Small Wisdoms #3

“Whatever lifts the corners of your mouth

Trust that!”

The Sufi poet and scholar Rumi said that.

Simple words. But crammed with delightful instruction and deep meaning.

You ask, does magic exist? I say, have you seen a smile? How it transforms a face? How a mere movement of muscles pours light upon a face and makes it radiant and beautiful?

Apart from the effulgence a smile imparts to a face, it works other magic too. When we smile neurotransmitters in our brain are activated, and release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. This relaxes us, lowers our heart rates, relieves stress and elevates mood. In fact smiling is a natural drug that works as a mild pain killer too! It is said, that in times of stress even a fake smile can produce to some measure, some of the good effects of a genuine smile.

The point is not only does a smile light up the face of a smiling person, it beams out cheer to others present. There is nothing more disconcerting than having to be at the receiving end of sullen scowling faces, isn’t it?

And, what of laughter, the boisterous hearty kin of the smile. Aah it is on another level. A non- pharmaceutical tonic that can do wonders. Laughing from our gut is a joyful experience. It is like a soul-workout expressing itself outwardly in the laughs that animate the body. Laughter makes us feel so good! It makes us forget awhile all the worries and cares piled up in our minds. Files and files of worries..

This cliche is not a joke! Laughter is the best medicine – and the best natural workout too, as it stimulates many organs. It enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates your heart and lungs. The generous dose of endorphins released by laughing relieves stress and elevates mood.

Norman Cousins, an American journalist and professor, used laughter therapy to cure himself of a debilitating illness. He developed his own treatment based on mood elevation through laughter. His experience is recorded in his famous book, Anatomy of an Illness (1979). Cousins said, “Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally, without having to go outdoors.” That is good news for humanity stuck in lockdowns. By the way, Cousins overcame his illness and lived till 75 years of age!

The other day something happened which I found so funny, I burst out laughing. And it was such a hearty burst of laughter it released visibly loads of tension from my body. I could feel the knots of anxiety related to the current times of fear and uncertainty, that we are experiencing, loosening and my whole being lightening up. It felt so therapeutic! And the other thing I realized was that I hadn’t laughed like this in a long time.

So, rather than going here and there, let’s trust that spontaneous smile that crinkles our eyes and laughter that makes us rock from side to side, more, to create the well being we seek, in our troubled times.

It is not far from us. A child’s prattle, a pet’s antics, a funny book, the humorous pulling of each other’s legs, a comedy movie, the blossoming potted plant, a sweet poem, cute jokes, can all put a smile or laugh on our face. Maybe we should look to create more such simple yet rewarding moments in our lives..?

Sage Stories (2)

Once, Mughal Emperor Akbar (16th century) was riding through a forest in India, with his favorite court musician, the renowned Tansen. Now this Tansen was no ordinary singer. He was exceptionally talented and it is said, his singing was so mesmerizing and potent, it could make the clouds open up and rain, if a particular raag (musical pattern of notes in Indian music), dedicated to the rainy season was sung by him.

There are other fascinating stories linked to this legendary singer, for instance, how his music enchanted and tamed even wild animals and lit up diyas (the flame), which started glowing again in extinguished lamps.

Well, the Emperor and Tansen were riding through the forest, in pursuit of the Emperor’s desire to meet Tansen’s guru Haridas. It was said, that Haridas’ music beget exaltation in the listener. The Emperor had expressed a desire to meet him and had wanted Tansen to summon him to the court. But Tansen replied that Haridas was not employed by the king like he was, and sang only when he wanted to, and that the king himself would have to go to his humble abode in the forest to meet him.

Akbar, an avowed patron of music and the fine arts, intrigued with the idea of meeting Haridas, agreed and immediately directed the horses to be saddled for the expedition.

When they reached the clearing in the forest, where Haridas stayed, they found him sitting outside his hut, surrounded by his musical instruments.

They dismounted and approached this hermit – like figure. Tansen was elated to be in the presence of his guru again and the king not any less for coming face to face with this famed exponent of music.

Haridas, seemingly oblivious of their presence, started singing. The mellifluous voice and the soulful rendering of the song put the Emperor into a trance.

After the song concluded, the singer continued to sit in a rapturous state of meditation. There was a mesmeric vibration in the air.

But the Emperor’s face, in spite of the ineffable state just experienced, betrayed confusion. Something was bothering him. He turned to Tansen, his great court singer, and posed a question with a perplexed look on his face.

“Tansen, you sing so beautifully, but how is it, your singing has not touched the celestial heights of this singer?”

Tansen promptly replied, with a slight smile on his face.

He said, “Emperor, my guru Haridas, sings looking at the face of God. And I look at your face and sing…

Tansen added, “He is a musician of a much higher court..”

Luckily, Akbar had the requisite sense of humour to allow Tansen the temerity of getting away with this impertinent and audacious response.

For knowing the ways of kings and emperors there’s no knowing what would have happened to Tansen’s head otherwise!

Passion and inspiration are the twin pillars of all grand works be it in art and music or any worldly engagement that we find ourselves in!

The Cupboard of Smells

I have a long nose. It doesn’t stop there. I want to smell everything, because smells work for me more powerfully than photo albums to whoosh me down nostalgia lane. Every situation in my life worth recording has attached to it some un-erasable smell. I have measured out life not in coffee spoons, but in the smell of things.

Women love perfumes and I’m no exception. Even as a child I would trot to my mom’s dresser and spray myself with her favorite perfume. The thing is that even today, when I get a whiff of that fragrance I’m transported back to myself, a lil girl in pigtails standing before a mirror and happily spraying her mom’s perfume on herself. 

Flicking through an album of snaps is not half as powerful in recreating the past, as is a sudden sharp  smell. Even the fragrance of cosmetic creams and talcs used in childhood like Ponds cold cream, Ponds talc, Boroline, and drinks like the popular rose sherbet called Rooh Afza, which are still around, all create in an instant a sharp memory tug. In a moment you zoom back to your childhood, your heart scrunching with nostalgia.

In like manner, the whiff of Chanel No. 5 always reminds me of my first date, and my first experience of a “discotheque!” I was studying in New Delhi and was 16 years old. It was a place called The Cellar — a narrow tight space with black walls and a sooty ambience, nuanced further by the sinuous swirls of smoke from cigarettes.The warning on cigarette packets hadn’t come in yet and it was a given that you puffed at a place like that. It was cool, then. (Luckily, nowadays, the opposite holds true — it’s a turn off when people smoke). So, there I was with this cute, decent guy, a friend of my older sister’s, and for that, fully “safe.” And, I had worn my new Chanel No. 5 perfume for the occasion. Later, the perfume was naturally used over many diverse occasions, but a sudden whiff of it would hurtle me back in time to ‘The Cellar’. It is usually the first strong association with a new smell that stays forever.

So, Jontue was London — my first ever glorious trip abroad, where everything, just everything was shot through with other worldly magic. Jontue happened to be the perfume I wore then, and its fragrance got entwined with London forever.

A Coty fragrance called “Masumi” was my first crush..

“Brut” was the smell of the quintessential man (my father)…

Jovan musk, the smell of the avoidable macho guy!

Georgio Armani, Kenzo Flower, Ming Dynasty, and Eternity, my marriageā€¦

And — Kouros — a divine fragrance I just love for its own sake, because it always makes me happy!

However, the perfumes and creams are just one bit of the saga. Apart from these manufactured smells there was a smorgasbord of natural smells, in my growing up years, which are stored in my smells-memory bank. A passing whiff of any of these, crams heaven into remembered moments.

There were the flowers I grew up with – the natural perfumery – in a home boasting of two big gardens.The scents of the sweet pea and rose, the earthy smell of chrysanthemums, and fragrances of verbena, temple flower, jasmine and lily, surrounded and engulfed me. There were a multitude of trees too… the oleander with its yellow blossoms with their strong pungent odor, the pretty pomegranate, and the Narangi tree, (tiny oranges the size of marbles and tangy and lemony in taste), laden with fruit and flowers, that exuded a sharp sweet lemony scent…

There were also the delicious smells associated with the earth — the freshly watered garden exuding the aroma of wet soil. Another heady smell was of cut grass. The gardener sheared the lawn and mounded the grass into heaps and as kids we jumped in and out of it, and it was the best fun in the world.

Today, the focus is on chrome and concrete rather than gardens and parks, and many natural smells are getting pushed back. Natural fragrances are in short supply in cities like Mumbai, where I live today. But, on rare occasions, when I do get a sniff, it immediately takes me back to those childhood gardens of joy.

And, always, always, there is a deep pleasurable sensation — and a sharp yearning for — Paradise Lost?

The saga goes on… Without my realizing it, I keep gathering smells even today, and stacking them in the smells-cupboard, for the future. Of course, bottled fragrances are many, but I wonder how and where to get the pure natural scents, in a smart world, which is slowly shutting out nature and all its wonders.

MORE:

nostalgia aromas scents perfumes fragrances memories smells.

A Beautiful Mania…For Writing

As said by Oliver Sacks – the brilliant neurologist, naturalist and writer

We madcap crazy people who can’t keep ourselves away from pen and paper have at least one thing in common with the great Oliver Sacks! We are in love with the act of writing, same as him, and same as all other brilliant writers (and bloggers!) that ever were, are and will be.

It is a strange joy for sure. It is equal parts agony and ecstasy. It’s mental labor and arduous like any other, but at the end of the day a labor of love. There are times when you despair looking at that empty page or the not so empty, but unsatisfactory page full of scratches and edits and clumsy lines that are awkward, forced or ‘oh so not right!’

But, as Oliver Sacks elegantly articulated, “When it goes well…” aah, that is an undefinable pleasure for the initiates! Only a lover of words can know of the joy that he or she gets in that liquid flow of ink (metaphorically speaking)… It is a pleasure that non- initiates will never understand. That is why writers’ communities are such warm all -encompassing welcoming spaces because all writers know, only another writer will understand and sympathize with their whimsies and mania.

“In those rare heavenly states of mind..,” writes Sacks, when it is going good, all is beatific, but he underlines that such perfect moments are “rare.” It is always a struggle but a worthy one when your passion is lit, as it were, for translating your emotions into word- witchcraft. For that is what writing is – a beautiful wizardry with words to cast a spell with the manner in which they are used. If you have the secret formula then these words can weave magic. Apart from this, writing is a delightful pastime, and an endless font of satisfaction, for hopelessly-hooked for life, writing communities like us!

So good luck to us all and happy times with that blank paper staring at us mischievously, teasingly, whispering…Write!

Color Me Purple, Pink and Fuschia..

Today bathing will have to wait. Another ritual has festive precedence, over a bath today. This is the festival of colors called ‘Holi’ which allows brief license to the unhindered, wild, frolicsome side of human nature.

The glee of a delayed bath as a child is what’s coming to mind as I watch a few stray kids merrily sprinkling color on each other outside my window. Of course, it’s subdued and nothing close to “normal” years, but they are summoning up the zest, best they can.

Holi officially heralds spring, bringing with it joie de vivre and the suitable climate for all kinds of hope and blossoming love.

As colors dry and wet are smeared on faces and buckets of colored water upturned on you, one can’t turn out in your Sunday Best on this day. Instead you ferret out your shabbiest, most faded piece of apparel, for allowing the liberties that will be taken upon it. Later the clothes are dumped and the bath is extra scrubby, to remove the stubborn stains of colors from the skin.

Strangers, friends, relatives, anyone can ambush you with color. So, better to employ a little sagacity about where to be. It’s a celebration ultimately of the essential need of every human being to be playful and joyful, as also to be uninihibitedly illogical … for how else could one happily do what we do on Holi??

It’s an ancient custom and has divine origins. It is linked to the divine sport of Radha and Lord Krishna, from our sacred scriptures. In celebrating them, the festival celebrates the eternal principle of Divine love.

Holi has other scriptural links but here I’m only giving the essence of the festival which is to make people forget their worries and woes awhile and be recklessly abandoned and free as little kids again.

If only for one day in a year.

Ripped Jeans and Me

Cut!

India is a pot boiler! Never a dull moment. Though I have many pending bucket list places in the world (list made in non Covid times, of course), and though I’ve done a fair bit of traipsing on foreign shores, there’s nothing quite like my own country. Incredible India. Incredulous India.

The shows on Netflix are pallid in comparison to the daily shows (free), in the lives of Indians. Maybe that’s why even on the most exotic holidays abroad, after a while, I miss my India.

The current matter of heated debate and interest is whether wearing ripped jeans is to be censured – and censored – because it is contrary to our culture. Cut it out! Not the jeans but this trend, say one lot of Indians. Cut it out, but at the knee, thigh, wherever, proclaim the other lot. Tricky.

Now my conundrum is, which side am I on?? Though I’m all for promoting my beautiful culture and am a votary of it in no small measure, I’m also like all homo sapiens, influenced by Mr Levis and company, from the west. Also, though I’m very proud of my saris and other ethnic apparel, I just love the ease and casual style of my jeans and tops. Problematic.

I remember my mad excitement on getting my first genuine pair of true blue jeans. There was such a feel about it, the thick denim, the rich blue faded in bits, that made it an incomparable possession. Was it because half of my peers who fancied themselves to be the trend setters had them?? Whatever. It was a thrill, even though it was a mere piece of apparel. The thing is when you are young clothes play an important part in defining how cool or non-cool you are. And except the nerds just everybody wants to be cool.

Also, with the entire globe having become a http://www.com how can cultures not osmotically cross across? Everybody is watching the same shows and films and absorbing the popular trends in entertainment culture and dress culture via their screens, so how can you nitpick about one small thing? Either scrap it all or be more tolerant and accomodative.

Now ‘distressed’ jeans are cool, and though there are some who misfire and overdo it with wild slashings on their pair, there are others who carry it off with enviable panache. At the end of the day it’s a contemporary style statement, just like bellbottoms, skinny jeans, flared, etc. were. The point is when you are twenty something or thirty something, you desire to be smart and stylish in the manner and mode of your peers. Nowadays, of course with age being just a number, one can be a brazen style enthusiast at any age, if so inclined.

As for ripped jeans, on a lighter note, there are some definite points to be said in their favor. Especially in steamy Indian summers. Not only are jeans ripped at the knee very comfortable for sitting, ahh, they are so delightfully ‘air- conditioned,’ allowing your knees to breathe! That ‘cool’ fact alone would make me want to junk my staid pair of regular jeans for the notorious-at-the moment ripped pair. (Just ripping..oops ribbing)

However a piece of friendly advice…

Do ensure that your style statements, (at any age) are not outlandish or bizarre, and do not offend the sensibilities of those in your space! So choose when, what, where…

Enjoy your style but be kind to your fellow beings.

Perfect Love, Where Art Thou??

(Small Wisdoms 3)

Where art Thou??

Love makes the world go round. It is the sweetest word in any language. This is because love is at the heart of existence. Our lives are a continuous saga of being loved through different stages of our lives.

But.

Perfect love, possible??

(Pssst: The answer toward the end of this little piece..)

We are born to the love and care of our parents. Then we attain the love of siblings. Friends sashay into our lives with that special panache only friends display, and oh how we love them! And then follows courtship love, one of the most deliciously delightful experiences of human life. It is the one relationship that briefly gives the taste of a perfect and ecstatic love. The two people in love feel a rare twinning of soul energy that makes the experience full of beatitude. But, does this last? No.

Why?

Because human love is conditional. It is based on the premise of reciprocity – and that big fat one – ego.

Though love is the basic premise of all our relationships, be it with parents, siblings, spouse, children and even friends, the path is never smooth. There are rocky passages and intermittent misunderstandings. All this stems from ego which asserts itself in the course of every relationship, however beatifically it may have started out. This ego is bigger not only than us, but even bigger than our most noble intentions or ideals! It makes the best, most beautiful love falter or stumble in its tracks.

Accepting this simple reality makes it easier to tackle the bumps of love and loving.

So perfect love does not exist?

Wait. There’s sweet hope.

What I’ve heard is that some have experienced it – perfect love – with their dog (or other pets), that unconditional love we are all seeking…

And for some, it has been experienced in the exquisite moment of divine communion with Self or Higher Reality we call God…

So if you seek that you know where to look now.

Tea Science (SmallWisdoms – 2)

Tea Laboratory

For the cup to be perfect it has to have the exact count of tea leaves, exact count of brown sugar grains, and exact proportion of milk – neither less nor more.

Certain days when unknown to me fairies are floating around the place, I touch the sweet spot – on others, it’s a broad or narrow miss.

But.

This only intermittent success at perfection is what makes it a daily energizing adventure.

When it’s just so, I go….Ahaaaa

When it’s less than that, I look forward to another blue-sky’d day.

The point is – the fact that perfection is as elusive as the gossamer edge of a fairy’s wing, and touched only once in a while, is what makes life and everything about it – really interesting.

Humdrum Jottings from Daily Life

Tea Interruptus

Small things agitate us. And we allow it.

One trifling matter catches hold of me almost every second day. It’s become second nature. An OTP for an item ordered from Amazon gets roadblocked by poor network connectivity and my brow furrows. I feel irritable at the delay and that I’ll have to go through the whole process again. Or a random service phonecall comes just when I want to settle down with my hot cup of tea and by the time I’m done with the call the tea is cold.

What’s this irritability about? By fouling my mood up so easily I’m playing into some invisible rogue hands. Why can’t I be more accepting about the simple fact that it, whatever, is not designed to be smooth.

That’s the bottom line we all must accept. If possible with a smile. Whoever designed this grand super structure of life on a planet that is but a blue dot in the universe, did not intend it to be a walk in a park for the inhabitants. It was all set up as a super obstacle course.

And if we trust the wisdom of that One then this business of life with all its travails and obstacles in big things and small must serve some good purpose.

Is the purpose of every little or big irritant or obstacle, to train us in the gym of life to attain an inner equipoise, a composure, where things don’t get on top of us, but instead we’re on top of everything?

That would be a great feeling for sure.

No amount of stuck OTPs nor service phone calls could faze us, or sabotage our tea pleasure.

Will give it a shot and try and change my perspective on these daily irritants. They won’t stop coming but I will receive them differently and see how that works out for me…