The moon was so heavy you could put your mind to it
no one looked up and that’s how you do it
no one can tell you that those were the days
that’s what I see I pray.
“Change your prayer!!”
A few nights back, my sleep was absconding. No matter what i tried, it just wouldn’t come out from the shadows. The thoughts in my mind were like a wild forest fire; no amount of water was dousing them.
After all my efforts got swallowed in to the same shadows, i rummaged through my childhood coaching and tried an old resort, as is taught by most parents, at least in this part of the world - prayer!
I’d learnt a few lines from the prayers as practiced in Sikhism as early as at the age of two. Every night, when the lights would be turned out, my Mum would sit down for her prayer and direct me to do mine - whatever little i knew (which sounded uber cute courtesy a child’s phonetics). She taught me to recite the same whenever in despair or whenever i needed to calm myself down.
Somewhere after i entered my teens and before i left them, I took the decision to give up on this nocturnal ritual, strictly w.r.t. uttering the taught prayer. To my slightly crestfallen mother, i explained that I’d like to pray to the Power in my own words and my own way. God, if any, understands it all, right? ;-)
Many years have passed since then but till date i remember those few lines of prayer like a recorder. And like a recorder only i started mumbling it inside my head that sleepless night. But such a supernova was my mind that night, that my other thoughts overlapped with the prayer and as the prayer struggled not to get buried beneath them, the last sane neuron in my brain screamed, “Change your prayer!!”
I did and soon found myself flying amongst my dreams.
What i realized out of that is that over time that prayer had been hard-coded in my brain so much so that i could recite without even consciously putting any effort into it. That’s what repeated practice does. Prayer, or any other concentrated mental activity, is supposed to shut you off from everything else since all your energy is fueling and there’s none left for anything else. And your mind enters a state of stillness.
But that night, when i called upon it for mental solace, it couldn’t offer me any since i no longer had to move a single mental muscle to do it. It flowed effortlessly and my mind scattered in a million directions underneath it. It came so naturally to me, so by-default, programmed eminently into my psyche. My slavery of memory.
Rings a bell with Malcolm Gladwell advocacy of the “10,000 Hours Rule”? My mind knew this prayer like the back of its neurons now. I’d probably reached the ‘expert level’ for that prayer. Which sounds good (unless we are talking about messing things up, who doesn’t like being called, or at least to be thought of, as an expert?) but in this case, it isn’t. Instead of serving me, that proficiency proved futile.
And like that, we achieve ‘expert level’ for many other small things but some of them, sometimes, boomerang on us. We hold on to it hoping to extract from the same benefit which we had originally done. Caught in the cage of our own expertise and its ‘comfort zone’, most of us choose to trudge forward with that expert-level albatross around our neck.
The verdict on it is clear - abandon it! Replace it! Seize the chance to bring in something better! And don’t waste time in tying your shoelaces, just start running ahead, afresh; while realizing how damn heavy albatrosses can be.
Which expert level do you need to denounce today?
A rolling stone gathers no moss but a rolling Indian Railways’ train gathers bits of India.
And through it’s window you gather those bits in your rolling memories as you rumble across the ephemeral landscapes. As a child, and even now, i would always vie for the lower berth so i could command the view from the window.
The tainted, clouded, instagramic window.
Legs crossed, pillow in lap, face nestled in tiny hands - i would watch, uninterruptedly, as the soil changed hues, the trees shapes, the farmers clothes, the houses designs, and the weather moods.
Sometimes it felt like a silent movie with endless reels and no protagonists.
Recently, after years of agonizing wait, i had the chance to be such an audience again. Just like my childhood, i sat there until the sun went down. But unlike my childhood, i had a camera this time.
Come, roll with us - gather some moss. :)
Good ol’ days when the sun was never too harsh to be outside and afternoons meant a different sort of mischief humming in the air.
Taken in Asiad Village, Delhi, India.
Life as i see it,
it seems like a train:
every step non-mundane.
The tracks get laid
with each choice we make
destination was never the destination
the way to it was, light or shade.
Some stations demand a halt
where like a song playing on repeat
rest it does, bear it does
the treasure rusting in the vault.
Oh the sights
a painting in every eye
Oh the beauty
makes the heart go shy.
Passengers leave or stay
alone or in groups;
seats empty or full
the train’s brakes are not pulled.
Reverse is the gear it doesn’t like too well
What’s gone is gone
What comes, we choose
Each night a new moon, each day a new dawn.
Since i was a child, i used to have this fantasy of seeing Life like a Train - merely coz i loved travelling by one and i would long and long for a train journey. So this is like, finally, some sort of realization of that. It sounded kiddish to me when i read on finishing. But then, who says kiddish things are only for kids? ;-)