Saturday, May 22, 2010

Destiny Revealed

A raindrop
pauses at the edge of a leaf.
Perhaps it wonders
about what it would be like
to let go
of the leaf
and join the lake
that beckons to it
from below.

It glances over
the edge of the leaf
with trepidation.
Rolls back to the center
of the leaf,
cowers in fear.

A sudden clap of thunder
through the forest,
like a voice from the heavens
reminding the raindrop
of its truest

Gently. Swiftly.
the raindrop releases its grip
on the leaf
and falls...
into the lake below.

A journey that began
with a rise up to the heavens
now ends with a fall
towards the earth.

The raindrop dances as it merges
with its source
in ripples of ecstasy,
celebrating the end
of its journey
towards a new heaven.

No more a drop,
it now rejoices
as a majestic lake.

 © Sai Ganesh Nagpal

Friday, May 21, 2010

News that Inspires

Of late, I've stopped reading newspapers as voraciously as I used to. I've also drastically reduced the time I spend watching the news on TV. Until a couple of months ago, 9 pm was usually the time I tuned in to an hour-long program on one of India's leading news channels. The debates were interesting, no doubt, especially when they were to do with issues that I was passionate about. However, the mindless arguing and oft-repeated cliches that the speakers would throw at each other, especially if the debate was political, made me feel like walking up to them and slapping them out of their "zombiness." 

More often that not, the news episodes would leave me either with a feeling of a lot of anger at someone or something, or a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness about the state of affairs in this country and the world at large.

Needless to say, I feel better ever since I turned off the news. Perhaps a little less "informed," but the happier for it.

On the one hand, I can see that we are living in times where there is a lot of "bad news" to report. Or are we? Haven't there always been murders and wars? Haven't there always been storms and floods? Haven't there always been mindless rulers who have unleashed mayhem on a particular region of the world for personal ambition? Any top story today has its share of historical counterparts, in some form or another. The "baser" level of human consciousness continues to express itself in this world as it has since the ages, only in different circumstances and over different things.

So it's not like this is the first time in history that all of this stuff is happening. It seems to me, therefore, that for the media to portray an event as though it heralds the end of all things sane is misleading, to say the least. It's the "feeling" with which the reporting leaves me that I'm talking about. If a billion people walk away from their televisions at night feeling fearful, hopeless, and let down, imagine the effect of these emotions on the world's consciousness. Quite obviously, these emotions will feed the growing fear that already clogs world consciousness.

Wherever there are floods and cyclones, there's bound to be destruction. However, alongside the gloom, there will always be plenty of stories of hope to be told as well. I have seen these stories first hand and even been a part of some of them. I have seen that the power of love is far greater then the power of fear. To see people rebuild their lives after earthquakes, to watch others risk their own lives to save complete strangers, to witness simple acts of kindness to birds and animals... these are stories that I'd rather put my attention on each day.

What you put your attention on grows. A lot of spiritual paths tell us this. The more fear I feel now, the more I'm setting myself up to feel fearful in the future. The more hope I feel in this moment, the more I'm setting myself up to feel hopeful in the future too.

Imagine starting your day with a reminder that the world is, actually, a beautiful place where good things can happen anywhere and anytime. That a miracle is just round the corner. That each human being has the power to do so much good. Imagine teaching our children that no matter who you are, or which country you come from, you are a powerful person with the ability to make a positive difference to this world.

It's not hard to find inspiration, if only we're willing to free ourselves of prejudice and make space to be inspired! As I was writing this piece, I looked down at the floor for a second and saw a little ant clumsily walking beside my chair. It nearly looked drunk, barely able to walk straight. When I looked closer, I saw that it was carrying its fallen comrade to safety. The clumsiness of its gait suddenly seemed so purposeful.

Little tales of heroism are playing out all around us. As a matter of fact, ever since I put the paper away, I can see so many.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Promise

A tear runs down her cheek
towards a memory
She smiles
as the sun peeks out
from behind
passing clouds,
painting a shadow beside her.
like his presence.
like her trust. Her belief,
in his promise.

The sound of chimes
wafts across the air.
with the
melody of her laughter,
from a memory
of him
as he knelt before her
and made her a promise
of true love.
Cherished by her for years,
revealed today
as pearls
of joyous tears
that run down her cheek.

Today laughter plays
with sorrow.
Elation flirts with anxiety.
And sunshine dances
with raindrops.

As he walks into her world
from across
a distant horizon,
a rainbow of myriad emotions
dazzles her.
He finds his way to her,
and she loses herself
in his loving embrace.

 © Sai Ganesh Nagpal

Friday, May 7, 2010

The "Charles" Effect!

They're cuddly like soft toys. And they're probably the gentlest creatures on Earth. Until they move their furry heads, it's hard to tell that they're for real. Endearing, delightful, and adorable - that's how I would describe Koala bears.

On a work visit to Australia last year, I got on a bus one Saturday morning and headed to the Ballarat Wildlife Park, which is about an hours' drive from Melbourne city. When our group of about fifteen reached the park, we were greeted by a bunch of gluttonous but adorable Kangaroos who wanted to be fed treats every step of the way. The tour guide first took us to an enclosure where Charles, the Koala bear, would be brought to meet us. Everyone waited with bated breath. When Charles finally arrived, he lit up the room in an instant. There were smiles all around, everyone was beaming. Any creature that can make so many people smile in a split second has GOT to be special!

Because Koalas are such sensitive creatures, their keepers hold them in their arms along with a branch from a eucalyptus tree - the leaves comfort the Koala and make it feel closer home. Koalas get stressed very easily, which is why it's so important for them to live in their own habitat away from human activity. Sadly, their habitat is steadily shrinking and they're finding it very hard to keep up with our world.

Charles clung on to his keeper Mike's shoulders with his front paws, like a little baby, his head mostly turned sideways. Every few seconds, he would nibble on the eucalyptus leaves... chew on them for like three seconds... and then stop chewing and stare into space. And then again... nibble nibble... chew chew... stare into space.

Charles' movements were so gentle. There was nothing harsh about him. No wonder our hearts melted the instant we saw him. I believe that creatures as gentle as Koalas, and even Dolphins, are giving our planet a lot of "love" energy. They open our hearts instantly - it's hard for a person not to feel a wave of compassion wash over them when they see a Koala.

Mike gave a short speech about Koala "bears", and how there's really no "bear" in them, so goodness knows why they came to be called bears! An interesting thing about them is that their heads are very sensitive, and we were advised to touch Charles only on his back, and not at the top of his head.

By the time Mike was two sentences into his speech, everyone in the group was vying for a picture with Charles. Cameras were being handed across the room. One by one, each of us "posed" along with Charles, standing as close to him as was possible without him getting anxious. For a split second, each beaming visitor being photographed with Charles prayed to goodness that Charles wouldn't turn his head the other way until the picture was clicked. I wasn't so lucky the first time - Charles looked away for my first picture, and then the second or third time he was kind enough to look towards the camera.  (Swapna had told me not to return to India without a picture of me with a Koala, so I pleaded with Charles and he graciously relented!)

I came out of there rejuvenated like never before. Charles had worked his magic on me. As a matter of fact, everyone in the group looked drunk on happiness. Each of us had come from a different part of the world - from Russia, Australia, India, the US, the UK, and South Korea - but that afternoon, all our smiles looked just the same.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Lesson in Love

A few days ago, Katherine Jenkins - author of a beautiful blog called Lessons from the Monk I Married - invited me to write a guest post for her blog. Katherine writes a new lesson each day on her blog. Each lesson is compassionate, pertinent, and a pointer in the direction of living life to its fullest. I wrote about an important lesson that I had learned in my life - and called it "a lesson in love."  I'd like to share it here too:

When I was about fourteen, I experienced a moment of ‘self realization,’ if I may call it that. Mom and I were on our way home. As she drove through the pretty countryside that separated Delhi and Gurgaon in those days, I looked out the car window and watched the trees whiz past. It suddenly occurred to me that everything in my life is so temporary. My relationships, my concept of myself, my belongings, my life as I know it.

I know. Fourteen is very young to be thinking about the impermanence of my belongings. But it all came to me in a flash. I knew deep down inside that there was something far more permanent, a “constant” if you will, that was changeless. Call it God, Universe, Nature, Love. That “changeless” quality was the driving force in my life. It all made sense to me. Well, at least in that moment. Until I was shaken out of my reverie when I reached home and had to plan for school the next day.

I looked at Mom and felt the need to discuss this with her. I told her that it just occurred to me that one day she would not be here anymore. One day, I would not be here anymore. It was so important, then, to enjoy our time together as best as we could. She looked at me and smiled. It was a look of pride that told me I had just figured something out that most kids my age would probably not until they were much older. She hugged me tight. Only the Universe knew then that there was a good reason for why the insight had come to me so early on.

Five years later, tears flowed down my cheeks as I sat by her bedside, holding her hand, telling her that I loved her so very much. I was by her side as she took her last breath and passed away. As I continued to hold her hand moments after she was gone, I howled and cried and my world began to crumble around me. Somewhere in those moments of extreme grief that followed her passing on, I remembered our short conversation from all those years ago.

Today as I look back, I am grateful for each moment I spent with her in our short time that we were destined to be together as Mother and Son in this life. I would have given anything, though, to have gotten more time with her. It just wasn’t enough.

Why do we fight with our loved ones? Why do we bang doors and walk away? Why do we not talk to each other for days on end? Do we realize that time is running out? That one day, all of this will be a memory and then we’d wish we had been nicer to one another? And that ‘one day’ may be closer than we think?

It is but natural to have arguments, disagreements, and little fights over petty things. That’s what makes relationships ‘real’. But when we’re done with the fight, it’s so important to calm down, to give each other a hug, and say ‘I love you.’ My Dad and I do that these days – if we have an argument about something, within about ten minutes of the argument having ended, one of us initiates a ‘patch up’ hug. The words ‘I love you’ can melt the angriest of hearts.

If the other person doesn’t reciprocate our endeavors to reach out and patch up, what we can at least do is send them love in our hearts. Let go of any resentment and anger that we may have for them. Love them and hope that one day they will open their hearts and receive that love.

In the end, what matters… what stays… is love. Everything else whizzes past, like the trees in the countryside on a drive home.