You begin with an empty bowl.
This was the writing prompt.
I had hit the writer’s block, and I was going through the chores, thinking of the ‘empty bowl’. It was not until late that evening as I emptied the garbage bowl in the recycling bin that I got that ‘aha’ moment.
You cannot fill a bowl which is full. You need to empty it, to fill it with what you want. This sentence I heard first when I turned towards spirituality. At the time, I did not fully understand it. I got the words, yes. But the depth of the meaning hit me only after some time. Easier said than done, though, and we need to put in constant efforts.
Coming back to the bowl. I collect kitchen waste in a bowl. Around evenings, or when the bowl is full, I transfer the contents into a bigger bin on my terrace. I have some good manure this way. And I am saved from the tantrums of the garbage collector in the mornings (you will be nodding your head in agreement if you live in Bangalore). And as a bonus, I get some tiny saplings now and then that spring forth to life, from that heap of waste. I had a few tomatoes recently. There is a small plant that looks like some gourd. So it is a win-win situation all the way.
So, as I emptied that bowl today, the thought came to me that our minds are similar to this bowl. We collect garbage as we go about our lives. What others said or did, or did not do. And the anger, resentment, sadness, and all the other negativities that go with it, get collected in our ‘bowl’. And then the mind is a place of filth. We need to empty the mind of all the garbage, for us to fill it with new things. When the garbage finds a right direction, new life springs forth.
As we empty the mind’s bowl, we make space for fresh and productive thoughts. And thus a new day starts, with an empty bowl.
A discussion on the thought if it would be possible for a person to stay without their smartphone for a day reminded me of this incident. This happened a few months ago.
The couple had moved newly to the house and had thought of having a small party for a few friends. It was a small gathering of about 15 people. The surroundings were not really familiar to them, though there was a very busy marketplace nearby with all kinds of shops. They had decided to order the food from outside for dinner. They had planned to prepare only the snacks at home, to go with the drinks.
Around 7 pm, the host went out to collect the food for which he had already placed the order that noon. He was expected to be back in 15 minutes. An hour passed. There was no sign of the host. By 8 pm, the guests had started arriving. They refused to start the drinks without him. One could see the worry on her face, though she tried to hide it. But after another hour passed and there was still no sight of him, they relented, and the men started with the drinks. The kids were busy in their own world, playing and running around. The ladies sat and caught up with the latest. But she was only thinking why he was so late. She called him on his mobile, only to hear a loud ring right beside her. He had left both his phones at home!! That was the ultimate!
The guests began to tease her saying he had left the phone deliberately as he wanted some time away from the wife. Or he must have met an ex at the market. And the lighthearted banter continued.
After what seemed like ages, he came home with so many parcels of food. There was a huge sigh of relief by all on seeing him. And after he was well-teased for leaving the phones behind, the party continued late into the night.
And did they fight after the party? My guess is as good as yours, as no one asked them!
So much tension just because of a forgotten phone!
They popped up from nowhere, these little ugly gremlins. The minute I was about to start, up sprang one. He came from somewhere in the head region, a place I did not know existed until now. It is called the land of doubts and fears, I believe. He had the most convincing list of doubts and fears. As I tackled and finished him off, the next one was ready. This fellow had a totally different set of thoughts that made me wonder if he were right? Oh! The torture! No sooner than I had put this one to rest, there were a couple more that had appeared. This went on for quite some time. I was totally exhausted by the time I had demolished the thousand-something-th one. Heavens! I finally confided in a friend who suggested I use the spray ‘self-talk’.
This seemed to work and I was inspired again. I was full of bright ideas. They were brimming, no, spilling and overflowing out of the head like a river in full spate.
Fully inspired, I now sit down to write. Yes! I have loads of topics! I have the most wonderful words coming up in the brain space, straining to be let out and spill themselves on to the paper, or rather my word file on the computer. Yes! I have got it all planned out. I spray a generous dose of gremlicide, called confidence. I sit down in front of my laptop. And I start. What? Well, these words seem shy now. They were doing such a jig in the brain just a while ago, and now they are shy and reluctant to come out. They seem to hide for cover behind other words. ‘You go first’, ‘no, you go’, they seem to say. So I sit for hours in front of the system, trying to coax them out onto the word file. Then after quite a long wait, I log off, as I have other things to do and I’ve got to feed myself!
Ah, these wicked torturous words!! You just wait till I catch you all! Just you wait! And until then, I will try and pass this experience for my Day1 of the thirty-day challenge! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping they’ll be kind to me soon … and I’m ready for Day2
It has been raining cats and dogs since the past so many weeks. I read the news about Kerala limping back to normalcy from devastating floods, and that Coorg is now on the road to recovery.
As I sip my morning tea, I look outside to see a bright sun. Ah! The sunshine lights me up, as I look at the mounting pile of laundry. Finally, today I can wash the clothes and put them out to dry! I hate the smell of shade-dried clothes.
Happily, I go about my day’s work and put the washing machine to task. The washing machine goes on with its work. And just fifteen minutes later, I see clouds gathering. The clothes are merrily getting a wash. And soon, there is a heavy downpour. It continues well past the the evening. And after the rains have stopped, the clouds show their presence. I look up at the skies and feel as though they had a good laugh at my expense.
Now, did I say anything about shade-dried clothes?
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Today, as I reached Cubbon Park thirty minutes early for my bi-weekly class, I decided to take a brisk walk around. But my plans were thwarted by none other than a gigantic tree. I am always fascinated by trees. I stopped short in awe at the size of the tree. And that was when I noticed the squirrels and the parrots playfully prancing around. I lost sense of time as I stood and watched them in silence, taking care not to scare them away. Not that they were bothered. They were used to the humans walking in the park. So I had an eyeful of these merry creatures, and clicked some pictures too. Then I noticed a man placing some nuts on the branch of the tree. And the birds and squirrels playfully shared their bounty.
There were some pigeons too, near the tree trunk. All I had to do was shoo them away from the ground, to get a beautiful picture as they flew away. (No, I didn’t do that!). Guess I have a halo around my head now. It only takes a small part of nature for that positivity! This happy sight still lingers in the mind as the day progresses.
As I walked homewards after my morning walk, I saw her by her scooter, getting ready to go somewhere. She lives two doors away from mine. I stopped by and said a hello. She was happy to see me and her hello was warm. ‘Come home’, she said. ‘Sure, I will’, I replied.
Such common words! Come home. Sure I will. But how many times do we really take that next step? Really visit a person?
This lady is an avid gardener, and I often see her lush-green terrace garden on Facebook. Yes, you read that right. On Facebook. I did try to peep from my terrace, but could see nothing. And whenever I bumped into her in the neighborhood, I told her that I would come someday to see her terrace garden. And I continued to use the ‘like’ button to all the rich harvest of vegetables and herbs she grows. On Facebook. It had been a few years.
So this day, she invited me for lunch. It was Varamahalakshmi, so she said we could have lunch after the pooja. And then I thought, ‘enough of the like button on Facebook. Let’s get real!’ And I said yes. When she realized I was alone at home on that day, she made it a point to call me and ensure that I didn’t shy away.
The food was yummy, of course. But more than that, I discovered a very inspiring woman who has so much to teach me. And she lives right by my side! Had I missed lunch, I would have missed more than just a meal.
It is nice to meet people in the real world, especially those who are close by. And we miss seeing them because we are busy living in the virtual world.
PS: That’s a pic of the green haven on her terrace 🙂
A bright, lively young girl from a small town marries and moves in to a big city. Her husband is quite clear from the beginning that he does not want a career-oriented wife. And she is quite happy with that. But there is a restless energy within her. The husband recognizes it and encourages her to follow her heart and do whatever makes her happy. They do make a lovely couple.
As the years roll by, they move into a new locality. Her house is located at a place where she can see a different a section of society. She watches them through her window or balcony as she goes on with her day’s chores – where the people are not so affluent. They are not in slums, yes, but they do need to count their pennies before they spend. She notices that the children in that locality do not have the same privileges and luxuries that her daughter enjoys. They do not have even a small park! Most of us would have not given it a second thought. At most, some would have thanked god for their good fortune and gone on with their lives. Any other woman in her place would have blissfully spent the rest of her life in shopping, gossip and watching TV.
Not Vandana. She decided to do something for these kids. For a start, she decided to hold classes for them. Classes that they could not otherwise afford. They lived in a spacious three-bedroom flat, and she initially used the extra space to hold classes. She started with music and dance. Was she trained in music or dance? No! She thought out of the box, and got innovative. She hired teachers who were willing to come to her place and teach. She chose teachers who agreed with her concept of giving back to society, and did not demand high fees from students. Initially she went through the tedious job of moving furniture every time she had a class. She did it happily and single-handedly. The number of students began to swell, and the house was now too small to hold all classes without a hitch. Her next obstacle was finding a place. She was limited to the vicinity as the students would not attend classes if they were held too far. After searching for a few months, she found an open terrace with a small room that she used as her office. She invested in the required infrastructure to put up a roof so that the sun and rain did not disrupt the classes. She now added classes in oil painting, guitar and the harmonium. The people in the locality were very happy to have a place where they could learn so many things at affordable rates. Shortly thereafter, she had to move from this place as some people in the neighborhood did not approve of children talking and laughing, and also the sounds of music! She had to start all over in search of a place. She soon found one nearby.
There was no financial benefit at this stage. Vandana’s main needs were to pay rent for the place and to pay the teachers. The inflow was the same as the outflow. She did not aspire for more. As the school grew, she registered it and went official. She called it ‘Pratibha School of Art and Music’.
Her efforts have been recognized by the Karnataka Samskrutika Academy and she was awarded the Karnataka Bhushana in 2017.
Vandana is now a trained yoga teacher, and has added yoga to the list. It has been nine years since the school was started in 2009, and Pratibha today teaches the housewives too, along with the kids. These women find an outlet to learn things they wish to in their free time after completing their household chores.
It is a happy wife that keeps her surroundings happy, a happy neighborhood that makes a happy city, and then a happy country! May her tribe increase!
Yesterday, my neighbor was showing me her kitchen garden, and gave me the tomato and the chillies, which triggered some memories.
I had never gushed over a tomato. Never over a chilli! The sight of vegetables neatly piled up in the most creative way at the market, or either in heaps, to show the bountiful crop – all these failed to move me. They were just vegetables. Until now, that is. This is the effect that these silent green lives have over you. These were unplanned babies that sprouted out of the garbage heap. And the motherly heart said ‘no’ to uprooting them. So they were moved into pots with due honour. And before long, I found myself rejoicing the growth of every new leaf. When they flowered, it was such a lovely sight! And as the tiny little tomato and chilli made an appearance, I was eagerly looking up recipes for tomatoes and chillies.
The first tomato sat on the kitchen table. Somehow, I did not have the heart to cut it up. After all the recipes I had planned, I found that I was just looking at it – my first ‘crop’ of one tiny tomato. Too small for one meal. I admired the shiny skin and the healthy look. And it sat there until my son walked in, and popped it into his mouth, asking ‘mom, what’s for lunch?’ That was the end of my first ‘crop’.
This was a few years ago. Now for anyone laughing at my post – I suggest you grow your own veggies. I will be there to gush with you.
How many times have we heard women say ‘I want to work from home!’ with such a longing? Visions of sitting with a cup of steaming hot chai, after everyone has left home. Finish cooking. Supervise the maid. Sit in front of the computer for a while, and work. And then around the month end, feel that sense of pride with the paycheck. Oh yes, quite dreamy. But what is the reality?
The negatives first. At least what I went through. Initially when I started working from home, I realized that I was sleeping at about 3 a.m. And at times I had to get out of bed at 4 a.m. (not after sleeping at 3… I would be dead by now if I did that!), and straight away log in to the system. Because I had a deadline to meet. ‘Pure inefficiency’, someone commented. Oh yes. I was so inefficient that I could not complete my work on time. That was because there were so many other things that came up during my ‘office time’. Like the maid who went missing, the loving phone calls from bored friends, or the sweet lady in the neighbourhood who dropped in for a long chat – ‘I was just passing by, so I thought I’d say hello to you!’ ‘Oh! Hello! So sweet of you! But dahling, this is my work time!!’ I could not say that to her face. And the sweet lady remembered me almost every day! And then there was the young neighbor who was at my door with her year-old baby in tow. And before I could say anything, she thrust the kid into my arms and said, ‘I’ll be back…I need to go somewhere urgently and can’t take the kid!’ Sigh. Inefficiency it was. Until I started telling people clearly that it was my work hours and I would not like to be disturbed. Rude? Not really. I would call that efficiency now. But yes. The odd jobs (could be anything at all that requires your time and attention) that come your way, because ‘anyway you will be at home, right?’ cannot be avoided. Sometimes the totally lonely feeling, if you know what I mean. I miss the crowd, noise, and chatter of an office.
Now for the plus points. I can log in to the system in my night gown. No one to see. I don’t have to worry about what to wear. About which shoes and bag would match my outfit. No worries about transport. Rains? No worries! And yes, there is that small beep that comes at the end of the month to say that your salary is credited.
Thank God for the blessings!
I know that you are far better now than you were in your twenties. Wiser and smarter with all the experiences and lessons that life has bestowed you with. But there is more, my dear. From where I see things. Pay attention to what I say, so that you will be the happier for it when you reach where I am now.
First: Get rid of all the clutter. The physical, mental, and the emotional. I know you have started doing it. Keep at it. You can’t stop and say ‘I am done’. It is an ongoing process. You like to travel light. It applies to life too. Less clutter will make the journey of life easier.
Second: Forgive. I know you will say I am trying my best. Yes. Even that “…..”. YES. Those people first. Difficult, but not impossible. Forgiving clears your own soul.
Third: Love. Love with all your heart. Even those who you feel are not worthy of your affection.
Fourth: Accept people as they are. We can’t change others. Their qualities are what makes them unique. Just as you are, with all your quirks. We can only change ourselves.
Fifth: And the last, but definitely the most important. Pray. Pray for all the people that touch your life. And for those you don’t know, either. Pray for the upliftment for all living beings.
At eighty, this is what I want you to have achieved. The rest would have fallen in place if you did this.
All my love,
You, at eighty. (If you live till then!)