

 

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Dreamy- Emotional Dance by Robert Duvall

 

A Dead Clock’s Resolve

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John Vicat Cole’s The old clock shop, Bulstrode Street

It settled quietly by the corner
dainty memorabilias by it’s sides.
To every shopper and window-watcher
‘It’s 9:17’ it smiled in delight.

Discounts and sales passed untouched.
Scores on its tag unchallenged
The rusty golden dial gleamed proudly.
‘It’s 9:17’ it was still convinced.

That window had seen some showers
then some dust and now some dirt.
Light has stroked at varied depths
Yet, ‘It’s 9:17’ it cried in despair.

Until one day a cat dragged in
an old man and a broken cane.
He looked at his watch and then the clock
‘Alas, it’s 9:17’ he declared.

Although the greybeard dwelt briefly
and left with a brand new cane instead
The clock in the corner beamed with pride
‘It’s 9:17’ it cried; the joy in living death.

Lighting the Lotus

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The mind and the body often don’t age together.

The vessel sometimes grows weary of the wanderings and seeks to repose much earlier than the spirit is ready to settle down. And sometimes, it is the soul that matures rather quickly within a body that is not yet ready to relinquish its youthfulness.
Thus a conflict arises within one, where the matured self waits for it’s completing half to catch up. It waits, patiently yet longingly, to sing in unison with the chords gone astray.

In the modern world teeming with distractions for the weak at heart, this inner struggle sees no end. The youth is drawn to power, passion and adventure, like addicts to that dose of nicotine. This conflict, that keeps the youthful self from aligning itself to the mature soul, I believe, is very often the root to a state of un-satisfaction, where nothing is experienced in its fullness.
However the need to grow out of this unsatisfactory life is what eventually pushes one towards maturity.

This is not something that occurs once in a lifetime; it’s repetitive. The body and mind take turns to outpace the other. And everytime this happens, the internal conflict sets in motion the process of aging.  Hence at any given moment we are either younger or older than the candles on that cake that we just blew out.

Close to a year now, I have befriended a familiar voice in my head that has been drawing my attention towards this phenomenon called the Buddha. At first a curiosity, then a thirst for understanding, followed by a desire to feel nothingness (I understand that the word ‘desire’ in itself stands out of place in this context, but I choose to use it bravely) and now a call for awareness. While this has been in strange contradiction to my life goals and way of living, the cry-out cannot be ignored.

The Lotus has taken a very special place in my heart, one that I am yet to fully understand. I see it everywhere. Rather my eyes take note of it everytime I see. The Lotuses I collected for many reasons over the years, have now gathered themselves artfully in my garden. They hang from the ceiling of my dreams and float around in the mythical river of my origins.

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A Lotus that caught my Third Eye, almost six years ago.

If I were to delve deep into the Buddha’s words, a Lotus can represent one of the three; fortune, purification and rebirth. And I would like to believe that it’s the Lotus of rebirth that has set it’s heart on mine. The rebirth can be ‘a change of ideas, an acceptance of Buddha where there once was none, the dawn after one’s darkest day, a renaissance of beliefs or the ability to see past wrongs.’

I realize that an internal conflict is rife within me. An aged soul sits meekly, smiling, while the body rages against the dying of the youth. That which is wise dwells without resentment or urgency, and yet the flesh yearns to understand. A treatise for alignment must be made, sooner or later, for peace to reign over once again. For that I spend what time is left in the day after ‘living’ trying to understand the Why.

Like Will Smith in the Collateral Beauty, I seek the Why. Why I woke up this morning. Why I ate what I ate, wore what I wore. Why I do all the things that make me who I am. I am sure there is a Why.

Do I think I am on a path towards Buddhism? No. Although Buddhism is less of a religion and more of a way of life, it is still a set of rules men constructed to fit into what was believed to be the best form of propaganda for this peaceful cult. It’s a doctrine, a set of laws, sacred scriptures and rituals with a need to conform to it. And most importantly it comes with a label. I don’t require another label.

Buddha is more personal. It is a part of who we already are and yet unaware of. It is about shedding the skin of the ‘self’ and finding peace in the nakedness. From what little I have gathered so far, I think there is more to Buddha than Nibbana or Dhamma. Just like there is more to Love than Passion or Commitment.

The Lotus in me is yet to open it’s eyes. The first petals have taken shape but remain reluctant to break the kiss from the bud. And I do not intend to step in. Force is a dangerous companion on the path of Truth. Let Time take care of that. For now I just wish to meditate on what is.

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Today, a part of the world celebrates the birth of the Buddha. I am informed that the celebration spreads across many dates this month in many countries, owing to the variations in the Gregorian, Chinese, Indian and Lunar calendars. Nevertheless, it can be safely assumed that this time in general is one for acknowledging the biggest blow that took ancient religions by surprise; the enlightened thoughts of someone named Buddha.

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In South Korea, the Buddha’s birthday, also known as Seokga Tansinil, is celebrated by lighting Lotus lanterns.

I however decided to observe this day for the first time, not because I believe even for a blink of an eye that a great soul was born on this very day.
But, only because I needed a day to mark the awareness of the strife within. And it is with my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes taking in all that this world has to offer that I say; I am happy to embark on this journey now even as the destination remains unknown. And that is all right. As long as I act, and not wait for life to pass by, it will be all right.

I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.    — Buddha

Reaching Out, One Last Time

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Less than a month ago, I had in one of my posts briefly sifted through the uncertainty that is life in the clutches of death, the pain and confusion that the sudden demise of someone we love/loved leaves us with, and the ever elusive concept of time. Hence, it was not at all in my plan to touch upon this topic again this soon, lest it should add a very morbid feel to this blog of mine that is struggling to keep a happy face as it is.

But that’s the thing about death. It hardly ever confirms to our schedules and has always taken the liberty to visit unannounced. Try as hard as we may, but there really is no preparing for its ruthlessness and vulgarity. And when the Reaper leaves carrying the soul of that fine man or woman, who was until that very moment a part of our lives, we are left feeling vulnerable. The realization that ‘there is no telling when your appointment is’, makes us introspect. It is that moment when you want to revalue all that you possess and all that you have experienced, and draw up a quick balance sheet. Your assets and your liabilities, they are seen in a different light in that hour of unholiness.

It all started when two weeks ago, I sat rampaging through a very old collection of books I own, long forgotten. These were the ones I had decided to leave behind after my marriage. It was a practical decision as it occurred to us that hauling them all across the ocean to India would incur me more than what I had spent on them in the first place. Hence an arrangement was made that each time I came visiting I would select a few to fly back home with me. This now has become a ritual of sorts that I quite enjoy.

Hence back to the foot of the cupboard, where I sat scavenging through the old pile in search of the ones that I could choose to stay with me for the next leg of this journey.

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From the lot emerged a very old, shabby, almost torn, set of pages that used to be a book once upon a time. The tattered yellow pages hurled abuses at me for abandoning it all these years. It looked vaguely familiar and I was sure that it belonged to someone else. It took me a while to recollect that it once belonged to a colleague and friend who had lent it when I expressed interest in learning the tricks to sketching portraits.

It has been so many years since I took time to sketch and shade anything beautiful or worthwhile and I was no longer interested in nurturing the amateur artist in me. Moreover, I hated it when people borrowed books and never returned. Finding myself guilty of holding on to a borrowed book for six years, without even using it well, I wanted to set it right and return the book to its rightful owner. I did not know where he was now, but I decided that I would find out. It would be valued more in an artist’s collection, I was sure.

I soon fished him out of my Facebook friends list and messaged him. Just a Hello and brief one sided pleasantries. I noticed that almost two years ago he had typed out a few ‘Hellos’ and ‘How are yous’ himself, but I had not replied. I probably had many reasons why I did not, but it nevertheless made me feel guilty of not keeping in touch.

A week passed and no replies. I assumed he must be too busy to check his social profiles. Or was he now taking turn to ignore my messages? I couldn’t be sure.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago, during a meet-up with another old colleague of mine who still works with the same paper, I remembered about this incident and casually inquired if the artist friend was still with the firm.

“Din’t you know? He passed away less than a year ago.”

I stood there in her kitchen, where she was preparing a sumptous meal for me, feeling sick to the stomach.

It had come as a surprise to everyone apparently. He had been in the pink of his health and was troubled with nothing else apart from occasional high blood pressure, a very common health condition in this day and age. But nothing life-threatening, they said. And so when he fell prey to a rare type of brain hemorrhage that left him with just a few hours to struggle and give up, putting an end to all that he was, people could hardly believe. They were saddened and equally riddled by his sudden demise.

Back home that night I opened my Facebook chat window again and saw the messages I had typed out a week ago, still unseen. Something akin to guilt pricked me right then. I wasn’t sure if it ebbed from the fact that I had failed to keep in touch with him over the years. Or due to the fact that I had withheld one of his books all these years, with little care or acknowledgement. Or was it just the feeling of uncertainty that Death never fails to leave behind? Was I now experiencing the fragility of life as his family and friends would have felt a year ago? I was uncomfortable.

He was hardly my close friend. Just someone I would put under the acquaintance tab. And yet his sudden demise left me feeling I ought to have talked more when there was time. Maybe I would have too had I continued working there. But when life takes us on different roads, you embrace the good changes and travel happily, sometimes forgetting the people who had shared that stretch of the road with you.

If his passing could guilt me into these feelings, I shudder to think what would be, had it been someone who had been really close to me. The words unsaid, the gratitude unexpressed and the apologies not made would haunt me forever.

I picked up his book again and leafed through the pages, as curiously as I did the first time I saw it. He had been a really talented artist, one of the best I had seen. Although he took his work seriously and probably gave his best, he was known to be a bit of a rebel at work, opposing the sometimes ridiculously strict codes of publishing established there. I guess I never told him that it was a quality I quietly admired. I also remember, we shared a love for cats.

His book goes back to the cupboard. But it now holds more value than it ever did.

Such is the death of an artist. It is one which adds beauty to his creations and poignance to his messages.

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An illustration by JS titled Romantic Oman.

And as Goodbye, I quote Shelly:

How wonderful is Death,
Death, and his brother Sleep!
One, pale as yonder waning moon
With lips of lurid blue;
The other, rosy as the morn
When throned on ocean’s wave
It blushes o’er the world;
Yet both so passing wonderful!

Ode to the Queen

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IMG_8266I can’t say I have ‘travelled far and wide’. But I have ticked off a modest number of destinations on my highly ambitious explorer’s list. And with that to counterbalance my judgments, I remark; No sight has ever aroused the passive romantic in me quite as much as you have.
Ooty, my love, you are still the most precious jewel in my crown.

The magic you yield on me might have something to do with the long wait I endured before I first met you. And how! An early morning bike ride up the hill, thanks to a kind friend of mine. I was hardly dressed for the cold, it had afterall been an impromptu trip, one that I did not believe in delaying anymore. My summer tunic and Denim three-fourths were no match for your frosty welcome. But despite feeling chilled to the bone, I could not help but fall in love with you right then and there.

And since then, everytime I come visiting, your beauty brings me to my knees, often leaving me literally breathless. And each time I leave, I do with a promise to see you soon again.

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If someone were to ask me today what I find the most attractive about you, I would be lost having to choose between the way the wind washes over my soul with soothing eucalyptus oils as soon as I cross over the fence, or the way you blow silver mist down the hills to touch my face in playful welcome. Or maybe it is the charm of an old English town that you nestle, which refuses to die down in all the emerging modernity. Or it could simply be the beautiful spread of constellations you lay out on stark cold nights, a surreal sight to the beholder on your side of the Blue Mountains.

I sometimes dream about your untimely rains, that leave you drenched in sublime shades of green, and the shroud of mist that follows, tucking you in for a shivery night. That is probably when you look the most beautiful, or so the pluviophile in me argues.

You have shown me the most beautiful Golden Hour and the most romantic Full Moon Night. I delight everytime I stumble upon little coves or creeks when out venturing in your woods. They always feel so personal and precious.
The taste of coffee with your morning rays and that of wine with a view of your horizon, are therapeutic combinations I would recommend to anyone with an ailing heart and who is in search of better days and reasons to live.

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From your valleys I have unearthed some of my best memories. In your bosom I have found inspiration and strength to face life’s hardest struggles. The times you taught me how to connect with myself and find unity in your grandiose, can never be forgotten. These are only a few of the prized memories you have gifted that I keep locked in my treasure chest.

Yes, admittedly, there have been nights you kept me awake with your foggy nightmares and rude surprises. But my love has learned to see past that, into the blue horizons and the wonders you hold there.

Some would suggest a backpack through the Himalayas or the Swiss Alps or Andes to cure my blind adoration for your beauty. And I concur, visiting such magna opera can surely leave me charmed and smitten with infatuation.
But they would still only be beautiful places to tick-off my ever expanding list.

Yours is the only one I can come home to. And nothing can take that away from me. No.
Queen you shall remain, in my Wanderer’s Castle.

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Kaleidoscope

Let’s pause here and take a look;
I have a kaleidoscope to share

Place it over my shoulder and see
Hazy days disappear into a maze
A cherry blossom and a willow kiss
Scarlet orbs born from its core
Little fishes in blue-green jars
Devour each other in timeless desire
Pages and pages of blank sheets
Or a story written in invisible ink?
Spiral motifs of intricate emotions
Make way for the scion of light

Now point it to the stars and behold
A purple lotus unfolds; what a sight!
Windows unlock heavenly doors
And fiery dreamwalkers gather in
Knights on stallions take stations
Their eyes on a chromatic bugle
An ivory quill and beads of fire
Adorn every marching soldier
A heart of gold in a yellow sea
Swimming in psychedelic circles

Time to lock the third eye away
And keep walking the walk.

(Inspired by a mid-summer night’s dream)

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