On the island of calm, the most beautiful birds reside

I was amidst knee deep work when I got a frantic call from one of the most dreaded person in the school, the substitution in-charge. Staying true to his image, he gave me invigilation duty for about an hour for the ongoing on-campus exams.

And I on my part, began to crib and tried my best to evade the duty. Needless to say, I was not successful and thus landed in the designated room to invigilate the students.

The students were in stress-induced-silence but my mind was abuzz with the voices of anger, resentment and endless work. I paced the room with restlessness. Somehow I remembered the tenets of Zen Buddhism, a philosophy that has influenced me immensely. I returned to my breath to calm myself.

I observed the in-breath and then the out-breath. Slowly, the feeling of calm descended upon me. Since I was able to ‘silence’ my mind from within, I could now hear the chirping of the birds in my close vicinity.

I peeped out of the window and noticed an array of birds perched on the branches of the trees growing around the outer periphery of the school. There were Bulbuls, Robins, Doves and Indian chat. Each had a different melodious voice and way of chirping. I wish I could describe the chatter and bring them alive for you with my writings, the way Gerald Durrell describes them but for that I have a long way to go.

I was delighted to hear the constant chirping of these birds and notice their antics from a distance. They were hopping from one branch to another, communicating with one another and carrying on the daily chores. Suddenly, I was distracted by the movement on the adjoining tree. To my surprise there were parrots residing in the tree hollow. One of the parrots was perched on the branch next to the tree hole. When the other parrot peeped out of its home, the first one tilted its head in to peep back in and take account of the work done by the other. For a few minutes I lost in watching their nuances.

Now that I was enjoying the moments of ‘silence within’ and connecting with the nature, I decided to explore further and take a look at the peepal tree on the other end of the room. Was I glad that I paced the room to go over to the other end, certainly yes! There were pigeons walking on the tiled floor, stopping at every step to pick on the fallen berries of peepal. Though they were busy eating nonetheless they were alert to the movements of the people in the block. They would bob their heads in the most comical manner after picking on the berry. I remained amused with their ways.

As I observed the birds fly from one tree to the other, the time flew away quickly. Soon I was to be relieved of my invigilation duty and go back to other chores. In the span of 40 minutes, I must have seen about 10-12 species of birds that included the Asian Brown Flycatcher, Jungle Babbler, Oriental Magpie Robin. (I had learnt the names of these birds during the ‘lockdown’ period when I frequently visited the nearby park. Isn’t it strange that even though we undergo minimum 18-20 years of formal education, we remain alien to our own surroundings.) I am an ardent nature lover and for once I felt fortunate to been assigned this duty in this room surrounded with trees.

These birds do not vie for attention nor do they need our assistance to carry on their chores; rather their presence can make a difference to our days. I truly feel that Nature nurtures. While performing my duty, I reached out to the inner depths and reconnected with the nature and thus, I felt relaxed…rejuvenated…chirpy!

Nature is the source of our existence and thus it has the ability to rejuvenate us when we make a conscious effort to connect with its energies.


You too, try and find a quiet corner within yourself while running between errands. Try to silence the noise ‘within’ by observing your breath. Once you have discovered the quiet island within you, connect with the elements that heal and nourish, like the nature, the birds, the sky! Be grateful for the beautiful moment, smile a while and pass it on!!


I interpret…

I read the book ‘Old Path, White Clouds’. It was a thick, fat book. Written by Thich Nhat Hanh, it gives a different perspective about Buddhism. It is quite different from the Nicherin Buddhism and also the regular teachings and life of Buddha we knew about! It is surprising how the words of a person can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Aren’t these gurus trying to interpret the teachings from their own narrow perspective and thus trying to prove their own stance about life, death and other aspects, which are not in our own control.

Zen Buddhism talks about mindfulness, so the whole book concentrated on or rather is written from the perspective of mindfulness – mindful eating, walking, talking, etc. Nicherin Buddhism is based on cause and effect and thus every teaching of Buddha is interpreted to bring home this thought. Nicherin Buddhism never mentions mindfulness, on the other hand Zen emphasises mostly on this concept. Sometimes it is hard to believe that we are talking about the same person and the same source who showed the way to the masses then, and continues to do so in the present day.
Even the life history of Buddha we read over the years, is different from the one mentioned in this book. I agree that since there are not many written, authentic accounts so the people have filled in the gaps on their own.

The most common story I remember about Buddha was the one in which a lady whose son dies comes running to Buddha asking him to make a miracle happened and revive her son. Budha calmly replies, “get me a mustard seed from the house where there has been no death and I shall revive the life into your son.” The mother knocks on numerous doors but she is unable to get a mustard seed because every household had encountered death. One might say that the this incident is not mention in the book because it has no written account but I feel it has not been written about because the author has dealt about the philosophies in a very different manner.

Lately I have started feeling that these masters have associated themselves to Buddhism because they lacked ‘universal identity’. It would have taken ages to propagate their so-called own religion, so they clung on to the famous, neutral philosophy of Buddhism that had a universal appeal. The percepts, the theories and traditions are different in each sect but they continue to propagate them in the tutelage of Buddhism.

The Strange Case of Billy Biswas by Arun Joshi

It’s been a day since I finished reading the book. Though I am short of time but I am sitting down to write this review before I come out of the spell cast by this novel. Or maybe I will never come out of this spell for I, myself don’t want the magic to diminish.

This novel was recommended in a reading club and instantly I was drawn to it. There are many books in my ‘to be read’ books but this one did not end up there. I simply ordered it the very same day. I was intrigued by the title, the reviews on Goodreads and certainly drawn towards it.

It is a short novel of 176 pages but the writer manages to lure you into the world of Billy Biswas with his vivid writing and descriptions. Getting hooked to the story is inevitable.

There is a shade of normal and abnormal in each one of us. We suppress the abnormal and continue to live a normal life though we are normal only on the surface. Billy Biswas is just the opposite. He is ready to experiment the abnormal but unfortunately Billy Biswas, the weird anthropologist disappears when we he goes on a field trip to the tribal areas of Chambal.

While his friend Romi, an IAS looks for him in the interiors, the author describes these pristine places with great detail so much so that the reader unknowingly becomes a part of the journey. Together they step into the wilderness, watch the moon rise and bedazzle the treetops. The Chandtola hill takes on many hues as the narrative touches upon the supernatural.

The narrative unfolds in quick succession, afterall the author has written a thin book to narrate the unique story of Billy Biswas. It is hard to predict the pace of the novel and it also makes you traverse into the unknown. It is a thought provoking book. Though it describes the inner tussles of the protagonist, it resonates with your own feelings. Also, the author often talks about the energies in the atmosphere which are hard to define yet difficult to ignore.

This is the first time I have a read a book by the Sahitya Akademi Award Winning Author, Arun Joshi. Needless to say that I’ll be reading more of his books in the near future.