Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Kolhapur knockout

Writing wise September was a productive month for me. I posted 15 posts on Spiritualsathya and three in thinksathya. I can’t trace back to a time where I worked so determined and hard. I was racing to complete the Bhagavad Gita summaries of the last 7 chapters pending since 2009. Transcriptions are only a clerical chore, meaning hard physical labour, and my mind was feeling the pressure of idleness and lack of purpose. I feel the worthlessness of my dreadful existence. Continuing with my one Vipassana course each month resolve I signed on to a centre in Kolhapur as it was recommended by a co-meditator in Bangalore.
            I took the Dadar Superfast on 30th September at 6:50 in the morning bound for Solapur and I found engaging conversation with an overzealous Christian girl. She was pursuing her PhD from IIT Madras and she was selling me the Jesus the Saviour line. Paradoxically that chance conversation got me a lot of clarity to my mind: we repose faith in God only when we feel our life a blessing and family is the only blessed thing we have on earth. A physical attraction between a man and woman grows on to embrace a family for bonding and care. Destiny has stripped me bare of this nature’s blessing. That conversation got me to realize how vacuous the forces of God had been in my life. A derelict feels no savior and no prayers ever answered.  By the time the train pulled in to Solapur at 10:20 in the night I was a confirmed atheist. The connecting train was at 11:35 and bound for Kolhapur.
            I reached Kolhapur at 6:00 in the morning, almost 24 hours of travel from Chennai. Dhammalaya is nestled among the mountains besides a huge Jain temple. The construction of the main Dhamma Hall and the pagoda to a circular design along a sloping terrain is some architectural feast for the eyes. There are lots of wild grasses and trees filling the circle. The men and women quarters come on either side of the circumference. 
            I saw others troop in the afternoon. There were 65 participants and I was more observant after expending my vocal chords on the train. Maharashtra is a huge state, there are distances of over 600-700 kms travel within cities. The weather was agreeable and a bit chill in the mornings, south west is in the last leg for slow downpours in the evenings and nights.
            They served from a Marathi menu and every dish was unknown to me. They don’t have a sambhar or rasam instead pack a lot of sweetness and blandness in food either in liquid or solid form. A couple of dishes seemed like rubber pieces to me. There is one red liquid that seems like thick blood without any vegetables but basically is North Indian menu without spice. There were 70 people in all; 69 Maharashtrains and one idiot from Besant Nagar Chennai. The Marathis include jaggery, they mix turmeric powder and jaggery with milk for a drink that clear the throat. My creative mind had a free run; palak panneer looks like cow dung. And there is a dish in Kannada that looks like fried steamed horse prick with balls! In the evening we are given two glasses of lemon juice. 
            As in every meditation your face learns to observe those around. I saw an American with matted hair like Bob Marley’s strands, and then there was a very savvy fifty year old man who spelt opulence and grace even from a mile. They had put a list of meditators at the pagoda for the cell numbers and every name read a Patil, Suryavanshi. Chugle. Kimble, Kate, Manwadi, etc. This is rural Maharashtra and every name was from the Marathi gene pool. The Marathis are a very accommodating race. Everyone speaks Hindi as good as their mother tongue, even the alphabets of Hindi and Marathi are similar. In the evening discourse 60 people opted for Hindi language and just four for English.
            I loved this aspect of the centre; it is far way from a city. I feasted my eyes on the night skies for stars, planets, and the moon. I had forgotten all about the astral world since my schooldays and it was here I would stare at the skies and memorize a few star formations. In the meditations in the day my knees stood the test but somehow I felt my back sag so much. Since Kolhapur is the hometown of the Kalyani family, my very reliable friends, I thought about them in the initial days. Kolhapur from a Chennai eyes is pure air and wonderful weather and away from the maddening noise of a city.
            Each day went without stirring any new thought or strange emotion. If there is one relief I have expended all thoughts and energy of the Sindhi long time back - it was 10-90 relation, I got 10% of bliss for 90% pain for an absolutely lose-lose transaction. Neither are there negative imprints of Panneer Chelvam nor Mohan, my last two bosses. If there is one aspect I felt I could improve is get my rooms at Besant Nagar swept and mopped more regularly (this house opens out to the main road where vehicular traffic is heavy and dust formation is daily nuisance). I also thought I should stock fruits, casual eats in the house. I also resolved to get a few carpentry works like fixing the cot and get a dining table replaced. In short get some aesthetic in. 
            On 11th October the vow of silence came to an end. I restricted myself mainly to David the American and the suave man, later learnt that he runs a few management institutes in Pune. We were the only men attending the English discourse in the evenings. I wished a few pleasant faces that I happened to witness in these ten rigorous days of meditation. On 12th October I accompanied Kusto, from Orissa to the famed Mahalaxmi temple. Visited Manisha’s uncle’s place and they treated me to an hour of discussion on politics (Maharashtra is going to the polls this week) and music. The uncle’s family’s hospitality and respect was standout. They came to pick me up in a car at the landmark “Victor Palace” and later dropped me at the bus stop for Pune. That was a five hour journey and I kept talking the whole time wearing myself out with Kusto. The bus reached “Svargate” (the bus terminus at Pune) and waited for an hour to be picked by my cousin. My father’s last brother has been a Pune resident for 30 years and they invited me warmly over the phone once they learnt from my sister that I was in Kolhapur.
            Meeting my uncle, his wife and two sons was a revelation. My uncle never earned much but he got fortunate marrying a virtuous woman who squeezed every penny to ensure the best quality education for her sons despite penury earnings. Now both the children are well placed. Rajesh is the campaign manager of a NCP candidate and he’s already making a mark in Maharashtra politics even at just 22. His elder brother Kishore is in a software firm and earns astronomically compared to his dad’s paltry. That family smelt close-bound and they treated me as royalty. Sankari Chitti made payasam and wadai and treated me to a feast. I was there just for two hours but I will carry the memories for long as Kishore dropped me at the Pune station at 11:30 for a midnight train to Chennai. All of them said,” Next time please come and stay for a week. Two hours won’t do.”  
            I came home and my mind kept playing the memories of Manisha’s uncle’s family and my own uncle’s family. Both were a good spectacle and advertisement of a good family. I came home to an empty house and felt miserable coming to an empty apartment. I don’t think I will give God a natural death. Earning money is the easy part but staying alone is not something a human being is programmed for. I have never felt a stronger death wish coming from a Vipassana course. Or is there any more turns in the script of my life? 
         Somehow this "27th April" syndrome scares me; sharing a birthday with Dr. Arunachalam Kumar my maternal cousin (he writes ten times better than me; he is a Scientist, Anatomist, Painter, Wildlife enthusiast and yet his suffering is of a colossal scale. Mine is greater for I suffer alone; what is worse I don't have his brains or energy). This is death layer by layer; agonisingly slow. Or is suffering the starting point for liberation? Why has nature chosen me; both my sisters have it easy in life and so does anyone I know. More questions and no answers yet only waiting has been my lot
          Bloody hell with waiting. I am always game for another fight, another battle even if it is against my destiny. I may bloody lose but I will stand my ground. I must love myself, trust myself, encourage myself, support myself even if the solar system and milky way is against me.  
        I will pour unconditional love to myself; I will be my only friend. What if I don't have a family, I have me and that's more than enough. I may be knocked down a thousand times but I will get up each time even as the count starts. Each time with more love and sympathy for myself.