I deboarded the Shatabdi late last night at New Delhi Railway Station, aka NDLS. Waiting for Rahul to pick me up, I walked out onto the main road staring at the glitzy multi-level parking opposite the station entry and the long line of cars streaming in, winding their way out, looking for parking, honking, waiting in strange place. And I thought of all the zillion times I have dashed into this station, usually on the Ajmeri gate side where trains to and from Lucknow tend to loiter. I have missed trains and boarded moving trains and also waited for hours on these platforms. I have come here by auto and car and recently by Metro as well. NDLS has been incarnated and reincarnated, but the chaos caused by simply too many people always remains. I was smiling, standing there by myself.And then I remembered the most hilarious incident I associate with NDLS. Rahul and me were here to drop someone off, I do not remember whom. Just as we turned left into the station entry (at the same point were I stood, but back then it was dingy and potholed, narrower too), the car before us braked suddenly and came to a complete halt. There was no car in front of them, but they wouldn’t budge. From the corner of my eye, we saw a cat slink into the shadows. I remember our eyes meeting for a brief instant, Rahul’s and mine, before it dawned on us. We were expected to cross that line first! ‘Billi rastaa kaat gayi thi’, the cat had crossed in front of them and superstition says that if you cross that line first, you get bad luck! So this car just sat there, passing the bad luck to us, as we overtook and drove past the fateful cat line!
Suffice it to say that no bad luck chanced upon us, but we now have another beautiful memory of NDLS and a story to recount to our grandchildren, who hopefully wouldn’t encounter the madness of people so steeped in superstition (wishful thinking I know!).
I’ve had one of those weekends that did not have a brake. It just went careening, slithering, joyriding past me, leaving me completely pooped on Sunday night. I’m not complaining and I’m glad I’ve had a night’s rest.
But the hectic pace of the weekend creates that type of Monday morning when your to-do list is way long, but your mind has lost its power to prioritize. Thoughts wander, focusing on something, then unexpectedly rushing off in another direction. The to-do list sits there and mocks me, and I smile, knowing that the mind will settle, surely, but slowly. I need to give it that time.
And so I write my blog. The flow of words, bewitching, lyrical, so comforting. The process of squeezing them out of your gooey Monday morning brain and laying them out on this WordPress menu, in straight horizontal lines, not at all similar to the patterns in my head right now, which resemble a bizarre twisted painting!
Why do we procrastinate, then? Does it serve a purpose, this in-between state of mind? Or am I wanting to believe in the value of this warm-up session only to drive away the guilt of staying away from stuff I really really need to do! Guilt, so overrated, so unnecessary and yet driving so much of what we do, who we are. I want to put guilt into an air-tight ball and hurl it into outer space. I want to be selfish, but kind. And I want to trust myself and my ability to flow via abstraction into clarity, into and through the realm of thought into the arena of action. Inside me, I do believe the in-between space of life, of thoughts, of cities, of everything have as much meaning as the formed, tangible elements. And so I will enjoy my moments of free-flowing procrastination, on a sunny winter day when everything in my world is positioned to be joyful and meaningful.
Why the tremendous urge to know the future? A doubting Dragon’s musings on the Chinese New Year-Jan 24, 2012
Dragons are destined for success, as per Chinese beliefs and it is expected that there will be a 5% increase in the number of children born to Chinese parents this year. This isn’t just speculation, its what actually happened in 2000, the last Year of the Dragon!
Well, I’m a Dragon too, so is Rahul and a lot of our friends and I’m really wondering if we are more ‘successful’ or ‘fortunate’ or ‘intelligent’ that other people born under the other eleven Chinese signs! Of course it’s nice to think so, but it’s really hard to believe this could be true. Yet, belief in all sorts of astrological phenomenon and deductions seem to play a significant factor in our lives. While in India, the traditional Vedic system of astrology that uses birth charts (the janampatri) is predominant, urban Indians are adopting all of the new systems being practices the world over
In my teens, I remember that the Greco-Roman zodiac signs (Aries, Taurus, etc) being a huge craze. Propagated by Linda Goodman, whose book was referred to endlessly and formed the basis of many gossip sessions, many of my peers went to the extent of pursuing or terminating relationships on the basis of Goodman’s interpretations.
By the time I was in my 20s, I became aware of a confusing array of beliefs, some based on astrology, others on differing systems that claim to understand current situations and predict the future. The Chinese Zodiac, Tarot cards, healing crystals, numerology, Feng Shui and Vastushastra as well as the old palmistry stuff are now all around to add to the pleasure of finding out what the future holds for you.
I have always been extremely wary of any methods that claim to offer all of life’s decisions on some sort of a platter. Experts practicing any of these systems, I feel, have been developing an increasingly stronger hold on their followers. Its not just readings that they offer; they go on to suggest and sometimes prescribe how their followers should lead their lives.
Now individuals are free to believe in what they wish to, but it seems to be extremely irrational to place my faith in any of these systems instead of on my own judgment! Of course, I happen to be born to parents who made their disbelief clear to me, so I was never predisposed to seeking my answers through this route. My dad did not waver in his disbelief even when he was detected with cancer and in the entire year of his fight against the dreaded disease.
I also observe that the higher the stakes, the more the urgency to know the future. So celebrities, politicians and industrialists frantically consult soothsayers, as do ordinary folks when they wish to take decisions about their careers, marriages, children, etc. Clearly, as the stresses of life increase, these kind of beliefs prosper. Urban centers where concentrated populations compete bitterly for opportunities to progress become great markets for opportunists who exploit insecurity.
I guess my basic question is- What’s wrong with leading life without knowing? Isn’t most of the fun in the journey anyway, learning along the way, tweaking strategies and being able to take credit for the good stuff also 🙂 Do we really believe that bad luck is avoidable (through pujas, chants, crystals and other forms of ‘good energy’)? It’s an open question. My skepticism is apparent…and I’m willing to take my chances!