April 24, 2011

Calm Sutra

                                     Yes! You said it right. But heard it wrong! ;-) This is a story..A story which doesn’t begin with Once upon a time..a story about a rivalry.. RIVALRY- who doesn’t enjoy it? Call me a sadist or whatever.But  I just salivate at the prospect of fighting with somebody. If not physically,at least verbally! Rivalry..If  being a part of it is not bitter enough,being a mere witness to it(which is actually the safer thing to do) can be worse. The worst is when it provokes some uncalled for statements questioning  your masculinity(if you are a man of course!). Every walk of life involves rivalries. And literally so! And I will never forget that old man who gave me one of the most nightmarish yet exhilarating experiences of my life a few years ago.
                                     It was a cool breezy December evening. I am not a regular when it comes to evening walks. But on that day,I don’t how the dormant  Keats in me sprung to life and I wanted to step out of my house and soak everything that the seductive Miss Weather had in store for me. And so I did. Reached the most happening(in every sense of the word) Jogger’s Track(which turns into Walker’s Track or more precisely a Watcher’s Track in the evenings) in my locality. Tuned into my Ipod and started walkin. What a feeling it was..
                                   .Held against the bosom of the lovely weather,I felt like walking in a different  galaxy altogether..where I was the only one..completely at peace with myself..the soft music driving every slow step of mine..there was no clock..no gravity..Notebooks,assignments,lab journals were floating in the space like asteroids… till a bustling comet came and smashed the shit out of them into pieces..The shameless inquisitor in me did wonder for a moment if that was Haley’s..coz it would have been a once in a lifetime moment I would have missed . But I was more than happy at the sight of those disgusting asteroids being smashed into pebbles into the limitless depths of space..I managed to grab a chuckle. Had the mortals in my ex galaxy seen me laugh to myself, they would have certainly thought I was crazy..But as if I cared! I was a free bird now..flying far away..What a feeling that was..No travails of the mundane life..no honking autos..no breaking news…no homework… total peace..
                                   But I don’t know why human nature has been designed so..Coz though I hate it,I strongly believe,when Man reaches the pinnacle of confidence,he comes face to face with complacence. Here I was -  on the brink of salvation… moments away from reaching the elite club of Mahaviras and Gautam Buddhas..this was the moment..this was THE moment..Come on Renjith! Come on! Almost there..Almost.. and what  happened next was totally inexplicable!
                                  I had topped enough history classes in my childhood to know what Buddha looks like..alright!  let me be humbler..I had enough faith in Maharashtra State Board History Textbooks to know how Siddhartha - The Enlightened Son of King Shuddhodana and Queen Mahamaya (see! I told you I had topped my history class!)looks like.But just when I thought I had seen Buddha,the sense of elation which I had so laboriously rehearsed for, just failed to materialize! May be it’is a thing about these rehearsals that your final performance can never match them. But guess what! I saw myself staring at the sneering face of a buddha.. MARK THE ARTICLE FRIENDS… it was ‘A’ buddha (i.e an old man in Hindi)..
                                  Now though this buddha didn’t look remotely similar to The Buddha, his mere sight had the power to turn my world upside down! I was jolted back to reality and what a painful journey that was..Freefall from the spiritual honeymoon,greeted by all those pebbles coagulating back to the asteroids,each one disdainfully showing me an upright middle finger on the way..and thud! There I was..jolted back to reality..to the same old earth..If that wasn’t disheartening in itself,the old man was still there staring at me! And giving me that sneer.. 
                                   He was round about in his fifties, and possibly diabetic..which is the case with most of the people walkin aimlessly there. (oh sorry! controlling sugar was a genuine aim ryt?. How could I be so rude! ). He was bald but certainly not beautiful. And just when I was wondering why I had not walked past him yet,I realized he was walkin alongwith me,parallel to me! I wanted to ask him What the f*** his problem was but don’t know why,  at least for once I wanted to be patriotic on a non Indo-Pak cricket match day by “treating elders with respect and courtesy” (Wish I could tweak our national pledge a little by adding an ‘only when neccessary’ to it..But it was too late..)
                                   So the words did come out, but in the most horrible translation ever,”Hello uncle.Good evening.” I was digesting the shock of hearing the words that had just came out of my mouth when pat came the reply,”Good evening son. I couldn’t help but notice. My legs seem to be faster than yours at this age.” I was like,”Sorry?” to which he said,”Yeah. Your generation is so slow both in mind and in the legs” I wanted to scream my vocabulary out at him. But I resisted for the same reasons of ‘…courtesy and respect…’ Instead, in the most non recorded  Oscar worthy moment of polite pretence, I said, “I most appreciate your opinion uncle. But with due respects,we use IPod and u lived in the age of transistors.” To which he quipped, ”But Steve Jobs is just as old as me.”! 
                                  Maaaaan! This was not happening..I couldn’t take this. I could have well walked off wishing him Good Bye. But something inside me held me back. What was it? It was the same sense of rivalry I mentioned at the start of the post. So I decided to continue walking, matching his pace…what?! Nooooo! It was he who was matching my pace for Heaven’s sake! He kept having that same sneer smile on his face..as if he knew everything. Of course he had lived 40 more years than me..But I was a history topper myself! I knew perhaps more than him what had happened in those 40 years!(though frankly,my history textbook never taught me what happened between 1947 and my birth year) So I thought of bringin up the blockbuster sensation of our generation into the conversation- SACHIN TENDULKAR.
                                 I held my chest high and said,”We have Sachin Tendulkar! (Beat that!)”  And started my PhD thesis on all his records with special emphasis on his number of Test centuries and Test runs (b’coz I was so sure he would bring up Sunil Gavaskar)..Thats when he quipped,”If only that kid could win us a World Cup.”  
                                 Now I don’t know if this is the case with every diehard Sachin fan. But my blood suddenly boiled at that moment..rushing to my knuckles. I wanted to knock that fella down! But I restrained (I think I was a saint in my previous birth.)If only I knew that the World Cup moment was just a few years away, I would have…..(peace..). I was just recovering from that moment,when the old man shot back again,”So you still didn’t tell me why you have such slow legs.” I was just thinking what exactly he was getting to..So just to confirm,I increased my pace a little and started walking..And lo! Even the buddha started walking hurriedly to catch up with me. 
                                 So! my intuition was right. This oldie wanted to race with me! I started laughing coming to terms with the silliness of the situation. A Walking Race with a 55 year old diabetic fellow! “This was ridiculous! “ - was my first reaction which turned into - “This is gonna be a cakewalk!” - which further became- ”Hang on! What if I lose?” .
                                The sense of pride I took in my sensibility had crystallized into fear of failure which made me scan him once from head to toe. He was wearing Nike shoes. And I was in my Bata slippers. Man! The fear was getting to me now. But I decide to conceal it under my skin and gave him a nod of tacit approval marking our starting point. And thus,we started walking! This was gonna be the first walking race on earth were the participants weren’t catwalking!
                                For a man of his age,he seemed to be quite fast! Maybe the the dig I took at aimlessness early on was gonna backfire on me. But still I kept walking. Both of us neck to neck. He seemed to be enjoying himself. And a determined me also sported a mask of the same enjoyment . He didn’t utter a word during the race. I admired his professionalism for a second only to remind myself that he was my opponent in this race. Things were going fine till the halfway mark when a moment of concentration lapse ruined my race.
                               Halfway through the race, I saw the gorgeous looking classmate of mine - Senorita on whom I had a heavy crush. She was there that day looking the most beautiful she had ever looked. I cursed God for the situation He had put me in. On any other day,I would have happily sat at the edge of the Watcher’s Track and stared at her, savouring her angelic beauty bit by bit..But today I was destined to beat this buddha on this Walker’s Track. 
                               My heart went to Senorita- but my mind and legs were pulling me to the old man!  When I came back to reality, I realized I had been standing there all the while and the oldie had taken a huge lead. He was walkin at the same pace. The ghosts of the Hare n Tortoise story came to haunt me. With the fear of failure gaining more and more momentum, I quickened my pace to the extent of almost running. But I couldn’t betray the sense of professionalism the old man had shown. I walked faster than I had ever walked in my life.
                               He was nearing the end point and I was nearing him. And a familiar feeling came back to me. This was the moment…this was THE moment…Come on Renjith! Come on! So much was at stake..Sachin vs Gavaskar, IPod vs Transistor, Steve Jobs vs Zuckerberg. I couldn’t let my Generation down! And the gap started getting narrower..I was sweating…panting…breathing heavily..palpitating..but more importantly, I was closing in…..and… and…..Hurrrraay! I did it! The sense of elation which narrowly escaped me at the doorstep of salvation had overcome me. I was destined for this. I had done it.  For Sachin Tendulkar…For my IPod..For Zuckerberg..For Senorita… and more importantly, For Myself!
                             But then, I had to show my middle finger to this old man! Bloody..takin on me eh? How dare he! But I couldn’t find him anywhere nearby..Damn.. Must have escaped I thought. Cursed myself for appreciating his professionalism. I looked around, and there he was! Sitting on the bench with an old lady talking..acting as though nothing had happened in this world. I went to him unaware of how unethical it looked to the outside world to see a young boy intruding on an old couple’s privacy.
                             But I didn’t care what others thought and went to him and said,”So! Now what do you have to say about my legs?!” A couple of young girls around me heard that as I had said it quite loudly. And like most of their species,started giggling instantly! Well can’t blame them though. If I was them,would have done the same too. The question did sound gross. But I didn’t budge,”Tell me man! What were you blabbing so much about?” The old man looked at me incredulously.
                            Either he was a great actor himself or he was out of his mind. But looking at the commotion, people surrounded us. The old lady sitting beside him looked startled at all the attention. This was certainly not what she had planned for. Then a middle aged man came in to be the judge of the matter and politely asked me to tell what happened. I went through everything focusing on the slightest detail(I am a Tolkien fan u see!). and then it was the old man's turn.
                         On being asked for his side of story, he said,” I come here every evening with my wife and sit on this bench. I haven’t talked to this young boy at all. I jus saw him walking and just smiled at him.He didn’t seem to like it that much and he turned his head around and continue to walk.I thought he was upset with something. What is it young man?” Now... this was not happening to me!..This was a huge practical joke he was playing on me! I was thinking what to say next when me eyes caught something…something alarming…and even today,I so vividly remember staring at that for an eternity…
                         It was his footwear!  He was wearing a pair of Hawaii chappals!!! Where were the Nike shoes?? And then to my utter horror, I realized what had transpired in the last 30 minutes. And the moment that realization hit me..harder than my friends’ birthday bumps, I fell on his feet  infront of everybody and apologized to him and his dear wife who was still comatose with shock! I hugged that old man and said, “Thank You uncle..Thank you very much”..and people dispersed ..of course, I could hear vague murmurs of people questioning the very sensibility I used to boast of.
                       But as I started walking back home, I thanked God…Gautam Buddha in particular!  for giving me the ultimate salvation. The buddha whom I had cursed all the while was Gautam Buddha Himself and everything that followed the first smile of that old man sitting with his wife was just a figment of my imagination planted by God to make me realize one thing…”I was just fighting with myself. There is no such thing as rivalry. Battle is always fought within. If one can beat the inner demons within oneself, nothing can stop him. ”  and thus I returned, filled with a sense of inner calm which continues to help me stay balanced even today. 

PS : I am not a Buddhist  and I am quite happy with my legs. ;-)


  1. Nice to see u writing. Keep up the same energy,
    just don't end up becoming a PR for Aamir..haha..just kidding...