Whenever I find myself caught in tumultuous thoughts, I come home. This is not to escape, but to reaffirm my faith in my choices, to reaffirm stability and equanimity, a certain objectivity that home epitomizes for me.
By home I do not just mean the people who make a house your home, but I also mean the space itself. When I walk on the terrace at night, I regain my perspective, I imagine my role, I rethink plans and visions for future, I strategize, this space bolsters my hope and never fails to make me dream again.
But beyond this micro existence lies the society which shaped me, which gave me the layers which make the person I am, which pushed me in a certain direction while retaining the roots. The city itself, the places, the socio-economic structure, the hierarchies, the culture, the food, the bazaars, the schools, the Gurudwara, the Gardens, they are all a part of me, or perhaps I am a part of them.
And within this space I met my mentor today, elder brother who traveled to meet me here. Not until he left, did I realize the magnanimity of the universe. To hear wise words, to be spoken to with genuine concern in the place of your birth, at a time, when you are questioning and rethinking your purpose, is nothing short of being significant and not a mere coincidence.
While my conversation with my mentor requires my sincere reflection than to simply write here, I do share the fact that he mentioned how privileged we are. And this is what I do realize and reflect upon in this post.
While going back home in a cycle-rickshaw, as if it were planned, I got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour. I have rarely ever been stuck in a traffic jam in my city before. In fact earlier there would hardly be enough traffic for a jam. But now that I was, I was glad it was in a rickshaw. Because a rickshaw lets you be in an open space, it lets you interact with those around.
From the rickshaw I abused at men who made lecherous sounds and gestures, took off my sandals to scare two disgusting men and showed my middle finger to a crazy teenage boy. This is my usual impression of my city and a reason why I have hardly ever made enough effort to be at one with the place. But once in the jam people do not misbehave with women as much. So I had the opportunity to gauge more than the usual.
First of all I was nudged by something, something soft. I turned and saw, it was a horse. The horse was pulling a cart. It was certainly tired, and I have never before been so close to one, but I felt its eyes betrayed fatigue.
It kept looking at me, or maybe I kept looking at it. I recalled I had a packet of Parle G which I gave to the one manning the cart and the horse. He said he would make it eat once they stop somewhere. He felt encouraged to speak to me, he felt the courage to break his societal barrier, and told me that the horse is called “Raja”, what an irony I felt, to be tied and tethered, to be forced to carry such heavy loads, to move in between violent cars and trucks, to be stuck in a jam with so much pollution, and yet be called a King, what irony. I have always been fascinated with horses, because for me they symbolize freedom and wind, I admire people who can run, and run real fast. But this Raja seemed so sad and yet so intriguing. Its face was beautiful, its eyes were soft, it had beautiful sturdy legs, I wanted to touch it, to pat it softly, to tell that I am truly sorry for the selfishness of my species, that I know we have all wronged him in more ways than we are aware of, and that I promise to do something about this, that I promise to first understand what could be done, and to do what is required. As if it too wanted that proximity, after a few minutes his face was right next to mine, the slave-King. I wondered if he was peaceful, or was he too inured with years of forced service. The man informed me as if he could read my mind, he said this horse is very peaceful, I think he meant obedient…obedience does not signify inner peace, it camouflages a sad defeat many a times.
I asked myself, when I have always loved animals so much, when I feel so close to them, why don’t i do something about it. Why don’t I serve them? Why don’t i work related to them? Why don’t I push beyond my current cushioned surroundings to really make a change? I only serve dogs, what about the others?- GOAL 1 Figure out and do something about this.
A boy walked past, while I sat in the rickshaw waiting for the traffic to move. This boy faced trouble in walking, yet he was persistent and quietly walked on his path, soon I lost sight of him. For a person with a purpose and a goal, figures out a path and moves, does not stop. At times I allow small insignificant ailments to be magnified and create impediments, because, I have the privilege to do so. I know I can say I am not feeling well, there are people out there, who do not have the liberty to give so much importance to bodily discomfort.
I thought of the man I had seen in the morning at the bus stop. He was suffering from disability due to polio, and had difficulty walking. he kept trying to get up on the bus, he did not give up until he got in. There was a queue behind him, people expressing their irritability, he did not give up; there were some people ridiculously mocking at him, he did not give up.
Goal 2- To not give up on anything I start, no matter what happens. To not be so easily deterred. To learn to manage all tasks, to learn to shuffle, to challenge myself so much that my obstructions seem trivial and vain to me.
I realized I was right behind the two men who had been rudely staring at me and I had wanted to thrash them a few moments ago. Keeping aside that particular instance, I watched them. They are probably working as laborers considering the material and tools they were carrying. I wonder how much they earn in a day, what have they eaten since morning, how have they grown up, what have they understood about gender. What if I was not born in my family and was born on the streets without shelter? What if I was married to a man who treated women as these two do? I have the privilege of shelter, of luxury, of safety. I have the privilege of availing choice, of choosing company, of voicing opinions, of writing. How do I utilize it? I should make use of this safety to ensure safety for others. At times I see my own relatives misbehaving with their wives, or wives misbehaving with their husbands, and I stay quiet, because I am uncertain of how to voice my opinion. I should not stay quiet, I have to convey to others when they are causing harm to someone else, even if they do so in a subtle manner. How do I use art, design, theatre to do so?
Why have I still not taken forward the production I had planned? – Goal 3 Get that play done!
This jam also reminded me of the initiative I had only begun on recreating awareness and nostalgia around Meerut, my city. I had started with some art work and wanted to have an entire oral history documentation project around the same, but somewhere I got lazy about it and let it evaporate. I should continue with those small teasers to keep the thought alive until I have the resources to carry out the plan. – Goal 4
All around me were people with a purpose, the vegetable vendor, the driver, the man going back from office, not everyone is living dreams, not everyone has had the privilege to realize those or even dream in the first place, I do. I dream, and I have had a backing to realize those dreams, I have had friends, relatives, mentors, teachers who guide me, support me, back me and I still complain. I have had the privilege to enjoy art, could I have done so if I were that young boy pushing that cart with fruits? Or that cobbler waiting for work? What if I were born to a strict, rigid father? What if I were that horse?
I am none of those, I have resources, I have my bodily faculty, I have a mind and an intent, and I am still not producing enough, I am not challenging myself enough, I am not yet being what i want to be, but I can be, and I should be and I will be working towards it. This is a promise to the universe which has given me so much, which reminds me time and again that out there somewhere someone is watching and guiding me. Let me not lose courage now, let me not lose direction, let me not deviate from my purpose of contributing to others’ lives.
I saw an elderly gentleman, standing by putting his weight on his stick. He was wearing a headgear that seemed old and woollen, beautiful cheques. He seemed to be waiting for someone, but he did not seem hassled or tired or fatigued, he seemed hopeful, courageous. When I smiled at him, he smiled back. You are never alone in this universe, you always have company, you just need to acknowledge that company, at times that company could be you, could be the moon, the stars watching over you from a distance, or the horse resting his face next to yours. And we all have a right to enjoy this distant company as much as it is our duty to not undermine ours. The company of my own self, my thoughts, my queries is not to be ignored. How do I help young children to develop that faith in themselves? To find that company? – Goal 5
This feeling is the very feeling that I got when I first visited kathputli Colony in Delhi. I got courage, hope, determination and purpose. Since then I have been extremely lucky to come across people ready to help, ready to work for a cause bigger than all of us, for the sake of art and artists, but i have allowed myself to fall below my expectations, to perform less, to be inhibitive in a more rigorous approach, to not be fervent about what I want.
Goal 6- To get back my zeal, to not let my purpose lose its vigor.
When I reached home, I wanted to write it all down immediately, there is so much to learn from everything around us, so many stories, so much to tell, so much to share, so much to write about. A writer, thats what I dreamt of becoming when I was a child, that i would write and write and write, and never stop. I had never thought of books or blogs, I just knew that i have to write in any which way, but i don’t. I allow that dream to be a naive fantasy than work towards it, to delve in it, to allow it to overpower and allow myself to flow in it.
Goal 7- To get back to writing, as I earlier did, to enjoy the process again.
My thought brigade also reminded me of a promise I had made to my cousin brother, of a design requirement of his. I realized that even though I suggested those changes to him and he asked em to go ahead, I did not do it. I kept delaying it when compared to other work, that I’ll do it when I have more time, there is never less time. These days he checks on me every day, ensures that I am fine, despite the fact that he has more work on him than I will ever do, yet he has time for me. I will not waste time in feeling guilt, I will finish that task before this month ends. – Goal 8
When I saw my mentor leave, i was momentarily overwhelmed. And then I thought of everyone who has taught me, spoken to me and spent time with me in this city. My grandmothers, my aunts, my uncles, my teachers, my friends, our driver, our house-help, shopkeepers and of course my parents, my brother, my dogs. Distance and time do not reduce the power people leave you with, may that power never dissipate, may it always encourage and be utilized to serve, and serve well…