Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Forever Young: And I'm Not Kidding

Dear M,
              I probably pondered more than was necessary to write this letter- the second one I've written in earnest and far too delayed. When first I wrote, and that was the last one, you’d turned just nine! Now you are almost ten and a half and it’s taken me that long to jot down these lines this smog filled day late in the noon.
I have wondered on about the hesitation I’ve felt and its pretty clear that it boils down to my sense of guilt.

Its not the guilt of bitterness but rather it’s the guilt of sadness that comes from knowing we could have been spending time together right now. The fact that all the time that passes by will have become a thing of the past that can no longer be retrieved.
The world is fine M, and as has been the wont, the problem has been the people. It always is and that is perhaps what's endearing about our species. We are such stuff as dreams are made of is what a famous bard once wrote. Another observed a well-known human trait in that we pint for what is not.
I guess I’m feeling the wants and pangs of that pint and the speed with which time literally takes off and flies has been bothersome on some days and frustrating at others. But then that is what time does and has been doing so for ages. I guess the bare truth is that our own lives fly by so quickly the only thing we can use to measure that passage is time itself, or the sight of the elderly becoming frail and the young maturing into adulthood. All we can do is see, hear and pay our respects to the passage and circle of life as Mufasa does with Simba. 

Dear M, I’m right now in a town called Phuentsholing, the Gateway to Bhutan. 
It borders the Indian State of West Bengal. 
This is where the well-known and majestic Royal Bengal Tigers live. This is their predominant domain, and from here they have been known to make territorial journeys that stretches up to the highlands of Bhutan.

Your natural fondness and love for animals keeps me attuned to whatever creatures I see. When we met last for Christmas, another Christmas has gone by but really, the stuff you know about animals and their habitats and the like, to say the least, was impressive and touching. I was as fascinated when I was little but mine was born more out of natural curiosity unlike the loving manner in which you do. Now I always keep an eye out for them, I guess its another way of sharing, giving and remembering. And your love of drawing, sketching and painting has made me more aware of art, besides Mr Bean, CN, Legos, movies and the songs and conversations amongst so many others.

The spot where I’m sheltered in right now used to be a shack that used to brew fine barley wine served in warm bamboo jugs sipped through bamboo pipes. I had a mate who used to live here and we’d cross the stream to get here from our school on the other banks of that stream. It was easy enough wading through the water as the place is tropical and pleasant in the winters, hot and humid in the summer and refreshingly cool in the monsoon- the rainy season that can go on pouring for upto three months or more in a row. It remains one of my favorite seasons along with the many memories it tends to shower. There is nothing quite like going to bed with that rainfall hitting the tin-sheeted roof. It is one of the most beautiful melodies one can ever ask from the rain.

(Shit M! There’s an appointment I forgot about! I’ll be back to continue this later.)

It’s dark now dear M and I’m back where I’d been, sitting on a chair writing what I hope will make some sense and ease off some of the mind's clatter and the weight of the heart. Night has come along and the daylight train of thought has gone somewhat muddled but not the trail of consciousness that prompted me to write this down in the first place. The footprints are all too visible. I guess what I’m really trying to get through is the fact that life isn’t ideal and so many of us have to deal with realities we never expected or anticipated. When we do find ourselves in such scenarios there is a sense of loss, fear and hopelessness because we feel we could have done better. The irony is that when our wishes and desires for whatever is ideal surrounds us we are wont to become deaf, dumb and blind! And the cycle repeats itself because not being satisfied with the way things are becomes our very suffering and bondage.
I was suffering from such thoughts. And guilt does not help because it functions on the notion that somebody did something wrong. I was beginning to see myself as a failure for not being there with you in person. It’s not a pleasant scene. It’s wrought with doubts and questions with no answers because there really is none. 
Still waters run deep they say but what they don’t is that still waters can also stagnate and breed diseases that sickens a person.

I was in a limbo and saw no way out of that predicament.
The silver lining has been one of knowing that you are there, that although we live separated in relative time and physical space we’re really never far apart. The suffering we experience becomes our salvation, which is also very relative as our present predicament is just that, a temporary inconvenience which would be welcomed by millions who live totally estranged and in some situations, where fathers and sons live out lives never knowing their biological bond and spiritual connection. Its not to make comparisons but to realize that everything is subjective as well as relative. There is no perfection. A lion hunts down an antelope or a zebra when its hungry and not because its fun to do so. When he has fed enough he hunts no more. The animal world is the best illustration to see that whatever is termed good or bad comes from our own projection.

This confession of sorts was obviously triggered by my need and will to let you know how I’ve felt, in the hope that someday somehow it might play a role and hopefully, a beneficial one. It was also prompted because of where I happen to be at the moment.

I grew up in this town. It used to be a village. I always thought of it as my hometown and still do. When I learnt that I was actually born in the easternmost part of the country called Trashigang, I was disappointed! It affected me because Phuentsholing held all my childhood memories and I was under the impression it was my birth place. The place is smaller than Zeist and a neighborhood compared to Amsterdam. But when you are a little kid the world is immensely huge! And Phuentsholing, or PeeLing as I’ve dubbed it, was big! 
It had lesser houses, buildings and shops and cars when I was growing up. The word quaint comes to mind, together with howling jackals, cowbells, and chickens running amok yet providing an air of tranquility! The forests above the colony (yes; it used to be called a colony cos’ those days folks who’d been schooled mostly used to work for the government. Memay Sherab, my father and your grandfather was sort of the boss in this colony. He was a trained Wireless Man as they were called in what was the Department of Wireless- isn’t there a hint of irony that in the absence of technology and all the gadgets we use today, they had a Department of Wireless?).
Today that department has evolved. It’s now called the Ministry of Information and Communication and here’s another kicker- I’m pretty much in the same sector being part of the media that’s rapidly growing. But I never forget the people responsible for forging what that wireless department has become.

Now back to the future. Being a kid- a boy is perhaps one of the most intriguing and wonderful aspects of life- a pleasant phase of wondrous enchantment. Naturally the circumstances will differ from person to person but there is no denying the everyday magic that comes from discovery every single day and its moments. The world is your playground and everything in it is a toy. The fantasies you dream about are real. The way you see and view the world is non-judgmental and devoid of any impurity. Its more than paradoxical and ironic that the more you grow up, the lesser you become of the child within and the gradual but subtle reminders of how you should behave becomes an iron ball so firmly chained it restricts and refrains people, along with their natural curiosity and youthful innocence that is either dying, or dead and buried in the dark dungeons of the subconscious mind.

The submerged vault is where our childhood lies, locked and forgotten with remnants surfacing occasionally to be brushed aside because it’s deemed childish. And what’s termed childish is as good as being foolish. So we go about acting all grown up pushing what’s best in our inner self-deep within. When a person opens his heart and really talks about his time, its not uncommon to hear “when I was a kid” or “when I was growing up” with a lost look of lingering fondness and wry hindsight or a broad smile and a naughty grin. Even those who have had difficult childhood memories take solace and refuge in what was best about the phase, and learn what it means to be a kid.

The slippery drains I used to slide in; the watering pool called the Elephant’s Rock I used to swim in and the streams and rivers where I used to fish and swim about come alive in flashback mode when I spot kids swimming or just a river, a stream, a fisherman and the like. I dropped by the colony. The little cottage with the giant mango tree right in front of the porch is gone, along with the cottage where I lived with Memay Sherab and Angay Deki and your uncles and aunts. The tall graceful betel nut trees I used to climb stands no more. The jackals have left, along with the deer and other animals that used to frequent the woods above the colony. I like to think they have moved onto better environs. The time spent with my siblings during the traditional winter vacations is still a beautiful memory that comes in various shades of warm nostalgia.

The memories put me in a melancholic mood of longing for what was a time of carefree existence. That is fine because a heart that yearns and cries is a heart that beats and lives. We are all human and expressing such longings is not to say that growing older is a miserable state of being. Far from it, growing up gives one the luxury of experience and redemptive hindsight that reveals the magic and the miracle of being a little kid. It also heals open wounds. The child is the father of man but being one that recognizes, remembers and values the delightful state of childishness is perhaps the better person and father.
Today, I understand my father better because I’m a father. As I’d gotten older and stubbornly troublesome, he’d say, “one day you’ll have kids and then you’ll know.”
I don't presume to know in what vein he meant it but I like to think it was done to instill a sense of being and responsibility that does not take things for granted.
He let me be a boy when I was one, just as he let me be a young man when I became one. He also let me become a man when the time arrived. Most of all, I love and remember him for being who he was- a father who gave his son the freedom to be, and counsel when it was timely, and a person who lived by the principles he taught and imparted those principles to us when the time was right.

Being him-self without a fuss and wearing his skin, as naturally, was the way he was. Because his needs were minimal, he lived a life of simplicity. Because his faith in his belief and his belief in his faith was unshakeable, he was rooted. Because he accepted and learnt from his errors and escapades, he was humane, humble and strong. And because he realized the simplicity of life, he was childlike. That sense of the child-like mind made him and kept him alive; a lust for life that tends to fade in most folks.
You see M; I’m beginning to understand who he was beyond and besides being a father. I’m learning to see the kind of man he was and in doing that, I feel I’m beginning to understand and know who he was than I ever did.

My wish is that someday you will also understand and get to know why I am the way I am and see that life is made of such stuff as dreams are made of and even with our intrinsic karmic bonds, we must make our own individual journeys to feel, experience and understand what it is all about.
Yours has begun, embrace and enjoy it. When the inevitable strikes of bittersweet pendulums come swinging, you will understand one quintessential truth about everything whether it’s good, bad or ugly- that all things must pass. 
Today I see you and your cousins and the story continues; the circle of life continues.

The dawn twilights and I must get some sleep! The birds are beginning to chirp and there’s a lonesome pony that struts the empty streets like he was the most majestic steed there ever was! 
That’s a story I must tell you, along with the crocs from one of my boyhood jaunts.

I promise to write again, and will try to keep the tone as light as I possibly can!
With all my loving,

PS: YourLustForLifeStartsRightNow!

(^) Indigo & The Sundance Kid > http://iamdrukpa.blogspot.com/

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