Wishing Upon A Star

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.

 

Living in a big city, I miss seeing the stars at night. There’s always a glow from the street lights though – which astronauts term as “light pollution,” and when we look up at the sky, we see that it’s filled with clouds and smog – no wonder then that stars in the night sky are disappearing faster than we can imagine.

Over the years, I’ve realized there’s nothing better than being away from conurbations and being able to look up and get soaked up in the stars. I like to call this experience “counting the stars” which gives me a sense of a ‘nothingness’ as I simply look up and see the entire sky in all of its beauty. Some of my best thinking has been done looking at stars. For me, it’s a meditation – peaceful and relaxed.

Stargazer's delight

The stargazer’s delight

There was a telescope floating around the house where I often visited as a child [my father’s ancestral home] . In fact those days – in the early 1980’s-  you could see a lot of “sky”. Lying on the terrace watching stars is a memory I cherish even today.

My cousin gifted me a scope when I was 10 years, lying in the hospital bed and didn’t have much of activities to do. It was a SkyWatcher basic telescope, good enough to see the moon pretty well. Sometimes, I would spend frosty hours striving to look at faraway objects, Mercury, Jupiter and Orion’s Belt… Some of those explorations were made in the cold dark nights that brought out the best stars — they shimmer more brightly in the winter.

The best stars I have ever seen were at sea [quiet sea beaches] and mountain tops, dark forests and not to forget the planetariums [though that’s a momentary pleasure].

Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the heaven

Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation in the heaven

The sky seems huge, filling horizon to horizon with the glories of galaxies and our Milky Way. It’s like a river that flows across the sky. It’s no wonder that ancient Egyptians discovered an year-long calendar that included 12 months with 30 days by looking at the night sky.

They were inspired by the heavens, and built their pyramids in Giza to reflect what they saw – There are today two shafts built on to the sides which were built at the location facing the passing of two stars. One was Thuban, that was near to the Pole Star and Alnilon, a star situated in Orion’s belt. The ancient Egyptians discovered the Orion with ‘Osiris’, who was known to be the god of rebirth.

Recently, Nasa scientists discovered seven Earth-like planets just beyond our solar system that could potentially Harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for signs of alien life outside the solar system. The planets orbit a Dwarf star named trappist-1, about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from earth.

Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.

But life too comes in many forms and bacteria thrive in bubbling sulphur pools on the edge of volcanoes, in vents at the very deepest trenches of our oceans, and even now as we have recently discovered, in crystals in deep and hot caves for more than 50,000 years.

When we see photographs taken from the International Space Station of our blue Earth below, there is a wonder in the clouds and the oceans. It’s fun to try and figure out exactly where the space station is flying over, trying to identify the coasts or terrain far below.

The artists’ impressions of new worlds to be fascinating too. They almost bring those new worlds bravely to life, as if life exists there, waiting for us to visit and introduce ourselves, like new neighbors in this wonderful universe we all share.

But when you look at the stars, and try and understand the sheer size of space, the universe, you feel lost, astound. The distances are vast, the time taken for the light from stars to reach us can be measured in thousands of light years. And the sky we look at is actually a kaleidoscope of different lights emitted from stars in the past. We are not looking at the here and now, but a collection of pasts — though in the present.

At times, when the sky is full of stars, you can almost reach up and immerse yourself in the depth of the sky. In this universe we are but small, some would say rather insignificant. I would say, our  life is beyond messed up. But when we wish upon a star, we get more than we bargained for and that explains the power of Space.

 

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Life is… Celebration!

It is such a wonderful concept to celebrate life with our different actions. Let’s participate in the joy of life.

Pearls of Thoughts

Motherhood has made me a better person. The statement is cliché no doubt but true! It has not only made me more sensible, motivated and a better manager, but has also helped me see the world with the eyes of a child. That’s a refreshing feeling for sure. As my little one grows up, bit by bit, every day, i could see him get so incredibly excited about everything, and so do I get the energy to participate in the joy of life. It’s fun to be around him and kids of his age.

Celebrating life Celebrating life

For kids the word celebration doesn’t mean ‘grandeur’ but it means life itself! Even eating a whole bunch of different fruits can be like celebrating every piece of the fruit they eat. I’ve learnt over the years, it is such a wonderful concept to celebrate life with our different actions. That is what life…

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That never was…

Her story…

She started coming a little late to office on purpose, so he could see her walk in unapologetically. Though she’d never missed greeting all her colleagues at work, she couldn’t help stealing a glance at him several times a day to see if he’d reciprocated… and when she felt he did, she’d wear a lost look, focusing on her work or not focusing on anything, just exploring the depths of everything.

She seems to move on

She seems to move on

She had known him for some time, but she felt connected to him as if she knew him ages before, and maybe she did … but she couldn’t recall. She noticed a spark every time their eyes met, there’s a smile at the corner of their lips when they spoke.

She felt good any time she spoke to him, whether casually chatting up on office tea session or discussing an important assignment. His sober look, with touches of melancholy made her more curious.

One day, she caught him writing a poem on love during recess, which he quickly said he wrote simply because it felt romantic. “The starting was the most fun though the last stanza never rhymed to my dismay,” he said wearing a smile, shielding something from her.

When loneliness engulfed her, a quiet conversation with him, interspersed with laughter of old stories, a discussion on old English novels and classic cinema, magically lifted up her spirit.

Of course she knew she was not in love… but the more she thought about him, it surely felt something like that – as if she was in the twilight zone.

And then came the awaited evening, when they were having some wine at a birthday dinner, she got an sms. Strangely, it was him. “I think you look stunning!”

The noisy smiles around her seemed blur for a moment. The mood of the evening and the alcohol must have given him the wings to send her a message, she thought.

Before she could reply, he came forward and asked her if she wanted to have dinner next week.

Her face lit up immediately, she wanted to tell him, she was waiting for this perfect moment. but she tried to conserve that feeling, holding it gently in her palm. She hesitantly nodded and smiled while he sent her something nice on sms again to seal the conversation for the night.

—————-

It was a Tuesday night and it was incessantly raining. They drove down to the poolside bistro that looked almost empty. They both looked a little confused, didn’t know what to speak.

They ordered some food and coffee in awkward silence as the waiter looked at them like he had an opinion.

Once they were chatting, she could feel he looked interested and observant; properly listening as she droned on…

Soon they had many things to talk… the places they’d been to,  of everything that was happening in the world at that moment, all the people eating food, holding hands, cosmos, death, making love and of everyday things… the more they talk, she felt  a deeper and spiritual connection.

They kept sitting on the couch that felt like an improvised stage in the corner of the room. Then he took her hand, for the first time.

Some moments of togetherness was like knowing him for a lifetime!  Her heart was burning in his wrists and palms. His hand was perfectly warm, so magical that it was unbearable. When his eyes met hers, she felt her heartbeat everywhere, even on her toes.

But she slowly closed her eyes…

She asked herself again, what exactly she wanted from life… she’d been curious, she wanted to feel something… but they knew they were not meant for each other…

————–

Never did they seek the story left untold – the tale with an abrupt end.

Seasons passed by… till they rediscovered themselves on social media. It was not the same…

They moved on, their paths were different, and they tried making peace with life, away from each other, but in their own solitary world.

The entr’acte…

That Feeling of Emptiness

She could feel the void, a never ending dark void that consumes everything, leaving her with a feeling of nothing… that strange feeling, when she feels neither happy, nor sad… it’s such an empty feeling. There’s nothing to subside her hollow soul that creeps in the shadows, away from any other human life because its emptiness is so consuming it cannot bear to pretend that everything is okay.

That strange feeling, when she feels neither happy, nor sad… it’s only empty

That strange feeling, when she feels neither happy, nor sad… it’s only empty

In truth, nothing is okay! She sees people walking around this earth each day, pretending that everything is okay, and it always will be. She sighs…Why we can’t all just admit that we are just hollow plastic dolls with a painted happy face revealing no guilt, sadness and emptiness?

At some stage, she too tried hiding it with a big fake smile, masking it as if nothing has happened, but for how long? She didn’t get an answer.

And now she has learned to play hide and seek with her only companion. It hides everywhere, this emptiness, in the closet, the cupboards and under the bed. There isn’t any getting away from it. Her nightmares seem to help fill it. They remind her of those days… they call it the past for a reason… the bygone, the defunct, really?

She doesn’t know… she’s scared, but she needs it. She needs to feel it now, she needs it to distract herself, from not everything else but, simply, from herself… She closes her eyes gently and curls herself up onto a cushion of nothingness.

When Nehru Jacket Becomes Modi Jacket

While ‘searching’ for a desi waistcoat online for my son (as it’s raining discounts ahead of Independence Day), I made an interesting observation. The search terms, ‘half-jacket online’ immediately throw up two powerful expressions on Google: ‘Modi jacket’ and ‘Nehru jacket’. They take you to the same products – what I was looking for – and some sites even call it the Nehru/Modi jacket.

All these sites display a gamut of this graceful ethnic piece of garment, which has spun quite a long political yarn. Since childhood we have known them as the ‘Nehru jackets’ or ‘Jawahar coat’ and now these have been endorsed as Modi jackets. Welcome to the new India!

Nehru’s trademark is now doing a good job of creating the Modi look, with of course a little ‘twist’

Nehru’s trademark is now doing a good job of creating the Modi look, with of course a little ‘twist’

From different media interviews, we know by now that our current PM Modi Ji has a clear preference for these waistcoats. But for a man with a strong disdain for the Nehruvian legacy, it is but obvious that he will completely ‘tweak’ it and brand it his own. As a friend of mine rightfully said, The ‘Congress livery’ in now the ‘BJP livery.’

…And Modi ji is doing a pretty smart job at this. Just the way he has given his ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make In India’ agenda a global voice, the PM is endorsing these bandis at a global platform rebranding them as the ‘Modi jacket’.

Actually, the (Nehru) jacket’s history can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott non-native goods in 1930, when Nehru had given up western suits-which he was wearing till then and moved to homespun Khadi kurtas, thereafter it became his style statement.

A wardrobe twist is a great way for a politician to stand out. Whether it’s the Arafat kafiyeh, Karunanidhi’s dazzling yellow shawl, Mayawati’s plain light coloured salwar kameezes, Mamta Banerjee’s white sareers with blue borders or even the otherwise colourless Manmohan Singh’s sky-blue turban. The little touches finally matter the most. And hence, the same jackets that were once Nehru’s trademark is now creating the Modi look, with of course a little ‘twist’.

Unlike the Nehru times, when these were available in only black, cream and grey, now they seem to be influenced by PM Modi’s choice of colors that are far more flamboyant, ranging from oranges to pinks to yellows. Well, prices have gone up over 50-70 per cent. Never mind, the times they are a-changin, as Bob Dylan said.

Not only for Modi and his followers, anyone who wish to make a political or patriotic statement, these jackets are a perfect fit, especially if it is tailored in khadi. My uncle said once, it camouflages his big belly and the wide hip, that common body flaw in the middle-aged Indian men.

So what’s in a name you may ask… for a section of the people, it will always remain ‘Nehru jacket’ and for others it will become Modi jacket.’

But try to fathom a little… whether you love them or hate them, you just cannot ignore these two PMs of the nation – Nehru and Modi – both with very different political identity – but both bound by a common thread: Their tremendous global appeal!

When India got its independence in 1947, and Jawaharlal Nehru, became the country’s first prime minister, the nation witnessed a new leader born. He was not perfect in so many ways, but he was what India needed at that time. Of the first few things Nehru did right was to set up a Constituent Assembly to write India’s Constitution, and set up centers of knowledge (IITs and IIMs) in a country that has over the decades produced many talented business leaders, heading global companies.

Nehru did drive India’s international profile to a great degree in the post-independence years, even though some of his foreign policies were subject to much debate. But nobody can doubt the international appeal.

PM Narendra Modi too sees Digital India as a tool for the country’s transformation, in a scale where the world looks to India for the next big Idea. Even during his visit to the US, Modi has always promoted the causes of Digital India and Make in India, making these names known globally, besides making a style statement on his jacket.

Nehru Jackets were also popularized by The Beatles in the West in the ‘70s. They went on to become so popular that in James Bond Movies, and even Sean Connery, the Bond himself, expressed his love for those jackets. And now Modi has given these timeless classic (which faded for a while) jackets a revamp and a ‘Modi’ branding.

Changing times and changing names….no big deal, believe many. Modi certainly has brought a lot of color and style to these jackets, and as long as it excites the prevailing weak khadi institutions, we are absolutely fine with it.

Jai Hind!

Whining Of The Dying Planet

On a hot summer afternoon, when I was walking home from college, I realized that the heat was unbearable… and I was feeling thirsty too! I reached for my water bottle but it was empty. My home was still some distance, and all the cold drinks shops were closed. I felt miserable. Walking all the way in this scorching heat without a drop of water felt like punishment.

I moved towards the pavement, struggling to find some shade, but to my disappointment, with all the trees cut down to make way for high-rise apartments, the shade was nothing but an illusion. I looked up in the sky. It was almost 4 pm, but the sun was still burning brilliantly. I wondered where the rains had disappeared! It was mid-July, yet apart from a few sprinkles, there was no sign of rain.

The world around me started spinning

The world around me started spinning

As I walked along, my eyes got fixed on the pond by the park. It was almost dry. This was a great place for us in our childhood. I used to come here with my mother and cousins when I was even younger. We enjoyed the lush green lawns, pretty grass flowers and cool breeze rippling off the surface of the water. But it looked so different… just like me – thirsty and exhausted!

I thought, so much has changed around me and I just never paid attention to it? A few big trees look sad, tired and weak by the heat. It’s as if they have all given up all hope. Looked like, they had accepted their defeat.

A stray dog passed by sluggishly.  After wandering on the streets, it found a minuscule shade on a pavement a few yards away, and sat with its tongue out – trying to cool itself off. A crow flew over my head, cawing in a harsh tone, as if it’s warning of some misfortune!

Suddenly, the world around me started spinning. I could see the dog, the trees, the crow, the thirsty lake, deserted land and the dry, muffled winds – all coming towards me…. They started coming closer and closer, as if they were ready to declare a war on humans. All seemed to echo the same cry: “You are the reason for our destruction…Yes you are the one!”

“No, in fact aaaI love youuuu all…” I said stuttering, feeling nervous. “You know I plant a sapling every environment day… aand I grew up reciting Wordsworth.. spare me!”

My cries were falling on deaf ears. “You don’t deserve to live… you have occupied everything on this planet, not even sparing us homes!”

The thirsty lakes, the dry winds, the barren lands, they all seemed to be echoing the same cry…

“Listen to me, please,” I continued pleading. “ I’m not of them, I’m a member of the World Wildlife Fund too… and often donate for this cause!

Nobody around seemed to care. Everything felt like a whirlpool! The voices started getting louder and it sounded like they were seeking vengeance. “You all will be wiped out …. And that day isn’t far” whispered a harsh, old voice, as if it cursed me, the entire humankind. ”

Hahahahaha” laughed the entire universe! That merciless laughter rang through the thick, warm air.

I closed my eyes and covered my ears with all my strength. I wished the voices would stop.

Are we being repaid with what we had earned! All our deeds would now have to be accounted for. I pressed my ears harder to shut out the voices until I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Are you okay?” I heard a voice. I turned to see my neighbor and friend Daisy looking at me with a worried expression.

I nodded helplessly, not knowing what to say.

“Okay please have some water. Looks as if you are not feeling well,” she extended a bottle of water to me that was half filled.

I gulped down the water… looked around, everything looked just the same, hot, dry but yes, peaceful.

“Let’s walk home, I said. “I’m feeling okay, thank you…”

So much has change around me and I just never paid attention to it!

I was alright, but I kept asking myself, how long will it be before our selfishness destroys everything and the voices I had heard would come seeking vengeance for real?

If we continue to ignore or remain silent, then yes that voice may be right, “That day is just not far!”

 

 

 

The Healing

She stood up, walked several steps ahead, laughed her heart out… a feeling of exultation overtook her. Passersby looked at her, amused, some quite taken aback, some perplexed. Others just went by.

She need not care all that anymore. She wanted to laugh… She wanted to scream in joy… She felt like a little stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden realized her powers, and walked for the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence She felt free!

She felt like a bird, wispy, fluttering and wandering freely in the sky… in the vast expanse of nothingness. It’s a  flight without an end… a journey without a destination. A life beyond death, a soul beyond cleansing!

Yesterday, She was brooding, sulking… Upset with the world. She felt wronged. She was bruised. She felt like a victim… She was almost about to give up… she felt as if she was dying.

Somebody made her feel alive today, somebody made her dance the dance of ecstasy, somebody made her heart sing. That somebody reached out to reassure her that life is beautiful and will be even more beautiful each passing day. She felt connected to herself, to the one she now trusts, she felt connected to truth… without any fear of herself and the world!