The reassuringly beautiful touch

Over the years, I have realised one is unable to pen down thoughts about an incident, a person, an art form or any another thing which one is passionate about. I guess the thought behind it is that as a writer I would not do justice in capturing the depth of the experience, the emotions associated with it and thus, everytime I put away writing about it for ‘some other time…’

In the recent past, I was faced with a similar situation. My nani (grandmother), who is 88 years, fell down. She was in excruciating pain and I happened to visit her. It was here that I had this profound experience which I intend to share with you. It’s been almost a month and I have been deliberating about the idea…but so far, I have failed to put down my thoughts. Sometimes I can’t find a befitting beginning and the other times, when my brain begins to weave the sentences for a perfect start, the words fail me. Lemme try once again.

My nani, is one person closest to my heart. She is truly an inspiration and I look up to her whenever I am feeling low. She has kept the family of more than 80 individuals intact. We are so many in number. When people see the photograph of our family, they proclaim it to be a ‘district’. It takes grit, determination and effort to keep eveyone together inspite of the physical and sometimes emotional distances.

Not only this, she is a lady of immense physical and mental strength. She has been sick in the past but due to her determination, she was always back on her feet very soon. She even underwent hip-joint replacement surgery after a bad fall and had a speedy recovery due to her positive attitude.

This time when she fell, she hurt her tail bone. Even for a young person, an injury of the tailbone is extremely painful. And at this age, the pain was unbearable for days together. Due to this injury, she involuntarily passed urine and stool. Needless to say, she felt humiliated and devastated. To save herself from all the humiliation and suffering, the only thing she asked God was to take away her life and give respite from the agonising times.

Even though it had been about 20 days since the injury the pain had not abated. As I entered her room, I was heart-broken to see nani lying on the side turn, on her bed. Her face was swollen and she could barely talk due to the pain. What hurt me even more was that she was lying there defeated. My nani, who has always stood against the odds was lying there in submission.

I wanted to do something to help her. The only thing that came to my mind was ‘Chant’! I could try healing her with my prayers. I sat next to her and began chanting the verses. Naniji involuntarily kept her hand on my lap or did she put her hand there because I was sitting close to her…I wonder! But the point is that she kept her hand on my lap. You might wonder, why this fuss about nani’s hand on my lap? Well, that’s what I sat down to write about.

My nani curled up next to me like a baby and it became apparent that she needed that ‘t-o-u-c-h!!’ And it is here…that the words start to fail me… It is extremely difficult to describe the feeling but I promise to go on.

I felt naniji had been tired of being ‘head of the family’. She wanted to be a small girl once again, who could be caressed and cajoled. Or maybe a toddler who can seek refuge in her mother’s lap when hurt. Or a teenager, who could hold her best friend’s hand and find solace in the times of adversity. If not that, probably she wanted to be a young/mature woman who could curl up next to her spouse.

As we grow older, we grow apart physically. Think about it…how often do we hug our grown up kids? Do we ever hold the hands of our parents? 15 years or more into our marriage, do we even bother to stroke the hand of our spouse?

The simple touch says, “I am there for you!”
The caress or a gentle stroke says, “I care for you!”
The big bear hug says, “I love you!”

The vicious or nasty touch also reveals what’s on the mind of the person offering it but for now I would leave this aspect and focus on the beautiful touch we all desire. Neither would I venture into the territory of sensuous touch. So, this simple touch, caress, or the bear hug I mentioned above is reserved for babies, pets, friends, buddies, brothers and sisters, cousins, relatives, spouses and all the people close to our hearts.

Naniji had been yearning for this ‘simple touch’. The simple-yet-reassuring-touch which we tend to overlook. As soon as I realised this, I even stroked her head and she offered no resistance at all. She found it soothing and went into a deep slumber. The touch was so very important for her. Maybe it works as a magic potion and is far more effective than the medicines given to any patient.

Everyone in the family, had been working round the clock to take care of her and provide her the best medical treatment in the times of the ‘lockdown’. They had been constantly massaging her legs to comfort her. And I am sure they must have stroked her head too, lovingly. But she wanted more of it. Probably as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’; the touch was rendering far more comfort than any other medication. In the comfort of that touch naniji did not have to stand tall, she had the option to ‘fall apart’ because she knew would be taken care of.

Like her, we too yearn for the loving touch. Let’s accept it, we, the normal human beings are constantly in need of the humane touch. We might not express this desire or may even feel ashamed talking about it but the fact is that the simple touch can do wonders. It can boost our morale and fill our hearts with pride for being loved. It can act as a balm to soothe the nervous wrecks amongst us.

I hope I have been able to share the intensity of my experience and put across the message I set out for.  I am no literary person, I just write dil se!

Next time, when you sit with the elders, hold their hand, stroke it a little while and offer a bear hug for no reason at all. Have I started doing all this? To be very honest, the idea still seems all skewed up. Since childhood we are taught to maintain a distance and avoid PDA – public display of affection. And I do not have role models to ape. So, I am taking a while to make a start. If not me, you can be the one to start with. Yes, you the reader of this article!

Touch the lives of the special people in your lives with the ‘reassuring touch’! Engulf your kids and parents into a ‘bear-hug’…everyday!!

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Amaltas diaries…

Amaltas tree has the most stunningly beautiful flowers. Maybe it is the colour or the structure of the flower that grabs the attention of the onlooker, but the fact remains that you can’t walk past them without being left awestruck.

Even these resplendent flowers must shrivel and mix with the dirt, to teach us a few important life lessons.

The fallen petals and flowers,
Making us realise the ultimate truth...
The one who takes birth...
Returns to the Earth...
All that remains
Is the allure of of the beautiful soul!

Take life as it comes…

Today brought back my car from the Body Shop… All the dents and scratches gone… It looks as good as new..! What if we could do the same with our life… Erase the bad memories…some inflicted by the others and some our own doing..!

Would it make life happy or would it make us naive…vulnerable and ready to repeat those mistakes…!?!

Breathe! You are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh

Sutra of the Full Awareness of Breathing

This book had been lying on my shelf for a long time. I gave precedence to more juicy titles than this one. And then came the day of closure of schools, the lockdown and the never-ending buzz created by the Online Classes. I am a teacher and with lockdown in place, we were devoid of any peace. We had to learn new methods of teaching through numerous training sessions, attend meeting to streamline work and get a grip of things. The endless hours of screen-time made me listless and I started to lose focus. The feeling of panic due to COVID#19 was pent up and brewing constantly, the unfamiliarity of Online classes scared the hell out of me. I felt choked. I could not set my mind on any task. I had not read for almost a month.

This book kept staring at me all this while. It is when I could take no more, I picked up this book because “I wanted to BREATHE…once again!!” “I wanted to feel alive.” “I wanted to overcome the fear which remained unaddressed.”

And I am glad that I started to read this book. Like I said, I had lost focus, so my pace was extremely slow. Sometimes it would be just two to three paragraphs before I slept. Fortunately, this is what the book requires; you slow down, steady your pace, embrace the teachings in the book and practice mindfulness.

In this book, the Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Naht Hanh, outlines the methods of conscious breathing taught by the Buddha and offers exercises for practicing them Right Away. You do not require any training or Apps to get in touch with your breath to feel alive.

For first few days, I clung to merely (basic) two breathing exercises:

  •             “Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.”
  •             “Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.”

And they did what they were meant to do. These exercises of fully aware breathing helped me to return to my body in order to look deeply at and care for it. It created harmony between my body and my mind.

Slowly, I graduated to next set of exercises:

  • “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.”
  • “Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.”

As simple as that, yet it did wonders. To begin with, I did these exercises for maybe 5 minutes or so. I, now sit and concentrate for a longer duration and feel the profoundness of these breathing exercises.

As I read on, I became aware of my fear, I nourished my awareness through breathing. I understood my feelings and then with patience dealt with them.

According to the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, there are 16 exercises. These can be done in any order. The author explains each exercise in detail. The Zen monk, not only enumerates the benefit of the specific exercise but also describes the method in detail. The book provides the historical background too of these exercises and the way they were practiced by the Buddha and his bhikkhus.

Along with the Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness and the Sutra on knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is one of the three most essential teachings of the Buddha, which this book offers.

In these unprecedented times, if you need to get a grip of your life, or if you need to reach out to your inner depths to draw strength, or to be aware of your body, mind, surroundings and seek harmony, read this book and practice mindfulness (a way of meditation) because “By observing the true nature of any feeling, we can transform its energy into the energy of peace and joy.”

Termites, the intriguing creatures

Take a look at these intricate patterns. The delicate filigree provides the magnificence to the structure.

These patterns have been painstakingly made by the termites, in the nearby park. The termites seem loathsome to most of the people but as a naturalist I find them intriguing. They occupy the same space as we do! They are the insects that tirelessly work for their sustenance as we do!

Maybe the humankind loathes termites because they challenge their might. Everything the humans build can eventually turn to dust with the slow and steady work of these minuscule creatures. The the trees, homes, and forts too, cannot stand in the way of termites.

Humans have tried their best to eradicate termites from the face of the Earth but the termites survived every onslaught. They continue to thrive and build castles of their own or effortlessly raze the man made castles to dust.

They gnaw at the surfaces and destroy buildings because we have built them over their habitat. What if we left our prejudices aside and no more felt hostile towards them, then we may possibly appreciate their hard work. They are beneficial to the ecosystem because they decompose dead plant and return the nutrients to the soil just like the earthworms and fungi. Like all other creatures, they have an important role to play, as assigned by the Nature.

We may not want them to thrive in our habitats and provide ‘annoying‘ services but we do need them to thrive in their own spaces and provide ‘gnawing‘ services!!