Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 images

This year certainly changed my DNA more than any other time period I stretch to recollect. Never before have I confronted such on the edge vulnerability; I was a whisker away from destitution this year. There was a real prospect of having to vacate the Besant nagar apartment; the choke of money supply would have killed a dog.
These lessons are drilled on the mind. Fear is a useful emotion to anchor those lessons on the mind. I can no longer afford to forget them for the reminder of my existence. Many lessons but this would sum it up: I now consider myself more a content writer than a creative writer. Now my mind suddenly feels commonplace. Earlier I would revel in the freedom of the moment; I set my own rules of conduct and choose my own crowd. Now I know better – I am just another mediocre guy who was pretender.
            I divide 2013 into three segments: the first four months saw me at my creative best. Being in India Cements is a creative writer’s dream. Having Damien, the world’s worst bully on one hand and Manikandan, a world-class communicator on the other, got my mind ticking. My mind wove so many tales; I wrote voraciously filling in a lot of scrap books. Every day living is monotonous but rarely does a place feel supercharged for stories. That’s why I rate my ten months stay at ICL as the most satisfactory stint in my two decades work experience.
            The next four months, May to August, saw me more in a contemplative mood. I went heavy on Vipassana, the writing too continued from the momentum of ICL. But waiting for a job broke my back. But when September dawned and I was still nowhere near a job; that’s when my mind went frantic to primal fear.
           In these months of fear and despair, I felt no more than dry leaf in a gale storm; I am essentially powerless and useless. That got in humility in huge doses. With just survival being the sole purpose of living, it got in much perspicuity. Everything became superfluous when your mind worries on the next month’s earning. Paradoxically the best time for learning for bitterest truths is when every pretence and cloak is dumped – nothing matters more than a job even if it is under a tyrant. I have never reached such depths of humility before. I now feel like a lamb on a line for slaughter.
            But destiny works in mysterious ways. I found a lot of friends from whom I borrowed faith and perseverance. There were so many who said,” Sathya, you are bloody good and good things take time. It seems God does not wish to give you smaller pleasures but waiting to dish out happiness in such quantities that you’ll be swamped.” This is what T H Iyer would say during daily walks at the Eliot’s, Ramakrishnan would write that on a mail four times a week, Prabhakar always takes my best situation perspective even when my house is on fire!! But one person who never gave up on me was Viji, my sister, despite adding a daughter-in-law to the calling list. Even Thangam, my cook, believes,” Your good days will be back. God tests those HE likes, so don’t despair.  Have faith and hold fort!"
            I believe it was daily practice of Vipassana that saved me from complete ruin. Guitar fills the greater part of the day. It is a blessing to call Manisha and speak to her mother. She has a sweet tongue I have not seen since my grandmother from the Black and White era. Vivek from Saharanpur had a good word to spare. I would feel distressed when Vivek succeeded as a writer (the good doctor runs a hospital otherwise) while my slate was empty. I would constantly tell him not to interact and yet he would keep in touch – such good-naturedness is hard to explain in our cynical times. And finally Ranga with a sage's calmness as my Titanic had begun to sink. Even my mother pitched in by staying for a week each month for four months in a row.  
            Now I work for a SAP implementation company on a decent pay packet; I also freelance for a memorabilia company and they offer a fantastic return. Both these add to better even the WWM+Neted earnings; I have not been in these regions since 2008. There is also an offer from a Abu Dhabi advertising agency and work permit being processed. So you could say a miracle is cooking in November and December. I also added “Laughter yoga” the last month and it is already reaping a good harvest. The mind is vulnerable and it needs a spark plug to keep it buzzing.
            I realized another thing. Being Sathya gets a kind of respect I am beginning to fear; so many people I admire and wish well for me. They believe in me as a person than I can ever confer it on myself. It is this faith I borrowed in these months when my bottom fell out. It is a slow recovery, but thank goodness for the lessons in modesty and humility.
            I even think this depression is worth it weight in gold considering the gains. But the stench of death was never too far from the nostrils, it was close sadly. Now that there is sunshine I should do well to remember a bank clerk's attitude of servility at work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Laughter yoga

I’d like to get in at least one blog post a month, writing is as much a habit and it can get cranky too. There are moments when the hands itch to write and there are moments when the mind goes dumb to blankness. Most times I find myself coaxing or compelling the mind to pore sweat over a sentence. Only then you realize: writing is a gift, it does not normally flow like the river but you keep digging the well. This post is hard labour.
            I realized so many things this year. I have skills in a vocation that nobody really wants. But somehow I have been able to earn my keep – the Bangalore assignment gives me almost as much as the day job in India Cements but I need to find people around to liven up a day. But today let me elaborate on “laughter yoga”.
            Eliot’s beach is a favourite walk path; it is close to my house and the beach is always a welcome sight especially on high tide and foamy waves. I used to spot a “laughing group” at 6’0 in the morning about four or five years back. I was too shy and self-conscious, I knew it would do me some good but I felt those devilish laughter shrieks would do my image no good. So I restricted myself to walks on the rose coloured pavements, watch sunrise to a crimson ball as it quickly climbs to the horizon, and gossiped on the day’s news with friends and other co-walkers that one gets to know if regular.
            Last week, a friend said,” Sathya, do me a favour. Can you step into the beach and alert my son?” The drizzle was getting stronger and clouds dark and heavy, it felt a downpour any moment. In a beach there are no shelters to run when caught in rain frenzy. I saw the son enjoying the “laughter yoga” practice with couple of others and it got me interested. I got to speak to them and I said,” I wish to try. Would you accommodate me in the group?”
            Today I joined them at 6:15 near the Kaj Schmidt memorial (you will find this white monolith structure in almost every song sequence of a film in the seventies and eighties before Indians got richer and started going to Switzerland and other places). We were just the four of us – two males and two females and I relished every minute of the 30 minutes regimen.
            We start with the “Om” chants, I found it a good feel to the nippy November misty winds against a full ball of crimson son. Then we start from the heels and toes and work every part of the body. You squat, turn your shoulders clockwise and counter clockwise, eye balls flit to the sides, the face muscles, cheeks, chin, neck, abdomen, ankles - no joint is ignored. After each area is worked, the instructor says “here we go” and we clap hands in front. The lady explained,” These energize the acupuncture points of the palms”. This is a harmless clap and swinging in harmonic motion of a pendulum clock.
            You stretch your knees, your eyes get a lot of exercise and even the facial muscles. For thirty minutes I forgot my miserable existence and copied others in the act. They were considerate to explain when my moments were getting a bit gawky.
            We ended the session with “Asathoma Sadgamaya…” and three rounds of “Shanti”. There is a section where we say,” I forgive anyone who has hurt me.” Then a couple of more exercise before we face the sun and declare,” I am the happiest person in the world” and "I am the healthiest person in the world" break into a large laugh.Before that you gather all the worries in the mind and cast it into the sea symbolically saying," No more worries." While exercising the forehead, we say," No more headaches." There's a lot of positive reinforcement at every stage.
            I am too much of an introvert and laughing got my face a lot of glow. The eyes shone like stars and I found myself light on my feet (with all those walking on the heels or toes on clumpy rain soaked sands of the beach) and my mind felt a smooth stroke of caress. I thanked the group and said,” This is too good to miss out. I will be regular.”
            Notice another thing: the best things in life are always free.  Look at another lesson that flows through almost unobtrusively: forgiveness and peace of mind are related. A daily dose of practicing laughter relaxes the muscles to laugh more spontaneously. Laugh without reason, it gets easier to find anything to cheer the grumpy mind. Better to go with the flow than resist, has been my learning these days. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lessons 2013 brought

2013 has been a mixed year in terms of earnings but I don’t think I have learnt more in the years gone by than this year. I am grateful I had the humility to spot them and make the mental changes. Living is an adventure no set formulae apply; you learn as you go by. From that viewpoint this has been a good year.
            Two things helped – the two Vipassana retreats in April and then in July; quitting India Cements got in a lot of learning. Here’s my self-discovery:
a)      Act happy even if you are not: One can’t afford to wear a long face; it makes life difficult for others and their burden heavier. So a gentle smile to strangers; a beaming one to friends is what the day requires of you. Even if you are depressed and weighed by a flood of negative emotions, just pretend all is well. Soon I found myself getting real better. Discourage negative feelings (denying would be inappropriate) by turning them to a positive feel – not that difficult if you reason it out or look harder for silver linings.
b)      Save your job: I keep cribbing India and Indian employers to a sickening degree. But only this year I learnt the practical side of this insight: This society is overcrowded and it is deeply feudalistic. Three rules: Your job is evaluated by the system and so allow them to set the benchmark; rest easy to play to their rule-book. Two, be friendly with every colleague. You are paid a salary and part of it is to be tolerant to their idiosyncrasies. Third and most important is to humour your boss. 
c)      Keep people around you in good cheer: I am guilty of choosing my friends with so much care that my mind switches off gross ones almost intuitively. But this year I found it imperative to reserve a good cheer to everyone I meet; don’t attach a label and close down any good vibe coming from any quarter. Be agreeable. Test yourself against the most negative characters around; you will end up feeling sorry for them than being rattled. I must learn this from Viji, Dr. Rajaram, and T H Iyer.
d)     Forgive everyday: A mind is sick if it carries a hurt the next day. I consciously try removing any negativity in my daily Vipassana settings. I connected to both sisters in a long time. Now each occasion I receive any good vibe in the present I remind myself not to spoil the moment with past omissions or expectations. My second sister visited me on Diwali and when she left she said,” Vipassana is working in your case.”
e)      Being human is to know it's okay to be vulnerable: Staying alone it is very easy to fall prey to self-pity. With daily Vipassana practice, I realize self-pity is the mind’s worst nemesis. Sorrow is allowed; even a brief spell of depression but no self-pity. Wait for the clouds to pass and they certainly do. It is here I thank my eldest sister and intimate friends who are patient when I assail them with my sob stories. Then I realize: I must also be a willing listener when other’s bemoan their fate. To realize you are vulnerable and trying your best is living; you are not supposed to have all the answers or life cater to all your silly aspirations.
f)       Enjoy the unpredictable: One of the worst mistakes I was prone to was “anticipating future”. That is self-fulfilling prophesy and terribly self-defeating. Do what is required of the present and allow the result to come. Don’t ward them off or tailor it to suit your ego. Acceptance is so vital for my peace I realized. And give yourself this power: you can change any situation at any stage; don't crib on the present. Always act to your best advantage!  You won’t be able to enjoy the present flow of life if you insist it to conform to your self-image. So make yourself flexible, open, receptive.
g)      Develop your hobbies: 2013 has been a good year for my writing; my progress on the guitar is still at snail pace. Vipassana has gotten more in the system; maybe it is one reason why I am learning all these lessons. I consciously try engaging strangers I chance in the day to see if I can get a smile both sides – a new territory for me and work-in-progress. I must include a lot more outdoor pursuits in 2014.
h)     You are never alone: For a bachelor it is important to have friends and relations calling on you. So you try to be at your best behaviour. I took a while to recover the emotional bruises of a failed relation; now each time you feel lonely, cultivate a new hobby. Swimming?? Guitar?? Couple dancing??? and further away from my comfort zone, the better.  

        I have not learnt all these lessons in sufficient measure. But certainly the mind sees their validity. Any effort is worth if it can get the mind even a speck of peace especially in this ruthless world. Be kind to yourself is the crux; patience is next. Acceptance and go with the flow.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tirupathi as metaphor for India

I am not a temple going idiot at all. Nor do I scorn the pious and devoted; it does not concern me at all. I have long realized the futility to express any view on macro issues: Is America a boon or curse to the world? Tamils are aggressive to Telugus? Chennai is worse than Hyderabad? Or M S Subbalakshmi a better singer than any North flaunts? Or is Chiddu a good finance minister? These questions can be argued on both sides and none wiser even after hours of straining vocal chords and reducing life-span. Even for a time-filler “Which monkey is a bigger draw – Big B or SRK?” is not my scene. I refuse to be drawn on any macro issue. I am more interested at which grocery store in the neighbourhood gives more value or who to invite to a dinner or which job offer to take.   
And if you observe closely any view on a macro issue – which is only an opinion and nothing else- is directly related to your experience. If you have a bitter experience you will project it on the issue. I loved Bahrain from the people I met and interacted and so I transferred that affection to the country. I have never gotten a good deal in India and so I don’t have any respect for it either. So when a sod says: Delhi is the best place on earth, nothing registers on my mind. It is a stimulus not worth reacting even if I am alone in a desert and desperate for human company. That’s one of the reason why I love stories or anyone sharing their experience on any god damn thing – that’s invaluable but what they think of a macro issue is idle talk better suited to a 24x7 Indian news channel. This leads to a nice classification: listening to any experience is something I have unlimited patience; but opinions are something I run away a mile even if Einstein were to talk about his opinion on Science or spirituality. 
A long drawn introduction to my Tirupathi visit yesterday!
Kesavan called and in the exchange he dropped,” I am going to Tirupathi on Thursday. Interested?” This was last week when I was recounting my Bangalore tales.
I instinctively said,” Yes”
“Shall I book your ticket by Sapthagiri Express?”
Another “Yes” escaped me.
Within 10 minutes of the call I get a sms confirmation of the rail ticket. My “yeses” were weak and even before I could recover my wit and reason the trip was ON. It is after all a one day affair and I cheered up.
            This train is at 6:25 in the morning that meant I left house by 5:15. Last week Brindavan Express offered more engaging company, K7 (he signs his name with this “super smart” abbreviation) slept the whole 3 hours of the journey. I was immersed in a Wodehouse and looking out at the window. The day was alright for travel; cloudy misty skies and the Indian countryside has more green than brown.
            We hired a car as it climbed the hill. Every vehicle is given a printed slip from the pin pad (I mean those things that scans and out pops a slip of paper with the details of the car number and time). There is a minimum time of travel to the top where another check-post verifies – if you report early the penalty is Rs.100 for every minute ahead of the pre-fixed time. That ensures no one is in a terrible hurry.
            K7 had booked his darshan time on the internet months back; so he went to a Rs.50 line. I went looking for Rs.300 line. This is a huge temple and even to find the start of the line is a lot of effort and a knot to untangle. There is a free darshan, a 50 rupee Q, then a 300 rupee Q and another for those who climb the hill on foot. Since the queues can get very long , we are talking of lakhs and lakhs of pilgrims and 24 hours on queues is not uncommon. On any day and at any hour of the day there are thousands and thousands jostling and shoving in lines for a darshan.
            Crowds depress me. First I am oversized and tall at over 6 feet; Indians are a short race and so most halt near my shoulder. In a cramped place, god there is too much of flesh squeeze. My elbows would come near a person’s neck or nose and it gets uncomfortable for all of us. I was in the line for 3 hours and my mind was growing in resolve: never again. Tirupathi crowd is not an intelligent and cultured crowd, it’s more the unruly and you understand why stampedes occur. Why do people come to this temple and in such hordes? I think it is more hope than faith. Hope is for a derelict while faith is for those on a roll. We were waiting in one of the compartments that comes with benches and so one can squat; this is a large room bolted with bars as it leads to a line and resemble a cage. I asked a person sitting next to me on his reason for coming to the temple, he explained,” Last month I read someone donating 10 crores. What we donate here returns back to us tenfold.” That’s as gross as it can get. I saw a Marathi family; a man looked not a year younger than fifty and he gave his reason,” My eldest daughter is 18, and another 16. Lord gave us twins, both sons after 14 years.” The twins were less than two years and they made a very pretty sight. I saw the family and loved the sight of two elder teenage sisters engaging their toddler brothers while the mother was beaming from ear to ear. It is this miracle that attracts millions. Tirupathi is more a hope visit and thanksgiving but the theme is the same: a belief that Venkatachalapathy confers worldly goodies if you are supplicant enough. However I never saw the causal link in my case, sadly and maybe in the hundreds of cases that I know.
            We waited for an hour in the cage and another hour in the line as it went in a snail pace. The queue is anything but orderly, those behind and in the front crush you like sandwich. I am not exaggerating but you feel the pressure of flesh at most points in the queue. Then the metaphor stuck: India reduces us to an ant colony. We are forever busy and squirreling away forever frantic and going nowhere. The system is so apathetic that it does not care whether you are a Newton or a Shakespeare. It is this crowd, horde, multitude that reduces life to a survival struggle. We are all rats in the sewage or chickens hanging on a cycle bar. That makes us worshipful of success and feudal; bow and scrape to everyone ahead of the line. Like they have this "break darshan" for VVIPS. Three hours in the queue and my mind was growing stronger with the thought: I am not going to succeed in this society.
            K7 took 2 hours in his Rs.50 Q and he graciously waited for me for an hour. We went down and gulped food at 4:00 in the evening. That felt a lot of life flowing again. I told him,” If I get a gulf job or maybe a newspaper or magazine job in the three months of 2013, I’ll come again to Tirupathi and tonsure my head.” That’s the level of cynicism I suffer. K7 said,” Why so gross a prayer; just come for thanksgiving.” 

Monday, September 30, 2013

On the brink N saved at the bell

September is almost gone –a period where my mind plunged into depths of despair and now slow on the bend. So many lessons thick and fast; let’s say I was caught in a rain of lessons. 
My job scene is the last four years reads a Greek tragedy. Chennai is no place for a creative writer; if you are not employed in “Hindu” there is simply no other avenue where you can expect corporate level salaries. That demotes one into seeking “content writing” space where dolts offer: Rs.40 for editing a page, or Rs.100 for a 500 word article.   
September was the fifth month of unemployment and I was near panic. I have no saving cushion for sustenance expenses for rest of 2013. I felt a trapped mouse. I hate to rent out the Besant nagar flat; my fears stem from ineptitude. When a man of my talent does not know how to get his due from the system then I am sure tenants would find it irresistible to get “stay” orders. No wonder discerning and circumspect house owners would rather lock their apartments than place any trust in rental income. 
            That fear of not able to afford this apartment, a distinct possibility, got my heart thudding like a factory mill, a lingering fear that made me jump on telephone rings or doorbells. I exhausted possibly every job opportunity on Naukri – I realized that none in a Delhi or Mumbai or even nearby Bangalore or Hyderabad would call me for an interview.
            Pushed to the wall I went frantic in my job efforts, calling up old friends or colleagues. I sanitized my resume to remove any slights. My heart kept clanging and to prevent a slide into depression I sat on Vipassana for 2-3 hours a day. I knew that was only the thing that would prevent a mind from fusing out. I told a long standing friend Mani: that I have not found a suitable job in the last 5 years shows my ineptness, that the society not found shows its callousness, and that you have watched over this agony in the last 5 years shows your heartlessness. More than smart word play at work, I was livid with anyone who was in a position to help but chose to only dish out verbal sympathy. I said,” No time for words; can you help in real terms? Jobs lead to gulf? Or buy TOI n Hindu and sack the whole lot of them after converting it to a poultry farm.”
Vipassana helps: 2-3 hours a day of daily sitting prevented a complete collapse. I found a quote of Martin Luther King and stuck on my computer table: The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. It is not something that poured fresh energy but serves a good reminder.
Importance of Linkedin: I discovered the power of Linkedin. I cleaned up my profile and joined media groups in Dubai and Muscat or whatever I could find. I even got a call from Dubai, I messed the telephonic interview. “Do you have any social media experience?” I immediately said,” Not exactly” when I should have talked of Vivek’s direct marketing efforts. But I now know better. There’s utility if you participate in any discussion on Linkedin than Facebook or Twitter if you are looking for a top gun to spot you. Join as many groups pertaining to your profession and someone would amble in like a fish and knock on your door. This thing beats me square: everyone is looking for a hot talent and I don’t even come on the radar. What’s wrong? Their locked minds or my exaggerated claims?
Bangalore trip: Godot called me for an interview and it felt god-sent. I was sitting on my hunches and nothing like a short trip for a stimulant to the lazy bones. I cadged one more job interview, Trivone obliged me. So I had a train which took me to Bangalore at 1:30; one meeting at 2:30 and another at 4:30 before I had to wait for the night bus at 10:00.
I enjoyed the 6 hours in Brindavan Express on 27th. I befriended everyone around me. There was a wedding party of a SI in the police (those guys intuitively know human-nature being caught in the worst end), then a Congress trade union leader traveling with his wife (he again was full of sense. The couple were headed to Bangalore to support their daughter’s infant upbringing). I was interacting with an export consultant; he turned out to be a bachelor at 60+. He made a crackling observation,” being on one’s own means you have to be self-sufficient. It’s not bad a ride if you know how to occupy yourself.” I forgot to take the addresses of these firms, Kesavan smsed me on request. He is turning out to be a solid friend. For an interview strategy, I took the day’s newspapers and using a highlighter marked out sentences that needs straightening. Damn it, every sentence violates Strunk’s “Elements of style” – TOI and Hindu has not a single writer who can write a sentence without a crink and a fracture.
I met a senior executive at Trivone and he seemed a dream. We were arguing more on India; anyway he gave me the best possible news: we will engage you as a retainer. Work out 20 blogs for XX a month. We’ll try this for 3 months and see where it takes us.” I got my breath back, the heart in the mouth went back to its original place. Within an hour of Bangalore, I was singing. It’s a city I have many memories; my grandparents gave us a rich haul of them.
The best part of Bangalore was meeting Shyam. We agreed to meet at a coffee-shop and he drove to reach there. Shyam is the son of my chanting friend, Mr. Krishnamurthy. We learnt our Rudram and Mahanyasam under Venkatakrishnan mama and I join the chanting group at the temple especially on pradosams or Fridays chantings. Shyam read my web-links on my resume and said,” You are a fine talent in these days of plagiarism. Let me see what I can do. When you are in Bangalore, let’s meet.”
Shyam has worked in some of the biggest computer and internet companies in India and US as their “Chief Technology Officer”. He spoke to his contacts in Bangalore to explore an opportunity for me.  We met at a café and I felt an immediate connect. He spoke of 20-80 rule in his industry, how he got an odometer fixed where such things are taken seriously in America. He explained,” Everything you need is on google. You must only know how to tap into.” He smsed a media owner to inquire a feature writing slot for me. He explained his philosophy,” I try not to be nuisance to anyone. Who knows how long our lives are; even 10 days from now could be our last. So if you are any use of anyone, so much the better.” Shyam reminded me of Vimala’s son Shanker; very few people are born with such grace and maturity.
I was at Majestic at 6:00 pm and that meant I had four more hours to squander. I had a Mark Twain and two hours of “Mysterious stranger” kept me occupied as I sat in the office of National Travels. I had a peek into their world; it’s tough living filling up seats. That’s a super smart race, haggling prices till the last moment and just get the nerds to board the bus.
We were herded into another bus at 10:00 and we waited for an hour at Kalasipalayam; it reached Madivala (another boarding point in the city) before the bus picked speed. It was at Egmore at 6:00 in the morning I disembarked with every bone and flesh in the body wanting to lay in a cot. A man of 190 cms in any bus finds sleep impossible. I felt in a Procrustean bed - a mad fellow who made any guest fit into his bed either by stretching their legs or chopping them!
I learnt a lesson this September. We are bigger than our problems. Problems come and go but we are at the centre. Every experience in this world must lead to trusting oneself more. It is not that we are expected to solve our issues or manage them or endure them; we are not here to learn from experiences for those only clog up the mind space (What learning is possible in India other than realizing how callous the system is). We are here to trust ourselves more. When I set out for Bangalore I prayed at the Hanuman shrine at Ratnagiriswarar temple: Lord, see me through. Any assignment and I will offer vadamalai and butter; save me! The prayer was answered. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

August, 2013 notes

Writing is the greatest gift and most transparent. There is nothing simpler on the globe than “evaluating a writing style”. I’ll even say how: grasp on words and control over a sentence. Read any paragraph of any writer and either he wins respect such that you would go slow on your reading speed or you fast read if it tastes like burnt coffee without sugar (in that case you would more likely fling it out of the window and find better use for your time). A good writer is one who has the ability to translate a mental imagery into words such that you laugh when he wants you to, or weep. A good writer is in control like a child torquing the screw of a doll; the doll has no choice but to play along when fully coiled and released. But Indians don’t get it and I remain undiscovered and rusting up on a seashore beach. 
Now my diluted resume goes around – I found couple of interviews in ages. I praying to join the work force with such fervor that if a crackpot says,” Go to the terrace at midnight and shout like a owl or hang upside down like flying jackals” and I would comply in all sincerity even if that were to improve my odds by less than 5%. 
The best part of August was reading Ravi’s dad’s manuscript. Here is a very accomplished marketing man (he has worked in Fortune 100 companies heading their marketing function over the last 3 decades). He read “O my darling India” and that gave him a mind to record his experiences for an autobiographical account. This is a mighty rich life and holds lessons at every corner. Mr. R Ramakrishnan is one of those gentlemen who you don’t forget in life – throaty, infectious vivacity, full of good sense and his humour is spontaneous. More than an interesting company, he has a sharp mind that cuts the maze for astounding clarity (Sarada Mami is my idol on "mind as sharp as rapier" - the pointed end for an incisive quality). Reading 34 chapters of his mss was the best thing I have done in years. It traced through his growing up years in Calcutta and meeting life’s challenges square-on. What makes any writing readable is honesty, this one had that ring throughout and that made it edifying.
August saw me interacting with the great man on gmail and it felt an invisible hand of destiny. Every mail of his is worth preserving and I add a “star” to retain it and come back to it for reading it again. He writes at a juncture: Dear SathyaNo one can , I am sure, tell a self-story so poignantly as you have, in less than a page . What a writing skill you have! Even a working tap connected to the tank full of water or any other source with a prime mover for support would clog up or spew out air only but not your language flow. It is amazing to see such a word power at work. I am also saddened that such a thinking and keenly perceptive person should be perpetually finding himself looking for job and therefore, some earning for sustenance. Trust me; I am not capable of laying it so thick and such class. Mr. Ramakrishnan is a marketing person; I find his writing more insightful and a verve I would be hard pressed to match. I have had my share of compliments but this one is special. 
I saw “Zero dark thirty” at USIS. I went into the auditorium in a sour mood but two and half hours later found a lot of uplift. This is certainly my best Oscar movie of 2013. The Americans are patriots; they will not allow anyone to kill 3,000 of their citizens and allow that depraved to go scot-free even if that blighter is a needle in a haystack and placed on the ocean floor. Jessica Chastain as an obsessed investigator and Jason Clarke as a ruthless interrogator were brilliant. The torture scenes including water boarding was spine-chilling and very graphic and damn real. The movie flowed without a kink, a tale told with a lot of honesty and painstaking research. It certainly towered over Argo, this movie deserved the “best picture” to me. What is hallmark of a good movie?  You watch a movie or read a book and you suddenly find a lot of inspiration to handle your worries – your problems look small as though you are put in an airplane taking off and the land mass shrink rapidly. Watching this movie got my mind a lot of oxygen and a new resilience to face up to my troubles in life: piece of cake as the American idiom goes.  
As for me I find my heart racing to a panic attack and I determine myself each day for two hours of Vipassana medicine. I manage my troubles with a lot more grace. I realize one thing: India is no place for me. For the first time since I started my innings as a writer in early 2007 I feel lost. This Indian CALLOUSNESS and MEDIOCRITY will certainly drown my puny talent. The rains have started and mind feels vulnerable in high doses. I serve my God, waiting, waiting, waiting....

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nagarjuna Sagar tales – Eight

Meditation and lessons

The first two days of meditation was a torture. Even 10 minutes felt like sitting on a cactus heavy on thorns. At home I manage an hour with just one change; a strong right knee gives me 45 minutes to an hour and the weak one gives the rest. I felt inept; memories of my first ten dayer in March 2008 were not so embarrassing. The knees felt unusually stiff, like a rock tied around.

            I could only infer the changed climate for my plight. The air here was nippy, gale winds throughout the day, the atmosphere felt a lot light on the nostrils.   
This place vibrates splendidly. There were 14 meditators on the male side and everyone seemed to have better control. Ashutosh at 60 sat like a sage lost in his meditation as did the 26 year banker from Himachal Pradesh. Even the ebullient lawyer next to me sat still, I felt completely out of place and guilty too. I spoke about my issues to the teacher and she wasted no time in giving me a corner place. At least my discomfiture would not disturb others.

I loved the Dhamma Hall. It is the first time I found myself in a circular shaped hall and dome shaped roof and red brick walls. The circumference of the hall makes for two concentric circles – the outer to store pillows and cushions, or chairs while the inner one accommodates 30 meditators. As a meditator you get a semi-circle view of the sylvan settings where birds, rains, gale winds run their acts.

The walk to the pagoda from the Dhamma Hall is a climb up an uneven slope on wild grass and patches of hard red soil that feels a lot of gravel on the feet. There is a twin path running almost parallel to one another. Men and women are strictly segregated. The Buddhists were smart, they knew a mere glance can at times torpedo the peace built over a lifetime. The pagoda faces the Krishna River as it flow in to the Nagarjuna Sagar dam. The Dhamma Centre is on top of a hill that looks down as you see the waters flow gently into the reservoir.

I used the meditation cell well (number 12); experimenting on postures and even theory. We are trying to improve “prajnya” – so avoid sanya and sankara in meditations. Feeling the body sensations (vedana) is to dissolve the sankara. Which means the focus of meditation is to “improve observation faculty”; reduce the “evaluating part” and the “reaction point”.

I loved walking with that plastic cover (Dhamma Nagarjuna cared for meditators at every level) on a drizzle. The food was exceptional; they even served payasam for one day, chapattis rolled in ghee, I went heavy on ragi jawa at breakfast. One can safely remove coffee and tea from the breakfast with healthier substitutes. They also had hot ginger water; that painstaking care was visible. They respected meditators and got me feeling a lot warm on the place.

My mind felt keen on bird calls; there is a world of small birds here. The walk from the quarters to the dining hall is over 400 metres is on a small mud path across a thicket of shrubs, boulders, and trees. Just walking to the dining hall four times a day got the body more than its share of exercise: breakfast at 6:30; lunch at 11:00, lemon juice for dinner at 5:00 and for those who opted for English as a language for evening discourse. There is a mini dhamma hall with a giant television screen for the purpose.

On the eighth day the noble silence ended, there is a real bonhomie. These faces you run into at the clay drinking pots or at the dining hall or the dhamma hall or the common toilets and you feel a vague connection. But once the silence vow is lifted, we feel like comrade-in-arms. There is a congratulatory air on completion. Each meditator goes through a gamut of emotions; from depths of despair to flights of happiness. You persevere and that makes us appreciative of ourselves and others. Neelakanthum a retired banker said,” Fear is ingrained deep in the mind.”

Damodara Rao came of the metha with rapture in his eyes. He made a good companion till Guntur. Said he,” I worked so hard to provide for my daughters. Now married both of them use my wife as a servant maid to look after their tiny tots. You can earn millions of dollars and yet be inconsiderate. They don't realize I need a wife to manage the house here.” He spends most of the time on spiritual activities. I told him about my issues. I relished his compliment,” Sathya, you are a very decent man.”  

Mr. Rao speaks Telugu with a fluency of a native that he is. The humour and sarcasm is barely on the surface. I loved the way he spoke to the lady conductor who looked stern as a school teacher before a stationary bus: will you go now to have tea and coffee or are going to start right away? She relaxed with a smile, each time she caught my eyes there was this suppressed twitch of a smile. We were in the bus for four hours and I realized: everyone suffers from a crippling problem. The courageous ones are those we don’t lose their charm or zest. They reserve enough peace and kindness to others INSPITE of their daily pinpricks or storms. Living is never a perfect dream, it is a serpentine road with more snakes than ladders. Like 11 hours of meditation in a day, we persevere.

Every Vipassana retreat reveals a dimension about oneself. Our level of understanding the world more or less equals our understanding of oneself. The more you have a grip on yourself the more adept you are in facing to the issues of the world. If UNDERSTANDING was my take from Chengannur in 2011; SELF-PITY is my lesson of Nagarjuna Sagar.

I am diffident in nature and self-pity runs so deep and pervasive that I did not realize its mischief till this week’s meditation showed me up. I am apologetic about a lot: heart surgery, poor health and erratic job nature; none more severe than the loneliness that consumes me. When a woman walked out on me, all these failings flared up. I realized in Nagarjuna Sagar: One is permitted to be sad or depressed or grieved but self-pity and shame drowns every positive attribute. Self-pity is such poison; a trace and it turns the milk container to curds.  

I felt born afresh; I have taken my entire lifetime to learn this simple lesson. That’s the beauty of Vipassana: you realize on your own. Nature essentially is an ally and it is therapeutic. We are all trying to be better than yesterday, or at least aspire to. Each one of us is given a separate exam paper; each must build his own subways and arteries on the road. There is no template or precedence to take any solace from. Living is about trying.  

The Volvo ride from Guntur to Chennai was fantastic, the next door chap a real nuisance as I kept shoo-ing him away. At last found some sleep and reached Central at 7:15. For all the travel I did not feel the exhaustion, that itself made me feel exuberant to face the issues of the day. The date showed 29th July on the watch and so it was.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Nagarjuna Sagar tales – Seven

An encounter with a cultured family
The first view of Dhamma Nagarjuna made an immediate appeal on the mind. I felt in my bones that the train journey exertions were worth.    
I saw others trickle in. For such a huge centre it accommodates only 30 meditators – attractive features were adding up. Within half an hour my Telugu that was frozen for decades started to flow again. Verbal skills are never lost in space or time; it needs an environment and you’ll surprise yourself. 
There was mid 30s electrician, an advocate couple, retired banker, and a young man even from Himachal Pradesh. But, by and large, it was a Hyderabad crowd. Since we are all senior students and daily meditators, it did not take long to slip into an easy banter.
Two tables were kept outside the office on either side of the main corridor for registration – segregation of genders is followed scrupulously. The registering process does not take more than 15 minutes for an applicant. It consists of entering your name and address in a monstrous register after filling up one-page application form.    
There was a dormitory where we dumped our luggage and a line of beds. I wasted no time lying down on a cot and covering myself with a blanket. The train and bus journey of the last 16 hours was something to compensate on.
I saw a young, tall man, bristles for mustache, neatly dressed who oversaw the lay of the room and storing a smile as new registrants came in. By now my Telugu sounded right even to my ears as I enquired. The teenager said,” I am a volunteer here. I have finished my twelfth standard and next month I’ll be allotted an engineering seat in the university.” This got me interested for I went the same road except did not have enough marks to get into the hallowed door. He said,” I’m in line for Mechanical at Osmania and maybe Civil in JNTU.” That impressed the hell out of me.
He introduced himself as “Abhiram” and next time I saw him was at the registering table. A quiet lad with a stuck nervous smile, his enthusiasm was perceptible. The sun was bright for 11:00 morning. I felt an improvement from my habitual diffidence. When a river like Krishna flows into the reservoir in front of your view you don’t ruminate on your troubles in life. The nippy winds, green vegetation, red soil of tarmac got me in a mood of quietude. 
At the registering table as we waited for our turns, I got to talk to others. Said a 60 year old Damodara Rao; Sir, talk with me for we’ll not get to open our mouths for a week. This got a few laughs and bonhomie.  
Abhiram at the registering table was either distributing laundry tags or putting the valuables that we deposited in a small cotton bag and putting a sellotape. He is a quiet lad with a gentle shy smile. His parents were there too – the entire family practiced Vipassana meditations and it showed in their relaxed manner and friendly cheer. Pause to reflect: when the mind is calm it makes for a lot of charm.
His father got talking to me. When he learnt I was from Chennai he exclaimed,” God, you have made a long trip to reach here. Usually it is the Hyderabad crowd that comes here.”
My Telugu was flowing by now. I speak very slowly pausing for each word; if the word is not from Tamil it’ll be found in Sanskrit but you must use a few distinctive words and idioms to approximate to Telugu. Language is much like car driving or playing guitar; those skills are never lost. I said,” I had a terrible time coming from Chennai. The waiting list did not get confirmed, bribed the TTE. Thanks to a stranger’s generosity I reached here.” I recounted Someshwara’s gesture. Mind you, all this in Telugu.
Abhiram’s father looked my age, maybe couple of years more. He is a prosperous cloth merchant and that showed in his languid grace. He said,” This programme gets over on 28th evening. Do you have the return ticket?”
I shook my head. I said in a moaning tone,”  I tried the trains, they had closed the bookings by then. Weekends are packed two months in advance.”
The cloth merchant said with a smile,” You can take deluxe buses from Guntur.”
I asked,” Is there any internet centre nearby?”
He called his son and said,” Take this uncle to Hill colony market. Assist him in booking a ticket.” And turning to me he said,” Chennai is a long way and you need reservation. It is only now you have time; once the course starts you can't do a thing.”
Abhiram beamed at me and led me to a tree where his motorcycle was parked. Hill Colony market is over 4 kms and it made for a wonderful ride with the winds hitting the face and the skies turning cloudy.  There were a lot of trees, wild grasses on either side of the road and abundant vegetation. The slope of the road is steep, the roads were smooth. There is a Gautama Buddha park developed by AP tourism adjacent to Dhamma Nagarjuna. There were a few workers who were offloading granite slabs from a heavy truck. The Nagarjuna Sagar dam attracts a regular stream of party revelers - the family kinds - from Hyderabad given the beauty of the landscape. But today we saw a clear road and not much of human movement. Damodara Rao, the friendly meditator, opined,” I wouldn’t mind staying here; so peaceful for a 60 year old man.” I concurred,” Should find out whether they need a cook or gardener. The place looks tempting enough.”
Abhiram raced on the bike carrying a bulky fellow on the pillion. Hill Colony Market looks just like another place in the city – crowded and movement of people and a row of shops abutting one another. You see pavement vendors selling vegetables, throw in an odd dog and cattle and it would be any part in India. Abiram resides nearby and he just about knows everyone. At an internet café the owner said,” All my machines are full. But for you, I’ll lend you my laptop. How are your parents? What is your brother doing?”
I did not have my spectacles and so Abhiram took charge as we checked APSTRC site before settling on His father had advised as we left,” Try to take the last bus around midnight. The course gets over at 4:00 in the evening on Sunday and Guntur is at least five hours away.” We zeroed on an 11:30 bus to Chennai on the night of 28th July. Abhiram opened my gmail for confirmatory link after registering in; entered my credit card details and so useful that I felt an affinity. I remember him saying,” Uncle, Keshivini Travels is good. They run Volvo AC buses. There are seats available. Do you prefer aisle or window?”
We made the booking and got the printout. I went to a grocery store and got two premium 5 star bar chocolates. We went back to the centre and I handed those over to his mother saying,” What a wonderful son you have. He was such a huge help”
His father joined us enquiring about the ticket. He said,” I don’t want you to have any anxiety on your return ticket when you sit in meditation.”
One look at the family and I realized,” When a woman is cultured it shows on the entire male folk.” Abhiram’s mother was a volunteer helping in women’s registration. It was a face full of smiles and instantly friendly. You find so few families that are cultured; without exception it needs a virtuous woman and that tribe either went into hibernation or ran out of supply after liberalization was let loose in 1991.
Not all good looking women are beautiful but cultured ones are always beautiful. I got carried away by the outward beauty of a woman once; this family showed a mirror of what good marriages and good families are about. A cultured family has shared values, understanding is almost intuitive, and brings a lot of comfort even to a stranger. Abhiram and his parents made a deep impact on my mind. Cultured families are so few and still a count of fingers of a single hand in my experience.

(These observations pertain to 20th July, 2013. That night we entered into a week of noble silence. The next post would account for what transpired on 28th July after the vow of silence was relaxed. Come of think of it, tales only accrue when the mouth yaps! This link vipassana-sati-pathana-nagarjuna-saga is a short abstract that I wrote almost immediately on return. I feel there is room for Nagarjuna Sagar- eight and hopefully I file in by Sunday).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nagarjuna Sagar tales – Six

Dhamma Nagarjuna first impressions
I was a tired man getting off the Hyderabad Superfast Express at 4:00 am. There was a large digital clock at the middle of the platform as the train halted. The time tallied with my wrist watch, so 4:00 on the dot. Nalgonda station seems to have been spruced up recently; even the earlier Miryalguda station looked similar - must be template stations that South Central Railway (SCR) coughed up along this route.  
I sat on a black steel chair; these are triplets with a stiff back. I downed my duffel bag in one of them and after parking my butt and stretched my legs. Except for a lone Railway Policeman the station was desolate and thank god, well-lit. Again SCR does not cringe on electricity bills! I informed the cop for courtesy,” I’ll rest here till the break of dawn.”
Waiting in an empty station for an hour got the mind to smoothen its ruffled creases. Couple of trains halted – Nalgonda is a two-minute stop station – and I made a count of the carriages; a childhood fancy not fully rid. I watched my breath for a while for a meditation exercise, went down the platform to a tap to brush the teeth and rinse the face. In between I stretched a few limbs. When the clock showed 5:15, I walked out to an auto stand. He offered a ride to the city bus terminus, Rs.50 for a two kilometer distance. Used to Chennai usury of autos, I jumped in. It was still dark outside, the roads were empty save a few stray dogs. At the Nalgonda bus terminus the sun was breaking through and life slowly waking up. Sweepers were having their first cup of coffee from a lone shop, I saw many a lady bus conductors. I sat on the black steel chair triplet; these are common and maybe the same supplier to the railways!
I felt a wave of sentiment building in the mind. It’s been decades since I was in Telugu land. My mind soaked in the people around; attire, language of the street, movie posters, hawkers, other passengers awaiting their bus. I feel for this fine people, they enriched my growing years. I saw quite a few buses being loaded with cargo – gunny bags in which couriers are sent to the hinterland. Even to a cursory observer it becomes apparent the world of drivers, conductors, and cleaners is a muscular and vocal tribe. After a browse of the day’s newspaper, steaming tea, hurried smoke and they take the wheel and bus engines begin to purr. Another day on the dusty roads and cracked tarmac of the Nalgonda terminus.
A man at the enquiry counter informed me that for Nagarjuna Sagar I need to board a bus heading to Macherla. I have a rudimentary knowledge of Telugu alphabets, signboards in English and Telugu version side-by-side make for a quick revision. There are so many things the mind takes in when there's a respect for the land and its people.
Nagarjuna Sagar is 70 kms and a two hour ride from Nalgonda. The weather was thick with monsoon in the air, cloudy skies and a lot nippy winds immediately contrasting from humid Chennai seashore driven weather. These are state highway roads and the ride had its share of rumbles. My mind was a lot turbulent and angst ridden. My mind lingers on these twin worries: money and loneliness. My travails are man-made; my obvious intellect is smothered by a blind callous society. Being out of my cocoon in Besant nagar I take in the cattle and cows of the rural countryside; greens, and watch others in their daily run.  
I ask the conductor,” Can you please tell me where to get off? Any idea where Dhamma Nagarjuna Sagar centre is?” in halting Telugu but clear in pronunciation.
He is friendly and a ready smile,” I have seen the place but I am not sure except it comes before Siddharth hotel stop. That's before Hill colony.” He confers with a daily commuter. That man looked a government official decked in ties and shoes. He turns back and chuckles,” What are you going there for?” and starting a conversation. There is something about living in a rural; smiling friendly faces greeted you.
The scenery which was barren lands with a few greens from a speeding bus window now changes to boulders; we are now on an incline of a mountain. The air outside is still cloudy for a 8:00 am time. The conductor wants to know about Vipassana from me. He asks with diffidence,” Will they allow people like us too?” I explained he was welcome; they would roll out the red carpet for him considering they even put up with wastrels like me. Since the start of the train journey my spoken Telugu was getting better with each interaction. My accent sets me apart; a Tamil accent and I am not embarrassed at all. I had no difficulty asking locals for directions or address any query to meet a situation. Everyone appreciates the effort – they know I am a stranger and by talking even haltingly in their language, their respect shoots up.
I reported at Dhamma Nagarjuna at 8:30. The breakfast was ready and I loved the picturesque place. This centre is an absolute beauty for a nature lover – looked like 30 acres and one end you see the Krishna River flowing into the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir. The land is a moor and lot of flora and fauna. There are a lot of humming birds, and I could identify many plants and trees there. Such vastness and you realize how boxed in our city life has reduced us to.  Here you can stretch your arms, the air at once feels pure, and chirping birds aloft trees, greens of the trees and such tranquility works on the mind.
After the upma for a tiffin I felt a lot more cured and appreciative of the Dhamma centre. The rooms were extraordinary – dome shaped ceiling to a depth of 6 feet as a fan hangs from a long steel pole. The toilets were neat and looked a star hotel comfort. Every meditator was given this separate cottage. One look at it and you'll realize the planning and efforts into it. My cottage was number 8. Everything about the centre had this aesthetic feel, their commitment and passion shines through in any building and structure; on the pathway, Dhamma Halls, segregated men's and womens' quarters, the dining, registering office etc. The Dhamma hall looks a picture from Thailand or Indonesia. Let me elaborate about my quarter: there are 12 such dome-shaped cottages facing each other across a cement pathway. Imagine this transplanted in the middle of a jungle of trees, plants, shrubs, those forever noisy birds and in the middle of no-where. Space does something to me; even my insecure mind feels a respite from its pettiness. 30 acres for 30 people's habitation wrings its own wonders. Others came to register and I got talking in my new found Telugu and doing a world of good to my confidence.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nagarjuna Sagar tales – Five

S-8 companions
It was around 8:30 pm that I found myself in the new carriage – my pluck and gift of the gab fetching me a berth. There are many who achieve greater things in life than getting lucky with a reservation on a weekend train in Hyderabad Express and not crow. But then I am a writer! Besides whether you climb the Everest or Deep Ocean diving every tale is about what happens to a mind. It is not spectacular events that determine the quality of experience rather how the mind gained newer insights and strengths. What happens to one mind is often the story of mankind. BTW, I have raked in five tales on this simple outing. All the “Nagarjuna Sagar tales” are descriptions of what happened between 2:00 in the afternoon and travelling on a train 6 hours later.
For the first time since boarding the train I felt at ease. No more uncertainty of how I would spend the night. The possibility of lying over newspapers near the wash basin was a real one. Look at it this way: if I had a confirmed ticket at the start of the journey I would have been deprived of these adventures and mental fluctuations.
I took in my new companions in S-8. It resembled more a stag conference with four men in animated conversation. The talk was desultory but they kept pegging away with a verve I found misplaced. There were two mid-twenties men who kept yakking on printers – how European machines are better, about speed, binding etc. They run a printing unit and box office returns. Despite being entrepreneurs that rakes in big moolah they seemed immature and impressionable. Both of them couldn’t wait for the other to finish, jumping over another. Let me hasten to add a perspective here. These guys must be earning at least ten times mine. Then there were two men who joined in intermittently. One was a bald plate and he was a typical Hyderabadi so full of good humour and ready smile. When one of the publishing chap got a metro station wrong from one end of a route in the city, the bald plate took ten minutes in explanation as to why Safilguda does not come in that part of town. There is a certain macho quality to such men. He wasn’t sounding a wee bit nagging school teacher; instead he brought a lot of amiability and humour. You see so many people from Andhra with that ready tongue and even more ready cheer.
The fourth one seemed more a retired government employee. I did tell the publishing bloke,” I have to get down at Nalgonda. Wish there’s a TTE to alert?” The man immediately set an alarm in his mobile. The Telugu have a natural hospitality that frankly I have not chanced across even among the Arabs in the gulf. There is a gene in their DNA that makes for instant connection. In fact I take more pride in my childhood years of growing in Hyderabad than belonging to a conservative (that brings in the Upanishads and Carnatic Music and Bhakti movement literature to my upstairs!) Tamil-Brahmin and orthodox family (my grandfather was the village’s ministering priest!).
But my attention was riveted to what was happening on the upper berth. There was a young couple who were locked in each other hands and eyes. I sat on the middle of the bench, which meant I had intruded myself right into their space of these four men. I was in no mood to converse having exhausted all my wits on the TTE and the army man at S-4. At 9’o clock I got bold enough to say,” I wish to lie down. Hope it will not inconvenience if I pull up the middle berth?”  There were gracious and allowed the berth to be set up. Ten minutes later I said,” Can you please switch off this side of the lights?” I mention these trivial things to show how much my mind had gained confidence after settling the berth issue.You likewise wish for your problems in life to reach definitive solutions!
The lights OFF and I lay on my back with a blanket. The day still would not finish. The sight of this young couple was straight in my eye-view. So far the mind did not register anything but now it was cued as though looking through a microscope. The young ones can steal a kiss or run their hands over one another even in a public place – those are easily condoned. But this was an unending lingering spectacle to a morbid excess.
The man must be in his twenties and the woman looked more a girlfriend than a wife. But how do those tidbits matter? This was getting scandalous. He was whispering in her ears; she took his hands and was directing them over her bosom even as the drape of a saree was bellowing from the fan on the roof. Again that’s fine, who am I to take note? Here I was trying to close my eyes and with an anxiety to be up before 2:30 for my station. So at best I had 4-5 hours for my body to get rest.
I tried very hard to sleep but my eyes kept going towards the couple - it was straight into my view. My head was at the window end and my tall frame meant that I had to curl a little so that others on the passageway do not knock against. The couple was seated on the far end of the upper berth and right in my view. I drifted into sleep and each time the train stopped I peered into my watch for the time. And each time my eyes would dart to this romance heating up. They were biting off one another. The man’s berth was above mine and he only occupied it after midnight – the girl was a young slender thing with mehndi and a plastic bangle too flashy and clasped a large part of her wrist. She also had a smashing ear ring. She was an attractive little thing and man was handsome too. I saw the man with the girl on his lap and caressing every cell of the face.
It did not affect me then. I was too anxious counting stations and waiting for Nalgonda to appear in one of the stops. But this throbbing passion and working fingers did sully the mind. I thought: she is the kind of a woman you would have made a pass and maybe forced yourself. Love-making is a private indoor sport and anything else is simply courting trouble and revulsion; distasteful.
I got down at Nalgonda at 4:00 in the morning. The train was running an hour behind and good as well as I got more time to rest my tired bones. I felt relieved finally landing in Nalgonda overcoming a few odd stubborn walls along the way!