Sunday, June 14, 2020

A whiff of Jasmine

A whiff of jasmine
I am five again.
Trotting beside my father.
The village temple
The warm granite courtyard
Pillars black with lamp soot.
A blast of cold air
Laden with scents-
Lamp oil
Tulsi leaves
And jasmine.
Always jasmine.
I inhale deep.
Jasmine. A thick garland
In life my father was austere
In death, covered with flowers.
Jasmine, rose, tuberose
A chain of tulsi leaves.
Nothing registers
Except the smell of jasmine.
He slides into the furnace.
The doors slam shut.
He is gone.

I am left with jasmine.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


That thing you are taught to conquer. To deny.
The only thing you have to fear is fear itself you remind yourself when you face yet another situation you cannot control. You learn to manage the fear.
You make decision trees, you assess the risks, you assign weightages, and you tell yourself that even the worst isn’t as bad as the fear you have. You pat yourself on the head. You think you have conquered fear.
And yet, there days when you wake up at night, petrified for no reason. You are engulfed in fear, but you have no idea of what. Your normal strategies don’t work. You are paralysed. And you do not know why. This is primal fear.
You try hard not to think about it. It eventually fades away like a shadow does when the candle flickers out. And yet, you know the fear exists. And you know it will come back when you least expect it to.
And then Carrie Fisher comes along. “Stay afraid but do it anyway”, she says. That beautiful, flawed lady. The woman so different from the character she plays, yet so intrinsically linked to it. She tells you that your entire life was a myth. That you should be afraid.
Water terrifies me. It has since the time I nearly drowned when I was 7. Nobody ever spoke about the incident; most people I am sure forgot about it. But I never did. Even after I forced myself to learn to swim, I could never let myself go underwater. That moment of weightlessness when I dived wouldn’t last long. I’d come spluttering the surface. To safety.
I knew I had to go scuba diving. I had to tell my fear I was stronger than it was. The practice sessions were hard. Even though I knew very little could go wrong, I just couldn’t stay underwater.
Fear. My old friend refused to leave.
But Carrie Fisher was more persuasive. “Stay afraid but do it anyway”, whispered.
“Breathe continuously and never hold your breath.” The Golden Rule.
Breathe in and breathe out. Twelve meters down. Caught in school of fish rushing out of class at the ringing of a bell.
Breathe in and breathe out. That’s a pretty fish. Should we follow it home?
Breathe in and breathe out. Check the tank. Has it really been 30 minutes? Where did fear go?
You pause awhile at 3 meters. Breathe in and breathe out.
Then break out onto the surface. You cannot control your smile. That fear that ruled your life for 40 years is no more.
Yes, be afraid, but do it anyway. It is worth it.
You still fear fear. You know it may be back anytime. You know that all the knowledge and intellect cannot save you from fear. Yet you also know that fear need not stop you from doing anything.
You can be afraid and do it anyway.


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