Thursday, April 23, 2009

Life, Time & a Doubt

While wondering about the relationship of time to life and the consequences of the variants of the existential dilemma we all go through in life, I could not help but conclude this.

Life is a consequence of time and time a consequence of an existential doubt.

I saw the existential doubt as an apt metaphor for the daily doubts and conflicts we keep having, which is summed up pretty simply by Shakespeare as ‘To be or not to be’. Most of our doubts, daemons and conflicts can be categorized as 'Should I be myself or conform by expectations form me?' or 'What if I do this and what if I don't?'. And in the process of this of conflict spend a great amount of quality time.
TIME then becomes the consequence of the EXISTENTIAL DOUBT.

On Existential doubt, one of the founders of this philosophy comments:

What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. ... I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing.

Søren Kierkegaard, Letter to Peter Wilhelm Lund dated August 31, 1835

Since time passes by and the life of any person is then the chronicle of all activities that happens around this time, we have LIFE as a consequence of TIME.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Father’s Devotion

We at Prayas to date have successfully admitted and processed more than 35 children to a better state of academic schooling than what they had previously. Recently, during one of those admitting sessions, we had compulsorily asked the parents to join their children to the school for the process. Five children along with their mother and father came along even though it was already time for the parents to go off to work.

The admission process began with a few questions about their family and other details. One excited child stood there, as she was asked questions by the principal, clutching onto and playing with her skirt. She stood there part smiling and part confused while she abruptly glanced at him. Then, I noticed him!

There stood a father, next to his child. From his expressions I noticed that he could have been deeply contemplating and calculating the outflow of his monthly wages towards his child's education, the bills, the food, etc. In the moment that froze in front of me, his eyes wandered unsure & perplexed while he picked up the 100Rs notes and started looking empty.

I stood there frozen, looking at him flip through the few hundred rupees in his wallet and I could not help but reminisce some difficult moments in the life of my own family. He reminded me of a time, when my father had to loan and plan hard to pay off the monthly school fees at our school. This was even after having a friendly discount of fees at the school which was run by a good friend of Dad. And now, here is a person who is a slum-dweller, not by his personal choice, but because he could not afford any better. He still had the same flame as my Dad, to be able to have a good education for his child.

My Dad has worked hard in his simple job as a Bus Driver for 25 years, as it has been now. There was a time when he had to work two jobs in shifts - one from 7AM-5PM and another from 10PM-4PM, 5 days a week to sustain the money flow to keep us afloat. When, he returned home after his first shift I used to see him rushing upon dinner to catch up a nap before he left. An unconditional devotion that I have revered since the moment I realized it and to date more than any God or person.

The child on the other end picked up her glossy new books and copies. The twinkle in her eyes was similar to what I had felt when I got my new books for the year. An innocent admiration splashed her face with a smile growing as she flipped through each colorful book. I was suspended in time in that moment of nostalgia and then a reminiscent deep gratitude for my Dad. I could notice a tear forming in my eyes but then I held it back for I wished not to ‘make a scene’.

The father-child relationship in our society is one that is rarely talked about, compared to a mother-child or other family relationships. I feel it is somehow presumed that fathers are strong and emotionally in control and their expression of angst at a child's low grades, annoyance at small home issues and other daily concerns, is an expression of establishing control? And thus, not worthy of an emotional expression but can only be a more logical, need based expression!

A father’s devotion to his responsibilities is a silent expression of what is most important to him. He is not emotionally expressive other than in anger. But then I feel, we should respect his silent devotion and ‘cut him some slack’. His everyday is a fight with the world and its numerous frustrations to sustain his family with his best efforts.

And so, with this I conclude my little ode to all fathers – good or bad, but still devoted to their responsibilities. I love you Dad!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Living off a Cliff – My Cliff Jumping Experience


As I was pulled towards the ground, a strong and unfamiliar type of fear had taken me over. The support under my feet had just vanished for a few seconds and it felt like that moment in itself was a teacher of Buddha proportions. I had jumped off with the expectation of a different consequential fear that the height had spurred in me as I had a fear of heights, but now I felt another fear. The fear as I felt now was more akin to a state of insecurity and then of being connected to a force beyond my mortal control.

The cliff though was only 20 feet high still gave a good 3 seconds of free fall before you landed. As the rafting experience and its multiple rushes, gushes & twirls had not enthused me, I was growing disappointed as it was almost the end of the 12 mile stretch. While I was not in a mood to try this part of the experience (Cliff jumping), that I had paid for, a voice inside me roared onto me and drove me to give it a try.

I climbed the cliff which was now crowded by a bunch of people who wished to experience the thrill of the jump. As I climbed now, the voice inside my head that squeaks & squeals at the thought of a height and consequentially numbs out my feet turning it cold, cried to be let alone, but the experimental & adventurous part of me found an empowerment. The empowerment came from the fact of nature that ‘Everything that has a beginning has an end!’

I saw a few others jumping off and especially noticed this great friend of mine (Darshan) preparing for his second jump and soaked to his every goose-bump on the rush that he got from the moment. A lovely lady I know (Aakanksha), who I had felt had a strong adventurous streak about her pulled back abruptly right before my turn had come. With that, the squealing voice inside me got louder for the final two seconds before I finally jumped.

I was saturated in the rush of the moment with so many voices in conflict and excitement. The moment had now come, and then, I launched myself. Now as I fell towards the water, my fear of height somehow ceased to exist, but then, this new fear that had released its pangs into me. I was being pulled by a force I could not fight towards the ground and I lost my sane senses which knew that there was a life jacket protecting me from drowning.

The first second doused my adventurous spirit in fear. I felt heavy as if my feet were tied to a mountain and I was dropped from the highest point on earth that was humanely habitable. I was now waiting fervently for a foot holding, a chance to kiss the earth and secure myself.

In the next second, I grew to accept the fact that any consequence was inevitable. I started losing hope now and expecting the inevitable to happen. I started to gain the power to let myself loose and feel the moment.

In the third second, I felt the force that I realized and came to terms with that which was beyond my control and let myself to its mercy. And, by the time I was splashing lower into the water now, I was feeling enlightened and a sense of liberty from my mortal conflicts. I now felt closer to God and a peace that was unparalleled.

And now that I look back to that moment, I have come to learn and accept with much more conviction of the need to let go and live the moment. Being able to experience life, beyond our own blindly assumed and presumed acceptance of expected outcomes then, is as important as breathing in air into our lungs. The assumptions and presumptions have limited our scope of possibilities and we all need to douse them and look beyond them to the world of unlimited possibilities – The land of hope and faith.