As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.
~ Henry Van Dyke ~
Hence I decided to venture into the vast anonymity of ‘not doing the routine‘. I’m thankful to the people who helped me do it because society can scrutinize your passion for an unproductive lame break. It can list down the disadvantages of spending time for unproductivity. So I just blew some smoke on the society and trusted my desideratum.
I scheduled a month for self-care in seclusion. I slept in my terrace, learned swimming with the kids in the building, followed a diet, went to the gym twice a day and rescheduled my days. I kept less tasks to fulfill, and I promised myself to have,”no regrets” for the same.
I woke up at 4 am every day would have my breakfast after a cold shower at 4.30 am. I realized I had wasted so many mornings in my life, sleeping through. The silence in the morning is captivating and the morning walk in Bangalore city before the dust is awake is refreshing. I didn’t progress professionally in that month that I kept for myself but it was rejuvenating to be alone, without purposes and targets.
I longed for monsoons in Kerala. When I arrived, the cloudlessness made me little sad, until I started listening to my grandmother’s stories from decades ago; which nobody bothered to listen to. Those were the stories which nobody would know if I hadn’t taken a small break. About her red skirt that was torn because of the thorns that were laid down by her classmates as they were jealous of her beauty, the songs that were sung for Thiruvathira festival, how coconut chammanthi could be made with tamarind, about the weapons of goddesses in our temple, the reason she keeps a broken chair in her bedroom, the reason why she folds the tablets in coloured papers every day, about her secret ingredient in sambar, how a cow stamped her toe and broke her toe nail and about the nights that she never slept. I realized the significance of insignificance. How life, we are so hurriedly riding on, is going to have so many stories, with nobody to listen to.
Nights were wonderful because I was crazy enough to sit with my dog and gaze at the stars. I lay on my back on the green grass with my dog by my side and watched the clouds move. Sometimes my parents sat on chairs with me and told me stories about me when I was a kid and about their childhood and about how they missed their parents.
I walked to a small temple every evening which was surrounded by hills and paddy fields. Not many people visited small temples in small villages every day until for an occasion or favor. I liked that because that gave me the privacy to sit near the sanctum sanctorum for hours and savor the exclusive custom made sweet payasam. The smell of incense sticks, burning oil, the turmeric and sandalwood with the background music of cricket was enchanting. I realized that the old temple priest knew almost everyone in the village and now he had my life story too, on his tiny notebook of lores. Every day I bribed the priest with 10 rupees, for the extra payasam and special recommendations to god.
I went on a trip with my parents into the jungle with home cooked food packed in boxes, which we ate on the riverside in the deep forest. We stayed in a tent in the forest and experienced the adventure of strange animals walking on top of our fabric hut.
A jungle cricket accidently came with me from the jungle to my home in my bag. I decided to let it live with me in my room, hence I had a bit of forest music with me at nights for months.
I went to the ritualistic meeting, every evening, of my relatives; and heard interesting stories happening in the village and family. They filled me in about the stories I had missed for two decades and new characters appeared in my little village folklore book. The chit chats included the snacks that were savored from all the houses, lichies and jackfruits freshly plucked from the trees, the sweet juice made from coconut pulp, the Vadas bought from the roadside vendors, the new and the old pickles that were tasted and the tips and suggestions of improving each, the next time. I realized little insignificant incidents and jokes, are time and again repeated and laughed at among these crowds.Then there were annual poojas which everyone attended from one end of lineage to another where I met people who shared replicas of my D.N.A in ancestral houses.
I drove my car and went with my parents and flew kites over the shallow bunds. And made the Bengali boy who works in our house, fly my colorful kite; which he accidentally drowned. The next day he would make me another beautiful kite with the newspaper because that’s all he could afford. He stayed up all night because of the remorse of drowning my kite as I had done him a favor of letting him fly it once. I have hung the newspaper kite in my room since then.
I believe that if there are emotions attached to an object, it becomes worthy of being cherished.
I went on a trip alone to Thailand for a week and came back with a lifetime of stories to tell my grandchildren; if they decide to take a break to listen to my stories. I went with my tiny niece to her anganawadi and spent days with the adorable kids who had ‘coconut oiled’ hair. And went with my cousin on bike rides and walked on the flooded fields in the village. I savored Kerala cuisine with fish fry and meals with spinach and beans and thick home-made curd made with the milk from my neighbor’s cow. I saw a snake while I walked through the village and visited the graveyard, where they cremated people categorically according to different casts and saw fumes from pyres of corpses of untouchable cast dissolving into the atmosphere which everyone inhaled.I watched a solo firefly fly in our garden every night and noticed astonishing white birds with the blue tail coming and sitting in the same trunk of the tree in the courtyard.
I watched movies in the theater with my mom and revisited my violin classes irregularly. I visited my first tiny classroom of few days, inside the church, in front of my house. I plucked mushrooms from the backyard of my house, which sprouted after each thunderstorm and made spicy mushroom curry with it. I baked chocolate cakes and parceled it to my friends across the cities.
The rains were splendid, few days were uneventful and most days were story-full. I cut nails for my grandmother in the evenings and pretended that I learned Thai massage and massaged her legs with oil that I had custom made for her with camphor and Tulasi.
I sabotaged months of my medical career and academics, to cherish a big chunk of my life which I was not realizing was passing by. My apprehension on doing this soon converted to gratefulness for deciding to pursue it.
I realized future is always hopeful, but that the present holds a lot of things that might disappear when the mirage that is future, catches up. And hence rest you must, before weary spoils your break.
To lonely firefly, to broken toe-nail stories, I have time for you!