Sunday, June 18, 2017

I’m alive!

At Eliot's beach at 6:00 a,m
“Can I speak to Sathya?” as I held the landline arm to the ear.
“Yeah, speaking!”
“Thank God! You’re alive. Am I really speaking to Sathya. You are not dead right.”
I don’t get flustered as I gently plod:  You ask for me and when I identify myself you want a confirmation I am alive. Not fair. Who is this?
“I am Arijit Manna from Kolkata.”
This intellectual from the great land of Bengal was a Facebook contact as he complained with just reason: no blog post in years, Facebook account deactivated. I was fearing the worst.
            It made me happy for a while; that someone takes the time to ponder on me. Next week another call and this time from Mumbai: Sathya, I am Siddhan.  It’s been more than two years since I heard from you or about you. I keep enquiring about you with T H Iyer mama. It seems you have evaporated into thin air.”
            It is not that I get a stream of such calls. Only these two to be honest.  Yeah, I am very much on the planet earth and very much alive.
            After my return from UAE in 2014 I went through prolonged blues. I lost all zest of writing and living. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I went to the depths of hell only to realize that earth is not such a bad place at all.  But more than that, I lost the writing twitch. From 2006 onwards I have been very prolific on these blog posts before realizing after UAE sojourn I had nothing new to write: unremitting and unrelenting loneliness stretched for eternity as the Sahara, miserable job experiences, and agonies of world-class cribber of a touch-me-not oversensitive soul.
            One of the best things of life is nothing is permanent; not even my sufferings.
            It’s came as no surprise that both my sisters reached out in my darkest hours.  For months I stayed put in Adambakkam, my eldest sister’s place.  After 10 years of lonely living in Besant Nagar I lost all joys of the Eliot Beach, Theosophical Society and weekend Upanishad lectures.  My second sister would invite me to her place in Kodambakkam and drag me to temples or entreat for Ayurvedic treatment for my arthritis.  Both intuitively knew that my emotional suffering had reached saturation point.  They advised in different words, “Sathi, things are bad but you’ll bounce back.  If there is just one way out of a million to escape, you’ll find it. Just persevere. Keep a little faith.”  
            There is miraculous pattern repeated time and again in my life: Balakanth became a friend soon after my father’s death. Manisha in 2006 when my boat was sinking.  Vivek is another friend who lavishes warmth and a human connection. I offer nothing in return but I get so much. I get free medical consultation from depression to arthritis to migraines from doctor friends: Manisha, Vivek, Rajaram
           
With Mr. and Mrs. Iyer at the beach
The miracle this time was Mr. T H Iyer mama.  I have known him since 1998 when I first started walking in the lawns of TS.  He is by far the wisest man I have known. He is an engineer who spent 4 decades in Germany in executive positions of MNCs, every great spiritual leader of our times – Sai Baba, Swami Chinmaya, Swami Dayananda – have been personal guests at his residence and they interact with him on an one-to-one “equal” basis. His wit is spontaneous and world-class. We are oceans apart - Iyer mama is the best advertisement of a human being while I have never deluded myself other than a failed writer, failed human being, broken spirits and now in free-fall.   
            One day he said: Sathya, Lord Guruvayoorapan came in my dream and asked me to keep an eye on you.
            Had any person said this, I would have shrugged it off.  In fact, it was his suggestion that I would daily chant “Kanakadhara slokam” in the years 2011 and 2014.  He would say: chant “Vinayakar Agaval” and I implicitly comply.  Another time he would suggest a “Sudarshana Homam” at my place or a visit to Kanchipuram for Mahaperiva’s blessings. Anything he said; I follow without questions.
            My redemption came in the most unlikest of ways. I started with Louise Hay’s affirmations 30 minutes morning and night from the youtube and her magnificent book “You can heal your life”.  At first the affirmations felt as distant from another galaxy but I persisted in absorbing the ideas and psychology.  That led me to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR – a free online 8 week course on Mindfulness.  Within two weeks I was hooked; I ravenously read “Buddhist” literature for 7-8 hours in a day.  Every idea felt the bars of the mental jail opening.  When I first heard “The Power of NOW” as audiobook on youtube before ordering a hard copy, I found a guru in Eckhart Tolle.  Swami Paramarthananda’s talks would take me to Himalayan heights in an experience of timelessness. Eckhart did likewise but one difference: each sentence in the book felt like it was written specifically for me.  "The Power of Now" became a practical guide to handling a tumultuous mind.    
            For the first time in life I felt: reading this book was worth all the trouble in my life starting from a sick mother used to banging the head of a one year old to the wall in 1970.  The belief system of such a child growing in such venomous hostility is fundamentally antithetical to peace and joy.  Having such a cannibal at home meant I never grew wings to fly.  
           One of the first lessons of spirituality is SUFFERING is not such a bad thing. In fact in Buddhism it is the starting point of liberation. You have suffered so much that you don't want to suffer any more.  
            My mind cluttered with so much negativity - with more than half a mind to escape the pains of earth - now found new energy fields in the mind. Transformation is a supercharged heavy word; it simply means re-wiring the mind. I became an alchemist changing my fears, resentments, hatred, and insecurities to GOLD in the form of healthy love and respect for myself and my life situation. We improve by degrees so whether the transformation is 10 % or 90% is good enough as long as the mind is set on the road to peace and happiness. In other words, being transformed simply means: I am willing to change to these wholesome thoughts!
            Mindfulness is my new buzzword.  My twitter handle is full of posts and interactions on mindfulness.  I listen and read the greatest teachers of MINDFULNESS of our times to savour and course correct: Tara Brach on Radical Acceptance (I loved her jargon on “trance of unworthiness” “constant war with oneself” “definition of prapancha” RAIN meditation. Again every sentence of her talks and writing is pure gold).  Jack Kornfield on Forgiveness, Dr. Kristin Neff on Self-compassion, Thich Nhat Hanh (loved his “ringing the bell” and “no mud, no lotus”), Byron Katie’s The Word in the form of 4 questions for replacing a negative thought into a positive, and so many really. This is no place for name-dropping but listening and reading these teachers has immeasurably enriched my life.
            Gautama Buddha asks: “If you get struck by an arrow, do you then shoot another arrow into yourself?” I spent over 47 years of my life shooting a second arrow with my cribs of lousy parents, genetic predisposition to moodswings, monster bosses, footloose romance, and growing old to loneliness and misery. Just 4 months of Mindfulness I see new hopes; new energies and a possibly that I can still make something useful with my life. 
            I think I lost that writing twitch for good which is vitally important – the love to communicate (its actually more a flaunting), addiction to words and thoughts and an endless and tireless labour to shape words into visual imagery.  I don’t foresee I will ever hit those peaks of 2011-2014 as a writer.  But writing is something I can't totally eliminate from my world. There are some topics I want to record like my uncle's sudden passing away last year. Besides "mindfulness" serves me so many lessons. These potentially can make for good reading as Rocky says: When I can change, you can change then everyone can change. Come to think of it, capturing a change process in the mind is why writing is embarked upon in the first place. 
            I am totally indebted to my eldest sister and T H Iyer mama for hauling me up to this side of life. 
            I am still very much alive and kicking and in Besant Nagar and God in his rightful place and everything perfect in heaven and earth.  Life is a journey and it will have its ups and downs. But I’ll survive and maybe even surprise myself. 

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