Friday, April 30, 2010

The Strength of Surrender

"Jesus, Moses and an old man were playing golf. Moses hit a ball that passed through a huge pond. The pond gave way. The ball fell on the other side. Then Jesus hit a ball that passed through the pond. Here again the pond gave way. There was a small hillock after the pond. Even the hillock gave way and finally the ball landed on the other side of the hillock. Now it was the turn of an old man. When he hit a ball, the ball got stuck on a huge tree. There was a strong breeze, which made the ball to fall into the pond. A frog in the pond caught the ball. A snake caught the frog. An eagle watching from the tree top, caught the snake and flew away. In between the eagle dropped the snake from its clutches… the snake in turn released the frog… the frog released the ball. The ball fell right on the 18th hole of the golf course. Moses looked at Jesus and said, ‘Never play golf with this old man’. The old man was none other than Jesus’ father Jehovah, the Lord."

I came across this wonderful anecdote quite a while ago. On one of my rounds of contemplation, I suddenly remembered this and so, pestered my mom to send me the exact anecdote from the book where I first read it in. (Looking at Life Differently, by Swami Sukhabodhananda.) Reading this story again just helped me realize once again that, (clichéd as it may sound), all one needs to do is his/her best and surrender the rest . In the story, when Jehovah, the Lord played, all the forces of nature helped mysteriously. Likewise, when you really want something with all your heart, the powers of the cosmos will somehow or the other make you realize it. And that is the strength of surrender :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Frankincense Trail

Note: This trip took place last December during my winter break. I promised dad that I would write about it as soon as possible, but ah… procrastination ruins us once in a while. (Wait… or maybe, always?) I had actually started on this piece as soon as we came back home, but soon forgot all about it. Well, five months later, trying to battle out exam blues and motivating myself to look forward to the golden promise of my summer vacation, I decided to take a break from books and complete this article. Clichéd as it might be, better late than never!

The Queen of Sheba must have been a happy woman. Oh yes, she had wealth, wit, wisdom and winsomeness to her credit, but she also happened to reign over one of the most beautiful places on the face of planet earth- Salalah. Sandwiched between the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean on one side and the craggy Dhofar Mountains on the other, this picturesque city is nestled at the southernmost tip of the Sultanate of Oman. And so when dad, mom and I wanted a dash of adventure to brighten our otherwise mundane (but nevertheless enjoyable) winter break, we decided to drive the 1500km stretch from our home in Sharjah all the way to the city of the Queen of Sheba.

In anticipation of The Drive, I did a little bit of research on Salalah and learnt that the city is famed for its wadis, waterfalls, white sand beaches, castles and a lush landscape which bursts green with life during the khareef season. Technically, we were visiting Salalah at the worst possible time in December, but the streak of adventure in us wasn’t successful in dissuading us and sure… the trip never left us disappointed!

The first leg of our journey was from Sharjah to Muscat. Dad had already driven this 450km distance quite a number of times, so the perils of driving on unexplored territory did not exist. Starting from home at around 1 PM, we entered Omani soil through the Hatta border and drove on towards the town of Sohar in northern Oman. Having taken a short break for coffee at Sohar, we reached the capital city of Muscat at around 7.40 PM. We were tempted to break the journey at my cousin Adarsh’s house in Muscat, but a sense of urgency to reach Salalah egged us (or more precisely, dad) to drive further. One and a half hours later, we reached the city of Nizwah. Our original plan was to have dinner at Nizwah and spend the night there, proceeding to Salalah at the crack of dawn the next day. But it wasn’t to be… After dinner, we tried to book a room at Nizwah but thanks to the post Christmas-pre New Year bashes, all rooms were booked and we had no other way out. That’s when we decided to drive the 900km stretch to Salalah that very night!

Salalah, many historians believe, is also the place of origin of the Magi or the Three Wise Men from the East who brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. This belief is perhaps strengthened by the fact that the town is famed all over Arabia for the rare frankincense trees found in the surrounding regions. And so the route from Salalah northwards to Bethlehem is known as the Frankincense Trail.

Travelling on the Frankincense Trail was quite an experience. Once we crossed the town of Adam, 55km away from Nizwah, the roads were pitch dark thanks to the absence of road lights and it almost seemed as if we were back in the time and age of the Magi themselves. We sped on, a little prayer fluttering around the corner of our lips. Halfway through The Drive we ran into a bit of trouble at a tiny town called Hayma. We wanted to fill up on petrol and were just turning towards the Shell petrol bump when the car swerved over and got stuck in a patch of sand. Luckily, there was a truck that had also stopped for the very same purpose and God sent us help through the Ubiquitous Malayalee. The truck driver from Kerala used a sturdy rope to pull out the car stuck deep in the sand. Once we were safely back on the desert road, dad saw this episode as a cue for rest and pulled over to catch on a little nap. An hour later, we continued our expedition on the Trail. It was around 5 in the morning and we could already see the horizon lightening. At around 6 we could see bands of pinkish orange light spread its warmth across the vast stretches of the Rub al Khali. And so, we witnessed the beautiful break of dawn in the Empty Quarter. As the day wore on, the heat became torturous and we once again were stunned at how perfectly this entire cosmos has been created. The very same Rub al Khali which was freezing cold just the night before had become blazingly hot the next day!

We reached the city of Salalah at around 11 in the morning. The very same day we set out, wanting to explore the numerous places the city is renowned for. We visited the Anti Gravity Spot, which along with a similar spot in the Himalayas, is the only known place on the planet where the laws of gravity are defied. It was an awesome experience… I still remember how the car gently rolled uphill when dad put it on the neutral gear! Next we went to the Mughsayl White Sand beach- with its vast expanses of white sands and the mighty blue waters of the Indian Ocean it was indeed an exhilarating sight. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s castle. Also, since we had gone during the winter, there weren't any wadis or waterfalls. All the more reason for us to go again this July during the khareef!

The next day we visited the tomb of the Prophet Job. According to the Hebrew Bible, God tested Job by removing all protection given to him, thereby allowing Satan to take away his health, wealth, family and every other entity cherished by him. Despite his difficulties, never did Job curse God. And so Job became the embodiment of patience. Legend has it that God, pleased with Job’s patience, cured him of all his ailments by asking him to bathe in a stream. We had the good fortune of going to that very stream last winter. And that was the end of our stay in Salalah. We drove back to Muscat and stayed in my cousin Adarsh’s house where we welcomed in the New Year.

As I reminisce the moments of this beautiful journey, I realize that times are indeed difficult. I was just about to crib again when I reminded myself of this journey- with the patience of Job anything can be achieved! May we all learn from the story of Job!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fighting Exam Blues

Well, here it is again- that season of stress, tension and trauma- the semester exams have begun! After a not-too-good first exam, I found myself depressed and so decided to blog, since writing always makes me feel better! :) So here goes...

I spent the first two hours following the exam, blaming fate and then wallowing in self pity. Then I decided to call my brother and speak to him. And what he said made things seem slightly better. And although it doesn't improve my chances of scoring better at the exam, I certainly hope I have learnt not to worry about things not in my control. My parents have always emphasized the importance of working hard in my academic career. For them, that's always the key point. The end result of whether I get good grades or not doesn't matter to them. (although it does matter to me!) So my parents would be mighty disappointed if I had fooled around and not worked hard. Hence, I have done my best and all that I can do now is surrender the rest to the One Above.

Also, grades are not the only things in life. As my brother told me, "Never grade yourself on the basis of grades." Hence, am just trying to constantly remind myself that it's important to work hard, and then forget about the rest. Which brings us to the issue of faith. As I mentioned in a previous post, what is life without faith?

A good family friend, Sudha Aunty, had once gifted us a book titled "Oh mind, relax please!", written by Swami Sukhabodhananda. This is one of my personal favorites from the bookshelf and I constantly refer to it when in need of inspiration. Aunty had written a beautiful quote inside the book and today my mom reminded me of the very same quote-
"Happy moment -Praise God
Difficult moment- Seek God
Quiet moment- Worship God
Painful moment-Trust God
Every moment- Thank God."

Now that I'm back to my cheerful old self, let me hit the books again for the rest of the exams! Jiayou everyone!! :)



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Love you Amooma!

This one is for my dear maternal granny, whom I call Amooma. I just realized that it's been ages since I gave her a call and I know that she must be thinking about me back home. At the sudden recognition of the fact, I took a trip down memory lane, thinking about all the times I shared with Amooma.

As an eager 10 year old, I vaguely remember helping her out in the kitchen, when she used to make ellai adas, unniappams and numerous other scrumdiddlyumptious Kerala goodies. Erm, did I mention that helping out meant sampling the snacks? Going back home to Kerala once a year during the summer gave me so much to look forward to!! :)
Amooma, who even today spends most of her time reading the scriptures and chanting prayers, is an expert in answering questions regarding mythology, rituals and other aspects of religion. Talking to her in my slightly awkward Malayalam with specks of Tamil thrown in, I came to learn about the tradition of the "Velichapaddu" in God's own country. The Velichapaddu, literally meaning "Revealer of Light", is a person who acts as a mediator between the villagers and the village deity, which is usually a form of the Goddess. The medium strikes himself/herself on the forehead with a sword and, being possessed by the Goddess, thunders out advice to the villagers. We would spend our time together discussing such issues. She would also give me advice regarding prayers, often in the form of which sloka to recite for each purpose and to each deity.When my parents and I would make our annual pilgrimage to the family shrine , she would come with us too. And each holiday, when it's time for us to leave, her eyes will moisten and she'll promise to pray for me. I have never seen Amooma get angry. She displays a sense of detachment in everything- tears, laughter, disappointment, frustration, everything is surrendered to the One Above. Constantly praying for the welfare of everyone.
For me , Amooma is an embodiment of infinite patience and love. Even writing this piece makes me realize how much I miss her. Thank you Amooma, simply for the miracle of being in my life. I love you always!! :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rosewood Beads

Warning: This post is bound to be pretty philosophical :)

Having been initiated into a mantra by my guru, Ammachi, lovingly known across the globe as the Hugging Saint, I got myself a rosewood rosary for the purpose of helping me chant my mantra. I was able to get the rosary blessed by Ammachi and now I wear it around my neck whenever I am not chanting the mantra. Last night before hitting the sack, I was just reminiscing the magical moments I was fortunate enough to experience at Ammachi's devi bhava darshan and took out my rosary to feel Her touch. I couldn't help but admire the 108 beads strung around the center bead, called the guru bead. When in the process of japa, you should start chanting from the guru bead and move across all the other beads till you hit the guru bead again.

After I finished my chanting, I looked at the rosary for a while and it helped me recognize two important aspects of life. Each rosewood bead has its own place on the rosary. Likewise, each of us has a distinct place on the Rosary of Life. No one can take away that place from us. Secondly, all the beads on the necklace follow the guru bead. Likewise, when one follows a spiritual force, peace of mind can easily be attained. I am not saying that each of us should follow a guru or a spiritual master. All that needs to be done is... follow faith.

After all, what is life without faith?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From Tears to Pearls

Hmm... With the exams showing their ugly faces just around the corner, it looks like I am in quite a philosophical mood. The numerous incomplete assignments, the unread lecture notes, the unfinished tutorials all seem to be piling up in front of me. Just as I am about to panic, (which is very normal and routine these days), I remember a small anecdote narrated in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. The protagonist Amir, whose deepest desire is to become a novelist, writes a story which he reads out to his friend Hassan. The story narrated by him revolves around a man who was given a magic wish. Each teardrop that fell from his eyes would be turned into a pearl. At the end of the story, the man is left with blood on his hands and a huge mountain of pearls beside him- He has killed his own wife and his tears are converted to pearls. When Amir looks to Hassan for his reaction, the latter just shrugs his shoulder and asks him in all innocence, "Why couldn't he just smell an onion?"
I just loved the movie (am yet to read the book), but I am sure that this is one scene I will never forget. Things in life are so simple. It's just that we human beings, with our egos, greed, desires and jealousies complicate things further...

P.S Happy Vishu everyone!! :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bitten by the Blogging Bug

Yes!! Have hopefully overcome writers' block
Taken the effort, created my blog!!

If this sounds like an outburst of spontaneity to you, I can well assure you it isn't. When I was wrestling with a long bout of writers' block, nearly six months ago, I vowed to myself that I'd overcome it by creating my own blog, and in that moment, this verse popped into my mind. Sadly, it turned out to be a form of "soda bottle enthusiasm" and the bubble burst. The plan didn't materialize till today. Why, you might ask? Oh, the ubiquitous tests, exams, projects, deadlines... But then two factors led me to take the initiative finally.

I realized that no matter what happens tests and examinations will always be there, in some form or the other. It simply is not a good enough reason to avoid taking an initiative. Secondly I recognized the fact that I have simply been out of touch with this world. In my conversation with Dad a few hours ago, I was just ashamed to admit that I was unaware of things happening across the globe - because I have spent all my time living in my own little complacent sphere of life. As I lay on bed, tossing around, trying to get some sleep, I just couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to zap myself out of my own little world. And so, *sigh*, I took the plunge. I believe using this blog as a platform to express my views and opinions will help me stay connected with the real world. Also I will use it as a medium of relaxation from the stressful life that university is. This is the story of how I got bitten by the blogging bug :)

OK, now why is this blog called "From the Ashes"? A few years ago, when I still had the childlike spontaneity in me to write almost every week, I used the pseudonym "Phoenix". There were no specific reasons for choosing the name, except for the fact that I wanted a pseudonym as grand as my Dad's which is Obelix :) Having debated between Papyrus, Parchment, Pegasus and Phoenix, I finally chose Phoenix.

As one grows older, one hopefully becomes wiser. And with wisdom, comes the philosophical meaning of things in life. Phoenix, the mythical bird, renowned for its immortality, rises from its own ashes, a totally new bird, each time it dies. Philosophically, it acknowledges the fact that each day is a new day. The past is dead and cannot affect the future in any way. The only thing we are in control of is today. Carpe diem!! Seize the day! :)

Well, I think I have written quite a bit for my first post. I feel much more optimistic, knowing that I have taken an initiative, finally. Really, once we take the first step, it's almost as if the battle is half won. One of my favorite poems, The Oyster echoes the very same thought:

"What couldn’t we do
If we’d only begin
With some of the things
That get under our skin."
Watch this space for more!! :)

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Strength of Surrender

"Jesus, Moses and an old man were playing golf. Moses hit a ball that passed through a huge pond. The pond gave way. The ball fell on the other side. Then Jesus hit a ball that passed through the pond. Here again the pond gave way. There was a small hillock after the pond. Even the hillock gave way and finally the ball landed on the other side of the hillock. Now it was the turn of an old man. When he hit a ball, the ball got stuck on a huge tree. There was a strong breeze, which made the ball to fall into the pond. A frog in the pond caught the ball. A snake caught the frog. An eagle watching from the tree top, caught the snake and flew away. In between the eagle dropped the snake from its clutches… the snake in turn released the frog… the frog released the ball. The ball fell right on the 18th hole of the golf course. Moses looked at Jesus and said, ‘Never play golf with this old man’. The old man was none other than Jesus’ father Jehovah, the Lord."

I came across this wonderful anecdote quite a while ago. On one of my rounds of contemplation, I suddenly remembered this and so, pestered my mom to send me the exact anecdote from the book where I first read it in. (Looking at Life Differently, by Swami Sukhabodhananda.) Reading this story again just helped me realize once again that, (clichéd as it may sound), all one needs to do is his/her best and surrender the rest . In the story, when Jehovah, the Lord played, all the forces of nature helped mysteriously. Likewise, when you really want something with all your heart, the powers of the cosmos will somehow or the other make you realize it. And that is the strength of surrender :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Frankincense Trail

Note: This trip took place last December during my winter break. I promised dad that I would write about it as soon as possible, but ah… procrastination ruins us once in a while. (Wait… or maybe, always?) I had actually started on this piece as soon as we came back home, but soon forgot all about it. Well, five months later, trying to battle out exam blues and motivating myself to look forward to the golden promise of my summer vacation, I decided to take a break from books and complete this article. Clichéd as it might be, better late than never!

The Queen of Sheba must have been a happy woman. Oh yes, she had wealth, wit, wisdom and winsomeness to her credit, but she also happened to reign over one of the most beautiful places on the face of planet earth- Salalah. Sandwiched between the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean on one side and the craggy Dhofar Mountains on the other, this picturesque city is nestled at the southernmost tip of the Sultanate of Oman. And so when dad, mom and I wanted a dash of adventure to brighten our otherwise mundane (but nevertheless enjoyable) winter break, we decided to drive the 1500km stretch from our home in Sharjah all the way to the city of the Queen of Sheba.

In anticipation of The Drive, I did a little bit of research on Salalah and learnt that the city is famed for its wadis, waterfalls, white sand beaches, castles and a lush landscape which bursts green with life during the khareef season. Technically, we were visiting Salalah at the worst possible time in December, but the streak of adventure in us wasn’t successful in dissuading us and sure… the trip never left us disappointed!

The first leg of our journey was from Sharjah to Muscat. Dad had already driven this 450km distance quite a number of times, so the perils of driving on unexplored territory did not exist. Starting from home at around 1 PM, we entered Omani soil through the Hatta border and drove on towards the town of Sohar in northern Oman. Having taken a short break for coffee at Sohar, we reached the capital city of Muscat at around 7.40 PM. We were tempted to break the journey at my cousin Adarsh’s house in Muscat, but a sense of urgency to reach Salalah egged us (or more precisely, dad) to drive further. One and a half hours later, we reached the city of Nizwah. Our original plan was to have dinner at Nizwah and spend the night there, proceeding to Salalah at the crack of dawn the next day. But it wasn’t to be… After dinner, we tried to book a room at Nizwah but thanks to the post Christmas-pre New Year bashes, all rooms were booked and we had no other way out. That’s when we decided to drive the 900km stretch to Salalah that very night!

Salalah, many historians believe, is also the place of origin of the Magi or the Three Wise Men from the East who brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. This belief is perhaps strengthened by the fact that the town is famed all over Arabia for the rare frankincense trees found in the surrounding regions. And so the route from Salalah northwards to Bethlehem is known as the Frankincense Trail.

Travelling on the Frankincense Trail was quite an experience. Once we crossed the town of Adam, 55km away from Nizwah, the roads were pitch dark thanks to the absence of road lights and it almost seemed as if we were back in the time and age of the Magi themselves. We sped on, a little prayer fluttering around the corner of our lips. Halfway through The Drive we ran into a bit of trouble at a tiny town called Hayma. We wanted to fill up on petrol and were just turning towards the Shell petrol bump when the car swerved over and got stuck in a patch of sand. Luckily, there was a truck that had also stopped for the very same purpose and God sent us help through the Ubiquitous Malayalee. The truck driver from Kerala used a sturdy rope to pull out the car stuck deep in the sand. Once we were safely back on the desert road, dad saw this episode as a cue for rest and pulled over to catch on a little nap. An hour later, we continued our expedition on the Trail. It was around 5 in the morning and we could already see the horizon lightening. At around 6 we could see bands of pinkish orange light spread its warmth across the vast stretches of the Rub al Khali. And so, we witnessed the beautiful break of dawn in the Empty Quarter. As the day wore on, the heat became torturous and we once again were stunned at how perfectly this entire cosmos has been created. The very same Rub al Khali which was freezing cold just the night before had become blazingly hot the next day!

We reached the city of Salalah at around 11 in the morning. The very same day we set out, wanting to explore the numerous places the city is renowned for. We visited the Anti Gravity Spot, which along with a similar spot in the Himalayas, is the only known place on the planet where the laws of gravity are defied. It was an awesome experience… I still remember how the car gently rolled uphill when dad put it on the neutral gear! Next we went to the Mughsayl White Sand beach- with its vast expanses of white sands and the mighty blue waters of the Indian Ocean it was indeed an exhilarating sight. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s castle. Also, since we had gone during the winter, there weren't any wadis or waterfalls. All the more reason for us to go again this July during the khareef!

The next day we visited the tomb of the Prophet Job. According to the Hebrew Bible, God tested Job by removing all protection given to him, thereby allowing Satan to take away his health, wealth, family and every other entity cherished by him. Despite his difficulties, never did Job curse God. And so Job became the embodiment of patience. Legend has it that God, pleased with Job’s patience, cured him of all his ailments by asking him to bathe in a stream. We had the good fortune of going to that very stream last winter. And that was the end of our stay in Salalah. We drove back to Muscat and stayed in my cousin Adarsh’s house where we welcomed in the New Year.

As I reminisce the moments of this beautiful journey, I realize that times are indeed difficult. I was just about to crib again when I reminded myself of this journey- with the patience of Job anything can be achieved! May we all learn from the story of Job!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fighting Exam Blues

Well, here it is again- that season of stress, tension and trauma- the semester exams have begun! After a not-too-good first exam, I found myself depressed and so decided to blog, since writing always makes me feel better! :) So here goes...

I spent the first two hours following the exam, blaming fate and then wallowing in self pity. Then I decided to call my brother and speak to him. And what he said made things seem slightly better. And although it doesn't improve my chances of scoring better at the exam, I certainly hope I have learnt not to worry about things not in my control. My parents have always emphasized the importance of working hard in my academic career. For them, that's always the key point. The end result of whether I get good grades or not doesn't matter to them. (although it does matter to me!) So my parents would be mighty disappointed if I had fooled around and not worked hard. Hence, I have done my best and all that I can do now is surrender the rest to the One Above.

Also, grades are not the only things in life. As my brother told me, "Never grade yourself on the basis of grades." Hence, am just trying to constantly remind myself that it's important to work hard, and then forget about the rest. Which brings us to the issue of faith. As I mentioned in a previous post, what is life without faith?

A good family friend, Sudha Aunty, had once gifted us a book titled "Oh mind, relax please!", written by Swami Sukhabodhananda. This is one of my personal favorites from the bookshelf and I constantly refer to it when in need of inspiration. Aunty had written a beautiful quote inside the book and today my mom reminded me of the very same quote-
"Happy moment -Praise God
Difficult moment- Seek God
Quiet moment- Worship God
Painful moment-Trust God
Every moment- Thank God."

Now that I'm back to my cheerful old self, let me hit the books again for the rest of the exams! Jiayou everyone!! :)



Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Love you Amooma!

This one is for my dear maternal granny, whom I call Amooma. I just realized that it's been ages since I gave her a call and I know that she must be thinking about me back home. At the sudden recognition of the fact, I took a trip down memory lane, thinking about all the times I shared with Amooma.

As an eager 10 year old, I vaguely remember helping her out in the kitchen, when she used to make ellai adas, unniappams and numerous other scrumdiddlyumptious Kerala goodies. Erm, did I mention that helping out meant sampling the snacks? Going back home to Kerala once a year during the summer gave me so much to look forward to!! :)
Amooma, who even today spends most of her time reading the scriptures and chanting prayers, is an expert in answering questions regarding mythology, rituals and other aspects of religion. Talking to her in my slightly awkward Malayalam with specks of Tamil thrown in, I came to learn about the tradition of the "Velichapaddu" in God's own country. The Velichapaddu, literally meaning "Revealer of Light", is a person who acts as a mediator between the villagers and the village deity, which is usually a form of the Goddess. The medium strikes himself/herself on the forehead with a sword and, being possessed by the Goddess, thunders out advice to the villagers. We would spend our time together discussing such issues. She would also give me advice regarding prayers, often in the form of which sloka to recite for each purpose and to each deity.When my parents and I would make our annual pilgrimage to the family shrine , she would come with us too. And each holiday, when it's time for us to leave, her eyes will moisten and she'll promise to pray for me. I have never seen Amooma get angry. She displays a sense of detachment in everything- tears, laughter, disappointment, frustration, everything is surrendered to the One Above. Constantly praying for the welfare of everyone.
For me , Amooma is an embodiment of infinite patience and love. Even writing this piece makes me realize how much I miss her. Thank you Amooma, simply for the miracle of being in my life. I love you always!! :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rosewood Beads

Warning: This post is bound to be pretty philosophical :)

Having been initiated into a mantra by my guru, Ammachi, lovingly known across the globe as the Hugging Saint, I got myself a rosewood rosary for the purpose of helping me chant my mantra. I was able to get the rosary blessed by Ammachi and now I wear it around my neck whenever I am not chanting the mantra. Last night before hitting the sack, I was just reminiscing the magical moments I was fortunate enough to experience at Ammachi's devi bhava darshan and took out my rosary to feel Her touch. I couldn't help but admire the 108 beads strung around the center bead, called the guru bead. When in the process of japa, you should start chanting from the guru bead and move across all the other beads till you hit the guru bead again.

After I finished my chanting, I looked at the rosary for a while and it helped me recognize two important aspects of life. Each rosewood bead has its own place on the rosary. Likewise, each of us has a distinct place on the Rosary of Life. No one can take away that place from us. Secondly, all the beads on the necklace follow the guru bead. Likewise, when one follows a spiritual force, peace of mind can easily be attained. I am not saying that each of us should follow a guru or a spiritual master. All that needs to be done is... follow faith.

After all, what is life without faith?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From Tears to Pearls

Hmm... With the exams showing their ugly faces just around the corner, it looks like I am in quite a philosophical mood. The numerous incomplete assignments, the unread lecture notes, the unfinished tutorials all seem to be piling up in front of me. Just as I am about to panic, (which is very normal and routine these days), I remember a small anecdote narrated in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. The protagonist Amir, whose deepest desire is to become a novelist, writes a story which he reads out to his friend Hassan. The story narrated by him revolves around a man who was given a magic wish. Each teardrop that fell from his eyes would be turned into a pearl. At the end of the story, the man is left with blood on his hands and a huge mountain of pearls beside him- He has killed his own wife and his tears are converted to pearls. When Amir looks to Hassan for his reaction, the latter just shrugs his shoulder and asks him in all innocence, "Why couldn't he just smell an onion?"
I just loved the movie (am yet to read the book), but I am sure that this is one scene I will never forget. Things in life are so simple. It's just that we human beings, with our egos, greed, desires and jealousies complicate things further...

P.S Happy Vishu everyone!! :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bitten by the Blogging Bug

Yes!! Have hopefully overcome writers' block
Taken the effort, created my blog!!

If this sounds like an outburst of spontaneity to you, I can well assure you it isn't. When I was wrestling with a long bout of writers' block, nearly six months ago, I vowed to myself that I'd overcome it by creating my own blog, and in that moment, this verse popped into my mind. Sadly, it turned out to be a form of "soda bottle enthusiasm" and the bubble burst. The plan didn't materialize till today. Why, you might ask? Oh, the ubiquitous tests, exams, projects, deadlines... But then two factors led me to take the initiative finally.

I realized that no matter what happens tests and examinations will always be there, in some form or the other. It simply is not a good enough reason to avoid taking an initiative. Secondly I recognized the fact that I have simply been out of touch with this world. In my conversation with Dad a few hours ago, I was just ashamed to admit that I was unaware of things happening across the globe - because I have spent all my time living in my own little complacent sphere of life. As I lay on bed, tossing around, trying to get some sleep, I just couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to zap myself out of my own little world. And so, *sigh*, I took the plunge. I believe using this blog as a platform to express my views and opinions will help me stay connected with the real world. Also I will use it as a medium of relaxation from the stressful life that university is. This is the story of how I got bitten by the blogging bug :)

OK, now why is this blog called "From the Ashes"? A few years ago, when I still had the childlike spontaneity in me to write almost every week, I used the pseudonym "Phoenix". There were no specific reasons for choosing the name, except for the fact that I wanted a pseudonym as grand as my Dad's which is Obelix :) Having debated between Papyrus, Parchment, Pegasus and Phoenix, I finally chose Phoenix.

As one grows older, one hopefully becomes wiser. And with wisdom, comes the philosophical meaning of things in life. Phoenix, the mythical bird, renowned for its immortality, rises from its own ashes, a totally new bird, each time it dies. Philosophically, it acknowledges the fact that each day is a new day. The past is dead and cannot affect the future in any way. The only thing we are in control of is today. Carpe diem!! Seize the day! :)

Well, I think I have written quite a bit for my first post. I feel much more optimistic, knowing that I have taken an initiative, finally. Really, once we take the first step, it's almost as if the battle is half won. One of my favorite poems, The Oyster echoes the very same thought:

"What couldn’t we do
If we’d only begin
With some of the things
That get under our skin."
Watch this space for more!! :)