Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Kastvam ko.aham kuta aayaatah*

A strange lassitude overcomes me this new year’s day. I did not seek out revelry last night, choosing pappannam over biryani, a webstreamed sathsang over an evening out and, all of today, I have chosen brazen indiscipline over customary good sense.
I am in a state of flux, with no plan in sight. On the other hand, I have found a super Raga Desi by Nazakat-Salamat Ali Khan. And also, in this past week, I learnt to appreciate Meera Bai. That is as it is.

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Somehow, in the light of our brittle – perhaps even desperate – celebrations on occasions such as these, my mind tends to nihilism. Imagine the sea, if you will, in its depths. And then imagine the fish. And what, if from one instant to the next, the fish disappears? Does the sea notice? Is there consternation over this sudden vanishing? Or does it, in a blink, close up the gap and go on as before? Or does the size of the fish matter? Tsunamis after all are caused by such very shifts of mass. Then does the fish matter? That it once was, that it is no more?

Haiku poet Tom Rault makes an enigmatic assertion:
everywhere
in the river
the footprints of a fish

Really? Do we, superior-evolved-fish, leave footprints behind? It is my understanding that we carry on much with us but what do we leave behind that the earth cares to treasure? A genius here or there, yes, we remember their words, their images, their legacy... but the bulk of us, swimming this way and that in vast shoals, what do we leave behind?
If we took a slice out of the earth under the much-lived Delhi, for instance, we would find layer upon layer of civilisation. The very rubble would tell us tales of many centuries worth. But of the fishes that swam here once? What of them? How do they matter?
How will it matter to the ageless sea in what manner I spent my eve of the New Year 2014?


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*This is from Adi Shankara's Bhaja Govindam.
Verse 23 goes:
kastvaM ko.ahaM kuta aayaataH
kaa me jananii ko me taataH
iti paribhaavaya sarvamasaaram.h
vishvaM tyaktvaa svapna vichaaram.h

Who are you? Who am I? From where did I come?
Who is my mother? Who is my father?
Thus enquire, leaving aside the entire world-of-experience,
essenceless and a mere dreamland, born of imagination.
**

**The translation is from here.

2 comments:

Vikram Singh said...

A good piece.I, too, was holed up in my apartment in a foreign land. I do catch the sensibility thrown by your writing. As someone has said :We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love & then we return home..
Happy new year to you !

Sheetal said...

Thank you, Vikram, for your kind words! Happy new year to you too.

The wise men have been saying that incessantly... Wali Dakkani for instance:

Khud fanaa hoke zaat mein milna
Ye tamasha hubaab mein dekha