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30 and Learning…

The journey continues

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Self Discovery

Realization

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This post has been in the making for a really long time now, since my grandmother’s death to be precise…

I started writing a post as I boarded the flight to head back home for her funeral. But that was lost. And ever since then I’ve been writing this in my head, and it has been evolving constantly. It’s as if my whole perception of this experience called life has changed ever since I bid her farewell. Everything I have been feeling since then somehow links back to the moment I saw her for the very last time, in the crematorium, her body being engulfed by flames that rapidly consumed every last fiber of an entire generation.

My grandma was the last surviving grandparent on both sides of my family. My mom’s parents passed away a long time ago. My dad’s dad, whom I was very close to, passed away over a decade ago. So for last several years, my grandma was the last standing pillar steadfastly supporting the weight of a generation, the “elders” as I call them. With her, that generation is gone. And as I sat in the hearse next to my dad and his brother, staring down at the body that was once my grandma, I realized that now my dad and uncle have become that generation, they are the elders. Consequently, I have become their former generation, the adult; I am no longer the kid in the family.

I was also the only grandchild present at my grandma’s funeral. My sister, and my uncle’s daughters, are all in the US. It was neither practical nor possible for them to travel all the way on such short notice. Before I delve deeper into my own thoughts and sentiments, I must make note of couple of things. Firstly, India is a predominantly patriarchal society so all rituals involve sons and grandsons. My family, however, going all the way back to my grandfather, never conformed to such traditions. Secondly, sons and grandsons set the funeral pyre alight as a symbolic adieu to the departed into the afterlife. In modern times cremation units have taken the place of a tradition pyre. Going back to my grandmom’s funeral, I did everything that a grandson would have. As I stood next to my dad and uncle, with tears in our eyes, hands gently resting on the handles of the gurney, gathering the strength to roll it into the cremation unit, I was overcome by the idea that I am more than an adult – I am the only adult who is around! In that moment I was more thankful than ever for the journey I’ve had over the last couple of years that led me back to India, and to that exact place and time where I could stand shoulder to shoulder with my dad and uncle, sharing this responsibility. There was another responsibility that dawned on me that day. Being the only grandchild there, assuming the role of a grandson, all of that also made me feel responsible for the future of my family’s name. There is a certain sense of narsissism associated with starting a family. I’ve always known that but it was never more evident than on that day when I felt the weight of this responsibility upon my shoulders – the responsibility to carry forth the legacy of my family’s name. Of course I have a sister and two cousins, but they are away. Their children will also be away. I am here, and I must keep this name going.

I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions over the next few days. As I spent many a evening with my parents and aunt and uncle, sticking together as a family, I started feeling a certain sense of sadness for them. They are now what my grandparents were. And yet, all they had was me. They were happy to have me around, they constantly kept saying it. But shouldn’t they have the joy of having a grandchild or two running around too? A generation had passed but where was the new one? I felt selfish, and yet helpless. I wished I had someone I could marry and have kids with. And the emptiness of my own life made me sadder still.

I was back in Goa after a week and change, and the sadness lingered. Then something strange happened. Someone I had known for only a little while asked me if I would marry him. I felt like jumping and saying yes! I didn’t. My fears were still bigger than my sadness, and this couldn’t have been love or my fears wouldn’t even exist in the first place. But the entire experience has left me thinking about what I want from life. Suddenly I want to get married, I want to have a family. Not for myself but for my parents. I want to make them happy. I want someone to take my family name. I am not ready to be a wife or a parent, but I’m ready to be an adult. It doesn’t even make sense, but that’s more or less my state of mind – it doesn’t make sense!

P

 

Love Will Find A Way

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Some days I want to be in love, other days I wonder if I’ll ever be ready for it again…

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about relationships lately. I think it’s because one of my friends is getting married and he keeps trying to convince me that I should start dating seriously too! But it’s been a while since I was in a serious relationship and honestly, I’m not sure if I miss it… or perhaps I don’t allow myself to miss it.

I’ve been in love several times before – with places and with people – and never has it worked out. I’m certainly not the first or the only person in this world who has gone through this pain but I’m one of those people who go on to build every barrier to never have to go through it again. While I can love easily, I’m not so sure if I’ll let myself fall in love just as easily.

I see the two things as being vastly different. The way I see love is that it is unconditional. I can love from a distance and remain detached. But being in love craves togetherness. Being in love comes with hopes and dreams that are founded on the notion of staying together. There is no detachment there. It can evolve into love but to get there requires time; and again, time spent together. I don’t know if I can want someone or something that way again.

I was in love with Buffalo. Leaving Buffalo has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It tore me down, perhaps even killed a small part of me. I had built a beautiful life there that I thought would last forever. It didn’t but I’ll always love Buffalo because I got enough time there. Now I’m beginning to feel familiar emotions about Goa but I just can’t let myself fall in love. Because tomorrow if I have to leave, I don’t think I’d be able to cope with the disappointment. I’ll obviously live but I can’t imagine how long the road to recovery would be.

It is both the beauty and disenchantment of life that we move on. No matter how great the love may be, the resilience of human spirit is much greater. Loss of love cannot actually kill, the spirit endures and survives.

And yet, I refuse to fall in love, with another place… and with another human being. I have become a commitment phobe in a lot of ways. But it isn’t the commitment I fear, it is the possibility that it will not work out. Commitment, in fact, is my strength. I’m the artist-type, a romantic. When I fall, I fall hard. I give it my all. But even my all has never been enough. One might say that it’s because the other person didn’t give it his all. Possible. But what’s the guarantee that the next person I give my all to wouldn’t hold back on me like the others? That he will be just as much in love with me as I with him?

I’m not a pessimist. I like to believe that there’s love out there for me. But I’m trying to strike a delicate balance between realism and idealism. I’m not going to fall in love again until love twists my arm and forces me to. If there is indeed love out there for me, let it come and find me. Let it prove to me that it will last, that it will not leave me wounded this time. I’m going to let someone fall in love with me first before I allow myself to fall in love. I believe in destiny, so if being in love is my destiny then this isn’t a huge ask. Destiny has imposed several things on me, still does, let it impose love on me too!

P

 

 

A Lesson in Detachment

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It’s been a while since I last wrote something and that made me think why…

There was a time I used to write more or less everyday, as a habit. But that’s because I always had something to write about. I’ve generally only blogged about existential matters, no stories or fiction or other specific subject matter. So why suddenly I don’t have much to write about. I wrote my last two blogs within a space of 3 days and now it’s been 3 weeks since I felt like writing, or had the time to do so.

I think I have reached a point where I am completely and truly living in the present. I don’t think about the past and I don’t worry about the future. I feel grateful to have what I have today and I don’t feel entitled to have it tomorrow. I don’t feel entitled to anything for that matter, and so each moment that I get to live is a blessing. In a lot ways I think of that as detachment.

I was talking to friends about detachment today and somehow during the conversation I realized that my writing is generally driven by attachments. My last two posts were driven by attachment too, because a friend was going away. But as much as I love him and would like to have him around, I am happy knowing that he is doing well for himself and is exactly where he needs to be. The post before that was driven by my attachment for my cats. And again, I am content with the knowledge that they are safe and well-loved, and I don’t have to be with them to love them. Detachment does not mean absence of love, it means being able to let go while continuing to love.

During our conversation, a friend said something that made being detached seem the same as being unattached. I don’t think that’s true. We don’t have to be unattached to be detached. In fact, I think true detachment can only come from being attached and acknowledging the fact that no matter how deep our attachment we do not own anything or anyone. Everything is transient and what’s here today may not be there tomorrow. To be able to invest in something without the desire of an outcome is true detachment to me. The detachment, then, is not from the object of attachment but from our expectations thereof.

Someone else asked me today, in a separate, unrelated conversation, that how am I always happy. Now, I wasn’t always this way. It’s been a long, grueling journey getting here. But the answer to that question is this same detachment I daresay. If I were to expect, I would either have things my way or not. The former would make me happy and the latter unhappy. But since I have no expectations, my happiness is not driven by external forces. The source of my happiness is within me. It’s a kind of contentment that is hard to put in words. It’s like whatever I get is already more than what I could have asked for because I don’t ask for anything to begin with. That’s not to say that I don’t have hopes and dreams, I do; but they are my fuel, not some sort of an arbitrary benchmark for success and consequent happiness. I am happy just working towards my goals irrespective of whether I achieve them or not. My happiness lies in each moment I get to live and continue this work. These moments may cease at anytime, no one knows when their time’s up. So my happiness lies in the here and now with no expectations of tomorrow.

To sum up, I write out of attachment, and the process of writing helps me regain my sense of detachment and the happiness that comes from it. In a way, the less I write means the happier I am… not sure if that’s a good thing but that’s how it seems to be!

P

Pieces of My Heart

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Two days and I’m back here again… Something must be the matter!

Writing liberates me. I don’t write for money, or likes, or recognition. I think that if I did that my words would lose the soul they now have. I write to get in touch with myself. It’s just another way I meditate, but with my eyes open. Sometimes I meditate, in the traditional sense of the word, to ease a restless mind. But when the heart is brimming, it needs to be emptied. So I pour it out in words here, in my ironically private space.

So yes, my heart is brimming. It’s teeming with all sorts of emotions, but mostly with love and pain. The two generally go hand in hand anyway. I said two days ago that someone is taking away a piece of my heart with him. But in order to give someone a piece, you have to break your heart first, and it hurts when the heart breaks. So there’s love, and there’s pain. Now, I’m not talking about a breakup or any other romantic affliction. This someone is not a flame or a lover but just a soul that connected with mine and filled it with love.

Last few years of my life have been so rich with experiences. I have seen a lot of hurt and sadness, but even more love and joy. It amazes me just how many ways love has found its way into my life. I have met and loved the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely way; experienced love that is truly unconditional and transcends all kinds of stereotypes. Love that is so pure it doesn’t demand any words or proof, it can simply be felt. So I look forward to each new day with childlike wonder in my eyes because I know it might bring me something beautiful that I didn’t even know existed.

It’s not that life wasn’t rich before these last few years. But my heart was closed. I don’t think I allowed myself to love as freely and easily as I do now. What has, in fact, changed in the last few years is my attitude towards life. I have connected with my soul, and the soul only knows love. It feeds on love, and so it seeks love. I hold no judgements, have no expectations of others. I just want to connect with their soul, and if I find it then love just follows. In a way, my life is full of many a soul mate.

Somedays when I wake up, the first thing on my mind is death, like “one day I will not wake up at all”. It’s not a dark, depressing thought. Death is an inevitable truth so I don’t see it as a macabre subject. I see it as objectively as I see the sun rising and setting each day, it’s the law of nature. At least for now. But until my time is up, I want to keep finding love, in all the unexpected places, in all the unexpected people, in all the unexpected ways. I want to break my heart into a thousand little pieces and spread it all over. Because with each piece I give away, I collect love in return. And when I die, I don’t want a whole but empty heart, in its place I want a soul full of love. That way I’d know I lived a full life.

P

 

Love Hurts

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One can guess from the picture that this isn’t a breakup post despite the title…

A while ago someone said that they were going to find my weakness and I said, “you can try!”. I didn’t think I had any weaknesses; you know, I’ve hardened, or matured, and I cruise through life almost entirely unaffected by everything around me. But there’s a strange thing that happens each time I look at the pictures of these two kids – I cry! And depending on whether I’m alone or in public, I either cry profusely or hold back my tears. Wanna guess what I’m doing right now?!

My cats mean the world to me. I love them as if I birthed them myself. Although in all fairness, I’d probably never know how exactly that feels, but there’s no other thought that can bring me to tears almost instantly than the thought of not being with them. And yet here I am, without them, thinking about them and crying looking at their pictures, wondering if I’ll ever get to be with them again.

And despite all these sad feelings, I’m not actually sad. I am happy… as oxymoronic as it may sound.

When I adopted them, the only promise I made was to make sure they were always safe and loved. When I left the US, they left with me, and when we were reunited at the cargo terminal of Delhi airport after 20 long hours, all three of us were crying. I knew in that moment that they loved me and trusted me with their well-being. So when I had to move again, I had to do what’s best for them.

In the one year that we spent living at my parents’, Izzie and Milo had started to think of it as their home, and my parents as their new humans. I’ve uprooted myself many times before, and them with me. I couldn’t do it this time. I know they are safe at my parents’ and, in all likelihood, much more loved than I alone could ever manage. With the long hours that I work I wouldn’t be able to give them the attention they deserve. So I’m happy that they are safe and loved, and I’m happier that my parents have someone to love and take care of.

I decided to stay in India so I could be closer to my parents. Just as I console myself when I think about Izzie and Milo, I know my parents do too when they think about my sister and me living so far away. They want what’s best for us. Being a parent is not easy, it’s not easy to love another soul so much, to be so far away from them that you can’t even reach out your hands and touch them, and yet be happy simply knowing that they are happy, even if it’s witbout you. That’s the kind of love that really, truly, severely hurts, and this love is my weakness.

Everyone I love is away, and sometimes I wonder when I’d finally be able to reunite with them. Life is too short to waste time crying over people (cats are people too!) we love instead of actually doing something to be with them. I’m biding my time, waiting for the right time to take the leap of faith and follow my heart. But is there such a thing as “right time”? All we have is the here and now, nothing else is promised. I hope love will guide me, and until I am able to find my way back, I’ll take comfort in the knowledge that all those I love are safe and happy.

P

 

Strange Things – the Paradox of Me!

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I’m learning… There are two very contradicting sides to me… I like feeling like a stranger and I like being surrounded by friends. I like being alone and I like having someone to love and hold. Does that make me strange? Perhaps. But it’s what makes me me.

I love to travel. I want to see the world and gather as many experiences as I can, while I can. But I also long for a home. I used to have a home, then I didn’t. Then I went back to the home I grew up in, and then I had to leave again. It was heartbreaking. Until a week ago I thought I was sinking into depression again. I meditated to snap out of it. It made me calm and serene but that gnawing feeling of sinking didn’t go. Standing in the balcony of my hotel room, I’d think to myself, “I’m happy, my soul is happy, then what is this restlessness I feel!”. Now I see that I was just stuck in between my two sides.

The newness of everything around me hadn’t started to register yet. I wasn’t really missing anything or anyone… that’s another thing that makes me strange – I don’t miss much – but that’s for another time. I thought about my parents, my pets, my friends, but only in a fond sort of way; not in a desperate yearning way. What I was feeling, in fact, was an urgency to start feeling like a stranger in a new place. But ironically, I needed a home first.

Now I have one, and so I can go out and feel like a stranger in a new place all day long but at the end of the day I am home. I meet people at work who have taken place of friends. And then I am alone again. I can sit in a crowded restaurant and enjoy a meal by myself, that’s my jam. But somehow the idea of coming back to a hotel room isn’t my thing. Strange, right? I guess I’m the sort of person Airbnb’s “don’t go there, live there” campaign is designed for! I’m sure there are others like me. And I wonder if they realize this about themselves. How did they find out? How did it make them feel?

I had no idea just how much the idea of a home means to me. And this isn’t a real home by any means, and definitely not my forever home. But it still satiates my deep rooted desire to belong. But then I don’t truly belong, I like to remain detached. I don’t know if this detachment is a subconscious defense mechanism to safeguard myself against likely pain, or true wisdom that leads to a higher state of existence that is beyond worldly concerns. I guess I will find out in due course of time. After all, there’s so much about myself I learn each day. So many strange things!

Cheers

A Conversation with Self

Something inside me feels compelled to come out today. There is a sort of restlessness about this day that I can’t seem to understand. On such days I find writing to be the best therapy. It’s like having a conversation with myself, trying to understand what all the fuss is about.

I find it ironic that exactly two years ago, on this very day, I started a new chapter of life. This chapter has been, by far, the most enriching phase of my life, and the most eventful one too. I’m not going to spend any time looking back, it’s not like me. I’m quite good at moving on actually! I like to look ahead. Two years later, I’m once again standing at crossroads of life about to start something new. Maybe that is the source of my restlessness, this new beginning.

Fear. That’s probably it. I’m at a cusp and the anticipation is getting to me. It’s like that moment on a roller coaster ride when the ascent is over and you can see the fall ahead. I know it’s going to be fun, I’m looking forward to it but all sorts of chemicals are firing in my brain and making me nervous. I want a hand to hold on to but I look around and I see no one. I seeks friends to drown out this feeling but the moment everyone is gone and I’m left alone it comes back. So what’s the solution?

I already know the answer actually. It came to me during my meditation last evening. The voice inside me said that I must finally come clean with my father about my hopes and dreams. It will not be an easy conversation but it’s a conversation that needs to be had. I’ve been hanging out here at the top for far too long. I need to face this fall so the fun can actually begin.

Does this knowledge make me feel any better right now? No, it doesn’t. The anxiety, anticipation, restlessness, it’s all still there. I only know what to do about it eventually, not right now. Right now I t’s natural to seek safety and comfort but I know all too well that in the end we must all walk our path alone. This desire for comfort once again takes me back to two years ago, to that evening when I last saw my playboy (haven’t thought about him in a long time). His embrace used to be my safe place back then. A part of me wants that place again, not him just the place, to prepare myself. But I’m a different person now and I can find that place in my own heart, I just have to dig deep. That is what I can do right now.

Now that makes me feel better…

 

When Life Calls

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I’ve been taking a lot of time to think lately. I’ve been going inward and taking stock of life thus far and beyond. I no longer believe in coincidences. It was the same me that once said that “things don’t happen for a reason; things happen and we make our reasons to justify them”. Since I wrote these exact words over a year ago, I have undergone many changes, emotionally and spiritually. I have moved, and since the day I got back to India something inside me knew that I was here for a reason, like this was all a grand scheme. And today, more than ever, I can feel that I am exactly where I need to be – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. All of me is present here in this moment and there is nowhere else I’d rather be. And surprisingly, I wouldn’t choose any other path to get here either.

Earlier today, I was embroiled in an emotionally charged discussion with my mother about myfuture” (as if we have any control over it). She said to me, “what’s the point of getting educated in the US if you want to end up teaching yoga in India!”. I did not respond. Not because I didn’t have an answer. Au contraire, I knew the exact answer. But I don’t think she is ready for it. However, this is my personal space and I must respond here.

Everything that I am today, every fiber of my being, mortal and immortal, is a consequence of my life journey thus far. Every person that I have come in contact with has shaped my personality in some way. And by shaping I don’t mean influence or manipulation of any kind. When I meet someone I instictively like or dislike, it makes me question that sentiment. And in trying to decipher that reaction, I discover something new about my own self. Sometimes I like what I discover and I work on enhancing it. Other times I don’t, and I work to fix it. So people don’t change people, but they certainly hold up a mirror to us so we can see ourselves in a new light. What we make of the reflection is up to us because only we can change ourselves. And I have used every opportunity life has afforded me to change myself for the better, or at least so I think. If I didn’t travel the path that I did and saw these reflections along the way, I wouldn’t be what I am today, and I wouldn’t trade my today’s self for anything in this world.

I have walked a long, sometimes extremely arduous road, to find my one true love – myself. I don’t say that with any trace of narcissism or arrogance. I say it with utmost humility and gratitude. In order for me to be able to love others fully and honestly, I must first love myself. And in order to love myself, I must first know and accept myself. This life, through all its highs and lows, especially the lows, has helped me fine tune my character. It has helped me acknowledge my shortcomings and forgive myself for them. It has helped me recognize my strengths and use them as a foundation for everything else. I don’t pretend to be anything or anyone else, and I certainly don’t try to conform to any moulds. I am who I am and I embrace it. So now that there is no “void” to fill, I can genuinely love others instead of using them as crutches to make up for my own weaknesses. I am complete and that is a consequence of my journey, the exact journey that I took; it couldn’t have been anything else or I wouldn’t be complete.

So to go back to what my mother said, my American education didn’t start and end at a university. My American education is ongoing, and will continue for the rest of my life. If I didn’t go there, I wouldn’t be here. My American education is the brickwork in my life’s foundation, it’ll always be there. I don’t know if I would’ve got the same experiences elsewhere. And yoga, well, I didn’t choose yoga, yoga chose me. I didn’t decide one day that I want to become a yoga teacher, then went on to take a course and practise. I was lost and meditation showed me the light inside my heart. Meditation led me to the physical practice and I practised for a long time without any formal training. Then one day I heard of teacher training happening in my own backyard, if you will. I took it because it was convenient, and because I was curious to learn the philosophy of yoga. Even at that time, I was the only one in my class who had no intentions of teaching anytime in the near future. But now it’s all I can think of. If that doesn’t seem destined then what does. And it’s not just teaching the superficial, “Bollywood yoga” as I like to call it, or the acrobatic yoga on the other extreme. I want to help people understand the essence of yoga, and live healthy, holistic lives. Quite simply, I want to share this wonderful gift that I’ve been given.

The thing with truth is, once you have seen it you cannot unsee it. I have seen my truth, my calling and it is simply a matter of time before I heed it.

Namaste

 

Anniversary Special

Anniversaries are special times. Not because they give us a reason to celebrate but because they make us think what it is that we are celebrating. They allow us to pause for a moment and look back at the road we have traveled to get to the milestone where we stand, and look ahead at the path yet to be traveled. And it is this journey, not the milestone, that we must celebrate. We will reach a new milestone with each passing year, and each new milestone will look much the same as all of the previous ones, but the road traversed will be remarkably different; the scenery along the way, the roadblocks that we overcame, and the people who walked a part of or the entire path with us will be different.

As I stand here today, looking at 30andLearning.com already few days into its second year, I celebrate every joy, every sorrow, every success, every failure, and every person who has helped grow and nurture it. I haven’t written in this one year, something that I intend to change going forward, and I haven’t created as much content as I would have liked to, but that does not mean that I didn’t work on myself behind the scenes. I have gone through some life-changing events, I have lost a lot of what I held dear, and I have come full circle to the place where I took my very first breath. Call me a romantic, but I see a reason behind this, like I am exactly where I am meant to be, and I feel fearless to go down the road ahead of me even though I can see nothing. It’s as if I have been reborn, and just like a child I am full of faith and wonder.

There are things I would like to share in the coming days but for now all I would say is that I feel like I may have finally found myself!

Much love,

P

 

 

 

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