“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step”- Lao Tzu
What I would remember remember the most is a rather adorable cephalopod, about 2 years old, eyes forever half closed in a pose of meditation, moving around in a tank somewhere in Germany, probably wondering why every once in a while he wassubjected to a zillion flashes of light.
What amazes me, more than the obvious discussions, is the depth of human feeling Paul has elicited. Depending on where you stay the name could mean anger, hope, expectation, cynicism, contentment, belief, or prayer. Say what you will, I’m thankful to Paul because over the past one month, he has shown us a little more about what it means to be human.
Its nice to know that that very animals we pay so little attention to, teach us so much about what it means to be a human. One world famous chef announces that he is sharpening his knife while the president of another country announces relief measures ranging from temporary protection to adoption for Paul (or is it Pablo nowadays?). All the while I’m sure Paul ponders over the mysterious source of his next tasty tidbit.
Some more examples to show how much certain animals mean to us-
Sir Nils Olav commands a huge army and is a symbol of everything that’s good in the Norwegian Kings Guard. One must watch the respect he commands and the awe he inspires during parades as he waddles all along proudly displaying his rank on his flippers. Sir Nils Olav is an emperor Penguin
Lance Corporal William has been one of the Queens best in the army. He has had a wild time in the army- headbutting a drummer during the Queen’s eightieth birthday. He was even put through a disciplinary hearing for that offence and demoted to the rank of fusilier before being promoted again. I wonder- perhaps the Drummer upset him, or perhaps LC. William didn’t have his daily dose of whatever goats eat. Ya, apart from Being in the Queens Royal Guard and living a life of ‘discipline’ LC. William walks on all fours and bleats! Would you really blame a Kashmir Goat for Headbutting to show its annoyance?
– I can almost dramatize the disciplinary hearing scene in my Head
Colonel. LC. Wiliam, do you know why you’ve been called here?
LC. William: Maaaaaaaaa!
Colonel: You Headbutted a drummer- you made your company look bad, you disobeyed a direct order, you were found lacking in discipline, and you insulted the Queen
Colonel: You are demoted to rank of fusilier. Now leave and think about the shame you’ve brought to all of us!
LC: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! (Trans: Idiot bipeds mumbling! Ooh there’s a pretty leaf and it just feels so right J )
All the while, our generation have grown so disconnected to each other- I think it becomes imperative to look elsewhere for inspiration- to see life a little bearable with a little hope- I guess that motivates most of us to look to the animals. In hope, in wonder.
What were the major happenings of this decade? Its easier for us to rattle off the attacks and deaths and doubts about government than it is to list 5 amazing things that made us feel happy to be humans. It almost seems like each one of us is a little Island of distress, doubt, sadness, some love, and a dimly flickering ray of hope.
In times like this perhaps- the tentacles of Paul, or the Flippers of Sir Nils Olav or the goat antics of LC. William give us that much needed bridge to understand other humans without being judgemental of them- for a moment forgetting the things that keep us grounded to rationalism and for a little while take us to the sky in our little flights of fancy- just like when we were kids.
So that was my most favourite happening of the world cup- a 2 year old octopus providing us a bridge to talk to each other all the while allowing us to laugh to ourselves a little bit! Allowing us to drop our pretence of seriousness and smile without expectation! I’m sure I could say Thank you, but he wouldn’t understand- I’m about as knowledgeable about octopus language as Paul is about English. But I’ll make it a point to buy him a nice tasty shellfish if i’m ever in Germany. Not so much because he predicted 8 matches right (How did he???) but because he gave us something else to see- no the blood and gore, not the intense competition of the World Cup, supposed referee blunders or the annoying Texas Chainsaw called the Vuvuzela, not the regional, national and international dangers that await all of us. He gave us 15 mins of tranqulity- to see a peaceful octopus swim from one end of his tank to another, open a tasty morsel of food, and each it- with the satisfaction of a 2 year old child. He gave me something to hold onto in an otherwise evanescent and shifty world.
Do our origins determine the people we become, or do situations change us in ways we can never fathom? And at what point in life does the past become a stranger to us all?
I still remember the pigeons cooing, the sparrows chirping, an incredibly large tree- I still don’t know which species it is- all I remember is my Biology teacher pointing towards it and telling me about its genus and species. Some buildings have been torn down, others constructed to help my school come of age in an ever changing world.
As I walk through the 3rd Eleven field, I can almost see myself 12 years ago- running down this field– I guess I wasn’t as fat then! Ajax walks down with his cane and shoos everyone to attend assembly and all I can think about at this time is if my shoes are shiny enough so that the prefect wouldn’t catch me. Or wait- my hair appears too long and I am going to get caught! And to beat it all i cant find my hymn book! At this point I’m sweating and palpitating. My uniform doesn’t look ironed enough and I don’t look smart enough! Oh wait! There’s the hymn book! I can muster some courage after all.
I sit here today in corporate attire seeing myself go through the motions- most of my teachers aren’t teaching at Cottons anymore. The lady who showed me how to write has moved to the Middle East. The lady who piqued my curiosity about History has now gone home to Kerala. There’s a strange silence around this place. A place oddly familiar- where the stories of the past do not meld into the continuity of the present.
Its 10 years since I graduated out of Cottons- 10 years of change. I cant seem to shake away that nagging feeling of being in an extremely unfamiliar place. True everyone says there’s no experience like going to a place you’ve known after a long time to see the changes you’ve had since then.
But heres the question- what do you do when you realise that a part of you does not live anymore? I walk through tower block and I remember my friends there- I feel nothing! I walk through the cafeteria and see myself standing in the queue for donuts. I feel nothing! One ought to feel a sense of nostalgia, or longing or atleast some contentment and satisfaction. All i see is a guy 10 years younger than me running around to eat Donuts… I guess thats where the similarity ends.
The rest of me, from ten years ago is a stranger to the present me – a strange sense of déjà vu combined with an out of body experience- Paradoxical, confusing, and a little scary.
Ten years ago I graduated from this place. Got an amazing education that I could never afford (Thanks mum and Dad!). its supposed to be my ten year anniversary, graduating with a decent score- all the while walking- Nec Detrorsum, Nec Sinistrorsum, but On Straight On.
Frome being a believer, I’ve become more cynical. Yet theres a part of me that wants to be the guy from ten years ago. Running through the field, scared, happy, contended, doubtful, playful.
I guess coming back here was good because I got to see the person I was. But there’s a large difference between that and the person I am now – too large a gap that perhaps can never be bridged.
Yet I walk on- Knowing that i have a part to play in this world-insignificant as it may be.
To Mrs Sneha Ramesh and Mrs Rema Pillai I say- Thank you. The parts of my life that you discovered for me, kept me happy through the years, and will continue to do so. Its a gift that Ican neither quantify nor substitute.
What is it about old places that makes us feel warm, cozy and blissful? The same cacophony of discussions, the same tilted sepia toned picture hung on the wall. Two mirrors on opposite walls kept at an angle inclined. The signature white uniform with the spotless White and Red Bandana, the rickety tables, the faded blue paint and the inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The same Century old Cash Tally Machine that makes a peculiar sound that proudly proclaims its personality.
What is the distance between Texas and Bangalore? I’d say about the same distance as the width of Brigade Road in Bangalore.
It’s forty five minutes left in this year. Enough time to peek one final time over my shoulder to see the year before it gets relegated to another chapter in history.
Last year at around the same time I guess I was cooking for a couple of friends.
A year passed, one that had been in many ways, the toughest year for me. Dealing with loss, accepting it for what it was while fighting to remember the good. It’s a damn hard thing to do most of the times, and it complicates life.
But I learnt A lot about people . And I’m glad lived through 2009. I won’t go so far as to think 2010 is going be better but I do hope I learn a lot more.
As I start hearing the first of the party screams and the sky lights up with crackers, we go into the new year I wonder as I have always….
What really is the point of life? We celebrate so much with people. I’m sure next year at this time we would have lost atleast someone whom we’ve partied with today. Someone with whom we’re so close to today at next years party we’ll have only bitterness to rememer them.
Well, 2009 has made me a beliver in this quote
“sometimes, the best way to reduce your pain caused by the thorns in the walk of life is by removing another persons thorns”
My goodbyes to 2009 and a fresh eye to 2010. Yes I shall end 2009 in the best way possible. Slipping into the arms of sleep. And get up eay tomorrow.
Good night and my thanks to all the wonderful people who’ve tolerated my presence in their lives, while simulataeously giving me a comforting hand when I needed to feel human touch.
This is my tribute to Little Chimpu who walked away….
Goodbye Love – Our times have passed,
As our walls fade into insignificance,
Remembrance is sin upon my pained soul,
As your little hands of comfort are cold.
Goodbye little Pigeon- you fly away,
To lands away to learn and forget,
New bridges built and new Loves found,
Old ones shed and Lost.
Over hot coffees and cookouts i saw a glimpse,
Of wonder, of Sadness, of Godliness sublime,
In Sickness, in Health, In attachment I felt,
Silent touch of comfort of a friend Divine,
We stand today, alone. separated by the Sea of pain and numbness,
You fight to forget as I fight to remember-
the moments lost and the moments not understood-
Divergent lives we have and live that never would meet again.
I whisper today, a Silent goodbye, as you cross the sea,
To Lands unknown in search of Treasure untold,
I whisper today, A Silent Prayer to the spirits of the Earth,
That safe and Happy you’ll be, and the world of Love you’ll see.
I whisper today a a Silent goodbye, As you leave your past and me behind,
Never look back Little one, as forward your glory you’ll find.
Hopeless hope I cling onto, to hope that our paths meet ahead,
Until then, my Little drops of the Rain, Silent torment is all I’ll find.