Friday, February 27, 2015

Know Your Surroundings: Carry Yourself Back Home

We forget to see things that are close by. Taking a vacation elsewhere, after a supposedly hectic year or so, we go to places far away from our own dwellings that have become less exciting due to over familiarity and nearness. As we land upon the new place, we start thinking how exciting these places are; look at the hills, look at the greenery, look at the apples and berries hanging from the trees, look at those villagers, how good they are, apparently they lead a very casual and carefree life. Look at the man riding a cycle and leading a herd of cattle to the grazing fields, look at that bunch of kids going to school along the dusty rural path, they all seem to be coming down directly from the heavens, their mirth has an extra cheer in it; look at those women carrying those heavy bundles of twigs on their heads, look at those young lasses balancing those pots full of water on their head and ambling along while chatting so many things. This place must be a heaven. At the other end of the road, after that right curve is our hotel; is it a four star or a five star one? Shhh...It is just a cottage? Why, didn’t you search the net for a better accommodation? Hey children, behave and take all your small baggage. Did you see those poor old men sitting around that boiler, drinking tea and smoking cheroots, how romantic, isn’t it? That’s what we generally fee when we are away from our homes and are on a vacation.

Don’t you think that all those are just illusions? The places that we visit during our vacations, whether they are in the tourist map or not, they are normal places with normal people living there. In fact, if you see it in the right perspective, there is no difference between our lives and their lives. We are troubled by so many issues that are closer to our lives. They are troubled by so many issues that are closer to their lives. The man who is riding is a cycle and leading his cattle to the grazing field is not an image from a picture postcard. He is doing a job as good as a sales executive rushing to the clients by his bike on a traffic ridden city road. The children who are treading on the dirty path do that because they do not have a better road a better school in their vicinity. Otherwise they too would have gone to schools by vans and buses; they too would have worn uniforms. If those women do not collect twigs and dried branches from the nearby woods they will not be able to heat and cook their food. The village beauties who look beautiful with their water pots walk miles to collect water because they do not have running potable water in their homes. We worry for our gas meter going down, we worry about our overhead tanks remaining dry. They worry about their choolahs and their dry buckets back at home. It is the same life everywhere different in complexion and dimension. Fundamentally they are one and the same. The only difference is in the landscape. We find the landscapes beautiful out there because urbanization has not reached there yet. We have something to contrast; we have our primordial instinct of living in forests, completely naked. Hence our inner core still bends towards nature.

Isn’t it possible to see the same beauty in our own vicinities, on a daily basis? I am not against vacationing and tourism. They are also enriching in different levels. But as we know that we cannot go for vacation every other day why can’t we make our daily lives into daily vacations? It all depends on the perspective. Once you come out of home, if you are not directly getting into a car parked at the front parking lot, you get a chance to see the pathway just outside your home. Generally we do not see this road, we see the road only the way our car sees it. We do not see our neighbourhood because we see our neighbourhood only as much as the hood of the car allows us. We have stopped looking around. We complain that the cities have become concrete jungles and we no longer listen to any birds’ chirpings. But is that true? Have you ever tried to listen to the birds’ chirpings? They do chirp in cities too. Listen carefully, you would see, vying against the honking of the vehicles, whistles of the pressure cookers, calling out of the vegetable man, the innumerable musical streaks played into the ears through headphones, you see the small little chirpings of the birds. And if you listen carefully you will hear. We have forgotten the forests, but they have not, they still carry a forest in their blood, in their wings there is still freedom written in large but invisible letters. We have forgotten the golden rules of survival, but they still polish those alphabets of freedom every night with the dust of their dreams.

 We complain that the cities are too hot or too cold. We say the air in the city is too polluted. We say we cannot see a sunrise. But again it is the question of perspective. The cities are hot or cold, true, depending on the climatic conditions of the region. But when it is cold we try to run away from it, and when it is hot we run away from it. We run away from cold by getting inside warm clothes and we run away from heat by getting into the air conditioned rooms and cars. And ironically and paradoxically we go for vacations where it is mildly hot or mildly cold. Have we ever tried to understand cold or heat in their own terms? Have we ever thought how people in the hot regions and cold regions manage themselves without complaining? We do not do because we want to escape. Tourism promotes escapism. Vacationing is a sort of escape and the tourism logos say that you should ‘escape’ to heaven. That means none of us want to face reality and we complain that we do not have any palpable reality left. Look around and see, a few old men sitting around a samovar, drinking tea and smoking beeris. It is seen in urban spaces and rural areas. Why we get excited by this scene when we are in a rural area and completely avoid looking at them when they are in our neighbourhood, just around the corner? Why we call the urban poor who carry water from a distant tap and go to their homes in shanties as the bane of urban reality?

It is the question of perspective. To tell you the truth, whatever you see during a vacation is right here under your nose. You go to a public park near your home, early in the morning, walk for a few rounds, relax on one of the park benches, sit there and concentrate on things around in a very leisurely way. Do not say that the park near your home is small or dirty. Do not say park near the posh areas of the city are more beautiful than the ones in your vicinity. The problem lies in comparison. If you do not know a better one, you will be happy with what you have. So avoid seeking the better ones and feel miserable. Saying that does not mean that one should not aspire for a better life and should be happy with whatever one has. That is not the idea discussed here. You sit on a park bench and look around. You see a lot of new things. The trees and shrubs look different from that position. The undulating lawns look so different from the way they are seen from the walkways around the park. You see a different park when you sit there. You see different trees, different plants and different flowers. Close your eyes and listen. You see hundreds of different noises produced by invisible birds sit hiding behind the leaves. Open your eyes and train your nose. You will experience a fragrance that you have never felt before. See the eastern sky, and see a rising sun. You feel so good. Then you once again close your eyes. Listening to your breathing sound. Do not attempt pranayama or yoga. Just be there and be aware of your breathing and your own core. Just look at yourself with a pair of fresh inner eyes; not the way you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror or in the selfie cameras. You are there. You find yourself. You smile at him/her. And carry him/her back home with you.  


Shakthi Prasad said...

Awesome johny. It rejuvenated me....

S.K.Sahni said...

What a beautiful comment on our city life and how we should react to our surroundings with deeper understanding. It has provided me another perspective to look at urban and rural life.
Enjoyed going through it.