Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Speak, Friend, And Enter

I’ve just finished typing out Chapter XVII of my father’s novel, The Being and the Becoming. Here, the protagonist asks a swami why he meets with certain experiences. The sage answers
Like the creatures that trouble you and have come to you; like sweetness, bitterness. Things come to you: You recognise them; know them. Seems to me, they come to become known by you. Shall we say that all things happen, biggest thing that happens seems to be ‘knowing’.
There is more in that chapter, in the next one, indeed, in the whole book about all this. Having provided you with the link, I shall say no more and leave you to discover for yourself.

Talking Tolkien It must have been somewhere in the mid-sixties that my father returned from somewhere, perhaps the US, with a set of books in a box: Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I hadn’t learned to read yet but, everyday, he would tell us the story. As I sat in his lap and listened, I was enthralled by the characters. Later, when I’d learned to read, re-reading the Hobbit and the Trilogy became an yearly ritual. When I married, I introduced my partner to this world and, of course, when our son was born, we read aloud from it, and many other books, to the little boy, right from his infancy. By the time he could read, he also became a pilgrim, reading the books many times over. Alas, by the time the film was released, we lost our addiction. Perhaps it was the film that did it.

The Short of the Long of It Briefly, Tolkien created an imaginary world, peopled by various entities. The protagonists are called Hobbits, short human like beings with fur under their feet, who live in cute houses under the ground.

One of these goes on an adventure with some dwarves (nothing remotely like the ones Snow White hob nobbed with!) during which he finds a ring which makes him invisible. This is, basically, the story of The Hobbit.
This book is followed by The Trilogy: The Lord of the Rings, which has three parts.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf the Grey, a wizard (again, nothing like your Disney characters!) forces Bilbo, the Hobbit who found the ring, to give it to his nephew, Frodo. The first part of this book focusses on Frodo’s journey to an elven retreat. Note that Tolkien’s elves have less than little in common with your childhood storybook ones.

It is in the second part of the book that things heat up.  Chased by Ring Wraiths and wolves, the travelers have to reach the mines of Moria. Long ago, a dwarf who had traveled with Bilbo left his land to locate and re-work these mines. This underground world has a secret door and our heroes have to find the password to open it.
While I hope that you will read and relish all these books, my post is about something my father once told me.

Often, in life, we encounter situations which simply refuse to be overcome. We are, as it were, shut out of the solution. In tune with what Surya writes in chapter XVII of The Being and The Becoming, Tolkien’s password to open the door to the mines is, very simply: 
Speak, friend, and enter

All they had to do was to utter the word “Friend”!

He also used to tell me a story where Krishna and some of his friends or cousins had to keep watch all night, by turns, in a dark forest, known to be infested with a demon. Each of them, except Krishna, had their turn and encountered the demon who beat them all black and blue as they accosted it with rough abuses and threats.

When it was Krishna’s turn, he spoke to the demon courteously and invited it to sit down at the fire. As he spoke the demon shrank and disappeared.

As with many things in life, the approach is, sometimes, the opposite of that which seems the most likely path to a solution.

Another story is from The Garden of Live Flowers, in Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. The more Alice tries to walk towards the house, the farther she gets! It is only when she walks in the opposite direction that she reaches it finally.

When a problem besets us, we want to best it. We wrestle with it. Perhaps, if we could find a way to look at this thing, which is tormenting us, in a friendly light, we might find a way out. Or a way to use that very situation to our advantage.
I really have no idea - so, I’m off to lie down for 15 minutes (by my timer) and be friendly with some of my inner demons: Alright, let’s be friends. I’m not going to push you away. Let me listen to you. Let me hear you out.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Kochi, August 2015

Hot. The weather is hot. Today's hotter than yesterday or the day before. Yesterday it rained. Suddenly. At about 4 maybe?
I asked a giggly gaggle of schoolgirls how long it would rain. More giggles. One said maybe 15 minutes? And another said don't know. So I asked her an hour? Two days? One year? Giggles. Some nervous this time.

It rained again while we relished toddy in the little Kallu joint at Ponekkara. Drumming on the red tiles as we spoke of this and that and fascinated the gentle drunks. One tittered at our talk, a faded man, clean shaven, Christian or Namboodiri. "Confusion," he offered delicately, a benevolent umpire to our converse. The sweet scrawny regular was almost done and we bowed our byes as he stood up a tad unsteadily but with utmost dignity and went off, umbrella handle tucked into the collar of his shirt.

It's hot. I wore a black silk  kurta to honour the occasion and so it was hotter. I got a headache for my pains but the bevies of young belles in their utmost finery had not even broken into the smallest of sweats. They danced gracefully and with decorum around a lamp after strewing fragrant flowers. And then other girls in more finery sang. My head now ached in earnest. Onam celebrations at a local institute. 

I managed to disappear, found a timely and honest auto and got dropped off at an eatery where we'd had our first dinner here-fish curry and tapioca and I forget what I had that time. Now I ordered toast and butter and tea-my headache comfort food. The tea was small, sweet and surprisingly adequate to the occasion-two huge slices of toast with a bounty of butter. The butter and a small dab of jam were served separately on a small tray. Rs. 30.
That done I bought some headache pills, thrilled to find they were neither Saridon nor Aspirin.
They took some time to do the trick but then, I only took one and I'm still fairly free of pain at 3 in the afternoon and I'd had that at slightly past 12. Kerala, land of pharma!
Did the Mall Rat act at Lulu and Oberon.
Scary window displays.
And the boat ride.
 That was the best part of the trip, although it'd have been much more fun with company.
Well, that's a grumpy intro to the trip and, hopefully, I'll soon entertain you with more about Kochi but in a more cheerful light!