Thursday, April 30, 2009

The colour of pain

Seen the humble moth? Plain brown with a few specks here and there. Would you ever call it beautiful? And then you see a butterfly. And you exclaim at its colours, its dazzling beauty. Yellow specks on a bed of green. Stripes of gold on black. Red streaks on a purple ground. Patches of vibrant green on white tipped wings. An endless world of fascinating colour. And yet, each butterfly was a moth first, a plain-Jane moth – with just specks of brown on a ground of more brown. How dull.
I believe, that is what we are when we come into this world. Untouched, plain brown little moths.
Leading sheltered lives, protected from the outside world by our doting parents and we grow. We grow wings, we learn to fly and still we are dull, plain brown.
Then reality strikes. In all its fury. The death of close one. A relationship torn asunder. The loss of a partner. The untimely death of a child. A debilitating accident. An unquenched thirst. A near-death struggle. The loss of everything you hold dear.
And you feel pain. Pain that reaches into the depth of your being. Gouges out neat red streaks that will never stop bleeding. Cuts open your person and exposes what you really are. And then in that bareness of pain, there’s no one but you. No one but you. And you look around the barren landscape and you have only yourself to help. And as you struggle more and more, the gashes bleed. The old wounds turn to yellow brown scars. New gashes bring out the brilliant red again. And pain strikes in new ways, with new patches and specks of colour and each episode leaves behind a mark. A line in your face. A wrench in your heart. A spasm that cramps the very core of your being.
And you change.
You are no longer that plain brown being. Because the pain has coloured you. It has painted brilliant yellow patches and edged your wings with white. It’s given you bright red streaks and a purple ground to add to the effect. And bits of yellow. And you walk with that pain with pride because now the pain does not own you, you own the pain. And the pain has only made you what you are – unique and truly beautiful. And suddenly you have added colour to the barren brown landscape.
And you are transformed.
From dull and dowdy to vibrant and colourful. But only you know that the red comes from bleeding scars. Only you know the purple comes from old bruises that never cease to hurt. And only you know that the yellow shines when you reach a point where you forgive all those who caused you pain because that has made you what you are. (Those yellow patches are worth their weight in gold.) Not many have them. And you can now walk with your head held high.
And you come out stronger.
And your weakness becomes your strength. And you spread your wings and fly. Only this time everyone exclaims how beautiful those wings are. And you smile. And they see it in your eyes. And they say it’s beautiful. But it’s not beauty. It’s pain. And it’s the colour of pain that’s so beautiful.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The world in 4 x 6

The excitement is unbearable. As I step into the house I look forward to one little desktop where my mail is kept. And yes, it’s there! Yet another picture postcard. Expected. Yet unexpected. The suspense is thrilling. The reveal equally exhilarating. I am now an official postcrossing addict.
I stumbled upon the postcrossing concept through a message and a link on Twitter. Life has not been the same again.
While a colleague and I checked what it was, it took about 10 minutes for us to get hooked. 10 minutes and I am hooked for life.
So what IS postcrossing?
Let the site help me with this. And I quote:
The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive at least one back from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world.
Why? Why would you want to do this?
To me it’s very simple. Emails are fun. Quick. In a snap. But receiving physical mail (other than credit card bills and pathetic bank statements) has a joy all its own.
It takes me back to lazy summer vacations of my childhood.
After a brief holiday which usually included a visit to my maternal grandfather, I’d be back home getting into my mother’s hair. Having finished reading all the books that I had managed to garner as gifts during my holiday my mother had no option but to tell me to re-read them. Finally she’d give up and say if I had finished reading, the next best thing to do in the afternoon was to write.
So write I did. To my maternal grandfather in Ahmedabad. My mother was indeed clever. This one letter kept me occupied for several days and she had to think of less entertaining things to do. First it meant I was occupied writing it. Then she would suggest I draw a little thing specially for my grandfather. Then I would move on to the envelope and decorate it.
A lot of work got done because the next thing to do was to go to the post office to post it. That took up a whole morning (and I can almost hear my mother heaving a sigh of relief because it meant I was gainfully employed all morning) and she could finish several other errands on the way to the post office without me complaining.
After untidily pasting the stamps on the envelope with sticky white post office glue, I’d already start waiting for my grandfather’s reply.
Impatiently I would look at the postman as he came twice a day and ask him if he had a letter for me. He’d smile indulgently but shake his head in a no. Disappointed I’d pace around the hall much to the amusement of my grandmother. (Remember the Carpenters’ song, Please Mr. Postman?)
And then finally then it would arrive. A small envelope, barely 3 by 7 inches, a dull brown 20 paisa stamp, tiny ruled A5 size note pad plain letter paper and it meant the world to me. A letter from my grandfather!
The envelope itself would be breathtaking. He always painted on the envelope. It was either a beautiful landscape or a sunset scene. Painted in glorious watercolours, I’d treasure the envelope as much as the letter. I’d jump around with joy then retreat to a corner to finally open and read a letter that my grandfather wrote only to me. The letter would be about two pages long but even the letter had a watercolour painted at the bottom in strokes that (I’d realise later of course) only a fine artist could have painted. The letter contained words of wisdom and little bits of humour. But the letters meant a whole different world to me. They brought with them a sense of importance - they were addressed to me and me alone – not even a note for my mother. For a person who was a freedom fighter, who gave up salt and sugar during the two wars and who wore only khadi, not to utilise the envelope for a dual purpose must have been a very heroic thing to do. But then he was my hero! Secondly the letters came painted, in colours, in words, in emotion. They brought with them unconditional love and the belief that as a unique individual that I was, I deserved that letter and it was only for me. The letter reinforced my belief in myself as an individual and my belief in me.
As I grew into a teenager, moved cities, I continued writing letters, to friends, even classmates when I was ill and recuperating at home, to my aunts and uncles, cousins, girlfriends and yes, boyfriends. Till life took over and the only writing you did was work related and you did not have time. And then the internet came in and one marvelled at these in-a-snap kind of mails, bulletin boards and the instant emails and now of course, it’s the age of the Instant Messenger and Skype.
And yet, something in you yearns for something small and colourful in your hand that tells you that someone took time out for you, someone made a trip to the post office and someone brought it to your doorstep, to tell you, Hey, you are still an individual and here is the physical proof.
Each post crossing card that I get evokes in me that joy, that sense of wonder. I ‘m just beginning, am 9 post cards old – but suddenly Finland and Estonia are part of my world, Germany and the US are part of every day and I already have a post crossing pen pal in Texas! Like millions of others in the world, I’m addicted.
Welcome to

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ever been a fool?

Remember the time? You had your first crush? And you thought this was forever?
And you bent backwards for that person, whoever he or she was. And you did everything there was to do to make it last? And yet, that person walked away? Without so much as turning back to see you weep your heart out? And you felt like… like a fool?
Remember the time? You had an exam or an important presentation?
And you thought you had it all pat? And there was lots of time to do whatever was left of it? Till the night before you struggled bleary-eyed to complete page after page, and with a sinking heart and sweaty palms and you realised you had been… a fool?
And remember the time you were out celebrating?
And the celebration got a bit too, well, celebratory. And you had one too many. And then you had two too many. And soon you had so many you could not even count. And then you had so many you could not even remember. And you had to trust your friends to tell you what happened the rest of the evening. And you felt miserable the next morning. And holding your head in your hands you kept wondering what you were thinking the night before. And you were so sure this time… you had been a fool!
Happy Fools' Day.
The First of April. A day that has immense significance in the lives of people like us. Because somewhere or the other, sometime or the other, we’ve all been fools. We’ve done foolish things. We’ve talked foolishly. We’ve looked like fools. Acted like fools. And finally… felt like fools. And we’ve kicked ourselves for it. But take heart. Acknowledge this: there is one day in the day designated for fools! Like a day for mothers and fathers, for cancer, aid, smoking, diabetes, friendship and what have you. So being a fool is just as important.
In all of Shakespeare’s plays, the character known as the Fool, often said the wisest things. With extraordinary wit and contradictory statements, the Fool displayed plain truth in the face of confusion. Feste in Twelfth Night, Touchstone in As You Like It, and the Fool in King Lear all make sense once you see through their nonsense. In the Fool’s insanity lay seeds of sanity.
In the Major Arcana of Tarot cards, an important card to show up in reading is once again The Fool. In fact, some interpreters consider this card to be the central card to the whole deck. And the whole of the Major Arcana represents The Fool’s journey, ending with The World, which is about successful completion, accomplishment and fulfilment.
Some say The Fool represents ‘The Zen of Folly’. I couldn’t agree more.
Look at the picture of The Fool. With his possessions in a small bundle at the end of a stick, the fool travels to places unknown. But he is so busy with daydreaming, he may just fall over the cliff. A small dog is either warning him or jaunting along with him. The card of infinite possibilities, The Fool represents a free spirit with a lust for life, knowledge, and adventure, who has little fear of taking risks.
All of it, to my mind, positive. All of it telling you and me, it’s ok to be a fool.
So give in to foolishness.
Play the fool.
Be the fool.
Bring back that childlike innocence.
Be naïve. Be trusting. Be daring.
Take the plunge. Take that leap of faith.
Because at the end of all that shaking head in disbelief, forehead-slapping, foot-stamping, punching the air in frustration and kicking yourself, dawns infinite learning and wisdom. And you tell yourself, you will be more careful, more prepared, more sensible in the future or at least more prepared for the consequences of your foolishness. And you find yourself new ways of being a fool all over again. And sure enough, next year, the first of April will come again to honour all the wisdom you have acquired in the past year.
Happy Fools’ Day. Again.