Friday, August 29, 2008

Alcoholic Mysticism

(.......... a long & humorous narrative on my tryst with mysticism)
Somewhere around the last quarter of 2003 I was in my final year of engineering. The course I was undergoing required me to successfully complete training for 6 months at a company as a junior engineer and clear 5 subjects to have my certificate. I had managed to raise the number of subjects by not clearing one subject in my earlier semesters. As per the institute’s rules, the training was scheduled post the examination. After extensive research of the rules and regulations I made a discovery that those subjects could be cleared even post training without having an ATKT mark on the final mark sheet.
So when students were busy studying and moving around the college with faces resembling those of actors in art movies with a gloomy theme, my day began with short listing the plays at a Marathi theater near my college. When other students were burning midnight oil to prepare for their internals and assignments, I probably beat them at staying awake but the target of my interest was a midnight show hosted on one of the radio channels. The hostess of the show would attend calls from the listeners. I would burry myself below a bed sheet and listen to the show. I had planned to smuggle the phone to my room one day and call her. Those days I used to eye enviously the ultimate possession of some of my classmates, a mobile phone. My dad had out rightly turned down my demand for the same giving me statistics on how public telephones were available at exactly 2 minutes of walking distance on any road in Mumbai. I had a crush on that female RJ and almost everyday fell asleep listening to her show and simultaneously planning how to call her and make her fall in love with me, my voice and the way I spoke the first time I would call her. One of my friends had provided me with a piece of information about the telephone systems in radio stations. According to him the ‘Live’ shows weren’t live and had a 10 minutes lag to avoid fiascos from weird callers. Probably I could exchange my telephone number with her which she could later on edit while airing the conversation and then call me back one day. All this meticulous thinking led to my brain shutting down only at 2 or 3 am and almost everyday I barely made it in time to college. During the 8 hrs of lectures I struggled hard to keep my eyes open and wondered why so many morons dedicated their days in understanding the concepts of designing, maintaining and upgrading lifeless machines when there were so many lively things around. During the lectures of thermal engineering which were post lunch-time every day I dodged the concepts of enthalpies and entropies bombarded mercilessly by my professor with my brain as the target and indulged in writing poems which at the end of the lectures I would scrap for not being very good. On my return journey from college a sense of guilt occupied my mind everyday. Almost 2 months into the semester I hadn’t written a decent poetry. Being a student of one of the best engineering colleges in the city I bestowed upon myself the responsibility of presenting the world with a poetical masterpiece and cursed myself for not using my IQ to the fullest and also cursed the people around me at the institute for creating a gloomy atmosphere dedicated to learning the tricks of conquering the materialistic & morbid concepts of life overlooking the joys which life had to offer.
Days passed into weeks and weeks into months and finally the semester examinations ended without me gracing them with my presence. All those who once appeared to me as agents of gloom suddenly seemed to have a pleasant transformation in their personalities. Now they seemed to be subscribing to my type of schedules, exchanging games, planning movies, and loathing around. I patted my back for being a visionary. 15 days after the end of the semester we had to report to the companies which had accepted to train us and pay us in lieu of mass slaughter of brain cells of the staff on the shop floor by us. I along with 3 of my classmates joined a leading automobile manufacturer. Amongst the batch of 8 trainees in the company which comprised of 4 from other institutes I had the distinction of preserving not 5 but 6 subjects post training. After the induction we were allotted our departments. Unfortunately the department I was placed in was the assembly line which demanded severe discipline and rigorous working over the scheduled shift. This profile was diagonally opposite to my personality. After about 2 months or so I started my extensive research. Prior to that day, whenever I had put on my glasses for extensive research I had successfully manufactured trouble for either me or someone else. This time the object of my research was the 1972 apprentice act. Just within 2 days of work I achieved a Eureka moment. I discovered that without a project the company had no right to incarcerate me on the shop floor and that too not over 8 hrs under any circumstances. My novel enlightened self graced the company premises the very next day. After a 15 minute argument with the HR manager where I proposed him a new abode next to the banana seller outside the company gate after I won the case, I finally declared that the company under no circumstances could benefit from my talent and that I quit it with immediate effect. Leaving the cabin of the HR manager behind, I took an auto and reached home. An addiction with the idiot box followed and an overdose of lethargy left me tired and to unwind I would indulge in some reading at night. Overnight discussions were rampant at my home where in my dad devised new theories everyday which associated his previous bad karmas with my birth. My mom who would have argued under different circumstances had also started agreeing with him.
Days passed into weeks and weeks into months. One fine morning enlightenment struck me that if serious steps weren’t taken in days to come I would be 22 with just a Secondary School Certificate to my credits. A sense of fear gripped me and suddenly the world started seeming gloomy. After investing a weeks time into enlisting the names of successful people who were not formally educated and reading articles on how the education system butchered an individual’s creativity. I gained composure. The following week research was done on various career options under the current scenario. New-found respect was bestowed on small time businessmen like newspaper vendors, rickshaw owners, taxi drivers, sales executives, travel agents, courier boys, delivery men and so on.
After exhausting the list and considering all the possibilities of potential livelihoods a decision was taken. I needed to complete the course. In the mean time my parents would invite me to attend daily sessions where in an at least 30 minutes monologue was delivered on how I was the perfect Moron the world had ever witnessed. One fine Monday I paid a visit to my institute and put forth my case before the training and placement officer and the Controller of examination. Their point of view about my capabilities and personality totally matched with that of my parents’. I was given the option of completing my examination followed by training at some other company. However 2 pieces of information were passed on to me. Firstly I had created history in the 120 year old institute and secondly the award of my course completion certificate was subjective to the decision taken in the board meeting occurring in the next academic year.
With one Kt exam just a month away and 5 subjects 4 months away I had no time to waste. It took me 1 week to understand this fact during which I generated almost 25 timetables. Finally disposing them all to the dustbin I opened my book on thermal engineering. Its weight was almost equal to that of the dumbbell which I used to shape my biceps. Studying rigorously for 1 month, cursing the pioneers of organized learning who elevated the status of humans from that of apes to the current scenario resulted in a satisfactory performance on my behalf in the examination of thermal engineering which I should have cleared a year ago. Now 5 subjects awaited me. However studying for 1 month had probably exhausted all the cranial material I possessed. My condition then was similar to that of the little fellows in the movie Tarein Zameen Par. I began taking refuge in spirituality and philosophy. I had been studying it since my 9th standard. But never in my wildest dreams had thought would have to implement it so early in my life.
Due to my taste in reading almost all the enlightened authors already graced my shelf. Only their appearances had changed over the years due to the deposits of dust on their faces. Vedanta mentions 4 reasons for a person taking up spiritual pursuit, of which 2 primary ones are exceptional intelligence and a state of disgrace. In my case it was the pinnacle of the latter but I chose to believe it was the prior one. Continuous reading of such books for hours together can transform your thought process where in you are at peace with your inner self. To put it simply continuous reading of such books gives you 101 ways to justify your lethargic lifestyle. For weeks together these strange looking authors with appearances which would make them stand out in a crowd of thousand enlightened me through their works on Who I was, Why was I where I was, and What was my aim in life. I was mesmerized by their teachings. The best thing about most of these authors is that they declare that they are hypocrites under camouflage of esoteric teachings and by doing so they are no longer hypocrites. Mind commands the puppet of our ego through the threads of feelings and emotions. These threads are mobilized with thoughts and the puppet puts up a show. Words conduct thoughts and act as carriers of instructions from mind to inflict motion in the threads. Whatever be their character these writers had mastered the art of hijacking these same words and reverting the direction of control. Refreshing change consequences where mind and ego exchange their roles. Ego is no longer the puppet at the hands of the mind and both ally together to put up a pleasant performance. Ego takes the charge of actions and serves its prime function viz. self identification and mind does not overstep the periphery of its consigned duty viz. decision making. It acts as an interface of the brain which is busy performing permutations and combinations on the humungous amount of crap which we feed it with. However my parents were not used to my sensible self and concluded that the pressure of studies was taking its toll on me.
In the mean time I had joined a reading room near my place at the western side of the town. It was a two thousand square feet room heavily illuminated by tube lights, with lots of open windows and 7 fans. All prominent Marathi writers and politicians kept an eye from the walls on about 20-25 students who pretended to study in that room. Life had come back to normal and I was exploring my newly found interest in academics. I used to study for 7-9 hrs every day and attended classes in the southern part of the city on weekends. My bed time partner had changed too. Instead of the female radio jockey now a long haired ascetic conversed with me in torchlight below my bed sheet through his experiences written about his spiritual pursuit. In one of the pages of his books he had written that a spiritual master was a must for achieving enlightenment. I was not very keen about nirvana then, but still wanted to explore the territory. The motivation behind this pursuit was the movie matrix. Every night I would think to myself if somehow like the prodigy Neo in the movie matrix I was able to achieve enlightenment I could easily pass in all the subjects without studying for them or if luck favored even without attending the papers, after all Neo had survived 500 bullets shot at him, probably even I could stand gracefully in a black outfit and ask the supervisor distributing the papers to stop like Neo does in the movie matrix to the person shooting at him. Faith when cornered by despondency if not practiced wisely can turn into insanity. As per various books a success on the spiritual front was impossible without a Guru. I failed to observe the writers’ provision for a livelihood in the statement. I began hunting for a guru. As per the literature, a guru could appear from anywhere, playing any role in this materialistic world and could be of any gender and any age. And if u were destined to meet even a tsunami couldn’t disrupt the divine meeting with your guru. I began inspecting every living entity I came across with a thoughtful eye, to pounce at the feet the very moment through some divine intervention I realized or he/she realized that we were meant to begin canalization of knowledge.
On one of the Sundays I was returning from my classes at Dadar a place 15 km away from my place of residence. I generally preferred traveling by bus. I enjoyed late night journeys by bus, which I could pamper myself with, thanks to my classes. Watching the life on the roads, feeling the city move by you bathed in neon lights, people waiting outside restaurants, vendors selling stuff at signals filled my mind with panoramic images which lasted me for a couple of nights as catalysts of sleep. Unlike normal circumstances a stressed out mind needs pleasant & picturesque thoughts to dream about before it shuts down transferring the owner to the realms of sleep. On Sunday evenings my classes would get over by 9.30pm after which I would relish a quick snack at a restaurant nearby and then would stand enjoying a cigarette at the bus stop till a bus arrived with sufficient number of vacant window seats for me to select from. That day I had let two vacant 40ltd busses to pass by as I wanted to travel amidst the street life on the west and the 40ltd busses reached my destination en route the lifeless highway on the east of the city. Though the bus would have dropped me at my destination an hour earlier, at that moment I was the richest person on this planet if time was money. I was waiting for a 201 which not just took the route of the busy suburban road on the west but also on its way took a detour from the main road, through the busy link road which is considered to be the shopper’s paradise. The road is abuzz with activity till midnight on weekends.
The bus stop I was waiting at for my bus was located on a peculiar location unlike other bus stops which mushroomed anywhere on the road once the distance on the company’s inspecting officer’s meter showed 250 meters. Just a straight walk on a road behind the bus stop led you to one of the most famous grounds in Mumbai which was witness to several historical political rallies, net practices of budding cricket players who now were legends in the game, struggling days of actors, writers and directors. Towards the right of the bus stop a road led you to one of the most worshipped Gods in the city. Just a kilometer on the left was the residence of an international don who was responsible for creating havoc in the country. Within walking distance from the bus stop lay the ashes of the designer of the constitution of the country & the messiah of the underprivileged who enjoys the status of God in their mind even decades post his heavenly abode. A 10 minutes walk through one of the by lanes at the right of the bus stop left you outside the house of a revolutionary who had given many colonial officers sleepless nights. And probably some soul in deep slumber in one of the nearby houses was destined to act in the eternal drama in the days to come. Another striking feature of the location was towards its south was the part of the city which migrants called Bombay and towards its north were the suburbs. Thus at 10.00pm in the night I stood at the crossroads of history, my life and the city.
Suddenly I found the monk whom I was well acquainted with through his works glancing at me; I dragged another puff just to ensure I wasn’t dreaming. Then I adjusted my senses to the surroundings. He was staring at me through a transparent polythene bag which hung from a muscular hand dressed in khadi. A well built man in his mid thirties was looking back at me from a couple of feet. He was dressed in a jean trousers and a khadi kurta, flaunting a very expensive mobile phone in the other hand. He began a conversation “U seem to be familiar with the book. You were staring at it for a long time.” I said “No but I have read another one by the same author. He writes well”. “A heart-break, an exam failure, business loss or a loss of a family member?” he asked. I was taken aback. I was talking to a pro. I said well none of the above. He said “its absolutely not mandatory if you do not want to share, but believe me mate, only state of disgrace is the reason why people turn to spirituality, the other three reasons mentioned in the Vedanta for spiritual pursuit viz. exceptional intelligence, curiosity, and a combination of both is not rare but unavailable as a personality trait to be found in individuals around you. Even if you do come across such an individual you will have to take permission from his consulting psychiatrist before giving him a visit at the mental hospital.” We both laughed aloud and invited a couple of stares from other co passengers who were waiting for their buses. My cigarette had reduced to its filter. I checked my pocket for another one. But the box was empty. He offered me company to a nearby pan stall educating me about the latest brand launched by the same manufacturer. We approached a nearby pan stall. I asked him his brand and told the pan-wala to give me a packet of my brand and a piece of his. The pan-wala handed me over the cigarettes with a cynical smile. I am not brand crazy until it comes to my cigarettes. I don’t switch brands even if offered one for free. We lit our cigarettes and sat down at the steps of a nearby photo shop which had ‘Sunday-Closed’ displayed in bigger letters than the name of the shop. The owner loves his weekend more than his customers or probably shared a gene with one of the money lenders who reigned prior to ‘Customer is the King’ era I thought to myself
He introduced himself. He was a Chartered Accountant with a flair for art. Going against his parents wishes he had forayed into fashion designing and today successfully exported clothes overseas. It was during his struggling period post CA that he had turned towards spirituality. Struggling period post CA, I felt like extinguishing the burning tip of my cigarette on his nose. He went on “Dude spirituality, religion and philosophy are like light beams emerging out of a prism. People get trapped in the attractive form of these colored rays but always neglect the source ray on the other side which is Psychology. Out of these three, based on the conditioning of your mind, your values and ethics you develop an admiration for either of them. All three of these esoteric entities are nothing but intelligent programming of the mind to get out of the loop you subject it to in case you are exposed to a circumstance which is not totally within your control. Religion is based on faith and philosophy on wisdom. Spirituality is like the orange ray which borrows the shades of yellow and red emerging out of the prism. And this prism is nothing but your mind. Mind is nothing but a collection of thoughts which are a result of sensory inputs through your body since your birth. And who are you? Frankly speaking ‘You’ are just a perception which changes dynamically based on these inputs. When you fail my boy you calculate its implementation on the future, on the present and mentally exist in your past trying miserably to justify, rectify, or probably just sulk about the moments which appear so live in your mind as if they are happening now. Despondency erupts out of “What would have been if…..” sort of thoughts. A truly sensible person just looks at failures or bad patches as a series of events. And if sufficiently enlightened as a series of physical events. Let me give you an example. Suppose in spite of repeated suggestions about keeping your wallet in your front pocket by your dad you place it in your back pocket and loose it to a pickpocket in a crowded train and loose 15 K of rupees saved out of your pocket money to buy that dream mobile, the normal thought process triggers a never ending loop of pictures from the moment you left your house till you returned. A matrix of possibilities dance on the screen of your mind and a feeling of loss prevails for days together with thoughts like ‘Had I obeyed my dad...’ In a sensible mind this process lasts for 2 or 3 minutes. If the sensible mind has a religious affinity thoughts are like ‘What was not mine was taken away by Him’ if the sensible mind has a philosophical affinity ‘I bought sense of responsibility for 15 K, dirt cheap.’ If the sensible mind has a spiritual affinity either of the thoughts can surface. Those with psychological affinity, now these people are rare, would not think about it a bit but just register the fact for future reference while traveling in the train. Almost all the writers including the one who is here, he pointed his finger towards the bag he was carrying are like fiction writers who are popular. But the real science lies in the text books which thrive hard to even reach the second edition. These things are highly personal. Today you are listening to me because our minds are connected, if probably I tell you the same thing tomorrow you might get bored in a minute. These things are very dynamic” I came to my wits with the sound of exhaust from a nearby taxi. My watch read 11.00 pm.I gave him a quick intro of myself and complimented him on his understanding of the metaphysical domain and ran towards the arriving 40ltd. The last 201 had probably left when I was busy listening to the Chartered Accountant turned fashion designer. On my way back home I constantly touched my arm to ensure that I hadn’t been enlightened and my soul still resided in the mortal body. The effect of that gentleman’s speech was such that I was thoughtless for almost an hour. And then suddenly I remembered those lines I had read, ‘you may meet your guru when destined to. He may appear from anywhere and could be of any gender.’ He may be portraying any role in this material world. Mine was a CA turned fashion designer. Though an attractive one of the opposite gender would have been my choice if given one but alas divine interceptions don’t give you options.
I resumed to my academic schedule with a clearer mind. The time dedicated to reading of monk books was now utilized to get a nice sleep. I was growing sensible and my parents worried with each passing day. I even over heard my mom suggesting my dad to fix up an appointment with a psychiatrist one of the days. Thanks to my previous karmas the plan did not materialize. Days turned to weeks and weeks turned into months finally I appeared for my examinations and performed well in my papers without wearing the Neo outfit and asking the teacher to stop. I got placed at a bigger company and at a better profile for my training. I decided to pay my classes a visit to thank the teacher. While returning home from the classes I got a deja-vu feeling. I lit a cigarette and got a kick of nostalgia. Where must that guru of mine be who had enlightened me with the best explanation on metaphysics I had ever heard. If I met him again I would thank him for that transforming conversation. The chain of my thoughts was broken with a commotion at a distance. I looked in that direction. The same guy was encircled by 4 -5 men who were abusing him. He was dressed in similar clothes and had the same book in his hand. The mobile was missing though. He was returning those curses whole heartedly and in a peculiar way which erupted laughter amongst the bystanders who were watching the scene. My cigarette was reduced to its filter. I checked my packet. It was empty. I went to the same pan store I had been last time he was looking at the commotion too. I asked him for a packet of my brand. While handing it over to me he said “it’s a daily matter now. That drunkard creates problems everyday. He is in his senses when he is under the effect of alcohol. But when he runs out of cash he starts demanding money from the shop owners. But he appears to be from a good family I said. Yes the shopkeeper replied. His father was a CA and brother exports clothes. This guy is mentally unstable. His brother looks after him unwillingly because his mother owns their living place. He sometimes charms people on the bus stop and convinces them to buy him a cigarette. An aluminum water bucket lay in front of him filled with water in which the beetle leaves floated. On other occasions I would have seriously considered emptying the bucket on shopkeeper’s head, for not giving me this piece of information the last time I purchased my cigerattes from him,but instead I paid him and chased a 40ltd which was moving away from the stop and hopped into it . On my way back a thought kept me busy, could the man be mentally unstable? after all in the civilized world sanity and insanity are judged by majority............


rahul said...

it was just great,to many philosopical staements used though the beginning was great,write more.
good job,keep it up men.

doshi_niravh said...

its like a 3.5 hour hindi movie...edit it into a 1.5 hr crisp english movie.

Prerna said...

got the link to your blog while surfing orkut, Marvellous piece of literature,Will keep a tab on your updates now

Hari said...

Brilliant !

Left me speechless.

Only true experience can churn out such intensity in any piece of Literature.

Successful is one who can handle the Games of one's mind.

That is something modern education lacks and where parents can play an important role in shaping their and their child's thought process.

"Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu"

God Bless and Keep Rocking:)

Rahul Parab said...

too good mitra..keep on writing ..simply great stuff...more so becoz..staying close ... I know its 100 percent truth...keep the faith...;)

arc said...

fantastic !!!!!!!! :) grt narrative !!