The Ship of Life

Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

That Bridge is burnt
Those Memories are ash
The Time gone by is not coming back
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

The river does not look back to its source
It flows on wards and forward from shore to shore
Trust your moral compass to leave the morass of old woes
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

Nostalgia is a seductive sleep
It will sink your present hook line and sinker, when you least believe
Tarry there no further, 
Where there is not reason to linger
Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

There were those who jumped ship, in your most vulnerable need
Let them be, for they have their own battles to heed
Cherish those pole stars guiding you across starry skies, 
Or the tailwinds that push you forward without a nary sigh
Welcome aboard those who wish to experience the passage by your side
But never regret those burnt bridges ‘O’ Sailor of thy Life

Row Row, Row away ‘O’ Sailor

Choice!! It’s an illusion, but wait…

When the 18 day war of Mahabharata is about to commence, Arjuna is struck with an uncharacteristic despondency. His mighty Gandiva discarded, Arjuna questions his Sarathi i.e. his ‘Guide’ Krishna about the merits and demerits of this great carnage and his role in it. A discourse begins which is known around the world as ‘The Gita’. Amongst many other pearls of wisdom, Krishna implores Arjuna to give up this self defeating attitude, concentrate his focus on his karma and surrender himself to the supreme being (i.e. Krishna in this case). Krishna convincingly argues that it is to him that all beings return and it is from him that all beings come forth. Krishna is the Adi and the Ananta i.e. the beginning of all and the end of all: the supreme Brahman. It is therefore Arjuna’s hubris if he believes that he is striking the enemy down, cause they all are already dead for Krishna. Arjuna is just a means of accomplishing the lord’s vision.

As is known, Arjuna follows Krishna’s advice and fights in the 18 day war. He is crucial to the eventual victory and Yudhisthira ascends the Kuru throne.

Now here is the interesting part. 36 years after the war, due to certain strange circumstances Krishna and Balaram are forced to destroy the entire Yadava clan (this is a separate story). Balaram tired by this endless bloodshed, gives up his earthly existence. Krishna on the contrary is killed like a wild animal by a hunter who shoot him with an arrow through his heel.

Yudhisthira sends Arjuna, to securely escort the 16000 wives of Krishna and the scores of women of Dwarka who were vulnerable, now that the men were dead. Arjuna reaches Dwarka. He takes the responsibility of ensuring safe passage to the women and begins the return journey with them traveling under his protection.

En route to Hastinapur, bandits attack the Kuru camp. They kidnap the women. Ironically, the mighty Arjuna who could vanquish entire armies on his own, could not string his Gandiva, let alone draw an arrow. It is said that when Krishna died, the pandavas lost their near mythical martial prowess and spiritual strength.

For some this thought process, may raise a question about whether there is any meaning to all the actions that we take in our day to day lives, if everything is preordained from the start. Why should I reskill myself;why should I work hard; why should I put in effort for anything, if in the end the outcome is never in my control.

For someone like me who has always enjoyed reading our mighty epics as stories, analysing and trying to join dots between disparate events was always a subconscious process; The Mahabharata is a fertile ground of multitude of stories masterfully tied to each other to form the longest poem in the world.

To everyone the epics speak differently and that is the epic’s beauty. For some the Mahabharata will signify how the lord steered his child towards the right path and may instill in them a faith for a supreme being who will guide them too. For some it could be a study in political science, as they keenly observe the cunning manoeuvres between Krishna and Shakuni.

For me this story is a call to action. It signifies through out to me that it is ALWAYS our choices and responses to the events around us in the present that define our future; Not a supreme being or a metaphysical being who has pre ordained my destiny. The answer for this too lies in the Mahabharata and it is shown beautifully.

Even before the war begins, both Arjuna and Duryodhan visit Dwarka to beseech Krishna to join their camp and fight against the enemy. Readers would know, it was Arjuna who CHOSE Krishna and not vice versa. It was a conscious decision of Arjun to choose the unarmed Krishna and not his invincible Narayani Sena, and for the good or the bad of it he was more than happy to face the consequences of his choice. That is what I CHOOSE to take away from this immortal story.

Will he , won’t he!

Aniruddh continued musing even as he stepped out of the restaurant onto one of the cobbled by lanes of Jaipur. He was besotted with her. He felt that he had finally found someone who actually understood him, at a time when he had given up all hope.

She had a rich laugh that still rang in his ears. He still remembered how she loved his latest podcast on the forts of Rajasthan. For someone who did not understand Indian history much, she had surprisingly remembered key details of the podcast. She was eagerly waiting for the next one, wherein he was going to expound on the secrets of the Jantar Mantar. She had in the passing asked him not to give up on his passion. After all you had food bloggers, fashion bloggers and then there was this niche stream of history aficionados who were trying to make it to the mainstream of blogging for Indian history. He was one of them.

He trailed along, slowly reflecting on his own twisted past. His had been a failed life of a brilliant engineer who had accomplished all expected professional milestones with distinction. He had worked tirelessly for nearly 6 years in some of the most prestigious firms, in pursuit of money (as money for him equated to happiness) then. Money had helped him afford fast cars and luxury stays in fancy resorts. His wardrobe then was bursting at seams with Rohit Bal rubbing shoulders with Armani. There was an entire wall with an enviable collection of perfumes, right from the exotic fragrances of middle east to the classy Issey Miyake and Perry Ellis. After all he believed that women liked men who lived the high flying life. At least that’s what Dan Bilzerian had taught him.

But still he had been unlucky in love. Women were attracted to him, but later he realized that it was not him but his pseudo rich alter ego to which they were attracted to. He was unable to have meaningful conversations with them, and always the relationships would fizzle out even before he could feel his heart flutter.

He realized that he did not love himself, so how would any woman come to love him. They were far more intelligent then men ever could be, as far as matters of heart were concerned. So two years ago he sold all that he had, and dived into his passion which was history, and so began his journey as a history blogger.

He began crossing the busy main street while still reminiscing over the last two months. They had been magical. He had finally found Anna in his life. She liked him for who he was. He really felt that this time the relationship was for keeps. It would be a very special woman who would actually compliment someone who called history blogging as a caree——

WHAM…the bus hit him at his pelvis throwing him some 20 yards away and he crashed into a brick wall, shattering his spine and cracking his skull. His gut had spilled out on to the road even as he lost complete consciousness. His last thoughts had been of him and Anna…

The sirens blared, as Aniruddh was taken to the nearest hospital that could treat trauma cases. Doctors wheeled him in and checked his vital stats. He was declared brought dead.

Annirudh himself hovered inches above his body, in his metaphysical state. He was mildly piqued by the entire sequence of things. Death had always fascinated him, especially what would happen to a person after death. But to actually go through the process, and to realize that he still retained a sense of his past memories, in a way disappointed him. Death was not the final frontier after all.

The doctors came in again. They could feel a very faint pulse, and began to revive him in earnest. He had half the mind to ask them to stop. What was he to do with a broken body in a world where anything less than an Adonis body was body shamed and a specially-able person was still treated with pity.

The pain solwly returned to his consciousness, as the doctor’s labor bore fruit. He struggled hard. There was no point to this exercise. He did not wish to live the life of an invalid, especially when he had finally found true happiness, just before it was so cruelly taken away from him.

But the pain would not go away, and Aniruddh could not keep his eyes closed any longer. He took a long gasp and opened his eyes. A dream. No a nightmare. He could not decide which. It was 6 in the morning and his entire bed was in a disarray, as if he had really lived each and every moment of his dream.

His mobile pinged. His manager was asking him to send an update on yesterday’s site visits before he resumed office.

He ignored it. In the drafts, he saw the email wherein he had half typed his resignation. He only needed to click on send and that would be it. In the back of his mind he wondered if he was a bigger invalid than the broken Aniruddh of his dreams.

His thumb hovered on the send button, even as the sun rays streamed through the windows of his penthouse.

Free Fall

He stood on the ledge looking down. He had taken months to come to this decision. All his actions off late had led to this particular moment.

He took a deep breath. While he had made up his mind a long time ago, there was always a huge difference between imagining yourself doing something and actually doing it — especially if it meant hurling yourself off into a 300 foot gorge.

The clouds swirled around him. He had lied at home that he was off with his friends to a luxury resort. They would never have anyways understood his motives he thought.

He gave a wry smile even as the thought crossed his mind. Delaying the inevitable he told himself. He looked down once more into the gorge and steeled himself for the deed. He took a few steps back. Nay, he was not developing cold feet. He did not want his nerves and the interfering mind to stop him from doing what was must. So he took a running start and flung himself off into the chasm.

Free fall. He screamed even as random pieces of his life raced in front of his glazed eyes. Those late nights on the Marine drive musing about nothingness even as he tried to make sense of his life. The graduation party that his parents had thrown for him even as he had wondered why had he graduated as an engineer. Her beautiful face, even as she had bid a tearful goodbye saying that it could never have worked out between them. The kind old lady who had given him lift even as his car had broken down on Nashik Mumbai highway. His proud brother who would admonish him in private, but always back him in public.

Rohan wondered how long this was to continue. He felt as if he were falling for hours, and these random thoughts seemed to never end. But he was wrong.

The elastic cord first stretched and then recoiled, even as it broke his free fall. Even as his feet touched solid ground, he had already concluded that bungee jumping was not as exciting as he had imagined. Maybe he would have to go higher and try next time sky diving to give him an adrenaline rush. Normal pursuits of life had long since lost their charm for him…