All posts by Shazar

Keeping Promises

I wake at 5.45 – it is just getting light, the grandfather of the house has begun his day, unlocking the gates and putting the dog, Olive back into her house – her guarding job over for another night.  It is time to get up, time to don loose clothes and light walking shoes and leave my safe haven.

I had been promising myself for days to begin walking again in the morning.  A very easy thing to do in my home place of Perth – places to walk to the beach, to the coffee shop, in the park – around the quiet morning streets.  But here?  In India where always I stick out as the foreigner.  I have to again gather my spirit to move outside my comfort zone and find out how it is to join the rest of the healthy folks who also ‘walk’ in the morning.

I live very close to a ‘ground’ the place where cricket and other games are played, and sometimes even concerts are held.  It is in the huge compound of the BVB College – where our offices are .. and the locked night gates open at 5 am.

“No, you don’t need to take anything with you – just have a big drink now and leave the bottle at home.   Mobile phone – forget it.. just your keys slipped in the pocket and off you go.”

The street outside is quiet – a couple of early morning dogs prowling near the rubbish bins on the corner – a young man cleaning his motorbike.  I walk to the gate and enter – picking up speed as I go.  It’s cool this morning – the air still fresh from the evening’s rain. There are lots of people around the ground – jogging, walking, striding it out – I too stride along – starting to feel the warmth of the exercise coursing through my sleep soaked body.

The trees here are special – some – the ‘sky jasmine’ having strewn their prolific night blossoms as a carpet below them.  I walk the path through the campus buildings and do a ’round’ then head down to the ‘ground’ to join the morning enthusiasts.  One lap is enough for me now and I head back to my place… the body feels good – a little stiff in my right hip but that will easily pass. I have walked for a good half hour. Ahh, time for a meditation – this time in front of the fan as I am sweating and hot.

And then my morning coffee.  Thankfully the power is on this morning so there is no wait for my ‘coffee fix’ so I sip the hot strong black brew and write.

What did I learn on my walk?  That in keeping my promise to myself, there are far-reaching consequences that go way beyond ‘exercise’.

My ‘being’ rejoices – it ‘gets’ that I stand by my values for myself – for no one else.. simply for myself.

And as I do this – my values hold and are reaffirmed, I have put another building block of integrity in my life – just by the simple act of going for a morning walk.

Embarrassed, shy? Get over it and smile.

I wake early on Saturday morning – its relatively quiet yet.. kids doing sport yelling deep in the background – birds – the occasional rickshaw sputtering. The sound of the mop and bucket cleaning the tiles downstairs. The metallic clatter of the dishes being cleaned has not yet begun – she comes a little later these days.

I have resumed my morning meditation but I am far from quiet.  My head wanders all over the place on inconsequential meanders.  Right now in this first couple of days back in India  I am feeling self-conscious – here safe in my room but at anytime I emerge, I am again shy, a little nervous. Aware of my ‘foreignness’ and my strange status as an older foreign female wandering around on my own.

Women tend to move in packs.  Not always true but in the male dominated ‘hotels’ (restaurants) there may be only one or two women with their husbands- or perhaps a table of 4-5 women together. At the hotel where I come to eat my evening meal,  no-one is alone like me. No-one foreign – just me. ‘ Is it okay?’ I ask myself constantly – always eyes are on me.

I am embarrassed – I don’t know what is available in the hotel – there is no menu – just what I see around me.  The man opposite me is finishing his ‘thali’.  I don’t want that.  There is pau baji – white soft bread rolls slightly sweet with a tomato based spicy sauce – also not tonight – but perhaps they serve dosa – so I ask for that.  ‘Masala dosa?’ the waiter says.. yes – that’s it.. relief….I have ordered.

The man opposite orders something – it comes – a sort of frothy lemon drink.  It seems cold with ice.. he appears hesitant but then begins to drink.  I catch his eye and ask: ‘Nice?’ he nods.  End of communication.  He leaves it half finished on the table and gets up to leave.  No recognition or nod to acknowledge his going.

My dosa comes just as I am trying to sneak a pic of the male dominated room.. my pic is blurred and full of waiter’s stomach.

But the dosa is great!!  I would like a lassi – but not many hotels serve these in this area. I don’t see them being given.  Only chai and it is too late for that. I am not ready for a sleepless chai fuelled evening.  So I let the thought of it go and signal for the bill.

That is easy in any language. 32 rupees – about 60 cents. It was a delicious dosa.  I wash my eating hand with the cup of water into the dish in front of me as is perfectly acceptable here.  I fish for my money, pay and move out to the street with some relief.

Next a little shopping.  Breakfast pre-purchased tonight – curd (yoghurt) and banana – easy.  The street is busy, cars, rickshaws, motor bikes – walking on the side with the traffic coming behind me – the Indian way – I reach a tiny hole in the wall shop.  There are 4- 5 people standing outside at the narrow counter.  And the lady inside recognises me – there is welcome in her eyes – we smile together and I ask for curd – doh pakit – 26 rupees and panch banana. Oh, mistake – I wanted 4 and I asked for 5! but I get them and pay and we are both happy.

I will go there again for the friendly face.

Why am I so nervous when really in the face of all these daily small challenges, the most important thing I need to remember is that I am the stranger.  It is up to me to find my smile, to jump over my shyness, my embarrassment at who I am, my awkwardness with my language barrier.

Smile Shazar – practice every day, every moment to catch the eye of the person next to you and smile for who are they but another one of you.

Emotions – the roller-coaster of life

Emotions are the roller-coasters of life.  How would my life be if  I can detach from my emotional body?   Would that be freedom?  Would that be flat, like a desert plain with no ripples, no valleys, no heights?

Who would I be if I left my emotional self on the shelf for a week, or a day or a lifetime?

I think about this and then I see how grateful I am for my emotions as without them my joy of yesterday would not have been.  But when I am feeling as I do this evening, how to discover that gratitude for my emotion?  This feeling that is palpable inside me – of emptiness – tinged with a hollowness.

I watch myself hurry to try to fill it or push it away – scrolling through Facebook.  Stop – here is ‘addiction’.  Considering a trip to the ‘wine shop’ – again – stop here is ‘addiction’.  For what is ‘addiction’ but the filling of emptiness with something.  That something called distraction.

Oh, let me go into this feeling or perhaps through it – truly searching out what it is.  So I may better see who I am beneath my daily exterior being.

Look, Shazar.  Who are you when you are alone?  Who are you when you feel lonely?  When the landscape ahead of you feels strange and not your own.  When this land you are in is just out of reach of touch.  Look, Shazar – look inside who is this, who is teetering on this gap?

I chose the gap.  There is the cosmic humour.

I chose to put myself here, to remove myself from the familiar, the family, the lover, the friends, – my choice.  Why?

To experience just this – to push myself to the edge so I can discover myself – the layers within.

And to discover that I am never alone, to unfold the immensity and depth of who I really am.  Out beyond the small self.  Out beyond the limits of the mind.  There lies no thing – there lies the all and everything.

Emotion comes, emotion goes
the waves of the ocean ebb and flow.
Bliss, loneliness, fear, passion.
What of these waves in me
But signposts to the infinite
the land of my being
the truth of my soul
revealing the sands
where I am we.

Footnote on a lighter vein: A special friend of mine suggested that these feelings of deep aloneness that can be distressing are related to our ‘herd’ mentality.  We need the mob of some sort around us!  mmm I can relate to that.. “get out there on the street girl”.. there are plenty of folks here in India togive me the feeling of being in a ‘herd’!!

Don’t drink the water – on your first day back!

Being sick in a different land has its own challenges.  A wretched persistent UTI coupled with a dose of Hubli well water runs.. mmm.

Sometimes I am glad of the medical world.  Despite my gung ho attitude about all things pharmaceutical at most times.  Tonight after a day of being pretty much flat on my bed, Umesh – our young accountant from SRDS (where I am working) organised a trip to the Dr for me.  First, he took a token – Number 30 – at the doctor’s clinic around the corner.  The one who’s office waiting room is always overflowing.  An hour later he went back to see how things were progressing. There had been no progress and the Doctor, in fact, had not arrived as yet.  The crowd was even greater than usual.  “Come back at 9,” they said (it was 6.30) so he traipsed to 4 other clinics in the area – all were either not there or similarly packed.

“Ah but let’s try Dr Nayan the lady doctor.”

We hopped on the bike – me a little gingerly – tucking my long Indian style overshirt up so as not to get caught in the wheels and set off in search of this highly recommended lady doctor.

The waiting room was lit by a bright light – two rows of plastic chairs facing each other.  A drug company calendar on the wall, a big notice pinned to the door warning of the dangers of breast cancer.  And a small tasteful drawing of a lady holding a baby gently – with a sign which said “Save The Girl Child”.

After some time the door opened and a pretty woman in a bright sari – Ashwini – ushered me into the Doctor’s office.

Dr Nayan was a gem.  An older lady who had been practicing in that tiny clinic for 32 years.  She questioned me with interest about my purpose here – congratulated me on doing the work ‘at my age’  and gave me a thorough examination on her narrow bench.

Toward the end her husband arrived – (a Pediatric Doctor) we were duly introduced and he expressed great interest in our work of rainwater harvesting.  I should have given him a card – sometimes we forget simple connections like that.

Duly laden with pills and potions in a nice enviro bag I paid Dr Nayan the huge sum of
Rs 410 – less than $10 for a consultation that I was entirely satisfied with.  She has made a fan.  I know where I shall go if I need a doctor another time.

We rode back home – bananas and curd (yogurt) for dinner followed by my first dose of pills.

Work fast please – I have work to do.  And yes right now it is time to rest.

(Update two days later.. better.. rested.. ready for work tomorrow.)

Remembering Connection

The tears come – spring into my eyes .. and will not stop. I know if I let go the flood gates will open – so I breathe into it – the opening is there unbidden but rushing in. Gifted to me with no volition of my own. Simply being here – being for a moment still – and existence rushes in .. the flowers shower and the gifts of the connection of souls allow me to feel myself – to remember that which I have forgotten.

The music transports me .. I am alone – separate and yet it is the sharing of the space and the melting of the souls and hearts together that allows me to break open and feel the space of our wonderful Universe.

How interesting it is that my busy life takes me so far from this space and yet just a hint, just a moment of recognition and I fall back into that place deeper than ever before.
It is a kirtan event – singing of repetitive odes of joy to existence and the energy of the Gods – a birthday party for a friend – a gathering of beings together to celebrate and sing and dance. The voices rise and fall together, the harmonies intertwining and the drum carrying the beat. The chants beginning slowly – measured and considered – and then as the voices of all join, the tempo lifts and reaches into the place of joy and the abandon that comes when the Divine is invited in.

It is completely unexpected – my immediate response – that allows me to fall into a place of purity and depth of existence. As is said on the Desiderata that hangs on our wall… “In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

It had been a difficult week, I had seen too much of the bad news of the world – been caught in the snare of the media hype and taken on some shadow of what ifs?…
Here in the music, suddenly I am lifted out of the place of fear and anxiety into another reality – here is the parallel – here is the place of joy and of bliss and of interconnectedness… the place where I know.. all is well.. despite any of the turmoil and chaos that is around me – the political garbage, the stress of our lives – the pain and the suffering .. this too exists .. this too is real, this too is…..

And as I now stand and allow the music and the singing to transport me, and lift my arms to the heavens to feel the infinite joy of the energy of beingness, I come home to myself.
So many realisations – just out of reach of expression are falling in to me, along with the sensation that I am being showered with the blossoms of existence. My imminent departure to India.. back to the land of Kali and Krishna, and Gopal and all the gods of that infinitely colourful land. My knowingness that I go to India for me – that it is my time – my place – simply to open up and allow India to wash over me and transform as it will. Not to ‘help’but simply to be.. to allow what comes to me to be done and allow what is to be .. I have known this before that my work in India is for myself – but once again that sense comes home to me in full force.

It would seem that the leaving of Australia and all that is here for me is a challenge.. can be difficult … can be something that is done for altruistic reasons.. and if done in that vein then the struggle will be there. But if the realisation is as it truly is, that the return to India is completely and utterly my choice and for my own evolution then all suffering has to fall beside the path – has to be seen for what it is .. simply self indulgence of a ridiculous nature.
And in that I see too that it is time not to be hard on myself.. that when I do fall by the wayside into the ‘self indulgence’ that this too is part of my journey, intertwined in the learning of the whole. Is it learning? Or is it simply letting go? The questions that arise as the insights come – such a simple thing .. this kirtan, this chant, this space inside myself – to open the place for the unfolding to be.

Thank you to the kirtan – thank you to the community that has brought me to this place. Thank you to David who spoke at the outset of the ceremony of our aboriginal roots. As he was speaking of the welcome to country, as he began the afternoon’s blessing of music and dance, he spoke to those of us who were born here and absorbed the land through the minerals and the air and the dirt of country.. so that we too though white skinned simply need to remember who we really are..
Thats when the tears began to fall .. as the connection was made to my roots .. those roots that are to be transported again to India.. to connect again with my roots in that ancient land.. from one ancient land to another.
Where will this journey lead me? I know not. But I do know that it is right – and on the path that opens before me – revealed as my steps lead me on, I am cared for and nurtured and .. as I go….I do not go alone – I am forever guided on the way – for my existence is an extension of those who surround me and cheer me on as I go forward on this great adventure called life.