Monday, 16 November 2015

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Friday, 13 November 2015


The other thing that has kept me from the sinking sands of attachment is Hukum. It is central to Sikhism and to most other religions as well. Crudely translated, it means, God's Will. Hukum is that which we cannot change by our efforts; that which has to be; that which is natural and in accordance with the Cosmic Order, or Design. How often I have been reminded of it in the past weeks when, again in the words of Nanak, I have burned in baking fires and knives have sliced through my heart. But as soon as I remembered to remember that this event is hukum, I was cooled and calmed.

Wisdom, if we court it in peaceful times, cultivate and make it a habit, will come to our aid when we need it the most, when without it we are in danger of perishing.


I am very hopeful these days that my mother with recover to some extent at least. Yesterday when I said 'I love you mummy,' she made a sound in her throat. I thought it was accidental, and repeated myself and she did the same. I was certain she was trying to say 'I love you too.' She had done this in the hospital on the second day of her stroke, said 'I love you too.' I was thrilled because whenever I said those three words her response was always 'thank you.' Those were in fact the last words I heard her say before she slid further into her stroked brain -- who knows where? I was very happy yesterday, like a child. Strange how the mother child bond never changes in a way. Though she is now my child she is still my mommy.

But later in the later, watching her slumped in her wheelchair like a sack I despaired that she wasn't going to make it. My spirits slumped, too. The fact remains that even if she recovers to some extent (my hope is that she will recover the way our friend Arny's mother, who had a stroke at 93, like my mother, recovered after her stroke, and was around for another five years), her demise is inevitable. In all this yo-yoing between hope and despair I have to keep this inevitability always in view. Hope, no matter how strong, has its limits, and unless we reconcile ourselves to the death of a loved one, we will be imprisoned in our attachment to them. All the sages say attachments that make you sink (in the words of Guru Nanak) in scalding waters are to be avoided. What this means to me is this: that one does absolutely everything possible to give the loved one a fighting chance to survive but not be attached to the outcome. This, of course, is also the lesson of the Bhagavad Geeta. It is worth keeping in mind and living by.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Merciful doing, merciful method, merciful material. When I awake in the middle of the night, go into my mother’s room, hear her labored breathing, coughing, congestion -- though she has been nebulized and suctioned by the nurse several times during the night -- go into a spasm of sorrow and helplessness from her perhaps not imminent but inevitable death, unable to fall asleep again, it is doing, method and material that save me. And, of course, hukum.

The thought of merciful activity, even at 2 a.m., propels me out of bed. I go into the kitchen with my by now cool hot water bottle, fill the kettle from the tap, turn it on, put some water to boil for warm lemon water to drink, look at the hexagonal patchwork cozy -- in uplifting cotton prints -- of my hot water bottle, and am rescued. What a word: rescued. I turn to the dictionary – another rescue aid. Saved, freed, delivered. To shake out, or off. Yes, of course, when one spasms in sorrow and begins to sink, in Guru Nanak’s words, in the steaming, hot pool of attachment, one wants above all to be rescued; to shake off the scalding water and be free.

One step, and then another. Squeeze the lemon into the cup, drop the peel into it, too, pour hot water, fill up the hot water bottle, return to my recently ‘remodeled’ room, place the cup on my new Gujarati table, put the hot water bottle under the quilt, take out my computer from the drawer of my new secretary desk, sit down on my little chair upholstered fondly by my mother in a deep maroon material with self-print flowers (is that the phrase?).

I have never thought of the material world as something that could rescue, though I have always endeavored as much as possible to surround myself with beautiful things. Perhaps I have wanted to be rescued all along. Beauty rescues. Design, the lovely prints and pattern of my patchwork cozy, rescues. And of course – and I have always known this – words rescue.

This has been the longest time I have been without word: extreme busyness from mid-September that took me to the brink of a breakdown, and then, without respite, my mother’s stroke at 2 a.m. on October 22nd. Almost two months without word, merciful word, to which I return through the material world.  

The material world, beauty, method have, in retrospect, saved me all along. Buying, stocking supplies for my mother’s ‘new’ life in which the old order and life has disintegrated, rearranging, re-ordering, re-patterning, has been my thrust since we brought her home from the hospital on the 24th of Oct (and several trips to the Emergency). And then, I have been shopping! Yes, shopping has rescued me, too. I realized that if I am going to stay with her long term, I must have a congenial room to retreat to. I have lived in her house, in a room arranged by her all my life every time I visited, and now I wanted a little corner that would be my space; hence, the Gujarati cabinet, table, secretary, a little bamboo lamp whose light I adore. I have, in the midst of my sorrow, had a bit of fun, too. Life, undying life, rescues.

This is as far as word will take me today. I tire and must meditate. More, if word is merciful once more.