Tuesday, April 5, 2011

From the Sun to the Sea

I have said sometimes that I feel I live better when I have a witness to my life. And I have said this usually in the context of relationships, being single, my loneliness, etc. I felt this way again recently. I felt very lonely. I immediately felt ashamed for feeling lonely, partly because it felt like a very unspiritual place to be in, and partly because I thought I would appear to be so regressive and mainstream to many of my happily single friends! And I thought: "Oh I would live so much better if I have a witness to my everyday life."

Then something strange and beautiful happened. I came home late one evening and walked, rather mechanically, to the balcony to leave my sandals there, and I happened to glance in the direction of the neem tree outside my second-floor balcony. A light from the next apartment building silhouetted a good portion of the tree, and I saw lots of crows sitting quietly on its beautiful branches. The neem tree was studded with several crows sitting motionless. It stirred something in me when I realized that these birds stayed day and night around me.

Everyday, both my mother and I leave food for the crows on the kitchen window sill. I do it even without thinking about it. My mother and I also speak to the crows. When a lone crow sits on wrought iron grill in the balcony and caws away, we tell her the food's kept on the kitchen window sill. Or we tell her we haven't started our day yet. All of this came to me when I stood there in my balcony late at night looking at these crows perched like silent angels on this neem tree.

The other moment of insight occurred recently when I returned home from a trip, I saw that I had forgotten to water the plants in the balcony. I cursed myself and rushed into the house, without even taking off my shoes, to get some water for the plants. As I watered them, it struck me that these plants were there everyday witnessing my life.

I am not going to say that knowing that these crows and plants were witnesses to my everyday existence drove away my feeling of loneliness and the desire for human company. But some shift did happen. I looked around and felt that everything around me was bearing witness to my life. From my meticulously organized interview tapes, to the cobweb on the southeast corner of the room, to the neatly wiped stove-top, to the dried coffee stain on the outside of the filter, everything was bearing witness to my existence. 

It also reminded me of something else that I had experienced many years ago. I was helping my dance guru Chitra Visweswaran rehearse Muthuswami Dikshitar's "Sooryamoorte Namostute...," a most beautiful prayer to the Sun God. In this composition replete with stunning descriptions and epithets of Soorya, Dikshitar also praises the Sun as one who witness the actions of everyone. I remembered how my teacher stopped at that moment and exclaimed at the beauty and truth of this description. She said,"How beautiful! The sun is a witness to all our lives and actions!"

How could I have forgotten it! I go to the beach everyday. The sea touches at least my toes everyday. Sometimes, when it is very quiet, I can hear the waves from my rooftop. Once when we were standing in the waves, my friend Matthew Regan said to me, "Ani, I feel a great affinity to the sea too. It excites me to think that at this same moment there could be many others playing in the waves of some ocean somewhere, and this water connects us to them." I remember shivering in goosebumps when he said that.

Quite unconnected to all this, I also remember standing one sunny morning on the beach, the waves teasing my toes, the sun beating down on my chest,  and these lines occurred to me: "Sea at my feet/ Sun on my chest/ That's how tall I am." It is good to remember that. I makes me smile now.

Do you wonder what the point of all this is? I do not. I feel connected to everything around me at the moment. That's all. It suffices. It is not a means to an end.

Of course, I sometimes feel that it would be great to have someone to share the everydays with. But the feeling does not consume me. It is not even a complaint. On other days, I would not trade my solitude for anything. So there is no single story :)


asmana said...

Beautiful, as usual. I also remember one night, a few years ago sitting on the terrace of a friend's house. Everyone else had gone to sleep and i looked up and saw Venus shining in the sky. I began speaking with the planet and said- you and I share this moment together. We are a part of the same cosmos. It was an amazing feeling. I lived with that thought for the next week or so...

Jaye Martin said...

My heart sings in response to the beauty of your heart felt words. What an amazing sense of connectedness your sharing brings to my experience of sitting seemingly alone at my desk. I now hold a feeling of touching both of you, Ani and Asmana, from a place so seemingly far away and yet very intimately deep in my heart of hearts. We are one! Can it be that we are kaliyana mitra even though we have never been in each others physical presence?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful....as always! And, witnesses are aplenty within and without as you've eloquently said!


Shruthi said...

I could hug you right now. your words have a beauty in them that is hard to come by in this world. I'm glad you're writing and I'm so glad that you choose to share it.

Frank Schultz said...

Dear Ani,

What a wonderful writer you are. Thank you for sharing these beautiful and touching thoughts. Even though we are never alone (in so many ways), the human part of us is so often dissatisfied with what it has and wants more. I wonder why it is so hard to shift from our human perspective to our higher perspective?

In a lighter vein, remember the Christmas Carol, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" that says:

". . .He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good . . ."

Soooo, along with everything else, Santa is a witness to your life! ;->

Much love to you!

dancervocalist said...

hey...very beautiful...yes...".....dheerarchithakarma sakshine..." that is what you referred to right...yes....and i can very well relate to the "crow" relationship...haha...all of us have something of that sort to remind us that...we are being watched...well, if not by humans at least by these other gifts of God...:)but none of us really think about this...and ani, this post has made me rethink and enjoy all that beauty that surrounds us day in and day out..:) thanks...:)

Radhika said...

Thanks Ani. You write beautifully.