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Disappointments


Disappointments occur in life. They may be severe, they may be sparse and yet again they may seem to be coming all at once. Life’s not easy.. Life’s just life, all ups, downs and awful in-betweens included. We get to accept and get over most of them, but it takes courage and hope to get through the harder ones of life’s disappointments.

Today in lab a colleague had a major setback in his research, a semester worth of work down the drain, effectively. He was (obviously) very upset and standing there explaining it to our adivsor he looked miserable. I wanted to tell him that these things happen. “Why? Its sometimes just bad luck, its sometimes a faulty wiring in our large scheme of things and sometimes it just is. Yeah, i know, that sucks.. but we can move on anyway. It’s going to be alright. ”
These very things my roomate had tried to explain to me the previous friday, as I was upset over the death of someone I loved and adored. Her words had made some sense but right then I couldnt grasp it. They are both disappointments, can I take these two disappointments the same way? Death is of an absolute magnitude, the only thing in life that is 100% certain they say. Setbacks in research just hamper your academic stride, temporarily. But in different degrees, both are unexpected and unfortunate, both leave you feeling helpless and scared to look ahead. In different degrees.
So what do we do now?

Nothing, thats all i know. Life will go on, without giving a hoot about what happened to you. Things will get better and a day will come when it all makes sense again. “hey, look, it worked!” You might slowly forget the fear and uncertainity, you’ll relax and let yourself be carried away in life’s stride. Time will blur the pain. Life will go on until the next disappointment comes its way, and we are back to square one. Don’t misunderstand me, life’s not about going from one disappointment to another.. there’re times when its going from one joy to another. The whole point in life seems to be to just move. And its better if we just move on ourselves. I’m sorry it had to happen and I’m sorry you had to go thru it. Yes, there is uncertainity in the future, but there is also a possibility. Some friends, family, a lil prayer, courage and hope.. and then life.

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Ranthambhore


Ranthambhore is one of the largest national parks in India, located in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. Wiki says Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambhore became a national park in 1980. Its one of the very few places where the last wild tigers can be seen. It has roughly around 20+ tigers right now. Project Tiger was initiated in1972. It has become one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures and aims at tiger conservation within tiger reserves representative of various biogeographical regions throughout India.

I first came to read about the park in a book by Valmik Thapar and Fateh Singh Rathore titled The wild tigers of Ranthambore. The book in itself was a description of the park and its tigers, accompanied by outstanding pictures. I consider that book nothing less than treasure. There are pictures of the ancient palace in ruins and a tiger sunbathing beside it, pictures of the park in summer, monsoons and the dry winter, tall chowkies made by a king long ago now hosting forest guards and one of a magnificent male tiger crossing a jungle path as a jeep with photographer Valmik Thapar stalls.. the photographs are simply fabulous. 

Tiger by Lesley Boast

Tiger by Lesley Boast

In July 06, I was to volunteer at the National Park for 15 days, being a part of the Project Tiger. 2006 was a good year because of a lot of things, but it was this one stint with Project Tiger in July that I can never forget. The park normally closes for the monsoons, during which time the forest rangers had to be busy with anti-grazing duties as well as their slow battle with poachers. We volunteers were to roam the parks and I specifically remember what was said to me in the mail: ” The living conditions are very basic. No bathrooms, no electricity, loads of insects etc etc.. Water can be a problem at times, specially for people who have weak stomachs or are not very careful.. Lots of walking on bad terrain everyday.Come prepared for a rough trip.” It seemed to good to be true :D. How can I explain the desire there was to imagine waking up within a forest, and watching the sun rise among some ancient ruins.. all the while in a noble quest to save these majestic animals. To be so close to unspoilt nature and live rugged.. to have to bother about the essentials of living in a beautiful and rustic environment. At that time, my excitement at the opportunity was purely personal and selfish. I’d not only convinced my parents to let me go but also my Dad and 2 good friends to volunteer themselves. (My dad would be the best companion ever for something like this. The friend who was to accompany us almost lost perm, when her mum spoke to my dad and dad cracked a very morose joke about being worthy meals to tigers). Of course I cared about the tigers too, but having never really participated in conservation I could not appreciate what this program truly meant.

I recently came across another program very like ours. However due to the loyalty and nostalgia with the original, I cant help but feel that this is more commercialisation than is needed. Ah, but as long as the end result will be an increased awareness about our tigers, its worth it. http://www.gapguru.com/GapProjects/OneOfAKind/TigerAndWildlifeConservation.aspx

In the end, we never really made it to the park. Our volunteer project had been called off 4 days before we were to leave. I got an email saying certain people in the government were not too happy seeing volunteers around the park without having proper policies in place.  I still dont remember how I got over it… I guess college, GRE and other priorities took its place. Apart from volunteering in a tree census in Bangalore (which had me painting serial no’s on the avenue trees in yellow paint) my tryst with conservation seemed to have ended. I occasionally scour the net for news of tigers and the developments in the park (to see if the policies finally came up or not). I still long to do something for wildlife conservation and sometimes I’m optimistic enough to believe that I shall end up there after all. But for now, I’m content thinking about the many forest guards and officials who love ranthambhore much more than me and are there right now amidst its changing seasons and eternal tigers.

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Two links:

  1. http://ranthambhore.blogspot.com/, In its own words, “All about Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve – its residents, visitors, high and low points.” Blog by Aditya Singh who runs a lodge on the outskirts of the park and is involved with the tigers. Details the history and present of tiger conservation along with tips on nature photography and some very well narrated experiences.

A First Christmas


Christmas came quietly this year.

No Secret Santas, no paper stars

and no malls covered in green and red.

 All thats needed for the day to pass by as what it is.. just another day,

But it doesn’t.

A friend wishes  “Peace on earth to people of good will”. 

Goodwill? I wonder,

Is there still some of that left in us?

Yes. Regardless of the injustice we witness

there’s something good in this world

and its worth fighting for.

And tonight, white or not

christmas came,

as evidence of the good that’s been,

and the good that’s yet to come.

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Christmas previously meant holidays, cousins and cold weather. This time around however, I was fortunate to experience a more traditional christmas with my host family in Blacksburg. (I was very close to letting christmas pass me by, spending the day on my own. Luckily, it turned out quite the opposite). I had a good dinner with a warm family, listened to their ‘home-stories’, gave them some of mine and played songs around the christmas tree. Somewhere in the middle of listening to the guitar strum and the dog sigh I felt that happiness can be found in the most natural of things.. a family. And christmas or not, the world’s a pleasant place after all. 

Wishes for a wonderful season to all.

Terrorism- Making sense out of it


Bangalore, Ahemadabad, Surat, Jodhpur, Mumbai. 5 attacks in a year already. “Terror strikes Mumbai, again”, a 6th time. Why? I dont know the answer.. and the title of this post is no justification to what follows. But long ago, I’d learnt that sometimes what matters is the questions that we chose to ask. 

Why is life so vulnerable?

Why is there a growing indifference to death?

More than that, how have we become so accepting of injustice?

How can someone be so insane?

What motive or purpose drove the terrorists?

What do they want? land, money or power?

What is done to the suicide bombers by the masterminds to make them so?

What goes on in their heads as they carry out their plans?

How can anybody be remorseless?

What can we do so that our vulenerability is not thrown on our faces again and again?

Is there sense in blaming?

Why would any outfit attack Mumbai so outfront and force India to drastic measures?

What do they gain by this?

What will we do if someday it affects us and we cant ignore it anymore?

Please let me know of any more questions that you think of. But dont give me any answers.

I dont want to hear people saying, “kill all the terrorists!” “The police force is useless” “We should not leave even 1 guilty go scott free”. No answer that is going to lower us to the levels of those whom we are against. Neither do I want to know that the terrorists are insane, that there are religious connotations and that they are wrong and we are right. These are not answers. There’s more to terror attacks.. It cant be mindless violence. 

Terrorism (Arabic hirabah) = Publicly directed violence carried out by individuals or groups that has the effect of spreading fear, by preventing people from taking any safekeeping measures against physical or property damage. It is a capital offense, and is unlawful and punishable to target the public in ways that make it impossible for people to live safely. This is how its defined by The Islam Project.

Why do you think an outfit wants to kill innocent people? What do they believe in that is so strong and allows them to do so? What do we mean when we say militants? Who are these people? have we considered the fact that there can be political backings to this attack? That its not to make a mockery of our cities but maybe to provoke us against some others? As a human I can’t comprehend so much at one go. I also cant leave all faith in humanity, civility and intelligence that charcterise us as a race.

I’d like to add an excerpt from Kim Peterson, talking about the war on Iraq: As much as one can understand what causes terrorism (whether the state or retail variety) it is difficult and morally questionable to construe sense out of such wanton, violent acts. However, insofar as understanding the root causes can thwart future acts of terrorism, the exercise in understanding is morally necessary. For humanity to cohabit the planet in peace, an equitable sharing of the planet and its treasures is fundamental.

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Is the root cause corruption? Corruption that’s infiltrated the police force, the government, the judiciary and the morality of the public. There must be so many people involved in the recent attack with or without their knowing. A slight leniality on the part of a chowkidar, a small neglect on the part of an official all culminated into this. Can we truly become non-tolerant to terrorism? Maybe, if we can first be non-tolerant to corruption. Maybe, if every child is educated right from school about terrorism and public vigilance. Maybe if politics can implement long-term measures that last beyond 5 years, and go beyond their partite ideologies. Maybe if each individual considers it a responsibility to not provoke any sentiments, and not be biased in opinions. I dont know. I wish it was possible for people to sit together and make sense of it all. But I’m just not too sure anymore.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Vedanta


Life catches you by surprise if you let it. On a warm Sunday morning in Florida I find myself at a temple surrounded by so many Indian families and their kids all scuttling about. Some kids are learning hindi here at the ashram, some are learning dance, and yet some are attending philosophy lessons. Preparations are in full swing for their delayed Diwali celebrations and everybody has work to do. I like such intrusions into my usually busy days.. I had no phone, no laptop to kill time with and nothing to do.

I figure I might as well roam around and take in some spiritual vibes. I pray at the temple and again feel that awkward misplaced sense of being mixed with a comforting thought of god being around. There’s a Gita class that’s about to begin and I’m curious enough to sit un-conspicuously at the back. Now I have always been skeptical about Gita.. almost to the extent of refuting it. I can safely blame this on dad cause he would invariably resort to the adage “Everything is maya” during all of our debates. No further discussion is possible when a man of 50 states a thought like that. To a practical thought process its jarring to know that everything around is an illusion that really has no point :P. However, having never read the book myself I shall not pretend to own any opinions on it. To cut down the long tirade, I entered the class and sat through a discourse on 2 verses in the Gita.

Here’s the first one:

3.26

Na budhibhedam janayegyaanaam karmsanginaam|

joshayet-sarvkarmani vidvanyuktaha samacharan||

“Let no wise-man unsettle the minds of the ignorant people, who are attached to action; he should engage them all in actions, himself fulfilling them with devotion”

Tough luck guys, I was about to disclose the meaning of life to you… but looks like i should just let it be. (However, I can let you know that it is indeed very close to 42). This verse and the next ones all dealt with the need to act. Isn’t that a nice thought? You must act, and only in carrying out your actions can you achieve what you seek.

“Do not fear going ahead slowly, only fear standing still.” Keep the wheels moving all the time, said the explanation in the book. The wise should not slap on their knowledge onto the ignorant and disrupt their routine and activity. The worst thing that a wise man could do would be to create confusion and hamper the ignorant men’s stride. I wonder how they define being wise and ignorant.. but i guess for the sake of explaining the concept the book makes a black-and-white distinction in characters. In working on your jobs and responsibilities of day to day lie your answers.. whatever the question be. This is a thought very similar to Candide, by Voltaire. I recommend this book to anyone who’s wondered if the purpose of life is carry out mundane activities everyday.

Someone’s said it quite elegantly… “Keep walking”.

Verse Two: 3.25

Saktaha karmanyavidvaamso yatha kurvanti bharat|

kuryadwidwam-stathaasaktaschikir-shurlokasangraham||

 “As the ignorant men act from attachment to action, oh Bharata, so should the wise men act without attachment, wishing the welfare of the world.”

This took me a while to translate into something understandable. I was a lil suspicious as talks of attachment to worldly things was being explained, and was half afraid that the ‘everything-is-maya’ routine might spring up on me. It didn’t, and i’m not too sure i understand what’s said by being attached anyway. The take home point seemed to be to work without dwelling on the results and work only to be part of the greater designs in the world.

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That was about how long I sat there and for most parts of it i’m glad I did. It made me realise that the Gita would be an interesting read at this point and also that 5 yrs of Sanskrit in school has done me no good whatsoever. Maybe i’ll pick up a copy from our library and peruse through a quote or two to see what more it has to offer. Maybe i’ll find the true meaning of life. Sadly, I cant share that knowledge with you guys.. but I might write again about the experience.

Also try: “Move it.” https://revathy.wordpress.com/2007/01/20/move-it/

The Last Leaf to Fall


And so I wake up, surprisingly fresh and awake, on a wonderful Saturday morning. I look outside and I see that its raining, the pattering of the raindrops on the dry leaves mixing with the constant hum of the AC. Its raining and yet the day is vibrant. I step out to the balcony and take deep breaths almost afraid that the freshness I feel shall disappear soon. I also smiled out to the trees. I must admit, my friend has one helluva view from her balcony. I see a patch of lawn, big enough to hold 5-6 majestic trees in their post-fall glory, the 460, and then a meadow dotted with white cows. The cows must have been up much before me, but, they’re very strange animals anyway. And beyond the meadow, standing strong in the background of the landscape I see is the blue ridge (forever enveloping, forever eluding?).

By now my feet are numb but the moment being entirely my own I’m content. I first stretch and reach for the outline of the mountains and then slowly draw in till I see a barn, the cows and the meadow. My eyes slowly cross the road and come closer home and are struck, so suddenly, by a leaf. The tree right in front of me was wet like all the others around. And the leaf was the only one on it. The last one. One bright yellow leaf so alone in the starkness of the brown around it. I looked at every bare branch and confirmed that my leaf was the last. I was amused that this leaf had borne the night’s rain that had laid so many red-brown leaves on the road. I contemplated running in and getting the camera to picture it. I wanted to preserve the moment like everybody feels the need to. However, I was sure it would fall the minute I took my eyes off of it. So there I stand, holding it by my eyes and I really don’t know how long. In my mind I picture its soft fall as I see it sway in the wind, and still it stays strong. I stared at it long enough for it to let me know that she wouldn’t fall anytime soon. And then, I knew it wouldn’t. It would stay there even when the white snow fell, standing out bright and yellow against the pale white.

An hour or so later, having coffee with my now awake friends I look out the big window, and she’s still there. I point out to my friends, they’re amused. They get the cam and we take some pics. We pack up and leave to our respective homes for the slumber party is done, some of us still in need for sleep.

And then I was just happy.

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Anticipation


Maybe tomorrow will be magical.

What is it about this youth that tints everything with happiness? The possibilities. That maybe the weather will be wonderful tomorrow and you could have lunch with your friends by a pond. Maybe you’ll meet that someone who makes you giddy and glad. Maybe there’ll be an unexpected phone call from family. Maybe you could go cycling along the trail and feel the rush of the wind. Maybe you can sit on the grass and read your book. Maybe you’ll buy a guitar and play Dylan to the wind. Maybe you’re advisor will let you take the day off! Damn, some things you cant even dream of :P.