“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Carpet of Happiness

My recent posts on the incident at Sabarimalai were a deviation from my mainstream posts. Like my son said,- ‘ Your posts give a good feeling, Acha, either a pleasant sense of well being or a little sorrow tinged reflection, but altogether a kind of antiseptic thing’. But then, Sabarimalai took me off on a tangent, to the return of the old self of till a decade ago, the ‘angry young man’ Balan. Many have gone through the several posts on Sabarimalai, hurling brickbats and bouquets at me. Veiled threats even from ‘friends’.

I cannot lie. I cannot say that I am not apprehensive of the unseen, the unknown. I cannot say I face the future bravely. On the contrary, as I age, as I see misfortunes tumble down on me and those I know, as I scour the obituary columns and pause before a familiar name or face, I am ever more conscious of the fickleness of life; not fear, but a kind of weariness weighs down my heart. There is a helplessness that cannot be mitigated by faith and accept whatever fate has in store for me.

Once in a while, I go to certain temples; not Sabarimalai or Guruvayoor or such shrines where the crowds throng. In Trivandrum, the temple I go to once in a while is the Kanthaloor Mahadevar temple at Valiachalai. The temple compound is quite large. Here and there are huge trees with high and wide canopy. At dusk, you will not find a crowd craning their necks for a ‘darshan’, but only a handful. I walk around in the semi-darkness and then sit beneath a tree, absolutely at peace. I would not call it a ‘spiritual’ experience, for the reason that I do not know what it is to be spiritual. But I feel good. And calm. There is a sense of relief, a lightness of being. Even as a child, I could not comprehend the devotees beseeching and demanding things from the deity; one of the few Sanskrit phrases I knew and said to the Gods is – ‘Lokah Samastaa Sukhino Bhavanthu’ – May all the world prosper.

While I was in Kottayam a few years ago, I became interested in temple murals. I traveled to many temples in Kerala, marveling at the murals and carvings. I read a lot about it, I wrote about it – I believe that indirectly due to my article in a mainstream magazine, the murals of the Manganam temple near Kottayam is now under the protection of Archeological Survey of India. In the temples of Kerala, in the hands of the artisans who created it, I sense the submission, the surrender, and the humility of the man who recognizes his place in the scheme of things; insignificant, but undeniable place, as he appears and disappears in the brief surge through the tides of life.

In my travels, solitary mostly, in the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and elsewhere where nature’s splendours are revealed in all its magnificence, I have felt the loss of my ego, the awareness of oneself as separate from the rest and have blended into the surroundings, aware at the same time the oneness with it all; a sense of elation, of indescribable bliss – standing before Kailas peak, I remember my fellow traveler, Dr Ramachandra shouting – ‘I want to die now!’. At Tunganath, pouring ice cold water over the idol, repeating the mantras murmured by the Pandit, and caressing the carved stone, I have cried – not with happiness or sorrow, but with the thought of having touched something that has been touched by thousands before me and will be, by thousands after me and that sense of connectedness was overwhelming and I cried at the revelation of myself as a humble link in humanity. In the high altitudes of Ladakh, as searing cold winds hit me and beholding the vastness of earth in its great panorama, I have lost the duality in me.

In the songs of Kabir, in the flute of Hariprasad Chaurasiya, in the Chenda of Mattannoor Sankarankutty, at the feet of Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, in the beats of Ustad Alla Rakha, in the voice of Prahlad Tipanya or Shubha Mudgal or Hemant da – Why, I could string them all together and weave you a carpet of happiness!

These are my visions of God. Why should I need any more Gods? I have not sinned against my conscience; if by chance, I did, I ask forgiveness from myself. I do not have to thank a particular entity for the pleasures in life; I thank them, each and everything, a dog, a bird, a tree, a rock, a child. I do not ask for courage, because I know if I cannot draw it from myself, I will not get it from anywhere.

Sometime ago, rummaging through an old trunk, I come across an old diary of my father- circa 1968. In the first page he has written this quote, a piece of verse in Malayalam:

‘Mana-samadhanam-enikku nalka

dinam prathi preethi-purassarom Nee.

Dhanam nassichalum enik-athennum

Kanattha mithram-ee -kkadujeevithathil.

Give me peace of mind, O lord, every day, if it pleases you, it ( Mana – samadhanam) will sustain me through this tough life, even if I lose all my wealth.

Future is not dark or fearful to me. Pain, there is bound to be, but also great joy. There is a mental readiness to face life with equanimity. At this moment, there is a great sense of freedom as I divest myself of the shrouds of Gods that create rifts among men; religions that segregate people; of regions that divide people; of faiths that darken my soul; of beliefs that impair my vision. I am not arrogant, therefore I need not bow further, except to the elements, to nature, for giving so much without asking. I do not need the crutches of Godmen or Godwomen; I do not need the backing of philosophers. I walk with them by their side; I look them right in the eye, because I can see.

*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 24.01.2011


  1. Why do I feel as if I have known you since a kid?

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  3. Balan, the last sentence, "looking in the eye...." .
    being able to do that tells that there is no false hood.
    To not proclaim one is not wise, not a hypocrite and is impeccable, is the the biggest hypocrisy.
    You cannot get more candid than this.

  4. @Bindu: :). That's a beautiful compliment, B!

  5. I know you said, that I am welcome here anytime to comment. So I am here again.

    I have no words to describe how bad I feel about the heated war of words. I guess "I am also the angry young woman". I subdue it most of the times because I realize that there is no point in getting angry. But at times, you lose control. I have learnt to be at peace with myself and my surroundings too. You said, you chided me like a child, the other day. Now let me say something from a heart of a child. "I am truly sorry if I hurt you in anyway."

    I have made a promise to myself that I shall keep my faith and my comments to myself from now on. :)

    I never claimed that I have a lot of wisdom, but I have gone through a lot in life. I guess, its faith that got me through a lot of it.

    Please do visit my blog, if you get the time. Maybe guidance from wiser people, will help me move ahead in life in the right direction.

    I don't know about you, but I am really glad that our paths crossed.

  6. @Jyothi: No need to apologize, Jyothi. I never felt hurt or angry during our discussion. I was a bit frustrated in the beginning. You'd remember that yours was the first comment. I was then still incensed about the Makara Vilakku issue - sometimes the impotency, the inability to react, turns one to bitter and violent moods. Honest, I was never cross with you for your comments.

    You would have noticed that in the last couple of posts ; 'Who is your God' and in this one, I have tried to understand myself, to get a clear and candid view of myself. And I have, I think. The declarations have given me a sense of peace that is very rare to get. The freedom from fear, from unnecessary crutches is an exhilarating sensation. Thanks to the Makara Vilakku incident. ( You wouldn't know,but I had given a lot of time and thought to that issue prior to the incident. In fact, the morning I read the newspaper - I was in Nelliyampathy at that time - I had just talked to a friend about the hoax and how damaging it is to the environment. I was shocked then to see the news!

    I would like you to re-read the last paragraph. That is the best I could express. That is the way I want life to be; and I know, that will be the way for me. It is like throwing open all the windows and doors of a house and letting light and air in.

    Being contrite for something one did is not an easy thing to do; only very few can do it. One needs a lot of courage and conviction to acknowledge a mistake. You have nothing to be ashamed about.


  7. You write of many things Balan, and I read the tenderness within your words, the sadness of things that no one can control but above all, the wisdom that has taken a seat within you and everything you say and do...

  8. Everything is material for the seed of happiness, if you look into it with inquisitiveness and curiosity. The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment. There always is the potential to create an environment of blame ... or one that is conducive to loving kindness.

    I think you can always tell how confident a person is about himself by the way they respect or treat the ‘little people,’ They never look like they are trying hard to impress other people, and never put others down around them to come out the better person.

    We are people who have not met each other,or probably never will.The world will go on,without us.After all the sound and fury,only we disappear.Our paths have crossed,isn't it better to remember smiling faces?

  9. there is a verse in gita where krisna tells arjuna that 'He is the best thing in everything' Think i understood that verse a lil better after reading ure post. fills me with joy. at the simplicity of the truth

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