Driving Thoughts: Humans Evolving or Devolving?

Every morning while driving to my office, I traverse a long stretch of the city’s high-street. The lovely white flowers on the road’s median sway and dance in the breeze, the little branches bend and reach out—to  touch n embrace. They uplift my mood. I ignore the merciless Sun scorching my face, and whistle to the tune of “Una paloma blanca…” playing on the car radio.

The next moment my eyes travel to the median below and encounter miles of disgusting spit. My senses are so offended, I silence the singer and the whistler. 

Disturbing thoughts cloud my mind.

Humans damage what humans build. We kill our creations, murder our heritage, and ravage our civilization.

Humans also destroy nature. We ruin our rivers, cut our forests, spoil the air we breathe, and pollute the water we drink. We systematically deface and disfigure the beauty.

We take the life out of life.

And for every havoc, every calamity that we wreak on ourselves—we blame God or Government.

Are we evolving or devolving?

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We Are Strange

We act one way with the people of equal or higher social standing, and another way with the less fortunate ones.

We fight for and snatch the restaurant bill of thousands to have the privilege of paying it. We also fight with the rickshaw puller or a vegetable vendor over a Rupee.

Humans are strange. The overfed overfeed the overfed and underfeed the underfed. But at times, those who have less, give more.

Humans have double standards, Nature one. Nature only gives, never takes.

Nature doesn’t discriminate. It invites all to eat, drink, take, see, explore, enjoy—all that it has.

Nature teaches, but we never learn.

Nature has failed to change the human nature.

Pic: joshua earle-unsplash IMG_20200908_201545

Crazy Cozy Corners

I am crazy about cozy corners.

In Sujangarh home, I spent hours sitting in a cute little window. While devouring boondiya-bhujiya* in its lap, I was spell-bound by street’s sights, sounds, and smells– foaming camels, fighting dogs, and farting horses.

In Guwahati home, I captured a small low-height room in the middle of stairs (‘duchhati’) and was quick to name it “Niru’s Nest”, lest someone else lay claim to it. This was my nest during college and university days and nights, though I laid no eggs here. Friends frequented it, parents avoided it. Here I taught ‘Break-Even Analysis’ to Bimal Patni ; and here I learnt about break-heart stories of many.  Though we still have to go up to it, today it is a ‘godown’.

In Bangalore home, I made a tiny heaven surrounded by books. Here I could see, smell, touch, and feel books… I lived with books—some which I read long ago, few which I have read over and over again, and some I am yet to open. This flirting is life-long, the charm and the romance remain undiminished.

My love affair with cozy indoors—such as captivating coupes in trains—continues. If I find none, I create one. June 2021—I found myself back in Guwahati, and I lost no time in carving a niche Study in the ground floor drawing room. The wooden contraption—which supported the wash-basin in my parent’s bathroom—became my work-table. The massive painting –which Bapuji* had insisted upon buying in Bangalore—gives relief to my laptop-tired eyes but agitates my tranquil nerves. The curves of the long abandoned ebony- black ‘Film-Fair’ lady and the recently grown grass-green plant on my desk compete with each other—my  imagination runs riot.

This love for small indoors contrasts with my love for vast outdoors—the abundant nature—the sprawling seas and meadows; the rising mountains and trees; the endless horizon and skies; the infinite space and time…

This puts me to a thought—confined in their cozy captivity, the heart can be limitlessly large and the mind can be immeasurably big.

*Boondiya-Bhujiya: Sweet & sour Indian snacks; * Bapuji: Father

Pics: Foaming Camel; Door to Niru’s Nest; The one with painting says it all.

रक्तिम शाम

रक्तिम  शाम  ये ऐसी  मानो…

प्रकृति  की  प्याली  में  शराब  छलकती,

रक्त  टपकता  सुर्ख  साखों  से…

जब  ढलते  सूरज  की  किरणें  आ  टकराती,

बारिश  है  बर्फ  की  तो  क्या…

खून  से  सना  है  हर दरख़्त,

लहू  लुहान  हैं  सभी…

आसमान, धरती, दिशाएं, और  वक़्त।

Raqtim Shaam.

Raqtim shaam ye aisi mano…

prakriti ki pyali me sharab chalkati

Raqt tapakta surkh saakhon se…

jab dhalte suraj kee kirne aa takrati,

baarish hai baraf ki to kya…

Khoon se sana hai har darakht,

Lahoo luhan hain sabhi…

Aasman, dharti, dishayen, aur waqt

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Living Bridges And Walk Of My Life

I was awestruck when I encountered ‘Umkar’—the jaw-dropping ‘living root bridge’—while exploring the woods of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. The breathing roots of trees met, merged, and melted into a spectacular living bridge. ‘Umkar’ called me to connect, lured me to climb,  urged me to cross.

The primitive relationship between trees and people echoes in these living-root-bridges, such as the legendary ‘Double Decker’ of Nongriat village. Villagers of West Jaintia and East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya create these marvels from the living aerial roots of Ficus Elastica—Indian rubber tree. 

The merging bridges signify the possibilities emerging from enduring bonds among humans, and between humans and nature. These bridges implore us to build, not to burn or break. Trees and roots teach us the ancient law of existence, infinity, and eternity—to rise but to retain and remain rooted.

Walking in the whistling woods is the walk of my life—a journey within and without. Sights, scents, and sounds of surroundings seduce my senses; heart wonders, mind wanders. The wind caresses; the morning warmth envelops and spurs me to sing Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Dawn enchants me, dusk enthralls. The stars and the moon play hide and seek among the silhouettes touching my melancholy.

I hear children laugh and clap when the birds coo and flap. My eyes see a lass flutter her eyelashes when the butterflies dart and flit. Swinging trees remind me of dancing lads drunk on youth.

The walk of life takes me to times, people, and places—near, far, and forgotten. Nostalgia overpowers, reason raises existential questions. The heart hums Tagore’s “Ekla Cholo Re”, while the wind whispers: “I am with you in your quest.” I discover the search is never complete, the journey never ends.

Great minds join my life-walks. I regain the lost paradise when the music of a Mozart or a Beethoven seeps into my soul. The world is worth and a wonder when a Wordsworth or a Wodehouse exhilarates with his words. My thoughts ask people petty and pompous to ‘take a walk’, but never with me. I imagine scenarios from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” when I see dogs on the leash—what if the roles are reversed?

People closer than closeness betray. Men and women use even the beautiful and the fragile—a flower, a ‘Parijat’—to deceive. Parijat wilts, love withers, memory mourns, treachery torments.

If we forget the count of time, forsake the weight of living, and embrace nature with abandon, we can drown in the ecstasy of “dolce far niente”—the sweet pleasure of doing nothing. Exhorts us Mary Shelley—to live by leaving: 

“Let us… seek peace… near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies. Let us leave ‘life’, that we may live.”

Nature’s rhythms sing songs of bliss. Its spirit tells stories of love and kindness. Her sounds are symphonies of silence and solitude. With nature in the heart, soul breaks into a dance; the Wordsworth in us serendipitously finds a hidden beauty.  But this mysterious temptress never reveals all. It delights with the innocence of a nymph and entices with the coquetry of a woman wily and wanton. 

Mother nature provides shelter, solace, and sustenance. She gives us sense, sensitivity, and sanity, and sanitizes our souls. We return to roots and answer our calling when we come home to her. She invites us to feast on her, on life—to drink and devour from its abundance. Forever fecund, life pours from her pores; but we kill this very life. We pilfer, pillage, plunder.

The universe is unity. Humanity, the most conscious member of this singularity, must keep the harmony intact for its survival. Call it an epiphany, or awakening of ecological conscience—we share the pulse of existence, and in this sharing lie human hope and destiny.

“Wondering Mind Wandering Thoughts -Trees Series”

The edited version of this article was published in The Economic Times dt. 11.01.2021: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/the-speaking-tree/the-living-bridges/

Images

  • Umkar Living Root Bridge Pic: Sukumar Bardoloi;
  • Double Decker Living Root Bridge: Arshiya Urveeja Bose